IA-01: Jeff Danielson on "raging incrementalism" and Iowa Democrats' culture problem

Iowa Democrats “need to have a good family fight about what the future of our party’s going to be” and ditch the “canned messages” used in too many losing campaigns, according to State Senator Jeff Danielson. Re-elected to a fourth term in the Iowa Senate last year, Danielson is the highest-profile Democrat still thinking about running in the first Congressional district, where four candidates are already challenging Representative Rod Blum and two others recently ruled out the race. He spoke to Bleeding Heartland this week about his plans and how Democrats can regain the trust of voters who increasingly see our party as out of touch.

Danielson’s critique of the Democratic establishment has much in common with points often raised by Iowans who supported Bernie Sanders for president. But his call for “raging incrementalism” and reaching across the aisle is quite different from the ambitious policy agenda typically viewed on the Sanders wing as the solution to the same problem.

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Rest in peace, Joy Corning

Joy Corning was independent. As a state senator and lieutenant governor, she didn’t cater to social conservatives who were gaining strength in the Republican Party of Iowa during the 1980s and 1990s. She paid a price for her principles when she ran for governor in 1998 and got no support from Terry Branstad, along whose side she had served for eight years. She would have been a great governor.

Joy was empathetic. Long before she ran for office, she was a young stay-at-home mom when her husband came home from work with awful news: a woman in their community had died of complications from a back-alley abortion, leaving a husband to raise three children alone. Joy couldn’t stop thinking about that mother. The tragedy fueled her dedication to protecting reproductive rights. “Whatever the circumstances of the unintended pregnancy, we cannot experience the hardship and struggle faced by some women who make this decision. We are simply not in their shoes,” Joy wrote in a guest column for the Des Moines Register this year.

Joy was fair-minded. She was among the first prominent members of her party to support marriage equality in Iowa. During the 2010 campaign, she and former Democratic Lieutenant Governor Sally Pederson co-chaired the Justice Not Politics coalition, supporting the retention of Iowa Supreme Court justices who were under attack after striking down our state’s Defense of Marriage Act.

Joy was fact-oriented. While watching the Republican presidential debates, she was repelled by Donald Trump’s “know-it-all demeanor when he really doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” She came out publicly as #NeverTrump last September and shortly before the election co-authored an editorial endorsing Hillary Clinton, in part because of Trump’s “demagoguery,” “racism, nationalism, misogyny and discrimination against people with disabilities.”

Joy was committed. Some politicians leave the state after their ambitions don’t pan out, but Joy stayed in Iowa and volunteered countless hours for many causes over the last eighteen years. In her obituary, she wrote that she was “most passionate about issues related to children and families, women’s health & rights, equality and justice, education and the arts.” For friends who are inspired to make contributions in her memory, she suggested the Planned Parenthood of the Heartland Foundation, Plymouth Church Foundation, UNI Foundation, or the Des Moines Symphony Foundation. Joy was also a founding board member of 50/50 in 2020, a non-profit seeking to elect more women in Iowa, as well as a founding member of an advisory board for the University of Iowa’s center for gifted education, named in part after my mother. (Joy and my mother became friends when both served on school boards during the 1970s–Joy in Cedar Falls, my mother in West Des Moines. I didn’t get to know Joy until many years later, when I served on a fundraising committee she chaired for what was then called Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa.)

Joy was kind. Former Planned Parenthood leader Jill June recalled her motto: “If you can’t say something nice, be vague.” That approach to life wouldn’t produce good blog content, but it did make Joy a wonderful human being.

After the jump I’ve posted many other reflections on Joy Corning’s legacy. Please share your own memories in this thread.

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Kim Reynolds dismisses Trump concerns as "clutter," "distractions"

Poll after poll shows Donald Trump losing badly among women voters, even among white college-educated women, often a Republican-leaning group. But the most powerful women in Iowa Republican politics remain united behind the GOP presidential nominee.

Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds said yesterday that Iowans should “focus on what’s important” rather than on concerns about Trump she characterized as “clutter” and “distractions.” The likely future candidate for governor should never be allowed to forget that she dismissed flaws many prominent Republicans outside Iowa have acknowledged are disqualifying.

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Former Lieutenant Governor Joy Corning joins #NeverTrump camp

Donald Trump is too ignorant to be president, according to former Lieutenant Governor Joy Corning, the most prominent Iowa Republican to disavow the GOP nominee.

Corning served six years in the Iowa Senate, then eight years as lieutenant governor during Terry Branstad’s third and fourth terms. Since unsuccessfully seeking the GOP nomination for governor in 1998, she has held leadership roles in numerous non-profit organizations. As a pro-choice moderate, she has been increasingly outnumbered within Iowa GOP ranks. Nevertheless, she supported every Republican presidential nominee from Dwight D. Eisenhower through John McCain, Corning told Bleeding Heartland yesterday in a telephone interview. Despite voting for President Barack Obama in 2012, she never left the Republican Party and endorsed Jeb Bush before this year’s Iowa caucuses.

Corning said she realized while watching the Republican debates that Trump was not a candidate she could ever support. As for why, she cited his “know-it-all demeanor when he really doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” Had she ruled out voting for him by the time he locked up the GOP nomination? “Oh, yes. Yes.”

Like State Senator David Johnson, who came out against Trump this summer, Corning declined to state publicly for whom she will vote in November.

After Jeb Bush announced in May that he would not support Trump, I sought comment from State Senator Charles Schneider and the six Iowa House Republicans who had endorsed the former Florida governor before the caucuses. Schneider said, “I intend to vote for Trump assuming he is the nominee,” while State Representative Greg Forristall likewise confirmed he “will vote for the Republican nominee.” State Representative Dave Heaton commented at that time, “It’s pretty hard for us to turn our back on the party’s selection, so I probably would support [Trump].” State Representatives Zach Nunn, Linda Miller, and Ron Jorgensen did not respond to my inquiries.

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Weekend open thread: New jobs for former Iowa lawmakers edition

What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

Looking through Governor Terry Branstad’s latest set of appointments and nominations, I was again struck by how many former Iowa House and Senate members end up on state boards and commissions. I remember Governors Tom Vilsack and Chet Culver appointing lawmakers to high-profile jobs too, but the trend seems more pronounced under the current governor. Background and details on the new appointees are after the jump.

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