Living in Society

WYSIWYG – District Convention

For the first time in years, the four Iowa Democratic District Conventions had a full compliment of delegates in attendance during a midterm election cycle according to party chair Troy Price.

Several dozen alternate delegates were not needed in Fairfield where the second, Congressman Dave Loebsack’s district, met. The routine business of the convention carried on without incident.

During the next re-districting process, after the 2020 U.S. Census, Iowa is likely to retain four congressional seats. We expect few changes in district maps when the non-partisan commission meets to adjust them to match population.

What you see is what you get — WYSIWYG.

Monitors throughout the convention hall played a continuous loop of gubernatorial campaign commercials. I skipped lunch so I could stay awake during the afternoon. Mostly I sat next to or chatted with friends with whom I’ve worked on previous political campaigns, catching up on family, and talking Iowa politics. My cohort among delegates is seasoned political veterans. Mostly they wanted to take care of business and exit toward home as soon as voting was finished. More than half of delegates were attending a district convention for the first time.

To say there was excitement in the room would not be accurate. Delegates seemed duty-bound to elect good people to the state central committee and to various state convention planning committees. There was not much appetite for a platform discussion by the time I left after the raffle drawing. Speeches by candidates and their surrogates were okay but not inspiring. Gubernatorial candidate Fred Hubbell squandered his opportunity to address delegates with an uneven, desultory performance after lunch. A sign of the times — Democrats have to win in 2018 or remain out of power for a long, long time. Everyone present seemed to know it and is ready for a long slog toward victory.

Dave Loebsack gave a speech in which he called for party unity after the June 5 primary. He gave a shout out to organizations that rose up in the wake of the 2016 general election — to Flip-It and Indivisible specifically. While such groups are positive, they are not enough. The next step is Democratic unity, although Loebsack didn’t say that specifically. It’s obvious. Without it Democratic chances in November are diminished.

Groups like Flip-It, Indivisible, Our Revolution and others are like a bandage on a wounded body politic. They have not stopped hemorrhaging of party loyalty in the wake of the divisive run-up to the 2016 general election. Democrats can’t win this cycle by only pointing out flaws in Republican governance. What do we stand for? We have to get together on that and the convention moved the needle among activists present.

Both Troy Price and IDP executive director Kevin Geiken argued the party had listened during the aftermath of 2016 and would not be a top down organization this cycle. The state party would stand in support of a grassroots effort to elect Democrats, they both said. The party recruited a record number of legislative candidates and in my view is doing the right things to correct our course as we move toward 2020. They deserve credit for that.

A labor leader called a caucus of delegates who belonged to a union and about 50 attended. The last time Democrats held the governor’s office and both chambers of the legislature, union issues did not advance. Notably Governor Chet Culver vetoed the fair share legislation passed by the legislature, ostensibly because the two largest public sector unions couldn’t agree on percent of dues non-union employees in government jobs should pay. Unions divided support between Cathy Glasson and Nate Boulton this cycle. To win in November, and advance a labor agenda, they can’t afford a repeat of 2006. They too seem to know it.

I car pooled to the convention and rode with a different group on the way home. We talked politics, farming, family, and more politics. I couldn’t help but think of work waiting for me at home as we drove past houses, farms and fields. Political work has become more important in a time of Republican governance. We must take care of ourselves and part of that is participating in the broader society where we can. The district convention served as a vehicle for that.