We Dropped Out of School to Spend the Winter in Iowa. Here’s Why.

Tyee taught me to walk on the ice like a penguin, with my weight pushed to the front of my feet. This helped, but not much. I still slipped and fell at least a half dozen times, my bruises more colorful than the monotonous light gray of the ice, snow, and sky outside. Des Moines was dreary. Brick buildings, frozen sidewalks, skeletal black trees, the occasional Hy-Vee supermarket. Rarely did I see other humans walking those streets, though on occasion they would flicker past me, hopping through the snow and into frozen cars. No people, birds, bunnies, or plants. The world around me was dead.

Or so it seemed. Behind closed doors, life raged on. It raged in the form of a grassroots army led by none other than Senator Bernie Sanders himself. Bernie implored us, “Are you willing to fight for someone else as much as you are willing to fight for yourself?” Yes. We were. We were so willing in fact that we put everything on the table. We sacrificed terms at school, Avery, Tyee, Simon, Aeron and I, but others sacrificed careers, leases, relationships. We came from Oregon, others came from New York, California, everywhere in between and even places as far away as Denmark and England. All to join this army of activists and organizers with the common mission of getting Bernie Sanders elected as the next President of the United States. 

Electoral politics can eat all of our collective shorts, but if ever there was a time to participate, now is that time. The system is designed to intentionally alienate people like us – five young, queer far-leftists – from participating. It’ is designed to be so complicated that people are disheartened before they even begin. It’ is designed to suppress the votes and the voices of people of color, the working class, those with felony charges, and the unhoused. American electoral politics is a machine that perpetuates the dynamics that maintain power for the wealthy, white few. Bernie winning the Iowa caucuses was the first step in breaking that machine. 

When we went to Iowa last December we truly had no idea what we were getting ourselves into when we went to Iowa last December. VIn Oregon, voting in the Oregon Democratic primary requires filling out and returning a mail-in ballot. The maelstrom that is the Iowa caucuses is a completely different story. As mentioned before, people from across the country and across the sea come to this event in the Midwest every four years. It is where the first votes are cast for the presidential nominee, and so has a decisive impact on the winner. 

PFor many months prior to the actual caucuses in February, presidential candidates, their cohorts, and the media panders to the people of Iowa for many months prior to the February caucuses. From what I gathered while interacting with the Iowans, they love it. It puts what is otherwise a fly-over state on the map. But the fact that our system is designed so that a ninety-percent majority white state has this decisive power in our leadership is problematic to say the least., nNot to mention the astronomic amount of money that i’s funnelled into this process. 

The actual caucuses are basically competitive neighborhood meetings that take place in churches, schools, and community centers across the state’s 1,681 locations. Representatives from each campaign attend to try to attract last-minute, uncommitted voters. Candidates must

have fifteen-percent of the total population of the room to be viable and go on to the next round after a process known as realignment. After this, hell breaks looseopen as more caucus math occurs. Each of us five Oregonians were stationed in a different caucus location to attract those final stragglers and keep a watchful eye out for the corruption we were prepared for. Surprise: the Oligarchy does not want Bernie to win. Sinister plots abounded to keep us down, and yet, Bernie won.

Bernie won Iowa by a sizable margin in the popular vote. Then he won New Hampshire, and just a few days ago, he swept Nevada. Bernie will win the nomination and defeat Donald Trump because he is calling on people like us to join the political revolution. He’ will win because anarchists, communists, socialists, and even some libs have joined together to knock on the doors of Trump supporters and establishment Ddems. To look in their faces and attest that no one is beyond saving. 

When we remove the media-fed shit storm, be vulnerable, and talk about our ideas, many of us agree that we want the same things – love, comfort, and security. A Bernie presidency is our best chance of getting there. His campaign goes far beyond the typical political jargon that all other candidates rely onascribe to. It reminds us that as members of a community, we have power. Our voices should be heard in the decision- making processes of that community. When Bernie speaks about what will happen during his presidency, he never says “I” but always “We.” 

Together, we will ensure that healthcare is a human right, that people are being paid a living wage, that all people regardless of their socioeconomic status have access to quality education, that people are housed, safe, and comfortable. Together, we will pass a Green New Deal and do everything in our collective power to combat the ongoing climate catastrophe.

The Five Oregonians spent our winter in Iowa because we cannot simply sit back and watch as our planet dies and as we, our friends, and our families are oppressed for profit. Electoral politics are shitty, complicated, and disheartening by design, but we must feel our suffering and use that anger to motivate us into action. To participate in this system and change it from the inside out, whether that means dropping everything for Bernie or knocking doors for our local progressive congressional candidate Doyle Canning. We will show up and fight back, fueled by the fact that those in power do not want us to and do not expect it. We will Bern it down.

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