Can We Finally Agree the Iowa Primary is Irretrievably Broken?
The Iowa caucus kicked off the first of the Presidential primaries last night, and it couldn’t have been less relevant. For all the bluster, ceremony and crowing about retail politics, the state that demands to go first couldn’t even release results. A new app designed to transmit caucus counts (designed for what it is worth, by veterans of the Clinton campaign) failed spectacularly. Major news media spent hours awaiting results, only to wait more hours, and then declare it was time to go to bed and sort it out in the morning. In the morning, the Iowa State Democratic Party released partial results, which critics charged only further distorted the picture coming out of Iowa. It remains unclear whether the results will hold, or if they simply reflect the demographics of the precincts that have already reported.
Not that it should have mattered. Iowa’s first in the nation status and ability to pick presidents was a fluke to begin with. That the process still has any currency forty odd years after Jimmy Carter’s dark horse strategy says more about the media’s love of a presidential horse race than good sense. The State’s demographics trend older, whiter and more rural than the rest of the country. It no longer funcions in any sense as a bellwether (if it ever did). It’s beyond time for the perpetual discussion of reducing Iowa’s importance to be put to rest.
While Iowa has codified into law that the caucuses must be the first event, and the DNC has protected that privilege to date by threatening to reduce the number of convention delegates of any state that tries to upend the system, at some point the status quo is no longer acceptable. Already this year’s DNC debate rules significantly reduced the Hawkeye State’s ability to select candidates. As Iowa voters increasingly don’t reflect the larger electorate, no amount of technology or promise of innovation can paper over the many very real cracks. Put all the primaries on the same day and let the people vote.