WASHINGTON — National Democratic leaders have drafted a proposal that could dramatically reshape the party’s presidential nominating process and end Iowa’s prized premier caucuses — a tradition that has shaped presidential politics and strengthened Iowa’s place in the American spotlight for the past half-century.
A draft resolution, obtained and corroborated by the Des Moines Register, would establish new criteria for early voting states that prioritize primaries over caucuses and diversity over tradition.
If the proposal goes ahead, it would upend the party’s presidential nominating schedule by requiring states to apply to hold their nominating contests before the rest of the country and increasing the number of early voting states to up to five. Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, which are currently leading the process, would not necessarily receive preferential consideration over other candidate states.
The Democratic National Committee is holding its annual winter meetings in Washington, DC, this week, and the panel that sets the nominating schedule, the Committee on Rules and Regulations, is expected to address the matter Friday evening.
It will be “a broad discussion that will not, in my opinion, lead to any definitive conclusions,” committee co-chairman James Roosevelt Jr. told the Register.
The conversation follows the disastrous 2020 Iowa Democratic caucuses in which technological and logistical failures coalesced, preventing the party from declaring a timely winner. The caucuses’ sad conclusion undermined more than a year of organizing and campaigning that preceded it, sparking new calls to move the nation forward to the primaries and replace Iowa as the first state to voice its preferences. presidential.
Iowa and National Democrats remain at odds over which party split is most at fault. An audit commissioned by the Iowa Democratic Party found that the National Democratic Party “aggressively interfered” in the 2020 caucuses, slowing and complicating the process on caucus night. DNC staff members declined to be interviewed for this audit.
Continued:Iowa Caucus 2020: Inside the Iowa Democratic Party ‘boiler room’ where ‘hell’ preceded results disaster
What would change in the draft proposal?
Currently, DNC rules state that no state can hold a presidential primary or caucus before the first Tuesday in March. Iowa has long been exempt from this practice, holding its contest up to 29 days ahead of other states. Iowa is followed by New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, which are also exempt under the first voting window.
According to the draft proposal, the four states — and any other states interested in jumping ahead of others — would have to apply for new waivers to hold an early nominating contest. Up to five states would receive waivers, although the proposal does not specify whether the states would all vote on the same day or whether their votes would be staggered as they currently are.
If the resolution passes, that would not prevent Iowa from seeking a waiver; nor would it directly eliminate the caucuses. However, that would make the “ability to manage (a) a fair, transparent and inclusive primary” one of his main considerations in the waiver process. Iowa is required by state law to hold presidential caucuses.
Other considerations would be a state’s diversity, “including ethnic, geographic (and) union representation,” as well as the state’s competitiveness in general elections.
Ninety percent of Iowa’s population is white, and a Republican, former President Donald Trump, lifted the state by 8 percentage points in 2020. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 6 .5% of Iowans are union members.
Mo Elleithee, a member of the DNC’s rules and regulations committee, outlined those same priorities at the group’s meeting in January. “Three of the four current states in the first window satisfy at least two of these criteria,” he said then. “None of them are satisfied, at least in recent years.”
Although Elleithee didn’t name Iowa directly, the subtext of her comments was clear.
Continued:Why is Iowa first? A Brief History of State Caucuses
According to the draft proposal, the DNC’s Rules Committee would define the application rules and procedures for States Parties by April 15, 2022, and it would give them at least 28 days to complete and submit applications to win a spot. at the beginning of the calendar. . A subset of States Parties would be invited to make public presentations to the Committee.
The proposal also calls for the committee to hold at least three virtual public hearings so that party members can share their views on the primary process. The committee would “announce the results of its assessment” within six weeks of the application deadline.
The draft resolution states that the committee “will carry out this process in the most transparent, open and fair manner possible and is committed to providing adequate, clear and timely advice on key steps and requirements”.
Caucuses have been central to Iowa’s political identity
Iowa was the first state to weigh in on presidential candidates since it called a series of statewide salon meetings in January 1972.
Status is more than symbolic. Standing alone as the first arbiter of presidential aspirants ensures that presidential candidates of all stripes flock to the state, trying to woo their supporters. During a solid year, Iowa becomes the center of the political universe, and Iowans — who often withhold their coveted support until the final hours of the contest — become the most influential people in politics.
Only after the Iowans winnow the field do the candidates move on to New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina and beyond.
Continued:Who has won the previous Democratic and Republican caucuses in Iowa? View results from 2020, 2016 and prior caucuses
It’s unclear how Iowa Democrats will react if the resolution moves forward. Some state party members said it’s time for the state to let go of its grip on the process, while others say they can fight to hold top-notch caucuses even without the DNC’s blessing. .
Iowa’s Republican and Democratic parties have long worked in tandem to hold their separate nominating contests on the same night. Iowa Republicans have been strong supporters of their Democratic counterparts when it comes to caucuses. But they’ve also made it clear they intend to hold their first nationwide caucuses in 2024, even if Iowa Democrats don’t.
Iowa Republican Party Chairman Jeff Kaufmann has been named to head the Republican National Committee committee overseeing the GOP calendar review. He told the Des Moines Register in February that the committee considered possible changes to the party’s presidential nomination process, but would not recommend changes to the Iowa caucuses or the early nomination timeline.
“I firmly believe that the continued health of premiership in the nation of Iowa is tied to the ability of our two parties to initiate our presidential nomination process right here in Iowa,” Kaufmann said in February.