Chad Cooper is a Cedar Rapids resident, writer, and lifelong progressive. -promoted by Laura Belin
The Iowa Democratic Party has had a rough year. First, the bungling of last February’s caucuses, and now a dismal showing in races across the state on November 3.
The elevation and financial backing of moderate, middle-of-the-road candidates clearly isn’t a winning strategy. It’s not effectively motivating progressives or swinging undecided and independent voters in this state. While U.S. Representative Abby Finkenauer’s loss in the first Congressional district is befuddling given her record of diligent work for Iowans, and Rita Hart’s fate is dangling by narrow margins in the second Congressional district, the campaigns of Hart, U.S. Senate candidate Theresa Greenfield, and J.D. Scholten in the fourth district were lackluster affairs from the beginning.
Those candidates peddled a compromising work-with-anyone message that has come to commonly serve as a euphemism for inaction and political expediency. Finkenauer applied a similar approach and found herself on the losing end in 2020 against a proven plagiarist. Meanwhile, there are issues in this country and state that demand urgent action, including social justice, human rights, environmental protection, and true universal affordable healthcare.
Democrats are worried about continuing to lose ground in rural counties, but that concern appears short-sighted. The demographic trends in Iowa show a state losing rural population as young people either move to larger metro areas or leave the state entirely. Iowa Democrats are chasing a diminishing, albeit entrenched, population. And, what good is appealing to rural voters if it means undercutting your principles? In just this last election cycle, we saw candidates like Greenfield and Hart stiff arm issues like police reform and single-payer health insurance to avoid rustling rural feathers.
Democrats are too busy running from Republican accusations of socialism and “radical liberalism” instead of doubling down and convincing voters across the state that progressive policies will actually benefit them and their families. Democrats have allowed Republicans to set the field of play, and they’re wondering why they’re losing?
The state and national Democratic Party are in moderation stasis. Even in a year with record voter participation, Iowa Democrats lost ground in the state. It appears the Iowa Democratic Party and prominent Democrats are unwilling to commit to truly progressive candidates to motivate young people, attract voters to the state, and transform the base for fear of alienating moderate voters and offending myopic rural sensibilities. Instead, they seem content pursuing the fading rural vote while rearranging the deck chairs on the sinking ship of political moderation. Good luck with that.
Top photo of Chad Cooper provided by the author and published with permission.