By Molly Ball
MASON CITY, Iowa—They say this Democratic candidate for president—the one running against Hillary Clinton—can’t possibly win a national election. But Susan Sarandon, the Oscar-winning liberal actress, was here to remind the people of this small Iowa town that they’d heard that line before.
“Last time, the people of Iowa didn’t listen to the machine,” Sarandon said, russet-colored hair framing her famous face as she looked out on the Music Man Square, an indoor fake streetscape commemorating the birthplace of the famous musical’s author. “They said he was unelectable—a black man with a funny last name. Well, here we are again, facing the machine.”
In Sarandon’s telling, the unkempt socialist senator from Vermont is the Barack Obama of 2016. To many Sanders supporters, Obama’s successes—from the Iowa caucuses to tough [sic] two national elections—render moot the argument Clinton is once again making that she’s the only one who can win.
“I think he’s more radical than the other people we’ve had, and I like that about him,” Taylor Raska, a 28-year-old bartender with a nose ring, mismatched earrings, and lines of cursive writing tattooed on her arms, told me. An ardent environmentalist who’s tired of politicians, Raska believes the old system must be smashed for a new order to take its place. “Everything’s going to change!” she said, savoring the beautiful thought. “We are in this amazing period—it’s awesome to be a part of. Everything is changing!”
People who feel like they’re struggling against long odds are fed up with the solutions that have been tried. There was a plant in Mason City that made filters, but it went to Mexico some years ago, a 62-year-old named Sue McKee told me. She teaches the GED class that the laid-off men in their 40s, 50s, and 60s come to, desperate to work again and needing a high-school diploma for the first time in their lives. “We shouldn’t make it so hard for people,” she said. On Monday, she planned to register with the Democratic Party and caucus for the first time in her life.
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