An Exercise in Old-Fashioned Democracy
By David Redlawsk, Harkin Institute Fellow Professor of Political Science at Rutgers University in New Brunswick and Director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling There is something wonderfully old fashioned about the Iowa State Fair. I’m not talking about the 4H projects, or the pie-judging, or the carnival midway. I’m talking about the Des Moines Register soapbox. In this day of carefully crafted media campaigns and even more carefully developed soundbites, the fact that candidates can still stand up on a stage (wish it were a real soapbox, but where are you going to find one of those these days?) and talk to real people in a less than overly controlled environment says something good about why we start the nomination process in small states. The Register does a real service to Iowa and the country by sponsoring the Soapbox. People waited as long as a hour and a half in the hot sun to see the candidates (or, on one day, in the rain). While candidates who come to the Fair are all but forced to do stupid things for the media (like eating some kind of food on a stick) they are also forced to pay attention to […]
What’s the Difference Between Liberals and Conservatives?
By Dennis J. Goldford, Harkin Institute Flansburg Fellow Professor of Political Science, Drake University Introduction Political candidates, talk-radio hosts and guests, cable-TV commentators, and many others are always saying that so-and-so is a liberal or “radical liberal,” or that so-and-so is a conservative or “hardline conservative.” Despite the frequency with which we read and hear these terms, their precise meanings continue to be difficult to track. Indeed, NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, August 2, 2015 played a video of Chris Matthews on Hardball unsuccessfully asking Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz to answer the question, “What’s the difference between a Democrat and a socialist?” And at the Republican candidate forum in New Hampshire on Monday, August 3, 2015, Bobby Jindal stated, “Look, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and the other Democrats in DC, they’re for socialism.” In this post and the next two, I will provide some clarity about the core meanings of American liberalism and conservatism. (There are somewhat different meanings of these terms in European politics, but I won’t explore those here.). Perhaps what is most important to keep in mind, despite political rhetoric and polemics to the contrary, is that liberalism is not socialism and conservatism is […]
Don’t Call Them the Iowa Caucus
By Richard Doak Retired editorial-page editor of the Des Moines Register It grates against the ear whenever a newscaster — usually one from out of state — talks about “the Iowa caucus.” That’s wrong. The word needs to be plural — caucuses. There is not one caucus in Iowa. There are more than 3,400 of them. The use of the singular “caucus” indicates a misunderstanding of what happens in Iowa and may give the impression that caucuses are tantamount to primary elections. They’re not. New Hampshire has a primary election (singular). Iowa has party caucuses (plural). Caucuses, of course, are the first step in the months-long caucus-convention system for choosing presidential nominees. Caucuses are held in each of Iowa’s roughly 1,700 voting precincts — one caucus for Republicans, one for Democrats — for a total of more than 3,400. The caucuses elect delegates to the subsequent 99 county conventions. The county conventions elect delegates to congressional district and state conventions, which in turn elect delegates to the national conventions that nominate the presidential candidates. Whew! The process that begins in Iowa in January or February doesn’t end until the national conventions in July or August. Primary elections, in contrast, are […]
What Types of People Participate in the Iowa Caucuses?
By Dennis J. Goldford, Harkin Institute Flansburg Fellow My previous post discussed the number of people that turn out to participate in the Iowa caucuses, an important fact itself. Beyond this caucus factor, though, is the equally if not more important question of what types of people participate. To understand what I mean by this, consider three progressively smaller groups of people. The first and largest group is eligible voters—those meeting all of the formal qualifications to vote, like age and residency. The second, smaller group of people is registered voters; though Iowans are pretty good in this regard, not all eligible voters actually bother to become registered voters. The Iowa Secretary of State’s website keeps very good records of the number of registered voters every month. Finally, after eligible voters and then registered voters, the smallest of the three groups is the group of actual voters, i.e., registered voters who actually turn out to vote in an election. The key point of these distinctions is that when political scientists compare the demographic characteristics of actual voters—sex, religion, education, income, race, ethnicity, etc.—they find that actual voters are not a mirror image of eligible voters. For example, actual voters tend […]
Should New Hampshire follow Iowa?
By Christopher Larimer Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Northern Iowa The ever-expanding GOP field has made for interesting polling. Some candidates fare well Iowa or New Hampshire, but few candidates poll well in both states. Such inconsistency is often presented by the media, pollsters, voters, and even some candidates as evidence that Iowa’s leadoff position in the nomination process skews reality. But perhaps this is not the fault of Iowa but rather the sequence of the process. Rather than asking, “Should Iowa come first?” perhaps we should be asking: Should New Hampshire come second? To answer this question, I pooled results from the Iowa Caucuses and New Hampshire primary from 1976-2012 (results are based on caucus results as provided by the Des Moines Register). The percent support (or delegate strength for Democratic candidates in Iowa) for Democratic and Republican candidates in Iowa is matched with his or her support in the subsequent New Hampshire primary. The results show clear differences by party, and further illustrate the significance of sequencing when it comes to presidential nominating events. (A similar discussion of the results but with more detailed statistical analysis can be found here.) First, for the Democrats, the results […]
The Iowa Democratic Caucuses: Historical Flukes Changed Presidential Politics
By Richard Bender Iowa has had party caucuses for as long as it has been a state, but they rarely gathered much attention in the presidential process. Prior to the reforms by the Iowa Democratic Party in 1972, you simply did not know who won on caucus night, due to the fact that thousands of county convention delegates were elected but they were not identified as supporters of a specific candidate. National delegates were decided by a slate proposed by a Democratic governor or by the party chairman and were simply ratified by the state delegates. National reforms after the 1968 Democratic National Convention triggered an examination of how delegates were chosen. The McGovern-Fraser Commission put rules in place for the 1972 Democratic National Convention, but their impact on Iowa was small. McGovern-Fraser encouraged state national convention delegations to include minority groups, young people and women in reasonable relationship to their presence in the population of the State. It required that written rules be created towards that goal, but it did not call for proportional representation by candidate. Iowa went far beyond its requirements. Two separate events crystalized the need for specific reforms for Democrats in Iowa that allowed the Iowa caucuses to […]