The history of the Iowa caucus is a long, colorful, scandal-filled trek similar to much of early America.
The Hawkeye State joined the union in 1846 when Americans attended caucuses and conventions to determine elected officials.
A series of legislative reforms transformed the state’s electoral procedures until 1963 when the Iowa General Assembly decided to elect delegates at the caucuses to county conventions. These conventions, in turn, would choose delegates to the district and finally state conventions—a cumbersome four-step process that has continued through 2020. Many would argue it’s an unnecessary, antiquated mechanism for today’s technologically-oriented and 24-hour-media-deadline culture.
The results of last Monday’s disaster at Iowa’s Democratic Caucuses are testament to the dangers of excessive media attention, candidate expectations and faith in untested technology. It’s no wonder many observers inside and outside of Iowa are calling for an end to the state’s first-in-the-nation status for winnowing the pool of presidential hopefuls.
But the original intent of the caucuses was not to determine whom Iowans considered the most desirable candidates for president. It was simply the first step in the ultimate selection of state delegates to the summer national conventions of both major parties.
If critics prevail and the 2020 Iowa caucus—as currently structured—ends as a much-hyped, influential voice in gauging the popularity of potential presidential wannabes, that is perfectly all right.
But this quaint historical electoral relic should continue as a nice local event for encouraging popular participation where friends and neighbors gather to discuss politics and choose delegates for the county conventions. Let’s keep this tradition for ourselves.
The presidential candidates and national media can stay away. As the old Iowan saying goes, “Don’t let the screen door hit you on the way out.”