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How To Caucus With A Baby

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Ahead of the Iowa caucuses this week, Lyz Lenz, a staff writer for the Cedar Rapids Gazette, posed to readers this question. How do you caucus with a baby? She says parents want to caucus and participate in the frenetic atmosphere of rallies and politicking. But it's just not that easy with a child in tow. Lyz Lenz joins us from Cedar Rapids. Welcome.

LYZ LENZ: Thank you for having me.

MONTAGNE: And tell us about what got you thinking about this question.

LENZ: Well, I am a mom. I have an 8-year-old and a 6-year-old. And I've tried to caucus with babies. I tried to caucus with babies in 2016, and it was really, really hard. And so this time around, in 2020, with all the new caucus rules, I wanted to know how women were making it work. It's also a year, you know, where we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment. And we have - we've had, you know, so many female candidates running for the Democratic nomination. So I wanted to know how women were making it work.

MONTAGNE: You do declare in your column that Iowa's mothers are - even after the 19th Amendment, women got the vote but are still disenfranchised from caucusing. But, you know, let me just push you on this little. I know how hard it is. But considering that this caucus date is famous throughout the land, doesn't a mother or both parents have time to kind of save up and get a babysitter for that one important date?

LENZ: You know (laughter), you say that, but anybody with small children knows how hard it is to plan, how unpredictable it is. You know, some children are high needs. Even in 2020, two-thirds of women are still the primary caretakers of their children. And it puts an additional burden on women, people with families to pay to play. And I think that's essentially, you know, what is at the heart of this - is that, at its nature, a caucus is a self-limiting process.

MONTAGNE: Well, you know, I did scroll through a bunch of the tweets that responded to this. And there were - a lot of them were different. Some telling their story, like, you...

LENZ: Yeah.

MONTAGNE: ...Just were talking about. But there's - some of those answers to how to caucus with a baby is cut out caucuses and give us a chance just to go to a ballot box for a minute and put in my ballot. I was a little surprised. Like, change the system.

LENZ: Well, that's the conversation that we're having nationally - that people are really coming to terms with how limiting this caucus is, how inaccessible it is for older Americans, Americans with children, Americans with disabilities, Americans who work multiple jobs who can't get time off. And so a lot of Iowans are saying, why can't we just have a primary? But the answer to that is New Hampshire. They would not be happy if we moved from our first-in-the-nation caucuses to a first-in-the-nation primary, which they are. So it's a small, local issue. But it also is reflective of the issues facing the Democratic Party nationwide.

MONTAGNE: So given all of this, what about you? Are you going to be able to caucus yourself even though you're, you know, a columnist for a newspaper? I mean, what's going on?

LENZ: Yeah. So because I am an opinion columnist, I am allowed to caucus. And I will be going to caucus. I do have two small children. But I'm also divorced. We have 50/50 custody. And my partner is a Republican, and they have a very polite primary. So he will be taking the kids for the night. And I'll be caucusing and then working all night. So it works out for us. But I would like it to work out for every woman in America.

MONTAGNE: That was Lyz Lenz of the Cedar Rapids Gazette in Iowa. Thanks for joining us.

LENZ: Thank you so much for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.