Thursday, December 21, 2017

Senate Bandwagon Ends With Endorsement

Thompson began to write extensively about how it was rumored that Muskie was addicted to a West African drug called Ibogaine, an upper of sorts that keeps a person awake in a very menacing fashion. Thompson speculated that this was probably the reason why Muskie had been acting so “erratic” of late. Unfortunately, he could not confirm it one way or the other because he had been banned from the campaign. Readers and other reporters took the allegation seriously and questions were put to the Muskie campaign. Denying the charge, Muskie expressed outrage. After the campaign ended, Thompson stated that he never accused Muskie of using Ibogaine. “I said it was a rumor to that effect,” Thompson explained. “I made up the rumor.” 

I never said I was running for State Senate in District 37. All I said was that I was moving into the district, and that a big announcement was coming soon.

Both of those statements are cold hard objective facts, but a surprising number of people have jumped to the wrong conclusion. How could that have ever happened?

The fence of the former Smallest Farm in the Miller-Orchard neighborhood has been dug up and we closed on the house in Iowa City Precinct 9 on Tuesday. The move is in progress and if anyone wants to help haul boxes and furniture, Friday and Saturday are the big days. (If anyone wants a sublease, you can have a big yard with a close-in location.)

The big announcement in Senate 37, however, comes not from me but from my friend Zach Wahls.

I first heard of Zach the way most of us did - through his iconic and viral "two moms" speech to  an Iowa legislative committee in 2011. One of my jobs as a now senior activist is to spot and help new young talent. Johnson County has had a poor track record of electing young people and I've long wanted to fix that. Too often we export our young talent - but Zach grew up local and has long been committed to building his life here.

And as soon as I got to know Zach as a person and not just a video, I knew we had a special talent here.  Zach isn't a show horse coasting on his moment of fame. He took that lightning-strikes opportunity and built from it.

Wahls' first big project was Scouts for Equality. Like so many Eagle Scouts Zach was frustrated by the Boy Scouts' anti-LGBT policies, which had been in place since since 1978 and successfully defended all the way to the Supreme Court. That meant change had to come from within, and Zach and the Scouts For Equality team led a three year effort to successfully persuade the Boy Scouts to voluntarily change the policy.

But Zach is not  a one issue person and in his campaign he plans to focus on health care, education, and workers rights. He has a depth of knowledge and interest in a broad range of issues, and the homework a candidate and legislator needs to do.

He's done the political hard work too, locally in the trenches and on the road helping other candidates  And he's an all-around great guy who hasn't let political celebrity get to his head.


I'll miss voting for Joe Bolkcom and Mary Mascher, and I regret not having one last chance to vote for Bob Dvorsky. (I lived in Coralville my first five years in Iowa, but moved before Dave Jacoby ran.) But my life transition has given me the opportunity to participate directly in this open race.

And I am proud to support Zach Wahls to be my next state senator.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Lennon's Greatest Failure: Art, Politics, and "Some Time In New York City"

 (Rescued from Reddit thread)


As a political guy, a music guy, and a political music guy, I've long been fascinated by John Lennon's most political record. Not fascinated enough to listen all the way through more than once - but fascinated by the circumstances and the rhetoric - rather, the rhetorical failure.

The 1972 album Some Time In New York City is a fascinating document of the difference between art and politics and of one of the most brilliant artists of all time failing to play to his own strengths.



The album's reputation has dropped from its always low standing (being padded to a double with unlistenable live material and thus being pricey didn't help).

The drop is in part because its strongest song, which was actually a low-charting SINGLE and included on Lennon's first hits collection Shaved Fish, is now lyrically taboo. I'm too gun-shy to even type the title; just look at the album cover.

Sirius XM's Beatles channel (my car radio default) occasionally plays "New York City" and "John Sinclair," and also an unbleeped "Working Class Hero" from Plastic Ono Band but I have never heard the album's opening track even MENTIONED let alone played. (However, the network's 80's alternative channel regularly plays "Oliver's Army" by Elvis Costello - that N-bomb is just one use rather than the title and chorus. Plus it's a better song.)

Neither John or even Yoko could get away with it today, any more than Mel Brooks could get away with "Blazing Saddles."


Some Time In New York City is also damaged by its topical same-ness (an issue on some of George Harrison's more Hare Krishna-y albums as well). Lennon had flirted with lefty politics before, but it was always just ONE facet of a John or Beatles project.


The very very misunderstood "Revolution" from the White Album era, with its definitively "count me out" single version and the ambiguous "Out/in" "Revolution 1" version on the album proper, is balanced by "Julia" and "Dear Prudence" and "Yer Blues" and "Warm Gun" and more and a bunch of Paul and George songs (and even a Ringo song!)

On John Lennon Plastic Ono Band, "Working Class Hero" sits alongside "Love" and "Mother."  The title song of Imagine and "I Don't Want To Be A Soldier" share a side with "Jealous Guy." "Power To The People" I don't love, but it's just a single.

New York City is a whole bunch of these songs, not quite as good as those I just listed. It would have been fascinating to have had an album of first rate Lennon material, or even split Lennon-Ono material, backed by Elephant's Memory. But this one-topic material includes no other part of the complex genius that John Lennon was. I don't want to listen to a whole album of ten "Power To The People"s all in a row.

Yet even that would be an improvement....

Gotta say it: instead of sharing album space primarily with Paul McCartney, John is sharing it with Yoko Ono. Not that Yoko can't be interesting or wasn't influential - just ask the B-52's - but she's not a Paul or a George.

The problem with Yoko material is that when she attempted to write Western three minute pop/rock songs she was being compared to and heard alongside John, one of the two greatest masters of that particular art form ever. And she was being compared as a creative partner to McCartney, the OTHER greatest master of that art form.

And even Yoko isn't at her best. She's writing in the same cliche sloganeering that John is.



The fundamental problem with New York City, though, isn't the radical politics. "Imagine" is on the very very short list for Greatest Song Ever, and "imagine no possessions" is far more radical that "free John Sinclair."

It's that John Lennon tried to fit his politics into someone else's framework and dogma, and he let that dogma into the songs themselves. Dogma and art mix poorly.

Five years later, the punks had similar left politics but made up their own rules. No one was more a political songwriter than Joe Strummer of the Clash, but he dealt with nuances (see the complex racial and class politics of "White Man In Hammersmith Palais" for a great example).

But on New York City,  for one of the few times in his life, John Lennon was playing by someone else's rules. The rigid left expected Lennon to follow the party line just like they expected Woody Guthrie to sell their newspapers on the street corner. Guthrie refused but Lennon, though only briefly, went along. The result was the weakest work by perhaps the greatest musician of last century.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

New Look Voter Cards First Stage Of Voter ID Law

UPDATED: For not the first time, the Secretary of State has changed the game plan, as announced at a training of election staffers this week; in a surprise there has been an improvement.

Iowa voter cards will have a new look this week as the details of the state's new voter ID law kick in, starting with a big mailing this week.

Under the provisions of House File 516, an Iowa driver's license is the default voter ID. (This also includes Iowa DOT non-driver ID cards. For the sake of brevity, from here on out every time I say "license" I also mean "or non-driver ID.") There are some other limited options, but these options do NOT included licenses from other states or student IDs.

Voters who do not have an Iowa license are supposed to be sent a special ID card to use instead. This provision of the law was added, likely with some reluctance, to help HF516 withstand legal challenge. Rulings on laws in other states have held that, if a voter ID is required, a free alternative must be allowed.

Over the weekend of November 18, the Secretary of State processed a cross-reference between the Iowa license database and the driver's license database. They also changed some reports in the voter system so that new voter cards will conform to the details of the new law.

