How "democratic" are the Iowa Caucuses? (update) Posted by: McQ
on Wednesday, January 02, 2008
If you measure them by the ability to participate, not very:
Because the caucuses, held in the early evening, do not allow absentee voting, they tend to leave out nearly entire categories of voters: the infirm, soldiers on active duty, medical personnel who cannot leave their patients, parents who do not have baby sitters, restaurant employees on the dinner shift, and many others who work in retail, at gas stations and in other jobs that require evening duty.
So what do they really indicate? Well perhaps what they indicate is how efficient and proficient campaigns are at getting their voters to the caucus. There's a reason why votes in Iowa are computed by average dollars spent by a campaign.
But do these caucuses really reflect the true selection of a state's voters?
Probably not. And while the argument could be made that primaries of all sorts may not reflect the true will of the people of a given state, at least in a primary election process, the rules that normally govern voting there are the same for primary voting. While it is true a primary that the vote itself may reflect an overabundance of political activists, the opportunity for all voters to cast their vote exists.
Not so in Iowa. And then, especially on the Democratic side, even if you do caucus, there's no guarantee that your vote will mean anything:
While the Republican caucuses are fairly simple — voters can leave shortly after they declare their preferences — Democratic caucuses can require more time and multiple candidate preferences from participants. They do not conform to the one-person, one-vote rule, because votes are weighted according to a precinct’s past level of participation. Ties can be settled by coin toss or picking names out of a hat.
So what does it all mean? It means a select group who can meet at the precise time and place and can stay to endure the entire process may have a hand in selecting the winner of the party caucus they attend - unless they're Democrats. Then there's no guarantee, given their precincts past participation level, that their effort will have any effect at all.
Meet Hillary Clinton's secret weapon in Iowa: baby-sitters.
In Thursday's caucuses, it all comes down to getting out the vote. And Clinton is going to the extremes, even lining up baby-sitters and day care centers for caucus-going moms.
Pretty smart ploy, given the ground rules of the caucus. What it means in the long run goes back to my point about the reality of what the caucuses represent: "Well perhaps what they indicate is how efficient and proficient campaigns are at getting their voters to the caucus."
Iowa serves a purpose other than simply reflecting the voters wishes. It shows organizational and financial strength. I’m not saying thats necessarily a good thing, but it might have its uses.
I suspect it helps gives alternative candidates that have more passion than money or clout the chance to catch up - see Huck. see Obama.
I recall a PoliSci prof telling us about a University in Italy that elects student body presidents based on "king of the hill" because the student body would otherwise be so ideologically polarized as to make such an election difficult.
In other words, Huckabee will regret losing that weight if that system were applied to one of the primaries....Rhode Island?