MSNBC political analyst Zerlina Maxwell said Tuesday that Iowa's majority-white population makes its caucuses "the perfect example of systemic racism."
MSNBC anchor Craig Melvin asked whether the low turnout of first-time caucus-goers in Iowa should concern Democrats, who were hoping President Trump would motivate people to engage. Maxwell argued the problem lies in the racial makeup of the Midwestern state.
"Maybe I'll be the only person to say this today," Maxwell said. "The Iowa caucus is essentially the perfect example of systemic racism. Ninety-one percent of the voters in Iowa are white."
"It could be perhaps that white children are not in the cages," she said, referring to the detention of minors who are illegal immigrants at the southern border. "So when you're talking about the tangible pain that black and brown people are feeling, they feel a sense of urgency because their kids are being put in cages, right? So if you have a 91 percent white electorate, that sense of urgency may not be reflected in the turnout numbers."
Maxwell, who worked for Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign, expanded on her statement later in the show, telling Melvin that democracy is hampered when Iowa receives outsized attention.
"Structurally, it's very undemocratic in a country where people of color are historically marginalized," she said. "What you want is more people participating in the process."
"If we're just asking white people what they think about the Democratic candidates, then you're not getting an accurate reflection of what the primary electorate thinks," she added.
Monday night, technical difficulties stopped the Democratic Party from quantifying the results, leading to no declared winner after the caucuses concluded and widespread condemnation of the Democrats' handling of the voting process. Democratic officials have said they will announce the results by Tuesday.
The Iowa caucuses have long been the first vote in the presidential primary season. While Iowa awards few delegates relative to the rest of the country, it is seen as a proving ground for campaigns.