Pete McRoberts: "it is absolutely essential that we as party activists affirmatively stop this problem from simply getting hidden among everything else going on, and from turning into just “one more thing." -promoted by desmoinesdem
We are all aware of Dave Jamison’s terrible actions that led to his firing as Iowa Finance Authority director in March. Since then, Jamison appealed his case, for unemployment insurance purposes. Administrative Judge Nicole Merrill ruled against Jamison yesterday, and her decision is a study in contrasts. One piece of the judge's ruling jumped out at me. The person doing the firing believed the woman when she said she had been harassed; so the offender was fired.
We Democrats have a similar problem to fix.
There is nothing I or anyone can add to the extensive coverage about the former candidate for governor, State Senator Nate Boulton, other than to add to the long list of people who have offered support for the women who willingly took very private matters into the public sphere. They have earned the right to go on with their lives and to have their privacy back. People believed the women; so, Boulton’s candidacy for governor was over.
Boulton’s party leader, Janet Petersen, is the highest-ranking Democrat in the Iowa Senate. She has publicly said Boulton should resign, and she was right to do so. She has said that if he does not resign, she, and the Iowa Senate, will follow any and all allegations, all the way to where they end. Boulton should believe her.
It is unusual that Boulton is still an elected official in our state, and that he is still a public representative of our party. Given the credibility of the women, and the immediate and strong response from party leadership, it is obvious that Boulton would not be a legislator at this moment without loud and powerful voices pressing hard that he stay put. I can hear the conversation - I bet it goes something like this:
“Boulton got railroaded. He was on track to being governor and last-minute accusations derailed it. He’ll never get to be the governor but he’s suffered enough. He shouldn’t get punished twice for his mistakes.”
That simply can’t be allowed to become our default position.
To be clear, I am one of many who was proud of Boulton’s ability to put a human face on some very complex things at the Iowa legislature related to labor. I supported a different candidate for governor but believed that he and the other young legislators seeking higher office were right to do so. It reflected well on our party that we had a full bench.
Boulton has also spent a significant amount of his own professional life helping people who needed it, and earned the support he had, particularly from the labor movement he skillfully represented. All of this is true, but it can’t be used as any justification for a soft-landing after the collapse of his campaign--it can't be used as an excuse. It also can’t be used as some kind of off-ramp for us, that we take when we decide that our values only apply here and there. We all, instinctively, know that is wrong. We need to follow our instincts.
It is also important to remember that on day one of the legislature next year, the investigation starts. The women who bravely put their names in the Des Moines Register did so understanding they would be scrutinized. They were also criticized and frequently even blamed. The initial Register piece was published in May of 2018. Next year’s legislative session is scheduled to go to the end of April. That would mean these women stay in the newspapers for nearly a year. They didn’t choose to become public figures the way a legislator or politician does. They deserve their privacy back, and shame on anyone who gets in the way of their abilities to do that.
For those reasons, it is absolutely essential that we as party activists affirmatively stop this problem from simply getting hidden among everything else going on, and from turning into just "one more thing." It will never get fixed like that and it will never go away. It will continue to hurt people. Let's even just look at the newspaper this very week, and then ask ourselves, “How are we doing on this front?” The contrast is as plain as day: someone makes terribly lewd comments. A woman comes forward to ask for help. The offender is gone. Why? Because someone with power believed her.
What about us?
Well, we can't fire a legislator - yet - but we have power, too. About 176,000 people voted in the recent Democratic primary. There is no need for any of us to defer to anyone else’s judgment or political influence here, and there is no excusing it if we do so - this is strictly on us. We have to use our power in a way that helps people, and that is consistent with our values. We have to use that power and insist that Boulton immediately resign his seat in the Iowa Senate.
Pete McRoberts is a policy attorney in Des Moines who has worked in legislative, Congressional, and statewide offices.