Thoughts From the Progress Iowa Corn Feed

On Sunday, my mom and I attended the fifth annual Progress Iowa Corn Feed, which included speeches from ten of the twenty-something Democratic presidential candidates as well as booths and activities representing all of the Democratic candidates and numerous progressive organizations.

The Cory Booker booth had bubbles and hula hoops.

The Marianne Williamson booth invited us to dip our thumbs into glitter paint and press them against a piece of paper while making a wish for our country.

The Andrew Yang booth was giving away free copies of Yang’s book The War on Normal People (which I originally read at the library; it’s a great book with an unfortunate title).

The Joe Biden booth asked us if we had any questions about Joe Biden, which was probably the one question that didn’t need to be asked.

Biden was not at the event, and neither were many of the so-called “frontrunners;” we heard speeches from John Delaney, Amy Klobuchar, Marianne Williamson, Michael Bennet, Tim Ryan, Kirsten Gillibrand, Seth Moulton (whose candidacy is so new that Google didn’t automatically spell his name for me), Julián Castro, Pete Buttigieg, and John Hickenlooper.

Jay Inslee was supposed to be there, but his flight got delayed. Bill DeBlasio was also supposed to be there but returned to NYC to do whatever a mayor does during a city blackout; he was represented by a giant truck covered with DeBlasio video ads that kept circling the block.

If it sounds like I’m going to start getting snarky, well… I don’t want to punch down, and it really does feel like punching down when you’re looking at the candidate who gave his speech after Buttigieg received a standing ovation, mumbling the words “when I become president” while staring at a stack of index cards and trying not to watch all the Buttigieg fans pack up their lawn chairs.*

Like, I’d say at least three of today’s candidates had reached the giving-up stage, and we had to watch them push through their speeches anyway. So I don’t want to critique the speeches, and I feel a little bad for mentally awarding fewer points to the candidates who read off note cards or printer paper, because do presidents really need to be good at public speaking to be a good president? Maybe not? (Plus they all get teleprompters—sorry, TelePrompTers—once they take office.)

The three candidates who came off the strongest were Buttigieg, Castro (who ended his speech with a crowd-raising story about how he hoped to look President Trump in the eye and say “adiós”) and Williamson—who not only took the stage looking like a literal rock star but also gave the most passionate and linguistically complex oration of the afternoon.**

Look, I am fairly sure we are not going to have a President Williamson in 2020. But I really want to visit the parallel universe where she wins the election—because while I got the feeling like the majority of the candidates on stage would provide solid and qualified leadership, I also suspect that they’ll all lead the country towards the same basic outcome. Healthcare for everyone (assuming they can get it through Congress), and some attempts at tackling climate change and economic equality.***

Williamson, with her slogan “overcome hate with love” and her goal to “wage peace” on the world, will take us somewhere different (even though it may include some of the same elements, like universal healthcare).

Unfortunately, the world is not a video game where you can, like, play the Williamson path and then go play the Buttigieg path. You have to go to Corn Feeds and caucuses and vote in primaries and make your decision and then hope you made the best choice for the whole country, which, I mean, we usually don’t think about it that way, right? We tend to think about what’s best for ourselves; which candidate is most likely to get us what we want.

But even though the Trump tax cuts were great for me, for example, I’m probably going to end up voting for someone who plans on repealing them. (I’m not sure which candidates want to repeal the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act yet, although I remember seeing some posters on some of the booths suggesting that it was part of some candidates’ platforms.)

Anyway, those are my thoughts from the Progress Iowa Corn Feed.

Also—and this goes without saying, but I haven’t said it yet—the event was packed with vendors selling food made from corn. 🌽🌽🌽❤️

*Not that I’m going to identify who this was, but please note that I didn’t list the candidates in alphabetical order.

**If your only exposure to Williamson was the first round of debates, I don’t blame you for thinking she was out of her league—because that’s what I thought too. Then I went and watched some of her other speeches and interviews. She built her career as a motivational speaker, and she can lay out a multi-clause sentence packed with five-syllable words and make it sound like a hymn you’d want to sing along to.

***I heard exactly two plans regarding climate change—Castro said the first thing he’d do as president would be to re-join the Paris Accord, and Ryan said he wanted to stop climate change with regenerative agriculture—and no actual plans on economic equality beyond “Teachers need to be paid more! Firefighters need to be paid more!” It made me wish Andrew Yang were there, so he could get another shot at explaining how a value-added tax worked.

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