Living in Society

LGBTQ? Not if Republicans Can Help It

Vote board at the Iowa House of Representatives on Feb. 21, 2022

During last night’s Iowa House of Representatives debate on HF 2416, regarding eligibility for girls’ athletics, Rep. Jeff Shipley (R-82) repeatedly referred to supporting LGBTQ students as “affirming a mental illness.” He also compared being LGBTQ to “spreading cancer that will continue to grow.” He voted for the bill, which said in part, “Only female students, based on their sex, may participate in any team, sport, or athletic event designated as being for females, women, or girls.” The usage of “sex” means sex at birth as it pertains to trans-gender girls.

Shipley’s Republican colleague, the bill’s floor manager, Rep. Skyler Wheeler (R-04), said the purpose of the bill was protecting “biological females” from “biological males.” HF 2416 passed the House 55-39 and was messaged to the Iowa Senate, where it is expected to be approved. Governor Kim Reynolds was willing to sign the bill into law, although she wanted to see the final version before committing. Last night, Iowa made mockery of its motto, “Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain.”

Should the bill be signed into law, there is likely to be a lawsuit. Janice Weiner, candidate for state senator and current Iowa City City Councilor, posted on Twitter, “Expect at least one lawsuit to be filed as soon as it passes. And likely will request a preliminary injunction. This is federal legal territory, not a state legislative culture wars playground.”

I have a t-shirt that says, “Love is Love.” Well not in Iowa where being LGBTQ is a malignancy, and trans girls are discriminated against, and potentially bullied. Why won’t Republicans leave children alone?

I wrote a post “Republicans Sweep Big Grove” after the 2020 election, in which I laid out my beefs with the Iowa Democratic Party. Since then there have been multiple announcements of Democratic legislators departing the Iowa legislature at the end of the 89th Iowa General Assembly. According to Laura Belin at Bleeding Heartland, nearly 40 percent of current Iowa House Democratic lawmakers are either retiring or running for a different office. While legislators like my State Senator Zach Wahls, House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst, and Iowa Democratic Party Chair Ross Wilburn have not given up, the consensus is Democrats will be unlikely to build a coalition to defeat Republicans in the 2022 midterm elections, or even in the 2024 presidential election.

The plain truth is Iowa politics is so toxic, few voters want to engage and even fewer are willing to volunteer in campaigns. Legislative capers of the patriarchy like HF 2416 don’t add anything positive to the political climate. Republicans seek to divide the electorate and have been relentless in the pursuit of prejudice against LGBTQ citizens.

We can’t let HF 2416 stand. It is a long, difficult road to overturning the Republican agenda, although try, we must.

Living in Society

Election Week 2021

Trail walking at Lake Macbride State Park on Nov. 4, 2021.

It was a good week to be a Democrat. Unemployment was down as the Biden administration generated more jobs this year than the last three Republican presidents combined. CNBC reported:

Nonfarm payrolls increased by 531,000 in October, beating the estimate of 450,000.

The unemployment rate fell to 4.6%, a new pandemic low and better than expectations.

Wages rose 0.4% for the month and were up 4.9% from a year ago.

Leisure and hospitality led job creation, followed by professional and business services and manufacturing.

Job creation roars back in October as payrolls rise by 531,000 by Jeff Cox, Nov. 5, 2021.

Even cynical traders on Wall Street enjoyed the news, sending major indices to record highs.

Around midnight the U.S. House passed the bipartisan infrastructure bill the U.S. Senate passed on Aug. 10, alongside a framework for the Build Back Better Act which is the core of President Biden’s social agenda. Biden is walking the walk in getting things done in Washington. My member of the House voted against the measures.

Locally, the school board election confirmed what I had believed, that our community was happy with the status quo, returning two long-time incumbents and adding another female to the board. Cassie Rochholz has been supportive of the current direction of the board, so she fits right in. A positive outcome of the election is better gender equity with two females on the five-person board. In other good news, by reacting to the outbreak in October, the Solon Community School District reduced the number of COVID-19 cases in the school from 67 to zero in four weeks, KCRG reported. It would have been better if the district had prevented the outbreak by following the science of contagious diseases, yet the reaction of the superintendent and school nursing staff created a positive out of the disaster they made.

State Senator Joe Bolkcom announced he would not seek reelection to the State Senate in 2022. Joe is among the best Iowa Democrats and a leader when leadership is needed. When Democrats held a majority in the Iowa Senate, Bolkcom held the line against Republican efforts at hegemony. I lost track of how many conversations I’ve had with him over the years. He has been very responsive and on the right side of issues that matter. He will be missed when his term ends in 2023.Thank you Senator Joe Bolkcom!

Finally, my new House District #91 is having the first of what I hope will be many political events before the 2022 general election. On Veterans Day, the Iowa County Democrats will host U.S. Senate candidate and retired admiral Mike Franken at a meet and greet event in North English. I had to look on the map to see where that is, yet the hour drive to the event will help me get acquainted with the Iowa County political landscape. That’s important if we are to work together to elect a Democratic state representative.

