Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Rocking the Caucus

Our two female delegates, Mary and Kay, flank "Bernie" on either side, while Alecia and I take the ends.
Rocking the Caucus

I'm not a political animal by nature. Never in a million years (not an exaggeration) would I have thought I'd "volunteer" to run as a delegate for Bernie Sanders to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia this summer. But when I told another Bernie campaign organizer back in early December which district I was in, he said, "You've got to be a delegate!" 

"Okay," I thought, "If Bernie needs help to win our state and I live in a mostly rural, heart-of-Republican-country congressional district, then I'm willing to go out of my comfort zone and do it for him. It'll be a learning experience."

One thing to be said for being a Bernie supporter: You learn a lot of new things in a very short period of time.

My husband and I drove approximately 50 miles to our district caucus site at a Knights of Columbus bingo hall in Marion, Ohio and only got lost once. Yes, we had to travel that far--so did many others, if not further. Some traveled upwards of 95 to 100 miles, one way. Looking at a map of the 4th Congressional district of Ohio, the word "gerrymander" springs to mind. 
Ohio U.S. District 4

You would be shocked to see that it begins in the Northeastern quadrant of the state just outside the western suburbs of Cleveland, zigs, zags and serpentine-crawls it way through the middle of the state hitting our Northwest county of Seneca, dips southeasterly again through Marion in the central area of the state and then makes it way westerly to Lima and then dives south to Sidney, just north of Dayton. In this manner, the Republicans have been able to carve out a niche and install a Tea Party/Freedom Caucus idiot--excuse me, gentleman--named Jim Jordan as our U.S. House representative. We are predominately rural, small town and suburban, yet in one Congressional district we touch upon the outer Cleveland, Toledo, Columbus and Dayton metropolitan areas. 

Not bad. All we're missing of the top five largest cities in Ohio is Cincinnati, and I'm sure Republicans are working on a way to zigzag in some of their 'burbs. You realize they can't have us rural/small town folks hooking up with an actual big city, don't you? Oh, no! We might be influenced to vote against the G.O.P. if we ever had contact with our big city neighbors.

Dave, one of our delegates.
The well-paying union jobs in our district have long gone to Mexico with NAFTA, and the family farms have all but withered away in the agribusiness takeover explosion of the last decades. You'd be pardoned to believe the Democratic base in this gerrymandered nightmare of a district isn't perhaps the strongest. I believed it, too, until I saw the enthusiastic Bernie supporters in the K. of C. bingo hall. People in our downtrodden district really love Bernie Sanders!

As we came into the hall, the Bernie supporters didn't appear to be in majority, but I learned later that the Hillary supporters had been provided transportation to the caucus by chartered bus, courtesy of a national union whose leaders have endorsed her. Even if we were slightly outnumbered, I can say for certain we were the liveliest and most enthusiastic group there. (Martin O'Malley's campaign failed to get the prerequisite number of signatures to be qualified for the Ohio primary ballot. I wasn't sure if any of his supporters were present or if they had migrated to one corner of the room or the other.)

The "Hillary corner" of the caucus had about twenty more people than our group my husband estimated, but they didn't strike me as the happiest of souls. The word "lethargic" comes to mind. Many were well-dressed. They didn't look like they were "working class" individuals but older, retired couples who enjoy a weekly steak dinner and a drink or two at their local country club… Not exactly working farmers or blue-collar factory workers or high school science teachers or nurses or college students struggling with overwhelming loan debt.
Jamie gives delegate Mary's Bernie stand-up sign a thumbs up!
Frankly, Bernie fans are my type of people. They're animated and came dressed in their t-shirts, hats, hoodies and wearing badges and carrying signs. They can't contain their enthusiasm for Bernie and how much they admire him and his progressive agenda. If I were throwing a party, I'd invite the "Berners" any day of the week. They're fun and friendly people. In direct contradiction to the mainstream media political pundits, we had a much higher percentage of women in our group than the Hillary camp. 

By contrast, the Clintonistas acted subdued, orderly. They just didn't display much pep. We didn't see any t-shirts, hats, badges or anything else that would designate them as fans of the former secretary of state. When an elderly couple wandered in a little later in the evening and sat in the back of the room (not huddling with either group), I thought perhaps when they saw all the cars in the parking lot they thought it meant it was Bingo Night instead of the Democratic delegate caucus. Maybe they really were a part of the Hillary caucus? Their subduedness and apartness fit in with that group's vibe.

To the detriment of all, the bingo hall had terrible acoustics. At half-basketball-court size, it wasn't big enough for the approximately 80 people present. Delegates were given 60 seconds to give their "stump speech" to persuade people to vote for them. Of course, the Clintonistas were doing likewise just a few feet from our tables… Bedlam! Neither side had a mircophone or a megaphone. Talk about challenging for the hard of hearing. I really had to concentrate to hear any of the speeches. 

