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Editorial: Caucuses need reform

Editorial: Caucuses need reform

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This editorial originally appeared in the Dec. 18 Quad-Cities Times.

It was a lifetime ago, but we’re learning more about the 2020 presidential caucus debacle in Iowa.

An internal investigation commissioned by the Iowa Democratic Party and conducted by lawyers in Iowa, including former Attorney General Bonnie Campbell, was released recently — and it cast plenty of blame. The Democratic National Committee’s meddling in the development of an app for reporting results caused significant delays, so much so there was no time for training before the caucuses began.

Then, DNC demands to verify results as they were coming in caused delays the night of the caucuses.

The state party didn’t escape blame, either. The report noted the Iowa Democratic Party is ultimately responsible for having the apparatus in place to run the caucuses. And, it said, the party missed opportunities to speed along development of the app in spite of DNC demands.

The state party also didn’t adequately build in adequate backup in the event of problems with the app, the report noted. And it was clear before the caucuses even began that precinct leaders were bailing on using the software.

If you’ve forgotten – and we wouldn’t blame you with all that’s gone on in the 10 months since then if you have – the Feb. 3 caucuses were a nightmare, as campaigns, voters and media outlets worldwide waited and waited — and waited — for results that just didn’t materialize in full until three days later.

As a result, many have predicted the demise of the first-in-the-nation caucuses, at least as far as the Democrats are concerned.

Making predictions about the caucuses is always risky, but this year’s failures won’t be forgotten.

In addition, the caucuses have the same old problems. They’re complicated and not very accessible (the latter applies to the Republicans, too). The other thing is this: Joe Biden has no reason to keep Iowa first, something other presidents did. After all, Iowa has been no friend to Biden. He’s always done poorly in the caucuses, and he lost the state in the general election by a wide margin.

Regardless of whether Iowa remains a lead-off state, though, Democrats still must figure out how to go forward. There is a lot of pressure to convert to a primary. If the party doesn’t like that idea, it should strongly consider the report’s recommendation that it conduct a straw poll, like the Republicans do. We think that’s a solid idea. Frankly, the days of complicated caucus math and state delegate equivalents is over. The person with the most votes should win, right?

The party also needs to find a way, finally, for greater participation.

This report documents in detail what we already know: The caucuses were a disaster.

At the least, they need to be reformed, whether Iowa is first-in-the-nation or not.

This editorial was written by the Bloomberg Opinion editorial board.


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