caucus


caucus
/kaw"keuhs/, n., pl. caucuses, v.
n.
1. U.S. Politics.
a. a meeting of party leaders to select candidates, elect convention delegates, etc.
b. a meeting of party members within a legislative body to select leaders and determine strategy.
c. (often cap.) a faction within a legislative body that pursues its interests through the legislative process: the Women's Caucus; the Black Caucus.
2. any group or meeting organized to further a special interest or cause.
v.i.
3. to hold or meet in a caucus.
v.t.
4. to bring up or hold for discussion in a caucus: The subject was caucused. The group caucused the meeting.
[1755-65, Amer.; appar. first used in the name of the Caucus Club of colonial Boston; perh. < ML caucus drinking vessel, LL caucum < Gk kaûkos; alleged Virginia Algonquian orig. less probable]

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      any political group or meeting organized to further a special interest or cause.

      The word caucus originated in Boston in the early part of the 18th century, when it was used as the name of a political club, the Caucus, or Caucus Club. The club hosted public discussions and the election of candidates for public office. In its subsequent and current usage in the United States, the term came to denote a meeting of either party managers or duty voters, as in “nominating caucus,” which nominates candidates for office or selects delegates for a nominating convention. The caucus of a party's members in Congress nominated its candidates for the office of president and vice president from 1796 until 1824. At the same time, the candidates for governor and lieutenant governor were nominated by the party members of the state legislatures in what was known as the legislative nominating caucus. Occasionally, districts unrepresented in the legislature sent in delegates to sit in with the members of the legislature when these nominations were made, and this was termed the mixed legislative nominating caucus.

      The American (United States) use of the term denotes a faction within a legislative body that attempts to further its interests by influencing either party policy on proposed legislation or legislative offices; hence such bodies as the Black Caucus (representing African Americans) and the Women's Caucus.

      In Great Britain (United Kingdom), the term came into wide use in 1878, when Joseph Chamberlain (Chamberlain, Joseph) and Frank Schnadhorst organized the Liberal Association of Birmingham on strict disciplinary lines, with a view toward managing elections and controlling voters. This type of organization became the model for other Liberal Party associations throughout the country; and, because it was a supposed imitation of the U.S. political machine, Benjamin Disraeli (Disraeli, Benjamin, Earl Of Beaconsfield, Viscount Hughenden Of Hughenden) gave it the name “caucus.” Thus, the term came to be used thereafter not in the American sense of a meeting but of a closely disciplined system of party organization, not infrequently as a term of abuse applied by politicians of one party to the controlling organization of its opponents.

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Universalium. 2010.

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