The Iowa Caucus 2016 took place last night, which signals the official start of election season. It’s hard to believe, given that election hype starts way before any votes are cast to determine party nominations.
Being foreign, I do not participate in American elections. But in 2008, I had the pleasure of observing an Iowa Caucus experience in person. The event is both formal and informal. People gather at designated precincts (churches, schools, etc.), party representatives give last-minute speeches, and then the voting begins.
For Republicans, a ballot is cast in a private booth. Democrats however, group themselves according to the candidate they support. Votes are taken by a head count, and candidates who have less than 15% of the vote are removed, and then a regroup begins. Rinse and repeat. Now the fun is actually seeing who can convince undecided voters, or voters whose candidates did not make the 15% cut, to join their side. It’s an interesting phenomenon to see who one would choose if they felt they had to choose in a moment.
When I watched the Iowa Caucus in ’08 at a precinct – which was a school, I believe – Barack Obama was the winner. He also went on to win the entire state. The pendulum appears to have swung greatly in the state, given Ted Cruz (R) has emerged the winner of the Iowa Caucus that took place last night. As for the Democrats, it was a close call between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, with Clinton edging Sanders out by 0.3%, which if I remember my basic statistics correctly, that is barely on the edge of statistically significant.
Looking ahead, the New Hampshire primaries are next, where projections show that Donald Trump is ahead in the GOP, while Sanders is projected to have a lead over Clinton. The New Hampshire Primaries, more than the Iowa Caucuses, are considered to be more telling of the political forecast in the United States during an election year.
It’s easy, I think, to be disillusioned by the political process in any country. The United States, for its self-proclamation as the greatest democracy, has been observed as a political oligarchy by academics, political experts, and lay people alike. Indeed I think the act of voting, for all the romance that may surround it in any country, is fundamentally a matter of conscience, more than an act of responsible citizenship, as is often claimed.
Conscience of course, requires discernment. Regardless of your philosophical perspective towards the political process or any political ideology that may follow, it is important to do that discernment, and if you are an American citizen, especially now. While the two-party system is considerably inadequate for many people who find themselves with views on both sides of the two political ideologies – or neither side, for that matter – it would be good to discover the issues that may matter to you, fundamentally and currently.
Consider therefore, taking the www.isidewith.com quiz as you do some discernment during this election season, along with all the other education you may require to make an informed decision. Perhaps the results may surprise you, perhaps not. But at least you’ll have a clearer understanding of where you fit in, in the political process, or if you fit in at all. And whether your conscience takes you to the polls in these early stages and/or later in the year, your decision would have been an educated one, which Thomas Jefferson, a founding father of the nation, believed is necessary for a functioning democracy.