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  • Writer's pictureChris Veninga

Political Game Day

“I can’t think of many political situations where I would be this dedicated to a candidate.”


This thought crossed my mind as I was sweating through my shirt at the Polk County Steak Fry hosted by Polk County Democrats. People around me were wearing shirts supporting their various local and national candidates - shirts you would never catch me dead wearing. The smell of steak wafted through the air, something that appeared to linger more because of the heat and humidity on this late September day.


It amazed me how dedicated these people were to their cause - shouts of agreement and dissent were firing through the air like bullets. No matter who was speaking, they had a crowd of roughly 400 people behind them, cheering. Old, young, black, white… Everyone showed out to support the Polk County Democrats and to hear from speakers.


Fast forward a few weeks, and I’m at an American Legion post in Van Meter, IA. I’m sitting in an airconditioned room, surrounded mostly by old white folks who were supporting a black republican for office. This event was much quieter, as Tim Scott stood and answered questions from the crowd - less than half the size of the Polk County Steak Fry crowd. People were clearly passionate about what he was saying, but the only forms of agreement were the clapping of hands and the occasional cheer. The man sitting next to me was muttering his commentary on both questions and answers. Afterwards, he then proceeded to wish me luck on the rest of my college experience.


Fast forward a couple of days later, and I’m once again outside - albeit on a beautiful fall night - at an amphitheater in West Des Moines. Food trucks lined the sidewalk in front of a grassy field. Hundreds of people from dozens of demographics sat eating greasy grilled cheeses, drinking free beer, or eating cookie dough from a nearby truck. Most people stuck to their cliques - the largest clique around one man: Vivek Ramaswamy, the host of Vektoberfest. Obviously Vivek had his supporters there, but I got the impression that a lot of people there were like me; uncommitted, people-watching, and seeing what all the fuss was about. Take Vivek out of it, and you still have a fun community event happening. Put Vivek into it, and you have a political rally.


I once wrote a student newspaper article about how politics should stop being treated like watching a football game. These people make decisions that could make or break our lives. And yet here I was, watching what felt like sporting events - albeit, each politician was playing a different game. Maybe flair really is what wins you the presidency; maybe politics really is about the people who root for their team religiously.

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