DES MOINES, IOWA—The United States could collapse if it can’t control the border, says Jay Hayward, 68, of Grinnell, Iowa. 

“Illegal immigration, this is serious,” Hayward told The Daily Signal on Saturday while standing in line to attend a Donald Trump rally in Fort Dodge, Iowa. 

“This is a great nation. If it doesn’t turn around soon, we could be looking at some sort of collapse,” he added. “Is there anyone other than me that feels like this is Rome 476 A.D.?” 

But the border crisis isn’t his only concern. As a Chicago native, he said he’s also worried about election security

“The rule of law; free, fair, and open elections,” Hayward added. “I am from Chicago and I have seen them steal elections for most of my life.”

The Daily Signal talked to Iowa voters just less than two months away from the Jan. 15 Iowa caucuses about what are their most pressing concerns. Like Hayward, some named border security and election integrity. Still others talked about the economy and free speech as pressing issues that candidates should address in 2024. 

“I’m tired of being censored, afraid to say something to offend people,” said Sheila Toms, 50, a resident of Lytton, Iowa, also while waiting in line to attend the Trump rally in Fort Dodge. 

Toms said she was uncertain what could be done to hold Big Tech accountable. A woman standing next to her—who didn’t want to be interviewed—said, “Elon Musk needs to buy them all.”

“Amen,” Toms said to the Musk reference. She also answered, “More oversight. They are the new generation … Tech companies are how the kids are learning in school.” 

The biggest problem facing the United States is the decline of constitutional government, said Michael Ames, 53, of Winterset, shortly after attending the Thanksgiving Family Forum on Friday in Des Moines, Iowa. 

“I worry about us wandering away from our constitutional, Judeo-Christian roots,” Ames told The Daily Signal. “So that’s a huge thing for me.”

The forum featured three presidential candidates—Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, and Ohio businessman Vivek Ramaswamy—in a discussion of issues. The event was put on by The FAMiLY Leader, a Christian conservative organization, and The Daily Signal was the media sponsor.

Also attending was Jay Fox, 23, of Urbandale, Iowa, who supports the next president holding Big Tech companies accountable for meddling in the elections.

“They should hold Big Tech accountable, especially for election interference,” Fox said. “Big Tech should be like a town square for people to be able to speak their minds. I don’t like the censorship. I’m not a fan of it.”

Fox was disappointed about Ohio voters’ decision to add unrestricted abortion to the state’s constitution. However, he viewed it as a short term setback for the pro-life cause and doesn’t think conservative candidates will waver.

“I just think it wasn’t a good turnout,” he said of the Ohio referendum. “I still think candidates will double down on their pro-life stances.”

Fox said the last time the United States has been on the right track was 2019, or before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We were on the right track, it seems like just a few years ago, right before COVID probably,” he said. 

However, Joel Duvall, 50, from Madrid, Iowa, said you would have to go back to the Ronald Reagan administration in the 1980s to find when the country was really on the right track. 

“Reagan. We’ve had a few times where we were possibly on the right track but I think as a country, as a whole, when we were on the right track was under Reagan’s leadership,” said Duvall, who was also attending the Family Forum.

Most Iowa voters asked about the last time the country was heading in the right direction said it would have been just before the pandemic, or during the Trump administration. 

Charles Daugherty, of Cedar Rapids, agreed with Duvall that it was during the Reagan administration. 

The 77-year-old Daugherty also added he worried about a lack of respect in the United States. 

“Both parties, we have to learn how to be civil to be able to discuss with a calm attitude what we believe because we are commanded to love,” Daugherty, who was attending the Family Forum, said. “Jesus was able to speak to people and they liked to hear what he had to say. He wasn’t condemning, didn’t call people names.”

He said political name-calling can drive good people from political engagement. 

“I have a young lad in the last election who was excited to vote in his first presidential election, but he didn’t vote because he felt that in the debates the candidates—two for president—were acting like 8-year-olds,” Daugherty said. “Now that is an opinion of our 20-somethings. We can’t have respect unless we give respect.”

The border could have far-reaching consequences for the country, said Alden Trotman, 48, who is a visiting nurse from Penndel, Pennsylvania, and now living in Audubon, Iowa. He traveled to Fort Dodge to see the Trump event. 

“You allow an unknown amount of people into the borders. We are the only country in the world that does this,” Trotman said. “You do that in Germany, Saudi Arabia, France, Italy, you do that in any other country, you are packed up and shipped out that day. Why should we be any different? If you earn the right to be here, God bless you. But don’t sneak in.”

Trotman said certain Big Tech firms were a problem. 

“Some parts that are valuable, pushing medical advancements, technology, learning to advance people is a great thing,” he said. “To control and spy and try to influence what we do is not good technology. TikTok is a company run by China. Their version of TikTok in China has an algorithm that promotes people doing wonderful things. The same TikTok that we have, the algorithm promotes us to do silly things and the dumber we can be the funnier it gets and the funnier it gets the more we promote them. Education is not something that is promoted.”

Melissa Wnuk, a resident of Ames, Iowa, attending the Trump rally, said the top issues are the economy, clean elections, and border security. 

Elaine Vanwyk, 80, of Pella, Iowa, said despite the outcome in Ohio, she doesn’t believe the Republican presidential candidates seem to be backing down from the pro-life cause. 

“As far as we’ve heard, they have a strong pro-life case, all the Republican candidates,” said Vanwyk, who attended the Family Forum with her husband Jerry. 

Barbara Vaughn, a resident of Swea City, Iowa, attending the Trump rally, named her top 2024 issues as “the economy, the wall, the illegal immigrants coming in … causing every type of problem.”

Jonathan DeRose, 31, a resident of Alta, Iowa, who traveled to the Trump rally, is concerned about free and fair elections. 

“We all know—or most of us know—there was fraud going on,” DeRose said. “We need to do away with the system that would help the fraud go on.”

Dennis Longhenry, 72, of Webster City, Iowa, had some policy prescriptions for elections. 

“No mail-in ballots, because I got six of them in 2020,” Longhenry, who was attending the Trump rally, said. “I was going to put Trump on every one of them, but I thought I’d go to jail. Also, if you’re not legal you don’t vote. If you’re not a citizen, you don’t vote.”

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