Dems could (again) blow clear shot at victory

Dear Friends,

“This whole election is so volatile, and so many people dislike Clinton that it could go that way. I mean, Trump could win.” — Ed Fallon on August 25, 2016

That’s my quote in a Bleeding Heartland story published nearly two years ago, when almost no one thought Donald Trump could prevail against Hillary Clinton’s juggernaut. Sadly, many Iowa Democrats learned nothing from that election. Now many Democrats are lining up behind Fred Hubbell — the one candidate who could lose to Kim Reynolds in November, despite Reynolds’ extreme vulnerability.

Democrats must have missed 2016’s most teachable moment: failing to notice that the candidate tagged as “status quo” (whether true or false) loses.

The Trump-Clinton election shouldn’t have been needed for Democrats to learn this lesson. Remember John Kerry? Bruce Braley? If you come off as the elite candidate you lose — even against a draft dodger like George W. Bush or an unknown state senator like Joni Ernst. Perception trumps reality.

Fred Hubbell

Unfortunately, with Fred Hubbell, perception is reality. There is no way Fred can hide his upper-crust credentials.

Personally, I like Fred. I’ve known him and his wife, Charlotte, since the 1980s. They’ve been financially supportive of my work and once hosted a house party for a nonprofit I directed. I feel bad that I have to say these things.

But the importance of this election compels me to speak bluntly and truthfully to Iowa Democrats. If you nominate Hubbell on June 5, our prospects for defeating Reynolds are greatly diminished.

I see the barrage of ads touting Reynolds’ humble background — growing up on a farm, her dad taking a second job at a factory to make ends meet, working at a grocery store and later as a waitress. That stuff resonates with Iowans. Voters will have a hard time relating to someone as wealthy and privileged as Fred Hubbell, who himself finds it difficult to identify with the challenges most Iowans face.

Case in point is this quote from a May 23, 2018 Des Moines Register story, where Fred talks about organizing a trip to Mount Kilimanjaro for 12 family members: “We walked by the glaciers. We were on top of Africa. That’s the highest point in Africa, so the clouds are below you. … It was a good family experience. It brings people together, and I don’t think it’s something that even our young kids, the nieces and nephews, are ever going to forget.”

Whoa! What does a trip like that cost? I did a little research and it was probably over $100,000. The family vacation most Iowans remember is when the folks piled everyone and the dog into the station wagon and drove to Mount Rushmore.

Cathy Glasson

Mark my words, if Hubbell wins the nomination on June 5, that Kilimanjaro quote will be in a Reynolds attack ad this summer. I don’t care how wealthy Fred is or how many of his rich friends step forward with six-figure checks. Reynolds will have whatever money she needs to hammer home upbringing and lifestyle distinctions. Marginalized and independent voters will gobble it up.

But Democrats have a pathway out of defeat. John Norris or Cathy Glasson would beat Reynolds. Glasson has the best shot. As I’ve said before, not only is she solid on the core issues, but having a woman face off against Reynolds neutralizes one advantage Reynolds might otherwise have.

A lot of Democrats don’t want to hear what I’m saying. What else is new? But again, you didn’t think Donald Trump could win either, did you?

— Ed Fallon

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Gala doesn’t connect with most Iowans

Dear Friends,

Maybe the Iowa Democratic Party’s (IDP) big annual event was a success in terms of generating funds for the Party and enthusiasm for its candidates. But in several signifiant ways, it was a colossal failure.

1. The sound system performed horribly, with much of the speakers’ messages lost in an echo chamber of garbled sound waves.

A typical gala. Whew! No poor people!

2. Not allowing the Events Center’s wait staff to stay and hear Alec Baldwin reeked of elitism. The decision was made by the facility’s management, but the IDP should have objected. Heck, the wait staff should have been paraded up to the stage and thanked with a standing ovation.

3. The Gala was clearly a pay-to-play deal and the IDP milked candidates with the most money, notably Fred Hubbell and Nate Boulton. From what I could tell, these two purchased hundreds of tickets and spent possibly tens of thousands of dollars. Kinda reminds one of the much-maligned Republican Party of Iowa’s Ames Straw Poll, which Democrats have never been hesitant to slam.

4. Beyond the cost of admission ($50 just to sit in the bleachers and watch the higher-paying attendees eat), scheduling the Gala on a Monday excluded many rank-and-file voters, especially those far from Des Moines. As Paul Deaton of Johnson County tweeted, “#IDPFallGala schedule (Monday evening) not viable for working Ds outside Des Moines. Maybe that’s the point.”

5. Finally, the IDP’s decision to change the name of the event from Jefferson-Jackson Dinner to Fall Gala shows that the Party is pathologically out of touch with big chunks of Iowa’s electorate. A gala — defined as “lavish entertainment or celebration” — is not what the vast majority of struggling Iowans want or need right now. For further details, see Kevin Hardy’s excellent story in The Des Moines Register detailing the ravaging of most Americans’ incomes to benefit a thin upper crust.

From what I was able to catch of the candidates’ speeches, they all performed reasonably well — with the glaring absence of any discussion about the urgency of climate change. So far, Cathy Glasson has been the only gubernatorial candidate to speak out against the Gala’s pandering to money and privilege, saying, “People in our movement holding down two or three jobs and still struggling to make ends meet don’t have hundreds of dollars to spend for a fancy dinner.”

That’s not an endorsement of Glasson, but I appreciate her willingness to challenge the IDP.

Democrats are giddy with enthusiasm at their electoral prospects next fall. But the fact that many promising young progressives won nonpartisan city council seats this month means little if the IDP can’t connect with those who feel abandoned by both major parties. For now, the smart money remains on continued Republican dominance of the Iowa Legislature, statewide offices, and Iowa’s congressional delegation.

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