Our Opinion: Iowa debacle should end caucus
Here in Berkshire County, when it comes time to tabulate the results of a state or national election, a hill town or two might be late in getting results in but the winners are determined that evening. The reason is that voters cast ballots, they don't caucus. The caucus system is a quaint, byzantine artifact of old-time America that has been due to fade out of existence. Monday night in Iowa, it may have been blown out of existence.
The Iowa caucuses, the traditional opener to the presidential election season, dissolved quickly into chaos Monday, with the Democratic National Committee suspending results because of "inconsistencies." With voters meeting in gymnasiums and towns halls throughout around 1,700 precincts, the process always has been complicated and it wouldn't take much to throw a monkey wrench into the works. That wrench came in the form of a smartphone app — apparently there isn't an app for everything — that was supposed to simplify the collection of results. The app might have malfunctioned or caucus officials might not have been adequately trained in its usage, but at any rate, results only began being released late Tuesday afternoon. By then, conspiracy theories had been flying over social media for hours and it could end up that many never believe the results are accurate.
If you're Joe Biden, who spent $9 million on TV ads in Iowa, or any of the other Democratic candidates who spent time and money in the state, you had to be infuriated as you flew off to New Hampshire for the first primary without knowing how you fared in Iowa. If you are an Iowan who went to campaign events to hear the candidates and participated for hours in a caucus, you are left wondering if your vote ever got counted. If you are a Democratic official, you have to shake off an embarrassment that deprives your party of an event designed to focus on your candidates for the right reasons.
Iowa, a rural state with a nearly all-white population, has held on jealously to its position as the first state to weigh in on presidential candidates even though it is not representative of America. It has too much influence on the election process, and Monday's debacle should deprive it of that position going forward. Iowa should get rid of its caucus and host a primary like most other states. If it refuses to do so, it should be moved to the back of the line of states. Nevada, a caucus state that announced Tuesday that it would not use the app at the center of the Iowa mess, should abandon its caucus as well.
Having people wander around a gym floor while their neighbors implore to them join their candidate's side and enjoy some homemade cookies in the bargain has never been a way to run an election process, especially one as artificially important as Iowa's. Monday night should mark the end of the legendary Iowa caucus — which would be a victory for fair elections.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.