The Will Of The People: Caucuses Vs. Primaries

By Big Tent Democrat

The most undemocratic aspect of the nomination process is the use of caucuses to apportion delegates. They are a double whammy. They disenfranchise many voters who can not attend caucuses AND they dilute the votes of caucus goers by the ridiculous system used to apportion delegates by voting district.

The disenfranchising aspects were put in stark relief last night in Washington state. Most forgot that Washington held its beauty contest mail in primary last night. And it was so overlooked that the fact that with a little over half of the precincts reporting in a meaningless primary, over 500,000 Washingtonians have voted. In the record turnout caucus of February 9, only 200,000 attended. There is likely to be at least 500,000 move votes cast in the Washington primary than in the Washington caucus.

There was a lot of teeth gnashing about voter disenfranchisement from some quarters during the Nevada caucuses. But nary a peep about the most serious disnefranchisement device of this entire system, the caucuses.

Caucuses MUST be eliminated. They are a travesty. They are democracy in it most corrupted form - institutionalized disenfranchisement.

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    The President (5.00 / 3) (#15)
    by horseloverfat on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 08:52:49 AM EST
    will be the leader of the party.  What President would want to change the process that brought him to power?

    Indeed (5.00 / 2) (#16)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 08:55:48 AM EST
    This is always the problem isn't it? For the nominee, the system ain't broke, so why fix it?

    If the caucuses cannot be dispensed (none / 0) (#84)
    by hairspray on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 10:44:55 AM EST
    with, they at least need to be weighted to reflect reality.

    50 Closed Primaries (5.00 / 2) (#23)
    by Jerrymcl89 on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 09:05:18 AM EST
    Would be the ideal solution. Give about a third of the delegates to the winner, and the rest proportional (splitting the difference between the desire to give fair voice to minorities and the need to actually have a process that will pick a winner). Rotate the small states in the front of the process, with a series of mini Super Tuesdays. And have all the contests between mid-January and the end of April.

    And, of course, no superdelegates. (5.00 / 1) (#24)
    by Jerrymcl89 on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 09:05:47 AM EST
    I'm not sure I like enforcing closed primaries. (5.00 / 1) (#27)
    by sweetthings on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 09:18:25 AM EST
    The Democrats have always been the Party of the People. I'm not sure we can hang onto that mantle if we start enforcing ideological purity. That's the Republican's game. Granted, it seems to work pretty well for them, but I'd still prefer not to follow them down that road.

    Now I'm willing to concede that open primaries aren't always a great idea either, so the local Democratic party should probably be given flexibility in deciding which system is more appropriate for its demographic.


    In my view... (5.00 / 3) (#28)
    by Jerrymcl89 on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 09:20:40 AM EST
    ... just make it easy for people to join the party. I think there's too much potential mischief in letting independants decide on primary day which party to vote in.

    It's not enforcing ideological purtiy (5.00 / 1) (#29)
    by Democratic Cat on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 09:22:49 AM EST
    To ask that a party's nominee be chosen by the party. Democrats already seem to spend a lot of time thinking about electabiity and how to woo independents and moderate Republicans. I don't particularly see why people who won't stand up with my party should get to pick my nominee. No one is saying they can't vote in the general, but the primary is a different animal.

    Open Primary Liabilities (5.00 / 2) (#56)
    by Athena on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 09:59:41 AM EST
    I'm seeing little notice of the fact that 30-40% of the voters in the Dem primary Wisconsin were not Democrats.  Is it beyond speculation that the openness of the Dem primary allowed for some gaming of the outcome?

    I imagine a good number of these could then go back and vote for McCain, having installed Obama as the nominee of another party.


    Exactly. (5.00 / 2) (#72)
    by Cream City on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 10:25:33 AM EST
    Mapping it county by county, because I know Wisconsin -- well, see my earlier posts on this.  And on my concern that there will not be coattails where we need them and when, in April as well as in November.  A president only nominates Supreme Court appointees; we need a stronger Congress.  And where we live, we need Dems to win, too.

    national primary (5.00 / 1) (#40)
    by popsnorkle on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 09:43:15 AM EST
    I'd like to see a radical change to a national primary with either  instant runoff or some sort of preference voting.  

    The fact is that our current system for the general election, where a president can win with less than 50% of the vote, makes third party candidates spoilers.  Any look at the math of different voting systems will show you that the one we have now is the least democratic.  It might have made sense in the 18th century, but we could do a lot better now.

    Changing the way the Democratic primary works would have 2 benefits.  First it would make the Democratic primary more democratic and second, it would be an example that could help start the fight to change the general election.

    One book that goes into voting systems is Is Democracy Fair?:  The Mathematics of Voting and Apportionment.  http://www.keypress.com/x6016.xml  
    Its aimed at 7-12 graders, so anyone could read it and make some sense of the options.  Basically, all systems have some anomalies, but what we have, plurality voting, is the worst.

    I don't like the idea of a 1-day primary (5.00 / 1) (#53)
    by MikeDitto on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 09:56:09 AM EST
    There's something to be said for field organizing and momentum building. A national primary would mean that only people who can afford to run a national campaign would qualify. A lot of the time the money only really starts rolling in once a candidate has been in the field for a long time and starts picking up caucus/primary wins.

    But I do like the idea of instant runoff voting. Or just having an actual runoff election. It sort of combines the best of the caucuses and a polling place election, in that people can still vote for their favorite crackpot and then change sides when he or she isn't viable for the final tally.


    One defense of caucuses (5.00 / 1) (#44)
    by magster on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 09:47:21 AM EST
    During our nominating process (CO) it recruited delegates and brought plain old voters, like me, into the local grass root organization, and now I'm attending county Dem meetings, and going to the local and state conventions as an Obama delegate. (I'm trying to figure out how to get to the big event in Denver, so I can buy red white and blue striped pants and a straw hat with a donkey on it). Our precinct brought in about 20 other otherwise uninvolved folks into the local party, so assuming that happened statewide, the local Dem party infrastructure is bigger.

    So caucuses are good for grass root organizing and mobilization.

    I have heard that (5.00 / 2) (#47)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 09:50:31 AM EST
    but I have never seen any tangible result that supports the view that this is effective party building.

    Caucuses have been around a long time and I have seen no data that demonstrates holding caucuses helps Dems in election in those states.

    But frankly, even if it did marginally, it is simply no justification for massive voter disenfranchisement.


    Caucuses are too high a price (5.00 / 1) (#55)
    by Prabhata on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 09:58:43 AM EST
    I agree that caucuses tend to get voters more involved, but there are other ways to accomplish involvement.  This election has for the first time made clear to me the undemocratic aspect of caucuses.

    Yes, (none / 0) (#63)
    by sas on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 10:07:35 AM EST
    I agree that this election has really brought to my attention the unfairness of caucuses.

    The primary results from Washington state show a closer election than the caucus would have us believe.


    A closer election in almost every (none / 0) (#88)
    by hairspray on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 10:52:55 AM EST
    other state that had a caucus, I believe. This is the reason for superdelegates in this election. How can we nominate a candidate whose base is almost 50% indpendent/GOP in an unfair caucus and then say we have a "movement".  The superdelegates in Washington State  better be fair on this one as well as all the other caucus states.

    Fair enough (none / 0) (#57)
    by magster on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 10:00:28 AM EST
    Just pointing out a silver lining.  Maybe the beneficial effect of local organizing will match the record turnouts in caucuses we've seen this year.

    nothing tangible (none / 0) (#102)
    by dday on Thu Feb 21, 2008 at 01:45:59 AM EST
    It's kind of like proving a negative.  However, I will say this; no caucus has ever managed a turnout the way that these caucuses have, across the board.  So there are exponentially more voter contacts and precinct organizers, etc., than in years past.

    I have advocated a rotating regional system, with a lottery for ordering the states on Jan. 1 of the election year, to shrink the pre-primary season and elongate the actual primary season.

    In addition, The absentee ballot system combined with a caucus in Maine is a partial safeguard against disenfranchisement.  


    Oh Fine, muddy the waters with (none / 0) (#61)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 10:06:41 AM EST
    these facts of life ;)

    We should have both (5.00 / 1) (#46)
    by MikeDitto on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 09:49:17 AM EST
    The precinct caucus is not just where the presidential nomination contest starts (it actually gets decided at the state convention, not the precinct caucus), but it's where precinct committee people are elected and the party organization is built. And it's the one opportunity every 2 years for like-minded people from a neighborhood to get together and discuss their issues and set the party's platform.

    That's not always a good thing (sometimes some really wacky provisions make it into the platform that way), but that's the nature of direct democracy.

    Caucuses should remain as the first (but optional) step for getting on the primary ballot, but the primary is what should count. And the primaries should all be later--say all in the month of June. I dont think America can stand another 2-year-long election campaign. I know I can't.

    Not in my state it isn't. (none / 0) (#95)
    by oldpro on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 12:40:24 PM EST
    In Washington State PCOs are elected at the polls, not at caucuses.  

    NO party business is transacted there nor 'built' there.  That is all done at Central Committee meetings (the county chair and the elected PCOs who are the LEGAL representatives of the party, locally)...at various Dem Club meetings and sponsored events, dinners, picnics, etc.  NEVER at caucuses.

    The party platform is set at the county convention...planks can be offered at caucuses but they are simply passed 'up' to the county for consideration.  No platform choices are made in WA at the county level.

    Caucuses are not "the one opportunity every 2 years" etc. etc.  And that is not what happens at our caucuses.  You sign in for a candidate...1st round, 2nd round for undecideds and changes or those who arrived too late for the first round (yikes, we need 2 more people for Obama...call your brother on your cell!)...add 'em all up...allot the delegates to the county convention and....go home.

    Party building?  Don't make me laugh.  Names and addresses once every 2 or 4 years isn't party building.  And off-year caucuses are minimal.  Only in the presidential once every four years is there any kind of turnout to 'tell the Democrats who they should nominate!'  And a lot of the people telling us that are NOT - repeat - NOT Democrats.

    My analogy to my caucus-apologist friends is this:  Let's all go to the local Rotary or Elks Club meeting and insist on voting for their president or Exalted Ruler even though we are not members.  We just know who we want to lead them.  Case closed.


    party rules (5.00 / 1) (#78)
    by white n az on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 10:33:34 AM EST
    are all about maintaining their power structure. While it works to maintain power, caucuses will remain the methodology.

    The entire representative government structure probably needs to be re-evaluated.

    Caucuses also are ... (5.00 / 2) (#81)
    by chemoelectric on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 10:41:29 AM EST
    Caucuses also are, this year, very, very crowded. Even if you just put a presidential ballot in the box and go, like I did this time, it was only after fighting my way through an ocean of people, all jammed together at once.

    It was not good.

    Only people with time to burn (5.00 / 1) (#85)
    by Prabhata on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 10:45:39 AM EST
    go to caucuses.  One has to feel very strongly about voting to fight a sea of people and spend 2 hours in a political environment.  I would do it only if I wanted to stop a candidate.  I would go to a caucus to stop Obama.  He reminds me of G W

    In WA caucuses (none / 0) (#99)
    by oldpro on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 12:52:58 PM EST
    it was the 'stop Hillary' faction who showed up in big numbers...mainly for Obama but in our county, also for Kucinich!

    The primary numbers coming in now, however, do not support the caucus numbers by a wide margin.  Night and day.


    Do I need to be a lesbian to (1.00 / 2) (#7)
    by GoodbyeHillary on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 08:41:39 AM EST
    comment here?

    Indeed, a true man hater?

    Wow (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by andgarden on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 08:44:32 AM EST
    This kind of junk used only to come from RW trolls. . .

    I leave this one up (none / 0) (#9)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 08:42:52 AM EST
    Obama supporters, any words of reproach for one of your own?

    As soon as he's identifed himself (none / 0) (#30)
    by cannondaddy on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 09:29:32 AM EST
    as a Obama supporter I will.  This is his only post so it could just be a right wing nutter.

    I deleted (none / 0) (#34)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 09:35:49 AM EST
    his profane posts where he did.

    You think he is unique? Pleasse, would it not be easier to just condemn it or is it better to pretend that it does not happem?


    Well actually (none / 0) (#36)
    by cannondaddy on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 09:39:23 AM EST
    I condemn those comments either way.  But unless you deleted something I can't find, there's no reason to assume he is an Obama supporter.

    I did (none / 0) (#43)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 09:45:20 AM EST
    The one where he told me to go screw myself in profane language.

    I am new here and am mystified (none / 0) (#90)
    by hairspray on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 10:58:00 AM EST
    sometimes by the to and fro that I don't get to see.  Oh Well.  This place is at least civil.

    Yes (none / 0) (#38)
    by muffie on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 09:42:04 AM EST
    sickening, please delete.

    Posts like these from GoodbyeHillary (none / 0) (#41)
    by cannondaddy on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 09:43:52 AM EST
    Should be deleted.  

    No (none / 0) (#58)
    by Prabhata on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 10:01:24 AM EST
    Let it remain.  Supporters speak of the candidates too. The supporters of G W are also part of who he is.

    I delete (none / 0) (#42)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 09:44:46 AM EST
    personal attacks on candidates, commenters, and off topic comments.

    We are VERY strict.

    And I think the proof is int he pudding. This is one of the few site where supporters of both candidates can freely express their views civilly without being attacked.

    You need to be more careful in your expressions HERE.

    Frankly, we find it necessary. You think it is not. On this, i9t is ourt opinion that counts.

    Please honor our rules.


    You are suspended Goodbye Hillary (none / 0) (#2)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 08:35:22 AM EST
    Do not comment further.

    Indeed, do not comment at this site ever again.

    I don't get it (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by Stellaaa on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 08:38:11 AM EST
    Apparently for the Dems it was a popularity contest and the Republicans it was a contest.  Many people were confused.  Also the margin was much less than in the caucuses.   I can see the massive confusion.  

    What about this Texas mess?  Both in one day.  


    The process seems designed to confuse (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by andgarden on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 08:41:27 AM EST
    I've been working since last night and I don't (none / 0) (#96)
    by derridog on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 12:44:08 PM EST
    know how the Dem vote went in the Washington primary. Can someone tell me who won?

    I could not agree (none / 0) (#5)
    by Salt on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 08:40:01 AM EST

    For the edification of some Obama supporters (none / 0) (#8)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 08:42:03 AM EST
    Insulting any of the candidates and then telling me to go fornicate with myself is not considered being gracious at this web site.

    of course not (none / 0) (#75)
    by white n az on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 10:30:54 AM EST
    the web site that considered it to be good form was of course dk

    We have avoided that model here (none / 0) (#77)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 10:32:34 AM EST
    no complaints from me on that (none / 0) (#79)
    by white n az on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 10:35:16 AM EST

    it's one of the reasons that I never post on dk


    Big Tent (none / 0) (#67)
    by sas on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 10:11:21 AM EST
    That was good work deleting Goodbye Hillary.  

    You are right that you cannot allow that type of thing here.


    I banned that poster (none / 0) (#94)
    by Jeralyn on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 12:26:21 PM EST

    It seems there (none / 0) (#10)
    by tek on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 08:43:22 AM EST
    is a great deal about our political system that isn't very democratic or doesn't promote democracy. Maybe that's because the Founders were so afraid of democracy, I don't know. I also don't know how it could ever get fixed because it would require changing the federal and state constitutions. I have to admit, when people start talking about calling for a new Constitutional Convention, I get nervous thinking about what could happen to the government.

    Our founders were afraid of democracy... (none / 0) (#20)
    by sweetthings on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 09:00:35 AM EST
    Or at least, too much democracy, but I'm not sure eliminating caucuses would require altering state constitutions. How a party selects a candidate is an internal party matter, right? There's some coordination that goes on with actual state agencies, but I don't think too much of it is codified into law.

    Granted, you'd still have to convince either the DNC or each individual state party to change the system, which would be nigh impossible. ;)


    Several (none / 0) (#48)
    by muffie on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 09:50:57 AM EST
    states switched to caucuses this year.  I don't think it's impossible to go back to primaries in such states.  For some reason, I have the impression that this was a money-saving device.

    Sure (none / 0) (#12)
    by Bob In Pacifica on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 08:44:31 AM EST
    Eliminate the caucuses in 2012. I'd also consider a revision of the importance of superdelegates (lessen their numbers, for one, if not eliminate them entirely). Additionally, the Dems should be developing some kind of rotating primary setup so that each primary year different states have the option of going early.

    All of that would be nice, and no one would have even talked about it if the primaries hadn't been close. Let's make sure the party remembers.

    No one but me (none / 0) (#14)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 08:50:04 AM EST
    Who talked about it LONG BEFORE the Iowa Caucuses.

    FYI - www.washblog.com for caucus fights (none / 0) (#17)
    by seabos84 on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 08:56:16 AM EST
    there are a lot of people in WA who'd disagree with you,

    I'm not one of them.

    1/2 a million voted and their votes didn't count

    = appallingly politically stupid. PERIOD.


