So much for lessons learned

There is one moment in the recent past that has, above everything else, continued to shape and solidify those who identify as liberals, progressives and Democrats: the 2000 presidential contest and the Florida fiasco.

If either of the two limited recounts in Florida — one requested by Vice President Al Gore, the other ordered by the Florida Supreme Court — had been completed, it is likely that Republican George W. Bush would have won the state. If, however, a statewide recount of all disputed ballots had taken place, or would have been ordered by the court, the extremely narrow victor in Florida would have been Gore. Those scenarios are courtesy of a study commissioned by several news organizations in late 2001.

There were other studies, of course, that provided more scenarios and possible outcomes. But, since the U.S. Supreme Court stepped in, there is actually no definitive answer as to what the Florida ballots, if counted, would have shown.

Nonetheless, for those on the left, the Florida situation has become a rallying cry for making every vote count. (Pay no mind to those superdelegates or Electoral College members, please.) Given other talking points that have developed in the wake of controversies and crisis, this one is actually rather mild and mostly positive. Let’s give the ballots to the people, let the people cast them and then let’s count them all.

Iowa Democratic Party Chair Scott Brennan (right) answers questions at a January 2014 Cedar Rapids forum.
Iowa Democratic Party Chair Scott Brennan (right) answers questions at a January 2014 Cedar Rapids forum. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette-KCRG)

After Tuesday’s primary night in Iowa, however, it is safe to say that while the “every ballot” message has been heard loud and clear by the rank and file, the importance has dimmed for state Democratic officials.

Shortly after Pat Murphy’s share of the ongoing count reached 35 percent — the final tally threshold required to avoid the contest being decided at a party convention — the Iowa Democratic Party crafted and sent a typical congratulatory message, boasting of the 1st District Democrat’s prowess on the campaign trail and the importance of key policy issues.

Unfortunately, when the message was received in email boxes, more votes had been counted and Murphy had dropped below 35 percent, once again opening up the possibility that the race would be decided at convention.

While it is true that media outlets had also projected Murphy to claim the race, it is also true that a political party has much more invested in the totality of the race and all of the candidates than a television station. Even when it’s past bedtime.

So, as other 1st District Democratic campaigns continued to crunch numbers — even as they are continuing to do so this morning — their work is being carried out under the veil of a state organization that couldn’t be bothered to pause while every vote was counted.

Looking over the final numbers this morning, it appears that Murphy ended election night with 37 percent of the vote. If I were in leadership at the IDP today, I’d be praying for that number to stick. Because if this actually goes to a convention situation, the last thing I’d want is a perception of impropriety, or glimmer of favoritism so close to caucus season.

Congratulatory Clinton message in 3 … 2 …

This blog post by Lynda Waddington originally published on The Gazette website on June 4, 2014. Photo credit: Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette