Weekend open thread: Iowa Democratic Party convention edition

What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? The Iowa Democratic Party’s state convention got overshadowed by the circus-like spectacle Republicans put on in Urbandale yesterday. We’re talking about David Young’s surprising nomination in IA-03 here. This is an open thread for all other topics.

After the jump I’ve posted several links about the Democratic convention and the full text (as prepared) of Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley’s speech. He seems to have made a good impression, as he did at the Harkin Steak Fry in 2012. O’Malley won’t challenge Hillary Clinton for the presidential nomination; he was loyal Clinton surrogate during the 2008 primaries, even after Barack Obama crushed her in his state. If Clinton decides against running for president again, O’Malley could have a lot of upside potential in Iowa. He’s much more familiar with this state than your average east-coast governor, having worked as a field organizer for Gary Hart’s 1984 Iowa caucus campaign. John Deeth wrote up O’Malley’s appearance for gubernatorial nominee Jack Hatch and running mate Monica Vernon in Iowa City.

UPDATE: Added below a short version of what would be the progressive case against O’Malley if he competes in the Iowa caucuses.

Radio Iowa posted highlights from the Democratic convention here. U.S. Senate nominee Bruce Braley is framing his race against Joni Ernst in terms of values:

“Campaigns like life, have a lot of ups and downs. This is going to be a tough race between now and November 4th. But if this race is about Iowa values – we’re going to win,” Braley says.

Jason Noble reported for the Des Moines Register that party unity was a major theme of the day.

Gubernatorial candidate Jack Hatch and newly named running mate Monica Vernon made the convention the first stop on their first multicity tour as Iowa’s Democratic gubernatorial ticket. Both played up the viability of their challenge to incumbent Republican Terry Branstad, arguing that his economic record withers under scrutiny and that Iowans are ready for a “fresh start.”

Hatch hit the phrase repeatedly, punctuating a litany of controversies involving Branstad’s administration by calling out “We need a fresh start!”

Iowa has lagged in job creation during Branstad’s term, he said, and the governor has mishandled the now-closed Iowa Juvenile Home, mistreated state employees and been irresponsible in his tax credit-heavy approach to economic development.

“You hear in his advertisements that he came back to clean up the mess of the previous Democratic governors,” Hatch said of Branstad. “Well, let me tell you he has a created a mess that this Democratic governor is going to clean up for you.”

Vernon, a Cedar Rapids city councilwoman, used the occasion to introduce herself to activists from around the state. She emphasized her long family history in Iowa as well as her commitment to progressive politics.

“I’m one proud Democrat, and I want to share that with you,” Vernon said. “I’m a lifelong pro-choice woman who is a champion of human rights and civil rights.”

Martin O’Malley speech to Iowa Democratic Party’s state convention, June 21 (as prepared for delivery):

I.              INTRODUCTION

Thank you for your indulgence in watching that little introductory video — my apologies to those of you who thought you were settling in for another episode of The Wire.

It is great to be with so many good friends here in Des Moines.

Thank you, Scott, for that gracious introduction.

Scott Brennan is doing an outstanding job as party chair.

Scott, thank you for your leadership. The work you’re doing is critically important because there is so much at stake this November.

To create jobs; to strengthen our middle class; to give our children a better future.

With Scott’s leadership, and the hard work of everyone in this room, we’re going to make Jack Hatch the next Governor of Iowa.

I think the people of Iowa have had enough of the Branstad administrations. Don’t you?

Five terms is enough!

It’s time for a fresh start…,

it’s time to turn the page on cronyism and put the needs of Iowa’s middle class families first…,

it’s time for Jack Hatch and Monica Vernon.

Jack will need governing partners, so let’s make Mark Smith the next Speaker of the House.

And let’s help Senators Gronstal and Jochum keep the senate in Democratic hands.

There are also some important races for U.S. Congress here:

We’re going to re-elect Dave Loebsack…,

We’re going to elect Pat Murphy…,

We’re going to elect Staci Appel…,

And we’re going to beat Steve King and elect Jim Mowrer the next Congressman from Iowa’s 4th congressional district.

And you may have heard…, there’s also a key race for the U.S. Senate this year…

And there couldn’t be a bigger contrast between Bruce Braley and Joni Ernst.

Bruce Braley is fighting for Iowa’s middle class families…,

Joni Ernst, on the other hand, wants to privatize Social Security…, turn Medicare into a voucher system…, and repeal the federal minimum wage.

