The debacle in Iowa — also know as the Democratic Party’s presidential caucuses — was not unexpected. Political caucuses, Democratic as well as Republican, were not designed to be efficient nor open to all.
The idea behind caucuses was to bring the party faithful together to not only support a nominee for president, but to debate the issues of the day in order to write a party platform. Traditionally, only those who deeply cared about the party or issues would attend.
As a result, Democratic caucuses were generally attended by the more liberal members of the party while Republican caucus-goers tended to be more conservative.
But that started to change about two decades ago when the general public started taking more interest in the nomination process. People wanted to have their say on who will be nominated for president but really didn’t want to sit through hours and hours of debate on tax policy or foreign aid.
Today, the caucus system has morphed into a pseudo voter-friendly system that is supposed to serve as a replacement for a primary election, but it isn’t.
And the mess in Iowa this week is exactly why the Republican and Democratic parties in Washington state finally dropped the caucuses in the presidential nominating process and will now accept the results of the Presidential Primary, which is March 10.
The Iowa caucuses essentially failed because an arcane political event was supposed to be supported by new technology. Think of herding donkeys (or elephants) by insisting they follow directions offered by GPS. It’s not happening.
The results of the Democratic caucuses in Iowa were supposed to be reported through a smartphone app. Volunteer precinct chiefs were expected to use the app to submit three counts to the state Democratic Party. The first was the original count of voters, the second was a count of voters after nonviable candidates were eliminated, and the third count was of “state delegate equivalents” for each candidate.
Washington state election officials are relieved the decision was made to go primary only in Washington.
Former Washington Democratic Party Chairman Jaxon Ravens, who has previously defended caucuses as an “opportunity at least once every four years to sit down and talk to their neighbors,” now sees the problems with it to pick a nominee. “It was clear by 2014 that the caucus system was at a breaking point,” Ravens tweeted. “Running caucuses is like hosting the Super Bowl with 2-4X as many attendees, several teams playing & at thousands of locations. Try to do this perfectly & quickly with a small # of staff, volunteers, no money, no halftime & with everyone watching.”
It’s an apt description.
Caucuses have their place to discuss issues, but they aren’t a good way to select a presidential nominee if there is an expectation that more than the party faithful will participate.