Thomas: Hello and welcome to Opening Arguments. Don’t adjust that dial!
Thomas: We are here early! It’s episode 357. I’m Thomas Smith, that’s Andrew Torrez, how’re you doing, Andrew/
Andrew: Well I would say I’m doing fantastic but, uh, apparently the entire Democratic Party has lost its goddamn mind so, no, not doing fantastic! How are you?
Thomas: I am going to get a bunch of my neurons together in different groups, have them talk to each other about how they think I’m doing-
Thomas: And then they will transmit their results to the part of my brain that says stuff.
Thomas: And that should just be, I’ll be able to tell you-
Andrew: And then we’ll round! We’ll round everybody up to one! Every neuron up to one.
Thomas: I’ll be able to tell you how I am in just 5 seconds. Ready? Hold on … okay, I don’t have those results.
Andrew: Error, error neuron not found!
Thomas: I’ll get them back to you after. [Laughs] Yeah. But did you know that this is all a conspiracy by the deep sta- no, not the deep state, sorry, that’s different conspiracy people. This is a conspiracy by the establishment against Bernie… Sanders.
Andrew: [Sighs] Alright, alright. So obviously we’re here, we’re talking about the Iowa caucuses [Laughing] as I pointed out on Twitter this morning, the same people peddling conspiracy theories are A) Russian disinformation artists, and B) the people who got “Iowa Caucas”, C-A-U-C-A-S to trend on Twitter. So you know, look if somebody spells at a 7th grade level maybe don’t ask them how the Democratic National Committee works, okay?
Thomas: You’re right, it’s still trending!
Andrew: Yeah. No it still is. C-A-U-C-A-S. So if you want all the dumb takes-
Andrew: From people who are just positive that they have deciphered A Beautiful Mind-style the secrets of the universe but, you know, don’t own spellcheck.
Thomas: Yeah, let me – give us a chance to try to ward off some angry emails. For one, this is coming at you live, unedited, we wanted to get this to you ASAP so consider this like a live broadcast, and speaking of, if you hear a bunch of dogs barking that would be dogs, any number of miles away from me, that are able to ruin any recording because that’s the primary function of dogs.
Andrew: [Laughs] So far my puppy hasn’t done anything!
Thomas: Yours is, yeah.
Andrew: I thought you were gonna make a dog whistle joke.
Thomas: No, no, I’ve got – there’s a dog turf war happening outside where a bunch of different dogs are having a bark-off. It’s like the voice, but for dogs? I dunno what it is but anyway, the point is we’re live, dogs and all, and also I wanna say this, I picked on Bernie a second ago.
Thomas: I’ve realized one of the main reasons that I have this problem so many times is when you look at the numbers, Bernie Sanders supporters are way more on Twitter than any other – which makes sense, they’re way more on Twitter then, like, Biden supporters who maybe don’t know how to use a phone.
Thomas: So it’s just a numbers thing.
Thomas: And I do see a lot of conspiracy theorists, but I wanna be equal opportunity here because we’ve seen some, you know, some bad stuff from multiple candidates in the wake of this.
Andrew: Yeah. Absolutely. Look, this is not meant, you guys know, you listen to Opening Arguments, you know who our candidate is, you also know where our politics are. You know we are not unsympathetic to Bernie Sanders, this is not a podcast about attacking any one candidate or any one candidate’s supporters. This is about attacking conspiracy theorists and urging calm and rationality for the reasons that you probably have already figured out if you listen to this show.
[Laughing] Let’s lead with that! The 2016 Senate Intelligence Committee report authored by Republicans about the 2016 Russian efforts to interfere in our elections, I said 2016 report, this report came out in October of 2019, but this is the report from the Senate Intelligence Committee chaired by Richard Burr, we’ve referenced it on this show a half-dozen times, describing the, in a bipartisan way, the consensus of both political parties and all of our major intelligence agencies as to Russian efforts to interfere with our 2016 election. I want to read this.
(Quote) “If Russia’s preferred candidate does not prevail in the 2020 election, the Russians may seek to delegitimize the election.” (End of quote). That is part of, this plan highlights a reason why nationwide elections cybersecurity standards are so critical. As a preface back to that, Russia, like the rest of intelligent America, expected Trump to lose and so in January of 2107 the intelligence community assessment noted that Russians were (quote) “prepared to publicly call into question the validity of the election night results” and (quote) “pro-Kremlin bloggers had prepared a Twitter campaign, #DemocracyRIP, on election night in anticipation of Secretary Clinton’s victory.” (End of quote).
Those are facts. We’re gonna debunk conspiracy theories in a minute, but you can disagree with that but you might as well disagree with, you know, heliocentricity. This is, in international relations, as close to an established, bipartisan fact as you can possibly get. So we know Russia has a prevailing interest, a stated goal, to sew discord and doubt about our elections. For the love of god, if you know that, why would you help them?
I’m gonna pause. [Laughs]
Thomas: Because maybe you didn’t do as well in the caucus as you thought?
Thomas: Well that’s Joe Biden’s excuse, I dunno what Bernie and the-
Andrew: Look, let’s be clear here. I love the fact you said – we are not targeting Bernie supporters. In fact, I have seen nonsense come from the Biden campaign-
Andrew: The Buttigieg campaign, and the Sanders campaign. I shouldn’t say – we should differentiate between campaign and supporters. It’s tough to do that. The only truly negative document that I have seen is the document from the Biden campaign’s lawyers. [Laughs] So, again, if you’re counting here-
Thomas: Well, and the Buttigieg release saying “we’re moving on to New Hampshire victorious.”
Andrew: Yeah, I do wanna talk about that.
Andrew: I will say, the two campaigns and supporters that by and large seem to be sitting this out are Warren and Klobuchar!
Thomas: Weird, I wonder what they have in common?
Andrew: [Laughs] Oddly, level-headed women. Weird!
Thomas: Yeah, maybe we should get one of these calm, rational, level-headed women to run things rather than these emotional men.
Andrew: [Sighs] You know… [Laughs] Alright-
Thomas: Now we’re gonna get all the emails about Klobuchar’s alleged bad behavior to her staffers and perhaps that’s actually a good point, but anyway, that aside.
