The 2016 Presidential election "gets real" tonight with the long-awaited Iowa Caucuses. But instead of witnessing a great event of small "d" democracy--we are instead reminded why this is no way to elect a President. The Iowa Caucus is an archaic form of delegate selection that harkens back to the days when party bosses ruled the political world and direct elections were a sham.
I find it interesting that Democrats who cry every two years about the need for Early Voting and Weekend Voting and Vote-By-Mail and "making it as easy to vote as possible" still allow Iowa to use this system. Caucuses start at 7:00 pm in all counties--and if you are late or you have to work or there is an emergency that comes up at the last minute, tough luck you cannot participate in the process. And there is no "absentee caucusing". What's more, you must be a registered Democrat or Republican to take part in your respective caucus--no independents or undecideds allowed here.
And once you are at the caucus you are literally locked in--and are not allowed out until the process is complete. And what a process it is--although the two parties do run their caucuses differently. In a Republican caucus, representatives of every candidate get in front of everybody to do a little spiel and then pieces of paper are passed out and you write down you choice for President and put it in a box. The votes are tallied and passed on to the state party--which keeps a running total for the media. Of course, that isn't always accurate. If I was to ask you who won the 2012 Republican caucus, you would probably say "Mitt Romney"--because that is what was reported the night of and the day after. But when final results were canvassed and tabulated a couple of weeks later, it turned out that Rick Santorum actually won the caucuses--but Romney had already won New Hampshire by that time and was pretty much on his way to the nomination.
Democrats also have the representatives making last minute pitches for support--but that is followed by open-view voting. No secret ballot here--as supporters of each candidate are directed to separate areas in the room--which can lead to some awkwardness--as the two people supporting Martin O'Malley will likely look at each other and say "Dude, we are losers". They could then decide to join Hillary Clinton group or the Bernie Sanders group to avoid such embarrassment. And even if the O'Malley duo wants to stand strong in support of their man--they won't be allowed to in the "second round". That is because caucus rules only allow delegates to go to candidates with at least 15% support. So the O'Malley duo will be ordered to join the Clinton or Sanders group--even if they hate both of those candidates. If fewer than 15-percent want to remain "uncommitted" to any candidate in the race, they too are forced to pick a side. And at the end of the night, everyone there knows how everyone else voted. That shouldn't make things awkward at all.
So enjoy the Iowa Caucus hype today and stay glued to your radios, TV and Twitter for running delegate totals. Just remember, this is no way to elect a leader.