Many voters who actually have Iowa licenses did not have them on their voter records. Some simply left them off the registration form, because more people remember their Social Security numbers than their licenses. One or the other is required (I'm skipping some detail here). But most of the newly included license numbers were for people who registered before 2003, when the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) kicked in and we started asking for license numbers.

During debate over HF516, the Secretary of State's office frequently cited 85,000 as the number of active status Iowa voters without an Iowa license number, but after processing, that estimate has jumped to 123,000. Under terms of HF516, the Secretary of State will do the initial mailing to these voters. After that, voter ID cards will be sent out as part of the routine work of processing registrations by county auditors (translation: I get to do it.)

There will be two different kinds of voter cards. The terminology is a little confusing, and which one you get depends on whether or not you have an Iowa license. They are fold-over cards and look identical from the outside.

This is the "Voter ID" card that people without Iowa licenses will get. The initial mailing to the 123,000 people currently registered without an Iowa license is scheduled for December 6 - a very off-time for the election cycle, so many of these very very important cards will be ignored, misplaced, or discarded before they're needed next year.

In a change from the original plan, this first wave of cards will be mailed in an envelope with a page of explanation. After that, they will get sent as cards.

It's worth noting that these cards look very, very different than the Iowa licenses that most people will be showing. That singles out these voters and makes them more obvious to people who want to challenge voters at the polls.

See also the PIN listed just below the signature space. If you don't have an Iowa license and want a mailed absentee ballot next year, you will have to include this obscure piece of data on your request form.

And, in a nasty bureaucratic twist: Even though your friendly local election staffer can look at your voter record and see this number, they cannot use it to complete your form. They will have to contact you by phone or by snail mail, during an early voting window that has shortened from 40 days to 29, to get you to give them a number that your friendly local election staffer can not only see, but that they can find more easily than you can.


Voters who do have an Iowa license will not be part of this week's mailing. They will still get a card in the mail whenever they update or change registration. But this will be called a "confirmation card" or a "verification card" to distinguish it from the "ID card."

Note the prominent "This notice will not be accepted as identification at the polls." (It may not be in color depending on your county and its printer.)

One not as big but still significant change with these cards: The correction and change space that was on the old voter cards is now gone. That was an easy and fast way for voters to make changes by mail. Just write in the stuff that changed and sign it. Now they'll have to complete a full voter registration form. There's also a bar code missing from the confirmation card that used to speed up my work a lot.

Both of the new cards were programmed into the state voter registration system over the weekend of November 18, so there are a few already in circulation. After the initial mailing by the Secretary of State next week, both these cards will be mailed out by auditors regularly, each time a voter registers or makes a change. Which one you get depends on whether or not you have an Iowa license.

Any time there is a large voter card mailing, many cards are undeliverable. When mailings are returned as undeliverable by the post office, auditors are normally required to place voters on "Inactive" status, a preliminary step to cancellation. Voters who are inactive through two general elections get cancelled.

Because of the voter ID law, there's an extra mailing going out to a particular, non-random group of voters, and because they're being sent an extra mailing, they're more likely to have a card returned to sender.

In a big change of plan that seems to have been written by lawyers, this one-time mailing will be an exception. The letters (envelopes with a card in them, that is) will go back to the Secretary of State, not the auditor, and voters will NOT be inactivated from this mailing. That's because inactivating people from this mailing could be seen as illegal "targeting" of certain voters.

Since they're not getting inactived, this isn't AS horrible as what I had feared at first - but sill, these are the people who need to get these cards to vote. And the population getting these cards (or not getting these cards) is the most mobile and least rooted group of voter, exactly the kind of people that the legislators who passed this law would rather see not voting.

Many conservatives (and even some "liberals") have never gotten over Symm vs. United States, the 1978 Supreme Court ruling that held that yes, college students DO get to vote in their college town. Most people have begrudgingly accepted that students should get to vote for president (the only ballot most students actually cast) but resent young people weighing in on local things like tax questions or how old you have to be to get into the bar.

The unspoken implication of HF516's refusal to accept valid out of state licenses and student IDs at the polls is: Kid, you're supposed to be voting an Illinois absentee ballot. But 20 years on the job tells me that the most likely way a student gets to cast a counted vote is to do it at school.

After the Secretary of State's match-up between the voter file and the license database, there were 7030 Johnson County active status voters without Iowa license numbers, who should be getting cards in this week's mailing. That's 7.7% of the county's total active registration.

Because the last "big" election was the presidential, most voters have not updated their address since the fall of 2016. In my town, most young people move every year on August 1, so the voter ID cards will be getting mailed to LAST year's address - which means more cards returned to sender and not getting delivered.



So let's guess at just how accurate these addresses are.
425 people without Iowa ID numbers have voted since the presidential election. Another 165 have registered since the presidential election and not voted yet. Odds are these are good addresses.
4324 last voted in the presidential election, and these voters are likely still registered at their fall 2016 addresses.

1306 last voted before the presidential election, and 810 registered before the presidential election and have never voted. Many of these people have moved away, and actually should be inactivated and ultimately canceled.
Any of these people needing to re-register will need to do a paper registration form - because Iowa's online voter registration system is only good for people who have Iowa license numbers.

Here's some more stats on the 7030 voters without license numbers.
  • 5977 of them are going to addresses in the city limits of Iowa City. Iowa City is 51% of Johnson County's registration, but is getting 85% of this mailing.
  • 3437 cards are going to the core student precincts - Iowa City 3, 5, 11, 19, and 20. That's  49% of the mailing going to just 11.5% of the registration. 1334 cards are going to dorms, almost all to fall semester 2016 addresses.
  • 55% of the people getting mailed ID cards live in apartments or dorms vs. 23% of all active status Johnson County voters.
  • 1621 cards are going to voters under age 21; almost all of that is students because townie kids living with parents are likely to have Iowa licenses. 
  • 260 cards will go to voters over age 80, another group at risk under the ID law.  Some of them have surrendered or lost their licenses and not bothered with non-driver IDs. Other have never has an Iowa state license or ID, and have moved here late in life to live closer to children and caretakers. (People who are in nursing homes and care centers are exempt from the ID law, but not every facility qualifies.)
  • And if you want to get partisan: The mailing of 7030 cards is 5% more No Party than overall registration, 4% less Republican, and 1% less Democratic.
Mail can be iffy, especially at the holiday season. Anyone who believes they should have gotten an ID card (remember, only the people without Iowa licenses will get these) and hasn't gotten one by Christmas should check in with their auditor.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Gala Grumbling

I skipped out on the Iowa Democratic Party's big event Monday night, not out of any objection but in part because of the scheduling. I will say one more time that while the name change needed to happen, the new name of the event formerly known as Jefferson-Jackson is so aesthetically lame that I refuse to use it. Sounds like a new variety of apple.

So I see predictable praise of candidates from supporters, comments that it was a nice event from many who were there, and assorted grumbling from some who were there and from more who were not.

The grumbles fall into three categories:
  1. the weeknight timing and choice of speaker;
  2. the optics of having an event that is very obviously two-tiered with "elite" and "cheap" seats; and
  3. the larger issue of high dollar fundraising. (And even the "elite" seats at The Event Formerly Known As JJ are mid-dollar seats. There's always a truly high-dollar "clutch event" where the biggest donors get face time and a picture with the Big Shot.)
I've been in the periphery of speaker recruiting on the local level and it's challenging. Iowa makes it more challenging, and the year after a presidential election without your party in the White House makes it even harder. The axiom is no politician goes to Iowa by accident, and the 2020 hopefuls are just not ready to put themselves under that First In The Nation spotlight yet, says the man who used to have a Days Since Hillary Has Been To Iowa countdown on this page.  

