And they’re off.

But before we leap headfirst into the race to pick the two major party candidates for president of the United States, let us pause for a moment to say thank you to Iowa.

The Hawkeye State is not like the rest of the country, it’s often said, and that’s true. In at least one respect, that also is unfortunate. Because on Monday night, Iowans gave us a tutorial on political engagement and showed us what the phrase “democracy in action” really means.

In Iowa, it meant long, snaking lines at schools, firehouses and other voting sites in 1,681 precincts, and waits of several hours to get inside.

It meant many young people caucusing for the first time, and many parents bringing their children to witness the spectacle.

It meant undecided voters being lobbied in person to come join some candidate’s team, and tiny knots of supporters sticking defiantly by their choices. It meant some precincts running out of ballots, some caucuses starting late, and some voters watching anxiously as slips of paper with their selections were dropped into cardboard boxes for counting.

It was both quaint and compelling, and the rest of the nation should take note. Especially jaded New York, where voting often is treated not like a responsibility but like an errand that simply does not have to get done today.

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As for the actual results — Ted Cruz winning the Republican contest, Hillary Clinton squeaking past Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side — what do they mean? Are people really fed up with politics as usual? Is Donald Trump’s brand really tarnished? Is a political revolution really brewing? Who knows? That will be determined Tuesday in New Hampshire, and in the primaries beyond.

For now, let’s revel in the fact that more Iowa Republicans by a long shot voted in the caucuses than ever before, and that Iowa Democrats produced their closest finish ever. And that many experts, claiming that anger and frustration are motivating much of the electorate, think New Hampshire will threaten or break its primary voting records.

And let’s hope that the excitement and engagement continue.

— The editorial board