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Caucuses are terrible


Exhibit Z:

Krista Sigel wants to caucus, but with a baby who is almost a year old, she doesn’t know how to make that happen. I met Sigel at an Elizabeth Warren event in Cedar Rapids on January 26, with just a week until the caucuses, the rally was packed with families. She has her baby on her hip and she bounces him while she stands, straining to listen to the speeches. Many parents brought small children and were shushing, chasing, and trying to keep them from running out the door. Kaitlin Byers stood in the crowd with her toddler who had fallen asleep on her shoulder. Her father, who was at a brewery down the block, showed up to take the baby away, so she could keep listening. Not everyone is so lucky.

American mothers are eight times more likely than fathers to be the primary caretakers for their children—managing their schedules, taking time off when they are sick, monitoring homework and filling in childcare gaps. And 75 percent of mothers with children under age 6 work full time. While fathers are stepping up some, the childcare gap is still wide, with women making up the difference. It’s an exhausting reality made all the more complicated for women in Iowa who want to caucus. In 2020, 100 years after the 19th Amendment was passed, Iowa’s mothers are still effectively disenfranchised from caucusing.

Ana Escalante McClain wants to caucus, but bedtime for baby Aldo, who is 18 months, is 7:30pm and the caucuses start at 7. McClain is a small business owner and getting her baby to bed on time is important if she wants to sleep. She does have family in town, but her family is also caucusing. The solution she’s settled on for now is hiring a friend who can’t caucus because she’s an immigrant here on a green card. But it’s an expense not everyone can afford. Claire Davis plans to strap her baby into the carrier, bring a tablet for the four-year-old and get to caucusing. A lot of moms are bootstrapping it, bringing their kids with snacks, toys, games, and iPads and hoping for the best.

But not every mom feels equipped to do that. Many are tired from working all day and need their kids to get to bed on time. Some are sending their partners instead. So many women, privately told me they want to caucus but they just can’t make it work. They don’t have supportive partners or the money for a babysitter. Some have babysitters, but their sitters want to caucus. So, they are staying home.

There are other issues too. A caucus is not a private vote. Women in politically divided marriages or in abusive situations may not feel safe casting a vote that will make their lives harder at home.

This should be the last cycle with any caucuses in the Democratic nomination process. If Iowa doesn’t like it, it should be told to eat shit. The state already gets a disproportionate say in the process, and to use a grossly undemocratic process just makes it even less justifiable.

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