Ryan: Hurricane Bernie

Photo by Sean Ryan

The tropical storm kept cooking. Hurricane Bernard. A white-haired disturbance. Inland of the Gulf of Mexico 1,100 miles, no signs of stopping. Gale force winds so loud that at least one elderly woman, on that sunny August Sunday at the Iowa State Fair, had ear plugs and a sunhat, ready for disaster.

Photo by Sean Ryan

At about 15:30 hours, I observed a migration of Make America Great Again-hats, drifting westward, slowly but steadily, toward a one Mr. Bernie Sanders.

Photo by Sean Ryan

As you can see on the map here, from the southeast, a cluster of "Capitalism is Evil" sign-bearers building mass. If these opposing fronts collided, it would be catastrophic.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Then, when it could not get worse, an isolated storm to the north began moving south, from a restaurant which happened to sell alcohol, which all parties appeared to have had enough of already, and their tribal outfits differed antagonistically, ramping up the atmospheric pressure.Then came a southeastern oscillation of ditzy stoners who had just seen Bernie Sanders on Joe Rogan's podcast and wondered, would he stay around afterward so they could get a selfie together? Followed by the goat wranglers who had just finished an exhibition.

And all of it was heading to one place. The Political Soapbox stage.

Photo by Sean Ryan

A man in a motorized scooter rolled by the fenced area for media, seemingly the most innocuous of all. No, no. He was wearing a MAGA hat and had a Trump/Pence lawn sign in his front basket. He passed a 20-something who shouted something about, "Did he like his wheelchair?" and "How much will it cost the rest of us?" but the man didn't hear because it was loud and his hearing aid was loose.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Two women held hands, scoping around for people's reactions. Nobody seemed to care.Meanwhile, the anti-Bernie factions had posted up in front of the stage as Bernie's staff was fighting through a squall of reporters and admirers from the west, and the suction energies were colliding. Millibars and millibars of barometric pressure.Sunlight cut through the clouds and the world was bright all of a sudden, too bright. The metal breath of heat, scalp-frumping heat. Viperous and hateful.

*

A tractor-led train nudged through the rows of Sunday fairgoers, then came to a stop. The cartoon character of a conductor yanked a cord and the train made an electronic "Toot toot!" He yanked and yanked, squinting ahead, edging into a panic. The crowd had overtaken the tractor-train like a handcart lost to quicksand. A horde of people were frenzying around. Cameras, microphones, lots of urgency, lots of shouting. The conductor could see over it all. The people looked like ants carrying an orange slice. Only it was Bernie Sanders at the middle. Everyone recognized that face, that wild white hair, those fingers pointing everywhere, that hunched-back stroll.A young woman passed behind the squall, "Aw, I can see his little head." The bald spot. To her, he was Buddha.

Photo by Sean Ryan

If you turned in any direction you'd see ruddy-faced people griping at other ruddy-faced people, contorting themselves like a mime because we're not great as a country about expressing negative emotions, especially in public.If only National Geographic had covered the event. They would sauce it up with classy references to sociology. Or they'd frame the commotion as a nuanced power struggle acted out as a performance, a dance, between the authoritarians and the revolutionaries, or the such-and-such tribe versus the so-and-so tribe. Or maybe they'd pin it on something like native aggression.

Photo by Sean Ryan

To me, it was greater than that. The air had the eerie weight that precedes a tornado. It stank like when you're near a rattlesnake. It was all energy, the entire country at war in this one locale. And everyone had something to say, wanted something to do, somewhere to go, some way to matter in the rioting disaster of a struggle that is bigger than all of us, and deeper than we know, but still within arm's reach.

*

All at once, every person started mumbling, in one way or another, and just as quickly people clashed with their enemies and bonded excessively with their allies.

They had no choice. It was "He is red and I am blue." Followed by rictus in the face and words that imply bashing.

