So, who won the Iowa Caucuses?
Surely an event of such magnitude would have a seismic effect on the election cycle. The winner gets a prime time victory speech, some potentially vital delegates and a heavy dose of momentum.
You probably know who earned the right to reap these rewards. But as for me? As I am writing this column on February 6, I have no idea who came out on top.
From where I’m sitting, the race is “too close to call” with a virtual tie between Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Senator Bernie Sanders with 26.2% and 26.1% of the vote respectively.
So I can’t tell you who won, but I can tell you who lost: Democrats.
President Trump may have described the nightmarish caucuses most aptly. He called it an “unmitigated disaster,” which is certainly not far from the truth. I am writing this over 48 hours after the citizens of Iowa stopped caucusing, and no winner has been declared. That is not supposed to happen.
So instead of analyzing the results, I am instead going to make the case for why the Iowa caucuses should be a thing of the past. Iowians, if you don’t wish to read this anymore, I understand.
The Iowa caucuses are an exercise in anti-democracy. They are a series of glorified parlor games in which like-minded individuals congregate to support a candidate. If a candidate gets enough supporters at a precinct to pass the “viability threshold,” they move on to the next round. Pass enough rounds and they can win those delegates. Does this seem needlessly complicated? Good. It is.
The first issue with the caucuses is that the whole ordeal is public. In order to participate, one must essentially broadcast their political opinions to their friends and neighbors. Even worse is that members of certain groups are totally free to try and coerce people into their cohort. This discourages honesty, true democratic principles and, worst of all, participation.
Voter turnout is essential to a representative democracy. However, while voting with a secret ballot at your local library is often a five minute affair, the Iowa caucuses suck several hours out of their attendees nights. Coupled with the public nature of the caucuses, voter turnout in Iowa is almost comically low. About 170,000 people turned out to caucus this year, a measly five percent of Iowa’s total population of over three million.
What is the alternative, you may ask, to the Iowa Caucuses starting out the election cycle? Well, I argue that just voting is a good place to start. Caucuses are anti-democratic, long winded and just plain ridiculous.
And I’m not alone. After the Monday night debacle, the talking heads on FOX News, MSNBC and CNN all agreed on one thing: the Iowa caucuses are absurd. Iowa, being 90 percent white, is in no way representative of the nation as a whole. Granting them the “kingmaker” role then seems pretty nuts, doesn’t it?
So why, if most people agree on the absurdity of the caucuses, do we keep allowing them to continue? Short answer: because Iowa insists upon it. The caucuses have their proponents, mostly coming from the residents of the state of Iowa. This conservatism, coupled with the fact that federal election reform would require unfathomable bureaucratic hurdles and partisan shouting, makes it nearly impossible to change the system.
The main block to change comes from outright conservatism. The Iowa caucuses have existed since the state’s incorporation into the union in 1846. This is the way it has always been, and many are opposed to spending political capital to change something that has such strong traditional roots.
Abolishing the caucuses will not be easy. It will take persistence and hard policy work. But I believe in us as Americans. We stand up for what we believe in and fight against the injustice we see in the world. And right now that injustice lies in Iowa. Once more unto the breach, dear friends. For all our sakes.