Republicans Shell the Democratic Party

Polling Place

“The objective is to destroy the coherence of the enemy’s defense, to fragment and isolate enemy units in the zone of attack, and to secure operationally decisive objectives.” U.S. Army Field Manual No. 3-09.22

The political battlefield changed during the first session of the 87th Iowa General Assembly. Democratic efforts to hold the line while in the minority have been difficult at best. One distasteful bill after another has been signed into law by the governor.

On Dec. 1, 2016 I wrote, “The current Iowa Democratic Party should be completely blown up — new people, new office, new strategy, new tactics, new everything.”

I still believe that, although Iowa Republicans are doing some of that work without us. They are doing everything they can to weaken the Democratic hand in 2018 and beyond.

The swing toward Trump and more general Republican values has been an eye opener. What worked in 2006, the last time Democrats elected a governor, won’t work now. The good news is people who were not politically engaged before 2016 are getting involved in protecting what’s left of Democratic values in government — even if the horse is out of the barn.

The General Assembly has devolved into the majority saying, “f*ck you we’re doing whatever the hell we want.” The debate about bills seems mostly among Republicans. Egregious bills restructuring Iowa’s politic landscape are too numerous for a short post. I’ll mention just one: House File 516

While a majority of Iowans support use of identification at polling places, if passed by the senate, HF516 may impact marginal voters in Iowa who either don’t have an ID or are discouraged from participating in the process. Democrats have relied on those votes in the past. The bill passed the House on March 9. The Senate companion bill, Senate Study Bill 1163 passed subcommittee March 1. The bills are solutions looking for a problem.

“There is the ‘fake’ problem of ‘fake’ people casting votes – it is simply not a problem in Iowa,” Iowa Senate Minority Leader Robb Hogg said in in his 2017 opening day remarks at the state capitol. “People aren’t risking severe criminal penalties to cast an illegal vote. We don’t need government barriers to voting in Iowa. Voting is a fundamental right.”

“The fact is voter ID laws are intended to suppress the vote of the elderly and disabled, people who are home bound and/or do not normally drive,” Eva Mitchell posted on the Iowa Democratic Party web site.

These arguments miss the point. Under the guise of “election integrity” Secretary of State Paul Pate is working to adopt a nationwide agenda to create conditions more favorable for people to vote for Republican candidates. Republican operatives believe they do better in elections when the electorate is constricted. With less voters, their minority views on almost everything have the potential to dominate our elected offices and the legislative agenda. To my point, they are doing that now, without a Voter ID law. Any Voter ID law signed by the governor will force Democrats to develop a new playbook for future campaigns.

The Democratic Central Committee elected political consultant Derek Eadon as chair on Jan. 21. I met him during the 2007 Obama campaign. He seems like a decent guy. A lot is resting on Eadon’s shoulders as Iowa Republicans won the 2016 presidential contest by 9.6 points, and took control of the Iowa legislature.

If and when a Voter ID bill becomes law Democrats will have to adjust. What is more concerning is the Republican artillery barrage has only just begun. They control the legislature now and will until the 88th Iowa General Assembly begins in January 2019. People say the second session of a general assembly is less toxic but I don’t believe that — not now, not ever. Conventional ideas about politics flew out the window last year.

It rots to be in a defensive position. The key to maintaining viability as a party is to hunker down, let the shells fall where they will, and rebuild. It is incumbent upon the new party leadership to focus not only on people who register to vote as Democrats, but to build an electorate that supports our candidates.

For now, Democrat activists resist, constituents should contact legislators, and, if Eadon and his leadership team are worth their salt, rebuild our defenses to conduct a counter attack to recapture the legislature. This is possible, indeed likely over time. Time is the one commodity in short supply for Democrats as Republicans reshape the political landscape.

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