Adventures in cynical finger-pointing

I’ve seen a lot of hippie-punching by professional Democrats, but the Iowa Democratic Party’s attack on Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement yesterday was a particularly cynical example.  

Here’s the Iowa Democratic Party’s August 31 press release in its entirety:

Iowa CCI continues to rely on outlandish behavior

“unproductive, embarrassing, and has no place in a serious debate”

DES MOINES – Iowa Democratic Party Chairwoman Sue Dvorsky released the following statement today denouncing the behavior of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI). The group has continued to obstruct town halls and other events, even physically blocking Senator Grassley from talking with the media and getting into his car after an event on Monday night.

“The behavior of Iowa CCI is unproductive, embarrassing, and has no place in a serious debate. Yes, we should be working to protect Social Security, doing everything to keep our air and water clean, and ask our elected officials tough questions. Unfortunately, this group has become less focused on results and more focused on creating chaos that gets their name in the paper.

“Iowa CCI is doing a disservice to the state, to true progressive values, and to their members who signed up to make a difference and change our state for the better. Instead of bragging about ‘crashing’ a town hall, designed to give citizens a forum to discuss their concerns, they could be educating Iowans about what’s really at stake and actually make a difference.

“It’s unfortunate that they continue to mistake screaming for persuasion and embarrass themselves in this manner.”

This story by Carroll-based reporter Douglas Burns inspired Dvorsky to condemn Iowa CCI. The non-profit organization disputes Burns’ account and quickly responded with their own press release. Excerpt:

CCI Members Stand by Principles

Independent media confirms critics accusations baseless

In a recent statement by Iowa Democratic Party Chairwoman Sue Dvorsky, Iowa CCI members were characterized as “less focused on results and more focused on creating chaos that gets their name in the paper.”  Specifically, Chairwoman Dvorsky references a recent Grassley town hall in Carroll that neither she, nor any official representatives of the Democratic Party attended, and relies completely on one account of the event.

Independent video of that town hall is available here and here.  Additional video and photos can be made available on request.

“It’s unfortunate that Sue Dvorsky and the Iowa Democratic Party have this view of the town hall based off of one reporter’s distorted account of what happened,” said Rosie Partridge, small business owner and CCI member from Wall Lake.  “I was there.  People raised their hands, asked questions, and it was anything but disruptive.”

Iowa CCI members stand by their beliefs and their behavior at this event and others.

Without witnessing Grassley’s forum in Carroll, I can’t say whether Iowa CCI members tried to block the senator from getting to a media interview, or into his car, as Burns asserts. The Iowa CCI members I know don’t resemble the “despicable” “angry mob” of “moon-howlers” Burns describes, “a collection of mad-eyed characters who should have their local pharmacies on speed dial so they can pop pills to silence the voices in their heads.” He’s entitled to his opinion, of course.

Dvorsky’s statement merits a closer look. She deplores Iowa CCI’s “outlandish behavior.” But Democratic leaders didn’t view the group as “unproductive” or “embarrassing” when Iowa CCI members disrupted Mitt Romney’s speech on the Des Moines Register’s soapbox during the Iowa State Fair. On the contrary, Democrats did all they could to make “Corporations are people, my friend” go viral. Romney’s comment was featured in an advertisement by the Democratic National Committee and in multiple DNC press releases. I also received several Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee fundraising e-mails highlighting the quote.

Dvorsky herself tried to get this story into the media. Listen to her comments during Iowa Democrats’ August 11 press conference (beginning around the 1:15 mark):

Partial transcript:

“Today at the Iowa State Fair, Mitt Romney stood and, in answer to a question from a voter that had to do with corporations paying their fair share, he told that voter that ‘Corporations are people, my friends.’ Well, corporations are not people, and the people that he was talking to are not his friends,” Dvorksy said. “This was just absolutely a tone-deaf response, and yet, I’m afraid that maybe Mitt Romney accidentally spoke his mind. I’m afraid that he spoke the truth and actually articulated what the rest of the Republican field clearly believes.”

But wait, wasn’t it “outlandish” for that voter to “crash” Romney’s stump speech?

Back to Dvorsky’s press release from yesterday:

Yes, we should be working to protect Social Security, doing everything to keep our air and water clean, and ask our elected officials tough questions.

I couldn’t agree more. Tell me, what tough questions has the Iowa Democratic Party asked Democratic elected officials in the past few years? Specifically, what did the state party say this summer when President Barack Obama begged U.S. House Speaker John Boehner to join him in cutting Social Security as part of a “big deal” on the debt ceiling? Nothing. Iowa CCI members called Congressional representatives, urging them to vote no on the debt ceiling bargain.

Never mind “everything”; has the Iowa Democratic Party done anything this year to keep our air and water clean? I save most of the umpteen press releases I receive from the state party every week. For all the times Dvorsky has bashed this or that action by Governor Terry Branstad, I cannot recall a single statement criticizing his terrible environmental record. Why hasn’t Dvorsky said anything about cuts to the Department of Natural Resources budget, or stacking the Environmental Protection Commission with friends of agri-business? Maybe because some Democratic state legislators support Branstad’s efforts to undermine Iowa’s water quality programs.

