The space is full. Three tables are set up in the shape of a “U” but only seat 12 of the room’s 60 people. As the crowd weaves around, each of us sharing our name, hometown, and affiliated organizations, it becomes obvious that this is no ordinary room of people. No, this is a room of activists. Organizers. People hungry for change.
Shawn Sebastian, director of Fed Up and an attorney at the Center for Popular Democracy, is the official presenter/leader/face of this workshop, entitled “Existing in this Economy.” His background in organizing, the federal reserve, and overall economic & monetary policy make him the perfect person for the charge. He facilitates discussion without commanding it, poses questions without knowing all the answers, and recognizes the collective knowledge within the small, crowded room.
The introductions illuminate the illustrious amount of affiliations in the room: attendees include visitors from Omaha and Minneapolis, contributors from Fools Magazine, Scope, Iowa CCI, Little Village, DSA, NextGen in Iowa City.
Others include government workers, corporate employees, local business owners, a mayor, students, attorneys, immigrants, citizens, and the consensus that a people’s collective is the catalyst for change.
After a short Q&A session covering topics ranging from city-owned cooperative credit unions, an article written by David Dayen, small and microbusinesses, and becoming politically involved, the discussion truly begins.
Loosely constructed around a rough draft of his “Iowa Concept Note,” Sebastian lets the discussion flow naturally. First, he addresses a piece of his note where he talks about the change in the perception of who can be president. In 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama was just a “Black man with an Arab name” and no one thought Iowa, a nearly entirely white state, would choose him as their Democratic candidate.
However, after he won, the national political atmosphere changed. People realized Barack Obama really did have a chance of winning not only the Democratic nomination, but the presidency. The importance of Iowa’s power and the prevalence of its influence is insinuated through Sebastian’s anecdote, and those in the room easily pick up on it. Between us, there are enough questions and answers and ideas that once the message is spoken, the note is nearly forgotten.
The most significant takeaway from the workshop is raised over halfway through: citizens should not be voting for what candidate most closely matches their personal beliefs, but instead create the ideal candidate through collectives, lobbying, and demanding the platforms they desire before having to vote.
Voting is not about “choosing from a menu,” but about electing the candidate whom one believes will truly better the country; this candidate is not found, but molded.
Candidates will listen to whoever holds the most power in their election. If they don’t, they will not be elected. In the current system, this omnipotent being is often large corporations that have enough money to fund candidates’ campaigns.
Since it is hard to be elected without staff, advertisements, traveling, and more, it is often the opinions of the corporations that are reflected in the candidates’ policies, not those of their constituents.
To change this broken system, the room discusses, we must make the voices of the voters heard above the noise. Through coalitions, power in numbers will force the candidates to alter their platforms. Through the power of online content, voters will be receiving more factual, important news. Through the power of individuals, family members and friends and acquaintances can help each other learn, lead, and vote.
As the 2020 presidential election starts approaching, the candidates emerge. Senator Cory Booker, a name dropped often during Sebastian’s workshop, began making stops in Iowa on October 6th. Other possible Democratic candidates include Senators Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, Jeff Merkley, and Kirstin Gillibrand; Governors Andrew Cuomo and Martin O’Malley; Representative John Delaney; former mayor of New York, Mike Bloomberg; and wild cards Tom Steyer and Andrew Yang.
While there is just over a year until Iowa caucus day, and therefore it is majorly important to begin studying about candidates and lobbying for the issues we hope to see reflected in their campaigns, it also must be stressed the importance of voting in the 2018 midterm elections on November 6th.
If you are an Iowa voter, you can register to vote on election day by signing an affidavit. If you prefer to register beforehand, you must do so before October 27th—which is also the due date for requesting absentee ballots. Absentee ballots must be postmarked on or before November 5th. As discussed in the workshop, voting is a powerful tool for the evolution of the nation and must be wholly utilized by all who can.