My work has me seeking people with whom to network, constantly. Always looking for someone new to take up the cause of mitigating the existential threats to humanity in the form of nuclear weapons and climate change. By existential threats, I mean we could be wiped out by them, and yes, it’s too scary to think about. On Friday I went to the county seat and attended three events in pursuit of like minded people.
The first event was organized by the Alliance for Retired Americans at the Robert A. Lee Community Recreation Center in Iowa City. An afternoon event, it was not well publicized with few people attending.Moderator Norm Sterzenbach promoted the organization as developing “the ultimate source for knowledge” about congressional voting records related to retirees. We had mostly come to hear our Congressman Dave Loebsack speak.
Loebsack delivered prepared remarks covering the deficit, Social Security, Medicare and education in a 14 minute speech. There were no surprises here and no real news.
To wrap up the speakers, Chris Schwartz of Working Families Win, Iowa spoke, with a list of grievances about the government. He touched on the South Korea, Columbia and Panama free trade agreements and on building an “infrastructure bank.” He opined that GMAC, a major employer in Waterloo, “is a corrupt company,” and that the electrical grid “can’t handle new technologies.” He asserted many opinions, the most evident of which was that “government should put people back to work.” Not once did he mention private companies in a favorable light. Some in the audience believe that government should not be the primary driver in putting people back to work. Schwartz had a different opinion.
The post-speeches networking was actually the best part of the event and I made some new contacts.Next, I walked over to the Pentacrest at the University of Iowa where I joined two others in the Friday vigil calling for an end to our wars. The half hour went quickly, and we had a chance to discuss nuclear disarmament… an audience of friends.
We also talked about AFL CIO President Richard Trumka’s formation of a super PAC and about Teamsters Union President James Hoffa’s statements earlier in the day about holding politicians accountable. We recalled the unsuccessful attempt of former SEIU President Andy Stern to do likewise in Iowa. While labor unions have funds and an organization, their numbers are diminished, as is their influence. Emblematic of this is the Employee Free Choice Act, or “Card Check” which would have made it easier for unions to organize new members. It was dead in the water in the 111th Congress, despite their great hope and the support of politicians like Iowa Senator Tom Harkin. It is easy to share the frustration of union big wigs about getting things done in Congress.
From the Pentacrest, it was to Morrison Park in Coralville where State Senator Bob Dvorsky’s birthday fundraiser was in progress when I arrived. There were some familiar faces from the Alliance for Retired Americans event, with spouse Terry Loebsack joining the Congressman. In attendance were people I have known since re-entering political life during the 2004 precinct caucus and some easy converts to the nuclear disarmament campaign.
Whether the Democrats can get beyond talking the talk about winning the 2012 election and walk the walk is uncertain. We understand what Republicans are trying to do in Iowa through Governor Branstad. It remains an open question whether the Republicans can be stopped, despite Iowa Democratic Party Chair Sue Dvorsky’s report about the gatherings of Democrats ready to work on the election throughout the state.
Friday night was full of promise in Iowa City and Coralville. What I noticed is people are talking about big issues, issues that matter. This in a city better known for its dilettantes and its drinking. One has to love Friday nights in the county seat.
~ Paul Deaton is a native Iowan who lives in rural Johnson County, Iowa.