A night at the Iowa Caucus

Before I arrived here at Iowa, I did just like any other sane person would do, some research into exactly where I was going to. While I was doing that I found some interesting and occasionally strange things about Iowa. For example, did you know that Iowa has the most crooked street in the world? Mhmm. It’s called Snake Alley, look it up, its pretty cool. Crooked streets aside, the coolest thing I found out is that both Democratic and Republican Iowans choose their Presidential Candidate for the general election through a caucus. Whats cooler than that? I got offered a chance to see first-hand how the caucus works right here in Decorah. As a political science major, I couldn’t contain my excitement on my way to one of the Democratic caucus center in Decorah.

Going into the room where the caucus took place I expected to see long lines, people being secretive about who they are going to caucus for. Boy, I was in for a surprise. Almost everyone knew each other and who they were rooting to win the caucus from the moment you walk in, since everyone is wearing a badge for their candidate. Another thing which really interested me was the amount of young people who were participating in the political process. While the registration was going full steam ahead on one side of the room, young and old alike were conversing on the political issues ranging from healthcare, education, all the way down to foreign policy; all of them excited to have their voice being heard.

As soon as the registration was done the rules of the caucus was announced by the chairperson and people immediately got down to the fun stuff. Caucusing (if that is a word). So what basically happened was each candidate was assigned a different section of the room and people go into the section of the candidate who are you are supporting (at this point my friend and I ducked into a corner so that we are not counted in). The number of heads are quickly counted and passed onto the Chairperson. In order for a candidate to be viable, he/she has to attain 15 percent of the caucus goers. Candidate O’Malley failed to secure the 15 percent at the center and was deemed not viable. This is when the spirit of the caucus really comes to life. The people who cast their support for O’Malley are then allowed to move to either the Sanders or the Clinton camps and be included again. However, it is up to the members of those camps to convince the O’Malley supporters to come over. So some of the best political discussions were had when deciding on whose side to go to next.

At this point I couldn’t help but compare the caucus process to the primaries which I am used to back home. During a primary, everyone goes on with their minds already made as to who they are going to be voting for. There is no discussion to be had and everything is quite formal. The Iowa caucus however, is full of energy and conversation. Everyone who went to the caucus put aside at least two hours of their day so that they could engage in the discussion. In addition, people are allowed to change their minds during the caucus process once they hear that candidates from the other camps have much more to offer. Senator Sanders won the center where I was at and while I was watching the numbers rolling in later that night… I too was feeling the Bern.

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