Updated: Aug 17
A few weeks ago I was invited to a Democratic Caucus in Watkins Glen. Being freshly 18 (okay, it’s been a few months but I still feel fresh) I’d never been to such a party exclusive event before and found myself wondering what the night would hold. Here I recount the events of my somewhat cringe, wholesome, and equally revolutionary evening. I hope it will encourage you to participate in your own village’s or city’s politics.
January 24, 2023
I found myself in the bowels of small-town-government: the village offices. The food being digested was a delightful selection called a Democratic caucus. It was my first time attending such an event and as I followed an ivory haired woman up a winding staircase I found myself drawn into a unique phenomenon. Six rows of chairs were arranged facing several wooden desks each adjacent to the other to create a square of sorts. In and around the rows and desks were residents of Watkins Glen all in various stages of aging, the youngest maybe in their early thirties besides my own eighteen year old self.
After receiving a hug from the woman running for nomination as mayor, Laurie DeNardo, and being chauffeured over to the desks to prove my party affiliation, I took a seat. A somewhat older gentleman asked if he could sit next to me and as he joined me I realized that I was somewhat acquainted with him through my parent’s coffee shop so I let the social butterfly in me emerge to welcome my caucus companion.
Once the loquacious audience quieted down the caucus began. The next step was to select people to fulfill positions that were specific to the caucus. Thus commenced what our SAGA meetings might look like if all the same students stuck around for 60 more years.
The audience spoke in skipping stone style, one person shouting, “I nominate so and so!” to be followed by “I second the motion!” from another Democrat, and then a whole bunch of ripples created by the audience saying, “ay!” The stone sank when the speaker asked for any dissents. As I watched and participated in the caucus I had this strange feeling of observation. Not that observing is strange, but being able to see how truly odd we all are.
One of my first thoughts when the caucus began was “Look at all us human beings: gathered together in an attempt to coalesce and organize this mass of humanity.” And from a materialistic side, it really seemed quite sad. Our kind’s desperate attempt to work together and create a better world for ourselves, and if you believe in altruism, each other. Fortunately, I do not believe in materialistic standpoints solely, so my thoughts only became this sunken in the hypothetical.
After my mild dissociation I listened in as the people to be nominated repeated words against bribery and promises to uphold the constitution. I tensed for a moment when a feminine voice from the back questioned why they were not doing the pledge of allegiance. When the officials stated because this is a caucus and not a board meeting I was relieved because I have yet to say the pledge of allegiance and have yet to decide if I ever shall.
Now, we arrived at the meat of the event: the nominations. When I was invited to the Democratic Caucus I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. Each Google search proved only to show Presidential Caucuses and not caucuses in a small town for local officials such as the mayor and trustees. As I learned at the caucus itself it turns out that in the setting of a town, when a party wishes to nominate a person to run for any position (mayor, trustee, judge etc.,) they will host either of two events: a caucus or a primary. The Democratic Party hosts caucuses while The Republican Party hosts primaries. The main difference being confidentiality in vote. In a caucus the voters are all gathered together and votes are made by a show of hands, whereas in a primary voting takes place with ballots.
Laurie DeNardo was nominated by the palmfull of Democrats that showed themselves to run for mayor, Peter Cherock and Margaret Schimizzi were nominated to run as trustees. With a vote to adjourn and some lovely words shared from those nominated the event came to an end and I rushed back downstairs a new woman: with hope in my heart for humanity and our politics.
After writing on my hometown of Watkins Glen’s issues of propensity to attain mayors with dubious sexual morals, this was a breath of fresh air. The community came together to nominate someone to represent the needs of the people (even those of opposite parties), the abused, and the slowly budding diversity in the village. Maybe I will say the pledge of allegiance someday after all.