Thursday, January 03, 2008

It's Iowa Caucus Day!

Just in case any of you missed the news, today is the day of the Iowa caucus. Contrary to what you may have believed, the American presidential campaign has not started yet. It will begin tonight, in public buildings throughout all 99 of Iowa's counties.

I participated in the Iowa caucus in 2000. Since I had to register as a member of one of the two major parties to do so, I registered as a Democrat. Some states, such as Virginia, hold open primaries, meaning that one does not have to be registered in a party to vote in the primary. That's good, because I'm currently registered as an independent voter with no party affiliation. Now, a caucus is not a primary. A primary election is simply one in which people vote for the candidates that they want to nominate to run in the upcoming general election. Thus, party membership need not be a necessary condition for participation in the primaries, although it is in some states.

A caucus, on the other hand, is the venue in which lots of party business gets done. In addition to selecting nominees for the general election, caucus participants elect delegates to the party's state convention and assign people to work on various election committees. I will confess that I was appointed to some committee in which I never participated after caucus night. My dissertation got in the way of my politics. I did, however, act as a voting place monitor on election day later that year.

Anyway, on the night that I participated in the caucus, I ventured up the hill to Jonathan's high school and met with several hundred other people from my voting precinct. We broke up into groups of 50 or so and met in classrooms throughout the school to conduct our business. The two principal Democratic candidates at that time were Bill Bradley and Al Gore. There may have been other candidates, but I can't recall who they would have been. In my classroom, about 13 people lined up on one side of the room to declare support for Bill Bradley. The remainder, 25-35 people or so, lined up on the other side to show their support for Al Gore. The totals from each room were tallied, and by the end of the evening, we knew that Gore had won our precinct's caucus by a substantial margin. That part of the meeting, which took about 10 minutes and was the only reason I wanted to participate in the caucus at all, was the most interesting portion of the evening. The excitement and interest factors plunged quickly from that point. For the next hour or so there was lots of talk about the state convention and its delegates, and even more talk about committees. After all of that excitement, I went home and shared my experience and any wisdom gained thereby with Dave and the boys.

If I still lived in Iowa, I'd be registered with a party and attending the caucus again this evening. This time, I would also be able to accept a committee appointment more responsibly. Since I live in Virginia, I will participate in our state primary next month instead. Joshua and Dave are looking forward to participating and I think we may be able to get Jonathan to come along too.

One last word: when the football game goes on commercial breaks tonight, flip the channel and take a peek at the Iowa caucuses. After all, tonight is when the campaign really begins!

7 comments:

Dave said...

Though Josh is still 17, he can participate in the primary because at the time of the election he will be 18. Yesterday election officials were at his school registering all 17 year olds who will be 18 by election time. They get their voter registration cards in the mail in three to four weeks.

Dotti said...

Wow, Evie! I'm so pleased to know you were a registered Democrat in IA and participated in the caucuses! Krista and I thought we were the only closet Dems in the family! Even though you're a registered Independent now (as is my husband), it's encouraging to know that my sister is also an independent thinker. As you know, Republican indoctrination runs deep in our family, so to think that you and our nephew Chris are branching out in political thought is great news indeed. Even more important is the fact that your family, Chris, and the "Liberal" wing of our family (Krista, Steve and me) are so engaged in the political process. So much depends on it!

Dotti

Evie said...

Dotti:
Dave and I have leaned Liberal (Canada) and Democratic (USA) for decades. When we lived in Winnipeg, he served for several years on an advisory committee to a deputy minister in a liberal-majority government. We usually voted Liberal in Canada and we've generally voted Democratic in the USA, notwithstanding our official status as registered independents.

Jenn said...

wow - it's so funny how there is so much fanfare, balloons and confetti and all you have to do is stand on one side of a room!...sort of like a jr. high school dance :)

Christian Camuti said...

These last 36 hours for me have been very exciting. I have been soaking up all of the excitement of the Iowa Caucuses, and now the journey to New Hampshire. Having lived just 12 miles from New Hampshire, I was very much a part of the 2000 & 2004 primary excitement.

I confess to being a registered Republican that is completely endorsing Barack Obama for President. Change is needed, and I do not believe anyone else can bring the type of change that he can do. This country has been far to polarized since the mid 90s and it has to change. I do not believe most of the other candidates are willing to change. Hillary for example, has fossils from the 90s flanking her. Clearly a Hillary administration would be a carryover from Clinton 42.

I am excited about the possiblity of a President Obama. I think this country is ready for not only an African-American President but a fresh face and a fresh attitude to head the Executive branch.

PS Now that kettles are over, look for regular blog updates from me!

Barbara said...

Congrats on your whole family for being so involved in the electoral process. Very impressive.

Myself, I'm already tired of the US elections and don't know if I can stomache another two years of this.

Evie said...

Barb - it's only another 11 months. Then you'll get a few months off before the 2010 mid-term election. :)