The Caucus and Convention Process Is Stupid and Should Be Changed

The Caucus and Convention Process Is Stupid and Should Be Changed

There are a lot of barriers to participation in local politics. Which is weird, because it's also...pretty accessible? It somehow manages to be extremely accessible and very inaccessible at the same time—while it's pretty easy to call up and talk to your City Councilmember, the elections are in off off years, there are perhaps too many different elected bodies to keep track of, and an extremely opaque party endorsement process has the potential to decide the election months (potentially SIX months) before November.

That opaque party endorsement process...boy, caucuses and endorsing conventions are dumb. No one likes them. They are bad and not a good idea.

I am sure there is a long and complicated history behind why we do them, and a certain kind of person (we'll get to them later) will be very eager to point that out. Feel free to check out the "walking subcaucus" page on Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, if you consider yourself to be a real history "buff" and want to read up on it.

Here in the world, though, here are some caucus-related things:

The last one there has a pretty good summary of the 2013 city convention (to try and endorse a mayoral candidate). I was there, drinking $4 convention center Diet Cokes before getting a slice of pizza after sitting around for 12 hours.

We should not do this. This being a several hour long caucus process that is extremely complex and daunting, followed by multiple conventions (ward, city, plus state, county, etc) that can potentially take up an entire day, and, if between more than two serious candidates, will pretty much always result in no endorsement anyway.

There just...isn't a good reason for awkwardly walking around a middle school auditorium holding up pieces of paper that have "UNCOMMITTED AIR QUALITY" scribbled on them talking to people you don't know asking "uh do you like air." There is no reason we need to sit in an auditorium for six hours manually casting and counting ballots to end up not even endorsing anyone.

So why do we continue to have caucuses? Well, two things I suppose.

First, because it lets a handful of shady party insider types maintain an edge over newcomers through an obscure and lengthy process that no one understands. I feel, though, that this lets a second and considerably larger group of people off the hook.

Pretty sure the more important part here is that there is a type of person for whom participation and caucuses and conventions three out of every four years is like...their main thing that they have going on. A certain kind of person who extremely loves rules and shouting "point of order" at a bunch of people they don't know and generally was incredibly unpopular in high school for good reason.

Several hundred of this type of person in our city of 420,000 have turned our municipal elections into their hobby. Which is not good!

The "Actually," brigade will be quick to point out that, in fact, the party endorsement process is separate from the actual election, which is very cool, thank you, but also you clearly realize that that is besides the point in our one party town. And frankly, it is pretty clear that the endorsement process is not the process by which the candidate who is most directly aligned with the adopted party platform is chosen, it's a popularity contest akin to a general election but with a much smaller group of self-selected people who happen to have tens of hours of free time on their hands.

The current process disenfranchises many people. People who don't have several weekend days to set aside to write a name on a piece of paper a few times—maybe this is parents, maybe this is folks working unpredictable hours, maybe this is folks who are not intimately familiar with English, maybe this is folks who don't treat the thing as their main extracurricular activity.

Idk if you've watched the news lately, but this is not a good time to be turning away potential voters.

We need to do something differently. You may be aware that we...have ranked choice voting already. Maybe we can just use that in the general election? Or, if you're really set on involving the party and having an endorsement, switching to a simple primary that would take people five minutes to vote in. I voted in a party primary in Virginia in 2008 when I was 17. It took........two minutes. How about that?

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