As a kid, I would watch with a mixture of wonder and horror as my Irish kin butchered chickens. Spellbound by a headless hen running around the yard, I once asked, “How can she do that, run around like that. Isn’t she dead?”
“Well, Eddie,” said a cousin in his lilting brogue. “It’s like that movie you watch back in the States, where your good witch drops a house on your bad witch, and the little coroner man comes out and declares, ‘She’s not only merely dead, she’s really most sincerely dead.’”
For the record, I would never butcher a chicken that way. But the memory conjures up an appropriate metaphor for the Iowa Democratic Party (IDP). The corporate “Establishment” that has controlled the Party is not only merely dead, but really most sincerely dead.
Yet the Establishment doesn’t realize it — or perhaps it’s simply pretending not to realize it. The Establishment hopes you won’t notice. It hopes you’ll buy the lie that conflicting elements within the Party simply need to come together and everything will be fine. It hopes somehow that its hegemony will continue, despite all signs that it is headless and hemorrhaging.
But we know better. The Democratic Establishment is defunct. It has been for years, running around in circles, creating the illusion that it’s still alive and viable. But the reality is now too obvious to ignore.
From a political perspective, a quick look at numbers and election results make it clear that the IDP is a failure. Of even greater concern, from a policy perspective, the IDP is a failure as well.
Under Establishment control, the IDP has turned its back on populist concerns while kowtowing to big business. The Party platform reflects the will of the grassroots, mostly. Yet the Party’s elected leadership has ignored that platform and pursued an anti-populist agenda. As a result, Iowa has moved from a slightly blue state to one that is as solid red as Nebraska.
But hope is on the horizon. The number of progressive populists within the IDP’s leadership is increasing. It is time for them — and for all rank-and-file Democrats, plus those of us who left the Party in disgust — to call out the Establishment’s lie.
It’s time to turn the page on this sad chapter of IDP history, when corporatists took control and ran the Party into the ground.
It’s time to ignite a revival that unites rural and urban concerns under one progressive, populist banner.
It’s time to stop pushing an agenda for the economic and political elite, and instead focus on the concerns of the vast majority of Iowans who have seen their influence grow less and less as the grip of monied interests grows stronger.
The first step in this revival comes on January 21. The 49 members of the IDP State Central Committee (SCC) will vote that day for a new Party chair. If SCC members elect an Establishment candidate (former State Senator Mike Gronstal being the most glaring example), then expect continued exodus from the Party.
Expect continued losses in elections and Republican dominance.
Saddest of all, expect continued failure of the policy changes Iowans are hungry for, changes that are long overdue, changes opposed or ignored by the Establishment in both parties.
* Restricting the influence of money in politics;
* Reining in the abuse of eminent domain;
* Defending local livable-wage ordinances;
* Returning control of Medicaid to the public;
* Allowing local control over the siting of corporate-owned hog confinements.
If the 49 members of the IDP State Central Committee get it right, citing another avian metaphor would be in order:
The Phoenix rising from the ashes.