Living in Iowa During an Election

I feel like I know a lot about politics, but most of my knowledge is strictly something I picked up from “The West Wing” and “Saturday Night Live.” I never really thought I’d have an interest in politics beyond that.

Isn’t it funny, though, that my two favorite TV shows happen to be focused around politics? Even funnier than that is the fact that I voluntarily went to college in Iowa and decided to stay after graduation to live in Des Moines, the capital city. Iowa is a strange political hub. Every candidate running for the presidency wants to win the Iowa Caucus. It’s the caucus that sets a trend for the rest to follow. If you don’t win Iowa, your campaign is likely dead. So harsh. So political.

Living in Iowa during election season has taught me a lot of things about being an adult. Watching the news, reading the paper, and getting alerts on Twitter have helped me hold my own in conversation with all the politically savvy young people in Des Moines.

But the truth of the matter is I don’t really have an opinion about the election just yet. First, there’s way too many candidates right now for me to want to care. My brain starts to hurt just trying to remember them all. Second, I don’t see myself as a Democrat or Republican or some made up party. I’m somewhere in the middle. I wouldn’t trust Hilary Clinton to save my life, but that sure as hell doesn’t mean that I want Donald Trump of “The Apprentice” to be our next president.

Often times when you’re talking about politics, especially with young people like myself who feel a need to voice an opinion they probably don’t understand just yet, people are testy to say the least. And so be it, a lot of young people I know in the Des Moines area plan on going to the Iowa Caucus as if it is their divine destiny. Wonderful! Good for them. But “The Bachelor” is on tonight and I feel I have a divine destiny to watch that instead of pretending I know what I’m doing in politics.

Politicians are easy to make fun of and even easier to distrust. And in Iowa, I’ve learned not to be fooled by a single one of them. I’ve heard that after the caucus tonight Hilary is throwing a victory party on my alma mater’s campus. Cute, isn’t it? What’s even funnier is the amount of people I know in Iowa who will not be voting for Hilary tonight, but rather Bernie Sanders. Young people love that old dude! Again, it’s all cute.

This morning while driving to work I saw people on a street corner at a busy intersection handing out lawn signs for Rand Paul. Up until 7:55 a.m. this morning I kind of forgot that guy existed. When I arrived at work I received a text from my grandma informing me that the Trump sons were going to be in Urbandale today (the suburb I technically live in). Yesterday the freaky Trump sons were in some tiny Iowa town at a Pizza Ranch. A Pizza Ranch!

Politics are crazy and so fascinating. Last Thursday night while Trump was boycotting the Republican Debate, he was actually on my alma mater’s campus holding an event for veterans or something like that. A friend and I got tickets to the event because hey, who doesn’t want to say that they’ve seen Donald Trump in real life? Personally, I was hoping for a meet and greet chance to ask him if he’s still mad at Seth Meyers.

By the time my friend and I arrived on campus after a long day of work there was already a line to get into the event that stretched through half of campus. We made our way to the back of the line and preceded to wait with a nice family of three in front of us and a group of young professional males in back of us. It was clear from the beginning of our line standing that even though we had gotten a ticket online, we would not be getting into the event.

In fact, it became very clear after an hour of waiting and observing what was really going on. Trump supports (Yes, they’re real people just like you and me!) were pulling little red wagons down the waiting line selling buttons, hats, shirts, and other useless items. And yes, some people actually bought those items, while other people in line didn’t need to because they already owned Trump memorabilia to show their support. A lot of people seemed upset at the idea that they wouldn’t be able to get a chance to see the Donald, but all in all everyone in line was pleasant, upbeat, and, as the say on “Veep,” normals.

What the normals didn’t necessarily see, however, was the fact that we were all a part of a much larger PR move by Trump’s campaign people (who by the way are some kind of evil geniuses). As we waited in the cold, hundreds of media outlets took pictures of us, filmed us for B-roll, even grabbed us for interviews. There were even podcasters in line trying to pick up on people’s conversations to try and ambush them about their opinions on the man of the hour. Most of the people in line were frazzled when journalists asked for interviews or filmed them for a quick second as the moved up and down the line.

Lucky for me I went to journalism school and I understood the need for what reporters were doing. Unlucky for me I also knew that Trump and more specifically his campaign people who were running the event had stuffed the event line with far too many people than could fit into the venue because it was a brilliant strategy move. There was no way all of us were going to fit in the venue. We were a marketing ploy to make it look like, at least to the media, that all of Iowa had turned up for Trump.

I was appalled, but totally impressed. Then I was upset with myself that I had somehow been hoodwinked into this “Titanic” style situation of not enough seats for waiting people. Eventually my friend and I left the cold line and went to Perkins because a large Belgian waffle is still better than a chance to stare at the amazing awfulness that is Trump.

Tonight I will be eager to see who my fellow Iowa dwellers choose for a candidate. I trust them to make good, well-informed decisions for the rest of the country to follow. Because I for one am very tired of politicians being interviewed on the radio every morning on my commute to work when I could be listening to Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” for the 800th time.

Happy caucusing, Iowa!

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