Over at Western Democrat I implied that I didn’t agree with David Sirota’s post about the shifting schedule of the Democratic primaries. Shifting primaries good, caucuses not so good he said:

…we need to be on the lookout for those who are trying to use the current primary process negotiations and the desire to shift the primary process to actually make the process more insular, and less conducive to insurgent forces. What am I talking about? Well, just look at the states the DNC is considering moving up ahead of New Hampshire – they are Nevada and Colorado.

Those are great states that would offer a lot if they became more important in the nominating process. However, they are caucus states, not direct election primary states. And most who have worked on campaigns will tell you, the caucus process is far more under the thumb of the party establishment than direct election primaries. In other words, frontloading the Democratic Party primary process exclusively with caucus states (regardless of the virtues of any of those particular states) could actually make the primary process even more impossible for candidates outside the establishment to compete.

Look, I’m not saying having Iowa and New Hampshire as the two major primary states is perfect. But I am saying that if we are going to shift around the map, mess with how presidential nominations are awarded, and further frontload the process, we should be looking to states with direct election primaries. At the very least, we should make sure there is an even split at the beginning of the process between caucus and direct election primary states.

The Democratic Party establishment is insulated enough as it is. We need reforms that aren’t going to further empower the party big wigs to anoint a nominee – we need reforms that are going to open up the process to populist insurgents that will kick the establishment into gear and finally start winning elections again.

Last year, the caucuses in Washington state were a real, grassroots events. There was some advertising (I think), but most of the politicing was personal. I went to Dean meetups for months leading up to the caucuses, but at the last minute I was convinced to stand undecided. I was actually part of a group that got one vote out of our precinct for uncommitted. It was a real, political civic experience that went way beyond the typical air war type of campaigning with an impersonal (mail in sometimes) vote at the end.

I don’t have a problem with voting in general elections, but in terms of party primaries, I’m convinced that local, grassroots caucuses are better than direct primaries. They may result in some strong armed candidates by entrenched powers, but they also reward engagement. The winners show up and fight.