I will preface this retrospective by saying that I am not the most political person. Sure I do encourage people to vote, but I have not participated in the caucuses, gone to candidate rallies, or discussed the beliefs and issues of those candidates till this week. I never wear candidate merchandise, I didn’t want to declare a party, and I don’t even tell people who I think would be a good president nor will this retrospective attempt to sway your vote for the next president. I will be talking about the value I have seen from attending these events and the shock I feel realizing I do have a voice in how our country is run.
So why is it important to participate in politics? Well, if you are 18 years old or older, and are a student, you have heard many times from teachers and adults that you should vote because it is a right of every United States citizen. It is a right that most people do not get, and it enables you to communicate the issues that you are passionate about to the government in charge of overseeing those issues. Most would agree that this argument can get a bit repetitive and honestly I myself never really thought my vote counted as much in such a large country. I certainly never thought the caucus was important or knew that a candidate’s ability to become president could depend on only six votes (those six preventing them from becoming viable and getting delegates at the caucus I attended). I would not have known any of this if not for my brother.
My brother turned 18 just in time to participate in this presidential election. To my surprise, he wanted to go to the candidate rallies that would be held around Dubuque. I had never known him to be political, but I went with him so he would have company. I had not been that interested beforehand. Together we attended the rallies for Andrew Yang, Mayor Pete, and Joe Biden (I couldn’t make it to all of them). I was surprised by my experiences at these rallies. We would all gather in the gyms or lounges holding all the people, it was often standing room only. Everyone I met was very welcoming and friendly, offering information about their candidate. I even met a couple people from outside of Iowa who wanted to come and hear their preferred candidate speak.
I was most blown away by one revelation however; listening to these candidates in person made them more personal. We often see advertisements and interviews everywhere we look, but there is almost a sort of magic to physically seeing someone running for president. We can easily judge a person’s beliefs and issues through how they present themselves, but especially in this race where most democratic candidates are advocating for similar issues, being able to see and possibly meet them helps you fill in a part of the puzzle.
Of course not everyone has access to this advantage and must find out the beliefs of the candidates usually through their individual websites. For those who do have the option, attending candidate rallies can really help inform your voting decision. Not only do you get to learn more about their character, but you can also tell how much that candidate cares about the cities and people they come to speak to. I am not advocating for Pete, but one of the things that impressed me at his rally was the research he had done about the Dubuque Area and the efforts it has made towards climate change like clean energy. Seeing these candidates on a screen can often force us to view them only for their issues, not as actual people. Just like in our normal lives, the best way to get to know a person and their beliefs is to see them in person.
I was consistently amazed by how personal these political events became. From candidates having long discussions with the audience, taking questions, and especially all the volunteers helping with their campaigns, everywhere you went were smiling faces eager to hear what you care about and help you learn. They showed a willingness to discuss politics and political issues that I had never experienced before. I was raised with the mindset that your vote was a secret you were allowed to keep to yourself, politics would only cause conflict or arguments. Not only have I found much community and friendship through politics, but I have never seen a more respectful and understanding group of people then the organizers I met at these rallies and the caucus. Sure they would like it if I would support their candidate, but they always listened to my views and respected my choice of candidate.
In terms of why it’s important to participate in politics, many people will tell you that voting and going to rallies is a responsibility to your country. I think I have made the argument that it also opens yourself up to feeling more connected to our government, our candidates, and the community in which you live.
— Charlotte Rodewald
–Picture taken by Tucker La Belle