Andrew: So, look, again, our point here is not to tell you your candidate is bad and you should feel bad. Our point is [Laughs] I was thinking this earlier today and if this were going to be a regular edited episode I would make Brian find this clip and plug it in, but there is, as always, a Transformers reference for everything.
Andrew: There’s a terrific moment in which-
Thomas: Nah. [Laughs]
Andrew: -Negatron, having been defeated by a series of unlikely stupid coincidences, looks around at his underlings and screams up at the sky [Impersonation] “I’ve got morons on my team!!” [Laughs] That clip has been playing on a perpetual loop in my head ever since about 1 a.m. last night. Let’s be better than this.
With all of that editorializing out of the way, I wanna add another bit of fact right here, and that is you can do this right now. I do it from an incognito window, I dunno that that really does anything, but I dunno, Thomas you can OK Boomer me on this one.
Andrew: But the paper formerly known as Russia Today, now RT.com. RT.com is a propaganda arm of the Kremlin, okay? Again, I’m gonna quote from, this is now Volume II of the Senate Intelligence Report. As of February 2019, RT had 3.3 million global subscribers on its YouTube channel. It was the first channel to break 1 billion views on YouTube and in 2017 their channel acquired its 5 billionth view. Their social media presence and activities were outlined in the January 27th, 2017 intelligence community assessment in an annex to the unclassified version of the report. RT is one of the primary arms of Russia’s disinformation campaign, cyber warfare campaign against the United States.
Go to RT.com. By the way, this is super instructive in terms of understanding how not to repeat the same things that our enemies are saying. You will see, “subscribe to RT for all of the news that the mainstream media won’t cover.”
Andrew: There are a dozen stories on RT.com. This one is called “Iowa Democratic Coding Issue,” and the headline is “Dems say Iowa caucus chaos caused by coding issue, will release just over half of results first.”
Thomas: Wait isn’t-
Andrew: The entirety, yeah. [Laughs]
Thomas: Isn’t that what’s actually happening?
Andrew: Yeah yeah. Oh yeah.
Thomas: So they try to present it, a little bit of truth and then sprinkle in-
Andrew: The way, yeah. This is also discussed in the Senate Intelligence Committee report, that the most successful – again I’m gonna quote from the report, this is Volume II page 16. “The most successful Russian operations blend covert hacking and dissemination operations, social media operations, and fake personas, with more overt influence platforms like State-funded online media including RT and Sputnik. The modern Russian disinformation playbook calls for illicitly obtaining information and then welcoming it and weaponizing it by disseminating it into the public sphere.”
I don’t have a great pull-quote immediately for what it describes in the report, which is essentially you report 90% truth and 10% propaganda.
Andrew: And the truth is what sanitizes the propaganda.
Andrew: So it is-
Thomas: I feel like Fox News needs to dial up those numbers a little!
Thomas: Like wait a minute, we’re going 20% truth and 80% complete nonsense. I didn’t know we’re supposed to do higher than the…
Andrew: There was a book I read as an adolescent in which the protagonist trying to bring down a military organization, infiltrate it, they’re working in the supply line and so they deliberately mess up one out of every ten orders and they’re like “this is gonna cause chaos” and then the punchline like two chapters later they’re like “yeah, you’re the only branch in our department that’s running at 90% efficiency, good work guys!”
Andrew: [Laughs] So, um, yeah.
Thomas: I was gonna say, speaking of boomerisms, that’s not a boomer thing but just generations, the biggest difference between the handful of years difference between us is I’m the Harry Potter youth generation.
Thomas: That’s like the biggest dividing line. That’s why you’ve got all these Transformers references, I’m like so what did Hermione say about that?
Thomas: That’s my generation. So anyway-
Andrew: Expelliarmus. That’s the only word I know.
Andrew: There you go.
Thomas: [Impersonation] Expelliarmus!
Andrew: I just know that because Eli will say that, you know, every couple of sentences.
Thomas: Yeah! [Laughs]
Andrew: So look, if you go there you can read the headline and the headline reports fact.
Andrew: It does it with a little bit of a sarcastic spin. “Coding issue” is put in scare pull-quotes, that sort of thing, but it really is sort of the substance that starts to prime you for – RT.com is not saying there is a conspiracy. But here’s what they do. With many taking to social media to criticize Shadow, Inc., the group behind the seemingly disastrous app meant to record results in the caucus, Price insisted the app is (scare quotes) “sound” and gave accurate, if only (scare quotes) “partial” results.
Then they quote a bunch of leftwing activists on Twitter, starting off with Kyle Kulinski who I can proudly say we did not follow but is now on my definitely do not follow list along with the-
Thomas: He’s among the worst Bernie bros online, I gotta be honest.
Andrew: He says (and I quote) “Iowa State Dem party statement, I’ll just say it, when we get the results I 100% don’t believe them.” I would be embarrassed if Opening Arguments showed up in an RT article.
Andrew: I would be embarrassed even if we were correct if we were being used by our enemies as propaganda. I kind of think that that’s an important thing if you love democracy and love the country.
Then after quoting Kulinski, this is now the article. See if you can spot the propaganda. “Others have pointed to a possibility the Democratic Party is trying to cover up a Bernie Sanders win to shine a better light on more establishment candidates like Joe Biden or Elizabeth Warren.”
Thomas: Huh, weird.
Andrew: Then they quote somebody else who says “Coding issue my ass, you liberals didn’t like that Joe Biden didn’t get the win. At least the DNC tried rigging it for him.”
Andrew: Alright. So this is the propaganda war that is being fought. I want to circle back and talk about narratives or whatever.
Thomas: Can I just real quick-
Andrew: Please, please!
Thomas: -make a clarification-
Andrew: God, please do.
Thomas: I just wanted to make sure. It’s not as though you’re saying that the Russians are hacking our election, it’s that you’re saying they’re trying to use any opportunity to sew doubt.
Thomas: It’s not like you think the nonsense in Iowa is a Russian attack or anything, it’s just they will use any opportunity to have us fight each other and all that kind of thing.
Andrew: Yes, that’s their goal. Imagine if, you know, a terrorist goal was to crash a particular airplane and then coincidentally the airplane happens to crash, that’s the way in which I view this situation. We’re gonna talk about everything we can piece together from the facts, but what we know is that disinformation campaigns, propaganda campaigns, terrorist campaigns, thrive on flexibility and taking advantage of confusion. We have it in print from 6 months ago, we have documented evidence from 3 years ago, that what the Russians want to do – yes.
