A Chaotic Registration Can Lead to a Great Forum
DES MOINES, Iowa — After a quick weekend home and visiting friends at Iowa State University, it was an early drive back from Ames to make it to the Black and Brown Forum on the morning of MLK Day. The forum has been going on for over 30 years at this point and is a foundation in the presidential nomination schedule for Iowa. Especially when considering the lack of influence that black and brown citizens are given in representation in the Iowa electorate, the forum is all the more important.
However, as we arrived at the convention center, we were greeted by staff and organizational structure that was not suited for the importance of the event and the age it sports. We arrived at the later end of the check-in period expecting check-in to go smoothly since we were lucky enough to get tickets earlier. What we did not know was that the VIP check-in section that was mentioned in the email did not exist. While that didn’t derail our plans, as we had arrived around half an hour before the cutoff, it did put us a step back.
So, we got in line, or really, we joined the giant mob of people. It seemed that at one point there had been lines based on attendees’ last names but had been thrown out some hours ago. We learned this after one of the attendants told us to find the line with our last name, and a few minutes later another attendant told us to get in any line we wanted. Needless to say, it was a mess.
After waiting in this blob of a line for around 45 minutes to fill out a form we could have done online, we found out we were supposed to bring a government-issued ID. Fortunately, we both had it more or less and we were let in.
Unfortunately, we started walking where we were directed by check-in and were stopped by security and redirected around to coat check only to find out that the backpacks we were told were alright with registration, couldn’t be taken by coat check.
It was a miracle we made it in the room at all. After some time, we eventually ducked under some ropes and emptied our pockets for metal detectors until we made it to the ballroom. We unknowingly sat in a “question spot” but after finding out the event would be four hours by the host, my friend left with his question card. While there was a complex and tedious process to get to the point where we could see, in the end, we did end up getting front row seats in a beautiful venue. One of the co-chairs of the event explained how they had partnered with Vice News to help build the set and they had done a fantastic job, especially for what couldn’t be larger than a 300-person audience.
The candidate section of the forum was very well done as soon as Vice took over. I can’t imagine if the entire forum was run the way the registration was run, but I’m happy it wasn’t. The candidates were asked new and refreshing questions and, for the most part, stopped in their tracks from giving their basic monologue. The audience questions really helped pin candidates down on issues they probably would rather avoid but best of all the short answer. Or as would be a better name for many of the candidates, the short answer and long explanation.