Des Moines, Iowa — Hillary Clinton’s victory speech Monday night didn’t go over very well here at the Airport Holiday Inn, where Bernie Sanders’s campaign was holding its own victory rally.
“I’m a progressive who gets things done!” she said, before deafening boos drowned out the televisions playing her speech.
“You’re no f***ing progressive!” one man shouted indignantly. “No no no no no!” yelled another. “Turn her off!” The crowd soon broke into a chant of “She’s a liar! She’s a liar! She’s a liar!”
Rowdy as they may have been in making it, Sanders’s supporters had a point. When Clinton took the stage to declare victory, she and Sanders were within 0.2 percentage points of each other. Clinton performed slightly better in rural counties, while Sanders beat her by a slim margin in urban areas. Both seem set to leave Iowa with 21 delegates to their names — and Clinton won at least two Democratic precincts by a coin toss. If Iowa was a victory for the once-inevitable Democratic front-runner, it was a Pyrrhic one.
Sanders certainly thought so. Though he stopped short of declaring victory in his own speech, his enthusiasm could not be contained. “We went up against the most powerful political organization in the United States of America,” he said, before declaring the race a virtual tie. “I think the people of Iowa have sent a very profound message to the political establishment, to the economic establishment, and by the way, to the media establishment,” he said, drawing thunderous applause.
#share#With a new swagger in his step, the self-avowed socialist channeled the crowd’s defiant tone. “To all my critics out there — the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post and corporate America, whoever you may be, let me tell you straight up,” he said. “I believe health care is a right, not a privilege!”
To the hundreds of people “feeling the Bern” at Monday night’s rally, the caucus results were cause for celebration. “It’s a win no matter what the percentage,” says Terry Wells, a Des Moines native and small-business owner. “After New Hampshire and South Carolina she’ll start playing dirty, and the real Hillary will come out,” says Wells, sporting a wooden cross, a tie-dye T-shirt, and a massive beard. “America will figure out Bernie’s got the momentum.”
“You’re absolutely right!” a man standing nearby bursts out.
Asked why the crowd seems so disgusted by Clinton, Wells doesn’t pull punches. “She’s dishonest, she has no original vision,” he says. “8 years ago when she ran against Obama, she didn’t talk about racial profiling, racial justice, economic issues. It was all health care and the kids. That’s it! She had her opportunity.”
#related#In his speech, Sanders credited the campaign’s photo finish to his many out-of-state volunteers. One of them, Mike Ferguson of Port Townsend, Washington, showed up at the Sanders party here after canvassing He’d canvassed a West Des Moines neighborhood from 4 AM until the voting started. “It was intense, man,” he says. “We were just full on, full on. The guy in charge at the office told us, ‘If you can get twelve non-Bernie supporters to go Bernie, we can win that precinct.’ And so we just worked it, worked it, worked it.”
Like everyone else, Ferguson is adamant that tonight wasn’t a loss. “[Sanders] was a laughing stock at the beginning, and look at this,” he says, breaking into a grin. “It’s amazing.”
— Brendan Bordelon is a political reporter for National Review.