That limits you to either an Obama (and even Michelle is not immune to speculation) or a non-politician. And measured by attendance and entertainment value, Alec Baldwin was a success. 

While attendance was good, there was still the optics problem that a weeknight in Des Moines was "for Polk County only" - a common complaint in IDP circles in the last year.It did contribute to my decision not to attend. (While I'm lucky and have lots of time off work except in October and early November, I was just wrapping up an extended Thanksgiving vacation on Monday and didn't want to extend that another day.)

You don't on-purpose go for a Monday night. The way scheduling this kind of event works is: you line up the speaker and the speaker says "I'm available this date." Then you either set that date or you say "Sorry, Alec, but a Monday night is a deal breaker" and look for another speaker. 

Clearly IDP did not want to deprive all of America from Baldwin's Trump impersonation by asking for a Saturday night, though we could have brought in the whole cast and said "Live, from Des Moines, it's Saturday Night." 



(I'm shocked they had the self-awareness to actually play this clip at a Democratic Party fund raiser.)

As for the optics problem of a multi-tier event, with higher dollar donors seated for dinners and general admission in bleachers: We've heard grumbling about "elitism" from the bleachers but it might be interesting to ask some of the bigger donors. Here's a gentle reminder that all other things being equal (which they admittedly sometimes aren't) it is a good thing to be able to give the Democrats a lot of money.  Most of our high end donors, at least in Iowa, are good people and not corrupt influence peddlers. So let's ask them what they like and dislike about the setup and see what "frills" they would be just as happy to do without.

Johnson County is egalitarian, sometimes to the detriment of our bank account. We have had a long-term and explicit policy that no one is turned away from an event for inability to pay.

The Johnson County Democrats have two main events each year. The big one is our fall barbecue which is low-dollar (usually $20ish) and egalitarian seating at cafeteria style tables. The draw is speakers, usually candidates or out of state big names. We get a few new people at this, usually drawn by the speakers.

The other event is our spring Hall of Fame event which is a little higher dollar, dinner table style seating (though it's just coffee/dessert) and centered around the honorees. The people who show up at this are the long-time activists who know the people being honored. Candidates are introduced but don't speak; Dave Loebsack gives a short speech but the tone is not Re-Elect Me, it's The Congressman Is Here To Honor Your Lifetime Award. He always has a good story about each honoree.

Both these events have "host" levels, but the recognition is just a name in the program and not a better seat. At the BBQ you sit wherever; at the Hall of Fame the front seats are reserved for honorees and their personal guests.

Not every arm of the party is as loud about it as the Johnson County Dems, but it is almost always possible to get into an event for little or no money.

It's not easy to get into a closed door clutch event, because those are often controlled by the Big Name themselves and not the event host. But there are Regular Folks at those. I've never paid the four-figure donation for a clutch event, but I've been invited to them as a Key Local Activist or as a Person With An Interesting Story. My experience is the people who are there based on money only get the handshake and the picture, while the invited Regular Folks get better quality time.

It's almost always possible to get into the main speaking event free. You can volunteer and get in. Despite my lucrative career as a political consultant, I usually don't pay to attend events. I make the invitation list as a volunteer, that's my donation, and I show up. Most events also need regular volunteers without a special skill set.

Another way to get in free: Campaigns or unions buy blocks of tickets and give them to supporters. I was offered tickets to Monday's event by Nate Boulton's campaign because I'm supporting him.

Or if you're a long time activist who's short on bread, the organizers often just let you in.

Here's the problem. Unless you're already to some extent an "insider," you don't know about any of this. You see the price tag, get sticker shock, don't go, and express frustration. 

The best thing you can do as a political junkie - if you're reading a blog, you are - is to let the new people know about this. Make the circle of "insiders" as much bigger as you can. You still won't reach the person who only reads the article, but if you can reach the person who's at their first meeting, that makes it just a little better. 

One SCC member who skipped last night's event suggested an explicit income-based sliding scale. Maybe that would help (Johnson County generally lists something like "student price"), but one problem Johnson County has with its no-pay policy is people who CAN afford to pay but don't. Not a big problem, but one some people take advantage of. In the end, the purpose of the event is to raise money and "it's a fundraiser but you don't have to pay" is a mixed message. There's a risk that if you ask Bill Gates for $25, he will give you $25 and no more.

Also. consider this: No volunteer wants to get told or feel like their hours are less important than someone else's big check. But neither does a donor want to be told "money doesn't matter" as they're pulling out the checkbook. Granted, it's more often one way than the other, but everyone wants to feel good about what they do.


The big picture problem of high dollar based fund raising is harder to address. The real solution, donation and spending limits or public finance, is a LONG way off, will require a super-majority level consensus to amend the Constitution which is impossible in the current polarized environment, and can't happen till we win under the current, bad rules.

So we need interim solutions. Unfortunately I only have negative answers. Unilateral disarmament on principle will cost us even more elections. Magic internet small dollar money has only been shown to work on either presidential campaigns or the very limited circumstances of special elections that are the only game in town for a little while. (And which sometimes has the unpleasant side effect of unrealistically raising people's hopes.)

And if we're going to build a stronger small dollar base, we have to ask and ask again and keep asking. A more aggressive effort to solicit small donors runs the risk of creating the impression that we aren't interested in anything BUT money.  We need rank and file people who can't give anything more than a vote. We need volunteers to knock on the doors.

But we need staffers. We need flyers. We need signs. We need offices. Yes, we need ads. 


And to do those things, we need money.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Alabama Senate

Roy Moore is going to win. In the privacy of the booth Alabama Republicans willing to take a chance on a Moore expulsion and a chance at a do-over. But if not, Moore is better than letting a Democrat have a seat from Alabama (!) for 4 years. There's no way in hell  they're gonna let Doug Jones win this. If they can't force Moore off the ballot, which it looks like they can't, they'll vote for him and they'll seat him.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Big Move Into Open Seat!

Now that Mitch Gross has opted out, I'm announcing that I'm planning to move into Senate District 37- an open district where Bob Dvorsky is retiring. Anyone got stickers that say "Senate"?

Watch for a big announcement in early December...

Friday, November 10, 2017

City Election Post-Mortem, Part 1

I'm not ready yet to write about Iowa City's District B race. That may be a while yet.

But after three days I have a few thoughts on other races.

I had a smooth Election Day at work and the only real surprise professionally was a failed stealth write-in effort in Solon.

Mazahir Salih's win is a big, big deal. It's a big deal on the national or even world scale as she becomes, more than likely, the first Sudanese-American woman to win an election in the United States.

It's a big deal locally. Her win doesn't flip the council like the Core Four 2015 sweep did. It solidifies the previous 5-2 progressive council majority into a 6 to 1 majority. And going from Terry Dickens to Mazahir Salih is the biggest single seat shift maybe ever or at least since since Amy Correia replaced Ernie Lehman in 2005. That's how we used to measure progressive wins in Iowa City, one notch or even a half a notch at a time.

We replaced a guy who literally ran for the council because he wanted to stop the homeless from begging in front of his jewelry store to a community organizer who works with Iowa City's most challenged and needy residents.

I don't want to seem less excited than I should be. I was excited - several weeks ago. This race was over a long time ago, and the thrill's immediacy has worn off for me. Salih was a strong enough candidate that she essentially cleared the field.

The old guard Chamber of Commerce faction made the weirdest move possible in quietly recruiting Angela Winnike and then letting her run of the strangest non-campaigns ever. Had they simply let the at large race go entirely, Salih and Kingsley Botchway could have coasted, but with token opposition they worked hard and potentially helped District B candidate Ryan Hall.