Iowa CCI has been “educating Iowans about what’s really at stake” on environmental protection for a long time. While the Iowa Democratic Party said and did nothing, Iowa CCI opposed bad bills on spreading manure in wintertime during the 2009 and 2010 legislative sessions. The goal of “local control” or agricultural zoning never got through the Iowa House or Senate, but Iowa CCI members have stopped a number of factory farm (CAFO) projects. Most recently, the Department of Natural Resources denied a construction permit for a CAFO project in Adair County. Iowa CCI members had helped persuade the Adair County supervisors to oppose the CAFO and lobbied DNR officials.

Iowa CCI works on several economic and social justice issues. The non-profit mobilized activists against a proposed new Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Des Moines, which the city’s zoning board recently voted down.

CCI members argued an expanded ICE facility would create an “atmosphere of fear” for immigrants.

“Des Moines does not need a bigger immigration detention center,” said CCI member Judith Lonning of Des Moines. “We don’t need more families terrorized and torn apart.”

Iowa CCI backs real reform in mortgage lending practices. In contrast, the Iowa Democratic Party says nothing as Attorney General Tom Miller tries to negotiate a sweetheart deal for big banks.

Iowa CCI advocates for payday lending reform.  In 2010, prominent Democratic legislators vowed to address this issue. Then the Iowa Democratic Party stayed silent as conservadem State Representative Mike Reasoner kept the payday lending bill stuck in subcommittee. Iowa CCI is part of a coalition that continues to advocate for payday lending reform, but Dvorsky and her fellow party leaders were nowhere during the fight to get this done in 2010.

Iowa CCI supports campaign finance reform. Democratic politicians used to say they did too, before they got back into power. Then very little happened on that front, which apparently suited the state party fine.

Dvorsky claims to stand for “results,” not just getting your name in the paper, as if the Iowa Democratic Party hasn’t staged its share of publicity stunts: rallies outside the state capitol, a thank Mitt Romney for health care reform event.

Dvorsky’s predecessor Michael Kiernan came out swinging against any plans to primary incumbent Democrats who blocked pro-labor or environmental bills during Governor Chet Culver’s administration. Yet Dvorsky claims Iowa CCI is doing a disservice to “true progressive values”?

Blogger John Deeth joined the chorus criticizing Iowa CCI this week, suggesting that the group does nothing but make useless public “demands.” He doesn’t like it when Iowa CCI confronts “Democrats with whom they 80% agree.” He finds that approach counterproductive and believes “the most effective means to making the most positive changes is through contesting and winning elections.”

That’s a valid point of view, but Democrats controlled the governor’s chair and both chambers of the Iowa legislature for four years. During that time, they did nothing on most of the issues at the core of Iowa CCI’s mission. It would be dishonest for the group not to confront Democrats from DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz on down when those politicians fall short. Community activists lose credibility when they become surrogates for a political party.

Deeth didn’t approve of Iowa CCI board member Barb Kalbach’s attempt to replace Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge on the Democratic ticket in 2010. He wanted Kalbach to run against her Republican state representative or senator instead. In the end, state convention delegates changed party rules to allow the gubernatorial nominee to choose the lieutenant governor candidate. Of course Kalbach never would have won a vote on the convention floor, but I don’t blame her for trying to make a point about the Culver-Judge administration’s record.

Oh, and pardon me for splashing gasoline on a flamewar, but I doubt it’s a coincidence that the three people attacking Iowa CCI were all early supporters of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. Dvorsky, Burns and Deeth spent a lot of time and energy pushing the “Yes We Can” brand in 2007 and 2008. I don’t hear them holding the president accountable for failing to accomplish or even attempt most of what he promised to do during his campaign. How convenient to denigrate committed activists as a bunch of crazy publicity hounds.

Iowa CCI speaks out for policies that would serve the public interest. Their tactics and media stunts may not be your style. I don’t agree with every action by the group either. Give them credit at least for standing for something.

UPDATE: Iowa CCI Executive Director Hugh Espey responded to Dvorsky here.

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  • We don't like repub rudes

    In-yer-face outrageousness is something we didn’t like when we saw it directed at Pres Obama, why would we condone much less defend demos doing it?

    I line up behind Deeth on this one.

    • we weren't there

      I don’t know whether ICCI members were unforgivably rude or whether Burns exaggerated because he is fond of Chuck Grassley. For the sake of argument, let’s say a few people were over the top, too “in-yer-face.” Does that discredit everything the organization does, like Burns and Deeth claim? CCI members don’t just shout at public forums, they speak at county supervisors’ meetings, zoning boards, wherever important below-the-radar decisions are being made.

