The Iowa caucus’ implied and real importance

The media frenzy surrounding the Iowa caucus is largely just that – a media frenzy. Driven by the desire to present politics in terms of horse races and to fill air time, the media gives the caucus more credence than it perhaps deserves. Still, the caucuses are a great example of how citizens can get involved in politics at the grass-roots level.

Considering that Iowa has a population of about 3 million, and typically only about 60,000 of those people participate in the caucuses, the Iowa caucus carries more weight than it should. The state has no true urban center, lacks diversity and is not a financial power. To think Iowa represents U.S. voters is absurd.

The importance of the Iowa caucuses is largely a media construct stemmeing from Jimmy Carter’s showing in the 1976 caucuses. The media deemed Carter the golden boy of the presidential election despite the fact that neither Carter nor many reporters were in Iowa at the time of the caucuses. Carter went on to become president. Ever since, the Iowa caucuses have been the unwitting starting line for the presidential horse race.

Considering that Iowa’s importance is largely a media invention, however, does not entirely demean its real importance.

Yesterday signaled the beginning of the election and drive for the presidency. For the candidates it is a trial by fire and a wearying run through the political gauntlet. For many Americans it will summon excitement. For others, it will summon the dread of having to sit through campaign ads. And still for others, it will not summon anything but increased apathy.

Regardless, the fact remains that it is an election year. This is a time to be excited and appreciate that we live in a democracy. We hope there will be less pointless discussion this year about inane sitcoms and more discussion about important issues.

Minnesotans can attend their own parties’ caucuses March 2 and help pick not only their party’s presidential nominee but also candidates at every level.

More Americans paying attention to politics rather than escaping the topic is a good thing. And getting involved now is as easy as paying attention and voting Nov. 9.