“Results in the Iowa Democratic caucuses were delayed Monday evening, creating widespread confusion among the presidential campaigns.”
— New York Times, 2/3/20
The inherent premise of this work has so much promise, and I salute you for tackling big picture issues. It was a nervy choice, trying to come at these ideas collage-like through an intimate glance at small-town gatherings, and even if it doesn’t quite pan out in this iteration, you have a wealth of material to work with in subsequent drafts.
A few things to consider as you revise:
This may be a matter of taste, but your overall lack of clarity inflates plot tension at the expense of meaning. And frankly, I struggled a bit with your characters. You have so many at play here that I fear you have reduced them to bold brush strokes: the woman, the party mainstay, the unpronounceable golden boy, my-favorite-uncle-who-went-to-Woodstock, etc. As a reader, I had the weird feeling of being both over- and under-invested in each of them, all the while flailing for a cogent ethical thru line. You’re a canny enough writer that I am sure this is intentional, but in the early stages of this draft, I am not entirely sure to what end.
To this reader at least, the most interesting (if at times impenetrable) aspect of this work was the Greek chorus-esque multifaceted point of view as the story opens. You have enviable command of the retro/communal/barn raising vibe, even if I wondered about logistics. Is the chorus in the middle school gymnasium meant to be the entire community? A symbolic sampling? The elites? I need some kind of signposting.
You haven’t said if we’re meant to interpret this piece as dystopian, but I can’t help but assume that we are (it owes a serious debt to “The Lottery,” yes?) and as such, you really need to clarify who gets to be in the room and how and why and, conversely, who doesn’t (or can’t) and whether this is by law or tradition or circumstance or whatever. Because, honestly, as the work currently stands, the stakes and the chorus seem… disproportionate.
I have questions, too, as to how this story (vignette? I am not sure how to categorize) is structured. You took such pains, early on, to establish the rules of this world, yet what passes for the ending seems fractured, chaotic, and not in keeping with the narrative framework you set up. Is there something I’m just not getting here?
Lastly — and please take this in the constructive spirit of the Workshop — you never make it clear why Iowa. Why does it come so early in the overall (and sometimes ominous) electoral saga you hint at? Why such a convoluted process? In the absence of authorial decisiveness, your setting is something of a cipher. It could just as easily be, say, New Hampshire.