The Errors of the JJ Dinner

Posted: October 26, 2015 | By: Iowa Caucus Project Staff Tagged: Blog
Photo by Nathan Paulsen

Hillary Clinton supporters wave glowsticks at the 2015 Jefferson-Jackson Dinner. Photo by Nathan Paulsen

While the night was deemed overall successful at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, there were a few hiccups and disappointments along the way that made me question some of the planning and execution of this event. Here’s a list of things for the Iowa Democratic Party to pay attention to for the next JJ Dinner:

Technical Difficulties

  • If you use projectors, make sure they work. If they don’t work, make sure it doesn’t look like a plug for a Republican presidential candidate. Early on in the program, the projector cut out, leaving a blue screen and the word “Christie” in the lower right corner. It was hard to tell if this was just poor luck or if Chris Christie’s campaign had pulled off an elaborate plan to hijack the monitors.

Location, Location, Location

  • It was nails on a chalkboard whenever the crowd came to their feet. Whether it was for the singing of the National Anthem or the standing ovation for various Iowa political figures, the room at Hy-Vee Hall echoed with screeching chairs as donors went up and down. While the room fit the needs of the event, my ears would have strongly appreciated some carpeting in that room. At least the candidates had cheering sections to drown out the screeches of the chairs whenever there were standing ovations from those seated at tables.

Plan for the Expected

  • Considering the expected attendance and Secret Service presence, perhaps a few more metal detectors could have been placed at the entrances to the hall. Attendees inched their way through the mob for up to two hours, while being asked to sign action cards and hearing stump speeches from Iowa candidates for public office. The few number of metal detectors led to the whole event getting started late, making the event not end until almost 11 p.m.

Caution Ahead

  • Proceed with caution to the bleachers at the JJ Dinner. While Hillary Clinton’s section was equipped with large blue glow sticks and Martin O’Malley’s section was a sea of red and blue glow sticks, the Bernie Sanders section had more of a weapon than anything. When supporters begin spinning two blue glow sticks attached to a lanyard like nunchucks above their head, it became dangerous. Passersby could lose an eye if not paying attention to their surroundings. I came rather close to being pelted across the face before I decided to flee the bleachers for my own personal safety. The effect of the spinning lanyards, while mesmerizing when in the bleachers, did not transfer well across the room and made the Bernie section look to be left in the dark. This could be because the liquid inside the glow sticks was spewing out as the sticks were being whipped in the air, leaving little glowing dots all over my clothes and the bleachers. It was more of a rave than a political fundraiser.

Trump Appearances

  • I’ve heard some interesting music choices at political events, but my head has never jerked up as quickly as when I started hearing “For the Love of Money” by The O’Jays, also known as the theme song to Donald Trump’s The Apprentice. I’m still in shock over this song choice for one of the breaks during the program. Who thought this was a good idea to play the one song that has such close ties to the leader of the polls (though tied in Iowa) for the Republican nominee for president? It wasn’t even played during the traditional Pass the Bucket portion, where Democrats pass around what appeared to be popcorn buckets and add donations to the Iowa Democratic Party as if taking a collection during a church service. Even then, there is no room for that song to be played at one of the largest Democratic fundraisers in the state of Iowa. While I got a good laugh at it, this has to be the biggest oversight of the whole night.


IMG_1200Zachary Blevins is a junior politics and strategic political communications double major at Drake. He avidly follows Postmodern Jukebox, is a strong proponent of the color orange, and can often be found relaxing in a hammock if it’s a nice day out. Follow him on Twitter.