Support for caucus process crumbles

Soren Dayton:
The discussion of Republican Party rules reform is beginning in the aftermath of the catastrophe of the new rules that were created by the RNC leadership in 2010. Many people attribute the lengthening process to just the new rules, but I would argue that there are several other factors. Some of the obvious ones are the weakness of the candidate field and new campaign finance structures. It is hard to imagine how Newt Gingrich would have been able to compete in South Carolina or Rick Santorum pretty much anywhere without SuperPAC support. Their campaigns would have run out of money in previous years, and their shows would have been up.  Blaming the “proportional” rules misses the point somewhat, as none of the states that have gone yet other than Florida previously operated under proportional rules.
The real disaster of this cycle has been the presidential preference caucus. In Iowa, Nevada, and Maine, we have had disastrous voting procedures, with results unknown or in flux for days. In Iowa, this led to the resignation of the state party chair Matt Strawn. In Nevada, the state party’s failed efforts to run a caucus have been widely panned, althoughthe state party chair had already announced that she was stepping down, so there hasn’t been the same kind of accountability. In Maine, I am hearing that state party Chairman Charlie Webster, who I quite like personally, is coming under tremendous pressure from county party chairs, elected officials and the party executive committee to step down.
But the problem with caucuses is not that they are hard to run, although some party leaders have called for improving those processes. After all, they are run by political parties which are notoriously incompetent and corrupt. I suspect that they could be run well.
The reason that we shouldn’t have a caucus is that it gives voters the illusion of participation while transferring power to party insiders or hyper-activists. What a binding presidential primary does is it subordinates the party insiders to the will of the voters. Do you want an illusion or accountability?
I think the real problem is that the caucuses limit participation to only those who can attend lengthy meetings as specific times of the evening.  If you work late, you can't participate.  This does put a premium on getting certain voters out while automatically excluding everyone else.  There is no absentee ballot for the caucuses.

I also dislike the continued rush to be first.  I would like to see the RNC set up a lottery system for states in a rush to go first that would not permit them to schedule a vote before March first.  Anyone who ignored the lottery and decided to vote earlier would see their delegates stripped to only 25 percent of the original allocated and they would be further limited to proportional delegates.

Those participating in the lottery would get a full allocation and would be permitted to vote on a winner take all basis.

I don't really have a problem with the Super PAC.  If some rich guy wants to back a candidate that is up to him as long as the voters know who his motivation.


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