I took part in the Washington State Democratic caucuses today. It was a special day in more than one way– not only are the stakes in this election extremely high, but it was the first caucus in which my daughter was able to participate. This simultaneously made me extremely proud and reminded me of my age. Just a little while ago my daughter was far, far more interested in crayons and her dolls than politics…
Our district caucus was held at one of our local high schools. We arrived early, but not early enough– the school parking lot was jammed, and street parking was quickly filling up. I dropped my wife and daughter off, and then had to find parking seven blocks away. This made my hike back to the high school a bit of a chore, as I am nursing a sprained knee (and a possible meniscus tear– medical assessment in progress).
But I wasn’t going to miss this caucus.
The caucus was wall-to-wall with people– quite probably the largest number of people I have ever seen at a caucus in this state. People congregated by precinct, and the subsequent discussion was passionate, but generally respectful. In the end Bernie Sanders took three-quarters of our precinct vote, Hilary Clinton one quarter, which, at the moment, roughly matches the proportion of the vote state-wide.
It was good, face-to-face grass-roots democracy, and nobody called anybody names, and nobody got into a fistfight. It gives me hope, seeing so many people engaged and looking for change.
Because, frankly, in this country we need hope, and we need change. There is a real sense that our essential democracy is slipping away. Working people are getting profoundly shafted, and our republic is in danger of becoming a plutocratic oligarchy. I am convinced that if certain people from the other party become president (by which I mean all of them, but some more than others) the danger to the country will move from chronic to acute. We need a political revolution in this country to restore our democracy, and to point the US toward a future that includes everyone.
The problem is that there are a lot of people whose dreams for this country are quite different, far, far too many of whom are threatened by the changes the country is going through, and who are looking for scapegoats for their sense of dislocation. Certain politicians are pandering to that fear and paranoia and dislocation, offering up empty promises of ‘restored greatness’. Others are ideologues spouting doctrines that are seriously disconnected from verifiable reality, such as denying global warming in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence. And all of this is wrapped up in a political polarization that is destroying our sense of all being Americans together.
So I’m hopeful, and I’m worried. It’s seven-plus months to the general election, which is very long time in American politics, and will be even more so in this election, which has been off-the-wall whacked-out and off the charts. All we can do is buckle up, hang on and keep working toward what we believe is right, while remembering that while one election is not going to automatically make everything better, that one election could also put us in serious danger.
At minimum, I can do two things for my country at the moment– pray and vote. To my mind, that’s a pretty powerful combination.