Vapers, Cosplayers and Girl Gangs: Talking Politics With Iowa Facebook Groups

Vapers, cosplayers and girl gangs: Talking politics with Iowa Facebook groups

Alyssa Bereznak

National Correspondent, Technology
February 1, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa – Every four years, Iowa is besieged by thousands of journalists and cameramen, adrift in a Midwestern culture many have never experienced. They breathlessly report the discovery of farms, rifles and meatloaf.

As Yahoo News discovered when we dove into the rabbit hole of local Iowa Facebook groups, not all Iowans spend their days atop a tractor. They include arty feminists, dedicated cosplay nerds, obsessive vapers and many other interesting things.

And they also may have interesting political opinions. We asked a few Iowa Facebook groups to describe the political candidates through the lens of their hobbies. Below, a brief and incredibly educational survey of what we discovered:

This private 688-person group is one of Iowa’s many online vape communities, dedicated to the pleasures of getting a nicotine fix without tobacco, where members are encouraged to share their “favorite juices and pictures.” Clayton Wentzel, a 28-year-old Des Moines resident who works at the 2-month-old Atomic Cloud Vaporium, is one such member. Though Wentzel confesses he’s “not that into politics,” because he “hates seeing the wrong kind of people getting support,” he had much to say about where a few candidates would fit in the vape world.

“I’d like to think Bernie would be a vaper,” he told Yahoo News. “And he would be a flavor chaser for sure.”

A flavor chaser, for the uninformed, is a particular vaper who spends his free time collecting and tasting new e-liquids and vape juices.

“He actually listens to people and hears them out,” he said. “Tries a lot of juice and hears a lot of stories.”

On the flip side, Wentzel pictures Donald Trump as a “cloud chaser,” a vaper who puts together a device designed to blow the biggest and most attention-grabbing vapor cloud.

“It’s all showmanship,” he said. “He puts on a show for attention. Doesn’t care about anything but the cloud.”

As the description of this 1,092-member community says, “If you like Halloween, costumes, Cosplay, comic books, video games, monster movies, aliens, historical reenactments … all in the state of Iowa … THIS IS THE GROUP FOR YOU!!!”

Cosplay filmmaker Pierre Doanatto, 39, joined the group to trade tips for constructing costumes and share news of upcoming Comic-Con-esque events. Doanatto says he’s mostly unimpressed by the candidates. “There’s always a candidate that promises to do this and that, but it never happens, because they get redirected to do something else.”

Of everyone on the roster, however, he thinks Trump would likely be the most natural cosplayer because “he’s done TV and film.” He was also happy to imagine what characters certain candidates might best embody.

According to Doanatto, Trump would be Serpentor, the snakelike Cobra Emperor from the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero comic book and cartoon series. He pictures Ted Cruz as the historical figure Napoleon for his demeanor and personality. “He even somewhat looks like him.” Marco Rubio would be the Joker from Batman (similar shoes). Jeb Bush would be MODOK, a Marvel villain created by scientists that was originally designed as MODOC (a Mental Organism Designed Only for Computing) but turns evil and renames itself MODOK (Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing). Finally, he says Chris Christie would be the Violator, a portly, machine-gun toting clown from the Spawn comic books.

On the Democratic side, Doanatto pictures Hillary Clinton as the Evil Queen from . Bernie Sanders’ posture and hairstyle, he says, would make the Vermont senator a natural for the role of Mr. Burns — you know, aside from the whole billionaire part.

The 526-member Des Moines Girl Gang aims to create a “non-exclusive, female-driven, supportive and encouraging community of artists that thrives on sharing creative endeavors and resources with one another.” Postings include potential job leads, invites to local knitting groups (described lovingly as “Stitch ‘n’ Bitch” sessions) and notices of upcoming pop-up cat cafés.

Kate Moore, a graphic designer at Des Moines’ Delta Design, says that while the group has a feminist bent, its political views covera wide spectrum — from those concerned about social equality to local entrepreneurs with small-business interests.

As for who would get along best with the group? “Hillary Clinton is the most obvious answer, but I think Bernie Sanders has a lot in common with a lot of the people,” she said. “Somebody who’s spent a long time fighting for women’s rights and supports equal pay and things like that. I think we’d get along great.”

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