Making political events accessible to those with special needs

Mary Dyer is challenging Iowa’s political establishment to be more inclusive toward those who need hearing assistance but do not use sign language. -promoted by desmoinesdem

It was with mixed feelings that I just read about the picnic where a number of Democratic gubernatorial candidates met with constituents to share their views of where they believe the state should go. Mixed feelings because, although I like a good picnic as much as anyone, it was unlikely any attention was given to those with hearing loss who would have had trouble hearing what was said.

I am a person with hearing loss. I lost my hearing suddenly eight years ago and, while I now have a cochlear implant, I need some sort of assistive listening to hear clearly. This has meant that I have been unable to attend any legislative coffees, meetings, campaign events, or caucuses.

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Who's Ready to Run?

Heather Ryan continues the series of posts by Iowa women who helped make 2017 a record-breaking year for political training programs. Ryan is the chair of the East Des Moines Area Democrats and a host of the Facebook Political Series “Fight Like a Girl.” -promoted by desmoinesdem

It’s fair to say that I was most likely not the target demographic for the “Ready to Run” program hosted in Ames, Iowa on April 28. While I am indeed female, I am far from a political novice. In fact, I consume politics almost as voraciously as I consume a bag of Taki’s. I majored in Political Science at Drake, worked in Washington DC and have participated in countless campaigns. That being said, I constantly seek out knowledge, and the Ready to Run program was an excellent means for such.

As of late, I have attended Precinct Leader Training, Wellstone University, Ready to Run and even teamed up with Representative Ruth Ann Gaines to teach Politics in a Reality TV world. Each of these courses offered their own unique educational experience. The Precinct Leader Training, run by the Iowa Democratic Party, expands on grassroots, neighborhood activism. Wellstone University is a three day intensive where we worked on our stump speeches, fundraising technique and internet presence (among a slew of other things). Representative Gaines and I teach public speaking and presentation skills in a time when the populous is more interested in seeing a rumble than a debate. But unlike any of those training seminars, Ready to Run focuses solely on encouraging and preparing women to run for office. This is the primary strength of this day-long crash course.

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Are women better candidates than men? (And other curiosities from the 2016 Iowa House elections)

After taking a closer look at the 2016 Iowa House election results, Kent R. Kroeger believes Iowa Democrats have reasons to worry but also reasons to be optimistic about their chances of taking back the chamber. You can contact the author at kentkroeger3@gmail.com.

The dataset used for the following analysis of 2016 Iowa House races with Democratic challengers or candidates for open seats can be found here: DATASET

When former U.S. Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Tara Sonenshine asked in her July 2016 Huffington Post essay, “Is 2016 the year of the woman?”, she can be forgiven if her underlying assumption was that the U.S. would be electing its first female president four months later.

We know how that turned out. Yet, her question had a broader vision and was not dependent on the outcome of one presidential race in one country. The question springs from an emerging body of evidence that women may make for better politicians than men. Given that only 19 percent of U.S. congressional seats are currently held by women, it may seem ridiculous to ask such a question. And since 2000, the percentage of women in state legislatures has plateaued (see graph below). Nonetheless, looking across a longer time span, there is no question more and more women are running and winning elective office in this country.

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Senate confirms Branstad as U.S. ambassador to China

Minutes ago the U.S. Senate confirmed Governor Terry Branstad as ambassador to China, clearing the way for Branstad to resign on Wednesday, allowing Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds to be sworn in as governor. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee had unanimously approved Branstad’s nomination earlier this month, but twelve senators voted against advancing his nomination last week, and thirteen senators voted against him on the floor today. The opponents included Democrats Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont–all considered potential presidential candidates in 2020. In a list-building e-mail earlier this afternoon, Brown wrote,

Branstad is notorious for busting collective bargaining rights in his state. Legislation he signed into law will force Planned Parenthood clinics to close this summer.

How can we make an anti-labor, anti-women’s rights politician in charge of U.S. relations with a country that has large human rights problems, especially in the areas of women’s and workers’ rights.

Given how unpopular Branstad is with highly-engaged Democratic activists, a vote against confirming the governor certainly wouldn’t hurt any of these senators in the next Iowa caucus campaign.

Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, also a possible Democratic presidential contender, supported Branstad’s confirmation. I’ll update this post later with full details on the Senate vote once the roll call has closed and some political reaction.

UPDATE: The thirteen senators who voted against Branstad were Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Booker, Brown, Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Gary Peters of Michigan, Sanders, Chuck Schumer of New York, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, and Warren. All are Democrats except Sanders, who caucuses with Democrats. All represent states where organized labor is relatively strong.

SECOND UPDATE: Added below Branstad’s statement and other comments on his confirmation, as well as Senator Chuck Grassley’s speech on the Senate floor before today’s vote.

I had to laugh hearing Grassley “express my disappointment and frustration with the seemingly endless obstruction on the part of the minority.” He is bent out of shape because Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had to file cloture on Branstad’s nomination:

We could have approved this nomination with just a few minutes of debate time, yet, the minority required that we use 30 hours – not because they wanted to debate the merits of the nominee, but simply to delay the business of this body.

It’s unfortunate that their delay has kept an eminently qualified individual from getting into the job to promote American interests in China sooner.

Grassley and his fellow Republicans didn’t give the eminently qualified Judge Merrick Garland even a hearing, let alone a floor vote for his nomination to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.

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