Ruby Bodeker, the 2020 Democratic nominee in Iowa House district 75, is a prairie voice for working people and rural spaces and a co-host of the podcast We Live Here, Too. -promoted by Laura Belin
In the lead-up to the 2020 general election, many members of the Iowa Democratic Party (IDP) — including party leadership — had high hopes for a reckoning in our state in terms of weakening the Republican trifecta control. Flipping the Iowa House seemed within reach and IDP accordingly sunk millions of dollars into select races — mostly in urban districts.
Instead, the party suffered devastatig losses up and down the ballot and now finds itself down 59 seats to 41 in the Iowa House and 32 to 18 in the state Senate. Governor Kim Reynolds is not up for re-election until 2022.
There were voices sounding the alarm on this election prior to November 3. Mostly rural voices who had witnessed the erosion of the Democratic Party in their spaces and districts for years, if not decades.
Dear fellow Dem,
When you read a news story about tariffs, eminent domain or some awful #Trump policy hurting family farmers–please, don't say "how does your vote feel now?" Dems have been absent since 1908s farm crisis. Show up and be an ally.
— Jane Fleming Kleeb (@janekleeb) May 11, 2019
The state parties do it, too. Rural Dems and rural Americans more broadly are looked at with disdain by the establishment. Truth is, in Des Moines and in DC, they don’t have a clue what our people are going through. (They would if they talked to us). #DirtRoadDems https://t.co/JfeLz1iuIH
— C.J. Petersen (@cjforiowa) August 18, 2020
An Iowa organization that won't be named said I couldn't flip Iowa House District 72.
– Then I outraised my opponent.
– Then I was endorsed by @BarackObama.
– Then I outraised my opponent again.
Don't bet against women of color, we may surprise you.https://t.co/GedjxB0R5S
— Christina Blackcloud (@wanasattia) October 22, 2020
I'm tired of watching rural hospitals, grocery stores, post offices, salons and restaurants close.
I'm tired of feeling unheard by D.C. and Des Moines.
That is why I'm running, to be a voice at the table for rural Iowa.
— Chris Adcock ♥️ Rural Iowa (@VotesForAdcock) August 25, 2020
You know what rural Democratic candidates do a lot? We try to keep each other anchored to this party.
If you’re a Democrat in a rural area, you get this. Ceding entire districts to the other party is plain & simple poor leadership & it wasn’t always this way. #IOWA
— Ruby Bodeker for Iowa ?? (@RubyforIowa) October 20, 2020
This campaign has been about doing the hard work—work that’s not been prioritized by Democrats in rural America for too long. Instead of calling campaigns like mine “sacrificial lambs” as our state chair did last week, we need to get back in the arena.https://t.co/0SSmt7cAVb
— C.J. Petersen (@cjforiowa) November 1, 2020
It doesn’t feel good to witness the flatlining of our state party.
Rural Democrats are not happy about any of this.
We’re tired as dirt.
But being a rural Democrat means you plant prairie patches as a rule.
It means you know what it’s like being that single piece of metaphorical goldenrod somehow existing in a sea of corn.
It means you build on scorched earth as a rule.
The unfortunate reality is this feeling of being a #DirtRoadDem has now come for the entire Iowa Democratic Party. The rot that began in rural districts has made its way to urban seats with many in the state left wondering — what the hell happened?
We forgot our roots.
We forgot that fear breeds resentment.
We forgot to invest in every space.
Because sometimes it isn’t about just winning — to the tune of unheard-of dollars and cents.
It’s about keeping the entire ship afloat in the good times and the very bad.
It’s about standing up for the little guy — for the anchors on the landscape — lest they forget someone truly does care about them.
Conservative radio and media is a formidable foe — no doubt — but by ceding the rural spaces, IDP let Fox News and the like do the organizing for us. And everyday working Iowans now feel abandoned in more ways than one.
And when you feel abandoned, you reach for what is easy, for what pulls at your gut, for what your neighbor is doing.
But we as rural Democrats see hope.
There is a way out of this.
It won’t be easy nor quick.
It’s also not revolutionary.
Iowa is one of the birthplaces of prairie populism — that brand of Democratic politics that says the little guy deserves a chance, too — and the soil here doesn’t forget.
The ‘Rural Strategy for the Iowa Democratic Party’ working document presented below was created by a broad group of rural Iowa Democrats from across the state including voices in Adair, Adams, Benton, Buena Vista, Carroll, Cass, Cedar, Dickinson, Guthrie, Howard, Iowa, Linn, Montgomery, Page, Polk, Pottawattamie, Poweshiek, Tama, and Woodbury counties.
Our party cannot give up — the little guy depends on us to stand up for them against corporate power, against a government that has forgotten they matter.
And whether the little guy realizes this truth yet or not, we as a party need to remember.
The people of this state are depending on us.
Rural Strategy for the Iowa Democratic Party
IOWA DEMOCRATIC PARTY
Remember, there is no quick fix.
Rebuild our party by starting with the grassroots.
Top photo and picture of cattle provided by Ruby Bodeker and published with permission.