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In defense of caucuses

Observer Viewpoint | Wednesday, February 13, 2008

I am writing in response to Mr. Caruso’s article, (“Dissecting the Democratic Primary,” Feb. 12), and as a student who comes from a state that uses the caucus system in our nominating process, I implore him and his candidate, Hillary Clinton, to please stop criticizing our political process after it does not yield the outcome they desire.

Over Christmas break, I went back to my home state of Iowa and was bombarded by mailings, telephone calls, visits to my home, and any other means necessary to convince me to caucus for Hillary Clinton. This I have no problem with, in fact, I rather enjoy it. What I do have a problem with, and what I hope and suspect is true in other caucus states, is when a candidate puts time and energy in campaigning and garnering caucus-goers, and then turns around and writes off the process and the people involved when they don’t succeed as Mrs. Clinton has done. Mr. Caruso, and most notably Mrs. Clinton, claim that the primary process is superior and more “representative” than a caucus because it is an all-day process (which may actually be a valid argument) and it is in private.

However, what they fail to mention (and often times misrepresent) is that a caucus does not force one to stand up and share an opinion, nor is it a negative way to run a primary process. It certainly allows one to stand up and defend their candidate and share with others the reasons and grounds for why they have chosen a certain candidate. If Mr. Caruso has attended a caucus, he would know that each candidate’s constituency is given the opportunity to be heard if they want, and in the end, the collective group comes to a decision on which candidate is viable, usually based on the beneficial and legitimate reasons given by the caucus-goers.

What primary-supporters like Caruso and Clinton fail to mention is the fact that a caucus is an efficient way to have issues heard, debated, and leaders subsequently chosen from the preceding discussion. What they fail to mention is that the privacy of a primary allows for voters to flip coins, blindly guess, or vote for candidates on the basis of hair, name, or other ridiculous qualities. While it is every citizens’ right to vote and support a candidate for any reason they choose, this is the risk a private primary poses. I’m not claiming that primary voters are ill-informed and prone to voting on a whim, I’m just asking that the Clinton campaign and Mr. Caruso not write off caucus-goers that have already had their voices heard in Iowa, Nevada, Maine, Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, North Dakota, Washington, Nebraska, and Washington D.C., and those that will eventually in Wyoming and Hawaii.

Mrs. Clinton and her supporters have repeatedly made comments about their opinion of caucus states, and since Nevada, she has all but ignored those states that have caucuses when campaigning. This is coming from the candidate who will likely fight tooth and nail to “have the voices of Floridians and Michiganders heard” when it comes time to tally delegates, nevermind the fact that she has already publicly said things to the effect that she doesn’t really value the voices of the people in the 13 states and one district listed above. Instead of disparaging the process, the Clinton campaign should call it like it is: They simply haven’t gotten the job done in a majority of caucus states.

While I’m at it, could I request of The Observer some political parity? Could we at least have a couple other candidate views published in Viewpoint instead of the usual Clinton-Return-to-Glory-Fridays we get with Caruso’s column?

John Whitty


Stanford Hall

Feb. 12