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Iowa Should No Longer Be First, Nor Should the Caucus System Exist

Caucuses seem like a modernized version of the proverbial smoke filled room which used to be how presidential candidates were often selected. Why not just have a primary? Everyone votes, in secret, and go from there? Why make the process so cumbersome?

Gather Ye Popcorn While Ye May

The Washington Post reports on the debacle of the 2020 Iowa Caucus:

But whatever the culture that exists in evaluating candidates, Iowa has also come under strong and recurring criticism for exercising outsize influence on the nominating process. This predominantly white state, where agriculture is a dominant industry, is far from representative of the nation. The absence of a larger minority population, especially for a Democratic Party that has become increasingly diverse in its makeup, rubs raw many non-Iowa Democrats.

Beyond that, the caucus system itself is a target of criticism. Unlike primary elections, in which voters can cast their ballots in secret at any time of the day when the polls are open, the caucus process is far more demanding. Participants must arrive by a fixed time in the evening and be prepared to stay for several hours as the process of alignment and realignment plays out.

The caucuses disenfranchise some voters who, because of working hours or other issues, are not able to be at their precinct sites at the appointed hour. This year, special provisions were made to make it possible for those people to attend satellite caucuses at different hours. Still, the caucuses are cumbersome and to critics unfair as a result.
  

(click here to continue reading An epic breakdown in Iowa casts a spotlight on the caucus system – The Washington Post.)

Iowa is the first primary because…why exactly? Just because in 1972 they decided to be the first? Iowa may or may not be a great state1 but nobody can argue that it is first because it is a diverse, pluralistic state.

Caucuses seem like a modernized version of the proverbial smoke filled room which used to be how presidential candidates were often selected. Why not just have a primary? Everyone votes, in secret, and go from there? Why make the process so cumbersome?

Why does Iowa have an out-sized role in selecting presidential candidates, especially Democratic Party candidates? Trump stomped Hillary Clinton in 2016 in Iowa by nearly 10 percentage points, and there are only 6 electoral college votes in play. Why not spend time in a state who has enough electoral college votes to make a difference in the end? 

I say rotate the early voting states, maybe the first 5 are selected randomly via a televised lottery? Why not go to other parts of the country to test a candidates skills at fundraising and organization? Why not Hawaii? Alaska? Michigan? Or California, Texas and Florida? 

Non-GMO Sweet Corn

FiveThirtyEight suggested Illinois should be first, based on how the state’s population matches the Democratic Party base:

To sort states by how much they resemble the larger party, I looked at the race, ethnicity and education levels of Democratic voters in each state using the Cooperative Congressional Election Study, a survey of more than 50,000 people conducted by YouGov in conjunction with Harvard University.2 The CCES asks respondents who they voted for in the general election, so to estimate a state’s potential Democratic electorate, I included anyone who voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, plus anyone else who identified as a Democrat. From there, I broke the Democratic electorate into five groups: white voters with no college degree, white voters with a college degree, African-American voters, Hispanic voters, and “everyone else.”3 (I broke white voters into two groups because education is a particularly meaningful distinction among white Democrats — and white voters overall.) I then looked at how different each state’s demographic makeup was from that of the national Democratic Party electorate. This allowed me to sort states by which ones best reflected the party.4

And as you can see in the table below, Illinois is the state whose population comes closest to being a cross section of Democratic voters. So under this hypothetical where Democrats prioritize states that best reflect their party, Illinois would go first in the nominating process, and Iowa and New Hampshire would move toward the back of the line. Now, if this calendar followed the current setup where four “carve-out” states vote by themselves at the start of the primary process, the three states after Illinois would be New Jersey, New York and Florida. Just after the first four would be Nevada, which currently goes third, reflecting the fact that there has been some effort to increase diversity at the start of the real presidential primary calendar.

(click here to continue reading We Re-Ordered The Entire Democratic Primary Calendar To Better Represent The Party’s Voters | FiveThirtyEight.)

Dance of the Devil Corn

Sounds good to me. No matter what, Iowa shouldn’t be first anymore. 

And if that changes, maybe ethanol won’t be subsidized so heavily…

Footnotes:
  1. I have little interest in visiting, but maybe one day []

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