About reforming caucuses out of existence. (Updated for Poll)
by Why Not, Wed Jun 04, 2008 at 03:27:08 PM EDT
This diary has come out of a discussion about caucuses, but my response has become too long for a response so I have changed it into a diary.
1. Forcing a reform of this nature will not be received well in states that are used to holding primaries and caucuses by their own rules, and their respective ties to historical precedent.
2. Caucuses are not in and of themselves elitist. Caucuses are not a measure of the same thing that a Primary is. This is the fundamental flaw with trying to consolidate the caucus results and the primary results. Caucus measure excitement/activism for a candidate. Primaries measure overall support for a candidate. A candidate needs both overall support, and strong activism to win.
The Caucus is a valid measure for whether a candidate will be a good candidate in the GE since it is the strong activism (people that caucus) that will be most active in supporting and furthering the cause of the candidate during the campaign leading to the election. This is true above and beyond what most people who vote in a primary would be willing to do (i.e. not get involved beyond the final vote).
There are really a series of complicated issues that need to be dealt with when reforming the primary system.
1. Popular vote doesn't mean anything in the current system.
For good or bad, this is the case due to the mixed nature of the primaries.
Options for fixing this issue:
a. Eliminate Caucuses entirely. (Mentioned above and with reservations)
b. Eliminate Primaries entirely. (Same sort of objection as above)
c. Make every state run a binding caucus and primary (like Texas).
Option c. allows every state to retain their traditional selection type while allowing delegates, superdelegates, party insiders, and the country at large to gage both popular vote and activist support for each candidate in each state in an apples-to-apples comparison. In order for this to work some delegates from each state would have to be won under each contest.
2. Popular vote tallies and contests are not consistent because the contests allow people to participate in different levels.
Primaries allow the following:
a. Only Registered Democratic voters
b. Only Registered Democratic voters that voted democratic in the last contest.
c. Only Democratic and Independent voters
d. Any voters
As you can see, this variety again imposes an uneven standard to the popular vote and makes the comparison between the votes impossible. This is just like trying to add fractions without figuring out the common denominator and normalizing them so that they can add up correctly.
The solution, again, is to force one methodology on all of the states so that the contests can be compared evenly. States will have the same objection to this as they will to other changes (like dropping the caucus system all together), but unfortunately there is no other way to fix this issue without a national standard. I propose that it become a part of the Democratic Party Charter and that all states vote on the method thought to be most in line with Democratic principles. This way all states would then have to comply (or suffer the fate, sanctions, of a state that has violated the rules).
3. US territories that have no effect on the election of a president (since their states command not electoral votes) get greater representation than states that do. The problem with allowing this is that since the election is won on electoral votes, the party is handicapping their possibility of winning by giving such a large say to territories rather than emphasizing the wishes of those whose votes do count towards the election of a president.
These territories have no reason to come into the fold of the US if they can enjoy the same or greater privileges in terms of candidate selection as do states (and DC) who have to play entirely by federal rules as states. If they want a say they can join a state, or become a state. Perhaps have a reduced voice, but this voice should never be larger than states that command actual electoral votes as they are the ones (at this time) that decide the president.
4. The Number of Superdelegates, and their influence needs to be put into check. The party has a rightful place in helping to select the best candidate. This becomes necessary from time to time under extreme circumstances. However, as we have seen in this primary, their influence is far too great.
a. SDs can give one candidate a lead before any voting has occurred. This is undemocratic and should be admonished by the party.
b. SDs comprise 20-25% of the total delegates. This outsizes and outweighs the legitimate choice of the electorate. The SDs do not like the role they were forced into this year. They don't want the power to decide who the nominee is above what the electorate has chosen. So why are we giving them such a strong say in the decision, it makes no sense.
c. SDs votes are always non-binding, but they cannot effectively be locked in at any time before the convention allowing the present situation to occur again. That is to say, encouraging a bitter convention floor fight that will doom the party's chances to win the election.
5. Last but not least, the calendar needs to be revamped so that all of the states feel they have had their fair shake at selecting the nominee, while not making things so states feel their history is trampled, and allowing for a diverse section of the populace to influence the early selection process. This, by far, is the most difficult question politically since states get pitted against states. I do not pretend to know what the best solution is, but here are some that I thought were interesting:
a. National primary (everyone goes at once).
Pros: no one has an unfair advantage in selecting (or eliminating) a candidate from the running. Addresses basic fairness issues about which states go first.
Cons: Small States get overshadowed; Historical precedent for select states is trampled. Does not allow for enough time to put campaign pressure on candidates to see if they can handle the heat (Vetting).
b. Regional rotating primaries. States are divided into 4-6 primary regions and each region rotates from election to election as to which goes first.
Pros: This levels the playing field, and allows for easier travel (is less cost or wear on candidates). Addresses basic fairness issues about which state goes first.
Cons: Tramples historical precedent for some states. Small states could be overshadowed.
c. Rotating initial primaries (As we have them now before super Tuesday but with rotating states)
Pros: Similarity to current familiar system, allows diversity into early nominee selection process.
Cons: Tramples historical precedent for some states. Doesn't address the basic scheduling issues and allows for an uneven campaign with inordinately long lulls and ultra-packed periods of time (which at times doesn't give states enough time to consider a candidate seriously).
d. Retain the current system.
Cons: The current system.
Anyways what do you think?