Dems Must Toss Out Establishment

Dear Friends,

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?”

Wicked_Witch_of_the_East_is_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.

Cartoon chicken running around with head cut offYet 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.

Changes like:
* 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.

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Dems’ caucus review panel a joke

Dear Friends,

Last fall, Dr. Andy McGuire, chair of the Iowa Democratic Party (IDP), approached me to discuss how to build a bridge to progressives and other disaffected voters who’d left the IDP. A few weeks later we met over lunch at Hoq Restaurant, where Dr. McGuire offered to convene a statewide meeting to hear the concerns of these voters. We stayed in touch and agreed to move forward with the idea after the Caucuses.

On February 1st, the Iowa Caucuses saw a virtual tie between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, followed by a slew of complaints about cramped venues, long lines and other glitches. That led to a clamor across Iowa and beyond to examine what went wrong and institute reforms. The IDP announced a task force. I told Dr. McGuire on two occasions I was willing to serve on it, and received encouraging responses that she would get back to me.

Well, she didn’t get back to me. A caucus review panel was indeed established, and its membership announced last Saturday.

Disaffected voters are nowhere in the mix. Of the committee’s 25 members, nearly every appointee is an IDP insider.

And the goal of the committee? As quoted in the Des Moines Register (April 2): “{P}arty officials — including those now serving on the committee — have all but ruled out major changes to the Democratic caucus process.”

That’s code for, “We’ll pretend to care, but let’s stack this committee to make sure nothing of substance gets done. And let’s minimize exposure by sending-out the press release on Friday — the slowest news day of the week.”

Like the Democratic National Committee and, presumably, state Democratic parties around the country, the IDP doesn’t get it. If Dr. McGuire was sincere about wanting to rebuild the Party and stem the hemorrhage of voters from its rolls, setting-up a rubber-stamp committee of insiders only digs the Party’s hole even deeper.

How deep is that hole?

– In Iowa in 2009, there were 111,000 more D’s than R’s.
– There are now 28,855 fewer D’s than R’s.
– “No Party” voters have solidified their spot as the largest voting block.
– Five of Iowa’s six congressional representatives are Republican.
– The Iowa House is solidly Republican.
– The Democratic majority in the Iowa Senate is razor thin.
– Four of six statewide elected offices are held by Republicans.
– Even my chickens have switched their affiliation to “No Party.”

If Party officials think they can woo back disgruntled former Dems with platitudes and rhetoric, they should think again. Want examples of what’s actually working?

Bernie Sanders. Look at the enthusiasm and political revolution his candidacy has sparked! Though it makes the corporate element of the Democratic Party quake in its gucci boots, THIS — not your phony caucus review panel — is the future of politics in Iowa and America.

– Speak-truth-to-power grassroots organizations like Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement. These folks have a solid string of victories for the people Democrats say they represent, but too often don’t.

– New grassroots efforts like the Bold Alliance, which is building rural-urban coalitions to oppose Big Oil and the abuse of eminent domain while working for clean energy solutions.

On June 7th, I’ll vote in the Democratic Primary for Rob Hogg for U.S. Senate and Desmund Adams for Congress. On June 8th, I’ll switch my voter registration back to “No Party” . . . unless Party officials demonstrate that they’re prepared to change their ways.

I’m not holding my breath.

Listen to the Fallon Forum Mondays, broadcasting live from the Cultural and Culinary Cross-roads of America (a.k.a., Des Moines, Iowa) from 11:00-12:00 noon CST on La Reina KDLF 1260 AM and online. The number to call to add your voice to the conversation is (515) 528-8122. The program re-broadcasts Wednesday on KHOI 89.1 FM (Ames) at 4:00 p.m. and Monday at 6:00 a.m. on WHIV 102.3 FM (New Orleans). Check-out podcasts here.

Thanks! – Ed Fallon

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