      Show me one time in her whole life that Sue Dvorsky spoke truth to Democrats in power.  

  • Just a bit surprised

    you are not blaming Obama himself for these ICCI bashers’ behavior. Surely big bad Barry must be behind it! 😉

    • RF, surely you knew some Iowa CCI members

      when you lived here. Does this sound like a fair assessment to you?

      Their ugly tactics overshadowed any merit of message and discredit their full organization. CCI tossed its legitimacy out of the bus window and drove over it on the highway, backed up, ran over what was left of it, and smashed it to smithereens.

      CCI, if judged on its actions in Carroll Monday, is in a word, despicable, a collection of mad-eyed characters who should have their local pharmacies on speed dial so they can pop pills to silence the voices in their heads.

      • Yes, I definitely knew

        CCI members and professionally worked on some of the same issues, and on the same side, as CCI. I have to say that at times CCI and some of its members did cross the productive/unproductive line. No question about that. But I settled on the view that CCI helped us less aggressive/radical people by making us look very reasonable in contrast. And even though I didn’t always agree with the CCI approach, I don’t agree with the above quote. It’s definitely over the line. Plus, CCI does a lot of other important grassroots community work. My wife and I took a great first-time home buyer class through them when in Des Moines.

        • tactics

          Sometimes it’s helpful to have groups working toward the same goal occupy different niches during the fight. When the coal-fired power plant for Marshalltown was still on the table, some people thought Plains Justice was a little too “out there” or strident in their public statements. I think that if they hadn’t been involved, opponents like the Iowa Environmental Council and the Office of Consumer Advocate would have been portrayed as radicals instead of more “reasonable” voices against the coal plant. I definitely think that dynamic worked in our favor.

      • One memory

        When working on CAFO rules several years back, what bothered me much more than CCI style in addressing the issue was the fact that then Secretary of Ag was leading the pro-CAFO Farm Bureau/Pork Producers rally at the capitol. That really, really rubbed me the wrong way.

  • So. Much. Love.

    First off, I still think we’re basically on the same team here.

    And that’s why I’ve been critical of CCI for quite some time, in ongoing snark that blew up this week. Because I do, firmly, believe that CCI’s MO does more harm than good to the progressive cause in Iowa. And I stand by that assessment and by every word I’ve written.

    The Hey Hey Ho Ho rhetorical style is dated and trite even by Iowa City standards, and that style more than the substance alienates the Regular Folks whose votes we need to win. But the “community activists” seem so deeply invested in that style that they don’t consider its ineffectiveness.

    And yes, I believe that “making demands” (drink!) of Chuck Grassley is a Waste. Of. Time. You need to BEAT people like that and yes, you need to treat your imperfect allies better than your flat-out enemies. No. You should NOT treat Debbie Wasserman Schultz the same way you treat Mitt Romney.

    But look for CCI to picket Christie Vilsack for being “too corporate” next year with just as much vehemence as they’ll chant Hey Hey Ho Ho Steve King Has Got to Go. That false plague on both your houses equivalency just serves to urge people to drop out of the process entirely.

    Despite my “party hack” status (guilty as charged), I’m not shy about critiquing Dems in public. Name one person other than Ed Fallon who has been more critical of Blue Dog Boswell. You know, Leonard, it’s not too late. You can still retire.

    Did the Culver crew have shortcomings? Loooord, more than I can list. I would have eagerly embraced a primary challenge, and I wound up leaving governor blank on the 2010 primary ballot. But after the March filing deadline, Culver-Judge was the most progressive viable option left and it was past time for “drawing attention.” It was time to freakin’ WIN. And I firmly believe Barb Kalbach was more interested in “drawing attention” to herself than to the issues. It was self-important and self-aggrandizing, just like the press releases.

    A little defense for my friends. Sue Dvorsky was literally one of the first people I met in Iowa 21 years ago, and she gets progressive concerns better than any IDP chair ever. How can she not after a lifetime in Johnson County politics? And if Sue Dvorsky is telling folks to think about the big picture and stop the stupid stuff, she’s being smart.

    And I’ve worked professionally with Douglas Burns who is one of the fairest and most perceptive journalists in the state If he’s describing “moon-howling activists,” that’s worth thinking about.

    • even if you think

      some of Iowa CCI’s actions are not a valuable use of time, how can you deny that this group does good work? Douglas Burns says the actions of a few people discredit the entire organization. You suggest that they do nothing but stand around shouting slogans. Yes, they stage some events for media coverage. No, Terry Branstad is not going to start “putting people before corporations” because a bunch of CCI members gathered outside Terrace Hill. But CCI works on a lot of local issues too.

      How many CAFO projects have been derailed by local Democratic activists? None, because the Democratic Party wouldn’t touch that issue with a ten-foot pole.

