Countdown to Caucus: Young Catholic Voters Still Undecided in Iowa

Tags: Currents Bernie Sanders, Catholic Church, Catholic Community, Catholic Democrats, Catholic Voting, Crux, Debate, Democrats, Election, Elections, Elections 2020, Elizabeth Warren, Iowa, Iowa Caucus, National News, Politics

By Michelle Powers

Adyson McKinney spends her day to day working for Elizabeth Warren as the president of the Saint Ambrose College Democrats in Iowa. 

For Adyson, a walk through the heart of campus is the slowest part of her day. She’s balancing schoolwork and a dream job working for Warren’s campaign. In her spare time, it’s crunch time: she spends it influencing her classmates to get out and vote.

“After classes I will go over to the office, I’ll pick up a couple of door knocking packets, I’ll go talk to people out in the community,” she explained. 

Now, the Iowa Caucus is just hours away.

“I’m very tired and I’m probably going to sleep for like a whole week afterwards, but I would trade it for the world. It’s great,” she said.

According to Adyson, the 2020 prospects have pinpointed her peers as the key to victory in a crowded caucus. Small margins might mean the difference between going on to New Hampshire, or getting out of the race.

But Iowa history dictates that looking to young people might not be the best strategy. 

For political science professor Dr. Bill Parsons, it’s much more complicated than that.  Caucusing isn’t exactly easy.

 “It’s not as if the entire student body drops everything to go to one of these events,” he explained. “A primary is quick, a caucus isn’t.” 

College students don’t exactly have a lot of time, so candidates are coming to them. 

With no clear frontrunner, they keep stopping by, making pitches directly to students.

The campus at St. Ambrose is a unique one: it’s one of the few Catholic campuses in the state. 

Although students may be enthused, many are torn, noted the university’s campus minister, Fr. Thom Henne. “I can see that kind of wrestling match going on in their hearts and in their minds. They don’t fit, neatly, a category” he said. 

Students who spoke with Currents News identified immigration, health care, climate change and LGBT right as concerns important to them — all social issues the catholic church feels strongly about

 “Voting is a gift from God,” explained Fr. Henne. 

For Catholics — like citizens — it’s both a responsibility and a duty.

Ryan Sandness, a student who was born and raised in Illinois, newly realized what really weighs on the shoulders of his friends in the same circumstances. 

“One thousand New Yorkers are the equivalent of Iowa voter,” he explained.

For instance, the success of Bernie Sanders in 2016 — that brought him to a near tie with Hillary Clinton — was largely based on his young supporters.

“There will be caucus sites where there will be, like, fifty people could show up,” said Dr. Parsons. “There will be others where there will be a thousand.” 

The young vote may have the biggest impact in the smallest precincts. One thing Adyson realized: if she can convince her friends to caucus, she can double the population and effectively carry the caucus.

Turnout is expected to be pretty big this year.

“Inform yourself,” urged Fr. Henne, “and take this to prayer and make the best vote that you possibly can according to your conscience.”

Many believe it will rival Iowa’s 2008 record, which saw unprecedented numbers of first-timers who showed up to propel Barack Obama to victory.