How is any of that going to help strengthen Iowa’s middle class?

She even wants to roll-back the Clean Water Act and eliminate the Department of Education.

Can you imagine someone with extreme views like that holding Tom Harkin’s seat in the U.S. Senate???

From education to agriculture — to his unflagging commitment to the sick, the poor, the voiceless — Senator Harkin’s success can be measured by the millions of Americans whose lives he’s touched and made better.

Iowa, and indeed the entire country, will be forever blessed because of Tom Harkin’s great service…

His service represents the strongest beliefs we share as a people.

And that’s what I want to talk with you about this morning. I want to talk with you about the story of us — the story of Baltimore and Iowa, the story of Maryland and America.

II.            ACTION

When I was elected mayor in 1999, my city, Baltimore, had become the most violent, most addicted, most abandoned city in America.

There was a big difference in those days between the Baltimore we carried in our hearts, and the Baltimore we saw in our headlines and on our streets.

And our biggest enemy wasn’t drug dealers or crack cocaine. It was a lack of belief,… a culture of failure,…. countless excuses about how nothing would work,….why none of us should even try.

So we set out to make our city work again.

We saw trash in our streets and alleys, so we picked it up every day.

We saw open air drug markets, and we began to relentlessly close them down.

We saw neighbors suffering from addiction, so we expanded drug treatment and got more people into recovery.

After a year of steady, hard-earned, life-saving progress – we then turned a bright light directly on the despair that had gripped our city for too long.

We launched a campaign we called, “Believe.”

III.         BELIEVE

The first ad was a four-minute commercial, which the local news affiliates agreed to air simultaneously.

The viewer walks through a day in the life of a 10-year-old African American boy.

Warming his hands with a homeless man on an abandoned corner, dodging drug dealers and their suburban buyers.

Stepping around hypodermic needles and prostitutes.

Ultimately, seeking out his little sister in the night who had gone to the corner store to buy candy.

He finds her in the center of a crowd of grief stricken neighbors and first responders — another young victim of drug dealer crossfire, killed in a drive-by shooting.

Her tightly braided hair.

Her lifeless eyes wide open, lying in a pool of blood,…

The narrator’s voice says, “The people of Baltimore are in a fight.  It’s a fight for their future.  It’s a fight that we’ve been losing,.. one life at a time.”

The narrator continues, “There are some who say, ‘It’s over, give up, we’ve lost.’  But for the strong, for the brave,… this fight is not over,…  What will it take to make us stand together and say, ENOUGH?”

And then come the stark white on black words:  “Believe.  Believe in us.  Believe in yourself.  Baltimore, Believe.”  

For three very uncomfortable, painful weeks, we ran those ads.

We had to be honest about our present in order to change our future.

We then ran ads calling upon our people to take real, individual actions.

“Mentor a child, an hour a week can save a life. Call 1(800) BELIEVE.”

“Join the police department. Believe in yourself, believe in us. Call 1(800) BELIEVE.”

“Get someone you love into drug treatment. It works. Call 1(800) BELIEVE.”

And it did work. The people of Baltimore rallied.

Of course, it wasn’t about the bumper stickers, or the signs.

It was about something deeper – the belief that there is no such thing as a spare American.

Over the next 10 years, Baltimore went on to achieve the biggest reduction in part 1 crime of any major city in America.

Why do I share that story?

Because we must acknowledge where we are together, in order to move forward together.

Because belief is important.

Belief drives action.

IV.         HEARTS

Today, like Baltimore in 1999, we — as Americans — are going through a cynical time of disbelief.

A time with more excuses, than action.

More ideology, than cooperation.

More fear and anger, than progress.

We seem to have lost the shared conviction — we once had — that we actually have the ability to make things better together.

There is a big difference today between the America that we carry in our hearts and the America that we are seeing in our headlines.

The America in our hearts is the land where those who work hard, who play by the rules, who get up early in the morning can make a better future for themselves and their children.

The America in our headlines is too often a place where Wall Street profits are higher than ever, the rich are richer than ever, but the paychecks of hardworking families are becoming smaller and smaller.

The America in our hearts remains that nation that created the greatest middle class in the history of the world.

But the America in our headlines is a nation where too many kids can’t afford to go to college, and too many college graduates can’t find a job.


