The problem started when the DNC, sheepish about the anti-democratic nature of its caucuses, instructed states that used these noninclusive primary selection events to open themselves up for the 2020 cycle. Now, having tried and failed, Iowa will likely go back to the old caucus system, unless the state party can figure out some other modification to the caucuses (such as allowing participation by mail).
It’s time for Democrats, especially those who understand that the party survives in large part with the help of the very people most likely to be unable to attend caucus nights (e.g. mothers, working-class people), to put an end to the caucuses and to the domination of Iowa and New Hampshire in the primary process.
The DNC is certainly within its right to say all states need to have primaries. Period. And the party, if not in 2020, may get there by 2024. The Des Moines Register spotted the handwriting on the wall, observing that with the virtual caucus out of the picture, the caucuses have added “another layer of uncertainty to what has always been a complicated, volunteer-driven exercise in organizing.” Moreover, “it calls into question the long-term viability of the Iowa caucus system as Democrats here debate whether expanding access outweighs the importance of being first.”
It’s long overdue for a party inveighing about voter suppression and working on all sorts of ways to expand access to voting to demand that all states use primaries. For that matter, party primaries should allow mail-in balloting, just as some politicians are trying to enact all over the country for general elections.
The DNC could combine easy-access primaries with a regional primary system in which demographically diverse states are put on equal footing with nearly-all-white states. Alternatively, the party could simply end Iowa’s and New Hampshire’s lock on first and second in the nominating calendar.
I’ve got just the person for Democrats to put in charge of revamping their primary system: Stacey Abrams. Her organization to end voter suppression, Fair Fight Action, already “engages in activities such as conducting a vote-by-mail program; educating voters about elections, voting procedures, and voting rights; and facilitating a get-out-the-vote program to mobilize voters to cast their ballots during early voting and on election day,” according to Fair Fight’s website. It sure seems that the DNC could use some education and reform.