A view from the ground

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I haven’t posted here before, but I think I’m ready to do some talking about Iowa politics and my involvement from my corner of Johnson County. I could talk about my beginnings in Iowa, my past involvement, etc — but for now, I’ll give a glimpse into the live of a volunteer in the caucus during this insane time.

My perspective as a caucus-goer and activist in 2016 is markedly different from 2008. I’m quite sure that 24-year-old-me would have been a Bernie supporter. I’ve seen Bernie speak twice, and I like what he has to say. But now, as a parent, a thirtysomething, and a more seasoned political activist, what draws me to a candidate is pragmatic plans of action, party involvement, and a history of achievement. For me, Hillary emerged early on as the right choice. After a few conversations, my husband was on board. Over the summer, I joined facebook groups for all the candidates, and a Hillary organizer contacted me right away for coffee. I was struck by her energy, her focus, and her love of Friday Night Lights. Part of what I’ve learned as an activist is that the character of a candidate’s supporters says a lot about the candidate — and regardless, if you’re going to spend a lot of time with other supporters, you want to like them. I really like the Hillary people. They are — we are — intelligent, grounded, hardworking, and fun-loving. I signed a caucus card at Pride in Iowa City and hosted a house party soon afterwards.

I saw involvement in the caucus as a way to get to know my community better, and that has proven true. Calling my neighbors, walking the streets across highway 1 or out by the lake, I know Solon better now than I have in the 5 years I’ve lived here. Back in October, we had a long conversation with a local pastor on his porch, not just about politics, but about our town, and about religion. I chatted with Pat Ikan on her porch while my children rode their bikes recklessly across Green Acres Drive until I had to pull myself away from her amazing stories to attend to them. I got over my fear of the phone and called a lot of strangers, introducing myself as a local who lives near the Auto Medic, getting cards from my daughter’s soccer coach and a few schoolmates’ parents.

My daughters watch movies while we sit at the dining room table going down call sheets. Our organizer gives them piggy backs. They met Joaquin Castro and then, last month, we got to meet Hillary herself and sit front row during a town hall. I can’t tell you the pride I feel knowing that my kids got to meet such a prominent woman leader — and hopefully, if our work pays off, the first female president. I think we forget about how momentous this is. Even thought my 7-year-old sometimes complains about being sick of “those caucus people,” she also geeks out over debates and was so proud to meet Hillary. My five-year-old says that she likes Hillary because “she has so much braveness in herself.”

A frustration I have with the narrative of the Democratic caucus thus far is that the Sanders campaign is the “real” grassroots campaign. A lot of that is due to his refusal of corporate money, which I understand and agree is cool. But I challenge anyone to look at the work my family does and describe it as anything other than grassroots. Yes, Hillary has a network of paid staff who’ve been here since the early early days, and money certainly fuels that. But it’s a professional, hardworking, and organized group doing the same door-to-door and social media networking that Obama wowed us with in ’08. It’s a gold standard campaign, a model, and I’ve learned a hell of a lot. And ultimately, it is person-to-person, door-to-door, and volunteer-driven. Our organizer organizes us so we can organize ourselves, and thank goodness for that. I’ve learned an incredible amount about how to get things done at the community level. I’ve shared my reasons for supporting Hillary and had people come on board. And come caucus night, I’m hoping that my work will pay off.

January will be packed with caucus work. What makes me excited is the enormous sense of reward I get from working with similarly driven people, folks who actually show up, aren’t afraid to knock doors in the Iowa winter, folks who want to make change. That’s the magic of the Democratic community in JoCo, the organizing model we use–and it’s the magic of Iowa. It makes me incredibly proud.

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