    I dug up a few diaries (none / 0) (#21)
    by seabos84 on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 09:01:43 AM EST
    Dwight Pelz is a freaking genius!
    By Particle Man
    Wed Feb 06, 2008 at 10:10:06 AM PST
    Section: Washington State Topic: Democrats

    Washington's Presidential Caucuses and Primary: Access, Democracy, Relevancy
    By noemie maxwell
    Thu Dec 27, 2007 at 01:37:57 PM PST
    Section: Washington State Topic: Presidential Caucus and Primary


    urls must be in html format (none / 0) (#97)
    by Jeralyn on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 12:45:50 PM EST
    or they skew the site and the entire comment must be deleted. Use the link button at the top of the comment box.

    What was the final count in WA? (none / 0) (#91)
    by hairspray on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 11:01:03 AM EST
    Not final for 10 days... (none / 0) (#92)
    by oldpro on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 12:08:46 PM EST
    First count last night produced about 60% of the votes which have arrived at the county auditors' offices.

    Second count tomorrow for most of the rest, but with mail-in ballots the final tabulation of all elections in WA occurs 10 days after election day and the vote is then 'certified' as the final tally.

    Nearly a million Democrats will have voted in this 'doesn't count but we want you to know what we think anyway' primary in my state.  About 200,000 'Dems' and 'Dems-for-a-day' attended caucuses...20% of those who actually voted.

    Are we still  the 'democratic' Democratic Party?

    Only results and control seem to matter.

    Byzantine process...only those who approve of the outcome like it...and party people who get those names and addresses as a method of IDing voters.  Much less work than the traditional way...calling them up or having actual PCOs who actually walk their precincts!  What a concept...


    My son went (none / 0) (#18)
    by desert dawg on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 08:59:24 AM EST
    to a caucus in WA.  When the undecideds could only be apportioned fractionally, they flipped a coin to see who'd get them.  BO won the coin flip and picked up an extra delegate.   Democracy.

    I read similar accounts in Nevada (5.00 / 1) (#60)
    by lilburro on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 10:05:08 AM EST
    Another caucus story... (5.00 / 1) (#66)
    by Lena on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 10:09:51 AM EST
    My brother and sister-in-law (both Clinton supporters) wanted to caucus in Washington. Their two kids needed their naps, so one of them didn't go.

    To the extent that women who support HRC ended up saddled with childcare duties, it makes me think that the caucuses aren't simply undemocratic, they're discriminatory against such women, old people, the disabled, etc.

    They both sent in their primary vote for HRC though.

    (Also, as a side note, my brother's neighbor tried to convince him to caucus for Barack. He told my brother "Obama voted AGAINST the war, but Hillary voted for it... you have to vote for Obama!")


    Friends causused (none / 0) (#26)
    by nashville on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 09:12:54 AM EST
    in WA.  At their caucus site the vote was 15 for Clinton, 10 for Obama, the delegates split 2-2.  The man & his daughter were for Obabma, the woman for Hillary.  

    I have a hard time believing... (none / 0) (#19)
    by Meurs on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 09:00:30 AM EST
    that there'd be this much outrage about caucuses had some folks' candidate of choice not done appallingly bad in them.

    It's not like they were invented in 2008.

    That is on you (5.00 / 3) (#22)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 09:02:25 AM EST
    My outrage about caucuses has been consistently expressed since BEFORE the Iowa caucuses.

    Interestingly, I notice the disenfranchisement inherent in the caucus system does not trouble you.

    Why am I not surprised?


    There might be too many.. (none / 0) (#37)
    by Meurs on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 09:40:48 AM EST
    but they're a nice way to gauge comparative voter enthusiasm and could highlight issues that could be adopted into the platform. (For example, if a candidate in favor of drug decriminalization does well among activists/caucus-goers relative to his primary performances).

    A nice way to gauge (5.00 / 2) (#39)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 09:42:08 AM EST
    voter enthusiasm? That is a good excuse for voter disenfranchisement?

    Inevitably... (5.00 / 1) (#25)
    by Jerrymcl89 on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 09:08:13 AM EST
    ... objections come from those who feel the unfairness worked against them. But, four years in advance, I don't think we can predict who the caucuses will benefit in 2012, and so it's a good time to aim for a fairer process when it's actually possible to put one in place.

