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Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | Jan 23, 2018

I came, I saw, I caucused

Accounts from a first time caucus goer
By KARYN SPORY | Feb 05, 2016

I have lived in Iowa on and off going on six years now and have been able to vote for nearly nine years. However, this was the first time I was an Iowa resident during a caucus. So I did what Iowans do. I came, I saw, I caucused.

Now, before we go too far, I want to take a knee and say something. I hope, and if I am doing my job correctly, you, the reader, should never be able to distinguish my personal political preference. With that being said, prior to Monday night I had not registered with either party here in Henry County.

As someone who is not native to Iowa, the caucus is kind of a mystical creature. All the rest of the country knows is that presidential hopefuls come to the land of corn, eat desserts that have been dipped in batter and deep fried (hello fried Twinkies and fried Oreos) and in February, the one with the short straw gets Iowa’s seal of approval for president. Okay, so this is a bit ridiculous, but this is how one of my friends, not from the Midwest, categorized all of the craziness we’ve been living and breathing. Since July, the most asked questions I’ve had from friends were what presidential candidates I’d met and if I could explain how to caucus.

I researched Iowa’s caucus, the differences between how they are held for the Republican and Democratic parties and sent links to my friends, but it was still a bit of an oddity to an outsider. I felt the only way I could ever really understand it was to do it.

So, on Monday night, I strolled over to the New London High School, my caucus precinct. As I mentioned earlier, I wasn’t registered with either party, and at this point in time, I haven’t seen a candidate I would want to plaster all over the back of my car with bumper stickers (not that I’d ever do that, it’s kind of a no-no as a journalist.)

As I crossed Pine Street and the glow of the lights from the school broke through the dreary night, I decided that I would simply register and caucus for whatever party I stumbled upon first. I’ve only been inside the New London School a handful of times and really couldn’t tell you what door would lead to the auditorium or the cafeteria. And as it was cold, I went to the closest door.

I registered and made my way into the auditorium. Yep, door number one was the Democratic one.

Walking into the auditorium was like walking into the cafeteria your first day at a brand new school, you have no idea where to sit. “Feel the Bern” signs flew in front of my face, someone cheered “O’Malley for President” and the Clinton supporters locked eyes with me. “Where are you sitting? Who are you supporting? Come sit with us, we’re the Hillary crowd.” For some reason, it kind of reminded me of the “Wednesdays we wear pink,” line from “Mean Girls.” It was a bit of an assault to the senses; so much was going on all at once.

I sputtered out, “I don’t know whom I like.” I was kindly directed to the undecided section. There were three people sitting over there. But on my way there, someone grabbed my arm and started trying to sell me on Clinton. When I again said I didn’t really know whom I would support I was asked, “Who have you seen? Who have you met?” My response of Bobby Jindal was met with awkward silence.

There was a part of me that wanted to bounce between the Republican and Democratic caucus because I was just so interested in the process, but I kept telling myself that for once I should sit back and enjoy being a part of a process instead of simply viewing through the lens of a camera. And I did.

I enjoyed the yelling, the cheering and the bit of booing when a Clinton supporter put down their sign and hightailed it for the Sanders section.

In the end, I moved out of the undecided section and to one of the two remaining candidates. It wasn’t because my eyes had been opened to the potential of a certain candidate, but I wanted to fully experience the caucus, and hey, if my person could possibly get someone an extra delegate, why not try to help a man, or woman, out.

Who knows, maybe in four years if I’m still in Iowa, I’ll register Republican so I can see how the other side caucuses.

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