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.



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