A Short History of the Iowa Caucus The primary event before the primaries
Beginning in 1972, the Iowa caucuses have shaped our presidential elections. The caucuses began as a way to allow the people most passionate about the candidates to ask questions and push for their favored choice. Caucusing can happen in many locations and for various reasons but the Iowa caucus is special to the presidential race.
Part of the reason Iowa originally held the first major caucuses is that it rarely produced nominees for president. Therefore these events allowed them to have a part in the elections. Over time this has partially varied but the tradition remains that Iowa has the first nationally followed events. Iowa politics can be special because the state varies on which of the two main parties they favor. Often for Iowa, it depends on the topic at hand and this makes them a prime state to begin the election race in for both parties.
The basics of a caucus require an open space such as a high school gym or community center, a large group of politically passionate people and lastly candidates or their representatives. Caucuses are done differently by the two parties. For the Democratic party which caucused in Iowa this year, the action revolves around gathering of people. The Republican party caucuses tend to begin with paper voting. This Democratic setup allows those running for president to be seen as real people and force them to create personal connections instead of blanket statements broadcast on television. The face-to-face nature of caucuses makes them an incredibly interesting event and very different from ballot voting.
Traditionally, voting is considered to be a private act done in a voting center. The idea is to allow people to make their decision without pressure or influence. Compared to a voting center, caucuses are a very public act. Majority is established by how many people stand in each area assigned to a candidate. The ones with the least people standing for them are then eliminated. From there, the people caucusing either stay with their choice or if their favored individual has been eliminated, they must move to a new group that is still in the race. The candidates that remain in the running are referred to as “viable” meaning they are still able to maintain support. Generally speaking an individual must obtain 15% of the total caucusing group to remain viable though this number can vary.
Eventually, the voting or standing is closed and the numbers are sent back to the state party. The whole event can seem strange. It is very important to the election process. At the most basic level is demonstrates who has the most support or majority. The other vital part of the caucusing events is the ideas they bring to light. Caucuses allow candidates to establish their ideas for policy, change and their potential time in office. For this reason, viewing the Iowa caucus is important to everyone, even the students far away from Iowa here in Washington.