When I caught one of the Hillary supporters behind us bellowing "I'm a FDR Democrat!" I just had to wonder why this older gentleman was sitting in the other corner of the room. Hadn't he heard Bernie's latest speech on Wall Street? It would have made FDR proud. Of course, an elderly voter probably doesn't watch You Tube or get online very often. More than likely, he watches the local news or gets his political fix from CNN or Fox. Another on-the-fence older couple I talked to earlier in the evening stated, "We love Bernie, but he's not going to win the primary." When I asked them if they'd watched any of his speeches or rallies online and did they know anything about the large number of people attending his events and how inaccurate the mainstream media polling data was, they looked at me with quizzical yet hopeful eyes. I'm happy to say they ended up caucusing with the Bernie group.

Our district gets to select four delegates per candidate--two male and two female--to be sent to the national convention. And what a long slate of names we had! We had eight women and at least six men to choose from--all very intelligent and enthusiastic candidates. It was a tough choice.

How did I do? Since I couldn't hear the first two ladies at all in the noisy hall when my time came to speak, I did like all mothers and schoolteachers everywhere do to get attention: I stood on my chair and projected loudly to our group. I got a nice round of applause, too.

Unfortunately, I came in third place in the female delegate election. I lost by one measly vote. Oh, well. At least I don't have to come up with the two or three thousand dollars to cover the costs of the hotel and travel to the convention in Philadelphia. (Whew!) I can cover the convention online and write about since I know four people from my area who can give me their insights. Odds are, not all four of our delegates will be able to attend, but you never know. Bernie could get 75% or more of the primary vote in Ohio. (Fingers crossed!)

We drove home after the caucus tired but energized. Later I learned that as the Hillary charter bus pulled out, they all "honked and waved" at a Bernie Light Brigade LED sign one our group was demonstrating in the parking lot. It seems everyone in the 4th Ohio Congressional district loves Bernie.

 *  *  *

Are you attending a debate watch party on January 17? Are you planning a Bernie meet-up for the live stream event from the man himself on January 23? Go to the national events page and type in your zip code to find an event nearest you. Better yet, sign up to host one yourself and invite all your friends, family members and fellow Berners.  #FeeltheBern and spread the word--Bernie's our next president!

Bernie's Light Brigade is planning another light up the night for Bernie, January 16. Find out how you can help out at the Reddit link and join in the fun.
The Rockland County BLB mix and matches signs to advertise Bernie.


  1. I would like to host a debate watch party, but I'm not sure how to stream anything. Every time I've tried so far, it hasn't worked. I think it's me, not my setup. What is the address of the debate online? If I get all the info now, I will invite folks to come watch with me.

    1. I believe the debate will be broadcast on MSNBC this time. The Bernie live stream event on January 23rd will probably be a private streaming site, and if you list your party at the national events web site, you probably get the link to it in an email then. (I'm assuming a lot here. I'm like you, Alicia, and the technical stuff just goes over my head. But do go to the national events page at map.berniesanders.com and type in your zip code and see if someone else in your area is hosting an event that you could help out with if you like.) #FeeltheBern everyone in the snow belt and beyond!

  2. Great Article. So well written and engaging. You are inspiring me.....

    A few people keep asking me if I am interested. Like you, I have never been a serious political activist before... Your blog has given me #COURAGE4Bernie.

    Thank you again for sharing your thoughts.

    Most Sincerely,
    Jane Mann

    Alias: #BabyJaneBoomer from Saint Paul, MN @mjanemann JaneMann4Bernie on Twitter GoBernie2016 for those on reddit.com

    1. Thanks, Jane, for your kind words. You're the kind of reader I'm editing/writing for on The Bernie Blog, someone who wants to know more about Bernie and wants to know how to share him with others in a friendly and thoughtful way. Just keep doing what you're doing now. We all need to keep talking about Bernie with friends, family members and co-workers, showing our enthusiasm in our words and actions, wearing a badge or a t-shirt proclaiming we're Bernie Supporters, putting signs in our windows and stickers on our cars. If every supporter today can persuade just one more voter to vote for Bernie in the primary (and again in November) then Bernie Sanders will win the White House by a landslide.

      When we ALL stand united, together we will win!

  3. It was quite an experience, being at the caucus. Our district is a weird shape, having gone from being compact pre-2013 to its current gerrymandered mess. It was great to see so many people prepared to make the effort to attend that evening.

    1. It really was nice to see so many folks in attendance, wasn't it? I thought considering the Bernie supporters didn't get a "free ride" on a chartered bus and most of us are hard working folks with busy schedules, as opposed to retirees with empty calendars like some of the HRC supporters appeared to be, we had an excellent turn-out. On to the Ohio primary March 15!


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