On Monday, I participated in my second Democratic caucus in Iowa. Over the course of two hours that evening, a group of a little over a hundred Democrats spoke and listened, argued and persuaded, voted and counted. In the end, we split our five delegates between three candidates: two for Sanders, two for Warren, and one for Biden. And I’m glad I’ve had the chance to be a part of this weird little democratic tradition.
But I would also love it if these caucuses were our last.
That’s not because of the specific problems that we had this year. It’s true that the app that precincts used to report results didn’t work as expected, that the people who were using the app didn’t always know what they were doing, the the backup phone line was understaffed, and that new rules probably caused a little confusion. But it’s also true that those are things that happen, and that this is hardly the first time that imperfections in our voting system have left people confused and the news media without something to report. Remember 2000 presidential election?
The Iowa caucuses need to go because they don’t represent the electorate. And I don’t just mean that in the sense that Iowa’s demographics are very different from those of the United States overall. I mean that in the sense that the process doesn’t allow certain people—especially already marginalized people—to participate.
As one Vox article points out, many caucus-goers must be prepared to spend about two hours in a high school gymnasium (or a similar venue) on a Monday night, starting at 7pm (and I mean 7pm precisely; showing up late means being turned away). Any number of problems, from having to work a late shift, to not being able to afford childcare, to having to park too far away can prevent someone from caucusing. And that’s not to mention the challenges that people with disabilities may face.
As Democrats, we need a system for selecting our presidential nominee that reflects our party and our nation. That means that it needs to be inclusive, representative, and fair to those populations we want to serve. I don’t know what the best system it—I tend to favor ranked choice voting in each state over the course of, say, five super Tuesdays (each Tuesday having ten randomly selected states on its slate)—but I know that it isn’t caucusing.
So let’s let these caucuses be our last. Let’s do better for 2024. Let’s do better for the party, the state, and the country.