Speaking up and participating in the process
It’s not every day that I can say this: I did something this past Saturday that I’ve never done before (note to self: change this so you can say it more often!). Oh, I don’t mean I changed my daily routine or did my errands in a different order, or even tried a new restaurant, shopped in a new store, or visited a new town. No, this was one of those things you always hear about but don’t do. I caucused! That is, participated, for real, in my state’s democratic caucus. I had no idea what to expect, but feel so strongly about this election (upcoming U.S. presidential election) that I couldn’t not. The past two decades have been a bit of a roller coaster politically in the U.S., and I feel very emphatic that our future is on the line (well, it always is, but it’s easier to ignore how important these things are when life seems more peaches and cream). I will state up front that I am cynical about the process, enough to believe that there’s a lot of it that’s just plain rigged, and I don’t believe it’s at all fair or equal in how votes/voices are heard and tallied. Some carry more weight than others (superdelegates, for one example), and that right there is just wrong. But still I went, because not to go at all felt like giving up on being heard, and I am so glad I did. I think the “energy,” if you will, of participating, joining in, for speaking up about who and what I believe in, is what is most important. The energy of my beliefs is added to the energy of others’ and grows exponentially. I sent my order in to the ol’ cosmic kitchen, and the burners are hot! Or should I say Berners? Because let’s not be coy here – I am firmly, emphatically, completely supporting candidate Bernie Sanders, with my vote, with my wallet, and with my voice. While I’ve admired him for many years, this is the first chance I’ve ever had to vote for him and I wasn’t going to pass it up.
The caucus process was interesting to this newbie (five decades on the planet, with all of my voting years in this state, and I’ve never done this before). A few people who’d done it before knew the ropes, but I got the feeling I wasn’t the only newbie there. The Washington State Democratic party was telling people to get to our caucus location (mine was the elementary school down the street) at 9:00 a.m., though the caucus wouldn’t start until 10:30, as there was a concern for expected crowds and the desire to avoid something like what happened in the Arizona primary a couple of weeks ago.
We were able to start gathering by precinct at 10:00, and sitting with others in my area, we chatted about this and that, learning more about each other (of course I struck up a conversation with a young woman who had a border collie mix she’d trained to herd sheep…we knew some of the same people, and were able to share dog and sheep stories). About a half hour in they moved three of the precincts, mine included, from the cafeteria to the school library. We gathered in our groups and chatted some more. At 10:30, the caucus official came in to explain the process and get us started, first leading us in a pledge of allegiance. I can’t remember the last time I said this, and hand over heart (looking for a flag the room), I recited with the others.
Then we got started. A young man read the procedures to our group, while a volunteer secretary made sure he covered all the pertinent points (via a checklist provided by the State Democrats). Our caucus sign-in sheets were collected and tallied. This is the form you use to list your preference – there’s a box for “at sign-in” and a second box for “final, if changed.” Then we were asked if we would like to speak on behalf of our candidate. There were four volunteers to start (two for Hillary Clinton, and two for Bernie Sanders) and each spoke eloquently and respectfully of others, even in the “rebuttal” portion (not official, but there was a little back and forth here – a good thing!), where several more people spoke up. We each felt passionately about our candidate, yet respected the process and each other.
Daisy appreciated the chooks’ work in the garage.
I was most impressed by a young man, maybe late 20s/early 30s, there with his wife and adorable baby girl, speaking for my chosen candidate. He hadn’t intended to speak, he said, but he spoke well, and eloquently, about Senator Sanders. One thing he spoke to, and something I’ve found interesting in this election, is the near-universal statement by Hillary Clinton supporters that they like Bernie, but feel she’s the more pragmatic choice (generalizing) – more likely to get the nomination, the establishment name, etc. They like Bernie but don’t feel he’s electable so are supporting someone who they feel is electable, because she’s more middle of the road, willing to work with the other party, etc. So rather than support one candidate’s ideals and progressive visions for our country, it’s better to take the safe route and vote for the one who can play the game (this term was used more than once). While a part of me understands this, the young man responded to this notion in such a way that I almost wanted to cheer, telling us (I’m paraphrasing) if we started out the process by compromising our vote and our beliefs, why do this at all?
The fellow who was the leader for the group (read instructions, etc.) spoke last, and quietly yet from the heart. He, too, was probably in his 20s, and looked like one of the young farmers in the valley. And what he said was exactly what I was thinking that morning, with regard to Senator Sanders. That we have a candidate that is human in a way we haven’t seen in a long, long time. Bernie’s entire platform is with regard to human rights, humanity, and human integrity, and what we can do as a society to help the least among us and bettering the planet at the same time. The young man cited the bird incident at a rally in Portland a couple days prior, where a small wild finch, stuck inside the arena with the crowd, flew down and landed on Senator Sanders’ podium as he was speaking to the crowd – the audience went wild, but it was the look on Bernie Sanders face as he stopped, smiling at the little bird… If I didn’t already believe in his vision for what our country can be, this would have convinced me – this is the human being I want leading my country.