The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

January 20, 2014

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Attend your local caucuses

Letter to the Editor

CLINTON — Let me begin this letter by saying that I have voted for Steve Olson every time he has run for the state legislature.

My point is not that I am a faithful Republican. My point is that I can vote for anyone on the ballot that deserves my vote. I happen to be a registered Democrat, but in this amazing political system of the United States of America, I can vote for anyone I want to. I have never voted for Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck, although I have seen their names written in. But I have voted for Green Party, Republican and Democratic candidates during my 43 years of voting.

So if I can vote for anyone on Election Day, why do I bother to register my political leanings? And furthermore, why am I a member of my party's Central Committee and why do I campaign for candidates and attend caucuses? I don't have to do any of those things, and frankly, I have lots of other ways to spend my time.

It comes down to citizenship. It is not about nationalistic pride. It is not about fear of the "other guy." (I am married to a Republican.) It is about the privilege of living under a government that enforces my right to vote for the people who are a part of that government.

As flawed as that system may be, it beats living at the whim of a dictator or an oligarchy. What can I do to keep that system as honest as possible? I'm not going to run for office. (Sigh of relief from my husband.) But I can do my small part to support those who share my beliefs and who have earned my trust.

What happens if I don't participate? I sacrifice some of the power of my citizenship.

Very few, if any, significant elections have been won by one vote. On the other hand, local caucuses and elections have hinged on one vote, when the rule of winning is a simple majority. The persons nominated at local caucuses are the people who are nominated at county and state and national conventions. The butterfly effect of a caucus is felt all the way to the state and national governments and those are the governments that affect my family, my lifestyle and my taxes.

I am writing to encourage each of you registered voters to do one thing this month: Attend a political caucus. If you are not registered as a Democrat or Republican, you can register party affiliation at the door. This affiliation does not bind you to future votes, future contributions or future candidates. You are already bound by the virtue of being an American citizen to uphold the Constitution. The Constitution mentions the right to vote five times.

What can you expect when you show up at a caucus meeting? You will find the citizens who are prepared, according to the rules of the particular party, to conduct business in a fair and orderly manner. You will be endorsing candidates for public offices at the local state and national levels and you will be discussing issues that you think our government should address. You will find citizens like yourself who believe in the power of the vote. You will find citizens like yourself who believe in supporting the Constitution.

What do you have to lose? In the short term: Nothing.

In the long term: I don't want to think about it.

It's not a matter of put up or shut up. It's a matter of show up.

Dianne Prichard,