About 3,500 fervent Sen. Bernie Sanders supporters and music lovers alike waited in line for hours outside the University of Iowa’s Iowa Field House, shouting impassioned chants or simply standing around in Vampire Weekend t-shirts.
People gathered tonight for an lot of reasons — some to express their support, some to get a couple of sound bytes and be off to the next caucus event, and others just to see actor Josh Hutcherson.
The University of Iowa student-specific line alone stretched for blocks, and the line for general admission was even longer. This was not just a campaign event — this Sanders rally was a spectacle, featuring musical guests Foster the Weekend and Vampire Weekend.
University of Iowa student Bailey Hadnott says she is a passionate Bernie supporter, and was excited to hear him speak.
“A lot of people are here just for the music, which I get,” Hadnott says. “But I love Bernie … I want to see him speak and learn more about his policies … I feel like the whole system is kind of flawed and he wants to work with that.”
Because the event is a dual rally and concert, however, there were many students waiting for hours simply to hear the music and see the celebrity speakers.
“I think it is smart campaigning,” one University of Iowa graduate student says. “I think [the celebrity supporters draw] the younger crowd, which is what they want. But I think also that some people don’t really care about the politics. They just want to see the music. It’s a free concert. It doesn’t necessarily mean that people are paying attention to Bernie.”
Iowa students weren’t the only potential voters in attendance — when a field organizer from the Sanders campaign asked the crowd how many were from Iowa, only about half raised their hands. The field organizer herself hails from South Carolina and can’t caucus this Monday, but is one of many volunteers and supporters who traveled across the country to assist the campaign.
Truman State sophomore Ben Wallis was among the crowd. He says he, along with several other Students for a Democratic Society members, drove to the rally to show their support. Wallis says the celebrity appeal of the rally is a smart campaign move.
“That’s the name of the game,” Wallis says. “There have been grassroots supports for Bernie from the beginning. Before he got celebrity endorsements and all that. So I think that on one hand, this definitely appeals to one demographic specifically, but then he appeals to that demographic regardless.”
Tom Breu, a U.S. House of Representatives candidate for the first congressional district of Wisconsin, was directing the crowd to the correct lines to wait for the rally.
Breu says he had grown distant from the Democratic Party, but Sanders brought him back. He says he worked for late Sen. Ted during 1980, but hasn’t seen anything like this before — the turnout, the spectacle, the percentage of young people who are coming out in support of a candidate. Breu says he likes Sanders’ consistency and thinks that appeals to a lot of people.
“He’s honest,” Breu says. “He’s real. I’m manipulative … And Bernie’s everything I’m not.”
Baby boomers Ric Raptosh and Peter Jackson of Idaho waited amidst a sea of millennials, but they say they think the older crowd is underrepresented at this event because they have families and jobs, and don’t have the time to come out to the events. However, they say Bernie attracts an older voter pool because of the promise of growth he offers to those who are underemployed.
“With any politician, I don’t need a flatline,” Raptosh says. “I don’t need to say yes, yes, yes on every single issue, but I’m almost there with Bernie … The principles that he’s basing his campaign on today are the same principles I grew up with.”
For more college student perspective on Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, click here.