Thoughts On Caucuses

The following snippet from a comment this morning (thanks Scott) really got me thinking.

{Republican} Caucuses are the domain of grass roots Republicans. They are dominated by politically informed people that consider themselves conservatives. Primaries are far more open.

One of the things that I have long thought would improve our country was if people had to invest themselves more to participate in the political process. It’s a  tough balance to strike – even in my mind – because the process should be open to any who want to participate, but if the threshold for participation is too low voters will not take their participation seriously (less than 50% participation in most elections is evidence of that to me). Caucuses require a time commitment and therefore the people who participate in them don’t take their participation lightly.

I’m not declaring that all our voting should be through a caucusing process, but I am wondering if we might learn something from this to help find a way to raise the threshold for participation (especially in primaries) enough to make people take their role seriously while keeping it low enough that anyone can participate who is so inclined.


4 comments for “Thoughts On Caucuses

  1. February 7, 2008 at 3:11 am

    I liked your musings on the caucus versus primary systems. From New Hampshire one news site broadcast the Republican and Democratic events. The Republican was straight forward business, but the Democratic one involved bargaining and haggling. It looked like a lot of fun.

    I think the more involved people can be the better the entire system (or is poltical participation “the opium of the masses”).

  2. February 7, 2008 at 7:41 am

    This seems counterintuitive to me. People have had to fight for years to remove barriers to electoral participation. Also, many of us work hard to inform ourselves, but due to work schedules, etc., simply would not be able to participate in an hours-long caucus. I think these decisions should be made by the largest number of people possible, not the fewest.

  3. February 7, 2008 at 11:52 am

    Thanks Fleeting.


    You have struck on the precise issue I am grappling with. I want the largest number of people possible to participate, but I believe we have something to gain by having people invest themselves in that participation. I would never consider returning to laws requiring land ownership for voting rights or anything like that, and I recognize that an hours-long caucus is not a reasonable expectation for most people.

    People such as you and I who make an effort to be informed and to cast their votes are exactly the kind of people we want to include. The question is, is there some way to give people some incentive to become informed before they vote (for those who are just as happy to ignore the process and cast uninformed votes)?

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