With the establishment against him, Bernie Sanders may still pass the first 2020 election test

Bernie Sanders

Recent polls suggested that Bernie Sanders was on track to win the first real test of the Democratic Party race to be Donald Trump’s main opponent in November’s presidential election. But the famous ‘Iowa Caucus‘ has been hit by a controversy which has delayed the results. This all comes amid ongoing establishment opposition to the Sanders campaign.

Sanders vs the political establishment

On 2 February, progressive frontrunner Sanders stressed:

We are taking on the entire political establishment, both the Republican establishment and the Democratic establishment. We are taking on Wall Street and the insurance companies and the drug companies and the fossil fuel industry and the military-industrial complex and the prison-industrial complex and the whole damn 1%.

The Democratic Party has already faced criticism for selecting a long list of right-wing hacks to serve on the nominating committee of the Democratic National Convention in July. The Grayzone argues that this is “to rig [the Democratic] primary against Bernie”.

Allegations of Hillary Clinton rigging the 2016 primaries against Bernie Sanders were widespread. And in Iowa in 2016, Clinton beat Sanders “by just 0.3 percentage points, with Sanders supporters citing counting and reporting irregularities”, according to NBC.

Establishment opposition to Sanders has also been clear in the run-up to the 2020 election:

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Tens of thousands of voters spent hours Monday night choosing which Democratic candidate to back for the 2020 election. And new voters reportedly played a significant role in shaping Iowa’s election. People also shared accounts of Sanders receiving significant support among minority communities:

App controversy

Technology problems and reporting “inconsistencies”, however, kept Iowa Democratic Party officials from releasing results, so caucus day ended with no official winner. State party officials said final results would come out on Tuesday afternoon and that they were doing quality checks and verifying results. The party has apparently tried to accommodate critics this year by promising to report three different data points about voters’ preferences, presumably improving transparency. But the new system created new headaches.

State party spokesperson Mandy McClure said it had “found inconsistencies in the reporting of three sets of results”, forcing officials to try to verify results with “underlying data” and the paper trail. Some of the trouble stemmed from issues with a new mobile app developed to report results to the party. Caucus organisers reported problems downloading the app, for example, along with other glitches.

Des Moines County Democratic chair Tom Courtney said the new app created “a mess”. As a result, he said precinct leaders were phoning in results to the state party headquarters, which was too busy to answer their calls in some cases. Organisers were still looking for missing results several hours after voting concluded.

There were soon revelations that former staffers for Hillary Clinton had worked with the company apparently responsible for the failed app:

Right-wing sweetheart Pete Buttigieg’s links with the company also emerged:

Buttigieg, meanwhile, suggested that he’d won in Iowa.

Team Sanders is prepared

Amid the Democratic Party’s failures in Iowa, the Sanders campaign soon released its own internal numbers which put him ahead of his opponents:

Pro-Sanders activists, meanwhile, poked fun at the app failure:

Sanders obviously has a tough battle ahead, with establishment forces clearly against him. But his campaign seems to be organised and prepared. So the establishment won’t have an easy ride.

Featured image via Gage Skidmore, with additional reporting via Press Association

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