What the Heck Is a Caucus?

El Buchanan  It seems like you cannot turn on the TV nowadays without hearing about the presidential election. This election is one the most exciting in history, with six GOP candidates (someone drops out everyday – it probably changed by now) and two democrats left in the race. As the campaign has moved on from the early states it is important to understand why those states are so vital to the process. By now the results of both the early elections have come out. In the Iowa caucus, on the Republican side, Ted Cruz won with Donald Trump and Marco Rubio trailing in third. With the Democrats, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders finished virtually in a tie. That is interesting, but the bigger question is; what the heck is a Caucus? Have no fear! The Forum is here to break it down for you. The Iowa Caucus was designed to determine the number of delegates that will go to the party’s national conventions. Most states have primaries, but Iowa has a Caucus. The Caucus is different for republicans and democrats. Both of these voting methods are referred to as neighborhood meetings. On caucus night, Iowans gather at hundreds of different sites throughout the state to ‘caucus’ for a candidate. These meetings are in churches, schools, gyms, and sometimes even farms. In the democratic meetings speeches are made on the candidate’s behalf and caucus goers have to move to certain spaces in the room designated for each of the candidates. If a candidate does not have over 15 percent of the room in their favor, then the voters have to choose a new candidate to support. For Republicans, it is a blind voting process, but at the caucus site. The voters cast a vote for a GOP candidate of their choice and put it into the ballot box. So, why is Iowa so different? Well, following the disastrous events in the 1968 democratic convention (which included riots in Grant Park and Lincoln Park over the Vietnam war) party leaders chose to make the nomination process more inclusive. Iowa was the first state to change. Party leaders in Iowa decided upon the Caucus for their voting process. In 1972 the first Iowa Caucus was held for the Democrats and four years later the Republicans had one too. Since Iowa had the most complicated voting process, the presidential nomination committee decided Iowa would be the first to vote. An Iowa political columnist, Kathy O’Bradovich, said, “The really important thing to remember about Iowa is not that it’s first because it’s important. Iowa is important because it’s first.” Iowa does not choose the next president, but it sets the course for the rest of the candidates campaigns. An important thing to remember is Iowa is 97 percent white. Iowa does not reflect the demographic of the United States. The fact is, that early states such as Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina are all important to the campaigns of the candidates because of the fact that occur early in the nomination process. That’s it. Each state has a unique importance to the nominating process and that’s what makes our democracy rare.]]>