      Unscrupulous payday lending ruins people’s lives. The people Democrats are supposed to stand for get trapped in an endless cycle of debt. I don’t care about Sue Dvorsky’s Johnson County progressive cred. The IDP and Iowa House leaders stood by and let Mike Reasoner bury the payday lending bill Janet Petersen and Joe Bolkcom had drafted. Although changing the law is now a non-starter, CCI has continued to work on the issue at the local level. The city of Des Moines, for instance, has a moratorium on new payday lending businesses.

      I reject the premise that Iowa CCI does nothing but draw attention to itself, or that the organization has no value because a few people supposedly crossed the line in Carroll. Douglas Burns encouraged Iowans to become single-issue voters against “Big Brother Democrats and Turncoat Republicans” who passed the public smoking ban in 2008. That sounds “crazy” to me, but I’m not going to say that he never writes anything worthwhile, or that he needs to pop pills to silence voices in his head.

  • one more thing

    As for drinking the Hope kool aid: I think my coverage of the whole field, both parties, in caucus season 2007 was fair. And I didn’t “endorse” Obama literally until I walked to his side of the room on caucus night.

    • your coverage was fair

      but it was apparent that Obama struck a chord with you. I think people drawn to the Obama style are naturally not going to love the Iowa CCI style. That doesn’t mean Iowa CCI is useless.  

      • actually DmD...

        Here’s where we part company.  I’ve found ICCI pretty fucking useless this past decade.

        Now that the “progressive cause” seems to be, “oh woe is me, my 401k took a hit”,  CCI moves to the fore. “It’s all about me” is their mantra. Grow the fuck up.  

        Ok, so I took the time to personally lobby Chuck Grassley to “stop funding these silly ass wars and tax the goddam rich already”  at the recent Straw Poll. I asked him if he had time to talk to me. He looked at me funny and asked, “Now who are you again?” When I told him, he kind of sighed and said, “Sure, but we have to do this as I’m walking to this event I’m almost late for.” How is it that Chuck, a sitting senior Senator of the United States of fucking America knows a small town farm kid by name? It is entirely due to simple persistence.  And he will give anyone the courtesy of giving them an ear in my experience.  I think Grassley is on the wrong side of history, but I’ve never felt compelled to ambush his ass to make my point with him, simply because he will listen and respond to your questions directly.

        If you’re gonna ambush anybody, go after Harkin.  Have not gotten a response on any question from that son-of-a-bitch this decade.  His aides deflect any question I’ve put to them these past few years.          

        • they're not useless

          for the people who would have been living near one of the CAFOs they stopped.

          • It's a negative model...

            For social reform.  Rather than working towards a goal, it seems that CCI is only interested in working against the flavor of the week.  

            It’s like watching a never-ending issue of the Militant, constantly crowing about their successes, claiming every victory as their own.

            • that is a fair criticism

              They come across as reacting against/fighting against bad ideas rather than working towards a goal.  

              • And the intended outcome of direct action?

                Is Dialogue.  If the door is open to dialogue, why would you ask to have it slammed shut in your face?  Unless you have an vested interest in perpetuating animosity, simply for the sake of making your opponent look bad?  It’s like, “Look, see how unreasonable they are? They aren’t even willing to discuss this with us.”


      • We may finally

        have circled around to a point of agreement here: “I think people drawn to the Obama style are naturally not going to love the Iowa CCI style.” And it’s the style more than anything that I can’t stand. Maybe it’s because I behaved the same way when I was 22.

        • it takes all kinds

          Not everyone has to support the Iowa CCI style. What bothers me is that you see no problem with Sue Dvorsky defining Iowa CCI as unproductive, embarrassing and outlandish. Because now any media story about anything they’re working on (local, state, or national issue) will talk about how “even the chair of the Iowa Democratic Party” says these people are ridiculous and deserve to be ignored. It’s not as if the Democratic professionals are doing anything on Iowa CCI’s issues.

          • The fine print

            The IDP release doesn’t denounce CCP per se. It’s specifically about the shout the speaker down tactics. That distinction’s getting lost in this whole flame war. They do some good issue work, sure. But for me that’s outweighed by crap like this and crap like Barb Kalbach for lt. governor.

            • did you ever watch the whole town hall john?

              Because from what you’ve been writing I don’t think you have. Check it out where about 59 minutes in your favorite journalist starts roughing up one of our members.:


              In fact, other than occasionally running into CCI members at political functions, it’s apparent to me that you have never been to a CCI event, have never met more than a handful of CCI members, and have only a fraction of an idea of what CCI does or has done over the years.  You’re so caught up right now in this tight circle of Democratic elites that you can’t even see that CCI is connecting with real people with real problems on the ground every single day.

              • the elites?

                Moi? I ain’t sipping cocktails with the Knapps. I’m lucky enough to have Sue Dvorsky as a genuine, real, personal friend, if that’s what you mean. And there’s never been an IDP chair who was more about the base, the field, and the roots.