If you believe that Donald Trump is a puppet of the Russians, which I don’t by the way, I think we’ve been pretty clear about this on the show. If you believe that Donald Trump is 100% a puppet of the Russians then yeah, they own our government, but if you believe what I believe, which is that Donald Trump has behavior that seems to suggest a conflict of interest in favor of Russia, and that the Russians, A) are happier to have Trump in office than they would have been to have had Hillary Clinton which is, again, undisputed fact. B), the thing that the Russians enjoy in the interim, unless and until they can get the prototypical Yuri from No Way Out, a Russian operative as President, it is incredibly easy to see okay, well this is the next best thing.
Having your enemy be in total disarray, sewing distrust of the government and discord among the opposition party that could bring your guy down, it’s so obviously the best play.
Thomas: Yeah, dividing Democrats too so-
Thomas: So that Trump can stay in office.
Andrew: Yeah, that goes back to [Laughs] and again, Tulsi Gabbard, if you’re listening: Opening Arguments Media, LLC is a Maryland Limited Liability Company! That was the point that Hillary Clinton was trying to make on David Plouffe’s podcast, which was that part of weaponizing, interfering in U.S. elections is understanding that we have a winner take all model and that it’s easier to take all when you have third-party candidates siphoning away votes. We don’t need to go there.
What we do need to go with is, I just wanna first make this very explicit and I wish I had done this 15 minutes ago at the start of the program. Iowa caucus results are reported from precincts by precinct volunteers with representatives of both parties who are present-
Thomas: Of all candidates, do you mean?
Andrew: Well in the general election it’s both parties. In the primaries it’s all candidates.
Thomas: But in the general election it’s not a caucus, right?
Andrew: Right, yeah. [Laughs] You are correct, I was describing in general the way that precinct counting works.
Thomas: We don’t have Brian here to edit out our fighting! Sorry everybody!
Andrew: Yeah, [Whining] Mom! So precinct workers are all in the same room with the precinct captains who then get together, vet among all of the candidates, and report to State party chairpersons. The DNC – I want you to understand this, be 100% clear, the DNC 100% is not involved with how States count their elections, with how States report their returns, with what apps the State – that’s not a thing. Think back to your own, if you’re particularly conspiracy-theory minded, think back to your own conspiracy theories from 2016.
If the DNC could just hack the votes then why did they let Bernie Sanders get 49.9% of the votes in Iowa in 2016? Why did – I wanna say Donna Shalala, but it’s not-
Thomas: Donna Brazile?
Andrew: Donna Brazile, yeah, sorry. Not Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, but former DNC operative Donna Brazile.
If the DNC controlled all the votes then why was it a scandal that Donna Brazile allegedly leaked questions to the Hillary Clinton campaign? They wouldn’t have had to have done all of the things you accused them of doing in 2016 if they could just be like “nope, we’re pulling the plug and we’re fixing the numbers in Iowa.”
That is a- and where I have engaged with it, I have just engaged with “the DNC doesn’t count votes” and I have gotten, to a person, and I got this four times before telling you hey we need to record, I’ve gotten a “well can you prove they didn’t?”
Thomas: Right, yeah.
Andrew: Come on.
Thomas: So it’s the State Democratic Party, right?
Andrew: It is the Iowa State Democratic Party.
Thomas: And it would be a bold move to say the least to try to mess with this when, like you say, there’s representatives from all the campaigns who are going to have the results. They’re there when the precinct captains phone in the results, right? So there’s gonna be backup information to piece this together.
Andrew: And more than this. I’m super proud and happy of this. We had folks tweet into us, after the Iowa caucuses – because again, because it’s a caucus thing everybody gets to see what happens.
Andrew: So we had folks explain on the ground, I’m gonna give him a shout out here because he’s all over our Twitter feed. Dan Barklund in Iowa-04, he said look, after the realignment my district was Warren 33, Bernie 25, Klobuchar 22, Pete 19, Biden nonviable. We have ten delegates to award, so that means Warren 3, Bernie 3, Klobuchar 2, Pete 2. Biden’s vote split between Amy/Pete, Yangs voters went everywhere (presumably after the realignment.)
He also, I’m not gonna read it out, it’s right below that. They handed out 715 cards, some were spoiled, they have out some replacements. Eventually they got 721 cards back counting the replacements that went out, then you can figure out, you can multiply the numbers by 721 and figure out exactly, to the person, how many people caucused for each individual in each precinct.
Because caucuses are even more transparent – if this had just been a primary you would say okay, well it’s a Diebold machine, there are no paper ballots, who knows it could just be wholesale changing of votes. This is a situation where, number one: people stood next to each other in gyms.
Andrew: And there was nothing to stop you from doing what Dan did, from recording the numbers, you had your phone, this is not a jury. You could take pictures, you could tweet out, you could take notes and people did all of that. Number two: there are multiple levels of paper copies of everything at every level. So this is the very worst kind of thing to try and interfere with in terms of are you going to rig the results?
Thomas: You know I think I’ve offhandedly made the comment, aw why can’t we just have online everything, voting instant, whatever. You know, I’ve gotten some feedback and I think I wanna say maybe I’ve changed my mind on this. I think maybe everything should be paper. It’s more confidence. Yeah, it takes a little longer but you know what? It’s one thing when it’s a primary but when it’s the President you don’t even take office for like a year!
Thomas: You know, you get elected November and then you take office in January, so what if it takes three days? [Laughs] Whatever it might be, a week, to come up with who won? What’s the big deal?
Andrew: You know what would be, I think, the best of both worlds, would be if we had a functioning government in which the Republican leader of the Senate in Mitch McConnell, well aware of this Senate Intelligence Committee report, didn’t take the position of “meh, but the Russians interfering now helps my guy, so I’m good with it.”
The idea of returning to paper because it’s safer, the reason it’s safer is because we refuse to do the things that we need in order to make it safe! We could devote billions of dollars to cybersecurity and actually prevent the kind of Russian overt hacking and the kind of foreign intrusion that we’re talking about here, but one political party has been welcoming it with open arms.
So I think I agree with you, but I agree with you only because our system is so completely screwed up. That’s actually a really, really good transition to the second point that I want to make.
