Riff Raff: Let’s put the caucuses out of our misery

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 703 views 

Dear caucus states: Yes, that’s you Iowa and Nevada and North Dakota and Wyoming. We’re finished with your form of counting, which, frankly, is to counting what counting is to reciting the alphabet.

Y’all gather folks in gyms and in homes and in other buildings near cornfields and casinos and go through several rounds of “voting” like you’re trying to pick the fair queen or best casserole.

“Well, I was gonna vote for that little Williams girl but the crowd was bigger for that cute little Judy, whose grandmama was once my Sunday school teacher, so I flipped my vote on the second round. But I’ll tell you one thing, I’ll burn this whole thing down if they don’t pick my corn and ham hash casserole as the best. I will, Susan. You know I will.”

Don’t laugh. This is serious. Some folks are trying to pick a person to drain the swamp out from under the guy they were told was going to drain the swamp. But folks gathering near a free throw line in a small town junior high school gym to lobby for their candidate does not imbue swamp-draining confidence. We don’t want a glorified Tupperware party. We ain’t in the market for Amway. Except for a few hardcore luddites, we no longer use rotary phones, cassette tapes or clotheslines. It’s time we add caucuses to that list.

Don’t laugh. This is serious. Maybe a caucus was cute when keeping count involved Western Union and a chalkboard. Retailers now have technology providing data in real time about how many boxes of ammo are sold in southern Missouri between the hours of 7 a.m. and noon on the day before hunting season, yet an accurate count of votes in Iowa is somehow a bigger mystery than D.B. Cooper. You’d think folks in a state that harvests around 3 billion bushels of corn a year could find a way to count around 175,000 votes in just a few hours.

Also, one shouldn’t be allowed to change their votes during the process. Go to Oaklawn and lemme know what they say when you ask to change your ticket when the horses hit the second turn.

And speaking of the process, read the Iowa rules. They must have been written by nerds who crafted rules for Dungeons and Dragons. “What? I can only go through the wizard’s door to the second crystal river of spells with my fire sword if I roll a 16?!” The Apple terms of agreement are easier to digest.

Folks in Iowa like to talk about how 55% of the time they get it right. But that’s a little like saying you almost always pick the color red when most of the color swatches are red. In 2000, voters picked George Bush on the Republican side and Al Gore on the other. State voters picked John Kerry in 2004. George Bush ran unopposed. Voters in 2008 picked Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Mike Huckabee. Republican Rick Santorum won in 2012, with President Obama largely unchallenged. In 2016, the Democrats picked Hillary and Republicans picked Ted Cruz – the Ted before he grew facial hair instead of growing a pair.

Of the caucuses since 2000 that produced an eventual party nominee, only Bush (2000), Kerry (2004), Obama (2008), and Hillary (2016) were closely contested. That’s just four out of 10 party caucuses in the past five cycles. Again, Iowans shouldn’t get awarded for getting it right when the choices were largely made for them. If someone asks you which piece of an apple pie you want, you don’t get credit for picking the slice with apple.

And one more thing. Iowa and New Hampshire being first in the primary cycle has got to go. Not sure it’s in our collective best interests to have Whitey McWhiterson sporting Carhartt and L.L. Bean outerwear setting the stage for the process. Let’s rotate the first five states each cycle, with the first state being the one with the highest percentage turnout in the previous presidential general election. And maybe at least one state from the SEC. And maybe we consider all states have a primary with ranked-choice voting.

Don’t laugh. This is serious.