Nate Boulton and the party that promoted him

Sydney Devine reacts to the Iowa Senate Democratic caucus electing State Senator Nate Boulton as one of five assistant minority leaders last month. -promoted by Laura Belin

The Iowa Democratic Party has failed me. As a reliable Democratic voter who supports women’s issues, why should I continue to be a Democrat? I remember when Nate Boulton suspended his campaign for governor when multiple women came forward, as published in the Des Moines Register, and shared stories of egregious sexual misconduct – reports verified by an eyewitness in one case.

There are so many passionate Democrats who can unite and engage progressives. We simply do not need Boulton, or harassers like him. But how does the party respond? They promote him to Senate leadership. How does the party not find someone to challenge him in the primary?

I am disappointed in every Democrat who voted for advancing Nate Boulton to leadership. The Iowa Democratic Party should be a party that advocates and supports women’s issues and supports candidates who live these values. The next state party chair should advocate for the right of women to exist without being groped and sexualized against their will and support only candidates that live these values.

The future party chair should look for ways to ensure Democratic primaries are competitive, to ensure only deserving candidates have leadership opportunities within the party. The chair should also implement funding guidelines that prioritizes supporting candidates who do not carry verified and reported sexual abuse allegations.

My heart is with the lovely women who spoke up in 2018. I wish the Iowa Democratic Party had learned from the #MeToo movement, but my message to those women: know you have allies who will not forget you and will fight for you.

If the Iowa Democratic Party wants my vote and for me to engage my peers, the party must condemn Boulton’s promotion.

Sydney Devine is a Grinnell College alum with a passion to see a more equitable society and bring that to reality in Des Moines. Desire to dismantle oppressive systems and promote the arts. Recognize that all issues are intersectional issues, from antitrust to antiracism, feminism to environmentalism. She made the dress in this picture, because making and fixing are rebellious acts in a capitalist society.

Top image: State Senator Nate Boulton at the Women’s March near the Iowa state capitol on January 20, 2018. Photo by Phil Roeder available via Wikimedia Commons CC BY 2.0 .

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  • Query --

    Whether Senator Boulton was ever charged with a crime;

    Whether any of the allegations were proven;

    Whether any — or all — of the alleged victims were Republicans, who came out with these allegations just before a primary;

    Whether there has been any untoward conduct during his time as a Senator, or as a married man;

    Whether this “me too” “zero tolerance/if a woman said it, it’s true” tactic has been re-evaluated over the past few years, and determined, by the women who pursued it, to have been overly simplistic and unfair;

    Whether dogging a male State Senator over something that may never have happened, just because more than one person said something happened to them, coincidentally just before a primary, is promoting women’s issues, or whether it is using a male in a position of power to make a point about the potential for sexual abuse or harassment is so likely with men in a position of power — such that the male in a position of authority;.

    If the latter then, whether, when it comes your time to be accused of something, because “the larger picture demands it,” are you ready for equal backlash, if you are falsely accused?

    I suggest that none of us are.

    There is no denying he is a good Senator, on-time, present, with great ideas and the ability to get things done. There is no denying he has been a model Senator, husband, father and citizen since he was first elected.

    But with regard to whether this story that you seek to keep alive is true, there is plenty of room for denial, given reality.

    • Response--

      Hello Bill from White Plains – Thank you for reading. What does it take to be proven? Verbatim from Nate Boulton to the DMR,

      ‘“I don’t have the same recollection,” he told the Register. “But I am not going to offer any additional context to this, other than to say if someone’s perspective is that it was inappropriate and I crossed a line and I misread a situation in a social setting, I do apologize.”’

      Boulton then dropped out of the governors race. I think to question whether the situation happened is unfair. In a long interview with the DMR Boulton confirmed that he is not denying these allegations happened. There is room to forgive him for his actions, however, I do not. I vehemently deny that he is a good Senator and that he is a model Senator. To me, a model Senator does not have a history of abusing women. Additionally, I think a Senator worth supporting would have come forward and offer a detailed account of what they did wrong and offer a sincere apology. I am not here for a generic, “I remember it differently, I’m sorry you felt that way.”

      I also want to point out that dozens of women, some recounting multiple instances of rape and abuse by Harvey Weinstein ultimately led to him being convicted for just one count of rape and one count of criminal sexual assault. Weinstein is a horrendously egregious example, but it was just allegations until they weren’t. If the two incidences that landed him with a conviction did not happen, but the rest did, where would we be? Policy and courts are notoriously bad at offering women justice and society is not always that much better. However, the IDP should hold themselves and their leaders to a higher standard.

  • Allegations should be proved or ignored

    The DMR published these allegations in 2018 about incidents that the accusers alleged to have happened years before. We cannot keep destroying people’s careers based on unproven allegations that are basically she-said-he-said of incidents that happened years before. I say this as someone who has dealt with these issues over a 35+ year career in technology. Enough. We need to teach everyone respect and look forward not keep looking back and judging with today’s standards.

    • ...Ignored?

      Leslie Dow – Thank you for reading. I agree we need to teach everyone respect. We especially need to teach all people to love and respect womxn, because far too often they are victimized. Today’s standards are not new. It was inappropriate to grab women in a sexual manner without their consent a 100 years ago and it still is inappropriate. In my post I am specifically reacting to his promotion, which should not have happened. I do not believe Nate Boulton’s career will be destroyed, clearly, he has been able to do fine despite acknowledging the accusations and issuing one of the longest – ‘I acknowledge the accusations, but will not add context and I’m sorry they felt that way, not for anything I may have done’ [not an exact quote, but equally revelatory].

