The Iowa Caucus: 36 Years Ago


The following is my dad’s (Deane Gunderson) Bubbles in the Wine column about Iowa caucuses. This article was originally published in the Rolfe [Iowa] Arrow on January 15, 1976, just four days before that year’s caucus.

I’m a conservative and will be voting in Iowa’s Republican caucus tomorrow night, January 3. I am solid with my choice, but (for now, anyway) feel that I’ve designed this blog for topics other than pushing my political beliefs onto others. I’ll save that for my speech at the caucus tomorrow night. (Am I nervous to speak? Yes!) Or for anyone who wants to private-message me. If you are wanting to know for whom I am voting, feel free to email me and I will tell you.

Contrarily, if you’d like to comment on your thoughts, feel free to do so below. Or, private message me about your thoughts, as well.

For now, here’s my dad’s column.

“Jan. 19 Political Caucuses”

Bubbles in the Wine (column) in the Rolfe Arrow

by Deane Gunderson

First published 36 years ago…January 15, 1976

There have been press releases and official notices of political caucuses, Republican and Democrat, to be held January 19. [Remember, this was written in 1976 and that the 2012 Iowa caucuses will be held tomorrow, Tuesday, January 3.]

A rather unique thing happened this year. The Democrat State Chairman and the Republican State Chairman held a joint news conference and issued a joint news release, “. . . we challenge people to demonstrate their concern for responsible government by attending one of these caucuses.”

It used to be that the Republican and Democrat organizations did a good job of ignoring each other, especially the other’s good points.

The above joint announcement should be taken as a sincere feeling that more participation in political activity is a good thing for the country.

I was surprised to be asked a few days ago if these caucuses were open to anyone, or if they were just for the party committee men and political workers.

Emphatically — the caucuses are open to anyone who wishes to indicate that he or she has the slightest inclination to make his desires known through one of the parties. Obviously, party structure would break down if it were permissible for a bunch of Republicans to attend a Democrat caucus and make decisions — or vise-versa. Likewise, independents without any purpose except to undermine the organizational framework should not be allowed to make decisions.

I’m sure that either party will welcome anyone who shows any indication whatsoever to make his voice heard through that party structure. You do not have to be registered. Just be one who could be eligible to vote November 2 and be a resident of the precinct for the caucus you attend. (See notices in last week’s paper.) [In 2012, you will need a photo ID that includes your current address, for example, your driver’s license. If you’ve moved and your current address is not on your photo ID, you will need some proof of your current address, for example, a utility bill including your address.]

The purposes of the party caucuses, both Republican and Democrat, are to:

1. Name a precinct committeeman and committeewoman who will serve as members of the county central committee for that party.

2. Elect delegates to the county conventions which in turn will elect delegates to the state and district conventions. The state and district conventions will name delegates to the national political conventions, thus naming the candidates for which you will be making a choice for president Nov. 2, 1976.

3. Suggest resolutions and platforms which will be considered at county, district, state and national convention.

While you might consider the impact at the local caucus level to be very small, every idea will have a hearing and be voted on in a democratic way and, if accepted, ushered on up the line to the proper point of application (state, national — or county, for that matter). Be there January 19th. [Or, in 2012, tomorrow, Tuesday, January 3.]

* * * * * * * *

If you want to know more about this year’s Iowa caucus, click here. And, remember, some elections win or lose by just one vote. Heck, my dad got one vote one time at the county level…and won!

Click here to go to Louise Gunderson Shimon’s blog’s home page.


11 Responses to “The Iowa Caucus: 36 Years Ago”

  1. Clara Hoover Says:

    Although the caucuses began in Iowa in 1972 and we lived in Ames at that time, I don’t remember a single thing about them. I do remember attending the county convention and even speaking at it. I was nervous but probably not as nervous as you are because my speaking was totally spontaneous. I don’t remember the topic, but I do remember a well-known (prior) state office holder, speaking from the stage in support of me.

    I wonder if the purposes are the same as 1, 2 and 3 outlined by Daddy. I think 2 is the same, but I’m not sure about 1 and 3.

