Jaimes: UI students should demand more of presidential hopefuls

The swarm of Democratic candidates in Iowa City have been given celebrity status instead of being challenged on the positions they’ve promised.


Katina Zentz

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., engages with the crowd during her campaign stop at The Airliner on Monday, February 18, 2019. Gillibrand visited Cedar Rapids and Iowa City as she campaigns for the democratic nomination for the 2020 Presidential Election.

Marina Jaimes , Opinions Columnist

In about 300 days, Iowans will gather with their respective political parties and be the first in the nation determine a nominee for the 2020 presidential election. Iowa’s influence on primary elections is immense, as it will set the stage for other states to elect a representative for the 2020 election, hence the importance for candidates to visit Iowa and create energy that will last until caucus day.

The University of Iowa has seen the effect of this importance. For months, candidates have swept through Iowa City, even making impressions that have been turned into viral videos.

It’s great to have UI students so accessible to these candidates — who have unequivocally vowed to take down President Trump — but, as a group of college-educated students, we are not making the most out of these visits. Students have mistaken the importance of these town-hall meetings and instead treated them as a concert — worshipping each candidate like a celebrity,  anxiously awaiting a photo with a politician whose most solid proposal is to take out the person who currently occupies the White House. 

RELATED: Kirsten Gillibrand praises Green New Deal in Eastern Iowa campaign stops

A February visit from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., perfectly demonstrates this problem. Her campaign stop at the Airliner made waves over the United States because of an apolitical bystander “just trying to get some ranch.” Besides this interruption, Gillibrand spent almost the entire duration of her visit praising the Green New Deal. One month later, she voted “present” on the unrealistic bill that addressed global-climate change.

In Cedar Rapids, Gillibrand said, “[Trump] doesn’t care that we have severe weather all across this country and people are dying. He doesn’t care that it’s probably the greatest economic opportunity of our lifetime — to take on green jobs and green energy and have a Green New Deal.” Another month later, she voted against disaster relief that addressed flooding in Iowa.

This is not unexpected of Gillibrand. She is a politician, doing what normal politicians do. 

As voters, we should challenge candidates on their hypocritical stances. We should challenge Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren on identity politics and California Sen. Kamala Harris on the criminal-justice system. Students have missed opportunities to get some substance out of each candidate and have shown their political ignorance in the meantime. 

RELATED: Beto O’Rourke debuts in Iowa as he begins 2020 presidential campaign

A Pennsylvania State University student took advantage of a town hall with Beto O’Rourke and asked: “When are we going to get an actual policy from you instead of just, like, platitudes and nice stories?” Instead of making the news for asking O’Rourke “Are you here to see Beto,” the student demanded accountability from the former U.S. representative from Texas.

Democratic candidates know they have the typical progressive, anticapitalist, social-justice promoting college student wrapped around their finger. They have gallivanted around the state of Iowa with promises to implement solutions to climate change and health care, yet voted against Iowans in D.C. or failed to explain how they’ll provide their lofty goals. They’ll continue to do so until after the caucuses, in which they will return to treating Iowa as a flyover state.

Whether it’s blindly supporting any candidate that promises to remove Trump from office or an actual ignorance of politics, UI students are not doing their share of weeding out potential candidates for the most powerful position in the world. The next time a presidential hopeful comes to town, don’t join them in head-banging to AC/DC; make them earn the seat they’re so desperately vying for. 

RELATED: Iowa Caucuses Candidate Tracker