Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Right Here in River City

Listening to NPR on location in Des Moines this morning to report the main story of the day, which was that they didn't have the story they were prepared for, the results of the Iowa caucus, through no fault of their own, I should say: as you know by now, blame goes to the Iowa Democratic Party, which—frustrated in its desire to have all the attendees vote by smartphone, which they had thought would be very groovy, but would apparently have been a security nightmare—had decided that precinct captains and secretaries would transmit all the results to headquarters by smartphone, through a specially developed app which apparently worked fine if you took the training but not if you thought you could just download it like Uber and dive in. It seems there were so many of the latter that the hot line set up to handle problems was immediately overwhelmed, and a lot of precinct captains and secretaries gave up trying to get through and went home. Republicans and/or Russians are already pushing conspiracy theories (the Biden and Buttigieg campaigns, and the Nevada Democratic Party, have been clients of the firm that developed the app), but I'd bet on incompetence every time. (Steve M has more to say about that.)

A thing that will stick in my mind was David Greene's interview with the Des Moines waitress who had told him 12 years ago that a Hillary Clinton had brought a party to her restaurant and stiffed her (which, it strikes me now, may or may not have been true) and now says that after voting for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 she voted for Trump in 2016 and plans to do so again, because "I'm not a racist but."

(Pause for obligatory reminder that the hardest evidence we have of the existence of significant numbers of Obama-to-Trump voters is 100% self-reported data on a subject where respondents are known to be unreliable—please don't tell me about all those Obama-to-Trump counties in Pennsylvania either, unless they didn't have any nonvoters in both years.)

She's unable to work now after a work accident, and living on SSI disability, and reminded that Trump is threatening to cut that along with her Medicaid, she allowed that she'd be concerned about that, but she's mostly worried, in Des Moines, about all those invaders at the Mexican border. That's the "but" to her "I'm not a racist." She won't vote for a Democrat, and Biden in particular is "creepy". Greene asked her if she didn't think Trump was creepy too, a reasonable question, but she didn't, and you could get the feeling that she hadn't heard about the numerous credible accusations against him of sexual assault or his own boasting about grabbing women by the genitals. I'll repeat that: that she hadn't heard about them.

Greene didn't check it out, or ask her at all how she felt about credible accusations that he actively seeks illegal foreign assistance in his election campaigns and is on trial at this very moment for trying to extort a bribe of this type from the government of Ukraine. I suppose he didn't expect her to have heard about that either, but I still wish he'd mentioned it at some point. A lot of people are not talking about that, as Trump wouldn't say.

Also interviewed in the course of the program were a couple of those nonvoters, husband on disability, wife with depression, kid with autism. These two had college degrees and outstanding loans. The husband didn't think Democrats would do anything for him in spite of the fact that he's living on SSI payments; to be fair, they're inadequate, and it's a struggle to get them. The wife had in fact decided she wanted to caucus, but too late to put it together—maybe she wasn't registered—and was talking about not just voting but getting active; she'd made contact with the party. That one tentative gesture from one voice in one insignificant Iowa county (the poorest county in the state, we were told) was the best news I heard this morning.

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