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Civic Engagement: The Iowa Caucuses
Unformatted Document Text:  the Presidential Nomination Process. 3 It is a “typical” class on that process, examining the rules that structure the nominating process, the voters who decide, the role of money and media and how candidates respond to this environment in an attempt to win their party’s nomination. That process has also been impacted by a phenomenon called “front-loading,” which has resulted in states moving up the timing of their primaries and caucuses. Iowa and New Hampshire, the traditional first caucus and primary states have responded by moving the dates of their contests up as well. In fact, New Hampshire has a law requiring them to do so. Thus, originally the date of the Iowa caucuses was set for January 14 and the New Hampshire primary was scheduled eight days later, on January 22. This meant that the bulk of the campaigning would occur, if past experience was a guide, from mid-November through mid-December, with a break for the holidays and then a push in early January. If you have not experienced the Iowa caucuses or the New Hampshire primary, it is hard to fully understand the intensity and breadth of the grassroots campaigning that occurs. Candidates spend enormous amounts of time in these two states campaigning everywhere. They appear in forums of various sizes, from large arenas to living rooms and small restaurants. The best symbol of the time and commitment this takes can be seen by the fact that in the fall of 2007, Democratic candidate, Senator Chris Dodd actually rented a house, moved his family to Des Moines and enrolled his children in school here. 4 And by the time votes are cast, a large percentage of citizens have actually met at least one of the candidates. Furthermore, the nature of the caucuses makes having an effective on the ground organization crucial. Turnout, by primary election standards is relatively low and you need to get all of your supporters to their precinct at the same time on a cold evening in January. Thus, candidates tend to set up extensive and widespread organizations. And they need lots of volunteer help. I knew that there would be contests in both parties, providing opportunities for students inclined to either perspective. And so I decided to try and take advantage of this unique environment to create a learning experience that would combine a study of the way we choose presidential nominees with hands-on experience working in some capacity related to the Iowa caucuses. I did not want students to occasionally volunteer some time. I wanted them to have a full-time internship. So the class was set up as a six credit class, three credits for the traditional Presidential Nomination Process class and three credits for the internship, and as with any three credit internship in our department, I could expect the students to work 15 to 20 hours a week on their internship and hand in written assignments related to that internship. 5 The caucuses were scheduled after the end of the semester. Because of this, students were told they would receive an In Progress (IP) grade at the end of December when grades were due, as the final paper was not due until one week after the caucuses. 3 In 2003-2004 I was on sabbatical leave and did not teach the class. And in 2000, I taught it as a summer class timed so that the two party conventions met during the class. 4 Similarly, in the 2004 contest, Senator Joseph Lieberman rented an apartment in New Hampshire. 5 Students received separate grades for the internship experience and the class. This was done because I assumed, correctly as it turned out, that there would be students who would excel in their internships and think critically and reflectively about them, but who might not be able to achieve an “A” grade in the “traditional” portion of the class.

Authors: Sanders, Arthur.
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the Presidential Nomination Process.
It is a “typical” class on that process, examining
the rules that structure the nominating process, the voters who decide, the role of money
and media and how candidates respond to this environment in an attempt to win their
party’s nomination. That process has also been impacted by a phenomenon called “front-
loading,” which has resulted in states moving up the timing of their primaries and
caucuses. Iowa and New Hampshire, the traditional first caucus and primary states have
responded by moving the dates of their contests up as well. In fact, New Hampshire has
a law requiring them to do so. Thus, originally the date of the Iowa caucuses was set for
January 14 and the New Hampshire primary was scheduled eight days later, on January
22. This meant that the bulk of the campaigning would occur, if past experience was a
guide, from mid-November through mid-December, with a break for the holidays and
then a push in early January.
If you have not experienced the Iowa caucuses or the New Hampshire primary, it
is hard to fully understand the intensity and breadth of the grassroots campaigning that
occurs. Candidates spend enormous amounts of time in these two states campaigning
everywhere. They appear in forums of various sizes, from large arenas to living rooms
and small restaurants. The best symbol of the time and commitment this takes can be seen
by the fact that in the fall of 2007, Democratic candidate, Senator Chris Dodd actually
rented a house, moved his family to Des Moines and enrolled his children in school here.
And by the time votes are cast, a large percentage of citizens have actually met at least
one of the candidates. Furthermore, the nature of the caucuses makes having an effective
on the ground organization crucial. Turnout, by primary election standards is relatively
low and you need to get all of your supporters to their precinct at the same time on a cold
evening in January. Thus, candidates tend to set up extensive and widespread
organizations. And they need lots of volunteer help. I knew that there would be contests
in both parties, providing opportunities for students inclined to either perspective. And so
I decided to try and take advantage of this unique environment to create a learning
experience that would combine a study of the way we choose presidential nominees with
hands-on experience working in some capacity related to the Iowa caucuses. I did not
want students to occasionally volunteer some time. I wanted them to have a full-time
internship. So the class was set up as a six credit class, three credits for the traditional
Presidential Nomination Process class and three credits for the internship, and as with any
three credit internship in our department, I could expect the students to work 15 to 20
hours a week on their internship and hand in written assignments related to that
internship.
The caucuses were scheduled after the end of the semester. Because of this,
students were told they would receive an In Progress (IP) grade at the end of December
when grades were due, as the final paper was not due until one week after the caucuses.
3
In 2003-2004 I was on sabbatical leave and did not teach the class. And in 2000, I
taught it as a summer class timed so that the two party conventions met during the class.
4
Similarly, in the 2004 contest, Senator Joseph Lieberman rented an apartment in New
Hampshire.
5
Students received separate grades for the internship experience and the class. This was
done because I assumed, correctly as it turned out, that there would be students who
would excel in their internships and think critically and reflectively about them, but who
might not be able to achieve an “A” grade in the “traditional” portion of the class.


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