My husband, Harvey, and I were affectionately called “caucus tourists” by the friendly folks in Iowa. Now that our week-long vacation is coming to a close, I would instead call us “candidate chasers.” With the help of apps and Google Maps, we traveled to restaurants in Ankeny, bars in West Des Moines and Ames, gymnasiums in Des Moines, and hotel convention rooms from the Marriott to the Embassy Suites.
We didn’t want to miss a single candidate event that was in a reasonable driving distance, and indeed, we saw many of them up close and quite personal. As longtime Hillary Clinton supporters, we also took some time out to canvas for her, going door-to-door in the ice and snow.
The highlight, of course, and the reason for our trip was to attend a local caucus. We were fortunate to stay at a lovely B&B, and we met other like-minded tourists, international reporters, and the owners of our B&B … one a Republican and the other a Democrat.
All of us walked a half mile to Merrill Middle School for caucus night. This was one of the few locations where both Democrats and Republicans caucus at the same location — Democrats in the gym, and Republicans in the auditorium and cafeteria. Probably to no one’s surprise, I stayed with the Democrats while my husband moved between the two.
The experience was remarkable and would take another article to explain the process, but suffice it to say that with almost 800 people in that gym, it was democracy in action albeit a little flawed. I asked my new friend, and the brave soul who ran the caucus, Jeff Goetz (a UCSB alum) what would prevent me, or any of the other many “observer” non-residents who were relegated to stand behind the basketball court black boundary line, from moving into the middle to stand with either the Hillary, Martin, or Bernie camps.
His response was quite simple, “We are all neighbors here and we are a very trusting community and that just wouldn’t happen.”
As with all election processes, this one has some flaws but in many ways reflects what is great about our country. People do care about who will lead us in the future; they will go out in the freezing cold to listen to the candidates and then make a decision on caucus night together with their friends and neighbors, and then go to work or school the next day and carry on!
Janet Wolf is 2nd District Supervisor for the County of Santa Barbara.