Dave Inbody: Our State Convention

Our Democratic State Convention was one of the most trying political experiences in which I have ever participated.  It really disturbed me to see those representing our nominee essentially write-off 15% of the delegates present, until we pointed out the inconsistencies in procedure, reached a critical mass and refused to budge.  We shouldn’t have had to go to those lengths. A memorable moment for me occurred soon after we gathered for our spontaneous caucus during the lunch period. When it became clear that this could be a potential problem and tempers were beginning to rise, I approached a Kerry supporter/party staffer, for whom I have great respect.  Due to the chaos during our gathering, I felt that we had not made our points clearly and felt it necessary to reiterate them. Because I was familiar with the work of this staffer, I felt I could appeal in the name of unity in preparation for the fall.

I made the following points:

(1) The expanding mob of disgruntled people represents nearly 15% of the delegates present.

(2) We probably won’t get enough people to be viable, since many had left out of frustration.

(3) The energy and dedication of these people will be critical this fall.

(4) Many of the Dean and Kucinich supporters are first-time convention attendees. What happens here could affect their opinion of the party for many years.

(5) There has been bad blood between the Kerry and Dean groups for a long time and this was an opportunity to end it.

(6) Regardless of the outcome of the recount, I suggested that the Kerry group offer our “mob” at least one delegate and one alternate as a good-faith gesture.

I was surprised to hear in response that the rules are the rules. Without 15% we get no voice. It was time to join the Kerry group. There was agreement between us that we needed to unify.  Unfortunately, unification meant assimilation to the staffer. To me, it meant recognizing our differences and focusing on our shared goals.  The expectation was blind allegiance to one ideology. 

My request for a gesture in the name of the party, our success in the fall, the future of the party, etc… fell flat. This made me feel embarrassed of my party.  I had the same feeling in my stomach as I did when, in October 2002, I watching our federal officials stand up in support of the invasion of Iraq and the Patriot Act.  This is also the feeling I had when I heard Tom Harkin respond to a tearful Wellstone staffer two weeks after the 2002 general election indicating that the Senate Democrats supported the war to get it off the table before the election.  It was a feeling of total abandonment.

I lived in Georgia for 7 years and experienced disappointment within my party over and over again during that time. In Iowa it hurts more. It hurts more because we should know better. I moved to Iowa because politics here have a reputation for being fair and open. The politicians on both sides are more civil than most places and the people are more informed.  This was not the Democratic Party I saw on Saturday.

My wife and I went to see “Fahrenheit 9/11” yesterday to remind us why we need to keep going. As much as I am disturbed by the actions of the Kerry campaign, the present administration is still worse. I have not given up on our party, but I know we have many problems that must be addressed in order to win this fall.  I will continue to give my time to state legislative candidates in the hope that our future party leaders will remain true to our party’s ideals. 

Dave Inbody is a DFIA Founding Member and the creator and operator of Citizen Whip, a State PAC designed to help fund Democratic races for the Iowa Legislature through small donations over the Internet.

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8 Responses to Dave Inbody: Our State Convention

  1. Anonymous says:

    Yes, “the rules are the rules” but the delegates present can vote to suspend the rules and do damn near anything they choose. Any civil society will have rules that everyone agees to if they want to participate and prosper. You could have easily made your case, put together a peitition on the spot and circulated it.
    I did this at the district convention to help the Native group get an amendment passed that was important to them (and should have been important to all.) We got the petition around at lunch and got it approved by the needed number.
    It is possible for good people to disagree — and for good people to make themselves heard. A convention is chaotic enough with rules (hasn't that been the thrust of this thread?) but without rules it would have been a week-long shoutfest. Is that what should have happened?


  2. Anonymous says:

    What did end up happening at the state convention was that the rules were suspended to allow any delegate regardless of their final preference group to vote for the national delegates. However all of those national delegates will be pledged to Kerry. If things would have been handled better then I believed we could have had another Dean delegate.
    As I said in my other post, we have to become more involved at all levels if we are going to have our collective voice heard. Volunteer for positions in your local Democratic party, go to local meetings, help out candidates. That is what we must do.
    Speaking of conventions, there was a special convention in my county (Clayton) to nominate me as the candidate for county auditor. It should be a good race and I believe that I have a very good chance of winning. You can check out my website at http://www.powellforauditor.com


