Thursday, January 03, 2008

inner dork: caucuses

Oh my goodness! I almost forgot about inner dork, fore shame!

Okay, today's inner dork is all about caucuses, who, why, what, and why on Earth, Iowa is so bloomin' important.

How they work: In each of Iowa's nearly 2,000 voting precincts Democrats and Republicans hold separate meetings on caucus night. The meetings can be held almost anywhere - in schools, firehouses, church basements and even living rooms. Anybody registered member of a party can attend that party's meeting.

Republicans vote in the caucuses by secret ballots. The vote determines which delegates, representing which candidates, will attend county conventions. There, delegates are chosen for state congressional district conventions, where delegate to national convention are picked.

The Republicans use a winner-take-all system. Whichever candidate wins the caucuses takes all of the delegates for the state.

Democrats, The meetings divide into groups, each supporting a particular candidate. If a candidate doesn't have a sufficient percentage of the total number of voters attending, its members join other candidates' groups sufficient percentage of the total number of voters attending, its members join other candidates' groups. When that redistribution finally ends with groups of sufficient size, the delegates are divided among them according to the percentage of the meetings' attendees they represent. The process then proceeds through the county and state conventions. At the national convention, the candidates receive delegates proportionately, rather than the winner taking all of the state's delegates.

Doors open around 6:ish,doors close at 7:ish and it will be finished around 8:ish. That's it.

Now, why the hell it's in Iowa and why Iowa is so damn important:

1800's, the state adopts a caucus platform. The state's first caucuses were held in mid-spring, in the middle of the national presidential nominating schedule.

1916: Iowa held its first and only primary election. Only 25 percent of registered voters showed up. Iowa reverted back to its caucus system.

Apparently nothing interesting happened in approximately 50-or so years.

1972: Iowa's Democratic Party moved its caucus date forward, positioning the caucus ahead of the New Hampshire primary and making it the first nominating event in the nation. Sen. Edward Muskie of Maine, the front-runner, beat Sen. George McGovern of South Dakota by less of a margin than expected. McGovern went on to become the Democratic presidential nominee.

1976: A little-known Democratic governor from Georgia, Jimmy Carter, campaigned heavily in the state and wound up coming in second to "uncommitted." That almost-win positioned Carter to later take the Democratic nomination. Republicans moved up their primary to make the Iowa caucuses a bipartisan national event. President Gerald Ford narrowly beat Gov. Ronald Reagan of California. Ford later won the Republican nomination, but lost the presidency to Carter.

1980: Carter was the incumbent president, and he beat Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts. Ronald Reagan, meanwhile, did not focus heavily on Iowa. But his GOP competition, George H.W. Bush, did, and won the GOP contest with 32 percent of the vote. Reagan received 30 percent of the vote. Reagan ultimately beat Carter. By this time, the media began relying on results in Iowa as an indicator of how the race would turn out.

1984: Reagan, the incumbent president, was unopposed. On the Democratic side, it was a wide open race, with Sen. Gary Hart of Colorado, former Vice President Walter Mondale, Rev. Jesse Jackson and Sen. John Glenn of Ohio facing off. Mondale, who won the Iowa caucuses, was ultimately the Democratic nominee. Reagan defeated him in the general election.

1988: An open race in Iowa and one that ultimately had no bearing on either party's eventual nomination. On the Republican side, Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas beat televangelist Pat Robertson and then-Vice President George Bush in the caucuses, but Bush ultimately became the nominee. He also ultimately beat Democratic nominee Gov. Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts, who came in third to Rep. Richard Gephardt of Missouri.

1992: Incumbent President George Bush was unopposed among Republicans, and any competitiveness in Iowa was rendered moot by the candidacy of Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, a beloved figure in the state. With him running, few other Democrats even bothered to compete. Bill Clinton went on to win the presidency.

1996: Democrat Clinton was the incumbent, and unopposed. Among Republicans, Bob Dole beat Pat Buchanan. Clinton beat Dole later that year in the general election.

2000: Iowa winners Al Gore and George W. Bush went on to win their party's nomination. Bush, the Republican, won the general election.

2004: Despite a surge in popularity from Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, Democrat John Kerry, who'd previously lagged in polls, won the caucuses. John Edwards came in second. Kerry went on to win the nomination. On the Republican end, Bush was unopposed, and went on to win a second term.

Personally, I hope Edwards pulls ahead. Personally, I want the ads to stop and tonight to be over soon:ish. But, that's just me.


Old Man Crowder said...

I was just talking about this with some work colleagues today!

Up here in Canuckland, we don't have such a convoluted system, so thanks so much for explaining a bit of it!

Party Girl said...

OMC: See, always check into Inner Dork Thursday, you never know when it will come in handy to show your co-workers all your smarts.

See boys and girls, let that be a lesson to you all: Always read inner dorks. It makes book-learning fun and you can show off to your co-workers and perhaps win you dates.

Okay, I added that last part, but I've gone out with men for less impressive things. Just sayin'.

Appletini said...

Cool, thanks! I've been wonderng about this :)

GirlGoyle said...

It's all Cauca-mamy if you ask me. What kind of a democracy can represent people only through 3 parties I'll never understand.

Old Man Crowder said...

GG -- I agree. 3 parties seems a little sparse. On the other hand, up here we have something like 17 registered political parties, but the country is only ever run by 1 of 2 choices.

Py said...

And those two choices are so alike as to be nearly indistinguishable on many issues until after public opinion has been voiced!

Hello PG :)

Wonderful to see you are still the ever complete blogger babe! This is a brilliant accounting as always :)

All the best to you in 2008!!!

puerileuwaite said...

I think it needs a few more layers of complexity in order to make it more "fraud-proof". I for one would like to see them unilaterally incorporate "Rock, Paper, Scissors" into the mix. Then the candidates should all have to learn an instrument and participate in a Marching Band competition, a la "The Music Man". Finally, the politico with the poorest showing should be publicly stoned in order to ensure a bountiful harvest.

limpy99 said...

You forgot to mention that Iowa gets to set the tone for the nation. Good thing too, as a state 99% white and about 85% evangelical Christian is ever so representative of the rest of us.

Party Girl said...

I agree, the system is outdated and needs to be revised. I realize the weather plays a huge part in the process and choosing a smaller state to represent the whole, doesn't seem to be the best idea.