Friday, April 17, 2009

Fallon and Culver

How Come U Don't Call Me Anymore: Fallon and Culver

In the small world of Iowa politics and journalism, "Chet Culver's not returning my calls" is not a unheard-of sentiment. What's unusual is that someone said it on the record. But what's not unusual was that the person who said it on the record was Ed Fallon.

In a release issued to his email list and all media Thursday, Fallon denounced and detailed the governor's lack of responsiveness.

Fallon has a sizable base--26 percent in the `06 primary, which shocked folks who had him pegged at 10 or 15. He was close to 40 percent against Leonard Boswell, who had the full support of the entire Democratic power structure, from Tom Harkin on down, in the 2008 congressional primary. Fallon clearly feels, with some justification, that this earns him a place at the table. But the governor is not alone in not asking Ed to sit down.

(One thing that's weakened Fallon since the 2008 primary that's not his fault: Ed was one of the earliest and biggest John Edwards backers, and since the affair story broke the Democratic Party has pretended John Edwards never existed.)

Ed's many sins, if you want to call them that, are all variations on the same theme: he doesn't play ball. That's both his strength and his weakness.

In 2008, Fallon was one of the two Democrats in the state willing to stand up and say it's time for Blue Dog Boswell to go back to the farm (the other, of course, was me, and I'm just a crazy blogger with a funny hat so who cares). In doing so, he played into the pattern that marked his legislative career: He took on a likable guy with a lot of friends, and he said something uncomfortable that needed to be said. (Funny; Fallon talked issues while Boswell refused to debate and screamed Nader Nader Nader, yet Leonard's the good guy and Ed's the bad guy. Huh?)

Before that, it was the 99-1 votes in the legislature (98-2 when Minnette Doderer was still there). People either love Ed for that kind of stuff or hate him for it. It gets you a base between 26 and 40 percent in a primary, but it doesn't get your calls to the governor returned, and during his legislative tenure Fallon was one of the least popular members under the dome. This year they literally changed the law to keep candidates from paying themselves a salary from campaign funds and openly called it "the Fallon law."

Fallon is seeking a role. Or a job, which is the claim from the governor's office. Problem is, he doesn't have that role yet, which leaves him on the outside looking in. And now that he has no official portfolio and people who didn't like Ed or his approach to government in the first place don't have to include him by virtue of his legislative seat, they, well, don't.

But Fallon's uncompromising progressive streak is symbolic of a big chunk of the Democratic base that's often forgotten and needs to be part of the dialogue, whether that's in the person of Fallon or not. Right now, that dialogue is likely to be one-sided and along the lines of, "we only have 50 votes on federal deductibility and the labor bills and we need 51" or "you've got years of educating the public before VOICE is ready to move to the floor." But still, it should be happening.

Lyndon Johnson had great words of wisdom about the relative locations of tents and urine streams. Fallon campaigned loyally for Culver in the fall of 2006, but now he's redirected his aim. In the ways of politics, Fallon's public complaint probably makes it much less likely that he'll be getting a call from Terrace Hill soon. Watch the statements from other officials, or watch to see if there's a lack thereof. Is Ed Fallon being blown off because he's Ed Fallon, or is he just saying in public what others are saying in private?

1 comment:

David Arthur Smithers said...

As a blue dog Democrat on so many issues, Culver has plenty of Democrats who wish him ill, including me. The hell of it is, the Republicans might end up nominating Representative King. Then it wouldn't be between the lesser of two evils but between a pile of crap and hell on earth.