The Focus Groups

Cedar Rapids (or Peter Rapids as one sign declared) was the center of the Democratic world there for a minute while 19 candidates attended the Democratic Hall of Fame Celebration on Sunday. The day before a whole lot of them were in Des Moines for Pride Fest, and most made a weekend of it with multiple events all over the place.

from The Gazette: Bernie, Kamala, Elizabeth, Cory, Amy, Kirsten, ?, ?, Beto, Tulsi, ?, Eric, ?, ?, Julian, Joe, Pete, ?, ?, Andrew, Marianne, ??, Jay?, Bill?
?=indistinguishable white guy candidate
??=unknown black guy candidate

yrmama’s Friday night was all about Bernie and hunger, Saturday was for Jay and Cory, Sunday was Pete, more Cory, and sightings of Bernie again and Kamala and certain hearing loss from the yelling TYT Army. Why were they angry at us? Were they angry at us or just…yelling? In between all those events yrmama held focus groups.

My dental hygienist got all worked up Friday afternoon with her hands in my mouth. It was hard to hold my own. She said, “well…I like Pete,” and a lot of other political things. She does not like Donald but knows a lot of folks who do. I do not know anybody who likes him. Another member of the Friday focus group told yrmama all about vanloads of diverted ballots, the hackers who vote remotely from nursing homes and, for some reason, the Whale Cycle. It’s kind of like the water cycle, but whales.

The large Saturday noon group determined that it is time to prohibit baby boomers from running for office. That means anyone older than yrmama because 1964 can count as a transitional year, right? The cusp. yrmama swings both ways. Donald, W and Bill were all born the same summer in 1946, Joe is four years older than them and Bernie is six years older than them. Kamala is 55, so in by a hair, and Cory is only 50. According to this metric, Elizabeth, a peppy 70, needs to step away from the microphone as well.

Towards the end of this session it got really real. “so, yrmama,” he said with sneaky menace, “which of the candidates has the best plan for completely disenfranchising all Trumpers? We’ve got all the evidence we need that representative democracy is a failure, so if someone is going to be in charge it better be us.”

To which yrmama calmly replied, “I love you, dude. I raised you to be this passionate and I’m proud of you. Who indeed?” Well, that didn’t get us anywhere, but the bile pressure was thereby reduced a bit. It brought the righteous anger of the good that is ominously burbling under the crust of society into focus and that’s valuable.

Sunday morning was, as usual, a confab of sweet middle aged ladies who think Pete is adorable, waiting for him to appear like a sprite from the mist. They said things like, “This is the first time I’ve been to any kind of political thing in years.” And “Well…I like Pete, but Elizabeth is good too. And I hope this doesn’t offend you, yrmama, but Joe is just too damn old.” At which point yrmama mentions Bernie and they go off. “Bernie’s even older! Oh no. I hope he’s not the one you like. I don’t want to hurt your feelings.” Look, if yrmama’s feelings were gunna be hurt by sweet Iowan ladies cautiously stating their opinions there’d be nothing left in here but scar tissue.

Coming Next! Bernie at Sinclair Auditorium for a taping of Political Party Live.

SSDGM

1) Look. Listen. Listen! After the recent dearth of attention paid to yrmama by the candidates, things are picking up! It may be just a blip, but if not, buckle up.

Tonight Political Party Live is taping an interview with Bernie in Cedar Rapids. Tomorrow the podcast is interviewing Cory in Iowa City. Sunday 19 candidates will be speaking at the Democratic Party Hall of Fame event at the Hilton in Cedar Rapids. A bunch of them will be roaming around doing smaller appearances too, so yrmama intends to roam as well and make it like Pokemon Go. Options include morning Crossfit with Kirsten, marching around and yelling with Bernie and a group of McDonald’s workers who would like to be paid fairly, trailing Kirsten on downtown sidewalks while her schedule lists ‘visibility,’ letting John Delaney buy you lunch, meeting up with Marianne at a yoga studio, and playing cornhole with Pete at a picnic/party in Greene Square.

