In the Odd Year

Aftermath of the Hieronymous Square Fire in Iowa City

Our county Democratic party held it’s odd-numbered year meeting last night.

We had little choice in the matter as the call came from state Democratic party chair Troy Price:

The Iowa Democratic Party calls upon each County Party to hold an Odd-Numbered Year Meeting, often called “Off-Year Caucus,” within the first quarter of the year of 2019.

The purpose of the Odd-Numbered Year Meeting is to nominate committee persons to fill precinct vacancies, to discuss priorities regarding platform resolutions, and to begin precinct-level planning for the remaining year.

This call is in accordance with the Iowa Democratic Party Constitution, Article II, Section 4 and has been issued by me as the Chair and approved by the State Central Committee.

All Odd-Numbered Year Meetings must be held by March 31, Price added, continuing the excessive use of capital letters. Bold type is mine.

Former State Senator Bob Dvorsky chaired our meeting. The chair and everyone who was a committee person was re-nominated and elected for another term. Our liberal central committee is mostly about fund raising, volunteer recruitment, and servicing the policy peccadilloes of central committee members. Thanks to the experience and efficiency of our chair, tedium, while present, was kept to a minimum.

State Representative Mary Mascher reported on the recently finished “funnel week” at the state house. There was good, bad and ugly. With Republicans in charge, there was more than enough bad and ugly to go around. As Mascher said, “Republicans took the fun out of funnel.”

There were legitimate victories for everyone in clearing bills from committees. Particularly important was HF608 which would create a uniform process in Iowa for determining which absentee ballots sent via U.S. Postal Service would be counted. Also important was a bill working toward a constitutional amendment to restore voting rights to felons once they paid their debt to society. Contrary to what we can read on social media, it is possible for Democrats and Republicans in the legislature to work together on common goals, and they do. Wish they would do more of it on key issues where we disagree.

Toward the end of the meeting, county chair Chris Taylor kicked off a discussion of deterioration of Democratic presence in rural areas. I piggy-backed onto his comments as did half a dozen others who represent rural communities on the central committee. I had previously explained the challenge Democrats have in rural precincts and quoted some of those election results in my short speech. Results of the recent special election of County Supervisor Royceann Porter place the rural-urban divide in sharp contrast.

It’s not that party officials don’t want to slow or stop the deterioration of support from rural voters, they do. County auditor Travis Weipert asked me after the meeting what could be done about the problem. Answers are hard to come by but it boils down to inclusiveness.

Part of the problem is an often-repeated narrative about electoral margins for which party officials pat themselves on the back. The narrative is a false one in the sense that if Johnson County and it’s margins were removed from statewide results in recent elections, those results would not change. The narrative does little to improve inclusiveness in the county and should be abandoned.

The county party should create a positive, welcoming environment for people who aren’t as involved in politics as central committee members are. Almost all Iowans spend some fraction of their time on politics and the rest of it avoiding the p-word. Democrats should hold signature events — the fall barbecue, the hall of fame induction — while realizing they have little impact on rank and file members of the community. When it gets to caucus day next February, regardless of the outcome, every Democrat should feel like their time was well spent trying to make a difference. As a first time caucus-goer told the group in 2018, “we have to do something.”

If I could recruit a replacement on the central committee, I would. I fill the seat because no one at our caucus would take the job. I’ll continue to recruit someone, all the while knowing it’s possible to flip the precinct from giving Trump a win in 2016 back to a place that elected Obama twice. It will take work and everyone being included. Staying in touch with the urban Democrats is part of that, although not a big one. The odd year caucus puts that in relief.

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