So point one, which we’ve made at great length, I’m sure we’re gonna lose patrons over this, I’m sure people are gonna be mad. Don’t. I don’t care, I’m about to talk about, it’s fair to be disappointed if you’re fans of certain candidates, but do not be a part of conspiracy theories. It’s what our enemies want and you’re better than that.
Point two is, and I’m kinda seeing this one too. Maybe it’s a good post-talk thing, but it’s kinda weird to me that Tuesday morning is when everybody is saying oh, well, you know, “Iowa is such a mess and the State is 99% white and caucuses are non-representative and-
Thomas: Hold on.
Andrew: To your credit-
Thomas: I’ve been saying that for months.
Andrew: No, I know! [Laughs]
Thomas: I hate this stupid system.
Andrew: [Laughs] I am contrasting folks with you.
Andrew: If people were on team Thomas, and believe me I’ve retweeted out all the Serious Pod stuff. These are all super valid criticisms. It is super dumb that Iowa is first in the nation and that it’s vested with this kind of mystical political significance, but if you weren’t on team “Iowa is super dumb” yesterday, then I don’t need you to be on it today. If you went and played and were prepared to say, “oh look, we won Iowa, that means XYZ,” then I don’t think now is a great time to all of a sudden become an Iowa skeptic.
Thomas: Well that would strike me as weird because the main problem with Iowa – well, not the main – a problem is that it would actually favor Bernie and it’s looking like Bernie did well so who are the fair-weather, or I guess foul-weather, whoever it is who are now, like “oh no this sucks.”
Thomas: Do you think it’s Biden people or something? Because one thing that seems clear from all the evidence we have, which, it’s not 100%, but I think we can have a lot of confidence in the fact that Biden really underperformed, which I’m a fan of. That’s great. But do you think it’s Biden people who are all of a sudden now unhappy with this? Or is it just because everyone’s so mad about the delay?
Andrew: Yeah, I’ve seen both. Certainly as we talk about expectations, and I do want to get to that because that’s another weird kind of contradiction.
Thomas: Can you give me a second to talk about why I hate this stupid caucus system?
Andrew: Please do, go for it.
Thomas: So I watch Samantha Bee, I’m a big fan.
Andrew: Oh, I love her!
Thomas: She has a segment interviewing, I think, the guy who’s like in some way responsible for Iowa going first and some other people, some Iowans, and it is just a master class in people rationalizing stupid opinions. They all wanna defend why Iowa goes first. Oh no, it should definitely go first, Iowans are just uniquely engaged, they really discuss every candidate or whatever. No matter how many questions you ask pointing out the flaws in their logic they just stick to it.
But, for example, one problem is A) any state that got to go first, people are the same in States. I don’t know if you know this, but do you think there’s some magical thing about Iowa that makes them better than everybody else? Or is it just that they get to go first and they have this system, so the candidates go there and bend over backwards for them, so that’s created an environment where they wanna hear from these candidates and do all the stuff that they do, have their State Fair and all that crap.
Andrew: More like State Unfair!
Thomas: [Coughs] Sorry, Brian can’t edit out my coughing, apologies. Andrew, you can’t say stuff that’s so badly funny.
Andrew: [Laughs] Thanks?
Thomas: To the caucus is just so stupid. It’s also very, very low participation. That’s a weird thing about this year. From current reporting it’s even lower this year? Which worries me. It’s even lower this year than I think 2016 and I guess 2008 was the peak for probably obvious reasons.
Thomas: So you get a tiny percentage of the electorate, of even the Democratic electorate, participating, you get a State that’s overwhelmingly white, and you have a system and a caucus that requires you to have an abundance of free time, requires you to be able to argue with people and convince, which you might think oh no that’s a good thing. Yeah, true, but it also favors privileged people, it favors non-disabled people, I guess abled people? I don’t know what the right word is, but it certainly disfavors anyone with a disability who maybe can’t go and do this weird arcane process for hours in the night, or maybe [Laughing] has to work for a living and doesn’t have the time, has kids, that kind of thing.
We saw Elizabeth Warren pledge to provide childcare for people who wanted to caucus, which was awesome, but that’s a big challenge too and you’ve gotta figure that that could favor men because they tend to be able to not do some of that child supervision, all that stuff. So there’s all these reasons why I think it’s a stupid system, the caucus should not exist, Iowa should not go first, it should be a State that is more representative of the overall Democratic electorate, and I think it should just be a primary vote.
The caucus – I know it’s this fun weird old-timey cosplay LARPing thing that we like to do like it’s the 1700s, but it’s stupid. So there’s my spiel on that.
Andrew: Uh, I endorse your spiel 100% down to the last sentence of it. I kind of – there’s definitely a part of me that, boy, every four years for one day I wish I lived in Iowa!
Thomas: Yeah! [Laughs]
Andrew: Never any other time, start writing in OA live show in Iowa folks, we know you’re out there. I was born in Springfield, Illinois so I’ve got good solid Midwestern cred behind me, I am sure that Council Bluffs, Iowa, is a lovely place to live. But, yeah, I like that idea of going out there, but I really think that the second to the last point you made on that is one that hasn’t been made enough.
Look, a lot of folks realize that caucuses overvalue strength of support, it’s one of the reasons – again, you can argue, I think a lot of this is good things. It’s one of the reasons Bernie Sanders over-performed in caucus States in 2016. The Bernie supporters are more likely to be students, more likely to be heavily engaged, and Hillary supporters were more likely to be yeah, I’ll probably vote for her. That absolutely lends itself to overrepresentation.
You’re a college kid, your time – again, I know we have college listeners, but I know we also have smart college kids who listen to the show – mathematically, economically speaking, as a principle of economics, if you’re a college kid your time economically is worth less than somebody who’s in their 30s. That’s a mathematical fact. So a lot of people made that point, which you made.
You made a really excellent point that I don’t wanna pass lightly on, and that is there is also a normativity of who your supporters are. Because of the whole, they have to go persuade everybody else. So if you’re thinking about, who do you make your precinct chairperson in New Hampshire – again, New Hampshire, not a super diverse State, but at least it is a primary State.
Andrew: So if you’re the Klobuchar campaign and you want somebody to be your precinct captain in New Hampshire, you’re gonna pick your most energized, longest supporter. If you’re in an Iowa caucus you have to be thinking about picking, as your precinct chair for that particular caucus, not just somebody who has all those other attributes, but somebody who meets up with other people’s expectations of what your delegate should be.
