Tuesday, December 10th Polk County Democrats and Republicans conducted a mock caucus for Polk County High school students.  The goal of the mock caucus was to introduce area High School students to the political caucus that has made Iowa the first state in the nation in Presidential politics.  This unique bipartisan civic demonstration was planned and executed by the Polk County Executive Directors, Tamyra Harrison (Democrat) and Ryan Keller (Republican). The goal was to bring students together to experience a bipartisan political event (mock Caucus)

Considering the national political partisanship and lack of cooperation among the national parties these two leaders are to be congratulated for bringing everyone together.  Their joint cooperative efforts as well as that of their volunteers is a testament to Iowan’s ability to set partisanship aside for the benefit of our children.

             Approximately 300 high school students participated Tuesday night for what turned out to be a fun, educational and interesting experience.  They initially met as a combined group for instructions and overview with Dave Price of WHO TV, Polk County Democrats Chair, Tom Henderson (Democrat) and Sherill Whisenand, Polk County Republicans Co-Chair. They were then divided into two groups so they could participate in both the Democratic and Republican caucuses since each party conducts them differently. Each party conducted their caucus with half the group then the students switched to participate in the other parties caucus.

Here’s a quick summary of the Democratic Caucus.

The Democratic caucuses opened with a call to order by Bill Brauch, a Democratic Party official and a welcome from Party Chair Tom Henderson.

Bill explained the 3 goals of the caucuses.

1.     Elect Delegates, alternates and convention members

2.     Discuss and adopt resolutions

3.     Elect leadership for each precinct.

Next, the fun part began as the Team captains (Democratic elected officeholders filled in for demonstration purposes) tried to persuade the students to listen to them and attempt to get them to join their preference group.  There were five categories (preference groups) with a Team Captain for each.

            The five categories and Team Captains were-

1.     Education-Ruth Ann Gaines, House District 32

2.     Jobs-Julie Haggerty, Polk County Recorder

3.     Civil Rights-Ako Abdul-Samad, House District 35

4.     Healthcare-Matt McCoy, Senate District 21

5.     Gun Control-Joe Riding House District 30

The Team Captains got pretty animated and demonstrated their passions in the two minutes they were allowed to make the case for their issues.  You could certainly see the excitement on the faces of students as they were attempting to decide on which group they might join.

Once all the Captains finished their presentations the students quickly joined the team Captain that had been the most persuasive or convincing about their issue.  Next, each group counted the number in their group to determine if they have the minimum necessary to be viable.

Then came realignment which gives everyone a chance to rethink their choices and change groups if they wish. If a group didn’t have enough to be viable they can join other groups or try to persuade other group members to leave their group and join them.  This provided the students an opportunity to demonstrate their communication skills and their persuasive abilities.  The reaction was generally very positive as the students quickly grasped the concept and appeared to enjoy the process.  They were given 5 minutes to finalize their group choice. They all accomplished this with very little guidance and lots of healthy discussion.

Next step, each group was asked to elect one delegate (possibly more than one depending on size of their group) to be their representative at the county convention. Each group quickly embraced the opportunity to choose their delegates. They nominated and voted their choices.

Finally, students were asked to submit resolutions by filling out the forms and reading their resolution to the rest of the caucus goers. This gave them another opportunity to communicate their convictions and strongly held positions.

The Democratic caucus experience is one of pure democracy in action.  It offers equal participation and was clearly an interesting and beneficial experience for these high school students.

Watch video of the Students’ Discussion with Dave Price at the End.

At the end of the night all the students returned to the auditorium for the final wrap up.  Dave Price quizzed the student delegates for their reactions.  They all indicated that it was interesting, educational and for some it may have sparked a lifelong interest in getting involved in politics.

Thanks to Tamyra, Ryan and all the volunteers that made this such a great success.