2) Donald. Why do you say he’s a ‘straight shooter’ who ‘tells it like it is’? Why do you ever believe him? Why on god’s green earth do you like him? Sit up and listen:

My new best friends, Karen and Georgia’s joint memoir Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered The Definitive How-To Guide is #1 on the NYT bestsellers list and that didn’t happen by accident. Their podcast listeners are the sexiest un-murdered folks around and we each have bought a few copies. Their book is organized around key principles, like Stay Out of the Woods, and Buy Your Own Shit. Much of their popularity is attributable to all the swearing – we Murderinos find it very empowering.

In the first chapter Georgia asks Karen why she thinks the primary principle, Fuck Politeness speaks so strongly to their followers. Karen says, (book 1, verse 3) “it’s what everyone wants to do but has been led to believe they’re not allowed to do. We’re giving you the permission to act in your own best interests before considering anyone else’s.”

So. Is that what you believe Donald is doing? Fucking politeness? He certainly doesn’t consider anyone’s interests above his own. He’s sticking up for you by sticking up for himself? Maybe.

Howsomever, in book 1, verse 74, Karen says, “The idea of fucking politeness isn’t about standing on a street corner shouting “Fuck You!” to anyone passing by. It’s a strategy for when someone tries to invade your space somehow. They started it. They’re the dick here.” Donald errs a bit towards yelling at everyone on the street corner, at everything he sees actually. He’s like an anxious dog barking into the dark woods, “I’m a dog! Don’t you dare! Fuck you! I’m a dog!”

The thing is, fucking politeness does not remove your moral obligation to be kind. You can absolutely consider your own best interest and use bad words and still be kind. yrmama knows for certain that if you are truly kind your manners matter in the long run. That’s where Donald falls the shortest. He lies (which is in itself unkind) and he’s a mean old man. Steer clear. Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered.

NextUp

The next scheduled campaign event in Iowa City is on June 9, location still TBD, but others may pop up between now and then.

This is Rosalind Greene. Have you heard of her? I hadn’t. Here’s her campaign website: https://www.rosalindgreene.com/home She’s an RN, and a veteran, born in Hopkinsville, KY and a grandmother. I am unable to give you many more details because the flickering flames on the screen started to make me feel seasick. It might be fine for you – but if you wear a shirt with black and white stripes I won’t be able to look at you either for the same weird optical reason.

I’m glad Rosalind is running and if nothing else she can have a very worthwhile impact on the primary process. For example, on her list of hot issues for 2020 she lists ADOS and tangibles. Do you know what #ADOS means? I had an inkling but then had to look it up. It means reparations for American Descendents of Slaves. (It’s about lineage, not melanin levels.) And “tangibles,” refers to the actual agenda and commitments a candidate makes to the black community. 21st Century Afropolitan on Youtube explained some things to me pretty well. Maybe you’re on black Twitter and already know everything. Good for you!

Reparations is not a crazy idea and the US has paid them a number of times; from the Japanese Americans held in American concentration camps during WWII, to survivors of police torture in Chicago in 2015 . (more reading for your free time at this link) A lot of smart people believe that for a candidate to truly take hold in black communities they will have to be able to discuss their plan for addressing these issues.

How does the legacy of slavery affect black Americans who are not DOS? Saturday night when there were seven police cars camped on my driveway I had to walk my privileged white butt out and talk to the officers. yrmama said, “My teenage son could come home anytime. He’s black, so don’t be surprised,” by which I meant, “don’t freak the fuck out and shoot the boy in the BMW.”* Mothers shouldn’t have to say things like that but we do. (Then I conferred with him and he decided to just stay at his friend’s house. It could have been the concentration of cops or it could have been me being embarrassing.)

*They were camped out here because someone else’s son was missing and his cell phone indicated he was at my house. They pinged his phone until it’s battery died. He’s not here and never was. I can’t explain it and neither can they. I hope he’s okay. I hope his parents are okay.

