Breaking down the Iowa Caucus

Rachel Borashko

Last Monday night, the entire nation focused on Iowa. There is only one reason anyone ever pays attention to Iowa, and that’s for its caucuses, which kicks off the presidential caucus and primary election season every four years. Iowa, for being such a seemingly insignificant state otherwise, gets an awful lot of attention this time of year.

This year for the GOP, Ted Cruz came out on top at about 28 percent, snatching first place away from Donald Trump who came in second at about 24 percent. Considering the amount of media attention that Trump has received and given how well he has done in polls, it is surprising to many that Cruz managed to beat him. Coming in third was Marco Rubio at just above 23 percent. Fourth was claimed by Ben Carson, followed by Rand Paul in fifth, and Jeb Bush in sixth. Beyond that, the results can hardly be considered significant.

However, it was the Democratic Party that has claimed much of the spotlight from the shock of Trump’s defeat. Many were expecting a clear win for Hillary Clinton for the Democrats. However, she barely beat out Bernie Sanders. For now, The Des Moines Register, a popular Iowa newspaper, lists the results as Clinton with 49.86 percent and Sanders coming in second with 49.57 percent of the votes.

With results that close, it is hard to say that Clinton really won. In fact, it was so close that there is currently pressure being put on the party to recount the votes, in part by that same newspaper. A vote this close is a rarity in U.S. politics, and it should make for an interesting race for the rest of the primaries.

Now, this may seem like a bunch of nonsense that doesn’t really matter. Frankly, it took me until this year to even realize that the Iowa Caucus was even marginally significant. I thought people just paid attention because it was first. It’s just one state, right? Well, not quite. Iowa is the first to hold a caucus or primary election; the first state to officially decide which presidential candidates it supports for the general election in November. Being first may not seem like such a big deal, but it really is.

Iowa holds a substantial amount of influence. Probably more influence than it deserves. The candidates that end up doing well in Iowa and New Hampshire often times end up doing well throughout the primaries.

Upon learning this, I thought maybe those states are just particularly representative of the U.S. Again, not quite. Iowa is extremely white. According to the census, they’re 92.1 percent white. That’s almost as white as New Hampshire at 94 percent. For perspective, that statistic for the U.S. as a whole is 77 percent. Iowa and New Hampshire undoubtedly do not represent the diversity that the U.S. holds. Yet still, they are given the privilege of holding their caucus first and are given a disproportionate amount of media attention.

Now, maybe you don’t want one of the aforementioned presidential candidates to be the face of the U.S. this time next year. So what do you do? Don’t let other states’ primary and caucus elections take hold of your vote. Michigan’s primaries are just over a month away. Vote. Tell your friends to vote. And don’t make it a bandwagon vote. Don’t blindly vote for who you see the most on the news. Do your research and vote for the candidate who supports what you support. Vote for the candidate that you do want to be the next face of our country.