Iowa: the land of decisions

bernie rubioMy time in Iowa was marked by sickness. I had extreme headaches and dehydration the first day of the trip, and suffered from food poisoning during the latter half. Despite these ailments, I still got to enjoy a day on the satellite set of MSNBC, CNN, and other news networks that converged in downtown Des Moines. I also spent a day in good company with my professor and other Wake the Vote students at Des Moines’ Java Joe’s, a local coffee shop supporting MSNBC and hosting several politicians, caucus-goers, and news shows this weekend.

 

My personal involvement was limited this weekend, so I didn’t make it to the caucuses. Though I still heard fascinating stories about my peers’ experiences, and more frightening ones about our beloved professor. I gathered the best and worst parts of their experiences, and was excited to learn about the caucuses from the inside. While I didn’t quite make it to the caucuses, I did spend a few hours at two interesting rallies: Bernie Sanders and Marco Rubio.

 

Bernie Sanders and Marco Rubio probably had the two of the most opposing rallies I could have imagined. Rubio’s was in a well-lit hotel ballroom filled with many middle aged white people, as well as some older ones and a few young persons as well. There were Rubio reps strewn out all over the room with sign-up sheets asking folks to commit to volunteering, and it was fascinating to watch their candid efforts. The Bernie rally was in a dimly-lit small college gym with young volunteers, many in costumes or decorated in Bernie clothing, also mostly white. The Bernie crowd consisted of many more young people as well as a few occupational groups, such as the Nurses for Bernie, who traveled together to see the Senator speak. All the energy and support behind “a political revolution” truly showed. Rubio’s rally consisted of an older demographic, yet the enthusiasm and support of his words were equally matched, though his crowd was less energetic. I was surprised and pleased to see the similarities in these rallies as we were then only hours out from the much anticipated Iowa caucus, and these two perceived underdogs were sure to make waves soon.

 

While at the rallies, I immediately took notice of crowd dynamics. This was particularly important to me in the Rubio space as I did not look like most of the crowd, and Rubio’s positions weren’t really supportive of women, much less Black ones. My attentiveness to the crowd led me to notice the heightened applause when Rubio said certain things, so I decided to record the loudest applauses at the Rubio rally and did the same the next day at the Bernie one. The loudest applauses at the Rubio rally were in response to Senator Rubio saying he was tired of hearing all of these bad stories about police, that we need to do more to protect our men in blue, and his desire to restore full second amendment rights and repeal all of Obama’s “illegal executive orders”. The loudest of the evening was in response to his statement that Hillary Clinton is a liar and the first thing she would do in office would to pardon herself due to illegal business concerning her private emails and Benghazi.

 

The Bernie rally had very similar reactions, to very different statements. At the Bernie rally on Sunday night, his three top applauses were in response to him stating we will not continue to discriminate on race, whether someone is Black, Latino, or Muslim, his comments about taking better care of our planet and environment by using cleaner energy sources, and, his final grand applause was in response to “real change never comes from the top down, it always comes from the bottom up!”

 

I came to Iowa not knowing which Democratic candidate to support. By the end of the night I was reaffirmed in my party affiliation thanks to Rubio, and backing Bernie Sanders.

 

Now, even though I was sick beyond recognition by the end of that Sunday night, I was feeling the Bern’. Allover, feeling it. I’m a pragmatist and have trouble understanding in my heart that Bernie could get all his platforms promises done given the real obstacles of Congress and the SCOTUS, but I loved the idea that a “political revolution” centered-platform was even on stage. How can I argue fervently for a political revolution on campus and in spaces I occupy and not support a Bernie Sanders when he comes along? I couldn’t answer that question, and so I signed myself up (by purchase of three Bernie buttons) and became a decided Bernie supporter. I want a revolution, and I do think we need one. I don’t know the practicality of taking Wall Street’s money, but I don’t mind the idea either. It’s time for a political revolution, this country is stagnant and seems to be regressing to worse days. I felt the Bern’ and I’m ready to join a political revolution!

Chizoba Ukairo

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