We’ve had a good week so far. Let’s see what the weekend brings and keep it going!

Living in Society

In Andrew Jackson’s Name

Andrew Jackson 1844 Photo Credit - Wikimedia Commons
Andrew Jackson 1844 Photo Credit – Wikimedia Commons

It is fitting the Iowa Democratic Party plunge into navel gazing in the wake of the June 17 shootings at the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. by renaming, or considering whether to rename, its annual Jefferson-Jackson dinner.

Knowing more than a little about both presidents, I never understood why it was named the Jefferson-Jackson dinner in the first place. I couldn’t afford to attend unless someone else was paying my ticket. Democrats are a party of the elites and moneyed interests these days, not of the common man. By a distance.

“I’ve had it with white males,” said a friend last night.

Let’s dump Jackson, and Jefferson, Jackson particularly, another said.

I would have suggested a prominent female office holder, but no Democratic female governors or congresswomen have yet been elected, and the prospect for closing the era of Iowa white males in 2016 is slim unless Hillary Clinton or Monica Vernon is elected.

The idea that Jacksonian Democracy is relevant in 21st Century America is absurd. “Jacksonian democracy promoted the strength of the presidency and executive branch at the expense of Congress, while also seeking to broaden the public’s participation in government,” according to Wikipedia. Just look at the reins Congress placed on President Obama, blocking much of his agenda, even when he had a majority of the House and 60 members of the Democratic caucus in the Senate.

The only political party I see encouraging new people to participate in politics is the Republican Party, with their extravagant affairs like Ben Carson’s in Des Moines last weekend, and Donald Trump’s a couple weeks back. We can say they border the wacky side as much as we want, but the truth is they are expanding their base. Witness Senator Joni Ernst, the first product of their base expansion. Unless Democrats get to work, there will be more.

It doesn’t matter who a political event is named after. A better option would be to annually sell the naming rights to the highest bidder. These big political wing dings are more about raising money in politics than inclusion, just be what you be Democrats.

Perhaps a little harsh, but if Andrew Jackson were still alive, the 247-year old ex-president, former slave holder, and veteran of the Battle of New Orleans and the Seminole wars would likely be enraged by what’s going on. That’s who he was, but outrage is has gone out of style unless one expresses it in social media.

I’m still registered as a Democrat and expect to continue to be. However, as a party we need to get beyond naval gazing and work to have a reason for new voters to sign up.

The naval gazing announcement in its entirety:

On Aug. 8, Josh Levitt, press secretary, released the following:

DES MOINES — Today the Iowa Democratic Party’s State Central Committee voted in favor of a resolution to begin the process to change the name of the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner. The change will take place following the 2015 dinner. IDP Chair Dr. Andy McGuire issued the following statement on the resolution:

“Today the Iowa Democratic Party’s State Central Committee voted to begin the process to change the name of the annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner following the 2015 Dinner.

“The vote to change the name of the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner comes after much debate and discussion among our activists and grassroots leaders around the state. This was not a decision that was made lightly. The vote today confirms that our party believes it is important to change the name of the dinner to align with the values of our modern day Democratic Party: inclusiveness, diversity and equality.

“Moving forward, we will continue the conversation with Iowa Democrats about what the new name should be. The process for changing the name will be as inclusive as possible. We will ensure that all Iowa Democrats have the opportunity to have their voices heard, and offer suggestions for a new name.

“Iowa Democrats are proud that we are never afraid to move forward and modernize, and we continue to work hard everyday to elect Democrats all across Iowa.”

The SCC today also elected Kimberley Boggus as the party’s new Affirmative Action Chair.

“The Iowa Democratic Party is wholly committed to making our Party as inclusive and welcoming as possible. Today the State Central Committee took a major step in advancing these goals by electing Kimberley Boggus as our new Affirmative Action Chair. Kimberley is a strong leader who has proven to be a fierce advocate for Democratic values. With Kimberley at the helm, I am confident that the Iowa Democratic Party will continue to grow more diverse and inclusive as we bring our Democratic message all across the state,” added McGuire.

Living in Society

First Press Pass

HOF DinnerThe Iowa Democratic Party approved my press credentials to attend the Hall of Fame Celebration Friday night for Blog for Iowa.

This is the first time the five declared candidates for president will speak from the same stage. It is a key milestone on the road to the Feb. 2 Iowa Democratic caucuses. Going forward, if candidates don’t get organized, they won’t win delegates—it’s as simple as that.

Hillary Clinton and Martin O’Malley are working the caucus process diligently. Bernie Sanders is attracting interest—good sized crowds—but I haven’t been to one of his events since 2014, before he announced for president. I’m less certain of what organizing Sanders is doing, but the staff he hired knows the Iowa caucus process.

Lincoln Chafee and Jim Webb appear to be decent people, but have furnished no evidence they are signing people up for anything except donations and email contact lists. Chafee made his first trip to Iowa this week and Webb held about 25 events in Iowa according to the Des Moines Register. Clinton, O’Malley and Sanders are far ahead of them in terms of traditional organizing. Catching up in Iowa will be hard for the other two to do.

