Learning about Democracy When Your Mama Waits on Tables

All eyes are on Iowa caucuses this week. I’ve read for years about the homespun democracy of the caucuses, where neighbors sit down together to deliberate face to face.

I had no idea that the process disenfranchises entire groups of citizens.

According to this article in today’s NYT, only those who can be physically present in the early evening can participate. Left out are night workers in restaurants, convenience stores, WalMart, or hospitals; parents without childcare; active military; or the elderly who find the frozen winter streets of Iowa treacherous. All of these are excluded from the process of selecting presidential candidates (and, if we trust the pundits, from the process of “building momentum” for the next primaries or even ending a campaign outright).

How is it that we can teach the children of night-shift workers — many of whom are likely to be workers in low wage service industries — that their voice also matters in a democracy, when formal processes so casually exclude them?

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