The idea of "one person, one vote" democracy isn't even close to being the case in the chaotic process that is used to select the party nominees for president.
Indeed, the caucus system as employed by Iowa and nine other states is anything but inclusive. For one thing, the vast number of independent voters can't take part, unless they have changed their official registration to the particular party's designation to get in the door. That's a lot of people to shut out of the process by which we narrow the field of candidates down to the two with a shot at becoming president.
If you have kids and can't get a sitter at night, if you are working a night shift, if you are disabled, or deployed, or snowed in, or without transportation, you're out of luck. Unlike elections run by the state, there are no options to vote early or by mail. If you are not at the caucus at 7 p.m., you have zero voice in your party's selection.
A caucus may take hours, rather than the minutes to vote in a primary. They can be prone to goofs and mischief (one Iowa Democrat precinct reportedly had one voter show up, a Bernie Sanders supporter, yet the state results showed that district awarding its delegate to Hillary Clinton.)
Caucuses tend to benefit candidates with the most boisterous groupies, who may try to bullrush the timid or undecided to their side.
They are a great system for people who like to take center stage and make impassioned speeches that are unlikely to change anyone's mind. And the parties benefit, as they are prime opportunities to identify their future activists and stock mailing lists.
The caucus process is entirely different for each party, and may differ from state to state.
Republicans in Iowa listen to speeches and then vote by paper ballots. Democrats physically move to their candidate's side of the room, so there is no privacy in a person's "vote." At Demo caucuses, those who support a candidate who doesn't get enough of the percentage are released and have to move to another candidate if they want to count.
Although Iowa has a hugely outsized role in the choosing of a nominee, by virtue of going first, less than one in five of those eligible to participate in Iowa actually do. Nationwide, only 20 percent or so participate in the whole primaries process - that's a pretty small minority making a very big decision. Some states including populous California rarely even matter - by June when they vote the choice is usually made.
Then again, voters are not making the choice, not completely, anyway. In neither party is the person getting the most caucus/primary votes necessarily the nominee.
On the Republican side, with the prospect of controversial Donald Trump turning the convention into a "yuge" reality show, the more conservative faction and many leaders of the party are trying to manipulate the process to deny him the necessary delegates to win nomination. Think about that - the party is basically running opposition to its own leading candidate!
Even if The Donald has The Delegates, there is likely to be a movement to deny him the nomination, or change the rules to allow an alternative choice to swoop in. In a final doomsday scenario, the party even speaks of creating an independent or third-party candidate just to defeat its nominee in November.
What a spot to be in - if the party denies the people's choice, its general election chances would be weakened, and it would be a long climb back to any kind of unity. And if it backs a candidate that say half of its its own voters aren't sure they could support, it risks handing the election to Democrats again.
The Democrat process is further confused with "super delegates" - 720 unpledged party celebrities chosen from the national committee, plus members of Congress, big-city mayors, former presidents and other party poo-bahs. They are not selected by voters and can vote for whoever they personally want to, with no particular regard to voters' opinions. They are most likely to side with an establishment candidate (frankly, they ARE the establishment), though Sanders seems to plan an appeal to swing the super Ds to him even if Clinton has more delegates headed into the convention. Superdelegates can decide the outcome, and could, for that matter, cause the nomination of the candidate that voters defeated. That would surely cause a most undemocratic mess.
Why all these quirk and complexities of delegate requirements, party bosses, and pre-convention backroom maneuvers?
Simple. The parties don't trust their voters. Perhaps with good reason. The quirks in the system are there as a last defense to prevent an unfit candidate from gaining access to the White House.
And we haven't even gotten into the complexity that can be the U.S. Electoral College role in the general election. It is highlu unlikely, but constitutionally possible, that state legislatures could seize the right to appoint electors to the Electoral College to defeat an undesireable candidate.
Suffice to say that presidential election system is not as simple as counting voters' ballots, and voters may not be as decisive as they think.
While mass democracy is a beautiful thing, it can also be mercurial and fickle, turned on the passions of the moment.
If things continue as they are, leaning toward Clinton and Trump nominations, an unsettling realization is going to set in.
We would have two candidates who are both probably bitterly disliked and distrusted by a majority of Americans, including a considerable percentage of their own parties.
If you think people are riled up now, just wait.