Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Iowa Caucus Night

I've never been one to be an overly vociferous person when it comes to politics. I've made sure to keep politics off of our blog and out of posts (minus the voting post I wrote a couple of years ago). Monday night I attended my first Caucus. I did post a couple of pictures in regards to the Caucus (one of my kick ass Rock Out With Your Caucus Out t-shirt from Iowa favorite Raygun and one of the insanity of my caucus site) and I was going to leave it at that. However, I felt compelled to write about my experience after receiving several messages from out of state friends asking how the Iowa Caucus works and spending all night and morning texting back and forth from friends who caucused as well. I will not share who I caucused for, but I will tell you it was with the Democratic party (this makes a difference because I'm told the Republican caucus is run slightly different. You have to be a registered Democrat or Republican in order to caucus). Instead I'm sharing my overall experience and hopefully give some insight to how the caucuses work.

I've never been what I call a political person. I've always done my civic duty and informed myself of the presidential candidates and who was running for state, county, and city elections and voted. My husband and I make a point to keep up (as best as we can) with world news and issues our country faces. Since we've had kids and I've become business owners (3 separate businesses), I've taken more of an interest in political issues.

Monday night I did something that I never really had an interest in before. I took part in the Iowa Caucus. I was not as prepared as some Iowans. Some people have had their candidate chosen for months, attended rallies, and made a point to hear all of the candidates speak. I was not that prepared. I decided two weeks ago that I wanted to caucus. I made a spread sheet of every candidate on both sides of the aisle. I listed out their beliefs, listed what was important to me, and checked how those aligned with my own beliefs. I already had an idea of who I aligned with, but two days before caucusing I took a quiz ( and that confirmed my choice.

Side note: My husband did not caucus, but sat with me through all of my research. He himself formed opinions about the candidates. In the past, we have both been on board with the same candidate(s). However, through our research, we discovered he is quite more conservative than I. I must admit, we've had quite a good time the past couple of weeks talking through issues, debating, but overall respecting each other's choice on candidates.

Anyways, Monday after daycare kids left, I packed my three into our minivan and sent them with Grandma and Grandpa until Hubs got home from week. I arrived at my caucus location at 6:10. There was already a long line, but it was moving quickly. As I walked through the door, people were handing out stickers for whichever candidate you were for. I got mine and instantly started in on a conversation with people in line. There were quite a few first time caucusers in line near me. We relied on the people around us who have done it numerous times to inform us how it works. One of my favorite part of the caucus was talking with people I had never met and discussing political issues. Even the people who were for other candidates were extremely respectful of other's beliefs. I have only been in heated debates about politics so having a calm and clear conversation was very enjoyable.

After checking in, the next hour and half was spent standing around and talking with strangers. We met a few women who were in Iowa from Africa and quite enthused about seeing a caucus first hand. They did not seem as enthused when we left the caucus site three hours after arriving. A few things I noted: I hardly saw anyone I knew (no neighbors or friends in the neighborhood. This struck me as odd), a lot of younger people and couples, and quite a few kids came with their parents. By the time we got down to business, there were nearly 400 people in a space that couldn't hold 200. It was overly crowded, hot, smelly (it was at the end of a work day for most people, keep in mind), and most people were hungry or thirsty. Some voters wound up walking out before the first count, which meant their numbers were off. They had to go around and manually get a head count of everyone there. It was crazy and took a long time. I believe the final headcount was less than 250 people, which means nearly 150 people left before voting. This is where readers, you should take note that once you arrive at a caucus you SHOULD NOT LEAVE. Don't try it or you'll have hundreds of people yelling at you as you walk out the door. We had to recount. Again.

Finally we got to the voting part. I'm told by numerous people that a caucus is usually held in one big room. Each candidate has a spot in the room and you go stand by which candidate you support. Unfortunately, our location was so overly crowded that we had to be separated into different rooms, so we didn't get to hear any of the arguments or discussions. I am still disappointed by this factor. A lot of people thought it was because of how unorganized and poorly run our caucus sight seemed to be, but I think it had a lot to do with the location of our sight (too small, not a good layout, unable to work it "as usual" or what I assume to be as usual).

After two recounts, electing delegates (people were so excited to leave that whoever volunteered was like a hero--I did not volunteer since it sounds like a big job and I have plenty of those), electing back up delegates, chatting some more, we finally left our caucus sight at 9:15 p.m. Three hours after arriving. I was beat. I got home and watched the Caucus coverage on TV for the next two hours. Even though I feel like I didn't get the true caucus experience, it was definitely a highlight to the beginning of my year and something I will do in the years to come.

Initially I thought I may have to take the three minis with me when I learned Hubs had to work late. I am so very thankful that they were not with me because of how long it took. There would have been past bedtime meltdowns all over the place. Plus crowded areas and long waits are not conducive for younger kids. However, there were plenty of younger kids at our caucus sight. Most of them brought Ipads or Kindles , homework to do, or books to read. There was one little girl who came all decked out in support of her candidate and kept us all in stitches through the entire night. While I'm glad I didn't bring the minis along this time, I will be bringing Max with me next time I caucus. He'll be older by then and it really is a great experience for them to take in. Just with seeing all of the news coverage about the Iowa Causus, they had tons of questions (good questions at that). Something I learned the day of the caucus is that you can witness a caucus and not participate in it. There were quite a few people from out of state (and country) who wanted to witness the caucuses firsthand. They sat on the floor in the back or along the sides at our site.

The entire process was very interesting. I actually can't believe I've never participated in the Caucuses before this. Have you ever took part of a caucus or primary? How does your state do it?