OP-EDS

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January 20, 2004

Iowa caucuses launch primary season

The Maroon sent some of its staff members to cover the Iowa caucuses this weekend, and it seems they had a pretty good time—be sure to check out their caucus coverage on page 8. Student involvement, and student journalist involvement, has never been more important in campaigns, and we were excited to observe and report on this first round of voting.

Maroon staffers spoke with campaign managers and spokespeople, interviewed campaign activists, rubbed shoulders with professional journalists, and attended a slew of political events, but they seemed most struck by the lack of voter involvement. Over 600,000 Iowans are registered Democrats, but only 100,000 participated in the caucuses. This dismal showing is still a huge improvement over the 2000 caucuses, when a measly 61,000 took part. Though the Iowa caucuses are an interesting and important part of the campaigns, we should keep in mind that very few Americans—and hardly a representative sample—are actually involved in caucuses themselves, and a Democratic race minus Wesley Clark and Joe Lieberman is not at all decisive. The Democrats have 49 states ahead of them, and while the Iowa caucuses are an exciting first step, they are just that: a first step.

We are at the start of what promises to be a very interesting political season, but the 2004 elections are still 10 months away. Now is the time to be excited, involved, active, outspoken, persuasive. Now is the time to listen carefully and think critically. The results of the Iowa caucuses are of course interesting and important, but we must keep in mind that 100,000 people do not an election make. Rather, the most important lesson the Maroon staffers learned in Iowa—and one we could all do well to heed—is that participation is crucial. For many students in the College, this election is the first chance to vote in presidential primaries and elections. The Maroon staff, both the members still in Iowa and those of us in Chicago, encourages everyone to take this opportunity to participate in politics and government, first and foremost by voting, but just as importantly by viewing this election season with clear logic and patience. We have quite a race ahead of us: ladies and gentlemen, start your engines.