Friday, January 04, 2008

Participative Democracy.

Yesterday, I wrote a very long detailed post. It was about the caucus, or politics in general. I gave the pros, the cons, and the details of the caucus process. But I was having trouble keeping the post neutral. You see, this is a knitting blog, and as much as I love to talk politics, I don't think it belongs here. I know that I have readers (at least a few) with varying background and beliefs, and somehow, the nuances of political rhetoric are difficult to capture in writing. I don't want to offend someone with my opinion (however rational and well-researched it may seem to me) - especially if you came here for the knitting. Oh, and there has been knitting. But that will wait until tomorrow.

I wasn't even going to caucus last night. Rykert and I were all ready to go until he realized that January 3rd was actually on Thursday and he had to work. I didn't want to go alone. The caucus process can be prolonged. But when the time came, I couldn't ignore the hype and I drove myself to the local elementary school, parked blocks away, shuffled through the snow in the cold, waited in an interminable line, and then stood up and was counted. The whole process took over 3 hours.

Once every four years Iowa gets its 15 minutes. And, despite our exhaustion with the entire process (e.g., the ridiculous television ads, the mailings, the phone calls (I had 3 differents "pollsters" call within 20 minutes the other night), and the voicemail inbox full of invitations to rallies, etc.), Iowans take our 15 minutes seriously. We have the opportunity to look at all the candidates. The caucus process is grass roots democracy in action. As quirky as it may seem, it is, by far, the most democratic process I've ever seen in action.

So, while I'm not going to give you the details of what caucus I attended (you can probably figure it out from my description) or who I caucused for, I will say that I was incredibly impressed with what I saw. Standing in line to confirm my registration, I was shocked at the number of very young people (probably first time voters - 17 or 18) waiting in line. This country has, historically, had trouble getting people to vote (in the 2004 general election approximately 50% of the voting age population voted nationally, and Iowa did a little better getting close to 70%). And in contrast, caucusing takes far more commitment than simply stopping by the local precinct any time during election day and casting a ballot. For reference, in 2004 my precinct had approximately 200 people (a little more) participate in the caucus, and last night there were nearly 600. Regardless of how you feel about the outcome of this or any other of the upcoming races, you cannot deny that it is a very good thing to have more people engage in the electoral process and educate themselves better on the issues and candidates early in the selection process.

So, I stood and I was counted. And it took over 3 hours. But I think, judging by what was being reported on CNN when I got home, we were one of the last precincts to report. And now, I'm happy that the ads will end and the phonecalls will stop. For those of you outside of Iowa, please know that we cannot exaggerate the volume of these in the past year.

Tomorrow, or sometime soon, knitting will resume.

6 comment(s). Tell me what you think!:

Rykert said...

If only we could delete voicemails without having to listen to the entire message. Oh how canidates love to talk till it beeps.

Jennifer said...

Fascinating. Despite being from Iowa, I was never in Iowa during a caucus while I was registered to vote there. I think I missed out on a great bit of Americana. I'm glad you went. It does seem that the best bit of news to come out of the caucus is the high number of voter turnout. Yeah!

Knittripps said...

My husband and I both participated in our caucus last night. I had done it once before but he never had. We were both overwhelmed with how big the event was. We had 370 and in past years it was about half of that. My first choice candidate was not viable (close but no cigar) so had to move on to my second choice.

Debbie said...

I had to put a sign on my door, "no politics, thanks."

I enjoy the caucus process too, but do not like the fact that the participation is limited to such a relatively short period of time. Those of us like me and Rykert (and thousands of others) who had to work or had other important commitments had no choice but to miss it. The process itself may be democratic, but the access to it is, I think, unduly limited.

By the way, I don't think you need to limit your posts to knitting, it's your blog, talk about what you want.

janna said...

Being a new Iowan, I was really looking forward to caucusing -- then I developed the worst migraine I've had in years. I was in no shape to drive, much less to hang around a hot, crowded gym for several hours. I was pretty disappointed.

I will say that I've heard lots of arguments about how it's not really democratic because so many people aren't able to participate -- but having lived (and voted) in states with regular primaries, the participation rate in those is very, very low, even though they don't have the restrictions the caucuses do. I realize that there's a difference to choosing not to take part and not being able to take part, but I also think that, numbers-wise, the caucuses are just as representative as primary elections.

Wool Winder said...

Now you can go back to getting just regular irritating sales calls...until the election, that is.

The process of the caucus is very interesting to me. I really had no idea how it was different from a primary until I saw a brief explanation on television this year. It's not something we ever learned about in school or if we did, I sure don't remember.

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