by Olivia Sandbothe
I don’t know if you think often of the state just to the north of our town. I do because I’m from there but you, average Truman student, probably do not. Or you usually don’t. But now, for what may be the first time in your college career (unless, I suppose, you have had an urgent need to marry someone of your own sex, or collect bottle deposit returns), your proximity to the state of Iowa provides you with a unique and interesting opportunity.
Iowa will be holding its caucuses on January 3rd of next year. We are the very first state in the nominating process and when campaign season rolls around we get an awful lot of attention. I’m living in Des Moines this semester and I’ve already met several of the candidates in person. Come the end of the year and it gets absurd around here. On caucus day 2008, both CNN and CSPAN had cameras rolling within blocks of my house. There’s about a week when the mainstream political discussion leaves Washington and focuses entirely on what’s going on right here.
That’s why action in this state will be critical for any group that hopes to reshape our political discussion. Occupy Wall Street is blowing up right now but with winter approaching, a movement focused on outdoor living needs to look for creative new directions. Occupy Des Moines wants to keep the momentum going by taking the message that “We are the 99%” directly to the presidential campaigns. We want to be the first stop in a continual occupation of this election, starting here in Iowa and continuing on the New Hampshire, South Carolina, and beyond (cue Howard Dean scream). When the CNN cameras arrive on the ground to watch these candidates blow hot air, we want to be there in front of them, making our progressive message impossible to ignore.
The First in the Nation Caucus Occupation will be a week-long event from Dec. 27th to Jan. 3nd. We will not interfere with citizens’ right to vote. We DO plan to interfere with the big-budget farce that’s working its way across the early primary states as we speak. We will use our physical presence to disrupt the lazy media narrative that pretends that this is a strong and representative democracy and that fails to hold these candidates to any standard of truth, honesty, or ethical judgment. We will follow Romney and Bachmann and all the rest as they schmooze in hotel lobbies across the state. And of course, we’re planning to stick it to Obama too. We will march and we will sit in and we might even get arrested.* Think of the opportunities: wave to your mom on MSNBC, see Newt Gingrich in person and let him know how you feel, make sure that the victor’s celebratory press conference doesn’t go down without a ‘MIC CHECK!’ And just maybe, hopefully, end up forcing these guys to step back from disingenuous rhetoric and destructive policy and confront the real economic issues that we, the 99%, have to live with.
We have a diverse group of committed community members here in Des Moines planning the logistics of this thing. What we need now is people. Lots of them. People like YOU! Passionate and riled-up people from across the country and formally invited to visit our beautiful city and participate in a week (or a day) of occupation. Des Moines is an easy three-hour drive from Kirksville and it’s a fun place to visit with or without the media circus. Check out our website at http://occupythecaucus.org/ in coming weeks for information about rideshare and housing and for more information on our goals and tactics. Right now we are looking for professors and other at-large public intellectuals who would like to host teach-ins and workshops. We also need artists and musicians of all types who can make this as much a party as it is a resistance. If you think you can contribute in one of these ways, contact Stephen Toothman at email@example.com.
*If you don’t want to get arrested, we can pretty well guarantee you that you won’t be. Some of our events will involve civil disobedience, but most of them will be “safe.” We will provide civil disobedience training for anyone who wants it, but, fair warning, we can’t cover your legal fees.