Iowa's Summer Political Campaign has Begun

Iowa's Summer Political Campaign has Begun

by Paul Deaton

calls were reasonably well received, and for the most part, voters we
talked to expect to be with us in November. They have lives to live and
in June are just not ready for another political campaign.”

In the initial weeks of the post-primary, 2010 midterm election campaign, progressive activists are busy testing the political waters. By writing letters to newspaper editors, walking in parades, calling their friends and neighbors and discussing candidate positions at community events, the nature of the campaign is beginning to be understood. The initial outlook is that 2010 will be a hard won campaign, and people are not ready to give up the gains we made in 2006 and 2008. It should be a good year for Democrats.

The campaign team in our community made phone calls last week and what we found is that folks are not engaged in politics. We had posted a mailing before making the calls and many could not recall receiving it. Others said they had thrown it away without opening it. The calls were reasonably well received, and for the most part, voters we talked to expect to be with us in November. They have lives to live and in June are just not ready for another political campaign.

The Cedar Rapids Gazette published a letter to the editor from the author on June 18, 2010 and the response was significant. I received one piece of mail at home (against my position), one rebuttal letter on June 24th and between my letter and the rebuttal, there were 80 on-line comments. This indicates that despite talk about the imminent demise of newspapers, letters to the editor are read. If letters to the editor are reasonably written and comply with newspaper requirements, they will get published and engage readers in the issues. I was surprised that there was so much on-line response to my letter (68 of the 80 replies). My take on this is that because of the active Republican primary, the readership of newspapers is already engaged and ready for the campaign.

We heard from western Iowa that some newspapers are declining to print candidate letters. The reasoning goes that letters about candidates are a form of free advertising and newspapers want to receive payment for advertising. If what we heard is true, then this is unfortunate. If candidate letters are excluded from publication in lieu of paid advertising, public discussion about candidates and their positions would be diminished. One more outlet for information for voters would have been shut down. In western Iowa, such a policy would benefit the incumbent Congressman and Senator in 2010.

The parade season has begun and is perhaps the most fun of all aspects of political campaigns. In the staging area for one of the parades in 2008, the author witnessed the confrontation of a group of supporters for the “traditional family” with our state representative. When the elected official said he would not support a constitutional amendment to define marriage, the other person said, “then I will do everything I can to defeat you.”  Whether such interaction will occur this year remains to be seen. The lesson learned is that furtherance of our agenda is at stake at these parades and it is important for progressives to show up. Besides, with all the fun, why wouldn’t we?

From the initial campaigning it seems clear that the main work will be in unplanned social encounters with people we know in our communities. When we run into someone, the conversation goes something like this after initial pleasantries about family, work and society: “We’re working on electing Roxanne this year, will you put up a yard sign again?” The answer is almost always yes, and this social interaction is the strength of democratic politics. Our initial results are looking favorable for Democrats.

So here we go! With a solid slate of candidates and the primaries behind us, only our own apathy would stop us from advancing our agenda. Once our friends and neighbors understand what is at stake this year, Republican dreams of voter apathy will vaporize, leaving us with another winning campaign.

Deaton is a native Iowan living in rural Johnson County and weekend
editor of Blog for Iowa.
E-mail Paul

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