I think that many of us feel estranged from modern day politics in this country.
The distance between the average American and the politicians that are running this country seems to grow greater by the year. For most of the four year presidential election cycle, I feel as though a bystander peering inside the fishbowl of politics—unsure of how to make my voice heard to the politicians who seem mostly to turn a blind ear to the rising chorus of voices calling for change.
However, for the few months leading up to the Iowa caucus, I was actually within the fishbowl. Our airwaves were filled with advertisements and debates, our phones rang off of the hook with surveys and recordings from the candidates and their staff, and we hobnobbed with the candidates themselves as they descended on our coffee shops and auditoriums, desperate to make their voices heard and lining up for seemingly endless handshakes and photographs.
It is an honor—but it is also overwhelming.
We have become a very divided country in many ways. A system of multiple parties, which was once meant for checks and balances, has branched into two parties intent on destroying the other. In this caucus season, it is apparent that each party is also intent on destroying themselves.
No longer do we hear candidates tell us of their platform—of what they will do for our country if elected. No, we now only hear vitriol-fueled attacks on the other candidates who are running for their same party. There are no boundaries, nothing is sacred and anything—true or false—is fair game.
Thus, for the many months leading up to the caucus, Iowa became a microcosm of current politics—hate amplified everywhere we turn. This was especially trying for a family with young children. My youngest daughter, age six, became anxious every time that a hateful advertisement came on the TV or radio (which was at every commercial break, no exaggeration, and they were even on during children’s programming).
She asked me at bedtime one night if the United States would be okay if any of the candidates became president, because according to the ads and the debates, all of them were evil. We made a choice then only watch television that had been pre-rerecorded, so that commercials could be avoided. We stopped listening to the radio and listened to MP3s instead, and we unplugged our home telephone and stopped allowing her to see the mail.
I could protect my child from the vitriol—but I seemed unable to avoid it myself.
I am proud that my state was the first in the nation to have a say regarding the presidential nominees, and I’m proud I got to see my wonderful state showcased around the world.
I love caucusing—it is an extraordinary chance to come alongside my friends and neighbors and choose together the candidate that we believe in. It a phenomenal experience and honor. However, I am exhausted by the time it is over.
On Tuesday morning after the caucus, the candidates left our state, and they’ve taken with them their campaign budgets and malevolent voices. It feels like a breath of fresh air has washed over our state. We are no longer bombarded on an hour-by-hour basis with hatefulness. We can almost palpate the electric change and we are all relieved.
I think the hardest part of this year’s caucus was that I can remember a day when the caucus season was not like this. When we actually heard from the candidate themselves about their platform. When debates were respectful, and boundaries were respected. I hope someday to see that same consideration again.
In many ways, the disrespect of the candidates did help me make my choice of who to caucus for.
The week of the caucus, I received 71 pieces of mail from presidential campaigns—yes, 71!
Of these advertisements—70 were cruel, hateful smears of another candidate.
However, there was one piece of mail from a campaign that simply told Iowans how to caucus—regardless of who they were caucusing for, because they wanted us to use our voices. The candidate whose campaign mailed that paperboard flyer was the candidate that I stood for last Monday night—a candidate that I can be proud to support.
This caucus season has proven to me just how shameful our election process has become. In many ways I feel unable to help make changes to our political system.
There is one way that I know about how to make a change—to demand kindness, respect and a candidate who will vote for the people, not special interests—and that is to use my voice, at the caucus and in the November elections.
I choose to vote with my conscience—with my heart. I hope America will stand beside me and do the same.
Author: Amanda Redhead
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Photo: Flickr/Phil Roeder