11 Reasons Why The Rest of the Country Should Switch to Caucuses
There’s been lots of hemming and hawing in the media about the caucuses. I suspect a lot of that comes from people who have not taken the time to learn the process. After campaigning in a dozen or so states over the last two election cycles and seeing the different ways caucuses are run, I’ve concluded that concerned voters should want a caucus. Here’s why:
1. Caucuses are Fun
Seriously – Roberts Rules of order. Tricks. Intrigue. What could be more fun than that? For two hours every four years, we, the average voters have a really meaningful excuse to behave like someone out of West Wing.
2. Caucuses are Transparent
In Chicago, you vote in the primaries and there’s no guarantee that anyone will ever count your ballot. It will be machine counted. A machine miscount, therefore, will not be caught. In contrast, in a caucus state...
it's often enough for just one voter to stand and demand that votes be counted out in the open.
If I stood in a polling place in Chicago and demanded an open count, I’d get the cops called on me and end up in the hoosegow.
A bunch of people complain that caucuses are vulnerable to election fraud. They are. But the people who complain about that are likely the people who didn’t show up to their caucus prepared. Caucuses can only be stolen if someone allows them to be stolen. This transitions nicely into my next point.
3. Caucuses Remind Us About Responsibility
Whose fault is it when you spill a glass of milk that you’re pouring? Is it the milk company that designed a milk container improperly? Is it the person who turned the fridge down so low that your hands can barely stand to hold the ice-cold milk? Is it the person who has yet to fix the wobbly kitchen table? Is it the fault of the person who walked into the kitchen and scared you when he said “Hi.”?
Nope. When you spill a glass of milk, it’s your fault. You’re an adult.
Whose fault is it when you get barred from a caucus, when the ballots don’t get counted in front of you, or when the Romney supporters get to speak three times as long as the other voters? Well, the fault is yours.
There is no “last judgment” at a caucus. There is no “day in court.” There is no opportunity later to get even, to right the wrongs. Judgment takes place in real-time and the winner is the one who comes prepared to win the fights of the day and asserts himself. If you lose in a caucus environment it’s your fault – you came unprepared. If you win in a caucus environment – Congratulations!! I’ll treat you to a beer the next time you and I meet.
4. Caucuses Remind Us that the People Are the Ultimate Check on Corruption
Our government causes whatever mischief we allow. When generations of Americans don’t guard their rights jealously, we end up with a government like we have today. The caucus process stokes the sense of justice in a person and reminds a voter of the joy of competition and victory. The caucus is tee ball. It gets us excited to take on bigger challenges and to force ourselves into tougher leagues.
5. Caucuses are Informal
In 2004, I observed the Russian presidential elections. Fascinating process. Russia has the best election law that I have ever seen. The law is so meticulously written in order to ensure that elections are aboveboard. The problem with that was – 1. No one knew the laws, least of all the election officials, and 2. Voters didn’t feel empowered and therefore weren’t involved in seeing to it that the laws were followed. What I saw take place in numerous polling places on election day was so horrific that I ended up filing a lengthy petition of complaint with the oblast’s election officials.
In an American caucus however, you can have a chairman in the front of the room pulling all kinds of shenanigans, while the voters opt to sit back in their chairs staring at the walls. Or you can have the voters in the face of the chairman making sure a standard of propriety is followed.
What is that standard of propriety? Well, that standard is what the people in the room agree to and convince others to stand in favor of. Sure, there are a bunch of rules and in some states there are laws concerning the caucus process. However, none of that matters.
Caucuses are a meeting. Neighbors meet with neighbors. One of them leads the meeting. Since a caucus is so informal, it matters what the people present decide is right, not what some lawyer, judge, and jury three months later decide.
6. Caucuses Make the Voter Live in the Here and Now – There Are No Reinforcements
In 2000, our president was chosen by the Supremes. What a mess. It’s an example of how we have learned to be passive in our approach to our government. It was an election decided long after election day. Other than the once-a-year need to swerve out of the way of a dangerous car accident, most of us aren’t really called to step up and do anything that urgently matters.
Caucusing, however, is a different story – you have the moment to stand up for yourself and what you believe is just. Once the meeting has come to an end, business is done and your chance to affect the vote is over.
7. There are No Reinforcements!
There are lots of situations in life where something so unjust and crazy is happening that a person can’t believe it’s happening. He just stands there, shocked that no one is helping him. Usually, that person will either long regret that he did not stand up for himself or he will long criticize the world for not protecting him. The caucus is always that kind of moment. There are no reinforcements that will ride to your rescue.
8. Organizing Against Election Fraud is Easy
How many precincts are there in your state? Let’s say 1,000. Well, then 1,000 committed activists is what you’ll need to ensure the accuracy of the vote count.
If someone really cared about the legitimacy of the vote, it would follow that he would see to it that the votes from his precinct were counted properly. It’s naïve to assume that power won’t be abused by someone else simply because you think it shouldn’t be.
If widespread election fraud is a concern, it would follow that a voter would organize other concerned citizens to monitor the vote. This is easy to do in the decentralized environment of the caucus because no centralized authority looking to steal the vote can pull it off when a committed group is checking the accuracy of the vote.
9. Caucuses Remove the Insiders from the Process
The Democrats have superdelegates (a way of telling Democratic voters openly “You don’t really matter as much as you think you do.”) and state parties allow for the equivalent of Republican “superdelegates” to varying degrees. Still, largely, the caucus is a way that committed activists can have a tremendous amount of influence over the process and even take over the party.
10. Few People Show Up
Anyone who direly cares about the outcome of the 2012 election should be grateful to live in a caucus state. I’ve learned over my years of helping candidates get elected that it’s best to judge people based on their actions and not their words. If someone can’t get up at 8 a.m. on a Saturday and clear his schedule until 10 a.m. then that person doesn’t really care that much about the candidate he professes to care about.
There are arguments about religious exemptions, work requirements, and family requirements that are all valid. The fact of the matter remains – the caucus weeds out the people who don’t care that much. They are a segment of that flabby mass of people that seem to vote because they have nothing better to do, or because they’ve been convinced that their uninformed vote is part of their civic duty.
11. No Lawyers!!
At a caucus you don’t need a lawyer and if you don’t have a lawyer there ready to help you or ready to answer questions on speed dial, it won’t do you any good. You are your own lawyer. You represent yourself, you stand up for yourself and assert your own rights. The ACLU, Justice Department, or Bill of Rights will not help you win an argument at a caucus. It’s you or no one. It’s now or never.
Allan Stevo is a writer from Chicago, author of the recently released How to Win America for Ron Paul and the Cause of Freedom in 2012, which talks about ways to give increased, focused, effective support to Ron Paul. It talks about ways to win America for Ron Paul TODAY. Buy it at Amazon in print or as a Kindle