Part of the new protocol for summer events in Iowa, including political events, is recognition of and taking action to avoid contracting the coronavirus. It may not be going well because it seems a lot of people recently tested positive for COVID-19.
This came home when a participant in an Independence Day parade emailed a group of us they tested positive:
I wanted to let the people I had contact with on the 3rd know I tested positive for COVID so they can monitor their health. So sorry if I exposed you and I hope you all remain in good health!
Because parades are outdoors, one hopes the risk of contagion is minimal. Nonetheless, the coronavirus pandemic has not ended and is a palpable presence in everything we do in public, including political campaigning.
State Senator Rob Hogg tracks weekly Iowa COVID data and posts it on social media. He reported for the week ending July 6, there were 15 more deaths, 201 new hospital admissions, and 3,980 new cases. The Centers for Disease Control reports 88,056,795 COVID-19 cases (an under count), and 1,015,070 deaths (also an under count because of the way deaths are reported). We would like to get on with our lives after the pandemic without concern for contracting a virus that could kill us. Instead, we have a new reality.
Iowa Democratic response to the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 was a disaster. There were positive vibes about having great candidates that could retake a majority in at least one chamber of the state legislature. Person-to-person campaigning seemed very limited. Once the results of the election were in, such positive vibes dissipated as Republicans gained ground across the board. We can’t afford to be misled by the happy talk of campaigns again. There is no going back to the way our politics was because society was palpably changed by the coronavirus pandemic.
I attended a political event in Amana before the primary. U.S. Senate candidate Michael Franken was there and he incorporated coronavirus prevention measures in everything he did. For example, after shaking hands with everyone at our table, he got a small bottle of hand sanitizer from his pocket and sanitized his hands. On May 23 he reported a positive COVID-19 test. His symptoms were mild, yet he got the virus despite his precautions.
Here in Iowa’s liberal bastion of Johnson County there is a semblance of returning to normal as Democrats hold in-person meetings and open a second office next Friday. The coronavirus hangs over it all, a literal presence. Campaign offices serve as a meeting place, distribution center, and all-around way to connect Democratic voters. Having in-person connections is better than repeating 2020 would have been. These are positive things yet we must be careful regarding the coronavirus without withdrawing from engagement.
These are transformational times in Iowa Democratic politics. As one cohort of legislators finds their way to the exits, a new generation is rising to take their place. This is necessary and good. Scarred by the coronavirus pandemic, we are cautious, yet optimistic of rebuilding. By accepting the new reality of politics in the coronavirus pandemic we will be stronger in the long term. The immediate problem is the challenge of unseating Republicans this November and returning common sense to our governance.
The widespread presence of the coronavirus is a factor in our politics. It is essential we both get involved in campaigns and take necessary precautions to avoid contracting the virus. How that will evolve during the coming 17 weeks is an open question, yet evolve, we must! I recommend each person find a way to do something to advance the campaigns of Democratic candidates. It begins with contacting your county party and offering to volunteer. Taking care of yourself is equally important.
~ First posted on Blog for Iowa