Castro Defends His Position On Presidential Nomination Reform
DES MOINES, Iowa—Since 1972, Iowa has been the nation’s first caucus during the presidential nomination season. Tradition, however, does not keep the caucuses from being scrutinized by some who would prefer a different presidential nomination system.
In November, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro made the argument that the time has come to rearrange the presidential nomination system, meaning that Iowa would lose its status as the first-in-the-nation caucus state. In a tweet, Castro wrote “I appreciate how seriously Iowa & New Hampshire take their role as first-in-the-nation. But [America has] changed in the 50 years since the order was established — and I believe it’s time our primaries reflect our nation’s diversity.”
This week, Secretary Castro came to Drake University to hold a forum to explain his position with Iowan’s in-person and hold a dialogue on the issue. The event began with Castro making a speech about his candidacy and sharing his thoughts on reforming the presidential nomination system. The forum then opened up to a question and answer format with the audience, which yielded some interesting arguments for and against Iowa as the first-in-the-nation caucus.
Iowans in the audience shared some reasons for keeping the state’s status in the presidential nomination system. They pointed out that because Iowa has a long history of holding the first caucuses, the people are prepared and engaged. It was also mentioned that Iowa Democrats selected the first African-American and woman candidates to win a caucus in the 2008 and 2016 Iowa caucuses (Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, respectively). Still, another noted that Iowa Democrats are not ideologically different from the rest of the country. Some Iowa natives, however, spoke towards flaws in the system. Because caucusing does not involve a secret ballot, it was mentioned that people could be afraid to show who they support or advocate for the issues they care about in front of others.
Secretary Castro said that it was time to revisit the presidential nomination system. Some points he gave in support of his argument included Iowa’s demographics being unrepresentative of the party and America, the density of the state, and the barriers people face in caucusing. Castro posited that it would be easier to campaign in a state with a density more suited towards canvassing. Furthermore, the secretary compared the caucus system to one that Republicans might want; Castro thought that the caucus system makes it more difficult to vote when compared to a primary, for example.
After the forum, I chatted with one Drake student and Iowa native who argued on behalf of the caucus system. Jacob Gaspar studies finance and data analytics at Drake University and was born and raised in West Des Moines. I asked Gaspar about his participation in the Iowa caucuses, and he said that he attended the caucuses in 2012 but more vividly remembers the 2016 Republican caucuses. Gaspar was disappointed in Castro’s claim that people would feel uncomfortable expressing their political opinions and candidate preferences; Gaspar recounted that in the 2016 caucuses, people were discussing political issues and sharing ideas. To Gaspar, the caucuses’ ability to bring people together to discuss politics is something different from the rest of America: “There is something unique about Iowans that they can have those conversations.”
The Iowa caucuses are here to stay for 2020, and time will tell if Castro’s message will resonate.