The Iowa caucus was finally underway on Monday after months in waiting. It is the first indicator of who the Democratic nominee is going to be to battle Donald Trump in this year’s US election. Iowa has always been the first in the primary season for both major political parties, allowing it to be at the forefront of the initial stages of a presidential election. However, Monday’s caucus was deemed inconclusive as voter tallies and an electronic system malfunctioned. For all caucus-sceptics across the political arena, this Iowa anti-climax has been their rallying crying to end caucusing as a form of political balloting in general.
Yes, the Iowa caucus results are still delayed after months of preparation and excitement from the Democratic party and its pollsters, but the criticism it’s received has been harsh. The frontrunner, Bernie Sanders, was neck-and-neck with former vice president, Joe Biden, whilst the other candidates’ campaigns faltered as months went by. But we now have to wait for a result that was determined to be a precursor for either a socialist or a moderate to win the eventual Democratic nomination in June. The caucus is an open collective ballot where precincts are set up across the state for registered Democrats to vote for their preferred candidate in groups. If the candidates’ surrogate in the town hall fails to get over the 15% threshold through bartering and persuasion, a second run-off goes ahead for their supporters to pick a more popular choice. Hordes of voters fill the room for a raucous event that allows the media and its political analysts to understand the mood and popularity surrounding the field of presidential candidates.
The caucus is incomparable to a neighbouring state’s primary. A primary vote mirrors the procedure of a general election ballot, where voters head to polling booths and secretly pick a leader. The primaries are a lot less complex but are not suffice to completely overhaul the system and abolish caucuses entirely. Primary voting is still a victim of hacking through weakened electronics system and are always subject to voter suppression and gerrymandering. The Iowa caucus’s colossal failure yesterday was its apparent inability to sync its electronic app with the correct voter tally of all 1600 precincts. This does little to ease concerns around America’s political system and its threat of interference from foreign entities. Whether voting in a caucus, a primary ballot or a general election, the threat of fake advertising and a faulty system still pervades.
A caucus, although needs improvement, is an enthralling way for voters to speak freely with their counterparts and political bedfellows whilst voting for the best person to take on their opponents. These town hall-style events enable Democrats, and Republicans, to rally together in what is essential for a political movement to thrive. In reference to Iowan journalist Art Cullen’s op-ed yesterday regarding the Iowa caucus; “the people who were actually involved in them seemed happy with the process and the results”. What should be under scrutiny is why the state of Iowa is always expected to go first in primary politics. The predominantly white, Midwestern state with a population of just over 3 million is lacklustre when supposedly representing the multiracial and cultural heartlands of America. Caucus or not, Iowa’s influence in the political universe seems outmoded against the country’s more diverse states of California and South Carolina.
It is easy and quick to judge Iowa’s anticlimactic event this week. The Trumpian Republicans have rushed to use it as a scapegoat and show that the Democrats “can’t even run a caucus” let alone a powerful government. The atmosphere and camaraderie that coincides with a caucus seems more exhilarating than the traditional closed-door ballot. For Iowa and other caucus states to protect its legacy, a papered ballot system and uncomplicated voting runoffs must prevail. To get rid of them them altogether would jeopardise America’s already fractured political system.