                We all have our own ego-involvement reasons for participating in politics in our own way. Some of those reasons are beyond ourselves, some of them our within ourselves.  Do I enjoy having a seat at the grownup table on occasion? Sure. Do some CCI folks enjoy acting out their (legitimate) rage? Probably. I know I felt the same way when I was much younger. Do we each do these things for the right reasons as well as for our own reasons? I think so.

            • give me a break

              you know full well how Dvorsky’s statement is going to be hauled out: “even liberals” think this group is “unproductive and embarrassing.” And Burns said they are just a bunch of deranged people needing medication.

              • Fair enough, then.

                I’m a liberal, I’m embarrassed, I find it unproductive. CCI gets to yell, IDP gets to critique it. Free country. Choose your tactics, live with the fallout. That’s what I’m doing. I knew that at some point I’d get blowback for dissing CCI’s tactics but I stand by it: in the big picture, the approach hurts more than it helps. And as someone who shares the same policy goals, I felt like it needed to be said.

                As for “medication,” a writer needs a little poetic license now and then. And while Doug Burns is an outstanding journalist, the record needs to note he’s not my official “favorite.” (Think Fear And Loathing, folks…)

  • I'll be blunt

    I stand with Sue, the establishment and John Deeth on this one.  Groups like CCI need to work for the Green or Socialist Workers Party in my estimation.  A lot of these tea party types need to work for the Constitution or Libertarian parties.  If you want ideological purity work to build a third party and change election laws.

    I view the fights between the Democratic and Republican parties as a fight between two capitalistic lines of thought, one just being more sensible then the other.I want centrist, rational policies.  Not systemic change.

    These people who want Obama to be like Kucinich or Nader had their chance.  Nader was on the ballot.  Kucinich lost in the primary.  If Kucinich’s policies were so damn good, Cleveland would be a wonderful, vibrant city.  It’s going through hard times and Jucinich does very little for his constituency.  If his policies were so darn popular he would have won the primary in a landslide.  

    If Kucinich and the professional left had won the primary I would have voted for McCain.  If Ed Fallon had won the 2006 Democratic Primary for Governor I would have voted for Nussle.  I’m tired of these purists screwing up the country and making it more divided than it should be.  

    • what is rational and centrist

      about letting payday lenders charge interest rates that work out to hundreds of percent a year?

      If the Democratic Party professionals were looking out for the interests of the Democratic base, groups like Iowa CCI would have a lot less work to do.

      • Payday lenders

        Payday lenders are a scam, but ultimately it comes down to personal responsibility  Anyone who goes to a payday lender is make a misguided mistake.  The reason people go to these payday lenders has to be due to a lack of knowledge about payday lenders.

        There should be more money spent on basic financial literacy courses in high school, not just on Algebra and Calculus where kids memorize formulas, punch them into a calculator and don’t understand what they mean.

        I’ve had good instructors and bad instructors during my time in the classroom.  My grades came down to my personal responsibility.  Kids think its cool to graduate high school and barely be able to read, they think they’ve pulled one over on the system.  They go out into the real world and then they realize that they can’t get a factory job because the  extreme environmentalists and the Milton Friedman types have indirectly worked together to de-industrialize (sp?) the United States.  Many people on the left and the right have trained our kids that they are too good for the factory or the farm.  My point is unless kids wake up and take some responsibility for themselves and their state we are headed towards a race to the bottom.

        So ultimately it is up to the consumer to know that the payday lenders are a scam.  You can regulate them, sue them whatever.  We should mot ban gambling or high fructose corn syrup either.  Of course they are bad for us, but it comes down to personal choice.  If we move to a form of truly socialized medicine however, I think that gives the government the right to regulate more industries.

        We have no right to completely shut down payday lenders.  Ron Paul and Barry Goldwater were right about personal responsibility, they were wrong in their utopian, borderline anarchistic view that they can do  ALL it on their own.

        Those constituencies that you speak of need to quit acting like they are too good to work at Subway OR to even attempt to advance their education.  How many kids out there in some of these districts know how to apply for a grant, job or whatever?  A lot of our schools do go underfunded and there are a few bad instructors out there, but a bad teacher can be defeated by a personally responsible student.  

        • we have usury laws

          because many years ago people recognized that banks should not be able to charge desperate people whatever they feel like charging.

          I do not agree that it’s up to consumers to know payday lending is a scam. And the bill wasn’t trying to “shut them down,” it was regulating them so that they would have to charge a less-outrageous rate. If they can’t make money loaning at 35 percent annualized interest, maybe they deserve to go out of business.

          • We've had this discusson

            I support regulation of this industry.  They should be able to turn a profit with a thirty five percent rate and I have no problem with usury laws, but at the same think there is only so much you can do to protect stupid people from themselves.  Don’t tell people when they can and cannot be in business however.  

            It’s like these people who think that if you can’t pay people a starting wage of $12.50 for example, you shouldn’t be in business.  

            Harkin goes after the for profit schools, candy companies and drug company marketers like nobody’s business.  I don’t blame him for looking into the first two, but there will always be people who love to talk about all their ailments and how they think this miracle drug will help them.  

