Caucuses highlight the best of democracy

Public participation is a critical component of the democratic process. It’s how people choose their representatives, how they express their opinions on policies and laws and how they express displeasure if things go awry. It’s the philosophy on which our nation was founded 240 years ago, and continues to be the rule of the land today.

As witnessed in our recent presidential election, the collective voice of citizens can be immensely powerful. Sure, the popular vote didn’t sync up with the electoral vote this time around — causing many to question if their voices were heard. While that anomaly can be disconcerting, there’s little to be done about its end result.

That said, people should always feel that they hold sway in the governing process — especially in the United States. After all, “We, the people …” sums up in a mere three words what our nation is all about.

E.F. Hutton would have approved of the line, “When people talk, leaders listen.” Largely, that’s true, from the world level to the national level to state government to local government. Voters hold a huge amount of power. Our leaders know very well indeed how the process works and that, as our representatives, they are beholden to us. Do they always act that way, mirroring our own concerns and desires? Of course not. But then we have the ability to vote them out of office.

Voting people into office is just as important, as much on the local level as on the national stage. The process can include something called a caucus, which is used in some states by members of a political party to select candidates for an election. Primaries are another method.

There were two caucuses held in the village of Millerton last week: one by the Democratic Committee of North East and one by the Republican Committee of North East. There they selected candidates for mayor and two village trustees.

While both caucuses were successfully run — and exemplified what the political process is all about — neither drew a crowd. Less than 10 people attended each. 

Yes, getting the public out to political events is difficult. Getting them out on a weekday evening, after or even during work and maybe around dinnertime or bedtime for their children, is even more challenging. 

But there’s a certain amount of power the people who did attend must feel. After all, it’s due to their diligence the village now has a slate of candidates running — one mayoral candidate who was cross-endorsed by both parties and four trustee candidates vying for two seats. 

It’s refreshing to see people attend the caucuses, no matter how few, and we only hope in the future participation increases. 

It’s also heartening to know that our communities have party committees. That the town of North East has a Democratic committee and a Republican committee serves the people well. It offers voters a means of participating in a process that supports ideals in which they believe. 

Not everyone belongs to such committees, but it’s important that they exist for those who want to join. It’s an illustration of a functioning democracy — as is the electoral process itself. 

Let’s hope the Jan. 31 caucuses were just the starting point for an election season rife with public interest. The village depends on it — just as the nation as a whole does