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Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Caucus. Please. Caucus

Our state is a caucus state. This means, if you want to vote in the primary, you have to go to some school building, at night, with a bunch of other people. 

First, you have to figure out which precinct you're in. 
Find the right room. 

You may say the good old pledge. 

For our Presidential caucuses, Democrats now vote with pieces of paper. 

If you're a Republican, you still have to the person holding the sign with your candidate's name and stand there until you are counted. By hand. With your names then scribbled on somebody's piece of paper. 

Last year, we caucused for the city elections. It was the first time that our city had a Somali candidate. Also the first time for an Oromo candidate. The Oromo may live in Somalia (and in Ethiopia) but culturally, they are very different. 
They were running against a Hmong candidate. 
Four precincts had been set up in one gymnasium. It was pandemonium. 

Passions were high, languages were many, English  was mostly spoken by bored party officials who wanted to put in their platform plank for, say, city-wide free wifi and get the heck out of there. 

They didn't want to have to verify addresses. They didn't want to have to explain the caucus process and wait for translators in various languages. "Nobody wants a walking caucus," they insisted. 

Everybody did. Furthermore, the new everybody's, the first-time everybody's, were afraid that people were trying to cheat them out of their rights. 

Fortunately, we were there. Although we had never done a walking caucus, I had participated in a small workshop on how to manage them. (In the workshop, we voted for candy. Twizzlers won our precinct.) 

My husband is an immigrant, the children of refugees. I knew my uncles, who were also refugees. And we had already made friends in both Somali and Oromo communities before the proverbial shit was about to hit the fan. I soothed, taught and explained while my husband volunteered to count people who forgot to put their hands down after they were counted. It was exciting. 

We got to be delegates to the Ward Convention, which ran nearly twelve hours without a conclusive vote for city council. 

In the end, the candidates worked it out among themselves, which was great, because while I liked our two first-time candidates, I have come to deeply respect our City Councilperson, who is a good, decent man and works very hard for the good of Hmong, White, African-American, Somali, Oromo and everybody else in his district. 

So the City Convention, where we were again delegates, was all about the School Board. Again it was messy, and passionate and intense. Back room politicking  Front door persuading. We knocked the bad guys out pretty early and then just had to fight for good or better guys. I feel confident that we were successful on that front. 

I'm planning to caucus tonight, though I don't know how much of the mess I'm going to stay for. I have a class I'm taking, about the business of writing. This is the last class. I couldn't talk them out of holding it tonight. Oh, well. 

The bad thing about caucuses is that you can't absentee vote. 

The good thing about caucuses is--oh, so many good things. I made friends. In the Somali and Oromo communities. In the white world. I now know my school board and my city council person. Know them. To talk to. To talk about concerns. To work toward better things for our city and our children's schools. 

And maybe that's the biggest point about a caucus. You can become politically active in a heart-beat. Just go. Talk to people. Listen to their concerns. Speak up about your own. Volunteer to be a delegate. Bring your kids along so they can see that this is how government should work. This is your government, my government--our government. It may be tedious, but it's not bad, or big or dishonest.  Remember, we all get the government we work for, and if we don't--well, you know what we get? Somebody like Mr. Trump, who can lie through his teeth and wait for the next news story to hit. 

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