Jeff Cox sees Democrats “campaigning only on issues that reliable Democratic voters care about.” He thinks a winning message will require addressing broader concerns among Iowans. -promoted by desmoinesdem
In the past decade, the Democratic Party has lost control of both houses of the Iowa legislature as well as the governor’s office. It is difficult to overstate the damage that has been done to the people of Iowa by the Republicans. If they keep control of the governor’s office and legislature next November, they can add the judiciary to their list of conquests. When that happens, things will get even worse–much worse.
Here is how Democrats can take back control of the state. It is not enough to “flip” the state by raising money for Democrats. In addition to the essential task of raising enough money for campaigns, political parties must have something to say. Here is what Democrats should say between now and November in order to address the concerns of Iowans.
1. Campaign finance reform. Many Iowans, including independents and Republicans, regard the political system as rigged by a corporate financed electoral system. Democratic candidates for legislature and state-wide office should make it clear that they will accept no campaign contributions from corporations or from corporate political action committees–no exceptions. Democrats who have accepted corporate and corporate PAC contributions should give them back.
Successful Democrats around the country have done just that. A candidate must have enough money to run an election, but money alone does not win Elections. Who you stand for, and who you stand with, also matters. As Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said after her primary victory by 58 percent to 43 percent over an establishment Democratic incumbent in a New York Congressional district, we need a machine, but we also need a movement. (She was, depending on which account you read, outspent 10-1 or 18-1.)
2. Student debt. Young Iowans are burdened with a serious problem–they can’t afford to repay their student loans and can’t afford to get mortgages because of their student debt burden. If you don’t believe me, ask them. One thing that Iowa Democrats could do about this–and it is affordable–is make grades 13 and 14 tuition free, just like grades 11 and 12. Young Iowans pay directly about $75 million a year in community college tuition. With its multi-billion dollar budget, the state could easily make community colleges tuition free. That’s what Democrats should propose if we want to make Iowa a better place to live and win elections.
3. Job skills. Employers in Iowa are crying out for employees with skills. Young people are facing a low wage economy with little job security. Democrats could address both issues by eliminating tuition at community colleges (see above). Iowans in the job market with low wage jobs, student debt, and family obligations on their hands could go back to school part time, and get the skills needed for a better job, without worrying about further college debt. It is often difficult for prosperous liberals to believe that community college tuition is a deterrent, but they are entirely wrong. Free tuition at community colleges is a win-win situation that the state of Iowa can afford.
4. Health care insecurity. Iowans are facing chronic insecurity about access to health care. For many middle class Iowans Obamacare is unaffordable, and for many working people in Iowa Medicaid is inaccessible. It is a welfare program with all that implies. Who in Iowa is doing something about this issue? The Farm Bureau, a branch of the Republican Party, which is offering their members an insurance plan outside of the unaffordable Obamacare plans. It is not a very good plan, but it is affordable, and it is not means-tested (i.e. not welfare). Democrats should come up with a non-means tested state health insurance plan available to working people. If the Farm Bureau can do it, the Democratic Party can do it.
Here is the path to an electoral majority. Address the issues that Iowans care about, and they will vote for you. Democrats are counting on winning back control of the Iowa government on a simple swing of the pendulum. They are campaigning only on issues that reliable Democratic voters care about, i.e. improving Medicaid (which enrolls only one out of seven Iowans), restoring collective bargaining rights, and re-funding Planned Parenthood.
Every voter who cares about these issues is already planning to vote Democratic in November. These are all good ideas, but taken together, they do not look like a recipe for an electoral majority. Given the Democratic Party’s unwillingness to address the issues many Iowans care about, it looks like we will be required to do more than simply hope for a Democratic electoral majority. We should also pray for one.
An earlier version of this article appeared in the summer 2018 issue of The Prairie Progressive, Iowa’s oldest political newsletter. Subscriptions are $12 a year to Box 1945, Iowa City, IA 52245.
Top image: Photo posted on the Des Moines Area Community College Instagram feed.