Rest in peace, Joy Corning

Joy Corning was independent. As a state senator and lieutenant governor, she didn’t cater to social conservatives who were gaining strength in the Republican Party of Iowa during the 1980s and 1990s. She paid a price for her principles when she ran for governor in 1998 and got no support from Terry Branstad, along whose side she had served for eight years. She would have been a great governor.

Joy was empathetic. Long before she ran for office, she was a young stay-at-home mom when her husband came home from work with awful news: a woman in their community had died of complications from a back-alley abortion, leaving a husband to raise three children alone. Joy couldn’t stop thinking about that mother. The tragedy fueled her dedication to protecting reproductive rights. “Whatever the circumstances of the unintended pregnancy, we cannot experience the hardship and struggle faced by some women who make this decision. We are simply not in their shoes,” Joy wrote in a guest column for the Des Moines Register this year.

Joy was fair-minded. She was among the first prominent members of her party to support marriage equality in Iowa. During the 2010 campaign, she and former Democratic Lieutenant Governor Sally Pederson co-chaired the Justice Not Politics coalition, supporting the retention of Iowa Supreme Court justices who were under attack after striking down our state’s Defense of Marriage Act.

Joy was fact-oriented. While watching the Republican presidential debates, she was repelled by Donald Trump’s “know-it-all demeanor when he really doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” She came out publicly as #NeverTrump last September and shortly before the election co-authored an editorial endorsing Hillary Clinton, in part because of Trump’s “demagoguery,” “racism, nationalism, misogyny and discrimination against people with disabilities.”

Joy was committed. Some politicians leave the state after their ambitions don’t pan out, but Joy stayed in Iowa and volunteered countless hours for many causes over the last eighteen years. In her obituary, she wrote that she was “most passionate about issues related to children and families, women’s health & rights, equality and justice, education and the arts.” For friends who are inspired to make contributions in her memory, she suggested the Planned Parenthood of the Heartland Foundation, Plymouth Church Foundation, UNI Foundation, or the Des Moines Symphony Foundation. Joy was also a founding board member of 50/50 in 2020, a non-profit seeking to elect more women in Iowa, as well as a founding member of an advisory board for the University of Iowa’s center for gifted education, named in part after my mother. (Joy and my mother became friends when both served on school boards during the 1970s–Joy in Cedar Falls, my mother in West Des Moines. I didn’t get to know Joy until many years later, when I served on a fundraising committee she chaired for what was then called Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa.)

Joy was kind. Former Planned Parenthood leader Jill June recalled her motto: “If you can’t say something nice, be vague.” That approach to life wouldn’t produce good blog content, but it did make Joy a wonderful human being.

After the jump I’ve posted many other reflections on Joy Corning’s legacy. Please share your own memories in this thread.

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How liberal is the American Heartland? It depends...

Kent R. Kroeger is a writer and statistical consultant who has measured and analyzed public opinion for public and private sector clients for more than 30 years. -promoted by desmoinesdem

The American Heartland is not as conservative as some Republicans want you to believe, nor is it as liberal as some Democrats would prefer.

Like the nation writ large, the American Heartland is dominated by centrists who make up nearly half of the vote-eligible population.

That conclusion is based on my analysis of the recently released 2016-17 American National Election Study (ANES), which is a nationally-representative election study fielded every two years by Stanford University and The University of Michigan and is available here.

Across a wide-array of issues, most Heartland vote-eligible adults do not consistently agree with liberals or conservatives. They are, as their group’s label suggests, smack dab in the middle of the electorate.

However, on the issues most important to national voters in 2016 — the economy, jobs, national security, and immigration — there is a conservative skew in the opinions of the Heartland. The Iowa Democratic Party, as well as the national party, must recognize this reality as they try to translate the energy of the “resistance” into favorable and durable election outcomes in 2018.

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The 16 Bleeding Heartland posts that were most fun to write in 2016

Freedom to chase any story that captures my attention is the best part of running this website. A strong sense of purpose carries me through the most time-consuming projects. But not all work that seems worthwhile is fun. Classic example: I didn’t enjoy communicating with the white nationalist leader who bankrolled racist robocalls to promote Donald Trump shortly before the Iowa caucuses.

Continuing a tradition I started last year, here are the Bleeding Heartland posts from 2016 that have a special place in my heart. Not all of them addressed important Iowa political news, but all were a joy to write.

