Dec 302007
 
Authors: Erik Myers

The city is not what we’ve expected. Council Bluffs reminds me of Greeley: dirty and shady, stacked with a few squares of forgotten eras. But there we were, disappointed and ready to get on to the next city.

The interview with the Ron Paul supporter went well, so Hedge says, but I have a feeling the bar excursion to Biggs was much more interesting. Biggs is a low-key establishment, generally quiet with exception to the jukebox lined with CCR tunes. The place had more plasma TVs than staff. This was a special event for me.

We sat at a high table with the anonymous staffer of the anonymous candidate (we’ll call him Skyler) who didn’t mind sharing his experience and insight with his younger peers.

Basically, Skyler has seen a shift from a normal, proud American life to a constant of 16-hour labor days for his candidate.

Once settled deep into the central cortex, politics can force the best and the brightest into harsh squatter-lives where they find themselves with few but their fellow junkies as chums, but when that’s only in the early stages of the game. Once this season rolls into gear, then those companions drift deliberately.

Skyler’s addiction is solely responsible for his recent life shift; you can tell by his jacket that his salary is jack-squat. And should Skyler’s candidate drop out of the race, well, it’s hard to tell where he’d go. Maybe back to his beloved home. Or, perhaps for the wiser, he’ll try to sneak into the winning candidate’s campaign headquarters, become absorbed into the fold, forgetting all about the man (or woman) whom he had been so dedicated to prior. This latter option won’t be the case, or so Skyler pledges. He’s got his candidate, and he backs him.

Besides, he’s too far in the muck now. His dues have been paid (hours spent in the call centers) and now he’s got a decent paying gig. Things are going his way as far as the internal affairs go, and he loves what he’s doing.

Like every other staffer that’s palavering around Iowa, Skyler is in it to win it. Living in the area for the past nine months has established insight in him, and he is happy to share it with us.

But I’m not quite ready to hear what he has to say. I don’t want him to tell me that he thinks Iowa deserves that first-in-the-nation caucus, which he does. What makes me so frustrated is that he has prepared a lengthy and compelling argument as to why this slice of “Cornhole USA” deserves first place each and every time.

Iowa is one half agricultural, one half urban; one half Republican, and one half Democrat, respectively. What makes this mixture boil is the caucus-going Iowan. Skyler says that these folk are a special breed when it comes to the political arena. It is conceivable. These people have been exposed to a thick storm of national attention every four years for their entire lives, and when this torrent peaks, it’ll stretch for as long as it can manage. Skyler estimates the average Iowan being bombarded with 300-400 political advertisements a day during the season. Any given man or woman, he suggests, actually gives a shit about the candidates, and is finely tuned to the questions of a candidate’s stances and character, unafraid to ask questions. From the little television we have watched, saturated with such ads, his point seems legit. The autistic TV enthusiast of this state is likely to know more about the current issues than your regular Nebraskan. The all-too-familiar faces of Huckabee, Romney, Clinton, and Richardson are emitted from the plasmas with a radial glow.

I seem to remember Obama wearing a cowboy hat as he stared down at me with his smile and waving hand. I felt ashamed, staring back at this blatantly false portrayal, especially with Skyler looking on.

“He’s too inexperienced,” he says.

I admit, I have developed something of a disgusting adulation of the senator, whose sincere image makes me doubt he holds any hidden evil. Any objectivity I had left in the discussion had been completely shed by this point.

“But what is so important about experience?” I ask, and then foolishly open myself to attack: “Are you worried he won’t be able to make the right choices when called upon?”

Skyler nods as he sips of his black whisky mix (I can’t recall what he was drinking exactly). “He needs more time.”

From there, he adds that heavy fundraisers, like Obama, would dominate the election if it weren’t for Iowa. The presidency would be won with TV ads, and the equation is too simple: more money = more TV time = more recognition. Here in Iowa, or so Skyler says, issues are examined more thoroughly in the caucus.

Whether Skyler’s argument holds true has yet to be determined. Sure, the man has sauntered around the state for the past nine months while we have barely gotten our feet wet, but it shouldn’t be too difficult to notice the cultural differences once we move eastward in the upcoming afternoon.

-E.M.

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