Living in Society

Addicted to Politics – Three August Things

Tomatoes on Everything

I often forget myself when talking about politics. My mind enters a narcotized, dreamy, transcendent world where rhetoric and action translate into distraction searching for a reality. In such conversations I articulate long-carried ideas and get them out with others. I listen and learn as much as a person with a driving social style can.

It is rarely a good thing. It is seldom a bad thing. It is part of living in society.

Couple things about August 2019 politics.

Iowa Starting Line

Iowa Starting Line has been able to hire a comparatively large number of people to cover the Iowa caucuses. This, combined with a unique editorial viewpoint, enabled them to provide coverage of events the Des Moines Register and others can’t or won’t. Recent stories include a piece by Elizabeth Meyer that compares Burlington visits of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris; a piece by Paige Godden discussing how the Iowa State Fair enabled voters to narrow the presidential candidate field; and coverage of presidential candidate appearances at the Meskwaki settlement in Tama by Nikoel Hytrek. If these three stories were all ISL posted, it would be great. They posted a total of eight articles on Saturday and Sunday. Hats off to Pat Rynard for what he built at Iowa Starting Line, including fund raising to hire staff and a uniquely Iowa editorial viewpoint.

The Biden Narrative

There is a narrative about Joe Biden that focuses on his front-runner status in the polls. Erin Murphy ran a story in this vein in Monday’s Cedar Rapids Gazette, writing, “Biden, the former vice president, has been the leader in most polling on the expansive field of Democratic presidential candidates, both in Iowa and nationally.” While this is journeyman reporting, it misses the point about Biden.

The key question is whether Biden’s showing in polls will translate into wins in the early states. The Biden Iowa campaign was not viable in the 2008 caucuses and little about his campaign seems different today. Compared to others, he got a late start in Iowa and hasn’t established a ground game to compete with Sanders, Warren, Delaney or others.

Just yesterday the Asian and Latino Coalition of Iowa endorsed Kamala Harris for president. They are a group Biden should have won over. On Friday, Sue and Bob Dvorsky announced their support for Kamala Harris. Dvorskys were key Barack Obama supporters and Sue was chair of the Iowa Democratic Party during Obama’s re-election campaign in 2012. What happened there? Biden gets the respect due to being Barack Obama’s vice president but I can’t figure out how he gains supporters over his performance in 2008, or 1988 for that matter. This aspect of his campaign isn’t readily apparent in the news.

The continuous repetition of the narrative of Biden as poll leader may be true, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. It poisons the well. The longer the narrative continues unchallenged, in the media or from other candidates, the more detrimental it becomes to the Democratic party. Biden is blocking space other, more talented candidates could occupy.

An Electorate Re-made

Who are “real people” in the political discussion? Since my first retirement ten years ago I spent a lot of time with them in society, mostly at lowly-paid temporary or part-time jobs. They don’t show up at political party events or usually talk about politics in public. Most don’t like Trump… or the Democrats either. Will they vote in 2020? Many I know didn’t vote in 2016 and won’t vote in 2020. This is a key problem that few seem to be working as Democrats spend time in the boutique-style shopping for “my candidate” in the run up to the caucuses.

The Secretary of State voter registrations are public knowledge. No preference voters outnumber either party’s registrations and have for a few election cycles. People try to make something of these numbers and I shake my head when someone mentions Democratic registrations in a discussion without mentioning the majority of voters in Iowa don’t identify as Democratic. The Secretary of State’s information may be accurate, but it is useless in aggregate when building a campaign. Political parties are not what binds most voters.

The problems Iowans face are common ones. Key among them is the American idea of building a sustainable structure in which to live our lives, including adequate food, shelter and clothing. It also includes modern add-ons of health care, transportation, insurance, education, banking and consumer debt. Real things assault this structure. I mean government policies like the president’s trade policy, climate change, changing demographics, and the hegemony of rich people and corporations. A person doesn’t have to be a Democrat to hate the Walton family which makes more money in a minute than the average Walmart employee makes in a year. Determining the commonality of such an electorate is ever-changing hard work.

My sense is few campaigns are working on this in the long run up to the Iowa caucuses because in those contests being a Democratic voter for the night is all that matters. There is plenty of common ground to be found when the view takes in all of the electorate.

There is no treatment or cure for the political addict.