Let’s be super-duper clear about that. I cannot imagine that people of color, people who are gay for example, that people who are otherwise not fitting into what society views as typical, have a harder time getting those positions because the campaign’s like [Sighs] Yeah, but like is Aunt Mildred really gonna go over with the woman with the purple hair and the three nose piercings? That’s another aspect, just another subtle aspect of where it benefits those who are already privileged. So I really like that point so I wanted to reiterate it.
Thomas: Well thanks. So what’s the point that I interrupted you from making? [Laughs]
Andrew: So I think we’ve sort of talked about all the [Laughing] reasons that Iowa’s bad, but I do think there’s kind of a level of consistency. If you were planning on claiming victory in Iowa and saying that that says something about your campaign, I don’t know that you can turn around and start talking about how bad Iowa is now in a method that’s consistent. I do certainly hope that the fact that Iowa screwed this up in a spectacular fashion means that we look more seriously at this next year, and, you know, this is one of these where every competing model has its own potential problems.
Andrew: I don’t know if you were watching the MSNBC returns last night. Michael Steele, who briefly chaired the Republican National Committee, said yeah, what I wanted us to do was go to a nationwide primary system. That’s a super interesting model. A nationwide primary system would avoid all of the problems of picking a (quote) “representative State,” you can see why Republicans would be interested in that, it would certainly amplify the voices of those with the most money.
Andrew: Those who are able to fundraise the most early on and get on the airwaves-
Thomas: Well just to make clear, was Steele saying that about – because Republicans and Democrats, it’s two different organizations.
Thomas: They do different things, the rules are different. So what was he saying that about? The Republican primary?
Andrew: No he was saying I wanted – because Steele was – I don’t wanna get my facts wrong as to when he was RNC chair, but I believe that he was chair after the 2012 debacle in which Mitt Romney – so let’s remember that. Iowa has screwed up on the Republicans as well, and in 2012 Mitt Romney was declared the winner on the night of the caucuses-
Andrew: And then a week later they went back and were like “no wait, we miscounted some votes, it was actually Rick Santorum.” Then based on how the delegates reported out to the Republican National Convention they were actually not pledged in a particular way and so the Ron Paul folks infiltrated and actually got more votes than either Romney or Santorum. So that’s a pretty big screw up.
Thomas: That’s dumb, yeah.
Andrew: Yeah, totally dumb, and Steele, again, I think in connection with that or otherwise in connection with his job, had raised and said this on MSNBC, that he lobbied for the Republican Party to go to nationwide primary. Again, for the Republicans, that wouldn’t be binding on Democrats.
Thomas: Are you defining that as just every State votes the same day?
Andrew: You would either have one day or a phased process.
Thomas: Just making sure it’s not some system where it’s like a national popular vote for the primary.
Thomas: That would be … I guess that’s not impossible, but I don’t-
Andrew: Yeah to be honest-
Thomas: You would want to weight the States in a certain way.
Andrew: I dunno, are you making an electoral college argument?
Thomas: No, I’m actually making an argument that you would want your primary to reflect the electoral college because it’s the dumb system that we’re stuck with. So if it was a national primary vote for President then maybe it would be best to just have a national – sorry, if it was a national popular vote is what I meant to say, for President, maybe it would be best to just have a national popular vote for the primary. My opinion is you should want it to reflect who you need to show up and who is going to show up to win the general. You kind of want your system to reflect that, and a caucus is the least like that because of the problems we have both outlined.
Andrew: Yup. That’s a really interesting point. I wonder if, particularly on the Democratic side. I’m thinking of examples of States, for example, like Georgia, where the Democratic primary electorate is very heavily African American and very liberal, whereas the overall tenor of the State tends to be more conservative. So I wonder – I think it’s a good point and for the most part your primary voters are somewhat reflective of the general electorate voters, but there’s also a disconnect.
Thomas: Well, yeah, but I mean the general in terms of who’s gonna vote for-
Thomas: Who’s gonna show up to vote for your candidate. So I guess I would be talking about general election, democratic voters who will actually show up.
Andrew: Yeah, yeah. No I think that’s a really excellent point. I wanna talk really briefly, because this plays into the conspiracy stuff, about the way in which Iowa delegate equivalents are calculated, because this was going to cause confusion regardless. These are gonna be reported in State Delegate Equivalents. This is a new system that is being put into place, and it was gonna cause confusion even before the results got delayed and now it’s gonna cause a lot of confusion.
So, hypothetical example. You’re in a large precinct that sends five total delegates out to the National Convention. In that precinct you have five candidates all hit the threshold of viability. Let’s say Elizabeth Warren, 30%, Bernie Sanders 25%, and then Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Joe Biden all 15%. In that situation, Elizabeth Warren would have twice the votes of Joe Biden, but all five would wind up with one delegate. Because there are only five delegates to award, all five are over the threshold of viability, and that’s the way the math works.
So in addition to all the other really, really stupid things, at the end of the day what counts are the delegate totals that go out to the State convention. There are 41 total of these, so there just aren’t that many, so you could have a fairly large differential in people standing in your corner in the side of the gym and that gets averaged down to one, that gets averaged down to two. So this is not – again, this is not a function of the conspiracy, it’s just a function of the dumb way in which the Iowa caucuses work.
We pointed this out, but last election cycle in 2016 the actual raw vote totals were within a few tenths of a percentage point as between Clinton and Sanders, and because of how that broke down in various precincts it wound up with a majority of delegates going to Clinton. That’s not ‘cuz the DNC rigged it ‘cuz they all hate Bernie, that’s the way the math breaks down. There are gonna be things that look weird even when the results come in.
Thomas: Cool! Can’t wait. Yeah, I’m also worried because no matter the outcome now there’s always the perfect conspiracy theory that fits it, you know
Andrew: Yeah, well, that’s the thing about a conspiracy theory is you invent it and then the facts [Laughs] can be morphed to fit whatever your narrative is.
Thomas: So if Buttigieg wins it’ll be “wow they changed the results” or something. The company that’s kinda related to him did the app, blah blah blah. If Bernie wins it’ll be well see, they were so staggered by the fact that Bernie was winning they had to try to find a way to recalculate it so that, you know, or it was a delay on purpose to stop the news cycle, to prevent him from getting a good news cycle or something. So just be ready. No matter what there’ll be a conspiracy explanation for it. Mine is just incompetence, by the way.
