In 1976, the Iowa caucuses launched a Georgia governor and peanut farmer into the White House. In 2008, Barack Obama ran up delegate scores across the country during the Democratic nomination contest in caucus states characterized by high-intensity voting. The presidential caucuses have long been a staple of American democracy. In 2020, however, only three states—Iowa, Nevada, and Wyoming—hosted a presidential caucus. Overnight, the caucuses suddenly became obsolete. This chapter explains how and why this happened.
The major parties have repeatedly tinkered with the presidential nomination process over the past two hundred years. Since the 1968 Democratic National Convention, when rioting over an exclusionary nomination process led to a series of important reforms (primarily to the detriment of caucuses), the major parties have sought to balance ways to include ordinary individual voters in the nomination process while not necessarily excluding the party establishment.