Pete Buttigieg at Wildwood Smokehouse – May 18

Look. Listen. I was there, saw Pete IRL and left partway through his speech drenched in that greasy kind of sweat that precedes keeling over and embarrassing oneself. For me the best parts of the event were the new best friends I made in line outside, and the second group of new best indoor friends crammed into a corner with me for the second  hour of waiting. 

Both groups were of my favorite demographic; women 10-15+ years older than me. Among us there was genuine enthusiasm for Pete and shared dismay at what we’ve let things come to. We wondered what it will take to get “young people” behind Pete the way they were with Bernie last time around. We ranked our favorites, we compared notes on the various campaign events we’ve been too, we admired one another’s fantastic taste in shoes and eyeglasses. In each group ladies leaned near me and asked in a confessional tone of voice if I thought Pete was “electable.” I reminded them that Donald and Barack weren’t electable either and urged them to not try to second guess their true affections. We talked about Roe v Wade and our embarrassment when we catch ourselves feeling critical of female candidate’s gestures or tone of voice because, WTH, that’s so sexist. In two hours we had time to cover a lot, including our favorite parts of his book, The Shortest Way Home, and how Pete inspires a kind of maternal protectiveness and pride in us. I think we were pretty unanimously all in for Pete.

I heard that the venue officially holds 500 people, but that was a handful of hundreds short of the crowd that showed up. I was in physical squish contact with everyone around me and I think that was a nearly universal condition. The HVAC was inadequate. Pete came onstage once they had packed everyone in and gave us one of the best ever renditions of his stump speech (according to someone I know who has watched A LOT of them on Youtube). But by then things had gotten hazy for yrmama. A woman reached through the crowd and tapped me on the shoulder. “Hi yrmama!” I mirrored her enthusiasm, “Hi!” but had no idea who she was. She wore a name tag but the only person I know with that name lives in rural Ontario. I was so confused.

*Late Breaking Edit: I’ve been thinking about the bit that follows the last couple days because I’m not happy with it. But I’m leaving it. ——–> The conclusion is wrong. ———-> This is right: Power-crazed volunteers will always exist and that’s okay. Victimhood though is useless and not at all yrmama’s brand. She wants to be more ready to stand up for herself. There’s no shame in pain or autonomic “dys”function. There’s no shame in anything because we are just little organized blobs of energy making things up as we go along. Electrons have a moral charge of zero.

Haziness postscript: I left while Pete was speaking and almost embarrassed myself even more by crying in public from disappointment.  I’ve been feeling pretty good lately but had significant back pain that day. Indeed, during the hour we waited outside, my new best friends and I, I was happy to stand. A friendly volunteer patrolled the line offering folding chairs to the gimpy. After about 45 minutes I took her up on the chair not knowing how much longer we’d be waiting. She repeatedly assured the gimpy that there was ADA seating right inside so not to worry. 

But the ADA pen was guarded this time. (Give a volunteer a nametag and a job and the power just goes to his head.) The guard looked me up and down, the cane, yes, but also yrmama’s tanned and muscular limbs. He said, “Well, can you stand?” yrmama said, “not the whole time.” “Can you climb up those stairs? There’s seats up there and I’d rather you went up there.” The “seats” were barstools which aren’t so great for bad backs but he’d successfully shamed me up the steps so I decided to stay and see how it went. How it went was it got more and more painful.

So that’s the lesson for today. Invisible disabilities, like those caused by Ehlers Danlos, are real. Ehlers Danlos, in fact, often gives one super-soft skin not prone to wrinkles hence my perpetually youthful appearance. I look strong because I exercise, and yes, people with chronic pain can exercise. I look good, but not looking as raggedy as I feel sometimes is one of my superpowers. People generally don’t fake chronic illness for the immense social benefits it affords them. They generally fake being okay so they don’t have to deal with explaining themselves all the time.

The least I can do

It’s another dry stretch for candidates, and simultaneously a chilly, wet stretch down here on the farm. I especially want to hear from Cory, Jay and Stacy. I want to invite Kamala for a second interview. I want to invite Barack and Michelle over for dinner.