Photo by Sean Ryan

And the whole time this wonderful commotion was playing out, you could turn in any direction and get a turkey leg, or fried pork chop, or a bucket of cookies. Imagine if there were concession stands during the Civil War. These are the kinds of silly habits we humans indulge in.

A woman rolled her eyes as she passed the stage, "Political soapbox, ugh."A single engine plane puttered by overhead, pulling a banner that read, "Sen. Ernst what the flood?" with the logo for LCV, League of Conservation Voters, and the hashtag "climate." They want to feel the world getting hotter? Get down here, in the bubbling muck.

*

Last time Sanders took this stage, a thousand people gathered. Five months later, he nearly beat Hillary Clinton in the Iowa caucus, which was a shady nightmare for Bernie and his unyielding supporters. I'll tell you more about it in the "Embassy Fortress" installment of this series.

Today, Sanders was lither and sharper than he had been any of the times I'd seen him yet.Rachel Stassen-Berger, politics editor for the Des Moines Register, took the stage and introduced Bernie and laid down the ground rules. No heckling, no signs, just be Iowa nice. In some ancient ritual, a group of Trump supporters in red MAGA hats and "Iowa for Trump" T-shirts sang their tribal war songs. Crows on the powerlines stared down lustfully, waiting for someone to drop a fried pickle.

*

Twenty feet away, at a different gathering of Trump supporters, five middle-school-aged girls shouted as they passed a woman with a "Women for Trump sign." They said, "Racist. Racist. Racist. You're a racist. You're a racist." Every single one of them looked like Billie Eilish.

Photo by Sean Ryan

The woman shrugged, said, "I'm proud to hold this sign."Her high-school-aged daughter, nearby, rolled her eyes, "I don't care what they say."

The largest contingent of Trump supporters populated a patch of land between the fried Twinkie trailer and a lemonade booth. Right then, a massive migration of Bernie supporters, signaling their poisonousness with multi-colored hair dye, was navigating toward the stage. One particular subgroup wore T-shirts with Harry Potter references. Behind them, "Keep America Great" signs jutted up from the crowd like stiff dandelions.

It was possibly the largest Soapbox crowd yet.

"Boy that's a big crowd," Bernie said as he looked out over the stage.

*

He had hardly made it to the stage. From the moment he stepped through the front gates, he was surrounded by people and microphones and cameras. The New York Times reported that "he spoke to almost no one." Incorrect. He spoke to anyone who approached him. As much as he could, mobbed by media and fair-goers hoisting cell phones. What was he supposed to do, have biscuits over tea?

Out in the tempest, Benny Johnson of TurningPointUSA held a travel-size whiteboard inked with the words "Where has Socialism Worked?" above numbers next to blanks. At any given time, you could look over and see various Bernie supporters vehemently scrawling "Norway" or "Sweden" or "Canada" or "China," followed by his rebuttal and dry-erase ink smears on his hand.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Ten feet away, unaware that Johnson was filming a segment about socialism, a young man in jeans and a bandana and a sports jersey of some kind, scoffed at a roving herd of Bernie supporters. "Socialism sucks," he muttered, too quietly for them to hear, but loudly enough to find satisfaction.

Besides, the small band of Bernie supporters seemed too happy to have cared anyway. They buzzed and chattered like they were pre-teens about to see their favorite band in concert for the first time. A couple of them definitely were pre-teens. But, as is usually the case at a Bernie event, there were supporters of all ages.

*

A man in faded jeans and a plain red T-shirt passed by the outer edges of the natural disaster. "Who's this," he asked the people around him. "Bernie? Bernie?!" Then he spat. Then he snorted. Then he spat again. Then, with a crooked smile, he shook his fist sarcastically and shouted, "Tax 'em all to death, Bernie! Tax 'em all to death."

