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Living in Society

Winter Solstice 2019

Elizabeth Warren at North Central Junior High School, North Liberty, Iowa. Dec. 21, 2019.

On a clear, beautiful day when ambient temperatures reached into the 50s, I drove across the lakes to North Liberty where Elizabeth Warren held a town hall meeting.

James Q. Lynch of the Cedar Rapids Gazette estimated 500 attended. There was not a lot of other action in the area to occupy us the Saturday before Christmas.

It was Warren’s first town hall meeting since the Dec. 19 Democratic candidate debate.

Warren’s campaign staff will be released for the holidays on Monday so the weekend was a busy time for them and staff of several candidates touring Iowa, notably Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Michael Bennet and Joe Biden.

This was my fourth Warren town hall this cycle. I know the pitch well. Her presidency would focus on the long-standing issue of corruption in government. Corruption has been present since the founding, although is more visible today, blatantly so. That Warren makes addressing corruption the centerpiece of her campaign and potential presidency is most of what attracts me.

Each time I’ve heard her speak I learned something new. The first question was what to do about the media environment that contests basic truths and contributes to a lack of legislative progress. Warren pushed back on this, using her family as an example.

She has three brothers of which one is a Democrat and two are Republicans. She and her siblings debate politics yet often agree on issues, she said. She expanded that to say there is much agreement among people in society regardless of their politics. What puts the brakes on solving problems, especially big problems like the climate crisis, environmental quality, finance, and excessive student debt, is corruption by powerful and moneyed interests. She has a plan to address that. Having such plans is a hallmark of her campaign.

The recent Solon School Board election highlighted how right Warren is to push back on the media as the main problem confronting us. Our election was hardly covered by news media outside our local newspaper and me. It is easier to find common ground when our children’s education and future are at stake. I knew the political party registration of the six candidates but that played only a minor role is picking two for whom to vote. Somewhere in the wilderness between relevant local politics and the national government things get lost.

Warren talked about how a toaster oven caught fire in her kitchen when she was a young mother. Eventually regulation solved the problem by requiring an automatic shutoff switch in such small appliances. The same basic principal of problem identification, scientific investigation, and working through potential solutions until one could be found and regulated has other, more profound applications. It is a common sense approach at a time when common sense seems sorely lacking in our politics and government.

I drove home immediately after the event, retracing my route. Neighborhood families were out walking on the trail and working in their yards in the mild weather this Winter Solstice. It was great to hear Elizabeth Warren again in Iowa. I’ll miss it when the Democratic National Committee eventually removes our first in the nation status. That is not today.