IMG_3419posted by Ciara Ciez on February 2, 2016 at 10:23 P.M.

Hey political pals!

“We came, we saw, we caucused!” –Hannah Dobie (but really Cam Migdol)

My name is Ciara Ciez and I’m a freshman at Wake Forest University. In this blog, I’ll be documenting my experiences as a member of Wake the Vote, a program in which students travel to different caucuses, primaries, and conventions in order to foster civic engagement in the democratic process. I am reflecting on our experiences during the Iowa caucuses as we begin our journey back to good ole Winston-Salem. I have so much to say but I’ll try to keep it brief and fun!

Our time in Iowa has been AMAZING. I anticipated lots of corn and snow and politicking and such. Instead, I experienced a state full of friendly people with a passion for politics (and also corn).

My trip started on a high note. I sat next to the most delightful Iowan couple on our flight who were so excited for me to caucus for the first time. Everyone I talked to throughout our travels was so happy to see a group of young people so active in the political process.

I awoke Monday morning (caucus day!!) running on pure adrenaline. Three other Wake the Vote students and I made our way to the Bernie Sanders headquarters where we were greeted by a young, hip Brit, Simon, who had a penchant for swear words. Simon briefly explained the canvassing process and then told us to get on our way (in a slightly more cheeky way). We canvassed in several different locations and experienced varied reactions. We canvassed about 100 houses and maybe 15 answered the doors. Most people who we talked to were super excited to see us out canvassing and getting involved. A lot of our canvass assignments were already Bernie supporters, which made our job easy. One notable woman, fed up with the amount of canvassers she had seen, slammed the door in Vonnie’s face. The best canvass-gone-wrong, though, was a cute, crabby, old man who said, “I’m 88 years old, I don’t need to go to no darn caucus.”

Each canvass got progressively more interesting. On our second canvass trip, we were followed by Reuters journalists (http://live.reuters.com/Event/Election_2016/225262553 ), which was super cool even though it probably means I maxed out my 15 minutes of fame. On our third and final (canvassing is VERY tiring) canvass, we were paired with two interesting fellas. Mark was a Panamanian who came to the U.S. to work on Bernie’s campaign. The other man, Sage, was a former football player who came to experience the caucuses firsthand. Every other phrase Mark uttered was, “Feel the Bern!” Sage was just chilling and he bought us coffee, which was pretty nice (Midwestern people are ~super~ nice).

After the long day of canvassing, we (Mark in tow) went to a bumping democratic caucus (above is a cool panoramic pic of our caucus at the Social Club) in downtown Des Moines- four times more people showed up than expected! Caucuses are crazy; seriously, I don’t know how they are effective. Voters are counted off by an official- a candidate needs a certain number of supporters to be “viable.” Following the initial count, the number of supporters for each candidate is counted and continually readjusted as supporters persuade the undecided voters toward a specific candidate. A caucus is probably the most confusing, interesting thing ever to happen in politics! I cannot convey the amount of activity that occurred; basically, there was just a lot of hand raising, talking, and counting. And then someone wins! It’s all very exciting and confusing and impossible to understand until you see it IRL.

 IMG_3434Following the caucus, we walked over to the Marco Rubio rally/victory party (check out the adorbs post-speech pic of Carl and me). We got super close to the stage and waited for Marco. The speech Marco gave was one of the most compelling and positive speeches of caucus night and I was so excited to have been there to help celebrate his third place ‘victory’ in the Iowa caucuses. Being integrated into both parties on one day of caucusing was a unique experience, too! It was interesting to see the different opinions on political topics. Keeping an open mind despite being placed in unexpected situations was the key to creating a fun, active time on caucus day. Yet, the people weren’t different. Both the democrats and the republicans were just so enthusiastic, happy, and hopeful throughout the day. Even when my views didn’t align with those of someone else, we were still able to find common ground and geek out about politics!

The Iowa Caucuses are a bucket list experience for every American. So many people are *SO* pumped to be engaging in the democratic process, regardless of affiliation. The positive energy across the state of Iowa is undeniable. Iowa provides an excellent opportunity to learn about American politics in a lively environment. The atmosphere of Des Moines on caucus day was electric and I cannot wait to come back!

Overall, the experience of the Iowa caucuses heavily defied my expectations. I had such a wonderful time meeting new people who were so passionate about politics. Also, I loved spending time eating pizza with our lovely (lovely, really) hotel staff. I am so grateful that I’ve been able to attend these caucuses and campaigns and rallies over the past couple days in Iowa. Thanks to all you readers and even bigger thanks to the people who make this possible (much love to PHI, Dani, Marianne, Fahim, and MHP)!

#blessed #WATTBA* #WakeTheVote

XOXO,

Ciara “I want to caucus ‘til I dropus” Ciez

P.S. I should, also, attribute “caucus ‘til I dropus” to Cam

*WATTBA=What a Time to Be Alive

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