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Weekend open thread: Iowa Democratic Party rebuilding edition

Having spent most of this week buried in the Iowa Board of Regents internal audit of Iowa State University’s Flight Service during President Steven Leath’s tenure, I’m catching up on the campaign to become the next Iowa Democratic Party state chair. We should all be thankful eight good people are interested in the job after this year’s horrendous outcome, especially in what used to be Iowa’s “blue” eastern half. Barack Obama carried 53 Iowa counties in 2008 and 38 counties in 2012, but Hillary Clinton won a plurality in just six counties this year. The coming midterm election will pose additional challenges for Iowa Democrats.

The brave souls hoping to lead the party forward, in the order that they announced their candidacies, are Kim Weaver, Sandy Dockendorff, Kurt Meyer, Julie Stauch, Blair Lawton, Derek Eadon, Mike Gronstal, and Bob Krause. I posted background on the first six candidates here. All of them decided to stay in the race after longtime Iowa Senate Majority Leader Gronstal declared he would seek the position. Krause was the final candidate to join the race. UPDATE/CLARIFICATION: A reader thought I was implying that other candidates should have bowed out for Gronstal. I did not mean to suggest that anyone should have stepped aside and do not plan to endorse a state party chair candidate. I welcome a robust competition to lead the party. For too many election cycles, the State Central Committee rubber-stamped one political heavyweight’s opinion.

Seven of the eight candidates spoke at a forum in Des Moines on December 16 and presented to State Central Committee members the following morning. Pat Rynard shot a video of the forum and wrote up some highlights at Iowa Starting Line. Rynard and Radio Iowa’s O.Kay Henderson both tweeted highlights from the SCC meeting. Recurring themes included the need to improve messaging and outreach to rural areas. UPDATE: Videos of each candidate’s presentation to the SCC meeting are available on the Iowa Democratic Women’s Caucus Facebook page. Henderson posted an article at Radio Iowa.

Gronstal was absent because of a trip planned long before he decided to run for state party chair. Ingrid Olson, a Council Bluffs resident who was a Bernie Sanders delegate to the Democratic National Convention, spoke to SCC members on Gronstal’s behalf. She emphasized Gronstal’s long work in the trenches, fighting for many causes. One of the plaintiffs in the Varnum v Brien case that led to the Iowa Supreme Court’s marriage ruling, Olson praised Gronstal for being willing to “put a target on his back” in order to defend marriage equality. To his credit, Gronstal immediately welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision. He forcefully and repeatedly rejected Republican calls for a vote on a constitutional amendment to overturn it.

Olson’s support for Gronstal is understandable, given her strong personal investment in a cause he championed. On the other hand, after reading her harsh post-election assessment, I didn’t expect her to back one of the longest-serving Iowa Democratic politicians, who also happened to be a DNC superdelegate for Clinton, for state party chair. In that commentary, Olson slammed the insiders who (in her view) “anointed” Clinton “because all the ‘good old boys’ in the Dem elite knew it was ‘her turn’.” Speaking to the SCC yesterday, Olson acknowledged Gronstal “has been around a long time, but it’s because he’s weathered more storms than I can even imagine.”

Representative Dave Loebsack, the only Iowa Democrat left in Congress, announced near the end of the State Central Committee meeting that a committee will “systematically” review what went wrong for the party here in 2016. Outgoing state party chair Andy McGuire indicated that the effort will be more in-depth than a “typical analysis.” The committee members will include “Loebsack as the honorary chair, his campaign manager, four SCC members, three campaign professionals, a member from the Iowa House and Senate and members of the IDP staff.” Members will “conduct a listening tour of activists, volunteers and party stakeholders” and “hold a professional focus group” before submitting their report in April.

Among many angles that need to be investigated, I hope to learn more about what happened with the early vote program. We need to understand why Clinton didn’t carry absentee voters by a larger margin. Whether because of poor targeting or inadequate persuasion, Democratic field organizers and volunteers appear to have mobilized a lot of early voters who ended up not marking the ballot for Democratic candidates.

Bleeding Heartland has posted guest commentaries by Stauch, Meyer, Eadon, Dockendorff, and Lawton. I’ll publish Weaver’s contribution soon. UPDATE: It’s online here. You can read Gronstal’s announcement message to SCC members here and Krause’s case for his candidacy here.

No one has a monopoly on understanding what went wrong and how to fix it. I welcome viewpoints from any Iowa Democratic activist. So far Pete McRoberts, Sue Dvorsky, Tim Nelson, Ben Nesselhuf, Claire Celsi, Tracy Leone, John McCormally, Paul Deaton, Bill Brauch, Laura Hubka, and Jeff Cox have shared their insights here. It’s easy to create a Bleeding Heartland account; the link to register is near the upper right corner of the front page.

This post is an open thread: all topics welcome.

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