Well I’m definitely not in Iowa anymore. After the caucuses last week, Wake the Vote traveled to New Hampshire for the first in the nation primary. Many candidates hinge the future prospects of their campaign on the results they get in New Hampshire. It’s a make or break state in New Hampshire, as candidates in a crowded GOP field that struggle for media attention have placed all of their proverbial eggs in the Granite State basket. After my ultrashort love affair with Marco Rubio last week in Iowa, I was really feeling the optimism and confidence that is wrapped up in “Marcomentum”. I spoke about the enthusiasm I witnessed in his campaign headquarters in Des Moines on Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry’s show on Sunday and I held out hope that the same passion and dedication I found myself admiring and emulating in Iowa I would also find in New Hampshire. Not to discredit the hard work of the volunteers at the Rubio campaign in New Hampshire, but the environment was completely different. The mix of volunteers were older, wealthier, and (somehow) even whiter than before. In the morning, the volunteers phone banked with the same cheery and informational tone as the workers in Iowa, but the environment in the room was at times diametrically opposed to the climate in Iowa. After a series of embarrassing clapbacks shot at Marco Rubio by Governor Chris Christie during the last GOP debate, Rubio has been on the defensive. The attacks lobbed at him led critics to label him robotic and inept. A promising showing in Iowa had quickly made him a target leading up to New Hampshire, and the tension was palpable in the New Hampshire campaign headquarters. Volunteers quickly and methodically worked through call sheets, and in the lapses between voicemail messages there was a lack of pleasant banter with coworkers as there had been in Iowa. Instead of being sent out to wave signs and rally supporters at polling places as we had in Iowa, we were ordered to go and act as a human wall between Marco and a horde of aggressive protesters dressed as robots. While the violent protesters did not actually make an appearance at the polling site we visited, the whole experience was indicative of the fundamental difference between this week and the last. While Iowa was all about fresh starts and optimism, New Hampshire was about redemption and defensiveness. If the contest between the numerous GOP presidential hopefuls wasn’t vicious before, the gloves have certainly come off in New Hampshire. This was evident in town halls with Christie where the barbs at Rubio were poignant and crippling, or Twitter spats between Jeb! and Donald Trump. Donald Trump was playing absolutely no games when it came down to attacking his fellow candidates. At his rally on Monday night, I learned what it meant to be frightened for my safety at a political event. As the only group of young, black and brown people in the arena, we were profiled from the moment we made it through the rigorous TSA security check at the entrance of the arena. A security man clad in a dark suit and red tie stood in the aisle next to our seats and literally stared us down the entire rally, almost daring us with his eyes to challenge any of the hateful rhetoric being spouted by Trump and echoed by his supporters. People around us shot suspicious looks, especially when I left my seat to get ice cream or took a walk around the arena to stretch my legs. Never have I felt the weight of so many eyeballs upon me as I simply navigated the space as I usually would. Everyone around us at the rally seemed to be fully enthralled in the message of Trump, and it was confounding to me how so many people could be swept up in the bigotry and bluster. Not only did our age and ethnicity cause us to be profiled, but so too did our apparent lack of full-fledged support for Donald Trump. To a man like Donald Trump who relies on reactionary and dangerous rhetoric and fallacious reasoning to maintain support, any perceived threat to his status quo is completely unacceptable. Before the rally began, an automated speaker warned that any protesting or heckling done inside the arena during the rally would be swiftly shut down. The message blared that if anyone noticed that someone in the crowd may be engaging in protest, the bystander should raise a campaign sign above their head and chant Trump repeatedly until security could come detain and remove the protester. Listening to the message I at first assumed it was a joke. Are we not living in a country where a First Amendment Right to Free Speech is not cherished and defended? Unfortunately I would come to realize that the procedure for handling protesters at a Trump rally was all too real. In an early part of Trump’s speech a young man with glasses stood up and began shouting that Trump was “too old” to carry out some of the policy proposals he advocated for. Those around him at first shot him venomous glares, but then an older woman stood up and began chanting “Trump, Trump, Trump” and waving a sign above her head. Those around her soon followed suit and a mob mentality encouraged a large group of people to sneer and chant until security came and roughly grabbed the man’s arm. As he was being dragged away, an older man yelled “See you later four eyes,” and the crowd around the failed protester erupted in cheers. From the stage Donald chuckled and smirked in a way that seemed to suggest “Well, that’s what you get for not agreeing with me.” The whole experience was both surreal and terrifying. New Hampshire turned into a bitter battle, and in New Hampshire is where things got real. I was disenchanted with Rubio and his policies and felt alienated and threatened by other GOP contenders: it’s no longer fun and games. We’re off to South Carolina next; today was our last day in New Hampshire. See you later four eyes.
**Clarification: At the Donald Trump rally, I was filled with a sense of unease throughout the duration of the event. There were no tangible physical threats made against my safety, but the discomfort definitely intensified after I witnessed several people being escorted out and saw the harsh reactions to those who chose to verbalize their protests.