Living in Society

Two Things to Mend Politics

Work Gloves
Work Gloves

Some of my neighbors vote only in presidential election years.

How do I know? Using the county auditor records, which can be purchased in spreadsheet form for around $10, I’ve studied their voting patterns since reactivating in politics in the wake of the Gore v Bush election.

It’s not that I’m snooping, although in a way I am. As a precinct activist, it was important that everyone in the neighborhood be accounted for in every campaign. It still is.

I know who to ask what when it comes to politics, and have to live with my neighbors the rest of the year. There is a social courtesy as important as winning elections. What’s wrong with Iowa Democratic politics is a lack of focus on this basic aspect of living in society.

Jerry Crawford exemplifies the worst of it. He was on Iowa Press with Bonnie Campbell and Jessica Vanden Berg last Friday.

“In all the races I’ve been involved with of various kinds it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” Crawford said. “Iowa, the Iowa Democratic Party, our ticket in this state desperately needs the general election assets that Hillary Clinton will bring as our party’s standard bearer. That’s the way we recover from what was a very, very tough 2014 election.”

This quotation epitomizes the top-down strategy that has done some good things in Iowa Democratic Party history, but has become outdated and should be blown up.

Crawford’s bias toward party insiders is clear in his statement about the Democratic congressional race to challenge Rod Blum in the first district:

“Monica Vernon was first in up in the first congressional district,” he said. “There’s now some noise about Ravi Patel and somebody from Saturday Night Live whose name I can never remember, which is a clue. I do think Monica has an advantage going in up there because of the service she provided to the party as the lieutenant governor nominee when everybody knew that was going to be a tough slog.”

It is easy to review and criticize statements by public figures. No doubt Democrats would be suppressed if substantial financial resources were not forthcoming from a national candidate. Yet winning has become more difficult in an era where the Republican ground game has improved since the 2004 general election. Winning takes more than money.

What’s a person to do?

Giving up on the party is not a good option, but a change is needed. Just read this profile of Crawford by Ben Terris in the Washington Post or the article by Zalid Jilani on Alternet about his corporate clients and tell me why someone like Crawford represents the best direction for Iowa Democratic politics. He is the past.

Vanden Berg’s views on Iowa Press represent our future.

“There may be a difference between what Hillary needs to do to win and what Iowa democrats need to build our party,” Vanden Berg said.

What have Democrats done lately to build the party?

There is stuff going on. Bill Gluba, mayor of Davenport, State Senator Bob Dvorsky, House minority leader Mark Smith and Senate majority leader Mike Gronstal supported the recent trip to Iowa by Martin O’Malley in separate events. This is part of party building whether one supports O’Malley or not. More events like this would be helpful.

What matters more is the regular conversations individuals have with neighbors, friends and family about politics. It’s harder because people don’t want to talk about politics. At the same time, there is an open question of who might join an electorate that will support what’s best for Iowans.

Anymore, party identification isn’t the best indicator of who may join in supporting a candidate. People who will win elections will also engage anyone and everyone at some level. In the end, we all have a stake in every election.