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March 24, 2008
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Creating Your Own Caucus

A wonderful British friend, Keith Handley, recently asked for a clarification of the quaint American practice of selecting presidential nomination delegates by caucuses in some states.

I began by clarifying that, as a resident of Florida, I was more qualified than most to comment on the idea of a caucus rather than an actual election. Florida, after all, and especially the counties of South Florida, have had some historically significant difficulties with the conduct of elections. Nonetheless, in doing my best to represent the people of the United States in providing an explanation to my British friend, it occurred to me that the practice of holding a caucus has some particularly compelling advantages for every one of us.

The word "caucus" was most likely derived from the language of the Algonquin Indians. It refers to the convening of a meeting or gathering in a common group or association. The idea is to create or reinforce common understandings, reach consensus or at least a shared awareness of each other’s positions. It has also taken on the meaning of a secret gathering, such as a closed-door meeting of members of a political party in a legislature.

At the local candidate selection level, it refers to people opening up their homes to neighbors who share a common political perspective for the purpose of the selection of delegates.

How many of us ever open our homes anymore to people other than a small circle of acquaintances on rare occasions? How many of us host a general gathering of people sharing a common interest, whether the interest is in a cooking class "progressive dinner," an astronomy club, hosting a meeting of a charitable or religious organization, etc.? After all, the prime requirement to host a caucus is that you be part of some form of association.

We live at the time of a fascinating worldwide social conundrum. The large majority of Americans have a home computer and are able to surf the Web or send an e-mail anywhere in the world. We have powers of communication and contact never before imagined in prior generations.

We can join chat rooms, discussion forums, view other people’s YouTube videos, upload photos to public Web sites, write blogs, be part of online dating services, and share hopes and dreams with millions of people.

However, we often use these powerful communication tools by sitting alone for hours at a time in a closet that we have now remodeled and call a "computer room." The conundrum is that the more technologically advanced we seem to be in communications, the less direct connection we seem to have with others.

Neither do we know our neighbors as perhaps other generations did, nor do we take much time to have direct non-electronic communication with them. We don’t invite them over to dinner. We don’t necessarily know their names. We don’t often know when events in their lives are taking place which involve joys to be shared, or sorrows to be comforted. How ironic that our new forms of "association" involve disassociation from one another in the direct, interpersonal contact sense.

So, whether it’s practical or not, whether it’s modern or "cool," or not, the idea of creating a caucus of your very own, meeting at your own home and the homes of friends, has a warm practical appeal.

As the beautiful HR Doctor Daughter Rachel would point out, there are several marker behaviors of people who will tend to live longer and happier lives than the average one of us.

Certainly a sense of optimism and a sense of humor are critical. The HR Dog Kamala would have me remind you that pet ownership contributes to a longer and healthier life, especially with a dog who loves to take you out for a long walk.

For the purposes of this article, however, success and happiness in life relate to being socially engaged or networked with other people who take the time, without being asked, to just call you and see how you’re doing, as you should do with them. The way to do that is to deliberately go about creating such a group of like-minded friends to share some of those precious moments together, perhaps over a meal, an evening of conversation or an opportunity to select a favorite presidential candidate.

If you create a caucus at work, you will be more successful on the job. If you create your own caucus in all the major areas of your life, you will be happier, more successful and just might live longer in the process.

Phil Rosenberg

The HR Doctor •


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