Just as you know we will have a presidential election every four years, you also know that every four years, Iowa and its caucuses will be criticized for being too small, too white and too arcane.
And this year you can add “inept” to Iowa’s list of faults.
The state’s Democrats botched their Feb. 3 caucuses. Neither candidates nor voters seem confident in the results announced by party officials.
The uncertainty has fueled criticism and led to renewed calls that the United States and its two major parties overhaul the system used to select Democratic and Republican presidential nominees.
Some critics call for big, demographically diverse states to hold their primary elections first. Others want a national primary election.
Like the calls to eliminate the Electoral Colleges, such moves would further erode the role of rural America in U.S. society and politics.
And such moves would give even more advantage to candidates with money and celebrity status.
We should not discount the flaws in the current system, but we also should not sell short the benefits of starting the process in states with small populations.
The current system allows voters across the country to learn about relatively unknown candidates, such as Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg. Yes, the campaign season is long and expensive, but the benefit of starting small is that there is time for candidates to build support and funds.
Everything from rallies to media coverage are logistically easier and cheaper in such states as Iowa and New Hampshire, compared to, say, California and Texas.
It’s not just voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, which has the nation’s first primary election, that get to know the candidates. True, not many Americans pay attention so early in the process, but they do have plenty of opportunity to get familiar with candidates and their positions.
A national primary or giving big-population states the early primaries would make such efforts impossible for all but the best known and wealthiest candidates.
There are, however, good arguments for ditching caucuses in favor of primary elections.
The caucus system is poorly understood by voters, which creates not only confusion but also suspicions.
Caucus votes in Iowa had not yet been tallied before right-wing began spouting conspiracy theories alleging that certain Democratic officials were rigging results to keep the nomination from Bernie Sanders.
Caucuses also are more time-consuming for voters. For a party that claims to prize accessibility and inclusion, the Democratic Party doesn’t seem to appreciate how inconvenient and inaccessible caucuses are. Participation almost always is substantially lower in caucuses than in primary elections.
It makes sense to replace caucuses with primary elections across the country. It also makes sense to rethink what states should go first.
There are smaller states that better reflect the demographics of the nation that could take the lead. Nevada — which held caucuses Feb. 22 — is one. Arkansas, Delaware and others also might be considered.
Heck, even Kansas’ demographics are closer to the nation’s as a whole than either Iowa or New Hampshire.
The nation’s founders had good reasons to forgo a pure democracy and instead build a government that respected the rights of individuals and smaller states.
Political parties would do well to do the same as they look for ways to improve the system used to choose their nominees.
A native of Garden City, Julie Doll is a former journalist who has worked at newspapers across Kansas.