DNC Chair: Dump the caucuses

DNC Chairman Tom Perez has been under fire ever since the debacle in Iowa blew up in the Democrats’ faces last week. In an apparent effort to “clarify” what went wrong and what he plans to do about it, Perez sat down with Jake Tapper on State of the Union yesterday. Tapper posed some of the obvious questions that many people have been asking all week and, to his credit, Perez fielded them gamely. The first one dealt with whether or not the caucus system simply isn’t working in the 21st century and if it’s time for both parties to go to primaries controlled by state election officials across the nation. Perez seems to have given up on the idea himself and agreed with that proposal. (Free Beacon)

Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez on Sunday said he believes the DNC should eliminate caucuses and move to primaries after last week’s fiasco in Iowa.

“I do think it needs to be state election officials running elections,” Perez said during an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union.

Perez expressed his discontent with the botched Iowa caucus, the results of which remain unclear, and noted that he has supported primaries—which are administered by state election officials—over caucuses—which are run by state parties—since 2016.

Perez went on to say that the mistakes that happened in Iowa were “undeniably unacceptable.” (Thanks for stating the obvious, Tom.) But rather than leaving it at that, Tapper also asked Perez if it was time for Iowa to lose their traditional role as the first state to cast votes in each presidential election cycle. He wasn’t quite as absolute on that point but suggested that the idea was definitely on the table.

“Well, that’s the conversation that will absolutely happen after this election cycle,” Perez said.

Keep in mind that this conversation is taking place at the same time that leading Democrats like Jim Clyburn are calling for his resignation. Congresswoman Marcia Fudge of Ohio was even more emphatic in saying Perez needs to go. But when Jake Tapper asked if he was considering stepping down, Perez said: “absolutely not.”

As I wrote this weekend, the disaster in Iowa really wasn’t Perez’s fault, so trying to dump him from the chairmanship might be premature. But now that the flaws in the system have been exposed, he clearly has a responsibility to lead on the issue. The DNC can’t force the state parties to make changes to their calendars or how they handle their primaries, but they can certainly apply pressure to make changes more likely.

Both parties have done this in the past. The DNC could vote on new rules at the convention which would apply to all states equally. These could include a penalty in the number of delegates each state can send to the convention if they choose to keep using caucuses instead of actual primaries with voting machines overseen by state election officials. Similarly, they already impose similar penalties for any states holding their primary before a certain date. That could be tailored to rotate the states that go first. Any state refusing to accept the new schedule could lose some or all of their delegates at the convention.

One of the many challenges with such a plan is that you’d really need to get the Republicans to go along with it as well. Holding two separate primaries on different dates will drive up the total costs and most state parties would object to that. But hey… Tom Perez asked for this job. Nobody said it was going to be easy. And now he needs to get into gear and fix things or the demands for his resignation will only grow louder.