I kept expecting the Pony Express to arrive any minute to deliver the results of the Washington State Democratic Presidential primary contest. Is the process of selecting candidates for the highest office in the land this old-fashioned in our technological age?
The fact that at one time in my life I was a precinct committee person for the Republican party and at another time a precinct committee person for the Democratic party and, in both instances, became a delegate to the state conventions demonstrates how broken the system has been and may still be.
Both times I was selected through the caucus process which consisted of first going to the caucus, second being one of a very small group of people and third being the only one willing to go on to the convention.
I gave up my political activism in terms of a being active in a political party after attending the second convention. It didn’t take a political genius to realize that power in both parties was concentrated among a relatively small group of people.
I somewhat cynically thought I would have to sell my soul in some way to just get into the aura of power. So I gave it up.
That all changed this year when husband and I decided to go to the Democratic caucus. We couldn’t resist all the energy around selecting the candidates of both parties even though Republican presidential candidates were dropping out like fraternity recruits unable to survive the hazing.
Despite having been a precinct committee person for both parties, it isn’t too surprising that I would choose the Democratic party at this stage of my life.
A quick review of my early background will explain how I got to the end of a two block-long line to the caucus room.
My father was an immigrant and my mother was the daughter of immigrant parents.
My first job at 12 years old was as a babysitter for the children of a pedophile who drove me home at the end of the evening. The only thing I ever told my mother was that I no longer wanted to babysit.
A few years later he was arrested for molesting his daughters. I marveled at how the church and other organizations came to his defense. He served no time in prison and there was no such thing as a sex offender list.
My high school counselor looked at me in disbelief when I asked for the same access to financial help to go to college that my older brother received.
My own father thought my going to college was a waste since I would just get married anyway.
A friend drove herself into a concrete wall, killing herself and her unborn baby. She wasn’t married.
My first job as a professional nurse paid less than an average starting secretary position.
I oversaw the opening of one of the first family planning clinics in Seattle.
When my husband and I wanted to buy a home, we were told that my salary wouldn’t count because I would get pregnant and stay home.
Too bad it’s not an unusual story.
The point is that I don’t want to go back to society norms or rules that fail to protect children and discriminate against women. Some rules badly need to stay broken.
So armed with the strong spirit of going forward instead of backwards, we stood in line to do our civic duty.
It seemed that all of Sequim was at the caucus even though I know there are many Republicans living here. Most of us were “gray hairs” as we often describe ourselves.
Our granddaughter happened to be visiting so she came with us. She and we thought it would be a good experience for a Canadian citizen. As we approached the caucus, a man said to her, “You know that you can’t go in unless you are over 60.”
We laughed at the funny recognition of the character of our community. Some of that character was dispelled by surveying the crowd and finding young persons and couples with children in line with us.
The caucus organizers seemed unprepared for the crowd which, I understood based on my prior experience, but here we all were and full of civic intention.
At last we reached the door and were directed to our precinct table. By now my husband had to get off his feet. The only seating I saw was lunch tables for elementary school children, the kind that you had to be small enough to maneuver into unless you were lucky enough to get the end seat.
The only place we could find for husband was the steps leading up to some sort of stage. He couldn’t participate in the caucus. That didn’t seem right.
The only people who could participate in that caucus had to have the time open, as in not working Saturday morning, be able to tolerate standing in line and then standing to participate in the caucus.
The caucuses heavily favored Bernie Sanders by more than 70 percent. Two months later primary voters selected Hillary Clinton by 53 percent.
Republicans voters easily selected Donald Trump, the presumptive candidate in the primary vote.
People who preferred not to declare a party couldn’t vote for either party in the primary. Is there anything about this that makes sense except to those in power?
Political parties are not government, nor should they be. I would call upon each party to establish rules of access and fairness. Sanders and Trump both made points about the “rigged” system and power broking.
I have to agree. Why else continue the processes as if we were still living in the days of buggies and horsewhips?
I don’t want to live there or go back to those days, not in any way. I want to be part of an open society that values both economic and social progress and doesn’t seek to repeal the future.
Mostly I don’t want my grandchildren, great-grandchildren and all that follow to live in a time where they can’t count on society to afford them equal protection and access to power.
Bertha D. Cooper is retired from a 40-plus year career as a health care administrator focusing on the delivery system as a whole. She still does occasional consulting. She is a featured columnist at the Sequim Gazette. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.