Democrats Talk About Dethroning Iowa Caucuses

Problems in the last presidential race add to arguments about diversity, process
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 9, 2021 3:00 PM CDT
Iowa Could Lose Its Place Atop Democratic Calendar
Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez speaks during the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee in August 2020.   (Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via AP)

The handling of the last Iowa Democratic caucuses mostly just pleased Republicans. On top of several other reasons why the exercise isn't a great way to deliver the first campaign victory to a presidential candidate, technical problems derailed the counting of results in February 2020. It's enough to make top Democrats think about not doing that again, the Washington Post reports. "We have to be honest with ourselves, and Iowa is not representative of America," Tom Perez, former Democratic National Committee chairman, said Friday. "We need a primary process that is reflective of today's demographics in the Democratic Party."

In addition to the lack of racial diversity, Democrats cite the shift to the right by Iowa's voters while the party's candidates have moved to the left as reasons to move Iowa to later in the campaign. And the barriers to taking part in the one-evening process are high. One party official said Iowa's process that requires an investment of hours, in person, on a winter weeknight, is more restrictive than the new voting law in Texas. "It is not suited to normal people, people that actually have daily lives," he said. After the mess in 2020, a party strategist said, "It's hard to see how anyone can make the case for keeping it first with a straight face."

The count was so muddled that the AP decided against declaring a Democratic winner. The first step toward a change could happen this weekend, when Democratic leaders and President Biden's aides start filling committees and discussing the 2024 campaign calendar. One possibility is the party prohibiting the selection of convention delegates early for the race. Perez wants several states to vote on the same day. Many Democrats still like the idea of candidates being able to meet with voters, as they do in Iowa, and a process that gives less prominent candidates a chance.

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And there's a wariness of letting large states have a large role in the beginning of the campaign. "With California, Texas, Florida and New York as the first four, you would know who the nominee is before you even started," said a campaign adviser to Sen. Bernie Sanders. In 1978 and '81, the party lost its attempts to move the date of the Iowa caucuses, per the Post. But that was before the debacle last time. "Iowa had no friends before the 2020 race, or it had very few friends," one Democrat said. "And it certainly doesn't have any friends after the 2020 race." (More Iowa caucuses stories.)

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