    It's not because a candidate does badly (5.00 / 1) (#65)
    by Prabhata on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 10:09:08 AM EST
    It's the process of most caucuses work that I'm against.  If all caucuses used the NM process, it would not be bad.

    You can complain about caucuses (none / 0) (#31)
    by Jgarza on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 09:31:15 AM EST
    thats fine, but the idea that you keep comparing them to election results where nobody campaigned is ridiculous.  Florida and Washington's primary don't indicate anything, because no one was campaigning.

    As for Caucuses, i think they are a good party building method for small electorates.  They should allow for absentee voting though like Maine.  Washington, Nevada, are not good for them.

    As for weather or not there was something about caucuses that hurt Hillary, I think it is hard to know, most of the ones she had lopsided losses in, she didn't really compete in.

    Now no one campaigned in Washington too? (5.00 / 1) (#32)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 09:34:14 AM EST
    I purposely did not mention the candidate results to keep frankly, people like you, from missing the point.

    You obviously are intent on doing so.


    Well (none / 0) (#45)
    by Jgarza on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 09:47:29 AM EST
    It is clear that you think seeing a commercial is campaigning, but I'm thinking GOTV and actual on the ground stuff.

    My opinion on caucuses is stated above, it isn't exactly the same as yours.  So i guess in your mind i missed the point of your post.


    What is strange about your argument (5.00 / 2) (#50)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 09:52:53 AM EST
    is that all the "GOTV stuff" occurred in the Washington caucuses and the "un-GOTVed" primary outstrippped caucus participation by probably 500,000 voters. If I understand you correctly, you are arguing that the discrepancy would have been even bigger if there has been a REAL primary in Washington.

    I agree.


    Could you please mention them now? I'm dying to (none / 0) (#98)
    by derridog on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 12:46:42 PM EST

    Nostalgia ain't what it used to be... (5.00 / 2) (#82)
    by Camorrista on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 10:42:45 AM EST
    Years ago, I lived in a caucus state so, lockstep Democrat that I am, I participated in the festivities.

    Contrary to the impression given by warm and fuzzy pieces in the New York Times, caucuses are not a Capra-esque exercise in local democracy.

    What happened at the caucus I attended (and to judge by what I've read, what continues to happen at most caucuses) was that those who eventually controlled things were those who--no surprise--turned out to be the least trustworthy.  They fell into these groups:

    (1) Community bigshots, who relished imposing their views on their dependent neighbors.  (At my caucus, two of the bigshots had written mortgages for a quarter of the people in the room.)

    (2) Opposing-party fifth-columnists (it was an open-caucus state--instant party registration got you a platinum pass) who attended to poison (deliberately or not) the waters.

    (3) Democratic Party functionaries, who served as tools of whichever candidate had greased them most shamelessly.

    (4) Bullies, whose favored technique was to stare into their victims' eyes and offer a variation of,  'Jeez, have you done any homework at all?  How can you even think of voting for that evil bastard?...'

    (5) The bored, the lonely and the blissfully ignorant--perfect prey for 1-4.

    Supporters have compared caucuses to juries, but juries have their their own drawbacks--not many whites cheered the jury in the O.J. case, and not many blacks cheered it in Louima case.  And, anyway, the comparison is inept: a jury, no matter the idiosyncracies of its composition, not only is forced to hear evidence, it's subject to the rules of the court.  Break a rule, you can be sanctioned or dismissed, and a judge has the final say.  There's no real parallel in caucuses.

    I'm not arguing that any caucus result is "wrong"--or that a primary might not have delivered the same result--but that the method is tainted.  It is especially tainted when a caucus-goer votes publicly.  

    After all, the first principle of fair elections is that a ballot be secret.  The second principle is that as many elegible people vote as possible.

    Caucuses turn both those principles inside out.


    Very informative post (5.00 / 1) (#89)
    by Prabhata on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 10:53:33 AM EST
    Having never attended a caucus, your post is the first time I've read about the how the power groups manipulate the voting.  I see why Obama has been extremely successful in Caucuses.

    I've had the same (none / 0) (#93)
    by tree on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 12:24:32 PM EST
    experience years ago in a caucus. It really turned me off.  I didn't realize until this year that caucuses were still the mode in so many states.

     Sadly, the only way this will change is if Obama wins the primary and then loses the general.


