Regardless of who “wins” the Iowa Caucuses, this much is clear: 2020 should be the last time the Iowa Caucuses kick-off a presidential election.
To be clear, the process leading up to the Caucuses is immensely important. Giving voters a chance to meet the candidates personally, questioning them, getting to know them in real life instead of through polished ads — those attributes of our process are essential if we hope to avoid the complete Bloombergization of the American political experience.
What has to go is the Caucus itself. Iowa needs to institute a primary, where everyone has a chance to vote and every vote counts. Yup. We need to do that, even if it means Iowa no longer goes first.
But someone needs to go first. Right now, the mix of a Midwestern state (Iowa), a northeastern state (New Hampshire), a western state (Nevada), and a southern state (South Carolina) is an equitable way to launch the first month of voting. We can and should keep that going and, over time, give every state a chance to share that opportunity.
Here’s what one possibility might look like in 2024:
Voting would begin on Tuesday, February 6. One state would vote each of the first six Tuesdays. We give states with the smallest populations precedence, since that allows the greatest candidate exposure. After that, four states, roughly in the same region, would vote each week through May 28 — something like this:
Feb 6 – Wyoming
Feb 13 – Vermont
Feb 20 – West Virginia
Feb 27 – North Dakota
Mar 5 – South Dakota
Mar 12 – Alaska
Mar 19 – Delaware, Rhode Island, Maine, New Hampshire
Mar 26 – Montana, Idaho, Nevada, Utah
Apr 2 – Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana
Apr 9 – Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota
Apr 16 – Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey
Apr 23 – New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, California
Apr 30 – Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina
May 7 – Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio
May 14 – Georgia, Florida, Texas, Missouri
May 21 – Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois
May 28 – Oklahoma, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii
In 2028, those who were last would get to go first, and the first six states to vote in 2024 would move their primaries to March.
There you go. Solving that problem wasn’t so hard after all, was it. — Ed