It’s the day of the Iowa caucuses and I can’t read the news. Why? All the news headlines are about Iowa. Reading the news is less a diversion and like looking in the mirror. I know! I know! I clicked on the BBC website in order to get my morning news, and the headline: The World is Watching Iowa. I am watching Iowa too, and right now it looks a bit foggy and there is some water dripping off the roof. Also, I see a squirrel.
We will go tonight, of course, after wrangling my mother-in-law and her wheelchair into the car (she broke her ankle last week), and we will drive to our caucus site. This year, have to go to the Ridgeway Community Center. For some reason they have grouped a handful of rural townships into one location, and ours happens to be twenty miles away. It will take us a half hour to get there, and the fog has just rolled in. (Can you imagine, voter, wherever you are, driving a half an hour in order to simply VOTE?) We need to eat our dinner early. Leave here about 5:45 pm. I won’t be going to my usual yoga class—it’s been cancelled tonight for the caucus.
Yes, a caucus is a weird thing.
I’ll never forget my first caucus after I had moved back to Iowa after living for 15 years in California. As I walked into the high school cafeteria, a volunteer pointed out my options. “The Kucinich group is up here. Hilary supporters are that group on the left. Barack Obama back there on the right. … “ Hilary had been the front runner, but the tables designated for the Obama voters had a lot more people, in fact were already full. The Hilary tables had empty seats, Tupperware containers of sandwiches, and some of our fellow citizens calling out to us over the commotion, “Come caucus for Hillary! We have sandwiches!”
We laughed and they laughed. It was kind of a party. I think all we got at Obama’s table were store-bought chocolate chip cookies, and of course, the nomination. Caucusing, at times, looks more like a church potluck than you might realize.
However, this year I am more nervous than previous times. I think it’s because of Donald Trump. He is in the lead for the Republicans. And the funny thing about our caucus location is that there is only one room in the community center. “Are we sharing a room with the Republicans? How can that work?” We are wondering. We are asking each other. Does the room have a divider? Is there going to be whooping and shouting and weirdness–because that is what Trump seems to be encouraging, you know, teenage-boy behavior?
last week I saw my last candidate: Hilary Clinton. She seemed to be off her game at first. She kept talking through moments in her speech where she could have gotten applause. Was she tired? Didn’t she know to pause and get audience feedback? Why was she just plowing into policy? Was she tired? (If so, I couldn’t say that I blamed her!) So, the next time a moment came when she should have paused in case people would clap in support, I started to clap. I just did it on my own from where I watched in the balcony. Once I started, everyone in the room joined in. So I ended up adding about a half dozen applause breaks. I did! It was a small room, you see, filled with many older (and respectful) people. And afterwards when she was thanking the audience, she looked up in my direction. Was that a thank you? I’ll never know. But if you’ve ever spent a lot of time at a microphone–and as a former comedian I have to say that I’ve logged a lot of mike time– it’s one of the things you do. The same way a former restaurant waiter leaves good tips in a restaurant–if there is someone on stage who needs a boost from the audience, well, you give them the boost. (And you know what, she’s kind of an amazing person.)
So tonight we will caucus–which is a great privilege. And it’s been awesome to see the candidates in person. I saw all three, Bernie Sanders, Martin O’ Malley, and Hilary Clinton. And I can honestly say that any of them would make a terrific president. I would be extremely happy with any of them. Honestly. (Martin O’Malley going to kill in the next election cycle. Just watch.)
I am looking forward for it to be over, actually. Sometime this evening we will be done. And then we can drive home, marveling at whatever we’ve observed of the Republicans. My husband will watch the returns on the tv, and hopefully the snowstorm won’t arrive until it’s “supposed to” at 3am.
And who am I caucusing for? Well, it was revealed in this photo in the New York Times last week. That’s Tim and me (with my mouth wide open) just above the candidate’s head: