I Took My Family to a Kamala Harris House Party. Here’s What Happened
JOHNSTON, Iowa – When I decided to go to Drake University, I didn’t know what a caucus was, and neither did my family. I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, a blue spot in a bright red state that politicians outside the state typically ignore both in primaries and general elections. Now, with just one Democratic state officeholder, Democrats in the St. Louis suburbs like my parents and sister have to choose to be civically engaged. Politics is not a natural part of everyday life back home. But the Bayne family sent me off to Drake knowing that I would learn what local politics could look like. This week, for the first time, I was able to show them the Iowa caucuses.
After Thanksgiving, my family brought me back to Des Moines and based on my calculations, we could get there just in time to go to a Johnston House Party for Senator Kamala Harris. The first thing we noticed when we arrived six hours later: the house was packed! Our van, full of the suitcases that we never had a chance to drop off at my parents’ hotel, was a quarter-mile away, and the sky looked suspiciously about to rain. The organizers must have packed a hundred people in a medium-sized house. My sister and I sat on the floor, and my dad had to kneel the entire time in order to be able to see. My mom got the coveted seat: front and center, on a comfy couch.
The house party format was an effective way for my parents and sister to feel connected at the event. “It made me feel like the candidate actually cared about the people instead of attendance numbers,” said my sister Lauren. My dad Alan continued, “A smaller setting allowed the candidate to actually have eye contact with much of the audience.” My family had never experienced a presidential candidate in such an informal and personal environment.
From the moment that Senator Harris began speaking, I was able to watch my family connect with her and become inspired. I felt like I did the first time I met a 2020 candidate, which was coincidentally meeting Senator Harris at Mars Café last spring. I remember being so amazed that a Senator – a national figure – would take the time to talk to voters like me. I still remember her saying that my friend and I were “spectacular.” That interaction made me feel seen and heard, and I could tell that my family, too, became enamored and inspired by Senator Harris after meeting her.
After Senator Harris’s speech and a quick Q&A, there was time for a quick meet-and-greet. My mom, of course, pushed to the front so that way we could get a family photo. “Hi, my name is Suzanne and my daughter wrote a blog about meeting you at the airport,” my mom quickly said to Senator Harris as my face turned bright red. Senator Harris recognized me, even remembered the detail about me going to Washington, D.C. for an awards ceremony, and then she said to my mom, “You should be very proud.” My sister got to share that she is studying to be a teacher, and Senator Harris affirmed her choice to go into elementary education. After those two interactions, I think my mom went over the moon. My dad, meanwhile, filmed the whole interaction, as every good dad should do.
My mom explained after the event, “She was talking directly to us. I was inspired that there are still people like Kamala who care enough to talk directly to the people. It made me want to go to open houses of other candidates.” Lauren continued, “She has a way of speaking that showed she wanted to appeal to every type of voter. It’s nice to know that people like that still exist in Washington.”
This was an entirely unique experience for my family. Even though it was painful for my dad to kneel on the floor and my sister and I were stepped on quite a bit, and even though we ran through the hail to get back to the car, the Bayne family was able to feel seen and heard by a presidential candidate. “It made me wish that Democrats didn’t give up on Missouri,” Lauren said. Sometimes, I forget how completely weird it is to be seeing different politicians all around town. In just one week, I was able to see three different frontrunners – anywhere else, that would be impossible! Iowans are fortunate to be able to personally interview presidential candidates. Seeing a caucus event through my family’s eyes reminded me to feel grateful and lucky that I get to experience the Iowa caucuses every day.