We strive to write about safe things in this column, so when the 2016 election came to mind, the word safe almost headed for the exit. I say almost, because there are safe ways you can participate in the process and not get dragged - badly, anyway - through the mud that’s being slung around so freely this election cycle.
For starters, you can vote. You can go to the polls in November and make your choice known. And you certainly could/should have gone to the polls for primary elections held during the Spring in your state.
In my case, the effort started in January when I participated for the first time ever in the much-ballyhooed Iowa Caucus. Though born and raised in Iowa, I left at a tender age and returned in the late 1990s and began working as a reporter at The Des Moines Register. That job precluded me from participating in politics. But I no longer work at the Register, so I am free to get involved in politics.
On a mild evening in January, my wife, adult daughter, and I trekked to an elementary school near to our home that served as the caucus selection site for Democrats from several precincts. We and 300-plus other people sorted ourselves out by preference for a particular candidate. For Democrats it seemed pretty easy - Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders or Martin O’Malley. Republicans at that time had a vastly wider field of candidates. Yet, the Democratic caucus was way more raucous because of how candidates are picked.
Republican caucus goers simply write in the name of their candidate, go home and let the party brass count up the votes. For Democrats, candidates had to reach what is called viability – 15 percent or more of whoever showed up at each caucus site, standing for their candidate. We got a brief speech for each candidate from a volunteer supporter who, honest, stood on a lunch table to make a push for their man or woman. Then party functionaries literally counted heads of those who mustered under signs for each candidate. (These caucuses are run by the parties, not the government, so they follow their own peculiar rules). O’Malley didn’t reach viability, so his backers decided to throw in their lot with Hillary.
A little messy, perhaps. But to my way of thinking it was democracy in action. It was the first-in-the-nation preference poll, if you will, to start the (crazy long) process of winnowing out winners and losers. And it was a completely safe, responsible way for me to participate; in some small way helping to decide who will lead this nation.
In the fall, I’ve volunteered to work at the county election office. It will be a non-partisan effort on my part to help get people registered, advise them of polling stations, etc. and it has nothing to do with their political affiliation. We all need to vote, right? It seems to me that is a pretty safe way to help keep our democracy up and running.
This article was written by:
Mr. Dinnen served as Sr. Business Reporter for the Des Moines Register, Business News Editor for the Indianapolis Star and served as Editor (freelance) for the Christian Science Monitor of its weekly personal finance column
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