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The Presidential Family Forum and Me

Posted: November 27, 2015 | By: Sarah LeBlanc Tagged: From the Campaign Trail
Seven of the 14 Republican presidential candidates gathered in the Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center to discuss moral and economic issues.

Seven of the 14 Republican presidential candidates gathered in the Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center to discuss moral and economic issues on Nov. 20. Photo by Sarah LeBlanc

While most of Iowa was under a winter storm warning, I and hundreds of politically committed Iowans braved the flying white flakes (caused by Satan’s wrath, according to The FAMiLY LEADER CEO Bob Vander Plaats) to attend the Presidential Family Forum last Friday night. Vander Plaats’ organization, which is spelled correctly and has a lowercase “i” to symbolize the necessary subordination of the individual ego — despite the grammatical incorrectness angering me to no extent — sponsored the discussion and started the night off with a prayer and a theatrical trailer for a Christian movie entitled “God’s Not Dead 2” starring the girl from Sabrina the Teenage Witch and the guy from John Tucker Must Die.

Almost immediately after the moderator asked the first question, people dressed in black started standing up from the crowd and unfurled red banners that said, “Is deportation a family value?” while chanting “Deportation is anti-family” until they were escorted out of the room by security. Before they left, however, the crowd responded by shouting “U.S.A., U.S.A.” repeatedly to the tune of loud whistles and cheers. Now, I’m all for respecting different perspectives and reactions to situations, but I was embarrassed to be sitting in a crowd implying that these people are standing for values that are anti-American even though the generations before us all came here from somewhere else and our economy relies heavily on workers who have come to this country in search of that elusive “American Dream.” Also, it seems a bit insulting to people whose relatives migrated to the United States, like Marco Rubio’s parents, or to those who weren’t even born here and continue to have relatives in and from different countries, like Ted Cruz. In an attempt to get the protestors to leave peacefully, the moderator promised 10 minutes on the subject of immigration if they sat down. Needless to say, this was unsuccessful and the promise was unfulfilled.

After this excitement, the discussion about the necessary preservation of the traditional family ensued for about five minutes before PETA protestors stood up individually and yelled something along the lines of “This is violence, not food” while holding up pictures of animals. Once every protestor was escorted out, the candidates responded in a way that made me smile and hope it wasn’t just for the sound bites. Huckabee noted that he was proud to live in a country where people could speak their minds and not get shot out on the street. Recently and unfortunately, however, he’s not exactly right.

Following the protests, the candidates took the opportunity to say that conservative people never interrupt Democratic events, and while to an extent this may be true, Democratic candidates face more protests from Black Lives Matter activists than conservatives due to their willingness to hear the group out. At conservative events, the protestors go largely ignored and fail to receive the attention their rallies are designed to achieve. This statement also assumes that the people protesting identify as Democrats, when the issues could very well be concerns of both Democrats and Republicans. However, there’s actually no genuine research on whether protests are more common at Republican or Democratic events.

Admittedly, I did have to leave early for work, but during the two hours I was there listening to the candidates, to my knowledge they didn’t hit on the topics that are widely considered hot-button issues such as climate change, immigration and education. Though each candidate was given an opportunity to speak on most questions asked, and I know it’s difficult with seven candidates around a table, it seemed that the substance of candidate responses was lacking. The most common topics revolved around moral concerns like the disintegration of the traditional family and foreign policy, including the Paris attacks. Speaking of foreign policy, I discovered the concerns surrounding Ben Carson’s inexperience in the subject are likely valid. When asked who he would call first if there was a domestic terrorist attack in Times Square, he led with a discussion of his medical career and only said Homeland Security after an uncomfortable pause and a prompt to answer the question by the moderator. Homeland Security was also the most common answer among candidates.

Aside from my semantic concerns and the protests, I never fail to be astounded by the opportunities life in Iowa provides me with, as evidenced through the fact that I’ve seen over a dozen of the current presidential candidates in person and have likely been in a room just over a hundred feet from the next president of the United States. Four years from now, hopefully I’ll be this lucky again.

IMG_1215LeBlanc is a junior political science and journalism major from Madison, Wisconsin. She’s visited three countries in the last six months and enjoys copious amounts of Netflix, chocolate and bad puns. Follow her on Twitter.