With the final results of the Iowa caucus still painfully unconfirmed but edging past 97%, supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders early Thursday morning took messaging matters into their own hands with the hashtag #BernieWonIA—a move to reclaim some of the thunder from former South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg, who has—rather successfully and with a bit of help—used the chaos and uncertainty of the reporting process to claim victory in the Hawkeye State and assume the mantle of “momentum” going forward.
With more than 97% of the precincts now reporting in Iowa, as Common Dreams reported, Sanders—despite many mainstream media outlets and pundits treating Buttigieg as the winner of the contest—extended his popular vote lead in the state to more than 2,500 (44,753 to 42,235). With state delegate equivalents (SDEs), the current totals show Buttigieg now maintains only a three point lead—550 to 447 (one-tenth of a percentage point.) As Politico reported Wednesday, Buttigieg may not have won the Iowa caucus, but “he’s crushing the spin game.”
Per the Des Moines Register results page:
Highlighting popular vote advantage during both the first and final alignments, Sanders supporters made clear their belief that his campaign—though its top officials and the candidate himself have steadfastly refused to do so—should be recognized as the “winner” at this point.
The fact that Bernie is winning the popular vote by over 2,500 in Iowa and that he might also overtake Mayo Pete in delegates due to satellite caucuses is not only an outstanding lesson in organizing, but a fucking poetic end to a chaotic mess. 1/3
— Diana Moreno (@thedianamoreno) February 6, 2020
I wake up to #BernieWonIA trending.
His campaign raised a staggering $25 MILLION in January alone.
To supporters of other candidates: JOIN US AND LET’S BEAT TRUMP #NotMeUs.
— Peter Daou (@peterdaou) February 6, 2020
— isra hirsi (@israhirsi) February 6, 2020
On Wednesday, Krystal Ball, co-host of “The Rising” on Hill TV, made the case why many people believe reporting of the caucus results was “rigged” against the Vermont senator. While Ball has not endorsed any candidate she has publicly stated that she likes Sanders as a candidate and has used her media platform to push back against the drumbeat of anti-Bernie sentiment that runs rampant on cable networks like MSNBC.
Given what happened overnight, Ball appeared on CNN early Thursday morning where she was greeted by an anchor who said her argument from the previous day had essentially been correct:
In the interview, Ball asked viewers to “think about this from the perspective of Sanders supporters,” a group of voters who have many reasons to be skeptical of the Democratic establishment that has a large hand in how caucuses and primaries are run and also a lot to do with mainstream narratives about the campaign season overall.
What’s happened in Iowa, Ball said, “enabled Pete to claim a fake victory for days, enabled by the Iowa Democratic Party… and the media—who ran with headlines that ‘Pete’s in the lead.’ The people who are the real victims here are those putting Sanders over the top—or close to the top right now—it’s the immigrant workers and Latino working class people that [the Sanders] campaign painstakingly organized. And their voices were erased from this for days, which in my mind is downright criminal.”
“All of this completely goes to show you that Sanders supporters are going to be absolutley mistrustful of this process—and rightfully so. Why were these votes released in this way? Why were there—even after they came out—so many errors? It’s absolutely outrageous.”
—Krystal Ball, The Hill“Pete is not a victim here,” she added. “Pete got three days of saying he was the winner—there’s a new tracking poll that has him up 9 points in New Hampshire. So all of this completely goes to show you that Sanders supporters are going to be absolutely mistrustful of this process—and rightfully so. Why were these votes released in this way? Why were there—even after they came out—so many errors? How can anyone even have confidence that the numbers are right at this point? It’s absolutely outrageous.”
Meanwhile, other Sanders supporters have responded to the recent days of confusion and chaos with the argument that the campaign’s future is less tied to the specific outcome or process in Iowa than to its people-powered ethos and organizing model.
In a nine-part thread on Twitter reflecting on the Sanders campaign’s post-Iowa prospects, prominent supporter Naomi Klein on Tuesday advised supporters to remain focused on the issues that matter most.
“Yes, what happened was unfair to Bernie but it was unfair to other candidates who had a good night as well,” Klein said. “Nobody likes a victim so DO NOT let that become the mood of this campaign.”
She continued: “If we honestly believe we are building a movement, not just an electoral campaign, then the relationships we forge, and the political education we do along the way, is never wasted. It’s all part of building power, which we badly need no matter what happens. Nothing is wasted.”
Bhaskar Sunkara, founding editor of Jacobin magazine, in a column for the Guardian on Wednesday issued a similar message. Despite the Iowa caucuses being a disaster, Sunkara wrote, “Sanders supporters need to remember that if they organize and turn out to vote they can indeed win.”
Despite what many interpreted as a counting and reporting of the results in Iowa that hurt Sanders (intentionally or not), Sunkara warned against playing into the hands of any establishment forces trying to throw the campaign off of its true mission.
“Fellow Bernie Sanders supporters hear my plea,” he wrote: “we gain nothing by playing into the idea that the process is so stacked against us that we can’t win. For one, saying that elections are all ‘hacked’ or manipulated nowadays is a great way to encourage working people not to come out and vote. Why bother supporting an insurgent candidate, if the outcome is already assured?”
According to Sunkara, whose magazine shows great support for the Sanders campaign, the emphasis on what did or did not happen with the count in Iowa “is a distraction from both the economic concerns that Bernie Sanders excels at talking about and the grassroots organizing that’s propelling him so far this campaign. Sanders placed well in Iowa, not because his Twitter warriors memed the DNC hard enough, but because his volunteers knocked on 500,000 doors in the state in January alone. Despite only 4% of caucus attendees being Latino, they poured $1.5m into bilingual mailers. The campaign made so many phone calls (more than 7m) that they had to tell volunteers to stop—they had virtually no one left to call.”
In the end, he said, what Iowa shows is that Sanders “could very well win” the whole thing.