Speaking of Jay Inslee, he’s the only one who’s all about climate change, and he’s right to be. —–> From here yrmama could veer into religion, science, raptors, poison ivy, catastrophic weather events, how it is taking well over ten years to move the UI’s art campus uphill (after the the last giant flood) and to raise Dubuque Street enough that people can reliably get in and out of town. Eleven years ago I watched a woman scooping up large fish with a net in City Park, in the grass, as the water rose and rose and rose. She was filling a big bucket with writhing fish, like 10 inches long, and planned to share them with whoever wanted to help eat them. It was bewildering.

Or we can discuss yrmama’s favorite way to address the epidemic of plastic consumerism we’re all about to choke on. At the Mennonite thrift store where I volunteer sorting through other people’s huge bags of crap, we divert 10 bajillion units of solid waste A DAY from being dumped in the formerly pretty little crick nearby or sent to the steaming, reeking landfill a little farther off. The sale-able stuff is sold for cash money to support international relief projects many of which, you guessed it, are probably triggered or at least complicated by fucking climate change. 

*yrmama used to buy everything second hand because she was poor. Now that yrmama is rich she prefers to buy things second hand because it’s more fun and way more interesting. Plus it helps divert a bit of that aforementioned mountain of other people’s crap from the crick.

https://www.thegazette.com/subject/news/business/crowded-closet-in-fourth-home-in-41-years-20190330
Volunteers sort your great aunt’s apple-sauce jars of buttons and sew them onto cards. It’s the best variety of buttons you’re ever going to find.

Some donors to the shop are Marie Kondo-ing, some just will lose their minds of they don’t do something to get that mountain of outgrown soccer shoes out from behind the couch. Some middle-aged siblings who live far away come with pickup trucks full of warped tupperware, doilies, stained vintage clothes, National Geographics, footstools, peanut butter jars full of screws, and a few dozen boxes of Q-tips from when they were on sale in 1984 and someone stocked up. They look stunned because their last parent just died and they have to clean out the house and they don’t want to cry until later. I LOVE sorting that stuff. It’s the least I can do.

Spin the Bottle

How about Liz and Pete? Or better yet, Liz and Amy? Joe and Stacy Abrams? That would make me like him more. Oh wait, she already turned him down, and declined to run for a senate seat, which means we may soon have 23 candidates…baited breath… Kamala and Pete could work, but we all hate to see Pete just cooling his heels for four years. Kamala and Amy? I think we are working with a top tier of Liz, Kamala, maybe Joe, maybe Pete…

Stacy Abrams
Rolling Stone

But those maybes, that Joe is too old, Amy looks too much like yrmama and Pete is too adorable bring us to the issue of ELECTABILITY, a quality that doesn’t exist. Electability is when you start second-guessing yourself and stressing about what you think other people want and how much you’re willing to compromise to beat a tyrant toddler, and none of that is good, ever. Which leaves me with Liz and Kamala. And Pete. (My sweetie wants me to love Pete best and yrmama’s sweetie is very persuasive.)

In May or so of 2007 yrmama was at a wedding reception and a know-it-all, political writer academic guy asked what I thought of the upcoming Democratic prospects and I blurted out “Barack Obama.” He laughed at me. Until that glorious sweaty, fluorescently lit Iowa Caucus night in the jam-packed school gym Barack was not electable. Donald descending his golden escalator was a joke, unelectable. Electable doesn’t know it’s ass from a hat rack.

Listen to Sam Sanders on It’s Been a Minute, taped Thursday in DesMoines. They’ve really got our number, us stressed-out Democratic Iowa caucus people.

Make America 2012 Again – Joe Biden at Big Grove – May 1

hellmans.com

Joe is our current leader out of 22 candidates. He is the macaroni salad at the potluck – familiar and you’ll eat it if it makes grandma happy but your heart lies with that juicy, piquant quinoa tabouli a couple of bowls over. We are so afraid of Donald winning again that we are willing to put aside the quinoa and let the mayo slither down our throats if that’s what it takes. We all think macaroni salad is what our neighbors want, but do they?

yrmama arrived at Big Grove 30 minutes early and self-consciously forsook a tempting chair in the ADA pen with a clear sightline to the podium for a chair she carried over next to the ADA pen. “See? I am so able-bodied that I brought a chair over here by myself.” (read the medical postscript below for more information) Three large college girls with enormous backpacks stood right in front of me. There were 3-400 people outside around the fire pits and under the roof it looked pretty well packed.

