Two person icons evoking U.S. political party symbols stand on a striped background

Opinion columnist Jamie Hawley discusses the Iowa Democratic caucus and urges readers to pay attention to local politics in order to prevent future mistakes. 


The first official statewide vote in the 2020 Democratic primary was cast last Monday, and oh boy was it a disaster.

Even though the caucus was held on Feb. 3, the official delegate count wasn’t released until Feb. 9. These results are hotly contested and riddled with errors. Some people, including members of Bernie Sanders' campaign and the chair of the Democratic National Committee, are calling for a full or partial recanvass of the results in order to obtain a more accurate outcome. 

At this point, I’m surprised they didn’t allocate any delegates to a singular ear of corn (probably a good thing — who knows what that ear of corn’s stance would be on ethanol).

So much went wrong with this caucus that I can’t fit it all in one column, but what struck me about the ensuing discussion was the large number of pronouns thrown around without antecedents. “They” screwed up Iowa. “They” used an app that went wrong

How many people know that there’s an official branch of the Democratic party in Iowa that was in charge of the primary, run by Iowa citizens and volunteers? How many people know that the DNC is ultimately responsible for the oversight of this state branch? And how many people know that all of these organizations are run by … people?

Political parties are difficult to conceptualize. If you think about them at all, you might think about them as a letter behind someone’s name, a marker of where they stand on the issues. 

In the United States, our two-party system feels like an inevitability, which means we often think of the parties functioning on their own, without any meaningful human decision-making. We fail to realize that parties, just like a lobbying group, are run by human beings acting out of self-interest. These people need to be held accountable just as much as our elected officials.

If Iowa is anything like Kansas, (and let’s face it, Iowa is a lot like Kansas), then the people who ran the caucus are well-meaning volunteers combined with a select handful of powerful people who certainly didn’t mean to screw up that badly, but still did lasting damage to the rest of the primary cycle. 

The Iowa Democratic Party has the power to make Iowa a regular primary election rather than a caucus, like the Kansas Democratic Party did in May. They also have the power to choose how they count the ballots. 

Everything that went wrong in Iowa was presumably unintentional, but it was also preventable. It falls to us, as citizens, to prevent it. 

Political parties are broken into chapters and these chapters can range from as large as a region to as small as a college campus. Most of these chapters have roles that need filling, like precinct captains, but they also need active and engaged citizens to keep them on track and hold them accountable.

Local politics isn’t sexy, but paying attention anyway is crucial to preventing mistakes, like the ones made at the Iowa caucus, from happening again. 

Iowa was not the result of omniscient forces outside of our control. It was the result of real mistakes made by real people, most of whom are more accessible than anybody realizes. There are certainly power structures at play but they are not nearly as forceful as we often believe them to be. 

If you’re frustrated by the results in Iowa, then it’s your responsibility to help ensure that these mistakes are not made in your community. This means paying attention to not just your local representatives, but your local party chapters as well.

Or, you could pre-order your bumper sticker for 'Ear of Corn 2020.' The choice is yours.

Jamie Hawley is a senior from Salina studying English, political science and communications.