      However, the important thing to remember is, if there are negative effects to his career, he did it to himself. In this case, it is not the fault of any women and only the fault of Nate Boulton, the man responsible.

      I also want to acknowledge the long-term repercussions sexual assault can have on survivors. Nate Boulton should have missed out on a promotion, but didn’t. We do not know what harm the women who he victimized have lived through. Everyone reacts differently. It is not uncommon for people who are assaulted to have lingering doubts about the attention they receive. For an excellent perspective on the harm some survivors experience, I recommend listening to The Washington Post’s seven-part podcast, Canary.

  • Sorry to see you go

    Are you suggesting that there is some kind of systemic problem within the elected Democratic legislators of Iowa? Is it actually the Iowa Democratic Party which elevated Mr. Bolton? Is there any passionate or compassionate person within the Democratic Party who has not felt that ‘the party’ or an individual elected official has failed them in some personally important issue or aspect?. But what are the results and remaining options, if IDP, especially in rural communities at the local level, continues to lose any or all individuals who are reaching some kind of personal breaking point?

    • I'll still be here <3

      Hello Barry – thank you for reading and engaging. I will do my best to answer your questions. This is how I think of it – not all Republicans loved Trump, but I hold the Republican Party accountable for elevating Trump and the policies he pushed for, from lowering taxes for the wealthy to opening the Arctic for drilling, which in turn shows a systemic problem within the GOP. This is because allowing Trump to do these things when leader of the GOP reflects on all who identify with the party he leads. This is true for Nate Boulton, whom, like Trump, is also known for harassing women. The IDP, in a similar manner is holding him up and advancing his career. This is regardless of whether other elected Dems approved of his promotion or not. If they are not actively condemning his promotion, they are ensuring his continued influence – this reflects poorly on the entire party.

      Senator Janet Peterson, Iowa Senate Minority Leader, called on him to resign. He did not and the IDP as a whole allowed everything to just go on. Nate Boulton is a Des Moines based Senator and attorney and as such he will not be the one who is able to bridge rural and urban Democrats. For that, we should all find out what we can about the candidates for the IDP Chair and make sure the new leader is not only one who can inspire, but knows the support rural candidates need. Additionally, the new IDP Chair needs to understand the harm promoting Nate Boulton does to all women who have experienced sexual violence and who vote Democratic, because they want to advance women’s political interests. I only know of two IDP Chair candidates so far, Brett Copeland and Amber Gustafson. Thus far, I favor Brett who is chair of Dickinson County Democrats and has actively engaged in the #MeToo movement as shown by this Bloomberg article.

  • Disappointment happens

    Research indicates that no group votes for Democrats more reliably than the group of voters who put the environment at or very close to the top of their issues list. And voters who fit that description, and who gave time and/or money to the Democratic Party during this last election cycle, are finding out today that Tom Vilsack will be the next Secretary of Agriculture.

    There is serious disappointment online. But I suspect that few will leave the Party over this. Most will work to make the best of it.

  • Failure to deny

    A failure to deny an allegation is not an admission. Neither is a statement about recalling something differently. Neither does the Senator’s dropping out of a Governor’s race he could not win, given the hyper-sensitive nature of the allegations, at the peak of the “Me Too” movement, which even its founders have admitted was assumed too much, with too little information and unintended results. Finally, that you earnestly seek to find that Senator Boulton admitted something does not mean that he did.

    So, you say things like, “I vehemently deny that he is a good Senator and that he is a model Senator [because, t]o me, a model Senator does not have a history of abusing women. Here again, your syllogism assumes the abuse of women occurred. It also assumes, as it must, that but-for women accusing Senator Boulton of abusing them, he is “a good Senator and . . . a model Senator.”

    I again ask you to review the queries I provided and answer them, to yourself. It seems undeniable that you want Senator Boulton to have abused these and other women, but you don’t know that he did, and you are publicly criticizing him for engaging in behavior in which he may never have engaged.

    It is not unfair to ask you to consider whether you, or anybody, are prepared to be wrongly accused of something heinous, and determined by many, in public fora, to have done that heinous thing. I suggest to you that the first thing you would do would be to drop out and isolate for a while. Without knowing, myself, it looks to me like that is what Senator Boulton did with respect to the gubernatorial campaign.

    Finally, it is appropriate to address your statement, “the harm promoting Nate Boulton does to all women who have experienced sexual violence and who vote Democratic.” Aren’t you really just saying that you need to sacrifice Senator Boulton as a symbol of the sexual violence and harassment that you and women fear, as opposed to not promoting him because he is the actual offender?

    Are you prepared to have false allegations dog you for years on end, on the basis doing so is important to the cause?

    I can’t answer these questions for you and you can’t avoid them by pursuing Senator Boulton as if he did that of which he is accused.

    Therein is the space for serious reflection, because none of us are free of those who would destroy us in an effort to promote themselves and their ideals.

    • Stop protecting rape culture

      Sharon Wegner, a lawyer, under penalty of perjury, filed this complaint:

      As reported in The Register – Wegner is a democrat.