On December 2, 2023, I had the pleasure of attending a Caucus Chair Training. This one was specifically for the Republican Caucus chairs. During the meeting, I was surrounded by those planning to run a caucus or help the chair. I met some people who will be running the caucuses in Polk County.
One Caucus Chair I met was named Lawrence Cooper. He hails from Illinois, a state that doesn’t have caucuses but primaries. While primaries are more closely aligned to a general election, caucuses involve people gathering in one space to discuss party businesses and vote for their preferred candidate. You can learn more about caucuses here.
Mr. Cooper chaired Des Moines 9 four times before this cycle. His first time chairing was in 2008 when John McCain was running. On Monday, January 15th, the caucus will be the fifth caucus he has chaired for at Hoover High School. Before chairing the caucuses, he had participated in them. The consistent participation in caucuses is due to 3 reasons: community and direct democracy.
Regarding the caucuses, he spoke about how the Caucasus brings people together. Caucasus involves people from the same precinct who come together for the party meeting. Precincts are made up of neighborhoods close to each other, meaning many of the participants live near each other. This is a time for people to socialize with others from their precincts. Mr. Cooper then speaks about how he enjoyed seeing people from his neighborhood.
The second reason why he likes the caucuses is because it is pure and direct democracy. A caucus involves an open meeting with the ability for candidates to speak or have a spokesperson speak. When someone decides to speak on behalf of a candidate, they are normally very enthusiastic about their candidate. He spoke about how, once, the speaker was in tears because of how much they believed in their candidate. In addition, there have been times when the person who wishes to speak has traveled from a different state (such as Texas and California) to discuss why people should support their candidates.
Regarding caucusing, candidates must go to Iowa and campaign here on the ground. Because caucuses are meetings lasting up to 2 hours, the participants must be enthusiastic about their candidate. This often leads to candidates putting more effort into going to Iowa because they must run more grassroots campaigns. With this culture, most Iowans have gotten to shake hands with presidential candidates and be up close to the candidate. This brings a special aspect to the caucus cycle.
While conversing with Mr. Cooper, he spoke about the 2016 caucuses. At his caucus precinct, there were two reporters from Russia. He took it upon himself to talk to these two reporters and learned they did not know what was happening. Following that, he would explain the caucuses and how these two Russian reporters had found their way into one of the Iowa Caucus Precincts.
In the end, Lawrence Cooper was a pleasure to meet and brought a lot of insight into the caucuses. It was very intriguing listening to his reason why he enjoyed the caucuses and being about to hear about his experiences with the caucuses. Regarding caucus chairs, their main duty is to make sure the caucuses run smoothly and fairly while also providing an enjoyable time for the caucuses.