I took my daughter to my precinct caucus this afternoon. Four years ago, it never would have occurred to me. But this year, something was different. As I reflect back on what got me into a church on Queen Anne Hill on a Saturday afternoon with hundreds of other people, I realize it was my fellow moms. They got the idea into my head and then wouldn't let me forget it. They practically led me there.
It started with an early morning run in January. My running partners and I were giddy as we discussed the results from the Iowa caucuses. How did two unlikely candidates win such an important state? Alice said that she was thinking about taking her sons to the Washington caucuses because, unlike the primary, it could have a real impact. She wanted them to experience that. Helen and I grunted in approval but noted that we'd have to figure out how to participate. I remember thinking, rather cynically, that I probably wouldn't find the time.
A week later, a mom I don't even know gave me the next nudge. It was a post on the Queen Anne Mom's e-mail list: "Caucus for Dummies: A Non-Partisan Primer on the Washington Presidential Caucus by a Pre-First Timer." Here it was, everything I needed to know to participate in the caucus. I almost filed it away in one of my e-mail folders, but then I read Lisa Albers' first installment in a series on the caucuses, and I knew that the mom-o-sphere was trying to tell me something. I sent the information on to a group of friends, but I didn't look up the location for my precinct's meeting.
That took a knock on the door. I have a little sign on my door that says, "please ... no soliciting." So, when I opened the door, I was surprised to find someone I didn't know. He started to ask me if I planned to participate in the caucuses. I quickly stifled my standard, "please send me information in the mail." He told me he was a neighbor from up the street and pointed out that the information he had just given me included the address of my caucus meeting.
I realized right then and there that I was going to have to talk with my 7-year-old daughter, Iman. I started that night. "Well, you see, honey, there are these two parties and each one gets to pick a single person to run for president. ... Um, no, not parties with cake."
During this past week, there have been more posts on the Queen Anne Mom's List. And Queen Anne moms weren't the only ones engaged. I compared notes with my close friend, Meredeth. She said that the nearly 1,500-strong Madrona Moms list, too, has had its share of activity and information: what happens if you have to leave the caucus early, how young a child is too young to participate, and reminder upon reminder about logistics. Meredeth planned to attend her precinct caucus.
Waiting in the long line of caucus-goers this afternoon, Iman and I noticed the many other children waiting in line with their Moms. I asked several of them why they had brought their children. Surely, attending without your kids would allow deeper participation. The answers were fairly uniform: "I want my kids to experience democracy in action," or "I wanted them to see the process." One mom's daughter was encouraged to attend by her fifth-grade teacher. While some of the kids seemed interested, most paid attention for a few minutes (or when called upon by their mothers) and then quickly turned to the book, video game, or music they'd smartly thought to bring with them.
While the voting process was unexciting - you basically voted when you signed in, unless you were undecided - I enjoyed the fact that this was a community of friends, neighbors, and strangers that had come together. We talked with each other about who we were supporting and why. We clapped when former Gov. Gary Locke expressed appreciation for the turnout. We tried to sway those who were undecided or in favor of the other candidate to consider our candidate. And we elected six delegates: 5 for Obama and 1 for Clinton.
As we walked away from the caucus, I asked Iman what she thought. She popped her nose out of the book she was reading long enough to say, "I mostly read my book." Okay, so I clearly got more out of the experience than she did. Ultimately, it was because of her that I had gone. It is her future that makes the electoral process so important to me now. And I thank my fellow moms for providing the impetus to attend, right down to supplying the when, where, and how.