Caucus talk: Why the world might miss Iowa’s circus afterall

As Obama was claiming victory in Wisconsin – and Drake was losing at home – I was lucky enough to participate in an exploration of the future of the Iowa caucuses.

Again, the list of participants was spectacular. Of the 15 or so in attendance, two were former Iowa lieutenant governors – Sally Pederson and Joy Corning – and leading a portion of the discussions was The Des Moines Register’s Rox Laird. The rest…well, they were merely university professors and leaders in industries ranging from finance to marketing.

But the real beauty of this discussion was the lack of egos and pageantry. Above all, we were Iowans discussing an integral part of our culture – the caucus.

Here’s some really thought provoking concepts I brought home:

  • The future of the Iowa caucus rests largely with who wins the general election. If it’s Obama, the circus will return. If it’s McCain, it’s hard to say. If it’s Hillary, well, it’s been a fun ride.
  • After some 36 years of practice, Iowa needs more practice. Every precinct offers a different experience.
  • The ability to vote is something that doesn’t exist for the majority of the world. There’s something significant about doing it in front of your neighbors.
  • The Iowa caucuses force candidates to treat voters (if only a small pool of them) like human beings.
  • In the Democratic caucus, there’s no such thing as a wasted vote.
  • Seeing a young person vote is something that never gets old.

That’s just a few of some of the great ideas thrown around over the course of the evening. And while we weren’t able to say for sure what is to become of all this, we were able to lay out some reasons why the world might miss our show.

Ultimately, I walked away feeling that there is some real magic to the caucus process. There’s no denying the imperfections, the goofy rules and the general madness that is the Iowa caucuses. But past those initial observations lies an undeniable energy and passion – which I believe is a product of what the caucuses should really be considered: A celebration of democracy.

Keep an eye on the Wallace House Foundation for further reflection on the evening.


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