Should Maine switch from caucuses to primaries?

The debate has been ignited once again over the damage of caucuses. Are they right for Maine? It’s certainly an interesting question. What’s triggering the discussion again this year is the same as last election cycle, which is a botched day of caucuses.

Across social media and in the news were reports of Democrats waiting for hours in line just to have their voice heard. Democrats, clearly unprepared and ill-equipped to handle the high turnout, spun their wheels in the mud trying to get the day on track. Activists were upset, there were reports of Democrats being turned away, and just a general negative feeling overall.

This is not how a day with enormous turnout should feel.

But this is not the fault of the caucuses. Senator Justin Alfond wasted no time however capitalizing on his party’s failures, promising to introduce emergency legislation to switch Maine back to a primary state.

The problem is caucuses aren’t the problem, it’s the management of the process and the implementation of it.

Republicans experienced the same issue four years ago after former Congressman Ron Paul’s grassroots overwhelmed an unprepared Party leadership. The Maine State Convention was a mess and the National Delegation drama was worse.

Like Senator Alfond, Kevin Raye introduced legislation to turn Maine back to a primary state and ultimately it went nowhere. Republicans would later iron out the flaws in party leadership and fast forward four years, 2016 went smoothly and without the problems they had in 2012.

Caucuses present a setting that brings party activists, new and old, together to meet leaders, candidates, and elected officials. While there are monthly meetings for each party and other party functions, nothing really brings people together like a presidential race or an election in general. This is why caucuses are critical.

Many everyday voters aren’t as involved or aware of who is involved because of work, family life, etc. In general, not overly concerned about the specifics of politics. There’s nothing wrong with this, we all have lives. But a caucus presents an opportunity for someone who is excited about their respective candidate to show up and show support. Each candidate will have a speaker and all the supporters will amass in numbers.

Somewhere along the way, everyday voters will get to hear from their party leaders, elected officials, and others who are helping advance their ideological cause. When learning about what’s in the works and what needs to be done, it energizes activists and offers an opportunity for them to become directly involved. It also provides an opportunity for everyone to put faces to names and get to know each other.

Where’s the harm in this? There isn’t. If anything, parties could benefit from this.

The flaws Democrats experienced this year and Republicans four years ago are not in the caucus process itself, but instead in the inability of those managing the system to properly execute a plan and manage the turnout. Republicans clearly weren’t prepared for the high turnout in 2012 and the same goes for Democrats this year.

Do we do something radical like Senator Alfond or Raye propose and throw it all out, or do we identify the flaws and spend the next four years fixing them, in preparation for the next presidential election?

Critical decisions like this are probably best viewed logically and not emotionally. Give it time and see how things play out. Democrats made mistakes, as did Republicans four years ago. We learn from them. Caucuses are a plus for Maine.

Chris Dixon

About Chris Dixon

Chris Dixon is a libertarian-leaning writer. In addition to writing "Undercover Porcupine", he is also the Managing Editor for The Liberty Conservative and writes for Cleat Geeks and Medium.