116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
A lone rider gallops through the night, past farms and through sleepy villages, his voice cutting through the night like the glare from his lantern.
'The Iowa caucuses are in trouble! The Iowa caucuses are in trouble!” he cries. 'They may no longer be first in the nation!”
'What's new?” says a groggy Iowan, before returning to blissful slumber and dreams of eating pancakes with Mike Pompeo and scotcheroos with Rick Scott.
OK, OK, so it wasn't a courageous rider.
It seems, according to Politico and its sources, Democratic leaders are considering shaking up the party's presidential nominating process. They might even shove Iowa and New Hampshire from their proud perches at the starting line.
Former U.S. Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid thinks his home state of Nevada would be a better place to start the primary process. U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina says his state could lead the pack. Both states, they argue, are far more diverse than Iowa.
Overwhelmingly white Iowa, 90 percent, and New Hampshire, 89 percent, don't look much like the diverse Democratic electorate that helped Joe Biden win states such as Georgia and Arizona. Biden barely finished in the top four in Iowa's caucuses.
'I don't think it's appropriate to have those two states to set the tone. It's really a false premise that if you do well in Iowa and New Hampshire you're going to do well across the country. That was proved wrong with Joe Biden,” Reid told Politico. 'There's no diversity in Iowa. There's certainly no diversity in New Hampshire.”
Also, caucuses, which require people to show up for a political meeting to express their presidential preference, are out of step with Democrats' push to make voting easier and more accessible, particularly early voting. Oh, and there was that small matter of Iowa being unable to report results from the 2020 Democratic caucuses due to tabulation issues both human and technical. The Associated Press still has not declared a winner. Maybe that's why Tulsi Gabbard left her billboards up.
With the exception of that 2020 debacle, which a review by state Democrats blamed on meddling by the Democratic National Committee, these mostly are perennial criticisms of the caucuses.
But not everyone was willing to shrug off this dethroning business.
'Attacking the Iowa caucuses and other First-in-the-Nation states is nothing new for people like Harry Reid and coastal elites who think they know better than everybody else. I continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with my First-In the-Nation states counterparts and will do everything in my power to protect the Iowa caucuses,” Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann said in response to the Politico piece.
It's always the coastal elites. But Kaufmann has much less to worry about. Republican toe-dippers already are wading into Iowa, even as Donald Trump looms over the proceedings like an overinflated orange parade balloon.
But for Iowa Democrats, the intensity of the caucus pummeling from their national leadership has intensified. Defense is difficult. The caucuses are archaic and inaccessible, and efforts to make them less so have run into snags. Iowa does lack diversity.
But, hey, we can look candidates in the eye and kick their tires and jaw with them in cafes. How will we know who can be president if they haven't flipped a single State Fair pork chop?
We all know a primary would solve a lot of problems. Johnson County Democrats approved a resolution this month calling for the change. But going that direction sparks war with New Hampshire, where state law says it must hold the first primary, and Secretary of State Bill Gardner will move the primary to a week from Sunday if it means staying first.
On top of all that, Iowa is no longer a swing state. Why would Democrats want to start the nomination process in a Trumpy red state where the eventual nominee has no chance of winning? Of course, losing the caucuses would be yet another debilitating blow to a state party already stumbling.
There is good news. You can't replace something with nothing. And, as usual, the folks lining up to bash Iowa have no solid alternative plan.
Maybe Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina could hold contests on the same day. But multistate primaries also would give candidates with bags of money an advantage over lesser known candidates who might catch on in a cheaper, state-by-state process. Remember Jimmy Carter? Barack Obama?
If Democrats want to start in the Midwest, they can go with a Rust Belt state that now looms large on their electoral map. But which one goes first? Or maybe a multistate Rust Belt primary, which also has that multistate money problem.
There are a lot of ideas, but no consensus. That's saved Iowa before and likely will again.
It still is a free country. If candidates and journalists think Iowa's caucuses are hopelessly flawed, unfixable and bad for the country, they can opt to not come here. The caucuses have become an overblown circus because of all the attention they're given. All that glare has exposed and exacerbated the once quaint caucuses' weaknesses.
But the gravitational pull of Iowa is hard to resist. Candidates are convinced they'll look presidential standing amid hay bales. Journalists will go where the candidates go. They'll write about our down-to-earth, rustic charm and also our barren, frozen landscape where desperate Americans endure without hope or almond milk.
As an Iowan and a follower of politics, I don't want to see the caucuses tossed from the leadoff spot. I'd rather see changes made that make them far more accessible while yielding results that are not unintelligible. Smart people are working on it. If they fail, let's have a primary.
But I'm also a realist. The criticisms of the caucuses are largely fair. It's been a great run, but times, politics and party priorities change. If leaders find a reasonable alternative to the Iowa-New Hampshire tradition that better serves the party and the nation, so be it. The fair will go on without presidential pork flippers.
The Washington Post reports that the DNC will schedule meetings starting in May to discuss the nominating process. Our lone rider will be happy to know they'll be streamed on YouTube.
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