          • Lenders

            Dmd, are you honestly comparing banks to payday lenders?  I understand some banks large and small play a role in the bankruptcies of many average folks, but I would not compare them to payday lenders.  I don’t care how desperate I got I would NOT use a pay day lender, anyone who does is signing away their financial future at their own risk.  

      • Maybe...

        my view of the “Democratic establishment” is colored by my spot in the state. I’m not dealing with sixpack conservaDems in the Johnson County legislative delegation. Payday loans? I’m with ya, but I’m also in Joe Bolkcom’s district so I don’t exactly need to push.

        Johnson County’s not about winning, it’s about running up the score to make up for 15 counties out west. And a CCIer shouting about the Democrats being “just as bad” doesn’t help that.

        • you don't need to push Joe Bolkcom

          but someone needs to lean on the Mike Reasoners of the world. It won’t be Sue Dvorsky or Pat Murphy or Kevin McCarthy.

          You haven’t explained why CCI activists should put all of their energy into GOTV for Democrats when we just lived through four years in which Democrats barely moved the ball on their issues. I am all for expanding preschool and HAWK-I, but you should be willing to admit that the record of the Democratic-controlled legislature on many of the CCI issues was pathetic.  

          • All their energy?

            No. But some of their energy? Yes. Once the field of candidates is set it’s time to win some elections and yes, sometimes, settle for a Mike Reasoner over a Joel Fry. A Reasoner you can work on. A Fry you can’t.

            Don’t give me the 501(c)3 excuse. I ain’t interested in anything nonpartisan. Lived through too many cycles of the Sierra Club endorsing Jim Leach as their token Republican to support anything “nonpartisan.”

            • without the 501(c)3s

              we’d have coal-fired power plants in Marshalltown and Waterloo, which would still be giving kids asthma and adults strokes and heart attacks after you and I are both dead. The Democratic Party did absolutely nothing to help during that fight, just like they did nothing to discourage Mike Gronstal and Swati Dandekar from passing a bill to rip off MidAmerican ratepayers for the sole benefit of MidAmerican. Only the 501(c)3s give a damn about stuff like that.

              To you, holding a grudge over Jim Leach is more important.

              • As for Leach

                that was a side point, though yeah, it did piss me off when we were over here working our tails off for Bob Rush and Julie Thomas and Dave Loebsack only to have Sierry Club endorse leach as their token R so they could claim “bipartisanship.” (It also didn’t help when Leonard Boswell voted for the war and Jim Leach voted against it… just to remind y’all that I ain’t My Party Right Or Wrong. And I still think he loses to Latham and I still think he should retire.) And I do still hold it against Sierra.

                My larger point is there are no Leaches anymore so nonpartisanship is pointless. 501(c)3s should learn it; the President is learning it the hard way.

                Are we getting to the agree to disagree pont yet? Cause I ain’t budging. There’s a core of CCI “activists” who, frankly, get their rocks off by yelling at people and bragging about it, and that more than outweighs the serious issue work done by other people in the organization. And I can’t speak for Sue Dvorsky and for Doug Burns, but that’s the point I’m trying to make.

          • And...

            You have to get a Reasoner there in order to work on him. And frankly, some districts aren’t gonna DO better than a Larry Marek. The Greens ran there on a beautiful lefty platform and got… 4 percent. (Unlike most left-end Democrats, I’ve actually run in a small town-rural district. And lost badly.)

            Usually, the alternative to a McKinley Bailey isn’t a Joe Bolkcom. The alternative is a Stu Iverson. And in the current political climate the worst corporate ag Dolores Mertz “Democrat” is better than the best suburban Republican.

            Like Kos says: more and better Democrats. CCI’s focused on the better, but they aren’t helping with the more.

            • Mike Gronstal

              may not be perfect, but Mike Gronstal is the most valuable defender of marriage equality in the state. And Mike Gronstal’s majority of one vote – and yes, that includes Swati Dandekar – is the only thing that kept Terry Branstad from becoming Scott Walker.

    • An interesting question

      Where do people with political views way out of mainstream belong in our defacto two-party system?

      Regular BH readers may be surprised to learn that I am at the very left end of the political spectrum in my personal beliefs, both on social and economic issues. In all those which prez candidate is most like you/where are you politically quizzes I always place left of Nader and Kucinich. Same result in every single survey I have ever taken. Despite this, I often gravitate toward conciliatory or centrist Democrats (Mark Warner, Obama) and have never considered voting third party. In my own mind, I explain this by the fact that I am very aware of the fact that I am out of the mainstream and the country will never be where I am politically. Perhaps being a naturalized citizen makes this “I don’t belong here” feeling even clearer.  

      • I reject the premise

        that some of these views are way outside the mainstream. Poll after poll has shown that people want to tax the rich more, get us out of Afghanistan, focus on creating jobs rather than cutting deficit, etc.

