The Pointless Caucus Chaos

The Pointless Caucus Chaos

Caucuses are an exclusionary and inferior option for selecting political preferences. Numerous states, including Colorado, Utah, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Washington, scrapped their caucus systems for the 2020 cycle, with the DNC encouraging the switch. Only four states will use caucuses on the Democratic side. But two of them—Iowa and Nevada—happen to be the crucial early states candidates have been sitting in for the better part of a year. And now, concerns about hacking have thrown them into question.

Iowa is so wedded to an old-time tradition of voters trudging out in the snow to spend four hours at a rec center that they persisted with a caucus. To fulfill a DNC requirement that caucuses allow for participation of voters who can’t attend, Iowa added a “virtual caucus,” where voters would call in. This was always ridiculous, since the virtual caucus would only have counted toward 10 percent of the total, creating unequal voting weight depending on your location. But now, the DNC is poised to reject the virtual caucus, after determining that there was no way to keep it secure, something much on the minds of DNC members after being hacked in 2016.

Why the DNC would wait until five months before the caucus to invalidate its rules is unclear, and absurd. Because non-caucusing participation is a requirement, the Iowa (and probably Nevada) caucuses are now in doubt. New Hampshire has a law that requires it to be the first primary in the nation. If Iowa shifts to a primary at this late date, New Hampshire will try to flip past them, creating calendar chaos. Iowa has just two weeks to present a new plan for the DNC to approve.

In other words, it’s a mess, and an eminently preventable mess. The DNC’s delay in approving caucuses could mean that two dozen candidates spent millions of dollars wooing Iowa for no reason. Already, campaigns have been incorporating the virtual caucus into their ground game strategy. Too afraid to piss off Iowa and its peculiar traditions, the DNC didn’t just mandate primaries. Too afraid to piss off New Hampshire, the DNC didn’t change the primary structure from allowing states unrepresentative of the nation’s demographic makeup to dominate the process.

I prefer a rotating regional primary, splitting up the nation into (perhaps four) regions and running a lottery three months before the first primary on which region goes first (ending camping out in one state), doing the rest monthly until there’s a winner. Or you could make the state with the closest general election tally or highest prior-election turnout first in the nation, ending the tyranny of tradition. Instead, the DNC’s deferential and delayed decision-making has now created an omnishambles.

 

LINKS TO MY STORIES

A conversation with Demand Justice’s Brian Fallon on his call for the next Democratic president to reject corporate lawyers for judicial nominations.

The death of the Volcker rule opens a large weakness in the financial regulatory structure, which separating commercial and investment banks can close.

Purdue Pharma’s opioid settlement proposal to effectively nationalize the company could offer a solution to the broader prescription drug crisis as well as the overdose epidemic.

 

ALSO AT THE PROSPECT

The best of Kalena Thomhave, our writing fellow covering poverty who ended her fellowship this week.

Reuven Avi-Yonah rebuts critics of Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax plan.

Alex Sammon on David Koch’s biggest tax loophole: the step-up in basis.

Gabrielle Gurley on Trump’s failures in Puerto Rico.

Mike Elk on immigrants and unions working to fight deportation raids.

 

SHARING THE WEALTH

Dianne Feinstein is emblematic of Democrats’ fear of governing and approval of nice polite Republicans. (NY Mag)

Private equity firm Blackstone behind the deforestation of the Amazon. (The Intercept)

Speaking of which, here’s Adam Levitin on why private equity’s limited liability should be stripped. (Credit Slips)

Bernie Sanders’s op-ed for restoring journalism in America. (Columbia Journalism Review)

Big Sin getting bigger as Altria and Philip Morris discuss merging again; Altria was spun off from Philip Morris in 2008. (Reuters)

Amazon kept a “burn book” of criticisms from lawmakers about its HQ2 project. (Wall Street Journal)

Establishment meddling for John Hickenlooper in the Colorado Senate primary is roiling the party. (Denver Post)

Political scientists keep getting 2016 wrong, writes Ryan Cooper. (The Nation)

Indonesia moving its capital city because of climate disruption. (CNN)

I’m so old I remember when protesting eminent domain was a conservative rallying cry. Now Donald Trump says “take the land” for the border wall. (Washington Post)

Democrats held firm with labor on NAFTA 2.0. (Financial Times)