CEDAR RAPIDS — “We rock. … We’re here tonight to organize, energize and kick some Republican butt,” Libby Slappey, Precinct 41 chairperson for the Iowa Democratic Party, told a cheering crowd packing the Democratic caucus in the Cedar Rapids Washington High School.
“The Republicans think they’ve got it going on, but we are ready to rumble.”
The air was electric as people gathered to whip up support for their incumbent candidate, President Barack Obama, and organize the masses to work for his re-election efforts.
Early in the evening Obama addressed caucus attendees via Skype, drawing a standing ovation from the approximately 500 people gathered in the auditorium.
“We’ve still got a lot of work to do,” he said. “Think of the work done because of the caucuses four years ago. We’ve ended the war in Iraq. Health care reform has become a reality for millions of people. … Millions of young people across the country are able to get (educational) grants. We’ve had the end of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’
“This time out is going to be more important than the last time out. We’re making steady progress, but it’s going to be a big battle. I hope you’re up for it.”
Breast cancer survivor Carol White, 61, of Cedar Rapids, asked him how he responds to people who say his administration “hasn’t accomplished anything.”
“The main message of 2012 is that we’ve done a lot – we have a lot more to do,” Obama said. “That’s why we need another four years to get it done. … We’re making an impact in people’s lives day to day.
“People listen to their friends, neighbors and co-workers. That’s why what you do at caucuses is so important,” Obama said. “Nobody is a better messenger than you. You can tell by the way these actions are making a difference in your lives. You’re a powerful force than can’t be stopped. I will put my money on you any day.”
Tyler Olson, Representative in the Iowa Legislature, urged the crowd to fight, also on the local and state levels.
“We need to fight so all Iowans are the same under the law. Basic, basic things we’re fighting for because our governor and the Republicans are trying to roll it all back,” said Olson, serving his third term for House District 38 in Cedar Rapids.
Linn County Supervisor Linda Langston urged the crowd not to listen to recent criticism of Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucus status, particularly citing Stephen Bloom’s controversial article.
“We’re demonstrating to this country right now, right this moment, that your engagement is important,” Langston said. “We can’t do it alone. We have Christians, Muslim and Jews here. I know, because I know them. We have white people, African-Americans (and other ethnicities) here. Do not let people tell you Iowa is not representative of this country.
“Let’s dream together, let’s hope together, let’s build together,” she said.
As the crowd starting milling in between 6:30 and 7 p.m., Denelle Beauchaine, 39, of Cedar Rapids, sat quietly knitting a
colorful scarf by the Precinct 36 table.
“A lot of people tried to convince me to go to the Republicans tonight, because that’s where the action is,” said Beauchaine, an industrial seamstress who also works at Michael’s. “I didn’t think I could do a convincing job of it.”
She was looking forward to a different kind of experience than she had in 2008.
“There’s a lot of people that I’m recognizing here,” she said. “It’s the first time I’ve done this in a year where we had an incumbent. I caucused for Obama last time. I know he’s going to be doing a message.”
She was looking forward to “the community – seeing people and participating” in the process.
That’s what it’s all about, said every speaker who addressed about 500 people in attendance.
“The story tomorrow is going to be that you turned out tonight for this president,” Langston said. “We don’t pick candidates who say ‘no.’ We pick leaders who say ‘yes — yes I can.’”