The Sanders Revolution in Des Moines, Iowa
, Photo from Bernie 2020
Volunteers for Bernie. Three days of door-to-door canvassing, a day of phone-banking to encourage supporters to become volunteers, and a day of delivering lawn signs. It’s the meat and potatoes (or veggie-burger and fries) of a political campaign based on the 99%. I was surrounded by people – mostly under-30 youth, mixed gender, multi-racial, in town from Spokane to San Antonio to West Virginia to the Bronx – expecting, happy, to be doing this necessary grunt work: for Bernie, for the Green New Deal, for Medicare-for-All.
One afternoon, the lead Des Moines organizer gathered two dozen of the volunteers. We went around the room: why are you here? “We could change this country for the next one hundred years,” said one person, during a remarkable hour in which people talked about their hopes and dreams and the reasons they came to Iowa.
I almost lost hope, but I decided to turn that anger into motivation. I no longer feel powerless about these things that seems out of your control: I felt like I was doing something about it. Each time I talk to somebody and tell them, “there is someone fighting for you, there are these solutions that are possible, the world doesn’t have to be like this,” I feel like I’m saving someone from despair. That’s my Bernie story.
I really respect how Bernie isn’t trying to be anyone’s savior or lead from ahead. He’s just trying to take the energy and voices and amplify them. I came out to Iowa because I had to; I want to give it everything I can.
I’ve been involved in anti-capitalist politics since I was a teenager. In 2016, I saw a glimmer of hope for the organized left in America and I felt obligated to be a part of that.
I was a vegan and I saw how the agricultural industry was affecting the FDA about everything America grows and eats…. As soon as I saw Bernie talk about why the government isn’t working for us I just got the chills and started crying. To hear somebody finally talking about the root of the cause of our problems. I didn’t volunteer last time around, but this time I just had to, so here I am.
We grew up poor, with a single mother struggling, so I always understood that there was something wrong with the world, that it wasn’t just my mother’s failing as a human being. This has been the thing that’s saving me.
I’m still learning about leftist politics… I wasn’t planning on coming out but my organizing friend told me, “you need to come out here right now.” For me, personally, it feels like the first time that I’ve been off the sidelines and putting my money where my mouth is in terms of my beliefs.
My daughter was born 2 months premature and she was in the hospital for two months and the medical bills just piled up and twelve years later, I’m still in debt. Because of that, I can’t buy a house. We live in public housing and my daughter has to go to a bad school. Her whole life is being pre-determined because at the wrong moment I didn’t have health insurance.
I feel like there really is a movement going on in our country that’s going to define our generation if he wins and could change the country for the next hundred years.
Coming from South Texas, I’d always been disengaged. When Bernie got in the race in 2016, I felt like someone was speaking on behalf of my community. It’s such a big country, but thinking about the working class people’s situation in Texas and Des Moines and New York, it’s made the country in my mind a lot smaller and we really have so much more in common and where we’re trying to get to.
My mom and aunt work through people who have fallen through the cracks of the health care system and just hearing their stories, how their cases fell pretty hopeless.
Huntington West Virginia is just the intersection of the Rust Belt, the Bible Belt and Appalachia. My mom is a teacher in a poor school district and the stories that she tells me are just heartbreaking: five year olds who don’t eat at all except at school.
Medicare-for-all is big for me. My sister has Crohn’s Disease. She’s in the middle of a career change, becoming a teacher, and as a student teacher she doesn’t get health care. She needs infusions every few weeks – she can’t afford it and I think she is just going to go off of it.
There’s just so much injustice; the system is so messed up in so many ways, seeing someone like Bernie Sanders who has not let special interests sway him in the least for forty years. I think I haven’t had any hope my whole life watching any candidates. When I saw Bernie make a run for it in 2016, it just gave me so much hope. I regretted not doing more. This time, I wasn’t going to just sit on the sidelines and let it happen. I’m in it for the long haul, I think.
Bernie might lose an election, AOC might lose an election, but the people who really lose are the people, the people who end up with politicians who don’t represent them, people who end up sacrificing their sons and daughters in needless regime change conflicts. Iowa just feels so fucking important. I’m here to carpet-bomb for as long as I can afford to be out here.
Ground Game. At least in the sort-of prosperous working class neighborhoods I mostly worked, no one else seems to have any comparable ground game – maybe Buttegig, a bit. I didn’t see a Biden lawn sign once during my five days. (But I saw plenty of people without teeth – no Medicaid expansion here, and no Medicaid Dental. And the minimum wage is still $7.25. Ugh. I think about what a life-changing experience $15/hr has been for my students in New York.) The staff here says we knocked on 130,000 doors this weekend. Working 8 hours a day, I did about 250 of those doors, so do the math: 500 people like me. Possibly I’m just swept up in the moment, but from here it seems like a great social movement in the making.