An evening spent in the remote vicinity of Pete Buttigieg
6:30pm - It is cold outside of Decorah High School. We've just arrived, to attend the Buttigieg town hall, myself, Alan, Jeremy, and oddly enough, another Josiah. They told us to get here at 6:30. The line is maybe two blocks long and we are midway back.
6:34 - The conversation drifts from personality tests to celebrity meetings. Some Gen Zs or Millennial cuspers check our names off on their phones and give us wristbands. No one acknowledges them the rest of the night.
6:43 - No movement. I get a text telling thanking me for coming.
6:47 - Movement ahead. Finally we're inside! Bubbly and ethnically diverse (especially for Iowa) young people encourage us to go caucus for Mayor Pete. Instead I go to the bathroom.
6:50 - The whole thing is in the high school gym. People clump together beneath banners recognizing state qualifiers for various sports, pictures of Vikings (the mascot), and basketball hoops. There is only seating for those with mobility needs. I'm thinking of spraining an ankle. I instead look for the group.
6:54 - Several ladies I squeezed past recognize me from the Commonweal Theatre. They take our picture and ask us to take theirs. Small world.
7:07 - A lady in a red coat to my side says to her friends, "He gets 3 minutes and I'm leaving."
7:12 - A female voice announces they're raising the curtain in the gym to allow more people in. "Why didn't they do that in the first place?" says Red Coat. She's still here. Maybe Pete's worth the wait.
7:17 - One of Red Coat's friends, Purple Sweater says she told off the RNC. "I don't normally answer those calls. I would never give money to the RNC." She shudders. "It's like a civil war."
7:20 - been here since 6 says red coat. College students standing on platforms dutifully hold "Pete for Iowa" and Freedom Security Democracy" signs.
7:21 - Red Coat says they went through the crowd picking them out. Most of them are from Luther College. The raising of the curtain didn't create any more room. I'm beginning to wish I'd applied more deodorant.
7:24 Still no Pete. "I'm out," says Red Coat. Like a gambler cashing who knows it's not her night. It's a little sad. "I'll send you an email," Purple sweater says.
7:28 - Applause but no Pete. Toby Kane here to announce him. She is young blonde and vibrant - the perfect young campaigner. She speaks well and uplifts her community. "We have so much work but here we've created a home. We need to take what we've done here in Deborah and turn that into something that spreads all across the country."
7:30 - The phrase "Pete Supporters" is making me hungry. Say it out loud.
7:32 - Purple sweater leaves. I guess there's going to be no email.
There's a signer upfront. Kane says Pete embodies all the values of America. I keep watching the signer to see what the sign for "Buttigieg" is but I cannot make it out. She must be spelling it.
7:33 - Kane asks all of us to get involved. A girl in pigtails being held up by her mother claps. There's a lot of clapping.
7:35 - Finally Kane is done. The last thing she says is we need your help. Bring on the Pete!
7:36 - Nope. Kia Niel is next. That's not Pete. Talking about public schools. Part of Pete's platform but not Pete. Pigtails girl loves Kia. Lots of claps for the young speaker. Kia tells me to build my relational network.
7:39 - Mayor Pete! Quit clapping and let the man talk. It's 7:40 when he finally speaks.
He is earnest and engaged. Passionate. His vocal patterns almost sound like Obama - who he wastes no time telling us he campaigned for in 2008. His Norwegian joke kills. Know your crowd.
He asks us to visualize the sun coming up on a country where DT isn't President. "Take refuge in the thought," he says. However... "Think about the work it's going to take for the next president to pick up the pieces and build a better country."
7:45 - Pigtails girl is picking her mom's ear. But stops to clap in that last applause line, then sticks it right back in. I hope her mom's got health insurance.
7:47 His message: "Ideas that are bold enough to solve the problems and capable of unifying us." His topical outline: Medicare, Gun Control (No guns in school get the biggest applause), Climate change (the carbon negative farm by 2050), Patriotism, Faith, Current Administration (he doesn't stay too long on this thankfully. It's been done to death), Racial Tensions, and Public Education ("We need a Secretary of Education who believes in public education.")
7:55 Question time. Mostly your typical soft balls questions, although one kid asks if he plays Dungeons and Dragons (Newsflash: He doesn't, but he's always up for learning something new).
His best soundbite comes from talking about climate change as a national project:
"America always does better when it has a national project and this one doesn't involve fighting other people." Not bad, Pete.
8:11 - The Q&A session lasts about 20 minutes. My favorite question is about increasing his internet advertising budget, not because of the answer (he intends to advertise - go figure!), but because a man in a deer hunter jacket standing next to me leaves. Finally a little room!
8:19 - Pete wraps up and encourages us, whether "volunteer, voter, or candidate, to make the case for hope." Hope is a good word to build on. He shakes a couple of hands. I get muscled out of the way by more determined Buttigieg fans. That's ok. With a few more waves to the crowd, Pete Buttigieg leaves to September by Earth Wind and Fire.
At the end of it all, I learned the Mayor Pete cares pretty hard, that he likes Earth, Wind, and Fire and that he might like to try out Dungeons and Dragons. He's got a lot of solid ideas and an idealistic view to go with it. I don't know if he'll be dancing in September next year, but I think he's got a little hope.
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Darrell and Josiah