Potential Performers for the Liberty and Justice Celebration

Posted: October 31, 2019 | By: Morgan Garner and Will Follett Tagged: Blog

In 2015 at the Liberty and Justice Celebration (LJC), then named the Jefferson-Jackson dinner, Katy Perry performed at a pre-event rally for Hillary Clinton. The star power from that event marked a paradigm shift for Democratic candidates’ pre-event celebrations. Now, politicians must appeal to voters with celebrity guests, in addition to appealing to voters through political ideology.  

Celebrity guests present potential opportunities for lower-tier candidates if they can pick up one big musical celebrity–then, the potential for a free concert by the musician could draw a huge crowd. With a captive audience, the lower-tier candidates could win new supporters. 

Iowa Caucus Project (IACP) staffers have trolled Twitter, eagerly anticipating concert announcements (e.g. Weezer) and new rumors about performances (e.g. Lizzo, John Legend, and Chrissy Teigen). But, as of Wednesday, Oct. 30 at 9:30 p.m., a competition between candidates over headlining performers does not appear likely.

Below is a list of IACP staffers’ dream team of candidate pre-event entertainers.

Elizabeth Warren

John Legend

As her lead in the race continues to grow, a large part of the questions around Elizabeth Warren’s candidacy concern both momentum and age. Despite being 70 years old, Warren’s youthful enthusiasm and energy has allowed her to build large organizing networks utilizing young people, such as those at Drake University. Her recent endorsements from singer John Legend and his wife Chrissy Teigen indicate momentum is still building. 

Joe Biden

No performance (early-bird dinner)

It doesn’t really matter who performs for Joe. He has solid support from older Democrats and even some Never-Trumpers. Additionally, being a self-described “gaffe machine” has not hurt him so far. 

Whoever performs just shouldn’t pass him the mic. (This is all considering he does host a performer beforehand, rather than an early-bird dinner for himself and our grandparents).

Pete Buttigieg 

Panic! at the Disco

Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign has been propelled in large part by his youthful energy and approach to politics. Declaring without fail that we are on the cusp of a new American moment at every appearance, Buttigieg’s yearning for a generational change in America is matched in enthusiasm only by the song he uses to promote it, Panic! At The Disco’s “High Hopes.” We think that having the band attend would not only serve as an acknowledgment by the band the relevance of their tune but also lend validity to its repeated playing, to show that the band, like many others, is on board with Pete Buttigieg’s vision of what lies ahead for the country.

Bernie Sanders

Cardi B feat. Ariana Grande with surprise guest Miley Cyrus

In 2015, Sanders hosted alumni of the bands Guster and MC5–which were hardly household names. But, Sanders’ staff certainly would have a hard time picking through a performer for this year’s dinner only four years later. With the longest endorsements list to date, Sanders must select between musical stars from every generation. These include Belinda Carlisle, Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Norah Jones, Miley Cyrus, Ariana Grande, Cardi B, and many more. 

While Sanders has the support of many youths already, he could use this concert as a way to attract even more young voters and gain their contact information to recruit them as volunteers. Young volunteers between the ages of 18 and 29 are necessary to mobilize the votes of their peers who are less likely to vote than older Americans. 

Kamala Harris

Needed: Prince

Sadly for Kamala Harris, one of her favorite musicians, Cardi B, is already taken on the afternoon of Nov. 1 (see: Bernie Sanders). 

But, that could be a good thing–Cardi B may actually be too tame. Harris has struggled in the polls, and hosting a spotlight-grabbing artist may be just the boost her campaign needs. In that case, she needs to host the biggest name with the most talent. 

Per her taste, Prince would be best. Oh, not possible? Maybe neither is a boost to her campaign.

Cory Booker

Jon Bon Jovi

Jon Bon Jovi could give Cory Booker’s campaign the boost it also needs. The famous American rocker could keep Booker’s campaign from living on a prayer and finally get it noticed in the polls by older Americans who need an alternative to Joe Biden and his flubs

As Bon Jovi says, “It’s now or never.” 

Andrew Yang

Confirmed: Weezer, 1-4:30 p.m.

On Friday, Nov. 1, one week before the LJC, Andrew Yang announced that the band Weezer would perform at his pre-event called “Yangapalooza.” While the early announcement spoils the excitement of predicting his headlining guest, announcing the well-known band a week prior was strategic in that it draws Weezer fans, motivates the Yang gang to rally earlier and larger, and makes Des Moines headlines (since it has been the only big musical announcement so far). 

Besides inviting Weezer, which will attract millennials to Gen Xers, calling the event “Yangapalooza” was a creative way to attract young voters by riffing off the name Lollapalooza, the infamous Chicago music festival. 

Nice moves, Yang gang.  

Beto O’Rourke

Willie Nelson

This country star from Texas performed for Beto O’Rourke in June 2018 and renewed his support of the candidate in June 2019. Nelson said, “Anything he wants to do, I’m with Beto.” 

If that still rings true, Iowa country fans may have a chance to see the Red Headed Stranger this Friday. 

Amy Klobuchar


This wicked employer from the North needs Lizzo and a final push to get her name out there. Klobuchar is actually a promising candidate–she is moderate, she has years of experience, and she is well-loved in Minnesota. A strong, popular, and empowered artist like Lizzo is the perfect guest to team up with Klobuchar and win her some well-deserved attention. 

Tom Steyer

Taylor Swift

Of all the candidates, Tom Steyer has access to the most money. Thus, he can pay for whatever artist he wants–kind of like how he could pay to get time on the Democratic debate stage. Steyer will go for the most popular (and probably most expensive) artist in 2019–Taylor Swift. 

John Delaney 

No one. 

John Delaney has defined his candidacy based in large part on his working-class roots and the absentia of his own enormous personal wealth. To bring a celebrity performer, however relatable or famed they may be, is to some extent give into the con and acknowledge publicly what has been said privately; that at the end of the day, he’s not “one of us” and instead is just another rich guy. 

Expect Delaney to return to his middle-class roots and bring a middle-class family with a sob story to share their experience. Union jobs, like the one Delaney’s father used to work, define his message of hard work and decency. Ignoring his espoused values in favor of expensive performers would betray what loyalty and trust he has gained by his few supporters.

Marianne Williamson 

She Wishes: Enya

Nothing whispers new-age like Enya. 

Joe Sestak

The Who

The band name says it all. 

In conclusion, while not every recommendation listed here may come to pass, there is merit in reading between the lines at each candidate’s celebrity endorsements list and what it says about the candidate and the campaign. Though this list was done in jest, a large part of politics is trying to connect with real, tangible voters, and celebrity endorsements can offer insight into who a candidate is attracting. 

Check out the Iowa Caucus Project Twitter account for updates on pre-events.