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The Iowa fiasco exposes the need for Democrats to get rid of the caucuses and overhaul the presidential nomination process

iowa caucus 2020 iowa caucus 2020
Joe Robinson vacuums the carpet before the start of the caucus night celebration party for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders on February 03, 2020 in Des Moines, Iowa.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

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  • The Iowa fiasco is proof that the caucus system and the state's spot as "first in the nation" should end.
  • Democrats should move towards primary elections for all contests to nominate the president.
  • Swing states like Michigan, Florida and North Carolina should also be moved forward in the nomination timeline to ensure a more diverse and representative selection of voters.
  • Michael Gordon is a longtime Democratic strategist, a former spokesperson for the Justice Department, and the principal for the strategic-communications firm Group Gordon.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The embarrassment of this week's Iowa caucuses is no joke. I think of the campaign workers who turned over their lives for a candidate and the volunteers who gave up their precious free time to make a difference.

Instead of setting the tone for the race, the Iowa results will be drowned out by the State of the Union, the impeachment vote, and the lack of a primetime spotlight the day of the vote.

It will not give Mayor Pete Buttigieg a bounce from what appears to be a strong finish similar to the one that Presidents Carter and Obama received post-Iowa. In contrast, it helps Joe Biden, a frontrunner whose relative fall in the final tally also will be lost, giving him another day to fight without the blemish of Iowa magnified.

Given the chaotic mess, there are growing calls for 2020 to be the last time Iowa uses the caucus system. If so, RIP, Iowa caucuses. You led a good life for many years.

Killing Iowa for good

Killing off the  Iowa caucuses is a good idea, but not just because of this week. Iowa also does not represent the diversity of the Democratic party, and the push that candidates coming out of Iowa receive may disproportionately benefit candidates who are not truly representative.

Caucuses — which are still used in a handful of states outside of Iowa — should also be abandoned altogether. They are more expensive and more labor-intensive for candidates to wage, and they pose problems for parents and working people who have shifts at that time. And not unimportant given the news of the week, it's much easier to run primaries and count the votes.

But if the goal is to win the general election, the Democrats need to focus on two other factors during primary season: 1) swing states in the general; and 2) open primaries.

The race for the White House increasingly is fought on narrow ground, a handful of swing states determine our President. The trend of Republicans losing the popular vote and winning the White House will only get worse. The Democratic primaries should be fought in these same swing states, leading with states like Michigan, Florida and North Carolina.

The time and energy that the candidates bring to their primary battle will make an impression on voters in these states and help carry the nominee in November. They'll have a head start on the Republican nominee if their party sticks to the old system. The voters in swing states will know our nominee better, which hopefully will be a good thing.

I think of 1992 when Bill Clinton had a surprise second place finish in New Hampshire after a string of bad press. His last-minute surge catapulted him to the nomination and to the Presidency. It also was the first time in years that New Hampshire turned blue, no doubt in part because of Clinton's effort and impression there. It's now almost always blue. 

Meet General Election voters during primary season

New Hampshire, although not much of a swing state in the general any more, gets one thing right during nomination season: it's primary type. While it's not a fully open primary, the state allows any independent voter to vote for either party in the primary.

20 states have closed or partially Democratic presidential primaries, meaning that you only can vote if you're a registered Democrat. If you're a registered Republican, you only can vote in the Republican primary. If you're a registered Independent, you're out of luck.

What New Hampshire does is give independents a voice and also benefits candidates that have crossover appeal between parties. The winner that emerges is more likely to be palatable in the general election. In fact, after failing in Iowa, New Hampshire launched the Presidential careers of Ronald Reagan, George HW Bush and Donald Trump with this system.

Although he didn't win New Hampshire, it also gave Clinton his first momentum in primary season, and it solidified Jimmy Carter's Iowa caucus win in 1976. New Hampshire frequently picks Presidents, not just party nominees, in part because its voters are not as strictly tethered to the two-party system.

Each state has agency over whether it has an open or closed primary system. So it would take real work to both prioritize other states in the primary vote lineup and move to open primaries more broadly. But the result will be electable candidates in the general election.

Going forward, let's change the system so that nominees emerge as winners in November. Let's go where the general election voters are and understand how they think.

Michael Gordon has a long history in Democratic politics and communications strategy. He worked in the Clinton White House and as a spokesperson for the Clinton Justice Department. He also has served on multiple national, state, and local campaigns.

This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author(s).

Read the original article on Opinion Contributor. Copyright 2020.

SEE ALSO: Americans have made up their minds about Trump, and that's all you need to know for the 2020 election

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