Andrew: Yeah, obviously!
Thomas: I think it’s incompetence.
Andrew: Who’s law is that? Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity. Yes. That is by far the most parsimonious explanation.
The other thing is, I think this kind of ties in. Ultimately if you support a particular candidate I think you should be honest about what it is that you’re feeling right now. Let’s talk about it, since neither you nor I are a fan of this particular candidate. If you’re a Pete Buttigieg supporter, you should be super mad right now. Because all of the available evidence that we can see is that – again, this is going to be the expected narrative if the results come out and they differ strongly from this then it has the potential to disturb it, but the narrative, as far as we can tell from all of the evidence. We can kind of get into, this seems corroborated by the behavior of the campaigns.
Looks like Buttigieg way over-performed, Biden way underperformed and then everybody else we don’t know about. The Biden underperformance looks like it advantaged Klobuchar as an over performance, Sanders kinda looks like he came in about where he was expected to come in. He led all of the Iowa polls for the last three weeks. Tough to say, we don’t have numbers on our candidate, Elizabeth Warren, but you don’t get – it doesn’t really matter. You don’t get six narratives coming out of Iowa. It looks like right now, unless something weird happens, the narrative is gonna be Buttigieg over-performed, Biden underperformed.
That was going to be true, I just want to make this clear and we have ample evidence of this throughout history going back to Bill Clinton’s second place finish in Iowa in 1992 which was, you know, spun as the comeback kid and propelled him almost directly to the Democratic nomination. If the results had come in last night, and let’s just make up numbers, and Sanders had won with 35 and Buttigieg had finished second with 33 and Biden finished fourth or fifth that still would have been the headline with zero difficulties with the Iowa reporting system.
It would not have mattered that Sanders won, the story would have been “Sanders wins, (comma) Buttigieg Shocks Iowa, Biden Disappoints.” That’s the way that it would have been spun without any kind of intervening at all.
Thomas: Well [Sighs] personally I get that there’s maybe some amount of momentum lost when you don’t get the news that night I guess, but we’re gonna get the results today, are we not? I mean is it really, the difference of 24 hours means you don’t get any boost or something? Am I misunderstanding something?
Andrew: I don’t know that you can compute that. Let’s look at the example of 2012.
Thomas: Well with the Republicans, but that was a while later and then they changed – are you talking about Romney and Santorum?
Andrew: I am talking about Romney.
Thomas: Yeah. Oh certainly if something like that happens that will greatly affect the primary.
Andrew: Right, but again I use that to say Romney’s team tried to argue hey look, we already won Iowa, why are you re-reporting this? And voters were like wait, those are facts and they came out. That’s what I think. Obviously this is unprecedented but if you wanna ask, do you need to declare that night? I think the answer to that is no. I think we know from events that when the news comes out that’s when you get the implication of what happens. So look, if the results come through and they deviate in any way from what we’ve now sort of been conditioned to expect then that has the potential to shape the narrative. I don’t think it will matter that it’s today versus last night.
Thomas: Alright. Since this is a law show, I do wanna try to ask, are there any legal concerns here? Do you expect any candidate lawsuits? Does anybody have any grounds for anything here or is it one of those just incompetence is not really a tort?
Thomas: Negligence? Anything law wise?
Andrew: Yeah, and we’ve talked about a couple of different things. You have – so a few things to think of here. Number one, in terms of there being active rights to recounts, the math almost certainly makes that impossible for you to have standing. In other words, we talked about this in 2016, but in broad outline to have standing to say as a political candidate, “I suffered an injury here,” you have to say I’m Joe Biden, I came in 5th and I should have come in 3rd. It does not look as though, based on the math that we’ve discussed, the broader the field the more level the playing field is. Paradoxically, because of the rounding up of delegates, the harder it is to prove that systematic errors would have made a difference.
Again, go back to my five delegates coming out of a district split 30, 25, 15, 15, 15. What that means is, think of how hard it is to demonstrate that you lost a delegate in that district. You could double your support and it still wouldn’t matter.
Andrew: That’s obviously an extreme example, but my first level answer to the question of are there going to be lawsuits? Well first, there are always gonna be lawsuits now. [Laughs] But are there going to be meritorious lawsuits? I think the answer is it’s going to be very, very difficult for any of these campaigns to show any kind of standing and it’s going to be very, very difficult for any individualized voter to show the same harm.
For example, this story has been making the rounds which I saw, and I don’t even remember which campaign it was.
Thomas: Which Russian propaganda website you were on?
Andrew: [Laughs] Yeah, right.
Thomas: In incognito mode?
Andrew: Oh, gosh. [Sighs]
Thomas: I think it was Pornhub.
Andrew: This is the dirtiest I have ever felt opening up an incognito browser, let me tell you, going to RT news.
Thomas: Yeah. Your wife walks in, “ah! Turn – get some porn going!”
Andrew: No! No it’s just porn! Yeah! [Laughs]
Thomas: Yeah, no! What are you on?
Andrew: [Laughs] Yeah, believe me I would rather be caught with that.
Andrew: But in precincts, depending on how you announce who’s viable and who’s not viable, because the non-viable candidates get to rearrange, well suppose that the Biden folks are 3 votes short, the Yang votes are 5 votes short, and the Steyer folks are 10 votes short. The way in which you announce that can matter. We saw live on the air people saying “hey, the Biden people only need 5 votes, so you Yang folks if you want to go split up you could make them viable.”
Certainly the opposite is also true. If you took all the Biden people and put them in the Yang camp in my hypothetical that would make Yang viable, and yet I am 100% positive that if you’re an Iowa precinct worker you’re far more likely to say “hey, Biden just needs a couple” rather than “hey, Yang just needs 10.”
Thomas: Yeah, but from my – you know, I’ve heard some audio of these things and all that and it’s all – all the information is there. They announce how many people are there, first, so that means viability equals this number of people.
Thomas: So if you’re sitting there in the Yang group and you can’t do the math–
Thomas: Get it?
Andrew: I do get it.
Thomas: Of how many people you have and whether or not you’re viable, I dunno, I think all that information is there for everybody who knows basic, even very, very basic math.
