The way forward for Iowa Democrats

Alexandra Dermody is a Davenport based Gen Z activist, nonprofit director, and small business owner.

In the aftermath of the 2022 midterms, and with the 2024 elections fast approaching, the Iowa Democratic Party finds itself at a crucial juncture. With a series of losses in the state legislature and down-ballot offices, and a lack of diverse candidates, the party must address its shortcomings to regain momentum and build a more inclusive and modern base.

I’ll delve into the current and future prospects of the Iowa Democratic Party from my own perspective as a community organizer and activist, emphasizing the need for diversity, youth engagement, and policy alignment to revitalize its influence and win key seats.

Who needs to be reached: To rejuvenate the party and build a stronger future, it is crucial for the Iowa Democratic Party to proactively reach out to underrepresented demographics. Gen Z and Millennials, women, BIPOC individuals, and LGBTQ+ people are dynamic and diverse segments of the population, offering unique perspectives and untapped potential.

Engaging with those demographics not only ensures fair representation but also brings fresh ideas, innovation, and an understanding of the challenges faced by marginalized communities. It is through their involvement that the party can truly embrace inclusivity and pave the way for progressive change.

Benefits of tapping into and engaging with these demographics: Actively involving Gen Z and Millennials, women, BIPOC individuals, and LGBTQ+ people in the Iowa Democratic Party brings numerous benefits. These groups bring a wealth of diverse experiences and perspectives, enriching the party's platform and policies. By embracing their voices, the party can better understand and address the needs of a wider range of constituents.

Furthermore, real-world success stories of LGBTQ+ candidates and young trailblazers winning elections serve as powerful examples of the impact and potential of embracing diversity in leadership. By inspiring others and breaking down barriers, these success stories encourage individuals from these communities to step up, run for office, and contribute to the party's growth.

Who not to recruit: Recognizing the limitations of an aging and non-diverse candidate pool is crucial for the Iowa Democratic Party. While experience is valuable, it is equally important to recruit candidates who can connect with and represent the diverse perspectives of the electorate. Voters often seek representatives who reflect their values and lived experiences.

By actively recruiting young people and candidates from marginalized groups, the party can bridge the gap and effectively resonate with the population at large. These candidates bring a fresh perspective, understanding, and authenticity that can contribute to the party's success and strengthen its relationship with voters.

Potential future prospects: If the Iowa Democratic Party prioritizes recruiting and supporting young, LGBTQ+, BIPOC, and female candidates, it has the potential to transform its electoral prospects. A more diverse candidate pool can establish a stronger connection with voters, as it represents and understands the experiences of a broader range of constituents.

By embracing these candidates, the party not only enhances its platform but also fosters a more inclusive and representative democracy. The potential for increased electoral success, community engagement, and progressive change is significant when the party taps into the talents and perspectives of these underrepresented groups.

The policy issues that matter: Regaining popular support requires the Iowa Democratic Party to prioritize policy issues that resonate with the electorate. By focusing on widely popular progressive issues, such as ensuring accessible health care, affordable education, cannabis legalization, racial justice, reproductive rights, protections for gender identity and sexual orientation, climate action, and economic equity, the party can rally support from a broad cross-section of Iowans.

Aligning the party's agenda with the needs and aspirations of the population at large is key to winning hearts and minds. By championing these issues, the party can demonstrate its commitment to addressing the pressing concerns of everyday Iowans and pave the way for a more prosperous and equitable future.

Overcoming challenges and barriers: Running diverse and young candidates for office may face various challenges, including financial constraints and perceived misconceptions. Overcoming these obstacles requires concerted efforts. It involves debunking stereotypes and showcasing the value and potential these candidates bring to the table.

Additionally, forging policies that specifically address the concerns of Iowans, involving grassroots initiatives, and fostering community support are essential steps in breaking down barriers to diversity and inclusion. By addressing these challenges head-on, the party can create an environment that embraces and empowers candidates from all backgrounds, ensuring a more inclusive and representative political landscape.

The future success of the Iowa Democratic Party hinges on our unwavering commitment to acknowledging our shortcomings and actively striving for change. It is imperative that we embrace the power of diversity, engage with underrepresented demographics, prioritize popular policy issues, and overcome barriers that stand in our way.

Now is the time to seize this opportunity and embark on a transformative journey to build a more inclusive, representative, and forward-thinking Democratic Party in Iowa. Our sense of urgency is fueled by the need to regain key seats in the 2024 elections and restore a sense of sanity, democracy, and normalcy. Together, we will stand against the loud minority of far-right extremists who have taken control of our state, and we will pave the way for a brighter future where the voices of all Iowans are heard and respected.

Top photo of the Iowa Democratic Party's headquarters on Fleur Drive in Des Moines is by Kevin McGovern and available via Shutterstock.

  • identity politics = permanent minority status

    Even the most obtuse Iowa Democrat should realize by now we need to "cast a wider net" to win elections in Iowa. The constant pandering of identity politics has given the GOP compete control of the state house, our congressional delegation, and Terrace Hill for the foreseeable future. As the saying goes "if you find yourself in a hole, stop digging."

  • I look forward to reading...

    ...the second part of the BH series on Iowa swing voters. I'm interested in what resonates with those voters, who are apparently numerous enough in Iowa to potentially swing some local elections.

    I'd also be very interested in more viewpoints from Iowa Democratic volunteer activists who are working to win local elections, especially in areas that were electing Democrats to office thirty years ago and no longer do. Is there any consensus among such activists, around the state, regarding what needs to happen for Democrats to win elections again?

  • defund the police, reparations, pronouns, and the extreme leftwing clown car

    Some interesting comments on this one. IDP continues to let the lunatics drive the party into the ditch and then complain about how the republicans control everything statewide.

  • Red herrings...

    ModerateDem mentions "defund the police" and "reparations." Did ANY Democrats running for the Iowa Legislature run on that platform? Because I am not aware of any. Not one.
    Pronouns? How freaking hard is it to use different pronouns? I screw it up frequently, and trans folks always show me grace. No one is asking much from us here.
    So, I'm curious. Are Iowa Democrats going to buy what ModerateDem is selling? Or Alexandra Dermody? Or is there room in the IDP for both? (I believe there is.)

  • Rural voters

    Like it or not the key to winning elections in Iowa is to gain the support of rural voters. Just look at a colored map of Iowa voting results. There are a few blue islands in urban areas surrounded by a sea of red. Democrats need to reach out to rural voters and speak to their interests without pandering to them. This is admittedly a difficult task. Republicans have spent many years creating a false narrative about Democrats. It will take some work to overcome that. With all due respect to Ms. Dermody, emphasizing youth, gender and racial issues, is not going to do it. That is not so say that Democrats should run from those issues, but it would be better for Democrats to campaign on issues that really affect the lives of rural voters. And make no mistake, that is a progressive agenda, not a moderate one.

  • Who not to recruit?!!

    Are you kidding me?? This is freaking Iowa! If you want a majority of the votes, you need to reach out to a majority of the voters. When you say "Who not to recruit", you are being as blind as the most ignorant Republicans. Appeal to the issues of even the lily white, heterosexual, rural voter. There are plenty of problems that they face that the MAGA crowd has not, and will not address. Rural health care, environmental and water quality issues?? Education??? We need to broaden our vision of what needs to be addressed, not narrow it.

  • new leaders?

    We have Auditor Sand and a few star legislators but the Republican bench is deep and ours seems to be non-existent. The party needs to identify some young leaders (even if they don't have much of a political background) to recruit to run for office. If only we could find someone with the integrity and focus on public service of a John Culver or Bob Ray - anyone like that to save us from oblivion!

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