In no time at all, Hurricane Bernard had completely riled the environment. Ten minutes earlier, the first subgroup of the Make America Great Again clan was out at the edges of the crowd on their own. But now, they were embedded in the eddying mass, so far from the outskirts. So they waved their "Keep America Great" signs and sang about the good times and argued with college students and men in Chicago Cubs hats about the importance of taxes and health care and the meaning of the soul in relation to a cheeseburger.*

Photo by Sean Ryan

Earlier, rain had passed through just long enough to make for gasping humidity. It was 82 degrees but it felt like 100. People riot in the summers. It's the heat. It makes us crotchety and bold. So the atmosphere around the stage was perfect for combat. Unbearably muggy. Everybody had a temper or some eagerness or both.

As he ascended the walkway toward the stage, Bernie was like a saint or an anti-hero, the way people wanted to see him. No spectrum, only the magnets with a north and a south. People gasped at the sight of his unkempt hair and monastic bald spot.

A twelve-year-old boy in a bright pink shirt jumped and jumped, looking for Sanders. A man in a cowboy hat stroked his gray handlebar mustache as he said, "Bernie," with a pickled reaction. "Uh oh, Bernie. Sanders."Just around the corner, if you could get through the clotted masses, was the "Cast Your Kernel" poll. Passersby placed one corn kernel in the mason jar with their favorite candidates name on it. Later, at the end of the Fair, when the votes were tallied, Republicans would win, with 51 percent of the vote.

Trump would get 97 percent of the Republican vote. The closest Democrat would be Biden, with 23 percent. Anywhere else but Iowa this would mean nothing at all. But the more you learn about the Iowa Caucus, you'll realize that corn kennels in a mason jar would actually be a better system.

*

By the time Bernie started his speech, there were people all the way across the wide street, a solid battlefield of faces to the deep-fried Snickers trailer. And all around the stage, every side. Easily 700 people. Maybe 1,000. Maybe more, below the Ferris wheel.

Lots of Bernie signs. Lots of sarcastic whooping. Lots of very passionate, aggressive arguments. But also lots of people who'd come to the fair for turquoise rings or leather pants or personalized keychains, and all of a sudden they had been swept into tantrum warfare.

*

Behind the gated media area, two couples stood side-by-side. One couple had voted for Trump in 2016, the other had voted for Hillary Clinton, reluctantly, because they were Bernie supporters, so now they were shouting along in support of Bernie.

In response, the Trump couple muttered a couple phrases about "Aren't socialist so stupid?" Then the Bernie supporters performed an imitation of Trump supporters. It was fairly graphic and involved a recreation of incest and/or bestiality. Maybe not, it was hard to tell what the couple was miming. But it stoked the Trump supporters, and all of the oblique warfare was off the table. Now, it was hand-to-hand combat.

Photo by Sean Ryan

The woman of the Trump tribe was the more dominant member. The aggression of the Bernie tribe was equally distributed between its two members. This only strengthened and infuriated the Trump woman. She called the Bernie man a "beta." In turn, he lifted his nose to the sky and muttered something about health care and would the lady kindly go to a dermatologist and get the psoriasis figured out? His female counterpart looked at him with a mixture of pride and disgust. The Trump male member pecked at a pretzel with his teeth.The two couples looked similar in age and appearance. Their clothing choices differed slightly, but not enough to signify an ideological divide of such gravity. On any other day, maybe they would have gotten along.

All the while, Sanders shouted into the microphone. His speech blared out air-raid horns 10 feet from the two battling couples. Then, the couples stopped. Laughed. Nodded to each other, distracted by a man in American-flag short-shorts and a sleeveless American-flag shirt and American-flag socks and American-flag shoes and an American-flag cowboy hat and a double-knotted fannypack and a pair of round sunglasses that belonged to a woman. He had a tattoo canvas running down both arms and along his shoulders that featured war-planes dropping giant bombs into the oceans or onto land, it was hard to tell. He was the modern Uncle Sam, hooting and stomping.

