And that’s just what they did.
When you’re planning a trip to the Midwest in the middle of the winter, you’ll want to make sure you have a decent pair of boots to wear. But sometimes, all you need is a pair of Adidas Originals and a whole lot of passion.
I started Part 1 of this journey and outlined the trials of our travels, but who knew the actual caucus experience would be just as eventful?
When I left off we had just experienced Pizza Ranch and were headed to bed, having no idea that the first official day of Iowa Caucus activities were about to rock our political socks off.
We had Yang in Ft. Dodge early that first morning, Biden in Cedar Rapids, Warren in Iowa City, and Sanders back in Cedar Rapids with a special acoustic concert from Vampire Weekend. Each event was even more involved than the last.
We met members of the Yang Gang at a local brewery in Ft. Dodge and by the end of our stop in town, we had heard from a guy who had received a Freedom Dividend, listened to Yang outline his plans for presidency, and even got a picture with the candidate himself. Some of us even scored a free “MATH” hat and a copy of his book. Even though we were only there for an hour or so, and breezed in and out of town just as fast as Yang, we were able to conduct some of our interviews and connect with the people of the town. This was the start of our true journey where we would witness the humanity of politics and learn the driving forces of what gets Iowans to caucus.
After Yang, we made our way to the basement of a middle school in Cedar Rapids where hundreds of people were crammed into a sweltering gym to hear former Vice President Joe Biden speak. Our minivan, so lovingly named Jolene, was running late to the event and we had to experience the rally from the “overflow” area in the small cafeteria. It wasn’t all that bad considering we got to meet Former Secretary of State John mf Kerry.
We were also able to meet the president of the International Association of Fire Fighters, a union organization that is a very big supporter of the Biden campaign. We didn’t last long at the rally 1) because of the temperature in the building and 2) because as we were leaving an elderly man passed out (yikes), so we loaded up and headed to our next rally for Elizabeth Warren.
The Warren event was electric and in a gym much bigger than the one we had seen Biden in; it was a much more comfortable environment. The music was relatable and the crowd wasn’t 65+. The candidate was introduced by the energetic Ayanna Pressley, and Liz went over her plans and answered questions with poise and grace. Her anecdotes about her personal life and struggles grounded her and made her more relatable as a candidate. Our sight was slightly limited at the event though and one of us *cough* (Taylor Doggett) scaled a set of gym bleachers for a better view.
Our final stop of the evening was the US Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids where we witnessed what could essentially be described as a 21st century Woodstock where people had their clothes on and they were amped about politics. The setting of the Vampire Weekend concert definitely fed into the feel of something more than a political rally, but even the guest speakers were fired up. People like Michael Moore, Nina Turner, Stacey Walker, Ilhan Omar, Pramila Jaypal, Mark Pocan, Cornell West, and the one and only Jane Sanders. It was set up almost like a music festival where each person performed their own act that helped the crowd get even more excited for Bernie Sanders. Vampire Weekend serenaded him on stage and he ended the political speeches with a fiery call to action for his supporters to caucus on Monday.
We left as the band was ramping up in order to feed ourselves and beat traffic. By that point we had covered four political rallies and candidates, taken dozens of interviews and field notes and traveled over 430 miles.
I wrote this piece with the title “These Shoes Were Made for Caucusing” because I walked tens of thousands of steps in my Adidas on that first day. They saw ice and snow and were helpful with every literal step I took towards my politically-engaged future. Politics are taken one step at a time and even on that first day we were able to see the gradual increase in the size of events and the number of people reached with a campaign.
My admiration for campaign staffers, volunteers, field organizers, and precinct captains grew immensely. And we still had two days to go, we still had two more events and a caucus night to witness. How could Iowa shock us more than it already had?
I guess you’ll have to wait for Part 3, to find out…
As for a playlist, don’t forget about the one we crowdsourced for Iowa! But on that first full day we mostly listened to radio the old fashioned way. So I challenge you to get in your car this week and listen to whatever station you land on first. Support local media and stay engaged!