Thursday, December 27, 2007

A party of the caucus, for the caucus and because of the caucus (crap)

Noemie has a very comprehensive post up at Washblog about the upcoming precinct caucuses. She rehashes for a bit the fight last year to try for a primary instead of a caucus, and puts forward some of the arguments for the caucus.

One I find troubling:
Washington State Democratic Party Chair Dwight Pelz has said that the caucus system encourages grassroots democracy and dialogue while the primary favors candidates who spend the most money on TV ads and teaches participants that politics is a solitary process. I agree.
Prior to this, Noemie (full disclosure: I like and admire Noemie) argues that we have to look at the caucuses in the context of our fully screwed up election system. Granted, caucuses are a lot better than much of what goes on.

But, I'd argue that caucuses (while usually a good thing) are being used cynically by the Washington State Democratic Party to:

a) drive down participation, and
b) recruit volunteers for the nine months before the election.

Yes, caucuses are great because they require and encourage active participation. But, the party is using that participation for its own use. And, after the election, the scores of jazzed, encouraged people will be dropped like a wet rag by the party because the job will be done at that point.

If the party was actually all about the participatory democracy, it would hold caucuses for every election. We hold a state primary for every other less sexy election in this state because the party would much rather have the state government pay for its winnowing down election than to have to pay for a caucus no one will show up to.

Here are some old posts from Washblog of mine arguing about caucuses and such:
Republicans were trying to make a point with primary vote
More Caucuses v. Primary
Caucus v. Primary debate keeps attention off the real problem: lack of participation

Here's my favorite line:
But, the problem with caucuses is that very few people actually do turn out for them. On the other hand, the problem with primaries is that still very few people turn out for them. The Olympian editorial points out that while only two percent turn out for caucuses in a given year (certainly not in 2004), but 42 percent turn out for a primary. Two percent may be extremely small, but 42 percent is all that great either.
Wouldn't it be great if instead of having to choose between really horrible turn-out and depressing turn-out, we could find a way to get more people participating?

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