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The First Move: Iowa City Meets Presidential Candidate Warren

by Gabbie Meis
with illustrations by A.J. Huang and Vivian Le

On Sunday, February 10th, students and community members alike filed into the IMU Main Lounge in wait of presidential candidate, Senator Elizabeth Warren. Sen. Warren officially announced her 2020 presidential campaign in her home state, Massachusetts, to a strong rally on February 9th.

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President Trump shared the following tweet in response to her announcement: (see right)

Trump’s tweet, calling Sen. Warren ‘Pocahontas’ and mocking the Trail of Tears, is a blatant attempt to undermine Warren’s campaign and dehumanize native people. Sen. Warren’s previous claim to Native American ancestry was poorly received by members of both parties, but she has since rescinded and apologized to the Cherokee Nation for equating a distant DNA relation to heritage. Last week, Sen. Warren’s 1986 Texas bar registration card surfaced in which she filed her race as “American Indian” which was again met with controversy. Although Warren must still regain her current, and potentially future, constistuents’ trust, Trump’s tweet cannot go unnoticed. After no attempt to apologize or a statement from the White House, Trump flagrantly begins his pull for the 2020 election.

With the Iowa caucuses on February 3rd, 2020 and presidential hopefuls flocking to the state, Warren’s Iowa tour—with stops in Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, and Davenport —is crucial to her campaign launch. In Iowa City, two Warren supporters opened the event by sharing anecdotes about their own experiences as middle class Americans. Erin, a working mother of two, spoke of the troubles of finding affordable child care in the state, and fourth year undergraduate, Herb Meisner, detailed his moving, personal story of financial hardship as a college student. Working three jobs and dropping to part-time enrollment, Meisner is just one of a growing population of college students with overwhelming student bills who struggle to make ends meet. Joining Meisner on stage to Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5,” Warren received overwhelming applause and embraced her presenter with a proclomation: “I’m a hugger!”

Illustration by A.J. Huang and Vivian Le

Illustration by A.J. Huang and Vivian Le

Warren’s first task of the day was to assert her likeness with the audience: a middle class individual who earned her way to the top.  Following a different path than her three brothers in the military, young Elizabeth, “the surprise,” wanted to be a public school teacher. She had trained for the task, practicing with her “dollies” and being “tough but fair” during lessons. However, her father’s job as a janitor couldn’t sustain her college education, like many other college students. Instead, she earned a scholarship to pay her way through school. After dropping out to marry her now-husband, Warren got a second chance in the form of $50 semesterly tuition at a local community college, the total which she could pay with a part time waitressing gig. That same woman would go onto a four year public university, paying just $400 a semester to attend law school. Both numbers, which Warren shared enthusiastically, are a distant dream for students today.

One of Warren’s main goals is to address the inaffordability of a college education. When Warren asked the room how many are—or love someone—in a significant amount of student loan debt, nearly the entire room raised their hands high. The presidential hopeful claimed this near-exponential increase in national student loan debt is crushing [students] and their dreams, while Republicans are giving money to corporations and those who overly pay their way into the pockets of Congress and presidents in DC. This, however, is just one reason Warren joined the fight. “What happened to America’s middle class?” she asked.

Not only is Warren prepared to take back and fight for Washington, she has a multi-step game plan to accomplish her goals: through big, structural changes. Only then, she argued, would the American people cure the corruption in Washington, D.C. Warren promised to change the rules, in government, in the economy, and in politics by balancing the power between the wealthy and the other 99% and treating people as people. She ended her speech with a list of promises and assertions of her political values.  No more corporate lobbying. No more revolving door between Wall Street and DC. Build stronger unions: “Unions built America, and they will rebuild America.” Amend the Constitution to protect the right to vote for everyone. Equal is equal. Black lives matter. Immigration strengthens the country. Washington works great, but it’s time to start working for the American poor and middle classes.

These macro changes, however, begin before 2020. Warren called for action, for Democrats to “walk the walk” in the primaries and surge forward, regardless of what others deemed “just too hard.” The presidential candidate declared, to a room resounding in applause, “the future will belong to those who fight for it,” those who gave the janitor’s kid a chance, and those who are ready to work hard and win in 2020.

Warren’s impassioned speech hit to the heart of Iowa college students, who clamored for a chance to take a photo and ask the senator questions after her speech, in just the beginning of a bold race to the Democrat caucuses in February 2020. Warren will undoubtedly be making a return appearance to Iowa City, in which she’ll be met with growing crowds.