And again, I am REALLY really not ready to write about that yet.

In landslides this big it's hard to read anything into result patterns. Winnike's distant last everywhere numbers vary so little by precinct from her 19% overall total that it's hard to ID any "hot spot." Salih finished just 64 votes behind Kingsley Botchway for first place, with rarely more than a handful of votes separating them in each precinct. Both got about 5600 votes, and based on precinct totals it appears that only 300 or so people voted for one but not the other.



The Coralville result is actually more interesting. Even though the self-labeled "progressive" candidates lost, the new council is much more liberal than the old, in a way that most Iowa City people don't get.

Prior to the election the center of gravity on the Coralville council was Tom Gill and Laurie Goodrich, moderates both just re-elected Tuesday, and the retiring Bill Hoeft. It was and always had been kind of a businessy body.

Now, the newly elected Meghann Foster makes up a council majority with the two holdover members, Mitch Gross and Jill Dodds, and this new majority is a mainstream Democrat kind of majority that's far less tone-deaf on, say, affordable housing than Gill and Goodrich. This is the most progressive the Coralville council has ever been and is a big leap forward. It's also, as Foster pointed out to me, the first ever female majority Coralville council (Iowa City had a female majority in 2006-07).

Foster finished in a solid first place with 74%, drawing support from both the business side and the liberal side. Cindy Riley in fourth place in the top-three-win election was trying for a similar appeal but got lost in the shuffle.


The "progressives," Elizabeth Dinschel and Miriam Timmer-Hackert, were in fifth and sixth place with 25% of the vote and nearly identical totals, just three votes apart.

A loss that big can't be chalked up to "lack of support from key Democrats" or questionable yard sign placement by their opponents, both charges that flew on social media in the final days.  Much was made of Goodrich's GOP affiliation (Gill is a DINO) but in the context of the 2013 "Koch Brothers" Coralville election in which she won her first term, she was the moderate choice against a radical conservative slate.

A 25% total indicates that either the message didn't get through or that it was heard and rejected, and reflects a fundamental mis-read of the Coralville city election voters. Timmer-Hackert and Dinschel challenged things and made some good points - that fell on deaf ears. Hey, I like the idea of walkable communities, too, but car culture is deeply, deeply embedded in Coralville, and people who care about walkable communities around here deal with that by... not living in Coralville and thus not voting in Coralville.

Imad Youssif was, well, on the ballot, and based on my work interactions with him I have a feeling he's going to become a perennial Some Dude candidate for stuff for a while.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Iowa Flipped In 2010

Iowa actually flipped in 2010. We only stayed purple through 2016 due to incredible organizing skill and a few lucky breaks. In retrospect, the beginning of the end was Tom Harkin's retirement announcement in January 2013.

The key architects of Iowa staying purple till 2016 were President Obama, ex-Iowa Democrats chaor Sue Dvorsky, and especially former Senate leader Mike Gronstal.

Mike Gronstal is a hero for holding that IA Senate majority six years longer than we should have. The man deserves a medal.

All the nasty crap that happened last legislative session would have happened years sooner if the Democrats hadn't held on to the Iowa Senate by one vote. 

Six more years of labor rights. Six more years of voting rights. Kept the marriage amendments off the floor till after the Supreme Court ruling. Six more years of reproductive rights. Those things and many more are thanks to Mike Gronstal's skill and courage. He  personally held back all the craziness for six legislative sessions, and he paid for it with his own political career.

Friday, October 13, 2017

The New Democracy Tweet Storm

In convenient blog post format

So Democrats are meeting at "New Democracy" forum today today to discuss How To Win Back Rural America

The answer to How To Win Back Rural America depends on why you think Democrats lost so badly in 2016

One of the Iowa Democrats fundamental problems is: we can't agree on why we lost

I believe Dems lost Old White Male Rural Working Class America on broad spectrum of culture issues not economics

We did not lose on Her Emails or Her Wall Street Speeches or Her policies

(And since Her is out of the ball game She's irrelevant to the future anyway, this is about future not 2016)

We also did not lose on Corporate Greed and the minimum wage and the twin boogeyman of NAFTA/TPP

We lost on immigration and race and religion and guns and the whole cluster of gender/sexual issues

That can be summed up more briefly but only by putting taboo words in the mouth of the hypothetical voter

However I will repeat my 4 word explanation of the whole election: I Hate That Bitch

So here's the problem: If we lost on cultural issues, then focusing *even more* on economics does not help

This also means we cannot appeal to Old White Male Working Class Rural America without abandoning principle

and we cannot appeal to Old White Male Rural America without abandoning the true base of the Democratic Party

The true base of the Democratic Party is urban and diverse and not very white

We cannot turn our backs on the most loyal Democrats in order to appeal to voters who we have lost already

The long term path back to majority runs through Texas and Georgia and Arizona and North Carolina and Florida

The long term path back to majority does not run through the Rust Belt and sadly does not run through Iowa

I'm not saying this because I'm giving up, on winning in Iowa, though it will be hard... 

but because in the short to mid term, winning is more likely on the national level than in Iowa

The other problem is a problem of style - and this is directly about Sanders

Unlike Her, Sanders is still relevant as long as he acts like a candidate (which he will not be in the end) 

Sanders speaks a 60s Left language, not a New Deal language, and that's an active turnoff to many older voters

Socialist Revolution sounds like Draft Dodgers and Bra Burners and They're Coming To Take My Guns

Socialist & Revolution are words that appeal to the Grad Student Proletariat not Old White Male Rural America

We can't artificially force a Class Struggle language onto a nation that doesn't think or speak that way.

Just because it makes YOU feel smart and because you ideologically believe it SHOULD work doesn't mean it WILL.

People mistakenly think Sanders Votes especially in places like WV  = Votes For Socialist Revolution 

But a Yuge chunk of Sanders Votes were simply I Hate That Bitch Votes 

In a 2 way race @MartinOMalley would likely have scored 30% simply for being Not Hillary


Living in a blue academic island I may be in the worst possible place to understand Trumpism.

I don't know the right answer and if I did I'd run for something and win.  But I do know that...

...focusing even more on economics when we lost over cultural issues... 

...and deliberately using rhetorically hostile language to explain those economics, is the wrong answer.

Not saying this to be "divisive" or because I don't believe in some or even most of the "progressive" specifics

(though Free College is a hard sell to working people who already think the College Kids are the rich kids...)

(...and who can barely dream of admission for themselves or their own kids)

I'm saying this because I want to win and we need to win

And I see a lot of people in the party, or more accurately on the fringes outside the party...

...who want to lead us down a path that I believe will end in more damage and even worse defeats.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Kander: ID Laws "Not just a policy difference, a political strategy"

Former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander pulled no punches Tuesday in describing ID laws and other vote suppression tools as "the centerpiece of Donald Trump's re-election strategy."

Kander spoke at the University of Iowa College of Law, and was also scheduled to speak at Drake Law Tuesday.

Kander led the Democratic ticket in Missouri last year, almost pulling off a U.S. Senate upset against incumbent Roy Blunt. After leaving office at year's end, Kander founded advocacy group Let America Vote.

While a losing Senate bid may seem like an unlikely launch pad for national ambitions,  Kander is still seen as a Democratic rising star. He'll be back in Iowa City on Oct. 21 at a fundraiser for state Senate Democrats, and Let America Vote recently opened a Des Moines office.

