autumn waves 2
Originally uploaded by auntieshelleyk

This is politics in Iowa.

I thought I’d offer a (very) little education about our caucus system – from my own experience.

First off … this photo is of my caucus site. An elderly couple who live on a farm a couple miles south of our little town have hosted the caucuses for our party and district since I moved back home at age 30.

My first experience at a caucus was here. As one of the youngest in the group, and as someone who could type without watching her fingers, I was quickly designated the secretary for the evening. Mostly because it wasn’t my first time seeing a laptop computer and I knew how to run the danged thing.

There were just over 50 people gathered throughout their home, many having brought some sort of home-baked goodie to share, discussing candidates with a sort of polite passion.

The little campaign volunteer – from California – who had been assigned to this caucus site wound up sharing information about her candidate in the kitchen and quickly caught on to the idea that she should just quietly answer questions and express herself with reasonable levels of enthusiasm.

I was one of a small handful of folks who had arrived undecided. So I wandered from the group on the front porch to the group in the kitchen to the group in the fireplace-dominated sitting room and listed to why the parents of a woman I’ve known since 3rd grade supported one candidate while the woman who had driven my schoolbus preferred another.

By the end of the evening, I was willing to declare myself with one particular candidate’s camp and – because my schedule would allow me to attend the county convention – I was made a delegate.

So, a few weeks later, I joined about 200 people ranging in age from 18 to 80 as they gathered in the antiquated gymnatorium of another local town’s municipal hall. We actually listened to some local politicians speak before dividing ourselves into groups by candidates.

We absorbed the groups of delegates that were too small to be declared “viable.” And we absorbed the groups representing candidates who had dropped from the race since the caucuses. We struck deals with each other that would probably never make it beyond that room at that moment.

And we discussed the things that concered us, and scared us, and that drove us to be there and share our opinions.

As part of the business of being there at our party’s county convention, we had to review, suggest changes to, and approve the planks of our party platform. I remember how my voice shook and adrenaline pumped as I felt driven to stand up and voice my disappointment that one of the proposed planks seemed mean-spirited and discriminatory and – I can’t even remember what it was about. But it meant a lot to me, and after I spoke some people actually stopped and thought about it and changed their minds and together we crafted new language and that language was what we sent along to the state convention.

I do remember that I really wanted to be a delegate for the state convention, but I had to settle for being an alternate. Frankly, by the time the state convention rolled around, my life had taken some serious twists, and as an alternate, I let the party know that I wouldn’t be able to attend.

But what astonishes me still is that I got to be this involved – I got to contribute to this degree just because I went over to my neighbor’s house on one particular night and talked about topics that meant a lot to me.

This is really how our government works.

This is how we can be involved.

All we have to do is show up.

This is Shelley, 35, and quietly doing my part in Iowa.