Thursday, January 3, 2008

The Iowa Caucus 2008

TODAY marks the beginning of the end of the reign of terror that we've had to endure for the past 7 years with the idiot-in-chief, President You Lie and I'll Swear To It - It's Iowa Caucus Day!!!!!

Now a lot of people don't necessarily care about the Iowa caucus and I think it's because they don't understand the Iowa caucus and the importance of it. It's sort of like football - until you know the rules, it's just a bunch of grown men running around with a weird shaped ball.

So I did a little research (what else is new) and found these neat little FAQs about the Iowa caucus that will be held TONIGHT!! Hopefully you'll read and learn:

What is a caucus?
It's a gathering of neighbors. A caucus is different than a primary or a general election. In a general election, Iowans go to the polls to elect people to public office. In a primary, Republicans and Democrats go to the polls to nominate candidates for office. At a caucus, party activists go to a meeting where they start the process of nominating presidential candidates by expressing an initial preference for a candidate. Any registered Democrat or Republican can be a party activist and attend a caucus. In Iowa, caucus-goers elect delegates to county conventions, who, in turn, elect delegates to district and state conventions where national convention delegates are selected. That makes these meetings of local party leaders and activists an important first step in picking presidents.In fact, the word "caucus" is believed to be an American Indian term that means "a meeting of tribal leaders." Who is a tribal leader? You can be.

What happens at a caucus?
Caucuses are held by both the Republican and Democratic parties every two years. Neighbors gather to talk about local politics, discuss what they want to see in the party platform and elect people to the party's county central committee, which governs local party affairs. They also elect delegates to the county conventions in the spring. In a presidential year, caucus participants also express a preference for presidential nominees. Those preferences are the first in the nation and are much-watched by national observers and political leaders for how well or poorly candidates are doing with grassroots Americans.

Where are they held?
There are some 2,000 precincts in Iowa. Most of them will have caucuses though some rural areas are so small they combine with other precincts or townships. You won't have to travel very far. The meetings are generally held in a school, library, community center, church basement or some other public building. Years ago, they were held at people's homes, but they've grown so big that both parties try to find sites that are larger and more accessible.

What time do the caucuses start?
The caucuses are scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 3, 2008. The Democratic caucuses will begin at 6:30 p.m. (doors open at 6) while Republicans begin at 7 p.m.

What does it feel like to go to a caucus?
You should feel right at home. Both parties want people to come, particularly newcomers. These people are your neighbors, so you'll know some of them. If you are new to Iowa, it'll be a chance to meet your neighbors who share some of your political views. It's also a chance to have an impact on politics - on what issues the party will stand for and what presidential candidate will represent it. Sometimes, local issues will come up. Many caucus-goers leave feeling good about the fact they've participated in a democratic exercise that has an impact on who the next president will be.

Does it cost anything to participate?
No. Both parties may pass the hat, but you don't have to pay to vote.

Who can participate?
Anyone who will be 18 years old by the date of the presidential election. If you are eligible to vote for president, you're eligible to participate in a caucus.You must also be a registered Democrat to attend and vote at a Democratic caucuses. Republicans also require you to register with their party to participate and vote. Both parties allow you to register or change your registration at the caucus site. So, for example, a no-party voter could show up, register and participate.

How is the voting done?
The two parties are different. When there is a race to be decided, everyone at a Republican meeting drops a name of a candidate in a hat, and the results are tabulated in Des Moines and reported to the media.The Democrats' process is more complicated. While Republicans have one-person, one-vote, Democrats vote for delegates for each candidate. At 7 p.m., Democrats will break into what are called "preference groups," where participants' preferences for a candidate become public. All the supporters of Hillary Clinton will go to one corner, all the supporters of John Edwards to another, etc. If a candidate doesn't have 15 percent of the total, his or her supporters must realign with another group. Once everyone is in a group with at least 15 percent, delegates to the county convention are apportioned based on the size of the preference group. So, for example, if the precinct sends 10 delegates to the county convention, those 10 delegates are allocated based on the percentage of people in a preference group. So if Edwards has 60 percent and Clinton has 40 percent, Edwards would get six delegates and Clinton would get four.

What time are the caucuses finished?
Most should be done by 8 p.m. At some, people like to argue politics and platforms, but the presidential voting should be done by 8 or so, unless the turnout is large and unwieldy. That could happen with all the interest being generated in this election.

Why doesn't Iowa just have a primary in which everyone can go vote?
It's a tradition for the two parties to govern their affairs with caucuses. In the mid-1980s, Iowa political leaders cut a deal with New Hampshire's political leaders: New Hampshire gets the first primary, Iowa gets the first caucus. For Iowa to change the caucuses to a primary would be a violation of that agreement and trigger a feud with New Hampshire.

What about straw polls. Isn't there a large gathering in Ames called the straw poll?
It's totally separate from the caucuses. The Republicans hold a straw poll in years they have more than one presidential candidate. It's simply a mock election involving anyone willing to travel to Ames in August and buy ticket. Nothing is binding about the results but candidates who do poorly sometimes drop out of the race because they can no longer raise money from donors. At its core, the whole thing is merely a fundraiser, a way for state GOP officials to take advantage of the visiting presidential candidates and their money. In 2000, the GOP even auctioned off the land around Hilton Coliseum where the candidates had reception tents. Then Texas Gov. George W. Bush (the idiot) paid a whopping $43,500 to rent a choice site. Visitors to Ames could stop by candidate tents outside of the arena and sample their food, drink and political rhetoric.

Democrats don't believe in straw polls. "We think it is inappropriate to charge people to vote in a straw poll that has no scientific value other than to see who can spend the most money to get people to come out," said Rob Tully, who was state Democratic chairman in 2000.

Why are the caucuses so important?
They're important because they're first. In 1972, Iowa Democrats were the first to hold caucuses and select convention delegates. National news organizations watched the results for indications of how well candidates were doing. The events have grown in importance ever since. Since 1972, the eventual nominee of each party has been among the top three finishers in Iowa.

Sometimes, a good caucus showing can elevate a candidate from obscurity as it did with Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush or John Kerry. Often, it ends the campaigns of some candidates who finish lower than expected, because they find it difficult to raise the money needed to continue.

Critics say too much attention is paid to the results. They argue Iowa is not typical of all states. Supporters say no state is typical. Starting in a bigger state would mean only big-money candidates could compete. They say it's a legitimate test of how well candidates are doing with real people in the nation's heartland who have a chance to take their measure up close. Still, other states and the critics constantly try to change the process to end or minimize the Iowa results so someday they may not be as important.

Now that you know a lot more about the Iowa caucus that is being held TONIGHT, I hope that it helps you to get involved, work for a candidate (whether local or national) - make a difference!

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