I plan to provide a unique perspective on the events tonight. My first post on Blog for Iowa was about the 2009 Hall of Fame Celebration and I’ve learned a lot about Democratic politics since then. Here’s what to look for in my coverage:

The candidate speeches will be streamed on C-SPAN and posted on their website for later viewing. I won’t be covering what is said, or trying to assert points about this or that, creating spin. If people want to know what candidates said, they can invest the time and hear for themselves.

If I can keep my phone charged, I will send a few tweets about the event. Since hoards of news media will be there, I’ll let others generate the Twitter traffic. I want to spend my time observing, not tweeting.

I’m most interested in the framing of this event. There is an inherent deception of a level playing field in the graphic above and the event. Both Clinton and Sanders have solid name recognition because of their prominence in public life. Hillary Clinton is so well known, her most significant problem may be we know her too well. Enough so she is taken for granted as people look at other options. Martin O’Malley has been doing a lot of work in Iowa, going all in here in an effort to get a ticket out. By its framing, the event takes Clinton and Sanders down a peg, allowing the other three to to see some sunlight. Will the five candidates share the stage or sit in the crowd? What will be the order of speakers? How will the IDP frame the night’s events? If there’s a story in answering these questions, I’ll write it.

By having a press pass I hope to understand how other journalists frame the events. I don’t know which national political correspondents will be present, but they bring with them an external style that seems self-perpetuating regardless of what may actually happen. By hanging with them to some extent I hope to learn and report about it.

It would be more convenient to view the speeches from the comfort of home wearing casual clothing and drinking fizzy lemon water. In 2009 my photo on the Hall of Fame event post shows me wearing a suit. I plan to be more casual tonight with my trademark blue jeans, blue twill shirt and comfortable shoes. Getting out among the moneyed Democrats of Iowa once in a while is important, and on this one pivotal night, I can invest the time.

I hope readers will stay tuned.

Living in Society

Two Things to Mend Politics

Work Gloves
Work Gloves

Some of my neighbors vote only in presidential election years.

How do I know? Using the county auditor records, which can be purchased in spreadsheet form for around $10, I’ve studied their voting patterns since reactivating in politics in the wake of the Gore v Bush election.

It’s not that I’m snooping, although in a way I am. As a precinct activist, it was important that everyone in the neighborhood be accounted for in every campaign. It still is.

I know who to ask what when it comes to politics, and have to live with my neighbors the rest of the year. There is a social courtesy as important as winning elections. What’s wrong with Iowa Democratic politics is a lack of focus on this basic aspect of living in society.

Jerry Crawford exemplifies the worst of it. He was on Iowa Press with Bonnie Campbell and Jessica Vanden Berg last Friday.

“In all the races I’ve been involved with of various kinds it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” Crawford said. “Iowa, the Iowa Democratic Party, our ticket in this state desperately needs the general election assets that Hillary Clinton will bring as our party’s standard bearer. That’s the way we recover from what was a very, very tough 2014 election.”

This quotation epitomizes the top-down strategy that has done some good things in Iowa Democratic Party history, but has become outdated and should be blown up.

Crawford’s bias toward party insiders is clear in his statement about the Democratic congressional race to challenge Rod Blum in the first district:

“Monica Vernon was first in up in the first congressional district,” he said. “There’s now some noise about Ravi Patel and somebody from Saturday Night Live whose name I can never remember, which is a clue. I do think Monica has an advantage going in up there because of the service she provided to the party as the lieutenant governor nominee when everybody knew that was going to be a tough slog.”

It is easy to review and criticize statements by public figures. No doubt Democrats would be suppressed if substantial financial resources were not forthcoming from a national candidate. Yet winning has become more difficult in an era where the Republican ground game has improved since the 2004 general election. Winning takes more than money.

What’s a person to do?

Giving up on the party is not a good option, but a change is needed. Just read this profile of Crawford by Ben Terris in the Washington Post or the article by Zalid Jilani on Alternet about his corporate clients and tell me why someone like Crawford represents the best direction for Iowa Democratic politics. He is the past.

Vanden Berg’s views on Iowa Press represent our future.

“There may be a difference between what Hillary needs to do to win and what Iowa democrats need to build our party,” Vanden Berg said.

What have Democrats done lately to build the party?

There is stuff going on. Bill Gluba, mayor of Davenport, State Senator Bob Dvorsky, House minority leader Mark Smith and Senate majority leader Mike Gronstal supported the recent trip to Iowa by Martin O’Malley in separate events. This is part of party building whether one supports O’Malley or not. More events like this would be helpful.

What matters more is the regular conversations individuals have with neighbors, friends and family about politics. It’s harder because people don’t want to talk about politics. At the same time, there is an open question of who might join an electorate that will support what’s best for Iowans.

Anymore, party identification isn’t the best indicator of who may join in supporting a candidate. People who will win elections will also engage anyone and everyone at some level. In the end, we all have a stake in every election.