It reminds of the story of the prizefighter who finds himself beaten against the ropes, getting the worst of it in the ring, pounded down by his opponent.

His trainer finally gets the chance to sit him down in the corner.

He looks him in the eye, and says, “The problem isn’t what the other guy is doing to you. The problem is what you’re not doing for yourself.”

Whether we think we can, or we think we can’t, we are probably right.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough of the cynicism. I’ve had enough of the apathy. I’ve had enough of us giving in to self-pity, small solutions and low expectations of one another.

Let’s remember who we are.

For 235 years, we have been the country that thrilled the world – and led the world – over and over again, in large part, by making ourselves stronger at home.

Don’t you think it’s time to do it again?

The patriots who made America great – did not pray for their president to fail, they prayed for their president to succeed.

Our founders didn’t belittle science and learning; they aspired to it.  

They didn’t appeal to America’s fears; they inspired American courage.

And they would never — ever — abandon the war on poverty in order to declare a war on women,… a war on workers,… a war on immigrants,… a war on the sick,… and a war on hungry children.


America is the greatest job-generating, opportunity-expanding nation ever created in the history of the free world.

But America cannot serve our children’s needs if our Republican brothers and sisters in Congress keep shutting us down and selling us short.

As Democrats — as Americans — we have an urgent responsibility today.

It’s about jobs.

It’s about a stronger middle class.

And it’s about giving our children a better future now.

The truth is, after Hoover, America needed Roosevelt. After Eisenhower, we needed Kennedy. After Reagan, we needed Clinton…

And after eight miserable years of George W. Bush, America needed Barack Obama.

No President since FDR inherited a worse economy, bigger job losses, as many wars, or as large a deficit as President Obama.

Thanks to his leadership — and to the leadership of Sen. Harkin and Congressional Democrats — America is moving forward again.

This month — our 51st month in a row of positive private sector job growth — the United States created 217,000 new jobs.

Job growth exceeded 200,000 for the fourth straight month last month, and businesses have now added over a million jobs so far this year.

But urgent work remains to be done.

And the cynical few who have hacked our democracy are digging in.

VII. Less or More

Yes, these TEA-Party Republicans – funded by their wealthy economic royalists friends, like the Koch brothers – see America as a small place…

A business in decline.

A place of limited capacity and limited potential.

A place that can only afford to serve the interests of the privileged few.

We’ve seen this view before, haven’t we?  Hoover called it supply side economics. Reagan called it trickle-down economics. George W. Bush called it…, “focusing on my base.”

Whatever they call it, it will not give our children a better and more prosperous future with more jobs and more opportunity for all.

To those who would prescribe this “future of less” for America’s middle class, we must ask the very real and serious question — how much less do you think would be good for our country?

How much less education will make our children smarter?

How many fewer college graduates will make our economy more competitive?

How many hungry American children can we no longer afford to feed?

Think about your parents and grandparents — picture their faces — they understood the essential truth of the American Dream.

The stronger we make our country, the more she gives back to us; the more she gives back to our children and our grandchildren.

We will not solve our problems by doing less. We must do more.


In Maryland, we have done more, not less, to create new jobs in new industries; to build a modern economy – an economy, with a human purpose.

We have done more to improve our children’s education…,

more to rebuild our infrastructure…,

and more to make college opportunity more affordable for all.

Like you, we believe the foundation of any growing economy is a stronger middle class.

Therefore, we increased the Earned Income Tax Credit…,

We became the first state in the nation to pass a living wage law…,

And just a few weeks ago, we increased the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

Why did we take these actions?

Because when workers earn more money, businesses have more customers and our WHOLE ECONOMY GROWS.

Prosperity doesn’t trickle down from the top. It never has.

A thriving economy – a growing economy – is built from the middle out and the middle up.

A stronger middle class is not the consequence of economic growth — it is the CAUSE of economic growth.


The proof is in the results.

Maryland is creating jobs at the second fast rate in our region – in fact, our state has created about 9,000 jobs in the past two months alone.  

Not only do our people now earn the highest median income in the nation, but we’re also rated one of the top states for UPWARD economic mobility.

And just last week, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – hardly a mouthpiece for the Maryland Democratic Party – named Maryland the #1 state in America for innovation and entrepreneurship…, for the THIRD YEAR IN A ROW.

But progress is also about creating a more just, more inclusive, and more secure future for our children.