Andrew: So I will say this. I agree with you, my point on that is that even demonstrating as an individual Iowa caucus-goer, it seems to me it is going to be a challenge to show, even if something bad happened to you-
Andrew: That that violated your fundamental right to participate, again because of the standing issue.
Andrew: So in other words, if we all agree that in that scenario the Yang caucus-goer doesn’t have grounds to sue. He’s got grounds to be mad, but you know, he wouldn’t have grounds to sue for precisely the reason that you described, which was look, all the candidate information came out, it’s a caucus, some people are more enthusiastic about other candidates than others. Sorry the chair was not super enthusiastic about getting some Yang folks together. It’s our bad, but the State isn’t responsible for having deprived you of your right to caucus. You got to caucus, you went out, you stood with your guy, they counted up the numbers, you didn’t have enough and then you could either move on or go home. Your rights were not violated.
Even though I have some sympathy. You were treated differently, but you were not treated differently enough that the State is gonna recognize that as a cause of action. I use that as an analogy, I think you are going to see, you’re probably gonna see some lawsuits come out of this just because that’s how campaigns operate now, and I think we saw the Biden folks already kind of preview that, but I doubt that that really goes anywhere to be honest.
It gets threatened, there’s a discussion, and then that probably gets pulled because at the end of the day it’s gonna be really, really difficult to demonstrate, to have standing to show there’s a thing that this could have been otherwise and that there’s a remedy that we can give you, because at the end of the day I don’t know what that remedy would be, either. Voting is a zero-sum game. It’s not like when you sue somebody for money, here if we give, if we’re like oh we’ll just throw a couple extra delegates Biden’s way, that’s gotta come from somebody.
Andrew: And then that person is specifically-
Thomas: And by the way it will be like after the election because it takes so long for the courts.
Andrew: Yeah! [Laughs]
Thomas: Alright, it’s the year 2022, we’re gonna give Biden a few delegates just as a settlement or whatever.
Andrew: [Laughs] Right. That does no good. So yeah, people are steaming, people are super mad now, but we hope that this is the voice of some caution in the wilderness.
Thomas: But, you know, just to present the arguments and concerns here, there’s nothing – the fact that everybody’s mad that the company that developed the app, for one they call themselves Shadow which, alright. Come on.
Andrew: [Laughs] That is kinda like Blackwater having the-
Thomas: I know! Can’t you just call your – it’s almost as bad as “Fraud Guaranteed.” Not quite, but almost as bad as Fraud Guaranteed. Can you not just name yourselves, like, Happy Tech. Something.
Andrew: But now I’m thinking they could go too far in that direction.
Thomas: Yeah, true. Yeah you can’t go too far. There’s a nice where it sounds way too sinister.
Andrew: Yeah, you need to be Amalgamated Industrial Vote Counting Associates, Limited.
Thomas: [Laughs] Wait, wait, the fact that that company is-
Andrew: That’s my new firm. Iowa, you wanna hire somebody, Opening Arguments Media, LLC will produce your next-
Thomas: Well by the way, pfft, I could do that in a heartbeat. Here’s what I’m gonna do, I’m gonna invent this technology called a spreadsheet, and then – here, hold on, I’ll do the numbers. There are 1765 precincts. I’m going to divide that by some number of people who will receive phone calls on the night and input their data into a spreadsheet, I will copy and paste it, it will take me …. 72 minutes. Max. There, I fixed it for you, I don’t need a fancy app.
Andrew: So, State of Iowa, this fancy app can be yours for $50 million.
Thomas: [Laughs] Yeah! But anyway, the fact that the company, the guy’s a donor to Buttigieg or something. First off, what do you think of all that and then secondly, law wise, still nothing?
Andrew: Everything I have read – again, I go back to the way in which I understand the app operating is truly as an app. Designed to facilitate communication. Now that screwed up spectacularly, but I would differentiate that from like the paperless Diebold machines which we have in a dozen States in which they are actually transmitting the votes. What’s causing the delay is that the app said oh hey look, there are discrepancies, and now we’re going back and matching things up-
Andrew: -against the actual paper tallies.
Thomas: It still shouldn’t take this long, but whatever.
Andrew: It still shouldn’t take this long, that’s fine, but at the end of the day we’re not saying the app says X so we’re going with that number, we’re saying the app says X, the app also says [Laughing] like the little PC Load Letter is blinking, right?
Andrew: I’m telling you, the listeners don’t get these great references on regular shows.
Thomas: I think they do, they get that one.
Andrew: No, I mean usually Brian edits them out. I mean they literally do not get to hear them.
Thomas: Wait, what?
Thomas: I’m gonna fire him if he edits out PC Load Letter, what are you talking about?
Andrew: [Laughs] Anyway, so the situation is we have the app, it’s blinking, it’s transmitted numbers, and the way in which we’re reconstructing is by going back to the votes. That’s the way it’s supposed to work.
Thomas: Again, let’s play this out. So Buttigieg supporter develops an app and he says “you know what I’m gonna do? I’m gonna have the app when it reports the thing I’m gonna have it add plus 10 or whatever the hell to Pete Buttigieg.”
Andrew: Round up all the half-cents, yeah.
Thomas: Yeah, to every single Buttigieg, in the precincts, and then that’s my super plan and then what will happen is the 18 million people who each – I won’t exaggerate. The 5, 6 people who are at every precinct who know what the numbers should be and in the end get together and show oh my god something’s going on here, the guy who’s obviously connected to Buttigieg developed an app that’s obviously boosting Buttigieg, then they get sued out of existence because that’s actually fraud. Like is that the plan? All so he could win… Iowa? Then what? He’s gonna get killed in the South.
Thomas: Is that the master plan that we think’s happening everybody?
Andrew: It seems like a bad master plan. [Laughs]
Andrew: How bout we put it at that.
Thomas: [Sighs] It’s not impossible I guess! But it seems pretty unlikely to me.
Andrew: At the end of the day, I view – I kinda view that as adjacent to, oh well, the FBI investigation was 100% corrupt because Peter Strzok didn’t want Donald Trump to be President.
Andrew: It is-
Thomas: Never mind all the documented!
Thomas: By the way, big enough deal hasn’t been made out of how many pro-Trump texts there were that were part of all that investigation and everything.
