What now?

Sue Dvorsky was Iowa Democratic Party chair from 2010 through the 2012 election cycle. She does not plan to endorse any of the candidates seeking to lead the party forward. -promoted by desmoinesdem

We’re Democrats. So it’s no surprise that there’s no shortage of ideas about how we got here, where we go from here, and how to move from here to there. I don’t have any answers, but I do have some thoughts on what kinds of qualities we’ll need in the leaders for that long, tough journey.

First, I think we need to dispense with the knee-jerk opposition to developing budget priorities that include a salary for the Chair. It is ridiculous to think that the CEO, COO, and chief development officer of a multi-million dollar operation should be acting as a volunteer. Further, it means that the narrowest sliver of qualified candidates can even consider serving. Both economically and geographically, the pool shrinks until it can fit in a Dixie cup. I never apologized for, or was the slightest bit uncomfortable about, discussing my salary with the State Central Committee. I raised it, I earned it, and the Party got every dime of it back in work product.

The next thing I think we’d best scuttle is any conversation about voting for the next chair on the basis of who he or she supported in the caucus of February 2016. Is this really going to be the watershed moment that defines forever whether one is in or out? In my experience, Iowans of both political parties proudly carry their history of caucus participation on their sleeves. Bob and I got married in 1988, but even then we didn’t split the church on who was with Paul Simon (all the right people) and those few hardy souls that were with Bruce Babbitt. One of the strengths of this Party is that we haven’t subjected our membership to a litmus test.

It is not possible to find all the qualifications that are needed for this task in one person. So I’d be looking for each of these candidates to articulate, in concrete functional terms, what their vision is for the next 2 to 4 years. I’d want to know how that translates into 2 or 3 big goals. Then I’d want to know what their staffing plan is to accomplish the goals they’ve set. And most importantly, I’d want to know how they plan to build or strengthen our relationships, both with our traditional partners, and with the many talented allies we have in and around progressive issues. Whose expertise will be tapped? What tasks can we ask our allies to shoulder? How will we hold ourselves and them accountable for progress toward the goal?

We have spent several cycles lurching from mid-term losses to presidential year recoveries. That model broke apart this year. The way back will be difficult, and I am suspicious of anyone who sugar-coats that reality.

Rebuilding a house, an organization, or a relationship, is always a series of steps. We can do this, but not unless we lay out the clearest possible plan, include the most people, and continually keep track of our progress.

About the Author(s)

Sue Dvorsky

  • Pick someone who wants the job

    I would simply recommend picking someone who actually wants the job, rather than someone who is just trying to build a resume to run for something else. I don’t mean this person should never run for anything else, but that should not be the motivation for seeking the position of chair of the Iowa Democratic Party.