Should the Democratic Party get rid of caucuses? | The Tylt
Democrats are arguing over whether the party should eliminate caucuses entirely when choosing their presidential nominee. Critics say caucuses are inherently undemocratic. Caucuses take hours, and disenfranchise disabled people, poor people and people of color. Supporters of caucuses say they encourage citizen participation in politics, and it's a good thing that caucuses are public and favor political activists. Should Democrats keep caucuses or get rid of them?
Should the Democratic Party get rid of caucuses?
Carleton College political science professor Steven Schier says caucuses are a total user-unfriendly form of participation; harsher critics call them back-door voter suppression.
“If you want to encourage people to have a voice in your party process, the last system you want to design is caucuses,” he said. “It disadvantages working people, parents with children, and the disabled.”
But supporters say caucuses are more hands-on and participatory. At a caucus, participants get to hear a speech from each candidate or that candidate's supporters during the meeting before they vote.
Picking a presidential nominee should be more of a thoughtful process. Going to a caucus where you can look the other participants in the eye and hear each candidate’s supporters’ spiel is preferable to what’s become a lunch-hour, drive-by event.
Critics say that "hands-on and participatory" is just a nicer framing of "not available to people who don't have several hours to invest in a caucus," i.e., working people or people without access to transportation or childcare. They say we should be emphasizing early voting, electronic voting and automatic voter registration, and that caucuses automatically depress voter participation and favor the privileged.
Jumping in to say that after living in 2 states w/ caucuses they are undemocratic shit shows that make it hard for parents and working class— Jessica Mason Pieklo (@Hegemommy) August 29, 2017
Caucuses make it harder for minorities, disabled people, the elderly, & those who can't take off work to vote. They greatly depress turnout— Marcus H. Johnson (@marcushjohnson) August 25, 2017
Others love the idea of a participatory, vocal process in which a passionate, mobilized group can make a difference.
Howard, the caucuses are a participatory democratic marvel. Not to be trashed. And caucuses help build & strengthen their state parties.— James J. Zogby (@jjz1600) August 25, 2017
1. A caucus lets you gauge the level of excitement from us non-plutocrats, so I get why you want them gone.— UserFrIENDlyyy (@UserFrIENDlyyy) August 28, 2017
But others say a system that reduces voter turnout by one-to-two-thirds has no place in a democracy.
Tell me again how a process that shuts out poor working folks who can't take the day off work to participate is super awesome for democracy?— Brian Lawlor (@PoliticalBrianL) August 27, 2017
ROAD TO 2020