Randy Evans can be reached at DMRevans2810@gmail.com.
Not that she asked, but I have some advice for Rita Hart, the new chair of the Iowa Democratic Party.
Yes, Hart is an experienced practitioner of politics. She was twice elected to the Iowa Senate. She was the Democrats’ lieutenant governor candidate on the ticket with Fred Hubbell in 2018. And two years ago, she came within an eyelash—six votes—of winning a seat in Congress. She also is a former teacher and still farms with her husband near the Clinton County town of Wheatland.
Normally, I would trust the judgment of someone with her credentials on what her priorities should be as the Iowa Democrats’ top state leader. But this is the Iowa Democratic Party, and too many party activists, along with civic boosters and journalists, cling to the belief that the process of choosing presidential nominees absolutely and without question must begin in Iowa.
The pressure will be on Hart to try to reverse the decision of the Democratic National Committee's Rules and Bylaws Committee to reshuffle the party’s nomination calendar. The decision removed Iowa’s precinct caucuses as the lead-off event in the presidential selection process every four years.
But Hart should not waste even one minute trying to undo what has been done. The caucuses had long been unwieldy and failed to let all Democrats engage in the presidential nominating process.
Instead, Hart should focus on a much more important task: getting the Iowa party and its candidates back into shape to wage effective campaigns for seats in the legislature, in courthouses across Iowa, for top elective offices in state government, and for seats in the U.S. House and Senate.
The Iowa Democratic Party is a shadow of what it once was. After the beat-down in last November’s elections, the Republicans occupy all the U.S. Senate and U.S. House seats from Iowa, and all but one of the statewide elective offices. Nearly two-thirds of the members of the Iowa House and Iowa Senate have Rs after their names.
The picture for Democrats was not so bleak in the 1990s and in the first decade of the 21st century. Remember when Democrats Tom Vilsack and Chet Culver served as governor from 1999 through 2010? Have you forgotten that period from 2007 to 2011, when the party had a “trifecta” in state government, meaning it held the governor’s office and a majority of seats in both the Iowa House and the Iowa Senate?
Even after the trifecta ended, do you remember when the Democratic Party had a majority in the Iowa Senate, giving Democrats a voice that Republicans could not ignore when shaping legislative proposals from 2011 through 2016?
Yes, many people have enjoyed the state’s time in the national spotlight every four years, when presidential wannabes crisscross the state asking people to support them in the Democrats’ precinct caucuses. We enjoy seeing our cafes and coffee shops on national television as presidential candidates, and TV news celebrities, speak with folks about the next election. Our hometown pride kicks in when presidential candidates speak to crowds in local school gymnasiums where our kids play basketball.
But the Democratic caucuses have gotten more complicated since they began 50 years ago. It takes huge amounts of time and money to prepare for these events.
That is why some Democrats who are blue through and through make the case that the time party leaders and thousands of volunteers spend organizing and holding the caucuses would better be spent identifying, recruiting, and prepping good Democrats to win offices in Iowa.
Hart’s time would be better spent listening to Democrats in rural areas, who believe the party’s message has become too divisive for a state that has long tended to occupy the middle of the road.
She should worry more about helping independents and Democrats understand that the extreme messages they hear from candidates from both parties on the east and west coasts are not messages coming from the lips of her party’s candidates in Iowa.
And Hart can be successful if she marshals the armies of volunteers behind the caucuses in a couple thousand precincts and gets them to turn their attention, instead, to get-out-the-vote efforts on behalf of Democratic candidates.
It will be up to Hart to lead the way. Otherwise, her tenure as party chair will be as brief as that of her predecessors, and Democratic voters will be as despondent as they have been in recent elections.
There were signs last week that Hart may need more encouragement on what her priorities should be as state party chair. The Iowa Capital Dispatch reported that she said in a Q&A session with southwest Iowa Democrats last week, “We’ve got to continue to fight that fight for the first-in-the-nation status.”
I agree with this...
That bird has flown.
I’ve been one to think the “full Grassley” was an over-cooked joke. But it isn’t. The jocular old guy heads out (no doubt with a staffer or two) to every rural county and (despite being on the taxpayer’s dime) sits down with his supporters and presses the flesh. Not to find Iowans problems, of course, but to reaffirm their local’s commitment to turn out the vote. I know Rita is not running for the senate, but the county chairs need to be recharged and organize. I’ve been to all the presidential caucuses and knocked doors when I could. The irony is that, for me, the 2020 caucus was far better than the 2016. The phone app worked for our chair and we were all home byn10:00 ready for the news that didn’t come.
Evans says (correctly, I think), “That is why some Democrats who are blue through and through make the case that the time party leaders and thousands of volunteers spend organizing and holding the caucuses would better be spent identifying, recruiting, and prepping good Democrats to win offices in Iowa.” Yep. For sure. But there’s an “if” there. WILL volunteers spend spend their time identifying, recruiting, and prepping good Democrats to win offices in Iowa? I hope Rita leads in that direction.
"WILL volunteers spend spend their time identifying, recruiting, and prepping good Democrats to win offices in Iowa? I hope Rita leads in that direction."
HF 148 limiting opportunity to change party affiliation
This comment is more applicable to the general goals of the newly-elected chair of the party, but it is also important for this topic. I was looking at new bills filed recently and came across HF 148, which would require a change in party affiliation to be done 147 days before a primary election and not be changed until after the general election. I do not have accesss to the inside workings of the House or Senate, so never know which bills are going anywhere. However, given the progress of voting legislation in recent years, I wanted to make sure people were aware of this bill. I will comment on my personal view of this proposal. The deadline to register with a particular party would come shortly after the deadline for candidates to file for primaries. That is not enough time for a voter to assess who might be running opposed in a primary and then decide the importance of voting in that primary. For dedicated party members, this would not be a dilemma, but for people who vote for a person, rather than a party, it severely limits time for voters to learn about the candidates before needing to participate in an election.
Let's organize and support good candidates.
The Iowa Democrats presidential caucuses are confusing and off-putting for people new to the process.
Dems, we need to support good candidates and get them elected.
Need more mainstream candidates - not the woke fringe
Need a return to the mainstream. Embrace patriotism, support the military and law enforcement. Reach out to rural voters instead of name calling. More focus on middle class economic issues instead of pronouns and race.