Joe appeared 1 hour late. People stood up and clapped and strained their necks to see him. It was all very pleasant. Joe started out jokey and avuncular, like all those other guys a generation older than me (hence super old) who are “good guys” but kind of trap you into listening to them for too long and who you don’t really want to hug.

His pitch is that he is the one best able to defeat Donald and that defeating him is the main thing that has to be done. What he intends to do when he wins is to first roll everything back to where Barack left it and then continue on that path. Thanks Uncle Joe. I only partly listened a lot of the time because it was boring and because there was no electrifying energy in the air. Clapping but no cheering. He ramped up and raised his voice for his Grand Finale and people clapped a little more then left.

yrmama says, “Be brave enough to leave the macaroni salad with the Velveeta chunks and ham cubes and sooo much celery in the Corelle and help yourself to the quinoa tabouli because you know you want it.” We can both defeat Donald and have more.

I’d like to point out that my current assessment of the race matches that of Nate Silver of fivethirtyeight.com and he’s usually right. That is: Joe, followed by Bernie, Kamala and PETE. I say let’s pair one of the ones that isn’t super old with Stacy Abrams as VP and burn the thing down once and for all.

Medical Postscript: May is Ehlers Danlos Awareness Month and I’m not even kidding.

There are times when yrmama is ADA eligible because due to a special bit in my DNA I make crappy collagen. (Yes, you have to make your own collagen, ingesting it does not help.) With advancing age it gets worse. Collagen is in pretty much every body part and for me the current biggest consequence is I fall over a lot, get injured easily and have widespread chronic pain. My tendons and ligaments are like ancient crunchy elastic stretching for the very last time. My massive muscles have to hold my joints together by themselves which is exhausting.

A couple of weeks ago I recklessly swung my leg out of a car and stood up without first carefully rotating my butt 45 degrees on the seat, planting both feet firmly on the pavement, hinging from the hips and rising gracefully like I was in yoga class. Unused to sudden, mindless hoisting at that angle my quadricep felt like it had been struck by a hammer as a crucial tendon gave way. I’ve been expertly rehabbing that thigh with modified squats and a foam roller and blah blah blah but all the limping made the tendonitis in that foot flare up duhblah duhblah duhblah…. So before going to see Joe I taped the sole of my left foot within an inch of it’s life and could walk painlessly but wasn’t really up for standing for a couple of hours.

Got Collagen? If you can’t make your own store-bought is just fine.

Eric Swalwell – April 28, 2019

thegazette.com
Go Big. Be Bold. Do Good.

Eric looks a bit like Matt Damon and has very good eyesight. He is solid, calm and soft-spoken and he assured us that Donald will NOT be the president in 2020. He is a hardworking and effective Congressperson from California.

This event was a “house party” up the road from here, hosted by a group of local Democrats that calls itself the Potluck Insurgency. They seem quite organized and focussed. Maybe 60 folks milled about eating cookies and watching Eric talk to people as he gradually made his way to the dining room.

I chatted with the nice lady next to me about all the good Donald has done for our country. He has inspired a whole lot of people to pay more attention and get more involved in the democratic process. Huge swaths of American humanity are learning about the Constitution and the laws our government runs on. (I know, there was a class in high school, but I really didn’t care.) The most recent midterm elections had as many voters participating as usually do for a presidential race. Lots of people now are genuinely concerned about The Issues and sense the precariousness of our current political situation. Thanks, Donald.

Speaking of The Issues, the nice lady and I decided that is the real value of candidates like Eric. I wager he’s not going to be president, but the discussions we had with him in the dining room about gun control, climate change, the Middle East and health care as a human right were clarifying all our ideas about what exactly we should be looking for in a candidate’s policy platform. I should say, I think Elizabeth probably stands out as the one who has the most comprehensive proposals complete with arithmetic and to-do lists so far.

