Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Why It's Wrong To Say We'll Never Know the Results of the Iowa Democratic Caucuses

Last night's Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC offered an uncharacteristically unclear and incorrect assessment by Lawrence about the results of the Iowa Democratic Caucuses on Monday night.   After correctly criticizing the caucus process as not being a secret ballot, as in effect excluding anyone who couldn't devote three hours of time in the evening to caucus, and not being amenable to a recount, Lawrence incorrectly concluded that "we'll never know who won in Iowa" in the Democratic caucuses.

To be clear, I think the caucus is an unfair, flawed method of selecting a candidate, for all of the reasons mentioned above.  People should be able to express their political choices in private - they should be able to choose their candidate without their friend or spouse knowing their choice.  They should also be able to record this choice any time throughout the day and evening, to allow people with various family and professional responsibilities a chance to cast their preferences.   And not being available for a recount is unfortunate indeed in when the results are very close, as they were in Iowa the other night.

But none of these flaws mean we don't know or will never know who won.   Hillary did, by .2 percent.   Yes, it would be very good if those results could be recounted, but the inability to do this does not mean that we do not know the results in the first place.

Measuring is always subject to error, and therefore well served by a capacity to measure again.   But the inability to re-measure does not mean that the initial measurement is unknowable or wrong.  Let's say I'm measuring a wall because I want to put a picture exactly in the middle.   I'll certainly put the ruler or tape to the wall more than once to confirm my first measurement.   But if I can't - if I lose my ruler - that doesn't mean that I don't know the measurement of the wall.   I do.   I just can't confirm it. The rational course of action without an opportunity to measure the wall again would be to put my picture on the wall, in the place indicated by the first measurement.

The Iowa caucuses should be replaced by a voting process, that's obvious.   But, for this election, Hillary Clinton won - by the thinnest possible margin - but she won.   And saying otherwise is not only unfair but wrong.


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