 "If politicians make it hard to vote, we'll make it hard for them to get re-elected," goes the Let America Vote tag line. "There urgently needs to be a political argument against vote suppression," said Kander. "This is not just a policy difference, it is a political strategy. Rather than change their policies, Republicans want to exclude people from democracy."

"Donald Trump's claim of 3 to 5 million illegal voters is the biggest lie a sitting president has ever told," said Kander, to which a student in the crowd replied, "Wait an hour."

Kander also took a shot at Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate. While legislatures and governors usually take the lead on voter restrictions in states where they have full control of government, he said, "Iowa is the only state in the nation where the Secretary of State personally proposed the voter ID law."

In contrast, he said, "I'm the only statewide candidate for Secretary of State who has run an ad against photo ID and won." ID laws remain popular on the surface, because of the common I Have To Show ID For Everything Else simplification, but Kander says support for ID laws may be shallow.

"It's hard to win an argument you don't make," said Kander, noting that arguments against ID laws have been lacking till recently. He said the most effective arguments against ID laws are cost to taxpayers and partisanship. "The average American has a real problem with partisanship."

"When Texas chose which IDs for voters to use, they picked drivers licenses and gun permits -  the two databases that are the most white," said Gerry Hebert, a Georgetown law professor who recently argued before the Supreme Court in a Wisconsin gerrymandering case. "We deliberately used elderly black veterans with long voter histories when we challenged that law and won."

Hebert doesn't always win - "If you're interested in losing a Supreme Court case 5 to 4, I'm your man," he  joked - but he's more optimistic in Gill v. Whitford.  "We think we have a workable standard of gerrymandering and we are hopeful we may have five votes."


In many states "redistricting really is a one party system, the Incumbent Party," said Kander, and historically that's how evenly divided Wisconsin drew its maps, until Scott Walker's Republicans took full control of state government in 2011 - just in time for redistricting.

The Wisconsin map under challenge was described in internal Republican documents as "Aggressively Maxed Out," the most partisan of several drafts. The question at hand is how to measure gerrymandering for partisan purposes, which Hebert says is "Theoretically possible - but the bar is extremely high."

What's new in the Wisconsin case is a measure called an "efficiency gap test," which compares the overall vote to the outcome in individual legislative races.

"In 2012, (Wisconsin Republicans) won 60 of the 99 seats in the Wisconsin Assembly despite winning only 48.6% of the two-party state-wide vote," writes the Brennan Center. "In 2014, they won 63 seats with only 52% of the state-wide vote."

Hebert noted that Justice Anthony Kennedy, the swing vote in the case, directed particularly tough and pointed questions at the Wisconsin officials defending the map, while his own arguments were described in the Milwaukee newspapers as "Atticus Finch-like." The envy in the room from the aspiring lawyers was nearly audible. 

"Right now the Court is as good as it will be in at least the next four years, said Hebert. "This may be Justice Kennedy's last term. The window is closing."

Hebert said if the efficiency gap test is upheld and allowed to be used to challenge gerrymanders, "maybe 15 to 20 states might be in play."

Friday, October 06, 2017

City Council Election: The Grand Unifying Theory

After the epic battle and record setting turnout of last month's school bond vote, the November 7 Iowa City council election is feeling decidedly anti-climactic.

Iowa City council used to be the office that attracted Some Dude self-starter candidates, forcing low-turnout primaries to eliminate them and narrow the field to the Serious Contenders, usually two progressives of varying strength and two anointed old guard Chamber of Commerce Candidates, who would almost always win.

But in recent years the lines have become more clear, the self-starters have vanished (or run for county supervisor instead), and the progressives have gained strength, capped with the 2015 sweep by the "Core Four" that overthrew the Chamber faction and installed the first progressive-led council in modern city history. Not only is there, for the third cycle in a row, no primary - there are only three candidates for the two at-large seats for the first time since 1989.

This anti-climactic mood has been building, rather NOT building, for months, and throughout those months I've developed and privately shared a Grand Unifying Theory about the local Johnson County politics of 2017. Now that we're at end game, I'm ready to share it in public.
Salih, Hall and Botchway at a joint campaign event

Because the Core Four - Mayor Jim Throgmorton and council members Rockne Cole, Pauline Taylor and John Thomas - hold over until 2019, it is not possible for the Old Guard to win back control of Iowa City government this year. So instead, they appear to have decided that their priority for 2017 was the school bond. You spend some money, you build and improve some schools, you build some houses near those schools, you make some money.

But to pass a 60% bond vote, you need a broad based coalition, what I call the (former mayor) "John Balmer to John Deeth" alliance of all the pragmatists - progressives who want to build schools and developers who see new and improved schools as good for business.

Both sides have done this before on similar issues and both sides were willing partners against a divided opposition of absolutist anti-taxers, an increasingly isolated far left that opposes anything that could possibly benefit business simply because it could possibly benefit business, and individuals with individual grudges.

It's hard to work with a divided coalition, as the No side found out with its mixed messaging, so unity is important. And unity is difficult if your erstwhile ally in the school bond Yes coalition is getting ready to fight you tooth and nail two months later in the city council election. So it served the interest of both the Chamber conservatives and the pragmatic progressives to put the city council election on the back burner.

Progressives made a half-hearted search to find a challenger for Susan Mims (who is switching from the vote for two at large race she won in 2009 and 2013 to the vote for one district B race), but that fizzled. Meanwhile, the old guard has essentially conceded the seat of the retiring Terry Dickens. He currently holds the B seat, but with Mims switching seats, the vacancy is in the at large contest.  The Chamber faction is making only a token effort behind a so-far invisible Angela Winnike (whose seemingly hip "Night-time Mayor" role is really just a Downtown Association PR angle).

Dickens was first elected, along with Mims, in the record low turnout 2009 election that was decided on filing deadline day when they drew opposition only from three obscure students. Dickens will go down in Iowa City history as the last of his kind, an unreconstructed Love The Hawkeyes Hate The Students townie who literally ran for the council because he wanted to force the homeless to stop begging in front of his jewelry store.

There will be no more Terry Dickens or Ernie Lehmans or Dean Thornberrys or Dee Vanderhoefs, because even the old timers know that there's no longer a majority in Iowa City who will vote for someone like that. They know that to win, they need to win over some of the soft-liberal vote with someone with some University ties, like a Tim Conroy (who came close in 2015 but very noticeably sat this cycle out) or a Mims. And the chamber crowd knows that if there's going to be ANY hope of re-taking business control of the city in 2019, they need to mollify the soft liberals and be seen as socially progressive.

Which boxes them in for this year because of who the progressives are running.

Incumbent Kingsley Botchway, a Core Four ally seeking re-election, has had a solid first term, first with two years on the short end of a 2014-15 council with a 5-2 old guard majority, then as mayor pro tem on the current 5-2 progressive council. He's taken a lead on issues like affordable housing, food insecurity, and racial equity, which mesh well with his day job as the school district's Director of Equity & Engagement. (Tangent: That's a job once held by former mayor Ross Wilburn, who's now in the governor's race.)

Rookie candidate Mazahir Salih is seeking to become the first member of Iowa City's growing Sudanese community to win an election. She arrived in America 20 years ago, settled in Iowa City a few years later to earn a medical technician degree, and helped found the Center for Worker Justice, which has been a powerful engine for helping and organizing the labor, immigrant, and low wage community.

America may be in backlash mode, but Iowa City is ground zero for the backlash to the backlash. Electing an immigrant who wears a headscarf is exactly the kind of middle finger to Trump message the People's Republic would love to send. In the long term big picture, the local business conservatives know they need to not be seen as Trump conservatives.

