Antonin Scalia once said the Constitution isn't some living thing, changing all the time. The United States Constitution, he said, says what it says--and doesn't say what it doesn't say. Easy enough, normally.
It may be a surprise to a lot of people, but there is nothing in the U.S. Constitution giving Iowa and New Hampshire such influential places in our election cycles. In fact, Iowa, as a state, wasn't even around circa 1787.
So why do Americans put so much stock in what those two cold, mostly white states have to say about their preference for president every four years?
And since the answer doesn't come readily, how about changing this process? There is no reason why those states should halve the candidates before the rest of us get a look-see.
T he Washington Post had a story this past week that lifts hopes in that regard. As the Democratic Party begins sewing together its calendar for the coming years, there is a growing effort to remove the first-in-the-nation caucuses from Iowa's clutches. According to The Post:
"The caucuses' reputation has been damaged by high barriers to participation, a dearth of racial diversity, the rightward drift in the state's electorate and a leftward drift in the Democratic participants. The state party's inability to count the results in 2020 only deepened dismay in the party."
Hot dog! And it's not like the Hawkeye Cauckeye has been a tradition for hundreds of years. Iowa only became a thing in 1972. And the state doesn't even have a good track record. Winners of the contest include Mike Huckabee, Tom Harkin, Dick Gephardt and Ted Cruz. Joe Biden came in fourth place in 2020.
For all the fuss about new voter laws that certain state legislatures have implemented over the last year, there doesn't seem to be as much ado from the political gadflies about the difficulties that are built into the Iowa Caucuses.
You have to be there in person; it can take hours; and only registered party members vote. And under the Democratic Party rules, it's not exactly a secret vote: People gather in groups and try to convince other groups to join theirs--until some sort of winner has absorbed enough voters. At least at that precinct.
It's not hard to wonder why it took so long to figure out who won in 2020. And controversy hung over the result for weeks because Pete Buttigieg was declared the "winner" although Bernie Sanders got more votes. Wha--?
And because every state has its own interests, any candidate who comes out against ethanol subsidies in Iowa is likely to get trounced.
Many years back, in one of those maverick phases he tended to go through, John McCain suggested dividing the nation into four sections for the presidential primary season. You'd have a Northeast section, Northwest, Southwest and Southeast. Those sections would take turns going first in the primaries every four years. You'd have four Super Tuesdays, and the four quadrants of the country would rotate as to timing.
It wouldn't be a perfect system, but every four years the rest of these several states would be big deals, too. States such as, say, New Jersey and New Mexico and South Dakota and Montana--all of which hold primaries in the summer, well after the nomination is usually decided.
The fact is, We the People can change the system, if we only would. The Constitution says very little about the presidential nomination process. The two major political parties, which formed years after the Constitution was written, are responsible for this state of affairs. Emphasis on state, or at least two of them.
Now that there's a sitting president who's unhappy with the model, maybe his party will find the pluck to make real changes.
Then we'll take on New Hampshire.