Wednesday, July 29, 2009

More on Caucus Date

Caucus Date Continued

Iowa's two party decision to have a first-ever Saturday caucus is still rippling today. The angle I didn't think of at first is that this is part of the national deal to keep Iowa first for 2012.

David Chung at Hawkeye GOP
is supportive of the change, and backed the change during his just-ended stint on the state central committee (he stepped down to back Christian Fong in the primary). Reading between the lines, it sounds like it was the Republicans who settled on Saturday first, and just like 2008, the Dems followed suit and moved from the previously announced Monday the 25th.

But Chung cautions:
Don't expect to see Saturday caucuses in a presidential year. In order to get the maximum effect from Iowa's First in the Nation Caucuses, they need to occur during a normal weekday news cycle. The caucuses are timed so that presidential straw poll data will be available for the late news.

Saturday puts a price on our place: OK, you're first, but you're at a time that minimizes the value of first.

Multiple sources notes Jewish Sabbath concerns. I'm not recommending changing what we have, but one fix would be a later start time. Luckily January is near solstice with early sunsets, and since Sabbath is measured sunset to sunset a 5 p.m. start would be, well, kosher. But that would make the "I don't want to go out after dark" seniors unhappy. Like Ricky Nelson said, you can't please everyone. I went to a caucus party, to politick with my old friends... no, Deeth, let it drop there. Weird Al isn't hiring.

You know, if we're looking for the day when the fewest people have to work, that would be SUNday, the day most of the rest of the world holds its elections. But I'm sure Jesus and Mike Huckabee wouldn't like that for some reason.

desmoinesdem has lots more recommendations for change, recycled from last year but still relevant. Some are cribbed from the departed Yepsen: Have the auditors run it, absentees, report first alignment body counts... all of which could be summed up as "make it as much like a primary as possible but just don't call it that."

Iowa is going to have to give on some sort of absentee procedure. And frankly, the argument that absentees would ruin the "town meeting" feel of the caucus are outdated. Attendance has grown so much that a typical site was less deliberative body and more Black Hole of Calcutta, straining ans exceeding the size limits of rooms and parking lots.

The question is, do we want an unrestricted absentee process like we have in elections, which would make the caucuses a de facto ballot chase with no one but the off-year diehards attending in person? You might say that's fine, but there's a couple shortcomings.

Presidential realignment (not even an issue for the GOP) is easy to address with an instant runoff ranked ballot. But that still leaves the platform, the committees, and the party structure. If only the diehards are there, the diehards will control that. But most people frankly don't care about that; the 90 percent attrition rate at my caucus once alignment was final and delegate counts were locked in was probably typical.

But here's the bigger problem: At what point does New Hampshire say, "Nope, that's an election, not a caucus" and mess with our date?

My preference is for absentee with a reason: I'm deployed to Afghanistan yes, I want to watch the Hawkeye game no, where to draw the line, somewhere in between. (A GENUINE effort at child care would also be nice; too often that's simply lip service.)

As for auditors running the show I'm too biased to address it: I want to go to the caucuses, not go to work.

I'd rather see a bit later date, into February, but I'll take three weeks later than 2008's obscene Jan. 3. At least we're late enough that the semester has started and the students are back at their campuses.

O. Kay corrects me on one point: the NFL conference championships will both be on Sunday the 24th. So now I can watch those games, and better yet I won't have to worry about seeing Brett Favre in Viking purple.

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