"How you gonna do it?" He shouted. "Answer me, Bernie! How you gonna do it?" his American flag shorts billowing in the parched air, signifying the power of a nation at the top of it all.

Photo by Kevin Ryan

In a pinch, he could salute himself. He could stand at attention while "The Star-Spangled Banner" played from a bullhorn and everyone in earshot would straighten their backs and remove their hats and hold their hands over their hearts and tear up. If things ever got bad, real bad, he could hoist himself to the highest mountain as bald eagles screeched "Amazing Grace." And, look, as far as I'm concerned, he's an American hero.

I consider him the eye of the storm

New installments to this series come out every Monday and Thursday morning. For live updates, check out my Twitter or email me at kryan@mercurystudios.com

On Wednesday's TV show, Glenn Beck sat down with radio show host, author, political commentator, and film critic, Michael Medved.

Michael had an interesting prediction for the 2020 election outcome: a brokered convention by the DNC will usher in former First Lady Michelle Obama to run against President Donald Trump.

Watch the video below to hear why he's making this surprising forecast:

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Want more from Glenn Beck?

To enjoy more of Glenn's masterful storytelling, thought-provoking analysis and uncanny ability to make sense of the chaos, subscribe to BlazeTV — the largest multi-platform network of voices who love America, defend the Constitution and live the American dream.

On Thursday's "Glenn Beck Radio Program," BlazeTV's White House correspondent Jon Miller described the current situation in Virginia after Gov. Ralph Northam (D) declared a state of emergency and banned people carrying guns at Capitol Square just days before a pro-Second-Amendment rally scheduled on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Jon told Glenn that Gov. Northam and the Virginia Legislature are "trying to deprive the people of their Second Amendment rights" but the citizens of Virginia are "rising up" to defend their constitutional rights.

"I do think this is the flashpoint," Jon said. "They [Virginia lawmakers] are saying, 'You cannot exercise your rights ... and instead of trying to de-escalate the situation, we are putting pressure. We're trying to escalate it and we're trying to enrage the citizenry even more'."

Glenn noted how Gov. Northam initially blamed the threat of violence from Antifa for his decision to ban weapons but quickly changed his narrative to blame "white supremacists" to vilify the people who are standing up for the Second Amendment and the Constitution.

"What he's doing is, he's making all all the law-abiding citizens of Virginia into white supremacists," Glenn said.

"Sadly, that's exactly right," Jon replied. "And I think he knows exactly what he's doing."

Watch the video to catch more of the conversation below:

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To enjoy more of Glenn's masterful storytelling, thought-provoking analysis and uncanny ability to make sense of the chaos, subscribe to BlazeTV — the largest multi-platform network of voices who love America, defend the Constitution and live the American dream.

Ryan: Trump Louisiana Finale

Photo by Jim Dale

Part One. Part Two. Part Three.

At the end of Trump rallies, I would throw on my Carhartt jacket, sneak out of the press area, then blend in with everyone as they left, filing out through swinging doors.

Often, someone held the door open for me. Just 30 minutes earlier, the same person had most likely had most likely hissed at me for being a journalist. And now they were Sunday smiles and "Oh, yes, thank you, sir" like some redneck concierge.

People flooded out of the arena with the stupidity of a fire drill mishap, desperate to survive.

The air smacked you as soon as you crossed the threshold, back into Louisiana. And the lawn was a wasteland of camping chairs and coolers and shopping bags and to-go containers and soda cans and articles of clothing and even a few tents.

In Monroe, in the dark, the Trump supporters bobbled over mounds of waste like elephants trying to tiptoe. And the trash was as neutral to them as concrete or grass. They plodded over it because it, an object, had somehow gotten in their way.

It did not matter that they were responsible for this wreckage.Out in the sharp-edged moonlight, rally-goers hooted and yapped and boogied and danced, and the bbq food truck was all smoke and paper plates.