And since the old guard can't retake control till 2019, a 6-1 council split is no worse than a 5-2 split. They figure it'll be easier to win three of the four seats in 2019 than to win two of the three seats this year. So it's smarter for them to cede the Dickens seat rather than beat up on Salih, the immigrant woman, or on Botchway, the only African American council incumbent.


Tangent: Well worth a read is Iowa University Towns and the Twenty-sixth Amendment: The First Test of the Newly Enfranchised Student Vote in 1971, an academic look at that year's city elections.

Executive summary: Cedar Falls elected a student mayor, the old guard triumphed in Ames, and multiple Iowa City student candidates splintered the votes and lost in the primary.
But it's still OK to beat up on a student.

Ryan Hall was a late entering self-starter in the District B race but he's annexed the progressive opposition to Mims. Hall is hoping to become the first student to win a council race since David Perret won a second term in 1979. (No, Mid-American minion Michelle Payne's part time classes don't count.) Hall has an environmental and Americorps background, is a fast learner, and already seems much more up to speed than most past student candidates have been.

The bugaboo of students taking over the city has been the scare tactic of the townies since the 26th Amendment lowered the voting age to 18 in 1971, a prejudice that peaked during the three 21 bar elections (2007, 2010, 2013) and the 2011 run by Raj Patel, a successful businessman who lost solely because he was 20 years old.  Botchway, 28 when he won his first race four years ago, was the youngest winner since Perret, and despite the law degree even he faced some age-based resistance.

Kingsley and Mazahir - they both tend to be first-namers - are both are in Work Like You're 30 Points Behind campaign mode, despite the seemingly weak Winnike bid. The Botchway, Salih and Hall yard signs appear in clusters of two and three, but  the Mims signs stand alone.

It's clear that the priority of the Establishment (I laugh so hard at getting called "establishment" just because of one vote at one caucus) is keeping Mims as a voice on the council, to carry the ball through 2018 and into what will inevitably be a brutal 2019 contest. 

The Mims tagline is "trusted experience," and the squash a fly with a sledgehammer attack is beginning:
Susan’s opponent, Ryan Hall, is a 24-year-old University of Iowa undergrad who moved to Iowa City a year ago. Based on his presentations so far, there is little difference between their political leanings (sic). It does not make sense to replace her proven skills and deep awareness of our community with an unproven candidate. 
And the age old scare tactic: 
Efforts to rally undergraduate non-voters to support Hall based on his age alone is building momentum.
As I always note: Individual students come and go, but the student community is a permanent part of the Iowa City community, and a part of the community that has gone unrepresented for almost 40 years. When our community looks at its diversity, the diversity of the student population is too often overlooked, and a student would be a welcome addition to the council. So what if the old timers are shut out. Lots of parts of the community were shut out during their decades in power.

So we play out this election for field position, and the stakes are whether the establishment faction needs three out of four or a clean sweep to regain control in 2019.

Monday, October 02, 2017

What Happened In Vegas

I've often said I just wish the NRA would admit what we all know: they believe mass shootings are simply the price we pay for "freedom."





Today someone finally did. Bill O'Reilly. 

"Once again, the big downside of American freedom is on gruesome display.  A psychotic gunman in Las Vegas has committed the worst mass murder in U. S. history. ...

This is the price of freedom.  Violent nuts are allowed to roam free until they do damage, no matter how threatening they are.

The Second Amendment is clear that Americans have a right to arm themselves for protection.  Even the loons."

And this is why nothing will happen. A sizable minority of Americans actually define of "freedom" in terms of holding a weapon and that that these shootings, while sad and tragic, literally are the cost of freedom. And unlike gun control advocates, who are scattered across the political spectrum, the gun cult is willing to vote solely on this issue.

(This is the White Working Class that we're trying to Win Back with a rhetoric of Socialist Revolution.)

It's depressing and discouraging, but I appreciate Billo's directness and honesty Now I have a quite I can point to next time it happens. And there will be a next time.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Kids Win, No On Everything Faction Loses in Iowa City School Vote

Iowa City School District voters crushed the nay-sayers and shattered every turnout record in the books Tuesday as the $191 million bond issue passed with a solid 65-35% win.

The turnout really is the biggest story of the day. I have been expecting a record for months. In the early spring I put my best analysis to the test - because turnout projections are literally part of my job -  and months ago I was projecting about 5500 early votes and 10,000 at the polls - my exact number was 15,653.

That scared me, because that meant we were expecting more than 1500 voters each in Coralville and North Liberty - because of combined school precincts, that's bigger than presidential crowds.

(Tangent: While I didn't like the bill combining city and school elections effective in 2019, I will not miss explaining to voters that school precincts are different - which I spent most of the day doing.)

I had also expected huge lines in the February 2003 school bond, my benchmark for this election, and the election I considered the "real" record. Technically we were higher in December 1992, but as I explained in the prior post that was kind of a fluke because of a failed satellite voting experiment.

Our early vote numbers were even higher in 2003 than this year. But instead that turned out to be our first ever election with more early voters than election day voters.

My early vote projections were dead on; we counted 5,398 votes. So as I waited for the first turnout update at 9 AM, that was my question: Is it the scenario I expected, with about a third of the vote cast early and 10,000 at the polls? Or will this be another 50% early vote election?

We soon learned that it was the first scenario, so I spend the day fretting about lines and supplies. Once you're in the zone of Above The All Time Record, it gets very hard to predict by how much. (This turnout record will stand forever, because this was the last school board election. Beginning in 2019 school elections will be combined with the November city election.)

All the voters got taken care off and the final result exceeded my projection by a bit, with 11,324 at the polls and a grand total of 16,702. And we pushed 1975 voters through North Liberty, an all time record for a single school precinct. 

But Lemme had the highest percentage turnout, at 22.8%. And that was my POLITICAL worry of the day. Was the vote at Lemme the Save Hoover vote, looking to scuttle the whole plan? Or was it the City High vote. looking for the Hoover lot adjacent to the high school for expansion? It turned out to be the former, as Yes led 63-37 at Lemme, just a hair below the district total.

In fact, Yes was a very consistent winner across the district, topping 60% in every precinct except an overwhelming No vote in Hills. They're always the weakest supporters of school money issues, and Hills was subjected to the They're Gonna Close Your School scare tactics of the No campaign. They're also, by far, the smallest school precinct.

My other, anecdotal worry was an unusually large number of voters asking where to vote in the Twain precinct.  The southeast side has also historically leaned against school funding. It's a polarized area, with a young minority community that's less likely to vote next to a lot of older empty nesters who do vote. Not only did these voters not know they voted at Twain for school elections - they had no idea where the school was!  But even Twain, just barely, voted 60% Yes.

The Mercer precinct also voted 60% yes despite the heavy concentration of senior voters that make up part of the 20% anti-taxer Automatic No vote any money measure faces.

North Liberty, as mentioned, saw a spike, and I was convinced that the high North Liberty vote was Liberty High Football Field vote. They voted 71% yes. But the highest Yes vote was in the Manville Heights precinct. Despite Team No pushing the They're Gonna Close Lincoln School scare tactic, the doctors and professors voted 73% Yes.

I can always tell what an election is REALLY about by voter comments: "Can I vote in the county attorneys election?" "I want to vote for supervisor, and how soon can I change my party back." This election I heard "I want to vote on the bond" and "do I have to vote on everything?"

Over a quarter of voters, 28%, skipped the two-year school board race, and the average voter cast just 2.2 of their three votes in the full term race. That's people who voted for two, or one, or skipped it entirely.

But only 0.4% (74 out of 16,702) of voters skipped the bond. That's a lower under vote than you see for president. That's people who made mistakes marking their ballot.



