Friday, January 25, 2008

America's Worst Caucus

Much has been said about the undemocratic nature of Iowa's Democratic Caucus. In that process, you may remember, people gather at points around the state and register there support by moving to different parts of the room (what's wrong with this process? Christopher Hitchens explains with his usual nastiness here.) In terms of lack of democracy, however, nothing can compare with the Louisiana Republican Caucus. This rather reminds me of the caucus system the administration attempted to set up in Iraq, on which more later.

On Tuesday night, more than 10,000 Louisiana Republicans got together to talk about whom they wanted to be president. For some context: 4.3 million people (Republicans and Democrats) live in Louisiana, and it's safe to assume that at least half may be inclined to vote Republican. The 10,000-person caucus, therefore, encompasses well below 0.5 percent of the party. The low turnout can partly be blamed on Louisiana's paltry number of caucus sites. Its 11 sites pale in comparison with Iowa's 1,784 locations. (To be fair, Iowa is a larger, less dense state—but not 150 times larger.)

But here's the thing—their Tuesday night vote didn't actually select a nominee. The 10,000-plus people merely chose delegates for the state convention—and the winning delegate body didn't even represent a specific candidate. "Pro-life uncommitted" won the Louisiana state caucuses, which means every Republican besides Rudy Giuliani has a chance of getting those delegates because the delegates will remain uncommitted until the state convention later this year. At the state convention, a select number of delegates will be chosen to go to the national convention to represent Louisiana. They'll have to commit to a candidate before they do that.

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