Thomas: All we hear about is like how these two people who were having an affair were anti-Trump, meanwhile there’s plenty of just disgusting pro-Trump nonsense among FBI worker.
Thomas: Oh, all of a sudden that doesn’t matter. That’s fine.
Andrew: So, yeah. Again, we just described this. It’s Iowa. The developer lives in Iowa and works in Iowa, we should expect that he probably has a political opinion.
Thomas: That it will suck! No, sorry! [Laughs]
Andrew: Yeah, well that too. So… yeah. To me I think you need a lot more to kind of connect up the dots, and I will say as litigation goes, the fact that we have not had successful lawsuits over the Diebold machines which are a way stronger case, indicates to me that even if there is an effort made that that effort is not likely to go anywhere and doesn’t make a whole hell of a lot of sense.
Thomas: Alright, well.
Andrew: So there you go.
Thomas: Any final words? Should we wrap it up?
Andrew: No, we’re gonna get this out and you will have your guide to the results as they trickle out.
Thomas: Maybe we do 45 seconds of punditry about our favorite candidate? I am very sad that there wasn’t some- well, we don’t know for sure, but I was really hoping for a Warren upset victory because I feel like that’s what’s gonna be needed at this point. You might disagree with me, but I just feel like she really needed to win because gosh, people are just not supporting her anymore. Really bums me out. In all these national polls she just keeps dropping, I don’t get it.
Andrew: Yeah, I think I’m more optimistic than you. I would’ve liked for this to be a big night for Elizabeth Warren. I should point out, again, we still don’t know.
Thomas: We don’t know! Yeah, we don’t know. Absolutely.
Andrew: It certainly looks like from the behavior that the late-breaking support went to Buttigieg and we should add, as a matter of parsimony, that everything – all the stories about Iowa are, you know, they value personal conduct blah blah blah. Well, Pete Buttigieg lived in Iowa for the last week and a half while-
Thomas: Yeah, when you don’t have a job it’s easy.
Andrew: Sanders, Warren, and Klobuchar were all literally chained to their desks.
Thomas: He doesn’t have anything important to be doing! He’s not still a Mayor.
Andrew: It does, by the way, emphasize just how badly Joe Biden – again, if the results are what we think – has done.
Andrew: Because Biden was out there too, right? So of the two candidates who didn’t have anything better to do-
Andrew: There seemed to be a pretty strong preference. Look, I gotta say again, not my preferred outcome but I can live with – if the aftermath of Iowa is that moderates are defecting from Biden to Buttigieg? That’s fine with me. That suggests that it’s gonna be a long race.
Thomas: See whereas for me I want a clear-
Thomas: I want a clear, as early as possible, a clear progressive candidate that progressive unite behind because I don’t want the vote to be split and then Biden wins because of his support that he still has in the South. Or even Buttigieg for that matter. If Buttigieg somehow – if Biden does so bad that, like, his black support starts going elsewhere and then somehow Buttigieg picks up- well [Laughs] that’s unlikely, I guess. He doesn’t do well with the black vote. But it’s not impossible, if he somehow picks up steam. For me, I want a decisive progressive lane as soon as possible.
Andrew: I hear you on that. The way I see it right now there are really three dimensions that I’m looking at candidates. The first is on their policies, are they more progressive or more moderate, the second is on their approach to the election, is their approach to try and win over voters from the center? Which you saw from three of the five candidates last night. Or is their approach to try and energize the base which you saw from two of the five candidates last night. I think it’s beyond obvious, math supports that energize the base is the right strategy against Donald Trump, but apparently lots of people disagree with me on that.
Then the third dimension is the competence dimension. It was why leaving aside my dismay on Buttigieg in terms of packing up and moving out from the [Laughs] most liberal lane to the most conservative lane. Hey, that’s fine, you get to pick, you get to decide how you run your campaign, Pete Buttigieg.
My overarching concern with him is what I said from the very beginning. I think when you look at what Trump has done to the country, the next President I place a high value on competence. She is gonna have to roll up her sleeves and work super-duper hard to fix all the things that Trump has either destroyed or allowed to wither through benign neglect, and I dunno that a dude-
Thomas: But he speaks a bunch of languages so he’ll… yeah.
Andrew: I dunno that a dude who’s run a tiny hamlet in the middle of Indiana is up to that challenge. Again, if he’s the nominee I’ll be donating money, I’ll be volunteering.
Thomas: Of course.
Andrew: Of course. But those are the dimensions that I see, and you know, obviously I have my bias.
Thomas: Can we get a shout-out to Buttigieg supporters? I talk a lot of trash because I don’t like Buttigieg, and they are always – you know, they’re not happy because I’m talking trash about their candidate, but they always treat me like a person unlike … other supporters of people we could mention. They always treat me like, oh but hold on, they treat me as somebody that they want to convince rather than deciding “you said X thing, that means you’re evil, Hitler.” So shout out to Buttigieg supporters.
Andrew: That’s a great shout out, that deserves that. I think that’s set from the top down. You know who else, and we could record for another hour on this and I know you don’t want to.
Andrew: I have to tell you, Bloomberg supporters-
Andrew: -treat me the same way. Right?
Thomas: Come on!
Andrew: But I’m telling you, every interaction I have had with a Bloomberg supporter has kind of been like amazing policy level discussions.
Thomas: I mean, they’re on the clock.
Thomas: They’re all personally employed by Bloomberg so customer service is their-
Andrew: Hey, look-
Thomas: Gotta earn that paycheck.
Andrew: At least he’s not outsourcing that customer service.
Thomas: I really wonder, how does that math work out? Could he hire just that many, what’d he pay $10 million for the Super Bowl ad at least? Just employ your supporters. [Laughs]
Andrew: There you go.
Thomas: Just hire enough people to get you the nomination. Alright, well we did a little bit of punditry there at the end. We wear it on our sleeves, we are Warren fans, but of course we will unite behind whoever it is and again if Warren is not viable I want, personally this is just me speaking, I wanna get support behind Bernie as fast as possible because I want that progressive candidate, but that’s just me.
Andrew: Alright, well that’s the end of our punditry and hopefully you’ve enjoyed this special episode. We’ll be back on Friday with our regular stuff where we might actually know things.
Thomas: [Laughs] I think the first, like 50 minutes was definitely you knowing things.
Thomas: Alright, thank you, we’ll see you then.