The Iowa Caucus was two days ago. I’m still processing the results. If you are like me, I’m sure you have been following the absurd 24 hour news cycle waiting for the latest update. Though the Clinton campaign declared a victory, it is still unknown which candidate actually won the Iowa Caucus. As I was waiting for the results to role in, I took some time to reflect on my experience of working with the Clinton campaign.
When I was first assigned to the Hillary campaign, I did not experience a visceral reaction as others did. Though I have my qualms with her, regarding her stance on current racial issues, those anxieties exist between candidates and across party lines. Though some were sure that I would not be returning to campus as a result of being hired as Hillary’s new Chief of Staff, I was excited to get an inside scoop of campaign functions and headquarters activities. And that I did.
Something immediately stuck out to me.
Three days before we were due in Iowa, we received an email form the volunteer manager at the Hillary headquarters in Iowa. This was odd. Most volunteer coordinators are swamped with tasks and are not merely this prepared to instruct volunteers that are not arriving for three days. She revealed that we would be canvassing in the morning and then attending a three hour (yes, three hours) training session for our afternoon activity.
Just as promised, we arrived to the canvassing office that morning. The volunteers were organized and handed us a packet with a script, door decks, and directions. I was thrilled to get out and engage with the residents who would play such an influential role later in the day. Again, I noticed that this process was super organized. Were all of the campaigns functioning in this same capacity?
After finishing our canvassing assignment that morning, we rushed to our second location—The Hillary Clinton Headquarters.
This totally seemed normal to me. First time volunteers at the headquarters. Looking back I realize this was not normal. We had been given access to the true core of the Clinton campaign in Iowa. OMG.
It was time to face the three hour training session that I had been dreading. There were more than 200 slides that my eyes were forced to follow. We went through everything: caucus rules, strategies, norms for the office, etc. The only think that stuck out to me were the strategies that were revealed. I am not revealing any secret strategies for the Clinton campaign although we were separated by a curtain from individuals like Huma Abedin, Hillary’s special assistant.
It was clear that the Clinton campaign had a one up. They had trained “precinct captains” who knew the caucus rules, and how many people would be needed to receive a certain amount of delegates. In addition to trained leaders, they had another advantage. Precinct Leaders has access to an App that did the caucus math automatically. It also gave strategies to the leaders based on the results entered. Was this fair? Of course. Hillary had learned the game.
To ensure that the results were counted accurately all precinct leaders were instructed to report their final numbers to the headquarters in addition to the IDP. I was sure that Hillary would bring in a win, just from the organization and structure that her campaign embodied. There was no celebrating, only work. We would celebrate later, after the victory.
After our three hour training session, we were assigned to observe a caucus at a local precinct. Upon arriving, it was clear that more caucusers were out than expected. Were they Bernie supporters? As a result we were asked to leave in order to accommodate all of the residents. We relocated to another location. This caucus was being held in a large auditorium. This was the first time that we were able to experience the true excitement that the Iowa Caucus brings. Even though O’Malley voters refused to move after being deemed unviable, Hillary Clinton pulled out a narrow win at the precinct. This became the narrative for the night.
Hillary Clinton won. She will have more delegates at the county level. However, we know that the Iowa Caucus is about more than numbers.
More importantly, the Iowa Caucus left me with a hopeful feeling about politics. This caucus reminded me that no matter how many technological advances you have, connecting with people is still important to win a presidential election. Actors in politics are people, not pawns to be manipulated or controlled by technology. This is why more caucusers came out. This is why the race was so close. This is why Clinton rushed her speech and declared a premature victory. This is why Bernie positioned himself as the winner during his speech in Iowa. Out of all the strategies presented at the Hillary headquarters, the organized and structured Hillary staffers forget the simple and most important strategy—talk to people.