Friday, January 04, 2008


I know I swore off writing about politics (which is very difficult for anyone who knows me) but I think this post doesn't count in the way I meant on to find out what I mean. (Also, as a side note, my roommate and I have chosen not to purchase cable television which, while liberating, is frustrating during election season as I have to wait until things are posted online before I know what is going on)

In any case, I have been intrigued by the Iowa Caucuses as has most of the viewing public, however, I did not really understand how they work. I heard a lot about "disenfranchised voters" and other issues and about getting to the caucus at the right time and platforms and loads of other things...I didn't know what was going on so, I googled it. I read about how the process works and found it incredibly interesting and democratic on so many levels (and yet, still disenfranchising also. pity) I stumbled across a news story about a lesbian couple who were caucusing and, to me, they demonstrated more than anything I've seen in a while the idea that all politics is local (or is all politics national? I forget).

Their names are Elizabeth Barnhill and Peg Whorton and theirs is the face of democracy. They have eight children and seven grandchildren. They took two of their daughters to the caucuses with them. The way the caucuses work in Iowa, in what seems to be an automatic run off situation (where everyone does their primary vote and the candidates who do not receive a certain threshold of voting percentage must vote for one of the other candidates) where voting is done out loud and in person. So, if I wanted to vote for Joe Schmoe, when balloting begins, me and other Schmoe followers have to literally gather together in a corner of the room. If Schmoe doesn't have enough representation, my group disbands and I go join group Jane Doe.

This makes your vote very public and personal, something which seems undemocratic to me, and yet, does force people to take their vote very seriously. After voting for your party's candidate, however, is when the even more interesting yet less covered fun begins. At each caucus, any member of the party can raise a discussion point to be voted on in that caucus. If your caucus votes to support it, it is sent further up the political chain of command so that, ideally, your opinion and ideas can become part of the state party's platform!

This brings me back to Elizabeth and Peg. How often when we vote on an issue is it an issue that directly effects us? Moreover, how often do we have a voice, however small, in national politics? Here is a situation where Elizabeth and Peg were there to vote, with their daughters with them, and were able to raise their voices about what they believe is persecution for their sexual orientation. In front of their daughters, who they believe are also unfairly treated, they had a voice about what the State and National Democratic Party (although it could have been any party) would say about them. Inversely, it reminds me that the parties are there to serve the good of the people. When platforms are developed, when policies are stated, they do not exist in a vacuum, they exist in reality, and they do so to serve the smallest individual in our great society.

It reminds me that when I vote, it's not abstract. When I vote on an issue, it effects people, places and things which are all tangible for better or worse, and reminds me that my vote could harm or help people like Peg and Elizabeth, there in Iowa, with their children.

This isn't a call to vote one way or another, but simply to remind myself (and I guess my readers also) to take their votes seriously and to remember that it is government and laws that serve the people, so remember the people when you talk and think politics this year.


Blogger tom scott said...

Lord, I don't know how you two are doing without cable....

(Adam, this is Scott, Adam Snyder's "uncle" in St. Petersburg -- the one with manatees, not the one with the czarist palaces.)

I agree with your observations on the courage of Elizabeth and Peg. No doubt they didn't expect to be in the CSPAN spotlight the other night. But I differ with you, I think, on the legitimacy of the local caucus process and the formation of party platforms. In my experience (in Travis County, TX, of all places), the caucus process encourages extreme opinions to the right or left, and what we're left with is a list of party positions leaving little room for any centrist contributions. Anyone presenting differing viewpoints is often shouted down or made fun of by the louder participants. Unfortunately. And then the party platform becomes a litmus test for who is more 'this' or 'that'.

And this from someone who used to be an openly-gay "Jesse Jackson for President" county convention delegate.... Boy, times and people change!

Tom Scott

12:26 PM  

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