Dr. Jill Biden’s arrival at a Des Moines gay bar on Wednesday surprised some regular customers, but it also may have bumped her husband, former Vice President Joe Biden, higher on some caucus-goers’ lists.
With less than a week until caucus night, the former Second Lady hosted an LGBTQ happy hour at the Blazing Saddle in the East Village, noting her husband’s policies to further push equality and the strength of LGBTQ community members. She arrived in the state Wednesday to campaign for her husband, expected to hit events through Friday across Iowa.
“Progress has happened because you fought to make it happen. By living your truth every day, you are making it happen. But the fight is not over,” Biden said. “We’re going to pass the equality act, we’re going to restore anti-discrimination policies. We’re going to protect our youth from hate crimes, conversion therapy and bullying.”
Much of Biden’s remarks also focused on President Donald Trump’s Thursday arrival in Des Moines. He’ll hold a rally at Drake University during the evening.
“He will brag about packing the courts with judges who want to take away your rights. He’ll mock and degrade people who believe in equality,” Biden said. “He’ll paint a vision that corrodes all that we fought for. But tonight, I want to say this. He has no idea who he’s messing with. Because if there’s any group that knows how to take on bullies, it’s you, the LGBTQ community.”
The crowd boo-ed when she mentioned Trump’s name and a man proclaimed, “He ain’t comin’ in here!”
Before Biden began speaking, Grace Meyer, a Joe Biden West Des Moines Field Organizer who is part of the LGBTQ community referenced the former Vice President’s early acceptance of gay marriage. He became a hero to the LGBTQ community in 2012 by endorsing same-sex marriage on national TV while Barack Obama was still quiet about it.
“He was coming out on that in 2012, which was when I was about 15 or 16, right before I was even coming to terms with my sexual orientation,” Meyer said in an interview. “If you see someone in a position of power standing up for someone, I think there’s always been that gap for the LGBTQ community, not always being represented in films or books, so having the Vice President come out on that was really meaningful to me.”
Biden then made rounds around the room—she declined a shot that one of the bar’s patron’s offered her, but took many pictures and pet a small Maltese-Yorkie named Presha.
Presha’s dad is Jim Anderson, a 55-year-old Des Moines resident who’s a regular at the bar. Anderson said that as a longtime Iowa resident, he expects visits from figures like Dr. Biden this time of year.
“We’re accustomed to it,” he said. “She’s a more impressive surrogate than a lot of others. Very well spoken and she seemed kind, and someone we would want to have as the President’s wife to represent our community.”
Anderson’s friends were also impressed by Dr. Biden’s speech. Greg Wallenstein, 40, from Pleasantville, said he might consider caucusing for Biden because of Jill’s appearance.
“She was very approachable. She actually came up and approached us, which was very impressive because she didn’t have to do that.” Wallenstein said.“His wife showing up here tonight, I thought was absolutely amazing that she got in front of a whole bunch of people. She could have been anywhere but she chose to be here.”
Biden noted at the top of her remarks that this was the first time she had been to a gay bar, but then clarified later with a reporter that she had been to Stonewall before. After greeting the bar patrons, Biden had a drink with some of the campaign staffers.
Also in attendance was Michelle Kwan, the award-winning figure skater who heads Joe Biden’s surrogate program. Some of Blazing Saddle’s regular customers were happy she joined.
Timmy Mooney, 62, from Des Moines said he comes to the bar for happy hour any time he has a day off of work. He’s considering Biden as an undecided voter but took a photo with Kwan as a fan.
“I was totally freaked out. I seriously was. And so excited. She is the best figure skater that has ever lived. She has the most 6.0s of anyone ever … I love her,” he said. “Whoever Michelle Kwan supports is going to be whoever she supports. It may not be the person that I support, but I still love Michelle Kwan.”
by Isabella Murray