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.