With a belief in the dignity of work — we expanded and protected collective bargaining rights.

We don’t attack and belittle our teachers. We support them.

With a belief in the dignity of every child’s full potential — we passed the DREAM Act in Maryland.

And with a belief in the dignity of every human being — we passed marriage equality in Maryland.

Together, we have driven crime down to 30-year lows in Maryland and we passed an important gun safety law that focuses on school safety, mental health reform, and stronger background checks for handgun purchases.

And because climate change is real, we’ve expanded renewable energy…, accelerated energy conservation…, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

Progress is a choice.

We do not move forward by chance.

Hope drives belief. Belief drives action. And action achieves results.


I’ll leave you with this final story,…

My wife Katie and I have four children — two girls, two boys.

My son William, who’s 16 years old, is here with me today. When he was 9, we were together one evening watching the History Channel. It was a special about Rosa Parks, Civil Rights, and the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

And as William watched the story, he turned to me and said, “Dad, back then,” – by which he meant, sometime between the extinction of the dinosaurs and the invention of the 8 track tape – “somebody told you that some of you had to ride in the front of the bus, and some of you had to ride in the back of the bus,. . . and you guys actually listened to them?!”

And I said, “Well, I know it’s hard to imagine, William, but that’s the way it had always been.”

Then he turned to me with the clear wisdom of youth, and said  “Dad,… didn’t you guys realize that you were all going to the same place?”

The truth is, we are all going to the same place.

We are all on the same bus.

Iowa and Maryland. California and Mississippi.

We will move forward or we will slip back together…

We will succeed or fail together…

And we will rise or fall together.

This is not a matter of wishing or hoping.

It’s a matter of belief and action.

We are Americans, we make our own destiny.

And we will not be the first generation to give our children a country of less.

It means that Iowa must stand up. It means that Maryland must stand up. It means each of us must stand up.

It only takes one person, then another, then another to stand up and say: enough.

Enough obstruction.  Enough wasted time. Stop selling our country short.

Let us achieve like Americans again.

Let us lead like Americans again.

And let us believe like Americans again-in ourselves, in our nation, and in one another.

Together we can.

Together we must.

And together, Iowa, we will.

Thank you.

UPDATE: In Saturday’s Des Moines Register, Matt Ohloff (Iowa staffer for Food and Water Watch) and Adam Mason (state policy director for Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement Action Fund) presented a progressive case against O’Malley, who “won’t stand up against big business or factory farms.” Excerpts:

O’Malley has failed to save the Chesapeake Bay from the factory farm poultry industry, the largest source of nutrient pollution in the state.

In 2011, the governor publicly denounced a lawsuit brought by the University of Maryland Environmental Law Clinic for pollution pouring off one of Perdue Farms’ contract operations. He called on clinic students to represent polluters instead of nonprofit defenders of the Bay. […]

O’Malley also emailed Jim Perdue, promising him that as long as he was governor, he would never hold the company liable for the pollution it caused to the Chesapeake Bay.

It was no surprise that when O’Malley became the head of the Democratic Governors Association, poultry giant Perdue shifted its financial support from the Republican Governors Association to the Democratic Governors Association. […]

As the oil and gas industry identified shale deposits in Maryland, the governor told Maryland residents that he wouldn’t approve fracking in the state until studies proved that it was safe. In reality, he was already laying the groundwork for opening Maryland up to the dangers associated with fracking.

He quickly created the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission, appointed its members, including a person who drafted the fracking regulations in Pennsylvania, and asked them to develop a draft report on fracking. O’Malley allowed the drafting of fracking regulations to begin even before reviewing the results of the promised fracking impact studies.

O’Malley’s ties to the fracking industry can be traced to his latest “pro-growth progressive” venture, NewDEAL, a “dark money” political organization he co-founded in 2011 to bring corporate money to the Democratic Party. Among NewDEAL’s big corporate funders O’Malley has been courting is the American Natural Gas Association.

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  • Omalley

    That was quite a hit on O’Malley in the paper. According to that piece he’s a corporate tool .  

    • if we're judging elected officials

      by their willingness to stand up to factory farms, so are most Iowa Democrats.

      O’Malley doesn’t have a good record on agriculture policy, but he has a good record on several other issues that are important to progressives.

      But thanks for mentioning that piece, because I should have linked to it. Adding to the post in an update.

  • Iowa Democrats and Factory Farms

    Amen to that.