They were even more pumped than they had been before the rally, like 6,000 eight year olds who'd been chugging Mountain Dew for hours. Which made Donald Trump the father, the trooper, God of the Underworld, Mr. Elite, Sheriff on high horse, the AR-15 sticker of the family.

Ritualistic mayhem, all at once. And, there in Louisiana, Trump's supporters had gotten a taste of it. They were all so happy. It bordered on rage.

Still, I could not imagine their view of America. Worse, after a day of strange hostilities, I did not care.

My highest priority, my job as a reporter, was to care. To understand them and the world that they inhabit. But I did not give a damn and I never wanted to come back.

Worst of all, I would be back. In less than a week.

Was this how dogs felt on the 4th of July? Hunched in a corner while everyone else gets drunk and launches wailing light into the sky? configurations of blue and red and white.

It was 10:00 p.m. and we'd been traveling since 11:00 a.m., and we still had 5 hours to go and all I wanted was a home, my home, any home, just not here, in the cold sweat of this nowhere. Grey-mangled sky. No evidence of planes or satellites or any proof of modern-day. Just century-old bridges that trains shuffled over one clack at a time.

And casinos, all spangles and neon like the 1960s in Las Vegas. Kitchy and dumb, too tacky for lighthearted gambling. And only in the nicer cities, like Shreveport, which is not nice at all.

And swamp. Black water that rarely shimmered. Inhabited by gadflies and leeches and not one single fish that was pretty.

Full of alligators, and other killing types. The storks gnawing on frogs, the vultures never hungry. The coyotes with nobody to stop them and so much land to themselves. The roaches in the wild, like tiny wildebeests.

Then, the occasional deer carcass on the side of the road, eyes splayed as if distracted, tongue out, relaxed but empty. The diseased willows like skeletons in hairnets. The owls that never quit staring. A million facets of wilderness that would outlive us all.

Because Nature has poise. It thrives and is original.

Because silence is impossible. Even in an anechoic chamber, perfectly soundproofed, you can hear your own heartbeat, steady as a drum. A never-ending war.

I put "Headache" by Grouper on repeat as we glided west. We were deadlocked to asphalt, rubber over tarface.

And I thought about lines from a Rita Dove poem titled "I have been a stranger in a strange land"

He was off cataloging the universe, probably,
pretending he could organize
what was clearly someone else's chaos.

Wasn't that exactly what I was doing? Looking for an impossible answer, examining every single accident, eager for meaning? telling myself, "If it happens and matters the next year, in America, I want to be there, or to know what it means. I owe it to whoever cares to listen."

Humans are collectors and I had gone overboard.

Because maybe this wasn't even my home. These landmarks, what did they mean? Was I obvious here? When I smiled, did I trick them into believing that I felt some vague sense of approval? Or did my expressions betray me?

Out in all that garbage-streaked emptiness — despite the occasional burst of passing halogen — I couldn't tell if everything we encountered was haunted or just old, derelict, broken, useless. One never-ending landfill.

Around those parts, they'd made everything into junk. Homes. Roads. Glass. Nature. Life itself, they made into junk.

I cringed as we passed yet another deer carcass mounded on the side of the road.

As written in Job 35:11,

Who teaches us more than the beasts of the earth and makes us wiser than the birds in the sky?

Nobody. Look at nature and you feel something powerful. Look at an animal, in all of its untamable majesty, and you capture a deep love, all swept up in the power of creation. But, here, all I saw were poor creatures who people had slammed into and kept driving. Driving to where? For what reason? What exactly was so important that they left a trail of dead animals behind them?

So I crossed myself dolorously and said an "Our Father" and recited a stanza from Charles Bukowski's "The Laughing Heart"

you can't beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.

Out here, nothing but darkness. Needing some light, by God. Give me something better than a Moon that hides like an underfed coward.

Jade told me about some of the more traumatic things she'd seen while working at the State Fair.

"Bro, they pull roaches out of the iced lemonade jugs and act like nothing happened."

