STORY BY ANNA JENSEN
The plug for the Iowa Caucuses — one of which Drake will assist in hosting on February 1 — is already beginning. Twelve Drake students, along with Professor Rachel Paine Caufield, have launched a website with insider information on the caucuses.
“Caucuses, at their core, are just small party meetings,” Caufield said. “They are intensely located, like neighborhood party meetings. Both Democratic and Republican parties hold caucuses, and everyone can attend, and everyone should attend.”
Though Democratic and Republican caucuses differ in the processes used to select a winner, the two parties have several similarities.
“Anyone can go and submit a proposal for the party platform at the caucus and the people who are there will discuss it and vote on it,” Caufield said. “If it passes, it is given to the higher party platforms that happen later in the spring and it has the potential to be part of the party platform.”
Iowacaucusproject.org has blogs written by students, a number of scholars and journalists and an events page where you can find out where the presidential candidates are all over the state of Iowa. You can also search events by party, date, candidate name or county.
“Candidates have meet-and -greets and a variety of other events all over Iowa,” said senior Austin Cannon. “Many of them even like going to places such as the Pizza Ranch.”
The purpose of the website is to get students and Iowans involved in the caucuses because they are a special and very interactive political event.
“The website is intended to be an opportunity to showcase the Iowa Caucus from the perspective of Iowa,” Caufield said. “Many national journalists come in and point a camera at a candidate, and then they go back to Washington or New York or Atlanta, and they fit that footage of the candidate in Iowa into some national story about the candidate. The story of Iowa is less often told.”
The students’ blogs focus on telling the story of Iowa and of first-time caucus goers rather than on the stories of the election that they know are going to be covered by the national news.
Four committees were formed in the class: the events team, the outreach team, the social media staff and the website staff.
They all work together during their class, or “staff meetings,” but they also have specific jobs pertaining to their committees.
“At the beginning of the year, I asked all the students in the class to express an interest in one of the four committees, and strangely they naturally divided up completely equally,” Caufield said. “It was the best thing ever.”
“I am a part of the events team for the class, and we brainstorm with the whole class how we are going to get students involved (with political events on campus), what kind of students are we looking for if we have available internships,” junior Haley Barbour said. “We helped develop the campus-wide survey that asks if they are willing to volunteer or want to intern.”
The survey gives students the chance to get involved with political events by working them.
“We have a bunch of events across campus, and anyone, no matter what your major is, should fill out the survey (sent over email) with your information if you are interested,” Caufield said. “Sometimes politics majors are well suited for the job, other times we are looking for people who have specific interests that might not even be politically based.”
The website, though expanding, is aimed at Drake’s campus, hoping to get many students involved whether politics is their major or not.
“A lot of students, political-affiliated majors or not, have things they care about,” Barbour said. “We want people to understand that any major, any field of study, any future career is impacted by politics. For example, pharmacy has parallels to politics. Prescription drug laws are a huge political concern, but people often don’t see that connection.”
The Drake community and surrounding state of Iowa offer so many political opportunities and the chance to get involved. It is something that many professors urge their students to get involved in, no matter what their major is.
“College students should get involved because our age group is so underrepresented. We are the least likely age group to vote, so the elected officials don’t pay as much attention to us as they do to other people. College kids need to get involved in (political decisions) otherwise the things that affect our lives, that are important to us and to our futures, aren’t going to be important to the people that we elect,” Barbour said.