Brian Kaylor, contributing editor for EthicsDaily.com and author of several books on religion and politics, talks in a new video interview with EthicsDaily.com about the Iowa caucus process and how faith plays into it.
“A caucus is a very unusual way to start a presidential race,” Kaylor says. “Frankly, if another country held an election like this, we would probably call it unfair and undemocratic.”
But, “it’s entertaining to watch,” he added.
Kaylor witnessed the caucuses firsthand in 2008, when Mike Huckabee won the Republican Iowa caucuses.
Kaylor explains in the interview the differences in how the Republican and Democratic causes unfold.
For example, in the Democratic caucuses, voters must publicly walk to a sign identified as the candidate for whom they wish to vote.
“So it’s not secret,” he says. “It’s not a ballot. And remember – these are your neighbors. This is precinct level. So these are the people you live next to right now seeing who you’re going to vote for.”
There is also an open window of time in the caucus in which folks can argue, try to persuade others to change their vote and so on.
Furthermore, “Your candidate has to get at least 15 percent of the vote in the precinct,” Kaylor says. “So if there’s a hundred people, you have to get at least 15 people, or no votes count for your candidate.”
Kaylor also explains how the caucus process can engender low voter turnout, which means that a particularly activated voter bloc can have an outsized impact. And conservative evangelicals in Iowa tend to vote at a higher rate than other Iowans.
“They [candidates] know where the votes are coming from,” Kaylor says, “and so they know that if you’re going to win Iowa, you have got to reach out to conservative evangelicals.”
That’s why candidates in Iowa “are constantly quoting Scripture, they are running television ads that almost sound like they are running for youth pastor or senior pastor more than running for commander-in-chief; they’re showing up at church.”
“You almost have to prove that you’re a good Christian,” Kaylor says, “or you don’t have a prayer of winning.”
Kaylor holds a doctorate from the University of Missouri in political communication. He has written several books on religion and politics, the most recent being “Sacramental Politics: Religious Worship as Political Action.” He also covers religion and politics for EthicsDaily.com.
Watch the interview with Kaylor at vimeo.com/ethicsdaily/interview-kaylor
Learn more about Kaylor at BrianKaylor.com
Watch other EthicsDaily.com video interviews at vimeo.com/ethicsdaily