With 100 percent of votes counted by Thursday evening in the Democratic caucus in Iowa, Bernie Sanders has won the highest number of votes.
Sanders' popularity has come from a growing desire for change in US society. His policies of a minimum wage of at least $15 an hour, action on climate change, free healthcare and driving out corruption in politics have appealed to vast numbers of people.
Despite the extraordinary delays in the count—the voting was on Monday—the truth is out that the person with the most radical message has come first. And “front runner” Joe Biden, with the supposedly moderate and therefore electable pro-business pitch, has been humiliated.
Sanders claimed victory, telling reporters that he had received 6,000 more votes than Pete Buttigieg. “From where I come, when you get 6,000 more votes, that’s generally regarded to be the winner,” Sanders said.
The totals were Sanders on 43,671 votes (25 percent), Pete Buttigieg 37,557 (21 percent), Elizabeth Warren 32,533 (18 percent), Joe Biden 26,384 (15 percent).
But much of the media could still report victory for Buttigieg. That’s because there is a complex process to turn the raw votes into what are known as “state delegate equivalents” (SDE).
A formula is used to calculate how results from the 1,678 precincts where voting took place equates to how many of Iowa's 41 delegates to the Democrat national convention are awarded to a candidate.
On this measure Buttigieg was very narrowly ahead of Sanders—by 0.1 percent.
The Sanders campaign responded by publishing 14 instances of what it said were “discrepancies” in the Iowa Democratic party’s figures. Jeff Weaver, a senior adviser to Sanders, said the campaign was “confident that the discrepancies . . . in addition to those widely identified in the national media, mean that the SDE count will never be known with any kind of certainty”.
Biden will hope to recover in forthcoming primaries. If he can’t, much of his corporate support may switch to Buttigieg. He is the first openly gay person to seek the Democratic nomination, but his policies are neoliberal and he was an officer in military intelligence in Afghanistan.
The Democrat establishment has another option— billionaire Michael Bloomberg. He is not running in the early primaries. Instead he is waiting for “super Tuesday” on 3 March when 16 states and territories vote.
He has already spent over £200 million on campaign ads. After Iowa he has said he will double that in the next month.
The election focus now moves to New Hampshire which votes on Tuesday. Recent polls show Sanders in the lead, and winning further support.
Sanders announced on Thursday, “In January, our campaign raised an incredible $25 million from more than 648,000 people. Our average donation—just $18.
“The billionaire class should not underestimate us. When working people stand together in a movement for justice, we win.”
The support for Sanders is a sign of the widespread disenchantment with corporate and elite politics. This mood needs to be turned into action—not lined up behind the Democrats.