Though the political golden goose that was the Iowa Straw Poll is no more, there’s still a venue that draws the candidates in August to the Hawkeye State, one with deep fried Oreos- the Iowa State Fair.
The state fair is massive, featuring carnival rides, various consumables on a stick, a rotation of 1970s and 1980s bands (the Saturday I attended the hot ticket was for a concert in the grandstands featuring Tesla, Styx and Def Leppard) and a giant cow made of buttermilk.
The organizers manage to work in politics into the mix as tractors used to haul folks around “proudly” boast their use of ethanol and the influential Iowa newspaper Des Moines Register hosts a candidate stump corner with a hay bale backdrop for visiting White House aspirants to sermonize from (the candidate appearances are not spontaneous but are coordinated with a posted schedule so supporters know which day and time to show up).
It turned out that the day I was there checking out the scene that Vermont US Senator Bernie Sanders was slated to speak. Until Donald Trump crushed this presidential cycle’s attendance record in an outdoor stadium in Mobile, Alabama in August (!), Sanders had been making headlines for the crowds he attracted, most notably in Madison, Wisconsin.
Sanders also put Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal to shame far outdrawing the Republican in the very building where Jindal launched his candidacy.
However there was no sea of humanity greeting Sanders at the Iowa State Fair. There was a crowd, mostly of young people and upper middle aged women who appeared to be clinging to their former hippie status, but the enthusiasm I had expected to see at a Bernie rally just wasn’t there at the state fair.
When one hoarse booster tried to lead the crowd in the Sanders “Feel the Bern!” chant, she threw in the towel after her hollered cadence went unsupported. Perhaps it was because the folks present were “feeling the heat” on the sweltering afternoon.
However the crowd came alive when the socialist septuagenarian took the platform and delivered an impassioned speech with his thick Brooklyn accent (particularly when he boasted of the crowds he spoke before in AH-rih-gin).
Midway throw his spiel of “free merde”, a helicopter flew overhead that briefly drowned him out.
Sanders said a crack about Trump’s helicopter that made headlines, though it was an Iowa National Guard chopper (more on the heli-Trumpter in a second) that sound bombed his speech.
Sanders also touched on the #BlackLivesMatter ne’er-do-wells who had disrupted previous appearances, though not rebuking their hijacking of media events but instead doubling down on the paranoid narrative amen’d by the Obama White House that the system is actively suppressing young black men.
Yet it became apparent after Sanders went to go make the rounds part of the reason why Sanders kept having #BLM problems- the unconventional presidential candidate had a virtually non-existent advance team. During a “walk around”, Sanders himself was having to direct reporters about tripping hazards as they were filming him.
While Barack Obama’s campaign was full of energy, the community organizer’s effort succeeded because it was organized. Sanders is going to need more than money bombs, catchy Twitter hashtags and a microphone stand to compete against Hillary and potentially a sitting vice-president.
Even “love” needs an advance team.
The Heli-Trumpter Heralds The Donald
New York real estate developer and leading Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump had offered to “trump” the existing carnival rides at the Iowa State Fair by allowing kids to circle the fairgrounds in his red, white and black helicopter.
At first I thought it was a great piece of campaign bluffery that the media would eat up until I heard the sound of helicopter rotors in the distance and saw the “Heli-Trumpter” flying around the perimeter of the fairgrounds.
Whether there were children inside the luxury aircraft experiencing a greater thrill than the “Wild Mouse” roller coaster or if it was just a bombastic means of The Donald heralding his presence, I don’t know. But not far from the Pork Chop on a Stick station (the zenith of culinary cuisine at the Iowa State Fair), there was a mob of people and news cameras orbiting a bright red cap in the middle.
Trump was working the crowd as he moved at a brisk pace, not stopping for longer than a few seconds to shake a hand here or hold a baby there.
The excitement following Trump’s wake reflected the enthusiasm for his candidacy that has registered in polls, especially in Iowa where his lead over the competition is, to use a favorite word of his, tremendous.
Trump wasn’t scheduled to speak that day though he was doubtlessly determined to steal both political thunder and crowds, playing the role of the pied piper drawing people away from the Des Moines Register stump stage to his orbit on the opposite side of the fairgrounds, a tactic that Sarah Palin used to lure people away from a Michele Bachmann appearance four years ago, though with much less success.
Trump was also the inspiration for a piece of art work that was on display at the fair’s wood carving area, as someone had transformed a tree trunk into a 3 foot statue of a bear in a suit sporting a distinct hairstyle holding a sign that read “You’re fired!”.