Published with permission from the March 2021 issue of The Prairie Progressive, Iowa’s oldest progressive newsletter. The Prairie Progressive is funded entirely by reader subscription, available only in hard copy for $12/yr. Send check to PP, Box 1945, Iowa City 52244. Click here for archived issues.
The great minds of the Iowa Democratic Party are busily engaged in post mortem debate following the debacle of 2020.
Our paid professionals have an array of excuses at hand: the pandemic prevented personal contact, the derecho depressed turnout, the Republican Party sued the election commissioners of our bluest counties, polling failed to foresee a surge of Trump-energized voters.
Some strategists blame the influence of Fox News and the nationalization of issues. Most of this year’s odious legislative initiatives in Iowa were generated by ALEC, not by Iowa voters: near-elimination of early voting, a one-week waiting period to receive unemployment benefits, reinstatement of state executions, removal of gender identity as a protected class in the state civil rights code, ad nauseum. None of these proposals were campaign issues. All of them are on the national Republican agenda. Outside the state Capitol, few Iowans have asked for them.
Then there are the consultants who believe that Democratic candidates lacked a meaningful, appealing message. Hatred of Trump clearly wasn’t enough. Nor was fighting the opioid epidemic, expanding gun-owner background checks, or getting dark money out of politics.
The Prairie Progressive weighs in on the side of messaging. We propose a platform for progressive candidates to push in 2022: The Three Ws.
Wages. Before its identity became muddled, the Democratic Party won elections as the champion of the working class. Raising the minimum wage should be a no-brainer as a top priority for a winning campaign. It polls well in all age groups, it is just and moral, and it supports efforts to attract entrepreneurs and tech companies to Iowa. All those highly-skilled and well-educated managerial types the state hopes to attract will need a decently-paid workforce to support them. Among our increasing embarrassments is the fact that a state as regressive as South Dakota has a higher minimum wage indexed to inflation. A winning candidate would also talk about wage theft and wages without benefits for thousands of hard-working Iowans.
Water. Also a no-brainer. Iowans voted to improve the state’s water quality but didn’t provide the money to do it. Our state’s regulatory system is no match for the Iowa Farm Bureau’s refusal to hold polluters accountable. Nothing says Don’t Move to Iowa like an unprotected environment and underfunded public health programs. How about an ad showing parents and their kid fishing in a sparkling stream? An honest nutrient reduction strategy, with penalties for those who benefit from government policies that exploit our natural resources, is a tall order but a popular platform.
Weed. Wildly popular in every demographic. A recent national Vox poll showed 62% of all voters favor legalization, which would bring in revenue, create jobs, and alleviate the racial disparities of the so-called war on drugs. Opioid addiction, the even more damaging epidemic of alcoholism, and PTSD symptoms would decrease, even under moderate decriminalization. Iowa’s brand as a welcoming state would improve. Having only a barely-functional medical marijuana program has solidified our status as a poor place to locate a business, and a cruel place for families experiencing epilepsy, glaucoma, AIDS, dementia, chronic pain, nausea, or multiple sclerosis.
The Three Ws would create excitement, address the economy, focus on the environment, promote social justice, and are easy to remember. Something for the great minds to consider.