The Iowa Caucuses Explained For British People

    What's an Iowa, and why should we care?

    So, it seems some non-Americans have a few questions about what's going on in American politics today.

    Let's find out!

    1. First things first: In an American accent, "Iowa caucus" is pronounced "Iowa cock-us" which is also kind of how it feels.

    2. Iowa is the first state to vote in the seemingly endless process of the two parties in the US choosing their candidates for president, which at this stage feels like it's been happening for about 57 years.

    3. Why is Iowa the first to vote? Because of some fucking history, that's why.

    4. This means the candidates have to spend an inordinate amount of time schlepping to and fro in Iowa, a state of around 3 million people, in a country of more than 300 million people.

    5. All of this makes Iowans weirdly powerful in American politics.

    6. In a field with so many candidates, both Democratic and Republican, campaigns are desperate for the undecided and the simply confused. So they make instructional videos like this one from the Sanders campaign to motivate their side.

    That's a two-term state senator and kindly older woman saying, "it's going to be fucking awesome." America!

    7. Wait, so who are those candidates?

    8. After the candidates traipse around different Iowa libraries and high schools and dismal gymnasiums, the actual voting begins.

    9. So what's a gal gotta do to caucus around here?

    Well, it's different for Democrats and Republicans.

    10. For Democrats, you go to one of 1,681 designated caucus-y places in Iowa at 6:30pm-ish. Then you listen to some speeches and decide who's your fave candidate and then go physically stand in their corner by 7pm.

    11. At 7pm some nice old lady comes round and counts how many people are in which corner. Some campaigns will have attracted loads, and some will have shat the bed.

    12. Then the losers who picked the unviable candidates have to desperately flit about the room deciding where to go instead like "shit shit shit shit".

    13. Then when they've made up their minds (or just want to go home tbh) they all go stand in their new, better corners with their real, viable, winner-y candidates.

    14. If, say, your name is "Fartin O'Falley", and you weren't viable in the end, you go home with nothing. That's why the ~viable~ campaigns are totally flirting with the loser candidates' supporters right now.

    15. For the Republicans, it's different. They basically just rock up and write the name of their fave on a bit of paper.

    16. Like they actually just write a name on some paper and it's a secret ballot and everything.

    Still called a "caucus" though, cause Iowans are all about the caucus.

    17. Delegates are divvied out proportionally to how many people caucused for you – remember, Americans don't vote directly for presidents, but elect "delegates" to go and vote for the candidate for them, which is honestly a bit silly.

    18. it worth staying up to wait for the results?

    19. A close result means the frontrunners get virtually the same number of delegates anyway, making it all slightly pointless. Still, everybody will still care who came first because it shows they have ~momentum~.

    20. Also it doesn't necessarily matter who wins the Iowa caucuses because they don't have the greatest track record of predicting the actual winners of the contests.

    21. Also, lol, in 2004, Howard Dean got third place in the Democratic race, which was a poorer showing than he'd expected – but what REALLY fucked him over was when he let out this guttural scream at a rally after the result.

    It sank his campaign and is basically all he's remembered for now, lmao.

    22. Anyway, after Iowa's all caucussed out, the very next week (9 February) all eyes turn to New Hampshire, where they do proper 21st-century voting.

    23. And finally, no one gives a shit about Iowa for the next four years.