Kevin McCarthy at the Iowa Democratic Party Convention
by Paul Deaton
“In a state representative race, an
Iowan has the chance to meet and get to know his/her candidate
personally. Winning coalitions are built by candidates at the front
doors of voters and with other personal contact in dozens of community
events throughout the year.”
Iowa House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy was next up to the speaker’s podium at the Iowa Democratic Party convention when the author returned from a family reunion Saturday afternoon. The party was live streaming some of the convention activities, and while interested in the party, there were other priorities that day. Sue Dvorsky, IDP acting Party Chairperson, introduced McCarthy with characteristic enthusiasm and he addressed the convention about retaining a majority in the house.
McCarthy reminded us of how few votes it takes to turn the balance in a state house election. He reminded the convention to consider the down ticket races when out working for Roxanne Conlin, Governor Culver and the US House of Representatives candidates. Those of us on the ground in these campaigns know that party lines are blurred in a state representative race. The role of voter contact through door knocking, participation in community events and yard sign placement is critical. In a state representative race, an Iowan has the chance to meet and get to know his/her candidate personally. Winning coalitions are built by candidates at the front doors of voters and with other personal contact in dozens of community events throughout the year. McCarthy was right; a few hundred voter contacts could turn a state house election; we should work on these important races.
When McCarthy’s time expired, Sue Dvorsky reminded the convention of what it is like to be in the minority, and in summary, it rots. In terms of advancing a progressive agenda, forget about it. In terms of protecting our shared values going forward, the other party asserts different values. Dvorsky was preaching to the faithful in Des Moines and the message was well received among the several hundred delegates present at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. Losing the majority in the Iowa House of Representatives would slow our progress.
At the same time, news outlets and Republicans are poking at the Democrats, saying there is not as much engagement as there is in the other party. KCRG-TV in Cedar Rapids suggested, “the (Democratic) party could use a boost.” In a recent Iowa Press appearance, Republican Party Chair Matt Strawn asserted that “there's a real enthusiasm gap that exists in this state between Republicans and Democrats.” The author’s response to this is that the other party is just plain behind, riding the wake of the enthusiasm that elected a Democratic majority during the 2006 and 2008 election cycles. They seek to take their government back and that’s exactly where Democrats were after the 2004 elections. Republicans seem to forget that they had their chance and lost control after squandering it.
The 2010 midterms will be a hard fought campaign, about that there is little disagreement. We should be confident that voters will turn out for Democrats in November, but not take it for granted. Like the author, most people have a life to live and mostly it is not about politics. While we engage in discussions about political progress (or lack thereof), we are not constant campaigners. What we know is that elections matter. Gaining control of the legislature matters. Electing Democratic Governors matters. What we also know is that it has always mattered, and in 2010 we have come too far to give up now. Thanks Majority Leader McCarthy for reminding us. ~Paul
Deaton is a native Iowan living in rural Johnson County and weekend
editor of Blog for Iowa. E-mail Paul