This letter to the editor of KC Community News argues that the caucus was an act of participatory democracy. Pointing out that people came in order to discuss and debate the cadidates, the author says he felt restored faith in "the system". But this is the same system that asks us to vote and be silent, not to influence and make changes as we should. This was a single instance where people showed up and felt like they made a difference, but in order for us to have a direct influence on politics this instance must occur much more frequently than once every four years. -Editor
Dear editor,I would like to thank the over 500 Democrats who braved the weather Tuesday (Feb. 5) evening to participate in the presidential preference caucus in Paola. Most attendees had never attended a caucus and were unfamiliar with the process and their actual purpose for being there. While millions of Americans watched the process from home or simply voted and waited, these Kansas Democrats invested three hours of their time to enjoy participatory democracy at its best.
In addition to the organized chaos, there were political conversations among fellow Democrats. There were speeches on behalf of presidential candidates. There were groups trying to persuade other groups to join them. It was an enjoyable and educational political event.
The 12th Senate District Democrats were only one of three caucuses in the state to give a majority of elected delegates to Hillary Clinton. Clinton won six delegates and Barack Obama won five delegates at the caucus in Paola.
I have heard dire calls for a primary because of the perceived difficulties with the caucus system, and to be sure, the system can be improved. But I believe we need more events like the caucuses, not fewer. Voters have become disconnected from the political process. Voter turnout is dismally low. Even those who do vote have a cynical eye turned toward the political process. Political discourse amounts to this media pundit versus that media pundit.
Kansas Democrats in particular feel a sense of isolation. So many people attended the caucuses because we are hungry for change. The caucuses provided an opportunity for one-on-one political discourse and camaraderie among Democrats that seldom exists elsewhere.
During the course of the evening, 22 people from this area, who in many cases never had been actively involved in politics before, placed their names in nomination for delegate and alternate spots to the congressional district convention, the next step in selecting delegates to the Democratic National Convention. They gave their first political speeches, asking participants to vote for them, and they won their first election. For some, this could be the beginning of a lifetime of political activism.No, it wasn’t always neat and clean. It was participatory democracy at its best. We lost some of our cynicism and renewed some of our faith in the system.