Livin’ the Iowa Election Season

For the political activist in us all, the presidential election every four years highlights once again the hopeful, lofty goals to fix it all, the absolute tragedy of every former president by their opposition, and of course brings screaming into light volatile politics at family Thanksgiving. Consequently, election season makes it easy for everyone to suddenly have a ‘well-informed’ and ‘deep’ understanding of American socioeconomic, political, and international standing. And yes, to clarify, that is very much based on candidates’ level of attractiveness.

I didn’t chose Cornell because of Iowa election season, but as a Politics major I definitely recognized the advantage and excitement that would ensue. In Northern California where I am from and the 55 electoral college points are already doled out to the Democrats, the candidates exist far away and seem harmless. Washington DC is 3,000 miles away and California is not on the radar of campaigning.

In Iowa, presidential candidates suddenly become celebrities. They are everywhere. They are swarmed. Selfies with candidates cover the “Local Iowa Story” on Snapchat. College campuses now electoral safe havens due to calculated moves to speak directly to the youth vote.

I may sound cynical, but I am not actually. Elections are exciting and fun. They bring forth conversations of important magnitude and challenge your status quo thinking and force you to prove your side. I don’t think that is a bad thing and I think being in college in Iowa only amplifies that experience. And if you are new to politics, it’s a good time to strengthen your democratic roar.

We saw that Secretary Hillary Clinton visited in front of College Hall, we expected Senator Rand Paul to bring a crowd to the Orange Carpet, perhaps we will see Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, or Marco Rubio come through as well.

My thoughts on this are an amalgamation of my love of politics and my vehement criticism of current transparent strategies. Whereas studying the pre-midterm 2014 elections safely from my California standards AP Government class required searching for the content, now I can meet the real deal and see exactly what they look like. Boy and girls, campaigns are a bit like a reality show.

They come to Cornell to get that perfect advertisement shot. The one at the liberal arts schools, with carefully selected fans waving signs. You see the pre-set up: the annoying wait for them to be fashionably late. While I know my politics pretty through and through, I still go and listen. Maybe they say all the wrong things or maybe they say all the right things, either way they are pretty standard “Go America” and “I can fix it, you just need to slam down that vote for me and no one else.”

Does that bother anyone else? I may be sensitive to it. It’s not like I don’t understand the tactic at hand. I just think it highlights a very shallow, material gains kind of look at political office and diminishes the American people’s opinions gained from life perspectives that candidates probably haven’t lived.

I don’t expect to see that tactic change soon. There are millions of Americans that need to get amped and it takes very general ideas to reach that audience in a concrete way to bring them to the ballot.

I suddenly remember those middle school elections. Being in Iowa both humanizes candidates and ruins the illusion of their precision. In real life, they are experiencing the biggest popularity contest in the world mixed with the repeated harsh ratings of a TLC show.


Elissa Karim, Staff Writer