Go see Joe Biden tomorrow, May 1, at Big Grove in Iowa City! I saw him as a teeny tiny speck in the distance when we went to the Women’s World Cup final in Vancouver so I know first hand that he’s worth seeing.

Two podcast suggestions for you in your ongoing quest to get smarter and learn stuff: “What Trump Can Teach Us About Con Law,” and one I just started, “Constitutional” from the Washington Post.

Liz – April 26, Tipton

The last time yrmama was in Tipton it was to plead guilty to unlawful swimming with about 25 of her colleagues. It was a high school reunion on a hot afternoon and we decided to go for a swim. Someone said, “Hey, I remember a place we swam once!” So we caravanned to a beautiful old quarry full of cool cool water shaded by trees and started paddling around. Then the sheriff came and we all caravanned to the courthouse. We were in our early twenties with unfinished frontal lobes and we did unlawfully swim

On this trip to Tipton I picked up my friend Lola who told me that despite her advanced age and long tenure in Iowa had never attended a campaign event and wanted to go with me! We arrived at the Tipton Family Restaurant and got in line to Meet and Greet Elizabeth Warren 45 minutes early. The line got longer but never moved – because the building was already full. (Lola made the couple right behind us into our new friends because she grew up in Maine and they had gone there on vacation once so waiting was only cold, not unpleasant. I have to learn how to do that.)) The compromise was announced that Liz would speak to each group separately starting with the hundred or so of us outside because we were cold.

That is Lola’s grey head there right in front of yrmama’s phone. It really was up close and personal.

Suddenly she popped around the corner of the building and leapt gracefully up the steps in front of us. I took in the vibe and liked her immediately, more than I thought I would. My new friend Liz is warm and steely.

A woman in the back raised her hand and said that although she likes Senator Liz a lot, she was very disappointed by the way she and the other Democrats handled the Al Franken situation – basically, that Senator Al is one of us and despite his egregious behavior the country needs him. It wasn’t a question, just a statement of displeasure. Senator Warren listened and left a silence. Then regretfully said, “I know.” She could have been defensive or blame-laying or at least awkward, but she just left it there. A few people called out “Give him a job!” and she nodded. That exchange overlaying what I know of her solid specificity and ferocity made me love her. I bought a t-shirt.

– crickets –

So yes, no.

No candidates have visited here and none are scheduled to before the end of the April. I’m confused after the flurry of activity the first week I decided to attend every event in town…Maybe this is normal? Or do they just schedule things willy nilly with short notice? And again, is yrmama being intentionally left out?

Nonetheless, soldiering on, yrmama convened a focus group the other night. (A focus group about yrmama, not presidential candidates.) Participants included a relatively new U.S. citizen who is EXCITED about being able to vote, a wise green card holder who has never voted in this country and one with dual citizenship in Canada and the U.S. who has also never voted. The latter is not disinterested in the welfare of the country but rather has chosen so far to engage through prayer rather than politics. This Latter is also considering voting this time around. Pray AND vote, I say, like pray AND call an ambulance. All teasing aside, I respect the Latter’s choice to keep it real and keep it spiritual. The Latter is not wrong. More on yrmama’s religious tendencies another time.

Any-wayz, the results came in quickly and the focus group agreed that yrmama’s relatively know-nothing approach to the caucuses is fine and in fact more than fine. It makes yrmama’s coverage of the race more interesting by virtue of being personal and less intimidating by not being remotely journalistic. If you disagree feel free to unsubscribe.

I will see and perhaps take a selfie with Elizabeth Warren on Friday by driving either to Tipton or Clinton. She is going to be closer, in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, but is charging $20 and I’m too cheap for that.

  • yrmama joined a book club devoted to reading all of the political autobiographies of current democratic candidates before caucus day on 2/3/20. We are currently reading Pete’s book, The Shortest Way Home.