Moms travel with kids in tow to meet Democratic candidates and experience the 2020 Caucus
Photos courtesy of Robin Schwartz
I recently boarded a flight to Des Moines, Iowa, with an excited and energetic crew. My friend, Danielle McGuire, an award-winning author and historian, her 11-year-old daughter, Ruby, my 11-year-old daughter, Olivia, and I were headed to the 2020 Iowa Caucus. We couldn’t wait to witness history by attending the first major vote of the U.S. presidential primary. We went with KidUnity, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization that provides sixth-10th graders from LA and Detroit a chance to “experience politics in action.” Danielle had traveled with them before and invited us to join for the 2020 vote — an amazing opportunity. We later met Isaac Mintz, 18, an energetic senior at West Bloomfield High School with a passion for politics, who joined the trip. “We hope none of you talk about politics en route,” the Delta flight attendant joked at the start of our journey. Our plane was largely filled with journalists, including the legendary Tom Brokaw of NBC Nightly News fame. That was our first “celebrity sighting.” We were giddy as we snuck a few pre-flight photos.
We hit the ground running in Iowa. The trip was a whirlwind of rallies, talks and some chance meetings with the likes of Bernie Sanders. A few students ran into the Democratic presidential hopeful in a hotel lobby. Along the way, the kids developed reporting skills by interviewing voters, candidates and journalists and witnessing politics in real time. National political reporters John King and Dana Bash from CNN and MSNBC’s Katy Tur stopped to talk to us. As a former TV news anchor/reporter, I was geeked. So was Isaac. “It was amazing. You look around and realize you’re seeing media professionals doing their job — and you’re right alongside them,” he said. “I learned that journalists need to be really alert because there could be an opportunity anywhere,” Ruby added.
The students took selfies with former Vice President Joe Biden. They got autographs from entrepreneur Andrew Yang (who has since dropped out of the race) and met with other Democratic and Republican candidates. We sat in the press section during an actual caucus vote in Precinct 62 at Drake University. “Voting in America is a time-honored and sacred thing,” Danielle reminded the students. “It’s something people fought and died for, and it’s not something you should take for granted.” We watched as voters filed into the stadium and took their seats in various sections designated for each candidate. In our precinct, candidates with fewer than 127 votes were not considered viable. Voters in those sections had 20 minutes to move to another section and change their vote. “I learned what a caucus is and how you vote in one,” Olivia said.
Following the vote, our group filed into a gym for a Pete Buttigieg rally; but there was no sign of the Democratic presidential candidate and former South Bend, Indiana, mayor. At approximately 9:30 p.m., a big screen in the gym airing CNN indicated that a vote-counting error occurred. None of us knew what had happened, and the student journalists were in the same boat as their role models: watching and waiting for answers. It turns out we all witnessed one of the greatest debacles in caucus history. As we headed home, the results still had not come in. It was truly an unforgettable experience. “It’s incredible to think that the world had its eyes on Iowa,” Isaac said. “And we were right there.” Isaac Mintz contributed to this report. Michigan’s presidential primary takes place March 10.