Today is the Iowa Caucus. Many people know the buzz of the caucus, but what the HECK is this Caucus ruckus?
Some questions I got leading up to today- democratic process, but what role does the caucus play, doesn't seem to democratic when my candidate doesn't make it? Why the heck are we even thinking about voting now? Or, how about this one, Caucus, is that a sexual term?
Caucus- in loose definition- means a gathering of people, like minded to decide on something. Islamically this process can be understood as coming together for the purposes of Shura. In our democracy, the caucus is coming together to decide on a "party candidate"- Republican or Democrat.
Unfortunately, we only have a two party system. In that system each party's candidates go head to head in the states in order to get the national party's bid for the Presidential nomination. Now in a state like California people who are on the fringe have a better chance at getting the nomination. For example- Kucinich would probably get enough votes from this state to buoy a legitimate campaign, as would an extremist nut case like Tancredo (who is no longer running) because both of them would be able to get the party die hards to come out and vote in an election- the caucus.
At one point these caucuses- correct me if I am wrong- were actually held by Congressional and legislative representatives of either party to elect a party presidential nominee, which to me is not all that DEMOCRATIC, however that began to change as the methods of communication and travel changed.
The reason why we don't normally get the fringe as nominees is because of the Post-Civil War structure of the parties. Again correct me if I am wrong- after the Civil War the nation being split in two needed mending and the South literally had to be cemented back together with the Union. In order to do that the political parties had to take into account what Southern politicians demands were. One of these brilliant idea's was to put together the caucus process so that the Southern states would weed out and present the presidential candidate for party consideration.
That are so many things to criticize about the process but for general history this explanation should suffice. Here is what happens in Iowa and the caucus itself:
Its not the normal primary election California and many other states use. If you want to know how it works, check out this link (What Happens at the Iowa Caucus). These "gatherings of the neighbors" basically elect delegates who would vote for a certain candidate at the national convention- which means they aren't voting for the candidate but rather delegates to represent the nominee of choice.
Why is this whole process important?
For starters read the evolution of the Iowa Caucus at NPR to really get an understanding of the process. However, for a general understanding here is the gist- Iowa is make or break for any presidential nominee. When we have up to eight candidates running, how does one person decide between any one of them? Iowa basically brings the zoom focus on the winners, they become the people you want to dissect. When the primary comes around to your state and you wish to participate, you have a clearer idea of who you want to vote for because since the early primaries the hot seat of media attention has been focused on the winners, often times leaving the losers to drop out and leave the race.
Now if you want to examine the criticisms of this process- aside from the "this is haram brother because it is not part of the Sharia" or the "we don't vote because it is a kufar system" analysis- check out these books:
- Hull, Christopher C. 2007. Grassroots Rules: How The Iowa Caucus Helps Elect American Presidents. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press.
- Squire, Peverill, ed. 1989. The Iowa Caucuses and the Presidential Nominating Process. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
- Winebrenner, Hugh. 1998. The Iowa Precinct Caucuses: The Making of a Media Event. 2nd ed. Ames: Iowa State University Press
The origin of the word "caucus" is debated, although it is generally agreed that it came into use in English in the US. According to some sources, it comes from the Algonquin word for "counsel," cau´-cau-as´u, and was probably introduced into American political usage through the Democratic Party in New York known as Tammany Hall, which liked to use Native American terms. (from wikipedia under "caucus" search)