For those of you who don’t know, I’m 26 years old. That makes this the third presidential election I am able to vote in. I have voted in my previous 2, and in one mid-term election. I somewhat educated myself in the previous elections, enough to know vaguely what I was voting on, but not enough to see the nuances in different issues and candidates.
In May of 2008, I went to London and Paris with my aunt. I remember seeing speculation on the United States presidential election, the battle between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. I don’t remember seeing much speculation on the republicans. At that point, I had no real political knowledge. I had just turned 18, and I was pretty oblivious. Growing up in Idaho, most of the adults in my life were Republicans. In a few months, I would write an article for my college newspaper about John McCain. I barely knew who he was, but the newspaper staff needed to show both sides, and another student had already pounced on the opportunity to write about Barack Obama. He wrote a 3-column article about all of Obama’s merits, his history as a senator, and why he was an excellent choice for president. I wrote a 3 paragraph piece about John McCain, mainly sourced from Wikipedia. The editor saw the disparity and had the other writer help me bulk out my piece to a whopping 5 paragraphs. I was pretty sure at this point that I was voting for Obama.
Now it’s 2016 and Bernie Sanders is the first politician I’ve ever been excited about. Over the last few months, I have learned so much about so many political issues, and where all the candidates stand on them. I have read the arguments against Sanders and find most of them not backed up by facts, or just accepting the current broken two-party, corporate-enslaved system as something we can’t get out of. I refuse to buy that.
Last week, I spent several hours of my life filling out the political quiz at isidewith.com. It’s a pretty great quiz, allowing you to fill out just a few questions on each issue, or explore certain issues in depth. Each question has a short paragraph briefly explaining both sides of the issue. They also have “yes” and “no” options for each question, but if you click “see more option” you can see answers with a little more nuance. “Yes, but…” “no, and…”
I decided to fill out every question of the quiz and read up on each question until I understood it at at least a basic level. There were certain questions I didn’t understand until I did further reading. It was a great learning experience. I wasn’t surprised to see I aligned 97% with Bernie Sanders and less than 30% with every Republican Candidate. What did surprise me was the 94% I aligned with Jill Stein of the Green Party, who I was only vaguely aware of as a person who existed. I’ve spent the last week learning a lot about the Green Party, where they stand on issues that are important to me, and their journey as a party in recent years.
On Monday, Bernie Sanders came to Boise. I was able to attend his rally at BSU. I usually work on Mondays, but I am lucky to work in a place willing to give people time off for important events. There were probably 10 people from my workplace at the rally, which makes me super happy. It was great to hear Bernie Sanders speak in person. I didn’t really hear anything I hadn’t read about his views before, but it was great to hear the whole speech in context.
What was even better about the rally was seeing how many Idahoans have similar views to me. I talked to some great people in line who have been politically active for longer than I’ve been alive. We talked about different sides of the issues, and about our disagreements with recent decisions of our legislature. Once we got into the rally, I ended up sitting next to a local business owner in my town and a woman running for the senate in my county. I was amazed to hear their stories and learn about why they support Bernie Sanders.
Yesterday, I attended the democratic caucus in my county. There were definitely things I hated about it, but it was inspiring as well.. It was crowded and loud, and I was there for over 5 hours. I know a lot of people who couldn’t make it because of work, aversion to crowds, or other time constraints. I definitely feel that in today’s world, caucuses just aren’t effective anymore. It was not a community discussion. There were too many people for that to work, and with people sitting with like-minded individuals, there was not too much opportunity for discussion. The candidate speeches were okay, but there was only 1 made by someone who had decent public speaking skills and a clear message. I definitely hope that Idaho switches to a primary for the next election. People can research their candidates online. They’re not going to learn much at a caucus that wasn’t available to them prior to the event. A primary would allow people with widely varied work schedules to attend. It would mean less traveling time for people in spread out counties. It would be more accessible to those with physical, mental, and social disabilities.
Despite my problems with the caucus system, I am glad I attended. I saw a large number of democrats in my primarily republican community. I overheard conversations about why people supported Bernie Sanders. I got to hear from a couple of people running for local office, including the woman I had met at the rally. Overall, the caucus administrators encouraged a positive environment where we all accepted that we were all on the same side, just with different views about which candidate could get us to where we want to be. We said the pledge of allegiance. We sang the Star Spangled Banner. It was pretty awesome.
At this point, I’ve chosen my presidential candidate. Democrats in my state overwhelmingly supported him over Hillary Clinton. I was thrilled to see that. If he doesn’t get the democratic nomination, I will have to decide whether to vote for the Democratic Candidate, or whether I will support a third party that aligns more closely with my views. I’ll make that decision if it comes. But for now, I’ve done what I can for the presidential election. I’ll continue to tell people about why I choose Bernie Sanders, but I’m shifting my political focus. I’m doing all I can to learn about the people running for local office in my community. I have yet to find a place online where I can learn comprehensively about all the candidates and where they stand. So far, most of my information on local candidates has come from ballotpedia, but they don’t have info on people who haven’t run before. But I will continue to find what information I can, and I hope I can also share that info with others in my community. Local elections have a dreadfully low participation rate, and often people vote along party lines because they don’t really know who the candidates are. I want to find a way to make a small dent in this ignorance.
In the last year, I have been more interested in politics than ever before. This week has been the culmination of that political growth. I look forward to growing even more, learning more, and contributing to my community.
Are you in Idaho? Where do you go to find out about your local candidates?