Bernie Sanders fans, stop citing my work to support your conspiracy theory

A Bleeding Heartland post from January 2015, Three pros and three cons of Andy McGuire as Iowa Democratic Party chair, has been getting a lot of attention lately on websites written by Bernie Sanders supporters. Some have accurately cited the piece to demonstrate that McGuire was a high-profile supporter of Hillary Clinton before the 2008 Iowa caucuses.

Others have used the post to insinuate that some evidence supports their suspicions about the Iowa Democratic Party skewing county delegate totals to boost Clinton. In reality, I have argued that systematic fraud would be impossible, because “Too many witnesses observe what happens in each precinct and would notice if the party got the numbers wrong.”

Even worse, some pro-Sanders websites have paraphrased me as endorsing their conspiracy theory: “The blog BleedingHeartland has been raising concerns that McGuire, who has been involved in Iowa politics for more than 20 years, is manipulating the state’s Democratic Party to favor Clinton over her challenger, Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT).” In the same vein: “Blog BleedingHeartland has been all over McGuire’s possible favoritism for Clinton, sounding alarms regarding a possible manipulation of Iowa’s Democratic Party in favor of the former Secretary of State […].”

In that year-old post, written the day the Iowa Democratic Party’s State Central Committee selected McGuire over three other contenders for the position, I commented, “Everyone knows that [McGuire] is a strong Clinton ally,” which has its advantages but also a big drawback (emphasis added):

No one will be fooled by today’s neutrality pledge. The perception will be that the Iowa Democratic Party leadership favors Hillary Clinton for president. There’s a risk that will discourage other potential candidates from competing in Iowa. On the plus side, there aren’t many options for long-shot candidates other than competing in Iowa and New Hampshire. I believe McGuire will not attempt to manipulate the party machinery to benefit Clinton.

Although I’ve criticized the Iowa caucus system generally and the Iowa Democratic Party’s handling of this year’s incredibly close results, I said explicitly last week that I “do not believe [McGuire] tried to fix the caucuses for Clinton.”

Bloggers who “feel the Bern” have linked liberally to Ben Jacobs’ story on one precinct where the Iowa Democratic Party shorted Sanders a county delegate in the first reported results. Yet the same posts have ignored two precincts where the state party’s reporting errors gave Sanders an extra county delegate.

In the past, I have joked that being an Iowa Democrat who criticizes the caucus system is “how to not win friends and not influence people.” Though some insiders may view me as a “rogue” activist “trying to make a statement,” I will keep advocating reforms to make the Iowa caucuses more inclusive and representative, respecting principles including ballot secrecy and every person’s voice carrying the same weight. To my fellow Democrats fighting their own battles against “the establishment”: don’t put words in my mouth. My problem is with some of the Iowa caucus rules. I have never alleged, nor do I believe, that party leaders applied those rules unfairly to hurt Sanders.

UPDATE: A reader tipped me off to Arnold Steinberg’s “humorous” column published in late January in the American Spectator and the Huffington Post. Although he did not link to this site, his satirical piece included the line, “ has been concerned that McGuire, who chaired Hillary’s 2008 campaign in the state, is manipulating the party against Sanders.” That may have influenced some of the conspiracy mongerers who have misrepresented my work since the caucuses.

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