Caucus: Born in Colonial taverns

By Shelby Horton

The illustration above depicts colonial patriots who would  gather in taverns to discuss politics.
The illustration above depicts colonial patriots who would gather in taverns to discuss politics.

The 2016 presidential race resulted in record-setting turnouts in the highly watched Iowa Caucus.

However, many Americans don’t understand what a caucus is, or even the origin of the word.

A modern definition of caucus is: A meeting of members of a particular political party to select candidates or decide policy.

The U.S. tradition began with the Boston Caucus Club. Formed in 1719, it was an informal political organization that had a strong influence in Boston at the time. The Latin word “caucus” means “drinking vessel.” Alrighty, then.

These meetings, which were usually held in places like the Salutation Tavern, are believed to be linked to robust plans for the Boston Tea Party raid, and later for America’s independence movement.

Members included fiery patriots such as Samuel Adams and Paul Revere.

Caucuses officially became involved in the presidential nominating process in the 1820’s, where members of Congress would essentially choose the presidential nominees; it was reformed in the 1830’s.

The majority of states chose their delegates in caucuses prior to 1972. The system evolved so it was more open to rank-and-file participation.

Today only 10 states rely solely on the caucus, according to the Federal Election Commission.

Political parties arrange the caucus meetings and choose the times and locations.

A caucus allows participants to openly show their support for candidates, which is done by raising hands or moving into standing or seated groups.

Only registered voters can participate in these events. They are limited to the caucus of the party with whom they are registered.

The Democrat and Republican caucuses in Hutchinson will be March 5, at the 4-H Encampment Building at the state fairgrounds, and at the Atrium Hotel, 1400 North Lorraine, respectively.

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