Each issue of The Big Idea contains a provocative proposal to improve the world.
The event was triggered a thesaurus charge from It was a "fiasco" that hit the headlines – a "debacle", a "system-wide disaster". The Democratic Party's Iowa Caucuses, which took place on February 3 and whose outcome was unofficial and unclear a week later, were "a major failure," admitted Tom Perez, chairman of the National Democratic Committee.
That was it. The number of votes in dozens of districts didn't match, and an app commissioned by a party to report the results quickly and accurately didn't. No wonder the Republicans seized the moment to drive the opposition. But it wasn't long ago that they too were in the same mess. Mitt Romney was chosen as the winner at the GOP meetings in Iowa in 2012 – until it was Rick Santorum about two weeks later. Odder was still the one who received most of the Iowa delegates to the Republican Congress this summer: third-placed Ron Paul. (Do not ask.)
For this year's Snafu, it is easy to blame, as Senator Bernie Sanders, the Iowa Party chiefs, "did it badly". But the real culprits aren't a handful of local poles, or a poorly designed app, or even the state's Byzantine caucus rules. Rather, the mistake lies in the President's current nomination system itself – and in the counter-intuitive, counter-productive, and anti-democratic tradition of starting the process in Iowa or another state.
Here's a humble suggestion: have every major party switch to a one-day national elementary school.
The argument As is often the case in politics, such a change is all about money: "You go to a national primary school and it's all about money, right? It's about who can spend the most money on advertising nationwide," says Caitlin Jewitt, assistant professor of political science at Virginia Tech, "For example, you don't have nearly as many chances that a Pete Buttigieg will emerge as a strong candidate for a national primary level like you do under today's sequential system," she adds to the former South Bend. Ind. Mayor. It's the famous small town "retail politicking" of Iowa and New Hampshire that Booster says – months of pop-ins, VFW meet-and-greets, and backyard questions and answers – enables a climb similar to Buttigieg.
What the mythology naturally omits is that the young mayor was on the cover of Time magazine long before Iowa, a great fundraiser, a favorite of late-night talk shows and winning national polls. The popular lore also ignores the downside: Candidates with little national recognition rarely survive the four-year hunger games of Iowa and New Hampshire, no matter how much time they spend chatting in coffee shops. Experience the almost two dozen elected officials and other prominent figures who have stopped the race or how exhibition furniture has taken a back seat.
What mythology also omits is that there is already money on the ballot everywhere. You may have noticed that our picturesque, hilly landscape of assemblies and primaries didn't stop three billionaires from participating in the race.
Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg only took part in the dispute in November, but spent a record $ 188 million in the last quarter of 2019. He continues to lead three Democrats in national polls. Former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer has so far spent around $ 200 million on his own and is the favorite with only 2% of voters at national level. Money seems necessary, but not enough. (President Trump, our third billionaire, has so far spent little of his own money, even though his 2020 campaign raised over $ 200 million.)
However, money is not the only investment that candidates make. Time is even more precious. Consider former US Congressman John Delaney, a respected centrist Democrat who announced his candidacy long before one of his rivals in July 2017 and has spent most of the days in Iowa since then. After storming each of the 99 Hawkeye State counties, holding 400 public events and shaking around 24,000 hands, Delaney stopped the race – three days before a single vote was cast.
He interviewed nearly 0% of the domestic population, but maybe his message would have been more popular in the rest of the country if he hadn't settled in a single small state – especially one that doesn't fully reflect the United States' demographic complexity.
Voters across America deserve their chance to win the field. And two national nomination primaries, one for Republicans and one for Democrats, offer the best chance of producing two candidates who can appeal to the broadest circle of voters in November – candidates who can connect with the rapidly growing number of voters they contact are not connected either large party; those who can receive support from rural, urban, and suburban Americans; those who can stand up for cooperation and compromise without being pushed out as a pariah by their party.
No wonder 58% of Democratic voters in a Monmouth University poll in January indicated that they preferred to have a single day national primary school rather than maintaining the nomination process. If the majority of Democrats aren't thrilled by their top candidate after Super Tuesday on March 3 – when 16 competitions are held – the call for a national area code is bound to become even louder.
A version of this article appears in the March 2020 Fortune edition, entitled "Scrap the Primaries. Here's a better way. "
Other essential stories from Fortune:
—2020 Positions and records of candidates on economic issues affecting women
– How a company with 120 Facebook likes ended up in the center of the Iowa Caucus firestorm
– The refugee crisis in Europe is getting worse for these children
– Fortune Explains: The debt ceiling
—America's young voters may affect 2020 results. What will it take to get them to the elections?
Set off for your morning commute with the daily newsletter from Fortune, CEO.