Iowans initiate the beginning of the end for Donald Trump
Iowa state capital | Al Neal/PW

DES MOINES, Iowa—Either force of habit, or the need to self-medicate after months and months of political ad inundations, and door knocks at all hours, led Mr. and Mrs. Ingersoll to find comfort and warmth inside the Royal Mile pub.

They strolled in hand in hand, a bit before 8:00 p.m., and were almost matching in their attire—jeans, light grey pullover sweaters, tennis shoes—but Mr. Ingersoll chose to keep a dark blue baseball cap perched upon his head. The pub, along with most other drinking establishments in the downtown area, was packed with locals trying to escape the political madness, Democratic presidential campaign staffers, and the countless volunteers arriving from all corners of the United States for a last-ditch get out and caucus push.

A local haunt, and premier purveyor of English food and spirits, the Royal Mile was decorated with flags from Wales and Scotland, the trusty Union Jack on the opposite wall of the flags above the bar—it had the feel of a “real” English pub, American accents and political conversations aside.

Royal Mile pub | Al Neal/PW

“Did you see the latest polls?” asked one middle-aged campaign volunteer, overcome with excitement, his wild flailing leading to most of his beer being donated to the already sticky floor.

“If this holds, we can count this one in the bag for us.”

I had no idea which candidate he supported; most of the campaign stickers had been torn off or were covered by winter coats.

Mr. and Mrs. Ingersoll, after several moments of looking for a place to sit, wandered over to my section of the bar and quickly took a seat before it was taken out from under them. They asked for glasses of water, and carefully studied the pretentious Scotch whiskey menu, finally deciding on something “not too smoky, but not too smooth either.”

After ordering their drinks, I bent my ear towards the conversation they were having with a Bernie Sanders supporter.

Mrs. Ingersoll turned her attention back to the bar.

“I couldn’t help but overhear the conversation you were having,” I said, hoping she wouldn’t mind answering a question from, up till then, a stranger.

“And if you don’t mind me asking, who are you caucusing and voting for?”

Mrs. Ingersoll took a sip of her whiskey on the rocks, turned to face me directly, and said: I’ll be voting for (Elizabeth) Warren to be our next president.

“To me, out of all the candidates, she’s the only one with real plans, a great educational and personal background, and someone we can all respect. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll vote for Bernie if he’s nominated, or any candidate for that matter, because we can’t take four more years of Trump.”

We paused for a few seconds to sip our respective beverages, ordered a second round from the bartender, making eye contact with her and showing empathy for the crazy night ahead.

“If you’re ok voting for Bernie, why are you pulling for Warren?” I followed up.

“I like Bernie, he has a lot of great ideas and solutions…but I just can’t see Bernie pulling everyone together, and his healthcare plan is something I don’t think he’ll be able to sell to voters. I was on the fence with Warren about her healthcare plan, until she scaled it back a bit.

“Candidates forget that here in Iowa there is a huge employment market in healthcare and health insurance, the thought of doing away with private insurance wouldn’t just take away people’s ability to choose, but for many Iowans, it would destroy their livelihoods.”

The strains of a well-tuned fiddle, joined by the overwhelming presence of highland bagpipes, accompanied our third and last round of drinks. Mr. Ingersoll, after ending his conversation with the Bernie supporter, turned and joined ours. I quickly asked him the same first question, who are you voting for?

He took a moment, scratched his salt and peppered stubbled chin, “I’m undecided.”

“How come?”

“Well, right now I’m thinking about caucusing strategically, I’ve ranked my top three candidates, and come Monday I will make my choice depending on which of those top three needs another vote to be a viable candidate.”

“Who are your top three?”

“Warren is first, followed by Bernie and Buttigieg…but like my wife said, I’ll be happy to vote for anyone that can get Trump out of the damn White House.”

Their check came, their final sips were taken, we shook hands and said farewell.

There was a chill in the city air as I stepped outside and took a late-night stroll towards the Capitol Building. Local Iowans were enjoying a Saturday night out—dancing in the streets, young couples arguing over where to go next. Each bar or nightclub was filled to capacity, and you could tell which were the choice spots for campaign volunteers and staff; the number of empty shot glasses and packets of cigarettes.

Politics is a stressful business, and comfort is found in simple, sinful pleasures. And Monday—the win or bust moment—was fast approaching.