        I think the media have created a myth about so-called “centrists,” who are really just corporate Democrats, being more in the mainstream.

        • Not a myth in my view

          I don’t run from the label of corporate Democrat as many “progressives” shouldn’t run from the idea of working for a third party.  Like I said above, this is about two parties who both believe you can make a TON of money with limited regulation.  So called progressive Democrats should be voting Green.

          I support an actual antitrust division and a revisiting of our trade laws, but we tend to only get environmental regulation through in this country anymore.  It depends upon what political scale you use, if you’re working off the European scale a “centrist” in America would be a pretty far right winger.  The more progressives I talk to, the more I realize they must be unhappy in this country.  The same argument with the libertarian/small government crowd.  

          If I was so afraid of the lax regulation in this country, I wouldn’t live here.  I known a ton of poor people who would like to move out of this country, but they don’t have the resources.  If I have a bad economic year or fall into  poverty, the buck stops here.  I know a lot of people are in a different situation, but that is my personal view.  

        • More thoughts

          Mark Warner, Mark Pryor, Ben Nelson etc. have not attempted to cut many public sector jobs in their careers.  They are not opposed to creating jobs.  They just aren’t Keynesians to the death like so many out there.  Warner offered plans, Erskine Bowles offered a plan.  If you want the Congressional Progressive Caucus Plan, you’re going to have to see a major ideological shift in this country.  

          Your polls do not reflect actual voting patterns.  Obama wins Massachusetts by a landslide.  They elect Scott Brown after that.  Obama wins New Jersey, here comes Chris Christie.  I remember all of those campaign stops that Obama made on behalf of Bob McDonnell….

          I hope none of this comes across as rude, but I genuinely don’t view public opinion to be as progressive as you do.  People are stupid and their voting patterns don’t always make sense.  I vote a split ticket myself because I don’t blame the status quo for my woes.  I just haven’t worked hard enough.  

        • I was speaking

          in more general terms about being out of mainstream. Not necessarily referring to the CCI affair or anything else discussed here.

          The issues you mention as being in the mainstream may very well be so, depending on the exact position on the issues. Re: taxing the rich. Letting W tax cuts for the wealthy expire is definitely in the mainstream. But the kinds of tax rates I personally deem fair are certainly way out of mainstream in this country. The statement “focus on creating jobs rather than cutting deficit” may be in the mainstream as an abstract thought. But if put in terms of “massive amounts of new federal spending and stimulus is more important than cutting deficit,” it is not very likely to be in the mainstream.

    • in what universe?

      That’s the hilarious part of this flame war: John Deeth in the role of the establishment?!? Cats and dogs living together, mass hysteria!

  • CCI

    what’s missing in this whole conversation.

    CCI has more than 3,300 dues-paying members across the state, and we’re signing up more every week.  75% are over the age of 65.  58% live in rural areas of the state.  

    we can mobilize a hell of a lot of old people, and that’s what makes us powerful  

    we’re not going anywhere.  ever.  except up.  

    and we’re sure as hell not going to change the way we do things.  We’ve been accused of this same stuff for 36 years, and 36 years from now, we’ll still be accused of it.  

    the members that join our organization join it because of the tough and tenacious attitude and direct action-style.  they join because we get things done – at the local, state, and national level.  if we don’t appeal to everybody, so be it.  

    The Huffington Post had the best reporting of all because they clearly identified that CCI members are an independent pole of political power outside of the Democratic Party.  Dvorsky’s comments just strained the relationship.  Of course, it was political payback for holding Democrats like DWS, Tom Miller, and Obama accountable.  

    by the way, check out rehka basu’s column this morning.  Work we did 5 years ago is paying off today.  

    • 36 more years?

      Then at least learn a couple new chants.

      • after the C4 is up and running

        we’ll come up with some new chants after our brand new C4 sister organization is up and running next month.  

      • you find their chants annoying

        so you approvingly link to a commentary calling everyone involved with the organization “despicable” lunatics.

    • Reads like famILy leader talk

      (no additional commentary text needed)

    • Rekha Basu's column

      for the benefit of those who haven’t seen it, was about a Polk County sheriff’s deputy who has a problem with people who drive while being Hispanic:

      Back in 2005, Polk County Sheriff’s Deputy Shawn Vanhoozer was named in three separate complaints alleging he racially profiled and mistreated Hispanic drivers he pulled over in the Grimes area. Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement demonstrated that 53 percent of Vanhoozer’s 42 tickets issued in a three-month period were to Hispanics, though they were only 4 percent of Iowa’s population.

      But the sheriff’s department defended Vanhoozer and concluded, based on an internal investigation, that he did nothing wrong. It refused to meet with CCI until the U.S. Justice Department came in to mediate.

      In response to the uproar, the sheriff’s department eventually ordered Vanhoozer to attend Spanish classes (though ethnic sensitivity may have been more appropriate), and transferred him to the Bondurant area. It also made some outreach to the Hispanic community.

