Midterm Election: The Color Purple

Dear Friends,

First, I want to thank Matt McCoy for calling out Matt Whitaker (President Trump’s new acting Attorney General) for Whitaker’s politically-motivated witch hunt against McCoy in 2007. Whitaker was a U.S. Attorney at the time and came after McCoy on alleged extortion charges.

Matt McCoy

The trial was an embarrassment to Whitaker and the U.S. government. In a column by McCoy in Politico this week, former Des Moines Register editorial page editor Gil Cranberg noted, “The case against McCoy was so anorexic that not one of the 12 jurors considered it worth protracted consideration.”

The Politico story also notes that Jerry Crawford (McCoy’s attorney) approached the prosecuting attorneys during the trial and asked them to save face, saying, “Pull this case now. I’m embarrassed for the United States of America.”

After a mere 25 minutes of deliberation, the jury found McCoy not guilty. Other examples of Whitaker’s unabashed partisan perspective are too numerous to list. The bottom line is, among many Trump appointees poorly qualified for their jobs, Whitaker ranks higher than most — and that says volumes.

So, to the recent election — here are my three take aways:

1. More Democratic women should run for office. The fact that in four suburban Polk County house districts incumbent Republicans (all men) were ousted by Democratic challengers (all women) indicates a changing perspective among suburban voters. What happened in Polk County was the norm in many other suburbs across the country. Was this a blip, an anomaly? Will Republicans recapture the burbs in 2020? I doubt it. What we’re seeing is a generational and gender-driven shift among suburban voters away from a Republican Party grown callous to the interests of most people.

Fred Hubbell

2. The Democratic Party needs to run progressive populists for higher office. Never again should Democrats nominate a candidate for governor, U.S. Senate, or president who can be easily tagged as elitist or status quo. On a personal level, I like Fred Hubbell immensely. He and his wife Charlotte are great people, and Fred would’ve made an excellent governor.

But Fred wasn’t a great candidate, at least not in these times. Here’s what I wrote in a blog I published last May before the primary election: “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.”

The bottom line is, even with suburban voters moving into the Democratic column (barely), that’s not enough to win a statewide election. You can’t simply hope to blow past rural Iowa by racking up huge vote totals in Polk, Linn, Scott, and a few other urban counties.

And that brings me to the third take away:

3. Democrats must regain the support of rural voters. Others have said this too. (Tom Vilsack comes to mind.) Urban Democrats can and must reconnect with rural voters. In my experience, the only way to do this is to spend prodigious amounts of time in rural communities. You can’t pay a flying visit. You can’t just pop by to talk. You have to go with the intent to listen, learn, and build relationships.

If Democratic candidates and Party leaders make a focused, sincere, concerted effort to do this, rural voters may come to see that they have a lot more in common with city folk than any of us have with Wall Street. For our part, urban Democrats may come to better understand the challenges facing rural communities and stop bashing rural voters as a bunch of dumb rubes.

If that happens, there’s no reason Democrats can’t regain the populist rural/urban majority they formerly enjoyed — a majority that once allowed the Party to accomplish great things for both Iowa and America.

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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Cars Matter More Than Kids

Dear Friends,

My birthday is next week, and in the great tradition of Hobbits – who instead of receiving gifts on their birthdays give them – I’m offering four of you a $50 gift card to either Gateway Market and Cafe, Ritual Cafe, HoQ Restaurant or Cinco de Mayo Restaurant. Just leave a comment on my website – HERE (scroll down to the end of the post) — and tell me what you think of my take on Des Moines’ “Cars Matter More Than Kids” day-care policy. I’ll randomly pick four names out of a hat. You can tell me how wrong I am and still win a gift card. Is this a great country, or what?

“So, cars matter more than kids,” you ask? Yes, I’m afraid so. Like soylent green, governments are made of people. And people not only taste bad, they make mistakes.

Like West Des Moines banning air B & B.

Like Aurelia vanquishing a Vietnam Vet’s service dog.

Like Ankeny outlawing chickens. (Note: Ankeny reports an average of 35-45 dog bites per year, yet zero chicken bites.)

This year’s Local Government Run Amuck Award (yes, the year is young, so this could change) goes to the City of Des Moines for limiting in-home day-care providers to six children. Why? Because one south-side curmudgeon complained about parking.

And the city has taken the curmudgeon’s side, possibly because he votes and kids don’t. One city official quoted in The Des Moines Register story claimed the restriction was needed to prevent “unintended consequences for neighbors, like too much parking, too many people on the streets, overcrowding.”

Seriously?? So, are these toddlers driving themselves to day care and hogging all the on-street parking? Or is even the act of dropping off and picking up one’s child deemed to be “too much parking?”

And since when is “people on the streets” a bad thing? A vibrant neighborhood has people on the streets. A dead, dying or decayed neighborhood has empty streets — streets that are less safe, I might add.

And “overcrowding?” In Des Moines? Give me a break . . . although this is likely to change when climate change forces refugees from submerged coastal communities to flee to the American Heartland.

This is a serious problem, folks. If the City Council refuses to budge, the number of in-home child-care slots in Des Moines would drop by around 2,000. That affects not only those kids and their families, but the employers those parents work for, too. It also affects in-home day-care providers like Tonja Boggs (featured in The Register story), whose income would be cut in half.

Finally, if none of that matters to City officials, they should care because this makes Des Moines look dumb and backward. How does the City expect that fancy new hotel it subsidized to achieve optimal occupancy rates if prospective visitors say, “Wow! Why hold our HUGE convention where they value cars more than kids when we can go to Minneapolis – America’s most bike-friendly city?”

Bike-friendly. Kid-friendly. Progressive. High quality of life. These things kinda go together. I thought the City of Des Moines would have figured it out by now.

*******

Check out podcasts from this week’s Fallon Forum:
– Rampage in Kalamazoo
– Cars Matter More Than Kids|
– Chet Culver on Medicaid
– The Kinder-Morgan Pipeline, with Hattie Nestel
– Restaurant Renaissance, with Paul Rottenberg

Listen to the Fallon Forum live Mondays, 11:00-12:00 noon CST on La Reina KDLF 1260 AM (Des Moines) and online. The number to call 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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