On Tuesday night I watched the core of our democracy come together to start the scaffolding. And by that I mean I went and hung out with a bunch of white people over the age of 50 as they tried to argue politics but then realized they all had the same opinions and then just tried to joke around, but weren’t very funny (I really hope none of those folks are reading this).
I decided to caucus because 1) I thought they’d let me (they didn’t) and 2) I wanted to experience it at least once, even though these caucuses hold no weight in who wins the Democratic party’s nomination to be governor of Colorado.
Let’s start with part 1. As I’m going to college in the fall, I’m not really sure where I’ll be doing most of my voting from now until I find a permanent home after college (it’ll be either in Colorado or Connecticut while in college, I haven’t decided which yet though). Caucuses hold no real weight in Colorado anymore, as Proposition 107, which passed in 2016, eliminated caucuses for presidential nominations in Colorado in favor of a primary, and all other races are decided in a regular primary. Caucuses can be a method for candidates to end up on the ballot, or to get listed higher on the ballot (if they choose to petition onto the ballot).
Thus, my vote at the caucuses, despite its small size, wouldn’t have really mattered in the long run (and based on how the votes went in my precinct my vote certainly wouldn’t have mattered). So I figured I could caucus.
Quick point of clarification: I’m currently 17, but will be 18 by the time of the primary and therefore by the time of the general election. In my view, 17 year olds who will be 18 by the general election should be allowed to vote in primaries and caucuses. In many states, that’s allowed (I’m not sure about Colorado’s rule on this because I haven’t looked beyond caucus rules yet). Nonetheless, in Colorado, you must be 18 at the time of the caucuses to participate (as mandated by state law). And despite the informal proceedings of the caucus, I couldn’t convince the precinct chair to allow me to vote in the caucus. However, I was allowed to still be in the room while the proceedings were happening.
Within the first half of the caucus, there was a time for people to speak their minds as they pleased. Some people talked about the gubernatorial candidates they were supporting, and others discussed issues important to them. At one point, a couple of people brought up how they disliked caucuses and how they thought they weren’t worthwhile. I decided to speak up (nothing in the caucus rules prevented me from speaking during the proceedings, only voting). I expressed how we had gotten rid of caucuses as the sole method of choosing the party’s nominee for any office in Colorado, and that what we decided in that room wasn’t going to have any true bearing on who became governor of Colorado. I also expressed that I was really happy to see this core group of party members who cared so much about what was happening in our state that they decided to spend two and a half hours in the evening to come express their views.
I don’t think any of that was very profound, but the people there gave me a round of applause after I said that. It brought me back to the feeling that I believe is incorrect, that young people can’t have the capacity to think at a level even somewhat similar to adults. Nothing I said was that interesting. I wasn’t trying to draw attention to myself. I didn’t endorse a candidate or any issue. So why was I noticed for saying something?
What really struck me was the piece in what I said about the core support in the room, however. We often see politics as a group of elites handing someone a bunch of money and wishing them luck on their road to elected office. But when you go to one of these caucuses, you see these people who really care about who we choose to represent us, and are working in such small ways to put together organization for candidates and the party. It was really cool to watch, as much of my previous political experience has been at a much higher level.
I really wish I could’ve actually participated in my precinct. The votes went with 11 for Cary Kennedy, 9 for Mike Johnston, 8 for Uncommitted, and 5 for Jared Polis. Cary Kennedy received about 50% of all caucus votes around the state. In my precinct, our 2 delegates will back Cary Kennedy (1) and Mike Johnston (1) at the county assembly later this month. My vote wouldn’t have changed that outcome.
My true entrance to democracy will be on June 26th, and I can’t wait.