The morning sun quickly crept under the bedroom window shade. The sounds of MSNBC anchors talking with Iowa voters brought home the thought: This is it, the day before the Iowa Caucus. I and another People’s World writer were (quite appreciative) house guests of a local community leader within the Latino community, former Teamster, and all-around good-hearted radical.

After the coffee flowed in our veins, giving us the jolt needed for a full day of campaign events, we watched as another houseguest, Cristal Garcia, 18, made her appearance on MSNBC’s morning show.

Garcia, a recent high school graduate, currently works for the local council of the League of United Latin American Citizens and was a guest speaker representing Iowa’s Latino residents.

Her comments quickly flashed on the television and just a few minutes after her phone began to ring.

She answered, “Hello.”

A smile crossed her face as she excitedly announced, “Oh my God, it’s Julián Castro calling.”

I only heard the conversation one way, but from what I could tell, whatever he was saying was empowering. She hung up the phone and let those of us around know that Castro had asked her to keep his cell phone number, “just in case I need some advice or help with anything.”

We took a seat at the kitchen table and chatted briefly before she had to clock into work.

“How did you get started in political activism?”

“Well, I got involved back in seventh grade,” said Garcia. “I remember volunteering with a local community organization helping the Latino community on the pathway to education, and helping them get involved in the local communities and local political activities.”

We moved on to the question on every reporters’ mind: Who are you supporting?

“I think I’ve finally narrowed it down to Bernie Sanders,” she answered.

“Why?”

“For me, and from what I’ve seen, out of all the candidates he has reached out to the Latino community and has pushed us all to get more involved…he’s doing real work with all the resources he’s given, been taking chances, and that makes him stand out,” she said. “He also cares about climate change, an issue important to me, because I would like to have kids someday, and don’t want to have to rethink that decision—it’s an important issue, so having a candidate who can put their foot down and take real action is crucial.”

“What advice would you give to young voters and undecided voters?” I asked before she had to head out the door.

Her response came quickly: “Get out there, meet the candidates, attend rallies, talk to your friends, family, get their input… then go do your research and see what not only benefits you but what will benefit our whole country.”

Outside Lincoln High School, at 12:45 p.m., Iowa voters supporting former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg began queueing up in a line stretching around the school parking lot and into the residential streets, with hopes of getting to see the candidate give his final pitch to the many undecided voters out there.

It was a sea of yellow and blue “Pete 2020” signs, t-shirts, buttons, and stickers, and there were plenty of happy political swag sellers on hand if you needed a rally cap or extra campaign souvenir.

Walking down the rapidly growing line, I met Dick Biers, a diehard Buttigieg supporter, ready to get out and knock doors one last time.

“What makes Buttigieg the right candidate for you?” I asked.

“Pete is very, very smart, very responsive to questions, very calm and well-reasoned, he would do well when dealing with complex issues from the White House,” Biers said.

Cristal Garcia | Al Neal/PW

“With such a deep field of candidates, what is it that makes you not support, let’s say, Bernie Sanders, who has a consistent political track record on the issues?”

“I’d say, I’m 74 years old, almost 75, and that’s too old to be president…it is,” he said. “I just can’t help but think, gee, I’m not at the top of my game, I’m doing well now, but the stress of being president…I might not be too good after a while.

“I also recently read his (Buttigieg’s) book and was impressed by the nuance in his approach to issues, and I came to appreciate his experience and time in the military, which is a big part of our economy, and affects our place in the world when it comes to how we deal with military issues, and I feel good about Pete dealing with it all.…”

He continued: “I heard Bill Clinton speak a few years ago, after his presidency, and he said no candidate is prepared to be president, so for me, I’m looking for a candidate who is thoughtful, has intellectual depth, is calm under pressure, and he scores high in all of that.”

“And if he doesn’t get it?”

“Oh…I’ll support any Democratic candidate, with varying degrees of excitement, and work hard to get them elected,” Biers said in-between chuckling.

We had been slowly moving forward with the line and split when we came to the media entrance door on the left, and the public entrance to the right. We shook hands and went into the high school auditorium—each not sure what to expect on this last day before the Caucus frenzy.


CONTRIBUTOR

Al Neal
Al Neal

Al Neal is the associate editor for labor and politics. He is also the chief photographer for People's World.

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