What a blessed mess in Iowa. And what a cautionary tale for American democracy
For years, the boondoggle called the Iowa Caucuses—with massive spending of time and money by Democratic Presidential candidates—has enjoyed the sacred privilege of being “first in the nation” to tell us how to vote.
It is beyond time for the Democratic Party to stop the nonsense.
Why must the largest, most diverse, richest, and most innovative states in the country be dwarfed by Iowa with a population smaller than San Diego County. It’s 90% white, and its biggest city — Des Moines — is smaller than Chula Vista!
It is bad enough that New Hampshire is next. That state is also unrepresentative of the country as a whole, with 93% whites and a largest city that is about the size of El Cajon.
But at least it is a primary.
You know—a primary—where everyone can vote and paper ballots leave trails for the auditors to follow,
Having tramped through the snow in New Hampshire to watch the process in 2008, I know it’s a bit flawed. But at least it’s an actual primary.
In Exeter, one of the state’s many small towns, the polling place is a government building where supporters line the steps leading into the polling place with signs and banners and shout-outs to their teachers, friends, neighbors and anyone else entering the building.
No restrictions on signs near polling places.
Also, no restrictions on candidates or spouses nearby.
One of the more savvy moves of the Clintons, ensuring Hillary went from scarred in Iowa to a smashing 10-point win in New Hampshire, was the presence of Bill Clinton.
Not just anywhere, but at the coffee shop nearest the Exeter polling station.
When news hit of his presence, the press rushed to interview him, and those partisans lining the steps to the government building soon followed.
I know. I was there.
So, Bill Clinton, having conversational coffee nearby, dominated the New Hampshire daytime news for hours. Brilliant.
But, wait. There is more. After Iowa and New Hampshire comes another crazy caucus state—Nevada!
There, too, I saw the undemocratic nature of the caucus vote.
The demographics are better than the earlier states; non-Hispanic whites are only 48%, and Las Vegas is a real city with a population of nearly 600,000. But the process is still flawed.
Held at a casino’s large meeting room—doors closed—the participants were supposed to converse and debate with one another for a set time, then vote. You know: open discussion, conversation, arguments for and against.
Only, little of that happened. At this site, the non-Clinton participants came out in tears. There was no discussion. No translators. No give-and-take.
The relevant union workers—mostly Hispanic—delivered. They voted in unison. And Hillary Clinton won handily.
On to state no. 4 on the Democratic calendar: South Carolina.
This is Joe Biden’s supposed 2020 firewall, Pete Buttigieg’s assumed Waterloo, and Elizabeth Warren’s, “show me, again” state.
The demographics are more representative, but still lopsided. It’s 60% white and 28% African-American, but its largest cities, Columbia and Charleston, are small.
The Democratic National Committee needs to address this significant problem of early, unrepresentative states and crazy caucus systems. Instead, the party should bunch up the biggest, most innovative, and most diverse states—in a single primary day.
As it is, California must wait until “Super Tuesday” on March 3, when it and 13 other states will be counted.
That is why Michael Bloomberg—besides being a billionaire—will prove the point about Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina by waiting until March 3.
The early states really do not matter. Skip the nonsense. Wait for the big states, with big money—and bury your opponents in ads and lots of seasoned campaign advisors and field workers.
Iowa’s fiasco just helped. No one looks like a winner.
The chaos only feeds the “fake news” and “rigged elections” narrative that will surely greet November’s results.
A sure fix would be direct democracy — a single day of voting across America. If Oregon can do mail-only ballots, so can every state in the union.
Count every vote from every registered voter on a national holiday and stop the nonsense.
Direct democracy is the future. Just ask Elizabeth Warren and Andrew Yang.
Colleen O’Connor is a native San Diegan and a retired college professor.