"All right but what about the corn dogs?"

"You do not want to know, little bro."

She looked around in the quiet. "Back in the day, the Louisiana Congress refused to raise the drinking age from 18 to 21," she said. "They didn't want to lose all that drunk gambler money. So the federal government cut off funding to highways."

We glided through moon-pale landscape for an hour before I realized what she had meant. That there weren't any light poles or billboards along the road. Nothing to guide us or distract us. Just us, alone. And it felt like outer space had collapsed, swallowed us like jellybeans.

Like two teenagers playing a prank on the universe.

In the cozy Subaru Crosstrek, in the old wild night, brimming with the uncertainty of life and the nonchalance of failure, we paraded ourselves back to Dallas. Alive in the river silence that follows us everywhere.

New installments come Mondays and Thursdays. Next, the Iowa caucuses. Check out my Twitter. Email me at kryan@blazemedia.com

The Iowa primary is just around the corner, and concerns of election interference from the last presidential election still loom. Back in 2016, The Associated Press found that a majority of U.S. elections systems still use Windows 7 as an operating system, making them highly susceptible to bugs and errors. And last year, a Mississippi voter tried multiple times to vote for the candidate of his choice, but the system continuously switched his vote to the other candidate. It's pretty clear: America's voting systems desperately need an update.

That's where blockchain voting comes in.

Blockchain voting is a record-keeping system that's 100% verifiable and nearly impossible to hack. Blockchain, the newest innovation in cybersecurity, is set to grow into a $20 billion industry by 2025. Its genius is in its decentralized nature, distributing information throughout a network of computers, requiring would-be hackers to infiltrate a much larger system. Infiltrating multiple access points spread across many computers requires a significant amount of computing power, which often costs more than hackers expect to get in return.

Blockchain voting wouldn't allow for many weak spots. For instance, Voatz, arguably the leading mobile voting platform, requires a person to take a picture of their government-issued ID and a picture of themselves before voting (a feature, of course, not present in vote-by-mail, where the only form of identity verification is a handwritten signature, which is easily forgeable). Voters select their choices and hit submit. They then receive an immediate receipt of their choices via email, another security feature not present in vote-by-mail, or even in-person voting. And because the system operates on blockchain technology, it's nearly impossible to tamper with.

Votes are then tabulated, and the election results are published, providing a paper trail, which is a top priority for elections security experts.

The benefits of blockchain voting can't be dismissed. Folks can cast their vote from the comfort of their homes, offices, etc., vastly increasing the number of people who can participate in the electoral process. Two to three-hour lines at polling places, which often deter voters, would become significantly diminished.

Even outside of the voting increase, the upsides are manifold. Thanks to the photo identification requirements, voter fraud—whether real or merely suspected—would be eliminated. The environment would win, too, since we'd no longer be wasting paper on mail-in ballots. Moreover, the financial burden on election offices would be alleviated, because there's decreased staff time spent on the election, saving the taxpayer money.

From Oregon to West Virginia, elections offices have already implemented blockchain voting, and the results have been highly positive. For example, the city of Denver utilized mobile voting for overseas voters in their 2019 municipal elections. The system was secure and free of technical errors, and participants reported that it was very user-friendly. Utah County used the same system for their 2019 primary and general elections. An independent audit revealed that every vote that was cast on the app was counted and counted correctly. These successful test cases are laying the groundwork for even larger expansions of the program in 2020.

With this vital switch, our elections become significantly more secure, accurate, and efficient. But right now, our election infrastructure is a sitting duck for manipulation. Our current lack of election integrity undermines the results of both local and national elections, fans the flames of partisanship, and zaps voter confidence in the democratic system. While there's never a silver bullet or quick fix to those kinds of things, blockchain voting would push us much closer to a solution than anything else.

Chris Harelson is the Executive Director at Prosperity Council and a Young Voices contributor.