This past Tuesday, the Iowa Caucus showed the nation why their process of being first in the nation to vote for presidential candidates was severely flawed. While the caucuses themselves seemed to come off with few problems, the overall tally of votes was a nightmare that is still going on as of this blog post. The problem is that what comes out of Iowa doesn’t seem to translate to the rest of the nation. Maybe it’s time for a new First.
I’ve already written about the validity of the Iowa results in another blog entry. However, after Tuesday night it’s time to call into question the caucus itself. Iowa had the opportunity to show it could pull above all the criticism of diversity and sparse participation to show the nation what civic engagement really looks like. Things were going well until it came time to start reporting results. Then the bottom fell out and the nation waited … and waited … and waited. When cable anchors started struggling to fill air time, you knew this wouldn’t end well.
Fortunately for the Iowa Democratic Party, they had a paper backup because all faith had been lost in their $64,000 high tech solution. 48 hours later and we still don’t have all the results. Even with 86%, Pete Buttigieg is the clear winner, followed by Sanders, Warren, Biden, and Klobuchar. Mayor Pete was able to pull the state away from Bernie by building a strong ground game across the state. Sanders’ concentration was in the college towns which despite the strong turnout, didn’t buy him much due to delegate caps.
That last point is one of the flaws with the IA caucus system. The delegate caps on precinct closely resembles the Electoral College which can deny a candidate the advantage of a strong voter turnout due to the electoral vote caps on the states. Such was the case in 2016 when Clinton won the popular vote, but was denied the presidency due to Trump sweeping most of the electoral votes across the nation.
Even though the delegates are allocated proportionally, Sanders’ turnouts in Story and Linn counties didn’t give him the advantage he needed in the delegate count. So, just as Clinton won the popular vote, Sanders will win the IA popular vote, but lose the state. The only consolation prize is that he’ll still get to carry some delegates to the national convention from all the effort he put in across the state.
Even if the voter allocation problem is improved by using a primary system instead, it still doesn’t deal with the other issue with IA being less diverse than many other states in the nation. For IA to be gifted as “first in the nation,” they sort of become a flawed funnel for candidates due to the lack of diversity.
In fact, all the first in the nation states, IA, NH, SC, and NV, have that problem of lack of diversity. IA and NH are pasty white with numbers above 90%. SC is closer to the nation, but has a higher percentage of blacks. NV also seems to come closer, but has fewer blacks. So none of the first states are ideal. But what if you put them all together? Then, things start to look a lot more like the nation.
Add to that the regional views. IA being the Midwest agricultural region. NH being the northern and New England region. SC being the South. NV being the Southwest. That even provides more diversity to the process. Putting all the first four states on the same day would give a good snapshot of what the voters are thinking. Also, make them all primaries to avoid the craziness I’ve already talked about.
Taking this approach could yield a better selection process for both Republicans and Democrats and diminish some of the criticisms of the caucus system and the “first” states.