  2. Clara Hoover Says:

    The caucus link provided answers to my questions. The site explained the procedures very clearly.

  3. Clara Hoover Says:

    You’ve made me wonder if the one meeting we attended at the Ames Public Library might have been a caucus. All this time I thought it might have been just a precinct/ward meeting, but perhaps it was a caucus. People were selected at that meeting to be delegates to the county convention. We were two of those delegates.

    I don’t remember any controversy or issues; however, Nixon was running for re-election so there would have been very few, if any, Republican opponents. Just like the Democrats this year with Obama running for re-election. Some people might not realize there will be any Democratic caucuses.

  4. Louise Gunderson Shimon Says:

    Clara, I don’t remember when I first attended a caucus. I do remember attending in rural Perry one time when Bill was out of town. I submitted to peer pressure by nominating Bill as a delegate to the county convention! That was my first lesson in not nominating a spouse without permission, and with the hope that Bill will never nominate me for a task without my permission!

    Our caucus used to be attended by maybe only 20 or 30 people, with just one precinct (?) meeting at a rural park building. Now several precincts will meet in one location. Today I heard that it is predicted that perhaps 400 might attend. That seems like a lot to me, but I do remember that four years ago with the same configuration that there were a lot of people there.

    It is really hard for me to whittle down what I want to say. It reminds me that all of those high school English composition and college speech classes are paying off!

  5. jeff moore Says:

    Caucuses only began in 1972? I went to something like that in 1968 when I was a big Eugene McCarthy fan. And obviously too young to vote! Maybe it was something a bit different then? I also went overnight to the state Democrat convention with a few friends that year. Don’t really remember much about the proceedings – just the hospitality rooms and all the drinking. And running around des Moines a bit. Exciting fun for young high school kids.

  6. Peg Says:

    Yep, that’s my husband! 😉 LOVE his life story! (And him, of course. ;-))

    Bravo, Louise! For posting this article and for your participation tonight!

  7. Clara Hoover Says:

    I was a junior delegate to the state Republican convention when I was in high school. I was on the platform committee. I remember what I wore and that I shared a room with Barbara Olerich.

    The summer after graduation I got to go with Mother and Daddy, Ellwood and Barbara Olerich to the National Republican Convention in Chicago. We stayed at the Palmer House and attended all the events in the big convention center.

  8. Clara Hoover Says:

    I’m writing in parts because of technical problems.

    In summer 1968 several family members attended the state Republican convention in Des Moines because Daddy was campaigning to be a delegate to the National Republican Convention in Miami. He was elected an alternate delegate. If he had spoken off the cuff and from the heart instead of reading his speech, he might have done a better job of convincing people he should have been elected.

  9. Clara Hoover Says:

    When I was little we went with my parents to a poling place two miles west and one mile south of our house in a rural school that’s since been converted into a home. We got to go into the voting booth and pull the curtain shut behind us. Of course, I had no idea for whom Mother and Daddy voted.

    One of the best memories, however, was going to the Pocahontas County courthouse on election night and gathering with people in a large room on the second floor. As the votes were counted, someone recorded the count on a large blackboard on the west wall of the room.

  10. Louise Gunderson Shimon Says:

    Clara, Jeff and Peggy: So fun to read your comments. Jeff and Clara, your experiences don’t sound like they resemble each other!

    I vaguely remember something about Daddy’s speech campaigning to be a delegate to the RNC. Clara, do you happen to have a copy of that speech. I do, with lots of editing marks.

    I took into account your comment regarding the effectiveness of off-the-cuff (vs read/scripted) remarks. I tried to do a little bit of off-the-cuff but was afraid to stray too far.

    I’m so pooped today, staying up until after 1:30 AM to finally see the results. I’m sure glad I don’t have a job where I work nights! I’d never last. I had a ton of fun last night. I spoke/voted for Newt. I have faith that he can regain the lead, so can think of the night as a ton of fun!

  11. Marti Gunderson Carlson Says:

    I was following the news about the Iowa caucuses closely.

    I was fortunate to attend part of the national Republication convention with Daddy in 1968. An interesting experience.

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