The most basic principle of any election is an accurate vote count. Unfortunately, this is something that the Democratic Party in the United States has failed to get right. As of our publication deadline, the results from the Iowa caucus — the very first leg in the lengthy journey to select a presidential candidate — have yet to be released, allegedly due to a faulty app.
Even assuming the absence of any malign influences, this is not a good look for the party as it heads into a gruelling 10 months before Americans vote for their president in November. It could, in fact, be catastrophic, giving supporters of President Donald Trump all the ammunition they need to dismiss the challengers: after all, if they cannot organise an election, what hope do they have of effectively running a country?
An even more serious own goal is the increasingly bitter tone of the fight between the rival candidates for the Democratic nomination. The opposition risks destroying themselves before they even begin to challenge the governing party.
This could be a fatal mistake. The Mail & Guardian’s experience of covering elections across the African continent has taught us that the only way to successfully challenge an authoritarian-leaning regime — and make no mistake, that is what the Democratic Party is now dealing with — is for the opposition to unite. Perhaps the best example of this comes from Nigeria, where president Goodluck Jonathan was unseated in 2015 after opposition parties put aside their differences to unite behind President Muhammadu Buhari, who is now on to his second term.
Trump has made insularity and isolationism a core plank of his foreign policy. The best chance the Democrats have to beat him is to take the opposite approach — and learn from the rest of the world.