Iowans Are Huggers

Here’s the first thing I learned in Iowa: Iowans are huggers. Ok, it wasn’t exactly a random sample – but the thousands of people who lined up for our very first organizing events in Council Bluffs, Sioux City, and Des Moines this weekend sure like to hug.

And I love it.

On Friday night in Council Bluffs, so many people came to our event that we opened the garage-hangar doors for people to spill out into the parking lot.

Saturday morning in Sioux City, we filled every nook and cranny of this amazing space.

In Storm Lake, what was supposed to be a small community roundtable discussion had people stretched into the carport and down the street.

And Saturday night in Des Moines, more than 1,000 people stretched around three city blocks to be a part of our fight.

Each one of those people lined up for hours, but not just because of me. They were there because they had hope for what we can do together.

In Des Moines, there were a lot of big groups – four, five, or even more friends – who had come together. When I asked some of them about it, they said that they had made a commitment to march, to call, and to fight any way they can. When one of them gets tired or discouraged, they keep each other going.

The women in Iowa wear that hope loudly and proudly – especially the mamas with little babies strapped to their chests. There were about a zillion “Nevertheless, She Persisted” shirts, bracelets, necklaces, and tattoos. And more: Nasty Woman, the Future is Female, Mt. Nasty, Polite Women Rarely Make History, and one: A Woman’s Place is in the House – the White House. They may not have known one another, but they all felt like family. Each one made me cheer.

Not everyone I meet has a smile on their face. In Sioux City, I met a mom who is desperately worried about her daughter. She had decided to go to cosmetology school, has $20,000 in student loan debt, and now makes less than $10 an hour. Her mom said, “I really don’t get it. She works hard, and she’s trying to make something of herself. But I don’t know how she’ll ever get out of this hole.”

And in Storm Lake, I met a young cancer survivor. She does something – calls, posts, contributions – every day to help make this a country where everyone gets access to health care. She said she would do this the rest of her life.

The cancer survivors, the union workers, the immigrants, the students, the young moms and dads barely hanging on – those stories aren’t depressing to me. They came out this weekend to keep fighting. And that’s what keeps me going.

We’re building a grassroots movement in Iowa, and all across this country to level the playing field for working people. We can make our democracy work for all of us. We can make our economy work for all of us. We can rebuild America’s middle class – but this time, we have to build it for everyone.

And we’re going to do it one email, one call, one door-knock, and yes, one hug at a time.

This weekend in Iowa was just the beginning.