Within weeks, America will seek delegation votes from the east to the west, settling up once again with their political tones beginning at the “The Iowa Caucus.” It is the one neutral state, located in Middle America that sets the tone to defend a title in which voters will be the first to choose their nomination running for the Presidency. Yet throughout the United States, many have little to no idea why Iowa holds such a predominant place in the election process.
Why is Iowa the first to elect delegates? Is it their neighborly wisdom, conservative structure or the fact that they raised their hand to be first and it never changed from there? In putting this question to voters in Hawthorne, an overall reaction was “I don’t know why.”
Daniel Norcom, a 26 year old voter stated that his predominant issue is the second amendment rather than what a caucus could be.
Spring Blazewick, a long time voter knew that a caucus was different than an electoral primary vote and thinking it definitely tied into the presidential nominations for November.
But Karli Wilbur, a 23 year old office worker at the Mineral County offices stated that Iowa was a swing state, which is neutral, where no party really carries their state decisions. Wilbur also stated that she had learned a lot about government from her local Mineral County High School days with Darren Hamrey as her teacher. “What he taught has stayed with me. I enjoyed learning about our government through his teaching. We learned to think things out.” Wilbur stated that to her, New Hampshire seemed to have a more liberal thinking rather than being a swing state, which equals more Democratic voters on the eastern portion of the United States.
The process of a caucus surprisingly was never introduced by the United States Constitution, but was formed by the political parties themselves. States vary in holding primary elections or only a caucus forum, while some states will do both. Nevada has grown into using caucuses since 2008, holding separate ones for each party. The Democratic caucus will be Feb. 20, 2016 while the Republican date follows on Feb. 23. Nevada is built upon three steps: the precinct, the county convention and the state convention. Nevada will use 33 Democratic delegates and 34 Republican delegates to represent the precinct level of voters at their party’s final national convention, which is where the nominee is chosen. In 2016, Nevada will share their votes following South Carolina this year, with an earlier tally giving a voice from the west side of the nation.
In researching the history of the Iowa Caucus, it is important to note that a “caucus” simply means “a meeting to discuss, share concerns, analyze or come together, as in a town hall meeting.” Iowa has been known for using caucuses since 1846. They are a demographic group which comes together for decision making processes by supporting simplistic gatherings to accomplish great things and still today they formulate coffee clutches to home groups to advance most plans. This is a rarer event in heavily populated areas such as California or New York, so it may be a down-home stigma framed well within Iowa, as the poster child of caucuses.
Looking back to 1968, there was racial unrest, Vietnam War protests, segregation, assassinations, unrest and terms such as “ethnic cleansing” being thrown around. The Democratic National Convention was weighed down by heavy criticism, as they presented Hubert Humphrey as their candidate, while Republican candidate Richard Nixon stepped up to shine with his promises to restore law and order to a nation trying to heal many depths of hurt and unrest. This created a significant shakeup, which realigned the previous foundation of the New Hampshire caucus coming first. The Democratic caucus was moved to Iowa on Jan. 24, 1972 and aligned to be the first caucus for both parties.
In 1976, these political parties repeated the Iowa Caucus for an optimum outcome toward the next nomination, with many feeling that the Iowa mentality truly assisted Jimmy Carter in his legendary campaign year of 1976.
The distinction in which New Hampshire had been seated first since 1920 was overturned by the new caucus calendar and earlier polling date which Iowa was proud to embrace as the new mandate. Now Iowa, by law, is first before any other state to complete the primaries and caucuses, which are then staggered out among other states until June. Time is then given to prepare voters for a general election in November within the same year.
Iowa never received recognition as a “core of exceptional voters” but it did create a foothold for the delegates to begin a fair nomination process. Both of the main parties seemed to embrace this location within a core territory, as Iowa was willing to setup for both party lines by passing the hat and accommodating all necessary activities to house such an honored position as being the first in the decision-making line.
Even now, there are some who ask if the location could change. Some university analysis’s have come out to say that it will change, except to say these opinions are already over eight years old and nothing has been changed. The Iowa code states that “it is a duty of a person designated, as provided by the rules of political parties to report the results of precinct caucuses as directed by the State Central Committee of that political party.” Iowans are staunchly cemented into holding this unique status as it brings notoriety, economic boom and privilege. Iowa not only recognizes all political parties, it requires full participation and demands honest public results, making them an ideal placement as a “first position in the nation.”
And so, up until the Iowa Caucus on Monday, Feb. 1, we will still see “straw polls”, which are another means of “unofficial votes which are provided by dialogue within large groups and based upon opinion and the pulse of voters and issues.” At the Iowa Caucus, the straw polls may turn into a validated caucus vote, seemly based upon the same “opinions and pulse of the voters” as candidates are weighed and counted, as the first selection rolls out on behalf of each political party.
Iowa may have been set up by an odd political process many years ago, but that state has led as an essential location for all parties to meet at a starting line. Iowa remains a grassroots swing state which maintains a basic power in organizing political parties into a serious commitment, otherwise known as the catch phrase, “From Caucus to Convention,” as each candidate lines up at the same starting line very soon in Iowa.