Every four years, Iowa Republicans and Democrats continue the tradition of holding the first-in-the-nation caucuses. And as we saw this week, every four years another time honored tradition takes place — people saying that Iowa shouldn’t be first.
But in spite of this criticism, Iowa remains first, and with good reason.
Every four years, presidential candidates show up in America’s heartland to make their case to Iowa voters — visiting our coffee shops, farms, the great Iowa State Fair, small businesses, factories and everywhere in between. Those who put in the work of true retail politics — answering tough questions from educated voters, showing up at local events and making themselves available to average Americans — can and will do well.
This means anyone can come to Iowa, even with a small budget, and have a shot at being the president of the greatest country in the world. We’ve seen this throughout Iowa Caucus history — it’s the process that propelled Jimmy Carter to victory in 1976 and Barack Obama in 2008. And candidates on both sides of the aisle are better for it — they have stronger organizations and tested messaging strategies based on in-person conversations with voters — that prepare them to hit the ground running in the general election.
Organizing and executing a successful grassroots campaign requires hard work, not flashy TV ads. The ability to connect with voters in their communities is a time-tested measure for determining serious presidential contenders. Too often folks don’t realize that we do not pretend to pick the winner here in Iowa. Rather, we recognize our most important responsibility is starting the process, asking the hard questions and narrowing the field.
And by the nature of this process, voices that are far too often ignored when a campaign is only about TV and digital ads can come forward. The diversity of each party is allowed to be heard and have an audience with our candidates.
Iowa’s first-in-the-nation status isn’t about party affiliation or identity politics. It’s about the uniqueness of retail politics, and its ability to get the future president to connect with Americans in a way few primaries can.
On caucus night, all eyes are on Iowa as friends and neighbors gather together in 1,678 precincts to discuss important issues of the day, conduct party business, and every four years, pick who they believe should be the next leader of the free world. This experience is unlike any other, and we do not take it for granted.
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Our first-in-the-nation Iowa Caucus isn’t red or blue. In fact, it’s arguably the most American and democratic thing Iowans do — and we know it.
That’s why we take this responsibility so seriously.
There will always be attempts to undermine the Iowa Caucus, but rest assured, those attempts will consistently be met with significant resistance from both parties. And if we truly value democracy, hard work and giving voters a voice in this process, we will all work to preserve and protect Iowa’s incredibly unique opportunity to go first.
Troy Price is the Iowa Democratic Party chair and Jeff Kaufmann is the Iowa GOP chair.