Scenes from Hillary Clinton’s Watch Party
Drake University’s campus was a busy place to be on Saturday. CBS was hosting the second democratic debate in Sheslow Auditorium. While a large number of people ended up watching the debate inside Sheslow, I watched with a couple hundred of Hillary Clinton supporters at her watch party across campus.
The Facebook event for the watch party said it began an hour and a half before the actual debate. While this seemed odd to begin with it was clear that the extra time was required to get everyone through security. By 6:45 the line to enter the watch party went completely around the building. Everyone was waiting to get through the one metal detector the Secret Service had in place.
Once inside the watch party there was pizza, soda, wine and beer for everyone to enjoy while we watched. Since the doors opened so early the large screen at the front of the hall was turned to CBS waiting for the debate coverage to begin.
It was an almost eerie scene while we waited. While the majority of the room was not paying attention, CBS was covering the Paris terrorist attacks. While people were standing up and waving to friends and making jokes, on screen we were watching the cell phone videos of people running from the Bataclan Theater. Then, the scene changed to bodies being covered with white sheets, as people began chanting “Hillary, Hillary.”
The coverage remained on while Sue Dvorsky addressed the crowd to get everyone hyped up for the debate. Dvorsky is the former chairwomen of the Iowa Democratic Party. Dvorsky asked the crowd, “What brought you here?” Was it making sure your kids grew up in a safe neighborhood or making sure they went to a good college? These questions got some loud cheers behind me.
I turned around to see Keenan Tirop and his parents Jessica and Willy Tirop. Keenan is a 10-year old. He told me that he wants to go to college one day. He wants the candidates to talk about education and their plans to make college affordable. Willy, Keenan’s dad, said that he and his family take this election seriously. He wants his son to be part of the election and understand the conversations happening throughout the country.
They also spoke about the importance of living in Iowa and getting to attend events like the watch party and meet the candidates in person. Jessica said “there are opportunities here to get involved and make [our] voices heard.”
The overall atmosphere in the hall during the debate was positive. The most applause went to Clinton, but a liberal amount was given to Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley. It seemed to be a pro-democratic crowd. Clinton drew the most applause when she spoke of her response to 9/11 as a New York senator, when she responded to what she described as questions about her integrity, and when she responded to the moderators’ questions about not using “Islamic Extremist” when referring to terrorism.
After the debate was over, while O’Malley headed over to the spin room to field some questions from the press, Clinton was headed over to the hall to address her supporters. Everyone was herding to the rope line hoping to get one of the now infamous Clinton selfies. As I was pushed forward by the crowd, I encountered two older women who were extremely upset that anyone would dare crown to the front at a political event. Indeed, they both seemed shocked that sitting in the front row did not guaranteed them access to the rope line. When my intentions were questioned, I kindly pointed out that the herding forward was characteristic of political events, especially ones where Clinton is speaking. Because I couldn’t move due to the bodies pushing everyone forward I spent the duration of Clinton’s speech being hit in the leg with a Chanel bag.
Most of the crowd stayed to listen to Clinton thank them for their support and encourage everyone in the room to sign up to volunteer. She also spoke specifically to the college students in the room, saying this election is going to require all of us to participate. Her remarks were short, but she did spend a significant amount of time shaking hands and taking pictures. The crowd was incredibly excited to get the chance to get a picture with the former secretary of state. Getting out of the room took more time that Clinton’s actual speech.
Barbour is a junior political science and international relations double major at Drake. She spent last semester abroad in Amman, Jordan, studying Arabic and Middle Eastern politics. Follow her on Twitter.