It's hard to describe what transpired in the Iowa Democratic primary caucuses last week as anything better than a disaster. From the technological and logistical results reporting debacle to the underwhelming turnout, it was a discouraging start to the presidential primary season.
Democrats will have to get their acts together as the next handful of primaries take place, but when the dust settles from this year's contentious presidential election, we hope the Iowa story gets a thorough examination. And we hope the result of that is a radical restructuring of how we choose major party presidential candidates in this country.
It seems that the primary justification for putting these two small states first for decades is tradition. It's likely that money plays an equal or bigger role. Both states have essentially built presidential primary industries within their borders, with political consultants and lobbyists setting up shop to take advantage of the extra attention candidates give these states.
But the goal of the presidential primary process should be to pick the candidate best qualified to be the nominee. It defies logic to put so much power into the hands of so few people to set the tone for the rest of the nation.
IOWA CITY, Iowa — What went wrong with the Iowa Democratic Party’s high-tech plan to speed up the reporting of caucus night results? Pretty much everything.
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To get a sense of how small Iowa's caucuses are in terms of real democratic participation, compare turnouts of this year's presidential primary with the 2018 mid-term election right here in central New York.
After more than a year of intense national media attention from candidates and the media, roughly 208,000 Iowans took part in last weeks caucuses from both major parties. Two years earlier in New York's 24th Congressional District, about 260,000 cast ballots. That's 25% more people taking part in one upstate New York congressional election compared with an entire state's presidential primary.
With that said, we're not arguing that Iowa and other small states shouldn't have a loud voice in the primary process. But the volume they currently enjoy needs to be adjusted.
One suggestion that's been floated is to establish a series of regional primary dates. It would be sort of like having four or five "Super Tuesday" votes, and it would accomplish two things. First, we'd see candidates getting out to many more states in the months leading up to voting time. Second, it would produce broader results that better reflect the enormous level of demographic and political diversity that exists in the United States.
Traditions can be great. This one, though, needs to end.
The Citizen editorial board includes publisher Michelle Bowers, executive editor Jeremy Boyer and managing editor Mike Dowd.