Saturday :: Feb 9, 2008

The Undemocratic Caucuses


by eriposte

I've been planning to write about this for some time now - ever since I learnt about how the caucus system works. Finally I have a few minutes today to write this up. A few days ago a Daily Kos diarist khyber900 posted a diary titled "Feb. 5 Analysis: Clinton Proves to be the most Electable Candidate for the General Election". In the diary the author said (emphasis mine):

[Clinton's] actual vote total was far greater than predicted by the exit polls.  She was a formidable candidate in rural and suburban counties and with non-African American voters in urban areas.  She won more big states.  Although Obama's wins in Georgia, Alabama, Kansas, North Dakota, Idaho, Utah and Alaska were impressive, Democrats have no chance of carrying any of these states in the fall.  The caucus system does not reflect how elections are run in the fall. They do not account for early and absentee voting, all day voting, and do not not have flexibility to accommodate voters work/family needs.  

I will come back to the electability question in another post but I want to say a few words on the problems with the caucus system that make it undemocratic. Khyber900 points out several of those problems. One additional problem is the issue of voters whose support for a candidate falls below an arbitrary threshold being forced to pick some other candidate instead, and that too, without a secret ballot. Caucuses may appear fascinating but it is way past time to get rid of the caucus system and move to a full primary system in the U.S. I've had more than one reader write to me complaining about the undemocratic nature of the caucuses and today, it appears Sen. Clinton is echoing some voter concerns in WA, along the same lines:

"You know, if this were a primary where everybody could vote all day I'd feel pretty good about it. But it's not. It's a caucus, and you've got to show up at 1:00. And I already met three nurses outside and I said, "Are you going to caucus for me?" And they said, "Well, we're working tomorrow."

I fully expect some Obama supporters will paint this as whining from the Clinton campaign and their supporters. They are free to portray it as such. That does not change the fact that it is a screwed up system. When you add to that the unacceptably byzantine and arcane rules of the primaries, and the ultra-complicated allocation of delegates often counter to the popular vote, it is clear that the nomination process for President has significant problems.

P.S. WA is the worst so far on this. They have a caucus first and primary days later and I bet some voters have no idea that it is the caucus that will determine the eventual delegate allocations.

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