Welcome New Friends, Tear Down Walls, Find the Common Ground

Bill Brauch, a member of the Iowa Democratic Party's State Central Committee and chair of the Third District Central Committee, adds his suggestions for rebuilding the party. -promoted by desmoinesdem

In the past few weeks Iowa Democrats have offered many great ideas to improve our party and election chances following the November 8 debacle. To the extent some of the following may be repetitive, it is only because certain ideas are screaming out to be adopted.

1. Incorporate our new Democrats! Bernie brought most of them into the process. They are so committed to making this a better state and nation. It is up to we party veterans to make them feel welcome. It is also up to the new folks to realize that we vets are not “the Establishment,” but, rather, (in many cases) older versions of themselves – folks who protested the Vietnam War, worked for peace, walked picket lines to support labor, protested the U.S. involvement in El Salvador and Nicaragua, and fought for civil and equal rights and the environment. There is so much more that binds us than separates us. Internal battles can only weaken the cause. We need “all hands on deck” to rebuild the party. Let’s link hands and get to work.

2. Beware of the “silo” effect! I am not referencing barn companions, nor our having added new caucuses in the party. I think that’s a good thing. Rather, the concern is much broader. With 99 different county central committees, 4 district central committees, scores of candidates for county, state and national office, and 49 other state democratic parties, Balkanization is the natural outcome. We don't speak with one voice but with dozens.

One way Republicans around the country have succeeded in recent years has been not only by simplifying their messages but by standardizing them across the nation. A great example is the bogus claim of voter fraud. Former Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz was not alone in making baseless claims of rampant voter fraud. Nearly every one of his Republican colleagues around the nation were making the same claim at the same time. We see Republican Governors doing the same things, over and over. Folks – this stuff is planned and standardized and, darned if it doesn't work. Democrats have simply not done as good a job in communicating our plans for Iowa or the nation. We Democrats won’t use standardization to give life to lies. But, we can learn from this by much better coordinating our messages within the state and among the states. Of course, what works well in coastal California may be irrelevant in Iowa. But surely, with strong state party leadership, working closely with the counties, districts and fellow state parties, we can agree on messages that more simply and strongly communicate what we offer the state and nation.

3. We need to focus like a laser on issues that cut across the state! To regain the majority we will need to place our greatest emphasis on issues that are common to urban and rural areas, and to folks regardless of race, age, sexual orientation, or religion. We don’t have to move to the middle ground so much as to the common ground. Identifying issues that are common to nearly all voters may be challenging, but they’re there. For example, everyone should be concerned about the astronomical increases in the past 15 years in the cost of a college education. Also, the great need for more good paying jobs should have broad and deep support. If we’ve learned anything from this election, it should be that it is time for Iowa Democrats to get back to basics – our message has to focus on liberty, education, justice, and jobs. (Maybe a four-word catch phrase isn’t all bad!)

4. Rather than building a wall up, let’s tear a wall down – the one between our party and its candidates! Talk about your silos, it sometimes seems as if the party structure and our candidates inhabit different worlds. Candidates need to attend party functions – at least sometimes. Many don’t ever seem to show, except maybe at annual dinners and conventions, and even then some are no-shows. That’s no way to treat volunteers. At the same time, county, district and state central committee members need to work more directly with candidates. Too often we seem to be competing for contributions and volunteers. The “coordinated campaign” sometimes seems anything but. Better coordination between the party and our candidates at all levels is a must, including to ensure that we're sharing a common message to the greatest extent possible.

5. All of us need to find ways of visiting voters where they live and even work. We see David Young getting out and about throughout the Third District. We can't cede vast areas of the state. To grow the party we need to find more ways of making Democrats visible even in very rural counties.

6. Finally, someone has to synthesize all the ideas that are being offered by folks who care, both in Iowa and elsewhere around the country. A great idea in Iowa’s First District is likely a great idea to be implemented state-wide. A good idea in Mississippi may be a good idea here, who knows. The IDP needs to devote paid staff to conducting idea research – to find out what’s working here, what’s working elsewhere, and to work with us all to share and implement these ideas. Those of us who are not paid IDP staff need to share our ideas and those we learn about with the IDP so that the information shared is uniform and broadly disseminated.

Democrats will be back, just as sure as the sun will shine over Iowa next summer. But we’ve got our work cut out for us this time. Let’s get to it!

Bill Brauch has been Chair of the Iowa Democrat's Third District Central Committee since 2010 and a member of the IDP State Central Committee since 2006. He is a private attorney living in Des Moines. Bill served as an Assistant Iowa Attorney General from 1987 through July 2015, retiring after serving his last 20 years as Director of the Consumer Protection Division.

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