The fiscal conservative 20% Automatic No faction loses none of their very little credibility; there are just X number of people who hate government and hate taxes, even in the People's Republic. (A lot of my stress over the outcome came from waiting on voters at the counter who had just paid their property taxes, which come due at the end of this month.)

People campaigning for Yes votes on any bond just have to work around them, and have to know that they have to get their 60% from the remaining 80%.

Put another way, a Yes campaign needs to get 3/4 of the persuadable voters, a very difficult near-consensus level that requires a a broad based coalition of the center, near left, and near right. Or as I say, you need everyone from John Balmer to John Deeth - and Yes had both of us.

But in addition to the Anti-Tax Automatic No vote, Johnson County has another faction, a faux "progressive" faction, that would rather destroy than build. A faction that asks the impossible and attacks workable plans because they aren't perfect. A faction that consistently aims their bitter anger at the wrong targets, and that disguises personal vendettas with misleading and flat out wrong "facts." A faction that has scuttled at least two  good candidates over narrow issues. A faction that looks at a broad coalition of the sensible center and accuses labor and the pragmatic progressives of being sell-outs to Big Business.

This No To Everything Left faction, and the Save Hoover faction it allied with, goes down as the election's biggest loser. If the No campaign had simply shut up and let the considerable doubt simmer, or if they had let some of the more sensible anti-tax conservatives be their visible leaders, they might have gained the five points they needed.

But by letting their most disingenuous and abrasive people be their public faces - should I name the three names or do I even need to bother? - No's campaign effort probably cost itself more votes than it gained. They were the loudest voices, but they've now been shown up as weak and non-influential. Those faces have now damaged their credibility for other causes and candidates they support.

Case in point: the board races.



Since Yes outnumbered No, and since people who don't care about education policy beyond "don't raise my taxes" were more likely to skip the board races, the three full term seats were swept with a big margin for the three Yes candidates.

I had projected J.P. Claussen in first place, which wasn't hard. He was a Yes on the bond but he was seen as an acceptable enough school district administration critic that he was a third choice for a lot of No voters. Claussen was in first place everywhere except the anomalous Hills precinct where he was a close second.

The race for second was close, with Ruthina Malone just 268 votes ahead of Janet Godwin. Malone had some small advantages: a labor endorsement and support from a number of "vote for two" Yes voters who backed her and Claussen.  Malone was second across most of Iowa City, while Godwin ran second in Coralville and North Liberty and on the west side.

Godwin in third ran FAR - 3300+ votes - ahead of fourth place finisher Laura Westemeyer, who was the only explicit Vote No and Fire Murley candidate. Westemeyer 's only bright spot was Hills, which she lives near. She won and Claussen was a close second; Hills had the highest under-vote share so it appears they voted for just two. But the district's smallest precinct, with just 1% of the district wide vote, is a weak electoral base to say the least.

Westemeyer edged to 37% at the old City High precinct (now voting at Our Redeemer Church) where most of the Save Hoover vote lives, but she was under a third of the vote everywhere else.

I wish Karen Woltman had chosen a better race and better allies for her first electoral run. She tried to hedge on the bond but was clearly IDd as a No, and the yard signs seemed deliberately designed to resemble the SAVE HOOVER look. Woltman was last in every precinct, only inching above 30% in the Hoover area.

The two year race was the only close contest. Shawn Eyestone, who had switched over from the full term race, rode a lead in Coralville and his own North Liberty to a close win over Charlie Eastham. Both Eyestone and Claussen had lost earlier races.

Clear Creek Amana also passed a bond, with much less controversy and a near record 71.1% yes; the February 2003 Iowa City bond was just a tenth of a point more popular.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Numbers to watch today

Record turnout for a regular Iowa City School District election is 8733 in 2013. This is certain to be broken; we already have already 5000+ early votes. Perspective: Until 2013 the ICCSD turnout record was 5814 in 1995. (That election included the bond that built Wickham school.) We have almost that many EARLY votes already.

Today's record will stand forever since this is the last regularly scheduled September school election. Starting in 2019, school election will be combined with the November of odd years city election.

The best ICCSD comparison for today's turnout would be with the February 2003 bond vote total of 12,480 voters  (School precincts were different then, so only the grand total is useful to compare.)

The record ICCSD bond turnout was 13,139 on 12/8/1992. That's well within reach today.  Turnout was boosted that election by offering December school ballots at satellite sites in the final days before the November presidential election. We were still learning how to do satellite voting back then, and this turned out to be a very bad idea that confused voters. (Lots of wrong ballot in wrong envelope kind of mistakes.)

Check back late late tonight for analysis.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Labor Day Roll Call

It's become a Labor Day tradition for me to post a roll call of the politicians present at the Iowa City Federation Of Labor picnic. Which I did via Twitter but I've had an ask for a one-stop list.t
It's another tradition that Dave Loebsack shows up VERY early at the noon-starting event on his way between the larger QC and Burlington events.

Two of the 74 governor candidates showed up:

On to the local stuff. We're eight days away from the school election and the three labor endorsed candidates were on hand: J.P. Claussen and Ruthina Malone for the full terms and Charlie Eastham for the two year term. The Yes bond campaign was working the crowd. (Some prominent opponents were also on site and may have been talking, but weren't handing anything out; labor has endorsed a Yes vote.)

 Also attending were not-endorsed Janet Godwin (who had a good labor survey and interview) and Karen Woltman (who entered the race late after endorsements were made) and board incumbent Phil Hemingway, who's in mid-term and not on the ballot.

City Fed has also made its Iowa City council endorsements, and all three were present: incumbent Kingsley Botchway and newcomer Mazahir Salih in the at large race and challenger Ryan Hall from the District B race. The off-cycle incumbents were well represented with mayor Jim Throgmorton and council members Rockne Cole and Pauline Taylor.

Endorsements have not been made yet in Coralville, but candidates Meghann Foster and Elizabeth Dinschel were in attendance along with mid-term incumbent Mitch Gross.

County employees were better represented by bosses than rank and file members (I may have been the only one). All five supervisors - Mike Carberry, Kurt Friese, Lisa Green-Douglass, Janelle Rettig, and Rod Sullivan - were at the picnic, though not all at once. Rettig and Carberry are up for re-election next year. Also spotted: Pat Heiden, who finished a very close fourth behind Friese in the 2016 primary for three seats and has been very visible ever since.

County Recorder Kim Painter and County Attorney Janet Lyness were also on hand. Both are on the ballot next year; Painter has seen no opposition since her first term in 1998, and Lyness crushed a 2014 primary opponent by more than two to one.

All three Johnson County state senators - Bob Dvorsky, Joe Bolkcom, and Kevin Kinney - are up next year and all were on hand, along with Rep. Mary Mascher.

Friday, August 25, 2017

My Eclipse


The beauty of the mechanics of the universe, one of God's greatest miracles.

Since I was six years old, during the 1970 event, I have wanted to see a total eclipse of the sun. On Monday, that dream came true. Words have largely failed me since, but as part of my new blogging plan of taking my tweet storms and Facebook posts and archiving them here, I'll try to sum up.

I did not take the photos above. I know just enough about photography to know that astronomical photos are tricky and just enough about astronomy to know that the solar corona is especially hard to capture. So I decided long in advance to simply watch.

And dude, Total Eclipse is a band you gotta see live.

Since seeing the eclipse, I have not been in the mood to Facebook fight about counterproductive political crap, and I'm trying to keep that euphoria going. Though politics, as always, came up even on Eclipse Day.


But Twitter's winner for the day without question was The Boss:

I missed the first day of early voting for the school election:
(Don't worry, I got voted on Wednesday.)

