Why Caucuses Are Better

Ted Cruz will benefit from Monday’s Iowa caucus versus a primary.

From CNN‘s Karpowitz and Pope:

Candidates like Cruz and Sanders will be on their “home turf” at the caucus meetings because those meetings are likely to be filled with voters especially receptive to their more ideological messages. The single best way to change an election is to change who participates, and our choices about electoral processes — caucuses or primaries — do just that.

At a caucus, participants get to hear a speech from each candidate or supporters during the meeting, then they vote. Based on Cruz’s ground operation, every location will have someone prepped and ready to give a pretty good speech. Trump will have spottier, and in some cases, embarrassing, representation.

While I couldn’t find any online stories of past caucus-goers who actually changed their minds once the doors are closed, I do know that it’s unlikely anyone walking in the room undecided will be swayed to vote for Trump by the caucus speech. They may, however, be swayed the opposite way. (It would be interesting and useful to see what stories come out Monday.)

In primaries, especially in states like Georgia where early voting starts on Feb 8, getting people to the polls is a matter of small motivation: Akin to getting off the couch, getting in one’s car and stopping by McDonalds for a burger. By the actual primary day, over 50 percent of voters will have already cast their ballot. There’s not much that last-minute jockeying can accomplish in that environment.

But picking a presidential nominee should be more of a thoughtful process. Going to a caucus where you can look the other participants in the eye and hear each candidate’s supporters’ spiel is preferable to what’s become a lunch-hour, drive-by event. There’s a reason why the GOP has gerrymandered engineered a primary schedule that allows the frontrunner to gain unstoppable support early. And Trump is using that carefully designed process against its designers (good for him!).

Voters are not pawns to be manipulated, either by the parties or the press. The more disconnected we are from our political processes, the less thought we voters will put into our (collective) decisions. As Mrs. Banks sang in Mary Poppins, “though we adore men individually, we agree that as a group they’re rather stupid.” She was referring to women’s suffrage, when only men could vote. Now that women vote, they also join the stupid club, as a general observation about uninformed voters.

It works to Trump’s advantage that he’s the Great White Hope of the uninformed. But it works to the country’s advantage to replace every primary with a caucus. Kentucky did it, albeit for the arcane reason that Rand Paul gets to run for his Senate seat and the presidential nomination simultaneously.

Clearly, the GOP is facing the event horizon of a galaxy-consuming black hole. If Trump uses the media/demagogue track to successfully defeat the party’s carefully constructed primary hurdles, that system of picking a candidate may well have outlived its usefulness.

Let’s go back to Iowa’s way of choosing and consider caucusing again.


About the author

Steve Berman

The old Steve cared about money, prestige, and power. Then Christ found me. All at once things changed. But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

I spent 30 years in business. Now I write and edit. But mostly I love. I have a wife and 2 kids and a dog and we live in a little house in central Georgia.

View all posts