Living in Society

Pre-Caucus Politics

Yard tractor waiting to go to the shop for winter maintenance.

Yesterday a political canvasser rang our doorbell and was halfway down the street before I made it to the door. I can hardly hear the doorbell from my writing table. She came back to talk.

“I noticed your Elizabeth Warren bumper sticker,” she said hopefully.

I asked her to whom she had talked and reviewed the status of a few neighbors with her. We live in a bedroom community for larger urban areas surrounding Cedar Rapids, Iowa City and Coralville. More weren’t home than were on a Monday. Those who were are retired or work from home.

There are some Trump supporters in this neighborhood registered as Democrats,” she exclaimed.

No surprise. It’s a free country and in this white enclave in rural Iowa we get separated from labels like party preference that seem more relevant in urban areas. I didn’t ask her who it was.

There is no guarantee Democrats will win key federal offices in the 2020 general election. Even if we do, the rips in society seem beyond mending.

At a local level, regardless of party, voters can find common ground and get things done to improve our governance. Once we get beyond our rural school district borders, finding common ground becomes more difficult. The divisions and animosity that culminated in the election of this president seem likely to continue for years after the next general election regardless of who wins in November.

On Dec. 9, a white, 42-year old woman went on a crime spree near Des Moines, striking two people with her vehicle in separate incidents, and allegedly shoplifting and displaying public intoxication afterward at a local convenience store. She drove her vehicle on the sidewalk to hit a 14-year old girl walking to see a basketball game. The woman did it because the girl was Hispanic, she told police. Earlier in the day she struck a 12-year old black boy. The woman is charged with attempted murder.

Maybe this is an isolated incident. Justice will take its course as we expect in a society with laws. Yet maybe it isn’t isolated, but a sign of what’s to come, especially if President Trump loses the 2020 election. The steady escalation of tension in the Middle East by our government is sure to divide Americans even as it served to unite the people of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

I admire people who persist in political organizing in our current social environment. They haven’t given up. They inspire hope. Although I signed up for six shifts of door knocking and am the temporary chair of our precinct caucus, I want to do more. At the same time I know my limits and want political work to be meaningful to our community. I want it to endure beyond the Feb. 3 precinct caucuses.That makes me a rough gear in the machinery of precinct-level political organizing.

I asked our local organizer what they were doing after the caucuses. They are sworn to secrecy. To be honest, they may not know what’s next other than brief respite before New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada, and then Super Tuesday on March 3. By then the Democratic presidential candidate field will be winnowed to a couple of candidates. There is little doubt who will be the Republican nominee.

The challenge is the broad context of the society in which we seek to live. Presidential politics is part of it. Yet as Barack Obama’s administration demonstrated there is little permanency unless the electorate hands the new president an enduring mandate. As divided as we are, that seems unlikely. Somehow we must navigate our lives out of the tar pits in which we find them. It will be sticky and messy. It will take generations to clean up. All the same, we must persist. If we don’t, what would be the point?