      In light of that history, it’s more than a little disturbing to see the same deputy’s name crop up in fresh allegations of profiling Latinos – and the sheriff rush to defend him before all the facts are in.

      Vanhoozer is now accused of pulling over two Latino men in Des Moines and attacking them.

      This is the kind of issue the Iowa Democratic Party tends to stay away from.

  • CCI

    First, I am sympathetic to most of CCI’s overall goals and philosophy.  Second, without going into detail, I found from first hand experience that their tactics are counterproductive, and they were dishonest in their dealings, changing terms of engagement at the last minute, relying on “gotcha” tactics, etc.  They are more interested in theatre and confrontation than substance.  I think they hurt themselves in the process, which has finally resulted in Dvorsky handing their opponents a big hammer to use in the future:  “See?  Even the DEMOCRATS think this group is nuts.”  Want to keep on doing what you’re doing?  That’s fine.  Look who controls the state House, look who’s in Governor’s seat, look at the state of our rivers and streams and hog lots. Certainly not blaming CCI solely for the sorry state we have become, but instead of harassing bureaucrats and certain elected officials, how bout going district by district, and do the hard, less glamorous work of finding good honest electable candidates, and getting them elected.  That’s not as much fun as yelling at Mitt Romney or hassling Chuck Grassley, but it might be more productive in the long run.

    • great idea

      go district by district, electing Democrats. I’m sure that when we have a Democratic governor and a Democratic-controlled legislature, our elected officials will solve all the problems CCI works on. Oh wait…

      rockm, you’re very aware of the environmental backsliding going on this year. Why do you think neither Dvorsky nor anyone else at the IDP has called attention to that side of Branstad’s record?

      • You're right

        to call out the Demos on the environment.  That was well put in your original post. Some of the environment’s worst problems are in the Demo Senate.  You would not believe what happened behind the curtain this past session.  Note that in my call to elect responsible persons to leadership posits, I did not place a party label.  I don’t care what party they are from if they are intelligent, reasonable people willing to work for the betterment of our state, in good faith and with good hearts.  There a lot of black hearts at work at the moment.  Am I naive? probably, but always full of hope.  

  • Fascinating

    But I have to say from my vantage point 1,300 miles away that this is the sort of dispute that is just way too personal and emotional to ever be resolved to anyone’s satisfaction. It also says something I guess that this kind of topic attracts such debate: when there is little apparent chance to improve things, we spend time arguing over tactics. It seems to become important to figure out who is to blame for our inability to get anything accomplished.

    I’m a strong believer that reformers need radicals. I strongly support well-thought out and effective direct action tactics. I haven’t followed it closely, but the tar sands protest in DC seems to be doing a good job of getting that issue on the agenda. But I also find it hard to believe that CCI was really hurt or traumatized by Dvorsky’s statements, Burns’s reporting, or Deeth’s blogging. Both sides are playing their roles in this reformer-vs.-radical set piece. The exact same stuff happens on the right end of the spectrum.

    Everyone seems willing to stand by their statements and tactics, and everyone seems willing to absorb the criticism; in fact getting criticized is the whole point. Like I say, there’s no way to say that one or the other side is wrong in this fight. They’re both doing what’s best for them. The fact that there is so much evident hurt behind people’s comments is regrettable and as a child of an alcoholic I hate it when someone feels bad. But I do wonder how productive it is to spend time trying to resolve a question that I don’t think can or will ever be resolved: Do you work within the system or outside it?

    • Rereading my post just now

      I realize that my last paragraph sounds a little condescending. That wasn’t my intention. I guess the thing I get upset about is when people I like are fighting with each other. I’m a conciliator. Probably why I like Obama so much. (He comes off as condescending too.)

  • Dem Finger Pointing

    needs to be done!
    We have become… what to many…seems just another corporate owned party. We started it (imo) during the four years we controlled the Gov/House/Senate and failed to do much of any significance. It seemed once Dem’s got in…they were shaking in their boots that they might do something to give their R opponent something to use the next cycle. They might have been right, but then, why were they running in the first place? This very likely took a lot of very passionate folks right out of the entire process. (some call them activists) This lack of movement during our “chance” should not be repeated. We need to be ready next time. CCI actually allows passionate folks hope that they can make a difference. (do we?) Recently, we clearly saw this demonstrated in the pent up frustration of Bernie and Trumpf supporters. Our party is failing to give many a reason to bother to come to the polls. Why bother…is the response I hear often. Add to that, the way the legislative process currently works, pulling all bills of substance into the back room until late the last night of the session, eliminates any meaningful discussion while consolidating power in the hands of a very few at the table, is disheartening. Having been …at the table… a time or two I can assure you that the interests of the individual or of small town Iowa are rarely seen. We Dems need to point a finger, and we had best point it at ourselves. We must show people that it is worth their time to join us once again. We need the new blood, and we’re going to have to earn it.