Yangapalooza, Iowa Nice, and Name-Drops
Last weekend, you could not walk around Des Moines without finding yourself in the middle of some political event. The Liberty and Justice Celebration took place in the Wells Fargo Arena on Friday night and was preceded by rallies held by the candidates around downtown Des Moines. I decided to go walk around a few rallies, some of which had rumors of a few celebrity musical guests in an attempt to draw a crowd, and I guess it worked. We checked out Yangapalooza first, in part because I wanted to see Weezer perform but really because I wanted to be able to say that I attended Yangapalooza later in life because that is hilarious. We got there towards the end of his rally right before they began to march and somehow found ourselves at the head of the line amidst the large banners walking towards the Wells. This is exactly where we did not want to be so we quickly crossed the street to avoid getting completely caught up in the march.
After escaping Yangapalooza, we headed over to Pete Buttigieg’s rally, just in time to hear him address the crowd. In the middle of his speech, a woman handing out buttons dropped the container everywhere. In a split-second, a group of fellow Iowans sprang into action as we helped clean up the spilled buttons and returned them to the woman. Amidst the spilled buttons was one that sported a Halloween theme. The button said “Boo-tigieg” with the o’s replaced with candy corn, which was fantastic branding by Pete’s marketing team.
We also checked out Elizabeth Warren’s rally, though it had already finished and most of the people were gone. We still got free shirts but mostly we wanted to see the giant inflatable dog. The next day I helped at Drake’s politics day, a day devoted to admitted high school students interested in politics. I tried explaining the night before to a group of students but it was so strange I’m not sure they believed me. How do you make high school seniors believe that Elizabeth Warren really had a huge inflatable of her dog Bailey with a two cents collar around its neck? You can’t make that up but if someone had told me that without seeing it, I’d think they were either, one, exaggerating or simply lying, or two, absolutely insane.
After the rallies were finished, people began making their way to the Wells Fargo Arena. We were a bit early and didn’t want to take our seats, so we wandered the halls, stopping at various tables for as much free caucus merch as we could carry. During this time, we were notified that Beto O’Rourke had dropped out of the presidential race while we were looking out a third-floor window wondering who seemed to be giving a speech surrounded by a group of people when all of the candidates should have already been inside getting ready for the celebration. We can’t be sure that it was O’Rourke but we have our suspicions.
As we turned away from the window, Tom Steyer accompanied by two other men in suits casually walked by us. We were so caught off guard that we didn’t even do anything. Then we felt kind of bad because we realized no one else was doing anything either. I thought someone had to have recognized him from one constant campaign ads on TV. We turned around, possibly to hunt him down and ask for a picture but maybe just to see if anyone else would recognize him when someone called out his name and a small crowd began to gather around him. Part of me was happy for him that people recognized him and wanted his picture, but another part of me was disappointed that I didn’t take the opportunity to snap a picture with the infamous businessman.
We found our seats in the arena and it was nothing like any of us had expected. I had been in the Wells for high school sports and we had all been there for concerts, but the Liberty and Justice Celebration that night was unlike anything I had ever seen. Thousands of devoted supporters brought an entirely different atmosphere to the arena. The crowd maintained their energy the whole time that we waited for the speakers to start. Troy Price, chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party, began the night by addressing the crowd. He gave the usual speech talking about the strength of the party and how they can defeat the Republicans and referring to us all as “Iowa Democrats” more times than I can count. In the middle of his speech, he began name-dropping different cities around Iowa. After acknowledging a few larger cities, he really name-dropped my small hometown and I actually lost my mind. A few minutes later, he mentioned a fundraiser that took place in O’Brien County (my home county) over the summer which had a higher turnout than it had in the past and I lost my mind again, not because of the high turnout at this fundraiser but because he really name-dropped my small northwest Iowa town and county in front of 13,000 people.