    I would not miss having caucuses (none / 0) (#33)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 09:35:40 AM EST
    and apparently fewer people would miss having their voices heard and their wishes known without them so what's to really miss there?

    The right will make full use of our follies (none / 0) (#49)
    by Dadler on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 09:52:35 AM EST
    If the popular vote winner is not the nominee then the right will spin it as "don't vote for the dem because they aren't the justly chosen nominee."  We will be, in effect, no better than the thug republicans who stole the last two prez elections.  The will of the people must count, the will of the people IS the popular vote, and whomever gets the popular vote MUST be the nominee.  Anything short of this will make the party an empty bowl of hypocrisy, with little credibility to challenge, yet again, a fishy presidential election.

    We must be BETTER than our opponents.

    Closed primaries may be hard to implement (none / 0) (#52)
    by kjblair on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 09:55:44 AM EST
    One thing to remember is that in many states you're not required to select a party ID when you register to vote. It would be very difficult to have a truly closed primary when you can't easily identify who's a Democrat.

    Secondly, even people that are registered as Democrats may self-identify as an independent or a Republican. I live in PA. My wife is registered as an independent. So that she can vote in the primary for Clinton, she is going to change her party ID. However, if she got asked I bet that she would still identify herself as an independent.

    (And based on some of the comments I've read here and elsewhere, there are people that will think that she is trying to undermine the election because of changing her party ID.)

    Why call it Party Nominations (5.00 / 2) (#62)
    by Stellaaa on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 10:07:20 AM EST
    when anyone can vote in that party?  I really think at some point we either totally eliminate the lines, or if we have parties, have it mean something.  I want the party to stand for a real opposition to the party in Congress or the Presidency.  It should not end up being a nothing during the 4 years between National Elections.  If there was a real party system, we could have held the Democrats who won more accountable with demanding impeachment and such.  This way, after the personalities are done, there is no real opposition.  

    Not at all (none / 0) (#54)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 09:57:33 AM EST
    Changing her registration is meaningful and good.

    Especially where there is a pre-primary date deadline.

    This is wonderful news.


    Very little in PA (none / 0) (#70)
    by andgarden on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 10:18:53 AM EST
    has been as good for Democrats as "Republicans for Rendell" in 2002. Many suburban Philly voters switched their registration, and stayed switched.

    Nor would I care to have any state entity (none / 0) (#59)
    by sphealey on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 10:02:30 AM EST
    > One thing to remember is that in many
    >  states you're not required to select
    > a party ID when you register to vote.

    And I would not particularly care to have any state entity keeping a list of who has voted in what party's primary.  Not with Rove and Addington wandering around and Gitmo open, but not under any government either.  Even in the non-registration states where I have have lived there is already too much government involvement in (cementing of) political parties.



    Disenfranchisement (none / 0) (#68)
    by seand on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 10:12:36 AM EST
    Just to be clear, it doesn't follow from the fact that people didn't vote that they've been disenfranchised; if they had the opportunity to vote, and didn't, then they weren't disenfranchised at all.

    Even on that definition, though caucuses disenfranchise some people- people who, for whatever reason, can't devote an hour or two to the process.  But this problem, it seems to me, could be solved just as well by ME-style absentee caucusing as it could be by doing away with caucuses altogether.

    And given that caucuses have an important role both as indicators of activist (=volunteers and dones for the GE) enthusiasm and as party-building exercises, there might be some reason to keep them around; though perhaps only as Texas-style components of the delegate-selection process in a state to be coupled with primaries.  

    If they had the opportunity to vote (none / 0) (#71)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 10:20:19 AM EST
    Funny line.

    Minimizing the opportunity to vote is disenfranchisement.


    Disenfranchisement again (none / 0) (#74)
    by seand on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 10:29:04 AM EST
    Does holding caucuses count as 'minimizing' the opportunity to vote? I'm not sure: there'd be less of an opportunity if, say, there were less caucus sites; or if caucuses lasted all day, instead of an hour or two.  

    But if what you mean is that all voting ought to be as easy as possible, and that whenever it's not, there's disenfranchisement, then I guess caucuses disenfranchise voters. But I'm not sure this is a good principle for nominating contests: why not give more weight to the opinions of the informed and entusiastic, particularly if doing so enhances the party's chances in the GE? 'One man, one vote', is, after all, though admittedly an important democratic principle, not the only important democratic principle.


