How Many Californians Is One Iowan Worth?
On Sunday, September 22, the Youth Voice Forum, the first student-moderated town hall in Iowa, was held at Roosevelt High School in conjunction with the Des Moines public school district and The Des Moines Register. There were six presidential candidates in attendance: Tulsi Gabbard, Michael Bennet, Bernie Sanders, Andrew Yang, Joe Sestak, and Tom Steyer. The event was held to allow college and high school voting-age students to ask presidential candidates questions that they as young voters are interested in. Carol Hunter, the executive editor of The Des Moines Register said, “We hope the forum will encourage young voters to engage with the presidential campaigns and participate in the Feb. 3 Iowa Democratic or Republican caucuses.” The Superintendent of Des Moines Public Schools Thomas Ahart added, “This forum is a great opportunity for those seeking our nation’s highest office to address what matters most to our newest voters, and will serve as a reminder that education is critical to addressing every challenge facing our world.” And the students sure made their issues known.
Each candidate began their time by giving an opening statement directed to the students and teachers in the room. After they finished their opening remarks, a select group of students had the opportunity to ask approved questions that ranged from topics about gun control, mental health, climate change, healthcare, space exploration, and many more. After answering about six questions from students and teachers, the candidates had time to make their closing remarks.
Though it was worthwhile to hear the responses of all the candidates on issues that were important to people my age, I was most interested while Andrew Yang was on stage. To my surprise, there was a significant amount of Yang supporters at the forum; one of the students who asked Yang a question about space exploration was even sporting a Yang 2020 shirt. Yang expressed his views on several different topics while on stage including gun violence, climate change, fiscal knowledge, immigration, the lowering of the voting age to sixteen, and SpaceX and his relationship with Elon Musk. Though throughout all of his responses Yang was very clear about one thing: Iowa – which in his words is “the only state where democracy actually works” – could change the outcome of the election and, in turn, the future.
He started his opening remark with a question, “Do you know how many Californians each Iowan is worth? One thousand.” He began to appeal to the room, estimating the number of people present and explaining the impact of each of them caucusing. “If you caucus it’s like a thousand other Americans caucusing. You can change the future of this country very quickly,” Yang said. “All it takes is 40,000 Iowans and then this vision of a trickle-up economy takes fire and we can totally change the way we operate in this country.” Yang closed out his time at the forum driving home the importance of Iowa in the election: “Here in Iowa you are all magic. Everything you do is like a thousand times more powerful than anywhere else in the country so use that power wisely and let’s make history in 2020.”