So the eclipse was everything I wanted and more, and now I'm trying to choose a spot for April 8. 2024. I'm thinking Cleveland and the  Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. Maybe Bruce will loan me some eclipse shades.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Farmer's Market Fascism

I'm happy with the way things went down at the Farmer's Market.

Vendor has idiotic opinions, looks even more foolish trying to defend himself.

City says no, we can't ban him or break his contract just because of his opinions.

Citizens organize, express their opposition to his opinion, inform the public, and recruit other vendors to their side.

Other citizens decide they would prefer not to do business with a bigot. Business suffers.

This is how it is supposed to work - not with bans, but with the truth winning in the marketplace of ideas.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Mein Trumpf, Zweites Buch


There's a lot of scary numbers in this HuffPo poll, but my takeaway post-Charlottesville is: Ballpark of 20% of America really believes this crap. Not to the swastikas level, maybe, but they really do think that Those People are Out Of Line and need to Get Back In Their Place, and that the tiki torch brigade "took it too far" but had some good ideas.  And they would say so themselves if they felt the social and economic independence to do so.


These are the voters who nominated Donald Trump, specifically because of his ethno-nationalism message, spoken openly rather than in thinly veiled code.

But he was elected because the rest of the Republican Party was willing to ignore it.

If "mainstream" Republicans had been serious in their "Never Trump" denunciations, they would have abandoned party for the only viable Stop Trump candidate - Hillary Clinton. That's what many did in 1964 with the then-inacceptable Barry Goldwater. They punted, then they won four years later. And there were fleeting moments of hints of this around convention time.

But those hints faded. First, no one thought Trump would actually win, Then, at end game, they knew he Trump would sign whatever McConnell and Ryan would pass and would appoint staunch conservative judged. So they were willing to overlook Trump's explicit racism/sexism in the hopes he would tone it down once in office, and would be content as a figurehead - which he is in some ways

But the racism/sexism is the one thing Trump really believes, and the mass rallies are the one aspect of the "job" he enjoys. He never wanted the JOB - he wanted the WIN. And beating the most qualified woman in American history just made it sweeter for him.

Part of the problem is Trump, but the bigger problem is the 20% or so of America that actually supports his ethno-nationalism. This is the stock in trade that Steve King has been peddling for 15 years - the anti-feminist, anti-immigrant, anti-liberal stuff that his constituents can't quite define, but can label as "political correctness."

I was saying this months before the caucuses and years ago about Steve King: the Trump base genuinely wants a white monocultural America. They voted for him because they literally want the wall and actually believes in mass deportation. They haven't quite figured out what to do with African Americans yet, but they know they don't want to hear anyone speaking Spanish or any other foreign languages in America.

And I think Trump actually wants these things too. I thing he legitimately does believe that anyone who is not a wealthy white American male is a lesser being. His base is willing to overlook the "wealthy" part, because they dream of becoming rich themselves

It's these cultural things, not "economic anxiety," that shifted the non-college white male working class to Trump, and the only way to win them back is to abandon  the true multicultural base of the modern Democratic party. Which is why, though I will go down fighting, I believe Iowa is lost. We are too old and too white. Texas and Georgia and Arizona will flip to the Democrats, but Iowa is moving the other way.


I say this privately a lot and rarely get disagreement - but you get pushed out of discussion groups if you dare suggest, for example, that the 4th CD is not winnable under any circumstances for a Democrat. Or that a message of Socialism! and Revolution! will win back old white men who are pissed off about "political correctness" because they got called into HR for telling the same Mexican Walks Into A Bar joke their dads used to tell. To these guys, Donald Trump is an aspirational fantasy - a guy (apparantly) so rich that he can day and do anything he wants with no consequences.

And I'm tired of being expected to pretend shit that ain't true.

I don't see a scenario in which the business/mainstream wing of the Republican Party is willing to abandon Trump, the Trumpists, and Trumpism. And that is a big big part of the problem.

I spent way too much of 2016 reading and re-reading Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. But from that I remember that the Nazi base, the core of genuine anti-semitic Brown Shirt Support, peaked at about 20%. It was only when the Nazis became the de facto party of big business to stop the left that they became the largest party in 1932.  So the "mainstream" conservatives bore some responsibility then - as they do now.

The other fatal mistake in 1930s Germany was the bitter split between center-left and the far left, spurred by the dogmatism of the far left. The Communists were more focused on defeating the Social Democratic Party, which they called "Social Fascists," than in beating the actual fascists. And I fear the repetition of that mistake.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Old Enough To Fight, Old Enough To Smoke?

I hate having to agree with Paul LePage, the Little Trump of Maine, but he does have a point:

Gov. Paul LePage said again Tuesday that he would propose increasing the age to vote or join the military to 21 to be consistent with a new law hiking the legal age to buy tobacco.
“This law subverts the United States Constitution and attempts to ‘social engineer’ legal behavior by adults who want to use a legal product that you don’t like,” LePage wrote to lawmakers on Tuesday. “If you don’t believe 18-year-olds are adults who can make their own decisions, then I hope you will support legislation that increases the voting age to 21 and prevents military service until a person turns 21.”
Unfortunately for LePage, two things would stand in his way: the U.S. Constitution and the U.S. military...
The 26th Amendment, passed in 1971 was only in part about voting rights. It was about the age of adulthood, and really about Vietnam and the draft. "Old enough to fight, old enough to vote" was too powerful an argument to ignore, and rather than give up the Vietnam draftees, they decided to lower the voting age, and the amendment passed in record time

So in the middle of the most unpopular war in our history, we decided by a supermajority that 18 year olds were adults. We believed it so strongly that we locked it into the Constitution itself.

As the 70s continued, we expanded that 18 Is Adult concept into other areas of the law, most notably the drinking age. But by the 80s we started rolling those rights back, starting with the drinking age, and now continuing into smoking.
But we did it differently. We had expanded adult rights to 18 year olds by enshrining it in the Constitution. But in the 80s with alcohol and now with tobacco, we're taking rights away by mere legislation & ordinances.

The fact that we put it in the Constitution, rather than passing mere legislation, means a lot to me, and that needs to be part of any discussion of the issue.

Sadly, in this era you probably could pass an amendment taking the vote away from 18-19-20 year olds, especially since they vote disproportionately Democratic, and disenfranchisement seems to be Page One of the GOP playbook these days.

Through the three bar elections, it was nearly impossible to get anyone to engage me on the issue at this level. It's always: "Yeah, but I hate drunk assholes." And, now, "I hate smokers." (So much of the rhetoric of anti-smokING is really anti-smokER and vilifies people for their own struggle with addiction.)
Most people, even legislators, privately concede to me that 21 is not about 19 and 20 year old college students drinking. No one cares much about that unless they're doing something else that causes trouble. 21 is about 18 year old high school seniors buying for younger friends. To which I say, graduate people at 17, like Harry Potter and I did (oh, wait, Harry never went back to school for year seven) and punish actual offenders instead.

Maybe 18 Is Adult was a mistake, and I know far too well and personally the harm of young adult drinking. If I could change one thing about my life from 17 to 21 - my entire life, really - I would not drink. Alcohol abuse cost me an extra year of college, a point off my GPA and my first serious relationship.

But the age of majority should be consistent and I would rather expand rights than take rights away, even if those rights, like smoking, drinking, and gambling, are of dubious merit.Things would have been very, very different if, instead of expanding voting rights so they could keep shipping 18 year old draftees to Vietnam, they had raised the draft age to 21 instead. 

All I know is no military recruiter should be allowed to contact or even SPEAK to someone who can't order a beer.