Saturday, October 23, 2021

Iowa, between Biden’s moderation and Bernie’s revolution

By Beatriz Pascual Macias

Former Vice President Joe Biden campaigns to be the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee at Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa, on 02 February 2020. The Iowa caucuses are on 03 February 2020. EFE/EPA/JIM LO SCALZO

Des Moines, Iowa, Feb 3 (efe-epa).- The enthusiasm of the volunteers who go door to door asking their neighbors to attend the Iowa Democratic caucuses on Monday night is mixed with growing exhaustion, and with empty pizza boxes and cups of coffee to rekindle their energy in the face of the big decision: Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders?

At Sen. Sanders’ Iowa campaign headquarters in Des Moines, volunteer Sue Spicer spoons coffee grounds into a container while dozens of people come and go with chocolate bars, bananas or slices of pizza.

“An Army marches on its stomach,” Spicer told EFE.

She is the unofficial “mom” of Sanders’ office, making purchases and making sure that all the campaign personnel are well fed so that they can “focus” on winning the Iowa Democratic caucuses, the Midwestern mostly rural state being the one that kicks off the party’s US primary season.

Political activist Ja’Mal Green (r) addresses campaign volunteers as they get ready to canvas for Sen. Bernie Sanders at a field office in Des Moines, Iowa, 03 February 2020, when the Iowa Democratic caucuses are scheduled.

“People don’t understand how much energy it takes to go and talk to strangers and go door to door like that if it’s the first time they’ve done it,” she said, outfitted in a black cap and a jean jacket covered with Bernie badges and buttons.

Spicer runs here and there offering food to the volunteers. Just a few hours before the caucuses about 100 people have congregated at Sanders’ office in Des Moines but later they will go door to door trying to convince more people to vote for him.

Seated on chairs, the volunteers listen to a speech by Ja’Mal Green, one of the campaign staffers who says that, of the 11 Democratic candidates, Sanders is the best positioned to defeat President Donald Trump in the November election.

“This is a revolution!” exclaims Green, while simultaneously trying to calm down those who are expressing concern over Sanders’ progressive campaign positions, calling the Vermont Democrat a “democratic socialist.”

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders leaves the US Capitol after the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump (not shown), in Washington on 03 February 2020. EFE/EPA/MICHAEL REYNOLDS

“Will he be able to get the votes from the center?” asks one of those people.

People who play it safe don’t excite anyone, says Green, adding that they need a candidate who creates emotion, who gets people out to vote.

Meanwhile, some volunteers finish preparing colorful handmade signs. There’s also a papier mache figure of the pink head of Bernie Sanders and a white dog that moves around the office wearing a collar that has a button reading “Dogs for Bernie, E-ruff is e-ruff!” a play on the words “enough is enough,” referring – presumably – to Trump and his tenure in the White House.

The latest voter surveys give Sanders a much-needed win in Iowa, albeit by a rather narrow 4 percentage points over former Vice President Joe Biden.

Butchers prepare meat for customers at the La Salud market in Marshalltown, Iowa, USA, 02 February 2020 (Issued 03 February 2020). EFE/EPA/EUGENE GARCIA

Biden told NBC in an interview on Monday that the vote would be very close.

At the former VP’s campaign HQ in Des Moines, the atmosphere is one of moderation, or “orderly” excitement. About a dozen people are there phoning up Iowa residents to try and convince them that Biden is the best candidate due to his moderate stances.

“Being a man from the center, he can communicate with people from the center, people who aren’t Democrats and who are Republicans, but Republicans disenchanted with Trump. Biden can reach those people. There are other (candidates) who I think won’t be able to reach those people,” Nelson Cunningham told EFE, speaking in fluent Spanish.

Cunningham knows Biden very well, having started working for him 25 years ago when the Delaware Democrat was in the US Senate, and he describes him as a man who is, above all, “decent.”

Butchers prepare meat for customers at the La Salud market in Marshalltown, Iowa, USA, 02 February 2020 (Issued 03 February 2020). EFE/EPA/EUGENE GARCIA

“I know very well that he’s a good, decent, intelligent man and for me the right leader for our country starting in November,” he said.

However, Biden, who heads the Democratic polls on the national level, has been criticized from his party’s progressive wing for his inability to generate enthusiasm among the public like other candidates such as Sanders or Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who is also a progressive.

In the heat of the final stretch in Iowa, the state on Monday is facing the dilemma of deciding between the former vice president’s moderation or Bernie’s “revolution,” as his supporters call it.

Recent polling puts the two men out in front of the other candidates, but nobody is ruling out the possibility that one of the other Democrats may be able to stage an upset.