Caucusing is Anti-Democratic
January 3, 2008
Christopher Hitchens, whose belligerence is barely tolerable even though he's almost always right, covers the Iowa caucus scam ably in Slate:
It's only when you read an honest reporter like [the Washington Post's] Dan Balz that you appreciate the depth and extent of the fraud that is being practiced on us all. "In a primary," as he put it, "voters quietly fill out their ballots and leave. In the caucuses, they are required to come and stay for several hours, and there are no secret ballots. In the presence of friends, neighbors and occasionally strangers, Iowa Democrats vote with their feet, by raising their hands and moving to different parts of the room to signify their support for one candidate or another. ... [F]or Democrats, it is not a one-person, one-vote system. ... Inducements are allowed; bribes are not." One has to love that last sentence.
I was in Des Moines and Ames in the early fall, and I must say that, as small and landlocked and white and rural as Iowa is, I would be happy to give an opening bid in our electoral process to its warm and generous and serious people. But this is not what the caucus racket actually does. What it does is give the whip hand to the moneyed political professionals, to the full-time party hacks and manipulators, to the shady pollsters and the cynical media boosters, and to the supporters of fringe and crackpot candidates.
This year, for me, is all about persuasion and how things get made. What's clear with the Iowa caucuses is that the process is about the quiet coercion of peer pressure. And the primary beneficiaries of this broken system are the traditional media outlets which both uses the process as a source of content and as a source of advertising revenue. Secret balloting is part of any real election process for an important reason, and we've empowered a system that forsakes that goal.
Worse, as much as people like to talk about the Internet revolutionizing politics, the measure they're still using is the ability of the web to improve the efficiency with which candidates can funnel money from supporters to traditional media advertising purchases. This is progress?
(Thanks to Clay for the pointer to the Hitchens piece.)