Jackson and St. Louis counties held caucuses on Saturday, and it was pretty clear that Ron Paul came out ahead in both. See this account, compiled by Lorien Johnson, of the experience in Jackson County. For brief a summary of St. Louis County’s event, as well as more information on the process, see here.
In the weeks leading up to the caucus, and in the days since, I’ve heard and read individuals lamenting the caucus process. Detractors argue that such a system is more exclusive, and favors a small group of dedicated individuals.
A simple primary, they say, is more open and allows broader participation. Without such a primary, voters are excluded from the process by the time commitment and structure of the rules. Talk Radio host Greg Knapp has made this point recently, along with others.
First, I’d like to note that I would prefer not to have any electoral system or formal government of any kind. It doesn’t matter which method is used to select candidates or by what organization – democracy, monarchy, republic – they’re all inherently violent and coercive. The entire concept is corrupt to one extent or another, and government is nothing more than organized crime. I agree whole-heartedly with H.L. Mencken, who wrote that “every election is a sort of advance auction sale on stolen goods.”
With that disclaimer, I would argue that a caucus would be preferable to a primary for the following reasons.
First, because most voters spend little energy actually researching candidates, they’re more easily manipulated by the establishment media. One need only to consider that first Michelle Bachmann, then Rick Perry, then Herman Cain, then Newt Gingrich, then Rick Santorum, all spent time in first place, with Mitt Romney taking turns in between, to understand how easily the electorate can be swayed by news coverage.
This is not to say that informed voters will be any less inclined to vote for a despot, they certainly can, and do. But at least those who participate won’t be blindly throwing their vote behind a guy because the man on TV said he is “electable,” or because he has good hair, or a presidential-sounding name.
Opponents of the caucus system dislike it because they say it is more easily controlled by a small elite group, which is inherently undemocratic. But this assumes that a democracy is a preferable form of government, which I find not to be the case. Also, it implies that a primary can’t be just as easily manipulated by a small group, either indirectly through biased media coverage, or directly through voter fraud. Lately the GOP is supposedly all about combating voter fraud.
A number of Republican legislatures have proposed legislation to establish voter ID laws, and some have passed them. Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach practically ran on that issue alone.
Well, if the GOP really did want to put an end to election fraud, here’s one way to do that. As it turns out, dead people can’t caucus, but apparently they can vote in primaries. And it would be virtually impossible for one person to caucus at multiple locations, which can’t be said of primaries.
While certainly not a panacea, a caucus would at least be a marginal improvement over simple primaries. Ultimately though, it doesn’t matter which system is used. In the end, someone always gets elected to the government.
Perhaps I would care less if so much weren’t at stake. If the politicians who claim the authority to run my life, to determine how much of my income I’ll be allowed to keep, with whom I may conduct business, and under what terms, I wouldn’t have a preference.