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Caucuses, Frats, and CBS

Posted: October 31, 2019 | By: John Altendorf and Tanner Halleran Tagged: Blog

Iowa Caucus Project Staffers John Altendorf and Tanner Halleran authored this blog depicting their recent caucus experiences.

Last week, CBS News was on Drake’s campus. This isn’t unusual for Drake University students, as Bulldogs frequently interact with national media during the Iowa caucus cycle. But, this trip was different–they visited us, Tanner and John, at our fraternity house, Sigma Phi Epsilon (SigEp).

The CBS team, which included a photographer/videographer, producer, and anchor, arrived on Sunday in Des Moines. On Monday, they got their bearings for the feel and layout of Iowa and prepared for the few days ahead. On Tuesday, we met with them to help them understand student engagement on Drake’s campus.  The team wanted to see campaign memorabilia, so they ended up in our bedrooms at our fraternity house.

A fraternity house is not something you probably imagine as an ideal setting for a national media video shoot. Rest assured, our house is an alcohol-free (“dry”) house, so we keep the place looking better than the stereotypical image of a fraternity house. While we never expected our rooms to be the locale for footage of the Iowa Caucus, we took pride in showing CBS our political signs, which we’ve collected at events and rallies, and our understandings of campus and students’ political perspectives.

Tanner was doing homework on Tuesday around lunchtime when John told him that CBS was coming to the house to do some close-up shots of our signs and other merchandise. While we waited, it slipped Tanner’s mind that perhaps he should put away the 5 extra pairs of shoes on his floor, make his bed, or even just tidy up. When CBS got here, Tanner met Michelle, Natalie, and Ken and showed them around the house with John. CBS rolled into John’s room in SigEp with their producer, cameraman, and anchor — John brought Tanner along to be his body man. John displayed the various campaign signs and memorabilia he gathered from attending various campaign events around the city and state (pictured below). In Iowa, even Republicans like John enjoy the experience of the caucus, despite little competition between Republicans.

After that, Tanner got a small cameo showing a piece of wall art with all the candidates from 2016. Following that interview portion, which happened in the hallway of the second floor, we went to Tanner’s unorganized room. Ken, the photographer, and videographer, had to try and shoot some interesting angles just to get my wall of candidate signs. Following Tanner’s portion of the video, in which he was to sit on the futon and appear to be doing homework, we bid each other adieu until the following night

Wednesday evening, we met with CBS again for a student panel that will be broadcast nationally in early November. Seven Drake students crammed into wooden chairs in the Drake Quad Creek Cafe dining hall. While we got mic’d up to give CBS our perspective of the 2020 presidential race, other students were getting their food and looking on at a media event unique to the political atmosphere Drake attracts. Throughout the panel discussion, the reporters asked us an array of questions, formulating an image of the current field from the perspective of a college student.

As the lone Republican on the panel, which weighed heavy with student activists and undecided voters on the Democratic side, John felt the pressure of trying to represent an entire party in a good light. He noted in the interview that while the Democratic field is scattered among candidates the Republicans are still unified (though impending impeachment implications could make Iowa even more fun in January). John also said that young Iowa Republicans with whom he has interacted are not always in love with Trump’s rhetoric, but, juxtaposed to the farther left-leaning Democrats, Trump becomes an increasingly attractive candidate.

If you are still holding back from falling in love with the Iowa Caucus cycle or Drake political opportunities, we challenge you to find another school, much less fraternity, in the nation that has national news organizations pleading for students to take interviews about their perspective. If you think all mainstream media is “fake news,” we’ve also had Nancy Pelosi and Mike Pence in Iowa the last two weeks as well.