Last night was the Colorado Democratic Caucus – I hadn’t participated in a caucus before, and was excited to have the chance. (I guess I had either been in Chicago, and thus absentee voting or….no idea where I was in 2012…)
I went to the high school where my precinct was gathering, along with what seemed like every other precinct (the line wrapped around the school). I just walked past the line since I already knew which precinct I belong to, so I got a nametag and waded into the massive throng of people gathered in the high school cafeteria. I wiggled around a bit, found a chair, and sat down, thinking that I might as well sit since the chair was taking up valuable standing space.
I started talking to a woman sitting next to me about politics, of course. I liked her immediately. It wasn’t until 20 minutes after the whole thing was supposed to begin that it actually even limped toward beginning. People were standing on tables, attempting to do their best impressions of public speakers, with non-working microphones and the general mood turning from politically perky to restless and annoyed.
After they called out each location of the precincts, of which there were at least twenty crammed into a cafeteria (we had one lunch table for what would be 50 people), they herded us into another location (thankfully), and we spread out a bit. It was no longer coats in faces and millimeters of space between your face and the next person’s.
We divided ourselves into candidates, with a neutral zone in the middle for anyone who might be undecided. No one was.
We counted off. One, two, three…it was calming. I was standing next a whiteboard, and you know how much I love to write on any sort of chalk or whiteboard, so of course I was keeping track of the tally. And then of the upcoming events.
Soon enough, they were calling for a chairperson and a secretary. I’m a super volunteer, for reasons unknown, and am always willing to take on more things (…my mother is currently directly affected by me volunteering her to make a quilt for Adoption Camps, which I promptly forgot about, and then remembered only when we were given an entire bag of neatly folded t-shirts for quilting sacrifice). So of course, when they asked for the secretary, the room was still and silent, no one was trying to be caught even breathing for fear of having the attention cast upon them, so I raised my hand and piped up, “I’ll do it!”
Shakily, I spelled my name, blushing because that’s how I roll when I begin any sort of public speaking/attention focused endeavor. But after that, we began getting the necessary signatures and I found myself standing behind our chairwoman as we slowly progressed through the alphabet. A names….B names…
Finally, I just took the last half of the alphabet and started picking people out of the room to come up and sign. I was done before they’d hit G.
We also dealt with proposal for the party platform – one of which was return to the primary system rather than a caucus. 50 votes in favor of that one.
Our little precinct has 3 delegates, so we are sending 2 for Bernie Sanders and 1 for Hillary Clinton, the result of a late in the night coin toss after an issue with two people being in the wrong place and causing the preferences in our precinct to be split evenly down the middle. Since I already have to go to the thing as the secretary, I’m going to be a delegate as well.
It’ll be fun! Yay, next Saturday – I was going to be skiing, but now I’ll be performing a civic duty. Shame that I don’t get to miss any work to do it.
It was curious to me – the room was split evenly among the two candidate supporters, as I’ve mentioned, but I found that it was interesting that the division ran along age lines. All of the middle aged and upwards were in the Hillary camp and all of the younger ones, including an adorable toddler who immediately came up to me with her water bottle because I had mine too, were on the Sanders side.
A Hillary supporter spoke out about how he’s not in favor of any kind of socialism, and I began to wonder if that’s part of the age divide. Maybe it’s because I’ve never faced socialism as a word with a seriously negative connotation, but I’m not in the least bothered by the assertion of “democratic socialism.” (Also, I’m not opposed to socialism, but that’s another post entirely…)
I did find it inspiring to see how many people turned out last night. I ran into a few friends, and I went and caught up with one of them over dinner after the caucusing had concluded.
While caucusing may be a very annoying process, I was happy to meet some of my neighbors. That element was really cool. One of them recognized me from when we had the dog, another is a woman I know through work, and our chairperson is the woman that I was talking to before the caucus began.
I know that a lot of my peers are disillusioned with the political process and the state of our government as a whole, and I agree. But in making the choice not to vote, they’re eliminating the right to complain about any of it, because it is (frustrating as it may be) only through participation in the established processes that we will be able to enact any sort of lasting change. I vote because I can. And I will. Because my vote does count, even when you think about it being swallowed up as a whole. Had I not gone to my caucus last night, it would have been 25 Hillary to 24 Bernie, and she’d be getting 2 delegates instead of the other way around. We all have impacts on our environments and surroundings, and it’s important to remember that even though we are small, we are not insignificant.