Caucus Changes Generation Xer's Cynical Outlook

Commentator Laura Lorson belongs to the jaded generation — those sardonic Xers. But at a Kansas caucus on Tuesday night she discovered a connection to democracy that she didn't think was possible.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ANDREA SEABROOK, host:

The hubbub and furor over the political caucuses were a revelation to commentator Laura Lorson. She sent in these thoughts.

LAURA LORSON: Election season - at least in my case - seems to bring on a kind of existential crisis. Who am I? What is the meaning of being in time? Why are all these reporters standing around in a bar in the middle of Kansas? When did I turn into this person? This is not who I am. I was brought up to listen and to share, and now I'm just waiting for the opportunity to talk louder than the next guy, all in the name of political debate.

Anyway, last Tuesday night I roused myself from my philosophic stupor to dutifully, if grudgingly, go to the political caucuses in my state. I had never been to a caucus before. I'm not from Iowa, barely knew what a caucus was. I'd only every participated in primaries and election days. I mostly just wanted to see what it was all about.

I was prepared for standing in line. I was prepared for people not understanding that they need to register to vote. I was prepared for good sugar cookies and bad coffee.

But the caucus was more than that. It was a revelation. Over the course of an hour, my entire post-ironic oh-so-cynical outlook on politics changed. And the good feeling stayed all week.

No longer were the people supporting a particular candidate just some kind of faceless statistic. They were real folks, normal folks, the folks I see in the grocery store, fellow travelers on the snow-packed roads of northeast Kansas. They weren't some abstract 29 percent in favor of giving everyone a pony. They were Jim and Bob and Sara, people I know - or at least recognize - all showing up to say this is what I think.

It wasn't faceless and soundless and riskless like posting something in all caps on a blog page. It was - I don't know - real, in a way I hadn't ever experienced in politics. Maybe people were saying things I disagreed with, but there was no way I was going to shout at the lady who works at the movie theater or yell at that nice fellow who works for the Housing Authority. All the invective I unleash on a regular basis at my television set just kind of evaporated.

Among my neighbors I suddenly felt this overwhelming affection for them all with their broad, bright prairie faces standing endlessly in line in the middle of a snow storm just to walk into an overcrowded, overheated room just to say this is who I'd like have be the president, if you don't mind.

I finally got it. After all this time, after being told that the best thing you can hope for is to have things tailored to you and your needs, to you and your wants, I finally became an individual with a unique political identity by hearing my voice getting drowned out by others, by losing myself in a crowd. I finally discovered that the meaning of democracy is being inconvenienced, being one of many, being no more important than anyone else when it comes to making a political decision. And it's out of choosing to become many that we truly become one nation.

SEABROOK: To follow results from today's contests to got npr.org/elections.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.