    OF course it is (5.00 / 1) (#76)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 10:31:18 AM EST
    They are at a set time and in select locations.

    A primary is all day and with wider locations to vote.

    You must be kidding me.


    Disenfranchisement yet again (none / 0) (#83)
    by seand on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 10:43:27 AM EST
    OK, sure, if by 'minimizing' you mean 'not maximizing', then caucuses, since they clearly don't maximize the ease of voting, 'minimize it' in your sense. I take 'minimize' to mean something stronger than that, myself, but hey- po-tay-to/po-tah-to, I suppose.

    But as I've been trying to argue, it's not clear in any case that party nominating processes ought to follow a principle of maximizing the ease of voting, since there are other values at stake that might be better served by making people work a little harder to exercise their rights; and so I'm not sure I'm in agreement with you that anything that doesn't maximize the opportunity to vote disenfranchises those who are unwilling, rather than unable, to go the extra mile to do their duty as citizens.


    Well heck (5.00 / 1) (#86)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 10:47:21 AM EST
    why not make it as hard as possible to vote.

    Your views on encouraging voting are remarkable.

    Let's make voter registration even MORE difficult.



    I didn't suggest making it as hard as possilbe (none / 0) (#87)
    by seand on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 10:49:54 AM EST
    It's a false dilemma to say that we either need to make voting in the nominating contests either as hard or as easy as possible. What I'm suggesting is that they're might be a reasonable middle ground which, though surely more on the 'easy' side as the 'hard' side, makes voting in the nominating process a little harder, and hence a little more a reflection of enthusiasm and activist support, then voting in general elections.

    I want to do away from the two party system (none / 0) (#69)
    by Prabhata on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 10:18:07 AM EST
    more than caucuses.

    When caucuses make sense. (none / 0) (#73)
    by feralrom on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 10:27:44 AM EST
    Caucuses, like the electoral college, make sense if delegates are selected to exercise judggment rather than to be passive conduits for the popular vote.  If you anticipate multiple ballots will be taken with discussions and negotiations taking place between ballots, it is useful to be able to discuss second and third choices with your potential delegates and to be able to instruct them as to your preferences.  

    This hasn't come up often in recent times, but in the 70s we often had Colorado caucuses where such discussions occurred.  I suspect the Iowa caucuses involved similar discussions this year, and it is probably better that Edwards delegates and the lonely Kucinich and Richardson delegates from the Iowa caucuses will go to their county or state conventions with some sense of their precinct neighbors' secondary preferences.  

    By contrast, the Edwards, Kucinich, Richardson, Biden, and Dodd delegates from the early primary states are now uncommitted and they have no instruction from their communities as to secondary preferences.

    If the choice is multiple, rather than binary, caucuses are a more democratic process.

    Few delegates should be awarded (5.00 / 1) (#80)
    by Prabhata on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 10:37:12 AM EST
    with caucuses.  Your point is excellent, but should all the delegates be awarded with caucuses? I would be more agreeable to awarding a small portion of the delegates to give the candidate viability, but then have a primary to award the bulk of the candidates.  Something like what happened in WA.

    A Comment from a Washington Democratic PCO (none / 0) (#100)
    by seajane on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 04:23:45 PM EST
    We have 2 groups here that try and try to take over elections and hand them to the Republican minority -- an initiative crazy publicity hound and the phoney group known as the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW).  They have tried to get Democrats off voter roles, complicate the voter registration process to disenfranchise progressive voters, destroyed records, buried the election process with confusing initiatives, intimidated voters, bought disceptive advertising, and so on.  We need the caucus system in this State to retain the power to the people and keep it out of the hands of a minority of special interests who happen to be well financed and organized.  

    In addition, the caucus system really makes it easy to party build since you meet your neighbors face-to-face and actually have a great discussion with them.  I love the caucus system!

    It's more complicated than this (none / 0) (#101)
    by dday on Thu Feb 21, 2008 at 01:34:47 AM EST
    Caucuses are paid for by the party, primaries by the state.  There are states out there that simply won't want to pay for primaries.

    Further, a caucus is a party meeting.  You can capture information, you can register people to vote, you can plot your volunteer strategy based on those lists.  They are extremely valuable party-building tools, especially in this year of record turnout.  If you want to do away with them and hold primaries, where none of that information is directly captured by the parties, you have to tell me what you're going to do to compensate for that.