  3. Anonymous says:

    I am in absolute agreement that rules are a critical requirement for any group. It is the failure to follow the convention rules that drives my comments. Each presidential preference group was to be given one hour to caucus. This never occurred. The convention was in recess for lunch and we chose to meet. Our only hope was to somehow convince the Dean, Kucinich and Uncommitted groups to join together to attain viability. The crowd was growing rapidly in a hallway. I realized that we would not gain consensus in this manner because there was too much confusion, it was difficult to hear clearly and too much conflicting information was being dispersed. It was at that point I approached a representative from the Kerry campaign seeking a resolution. If the proposal I made at that point had at least been considered, the controversy would not have continued for the next several hours. Only after more than 150 disgruntled delegates gathered in the Convention Center lobby did the Convention vote to let all state delegates choose our national delegates. At that point, we just had to wait them out.
    The gathering in the hallway was around noon. The suspension of the rules to give all the state delegates full voting rights occurred around 6pm. We finally choose two national delegates from our group at 2:45am.
    I make my comments because we need to come together this fall. There is too much at stake to continue infighting. If this is to end, those chosen to carry the party banner need to bring the rest of us back into the fold. The primary season was grueling, especially in Iowa. A gesture indicating there were no hard feelings and a focus on our shared goals is a critical part of re-unification. Unfortunately, I don


  4. Anonymous says:

    Actually the rules state that there was to be a one hour realignment time. Not necessarily a caucus. The determination for a caucus was to be left up to the discretion of the chair. Obviously the chair decided there shouldn't be a caucus. In the state rules committee meeting I argued that the convention should recess during the realignment periods to allow for caucusing of preference groups. But I was outvoted because picking a presidential preference is a “personal decision” and not a “group decision”. I agree that it is a personal decision but it is helpful to be able to caucus with others in your presidential preference group to help figure out a strategy.
    Much of the confusion could have been avoided if the chair would have recessed and allowed for presidential preference caucuses to be held.
    Again, I ask everyone to volunteer for the committee asignments and then actually go to the meetings. Less than half of the committee members showed up at either the district or state rules committee meetings. If there would have been more like minded people at the meeting there could have been a mandatory caucus in the convention rules and we could have all decided on our best strategy.


  5. Anonymous says:

    I was a 2nd district Dean delegate from Cedar Rapids.
    I did not attend the state convention. I did not receive my convention materials in the mail. I was coming from Chicago and did not want to drive all the way to Des Moines, only to discover that I wouldn't be permitted to vote. It sounds as if this is what happened to others.
    I also stayed away from the convention because I did not get word of a Dean pre-convention caucus until the Friday before the convention. The meeting was announced too late for me to be able to attend the pre-convention caucus meeting.
    An e-mail had been sent out sometime Thursday announcing the proposed Friday night meeting, but by the time I read the e-mail, on Friday, the announcement it was too late for me to make it, as I was driving from Chicago. I tried to call the hotels in Des Moines, looking for Dean people so that I could confer telephonically, but was unsuccessful.
    I had gotten in touch with Dick Stater, Linn Co. Dean Chair, late Friday. He told me that it was unlikely that the Deans would make the 15% threshold and that he was not going to attend the convention. He also said that it was his understanding that there would be no Dean attempt to negotiate with either Kucinich or Edwards people, and that the Deans would likely go to Kerry.
    I have been frustrated that some of the Dean team has been unwilling to work with the Kucinich and Edwards teams. We must learn to build coalitions.
    The Deans were not prepared for the convention, well-enough in advance, for me to want to drive all the way to Des Moines and risk not being allowed to vote without having been mailed a convention packet.
    Despite my concerns of the likelihood of conventional chaos, I would have attended the convention, if the Deans had arranged, well in advance of the convention, a pre-convention private caucus.
    This whole county, district and state convention process has been frustrating. These conventions are far too chaotic, and, in my opinion, most decidedly un-democratic!
    All I can say is this: Iowa Democrats have known for months that this convention was coming. There was plenty of time, in advance, for the Deans to come together to caucus, and for the Deans to work a deal out with the Kucinich and Edwards people.
    We Deans must accept the responsibility for not having been highly organized in advance of the convention. We should have been prepared for the chaos that was likely to ensue at the convention. I would have attended the convention, despite the likelihood of a shoddy governance at the convention, had I felt we Deans were organized enough, in advance.


  6. Anonymous says:

    What you have to understand is that there are a lot of us who are frustrated and disgusted with the whole process. Some of us have become bitter and have dropped out, and others of us are still plugging away. Each person will heal in his or her own time.
    I wish you had contacted Blog for Iowa for your information. I could have hooked you up with the person who was organizing the pre-convention Dean caucus. We announced on Blog for Iowa on Tuesday that there would be a caucus Friday evening but that the site had not yet been determined. Molly would have called you as soon as she knew where the meeting was to be.
    The Blog for Iowa contact link is at the top of the page.


  7. Anonymous says:

    It's sad, that so many gave up since we needed only 20 people to gain viability.


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