Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Still 12 Too Many

It's January and that always means silly season in Des Moines.

Like clockwork, a group of Iowa House Republicans is proposing amending the state Constitution to take away rights, rights that have been hard won state by state in the six years - that long already? since Varnum v. Brien.

Yes, it's the Marriage Is One Man One Woman (that curious wording a fundamentalist slap at the Mormons) Amendment.

But this year, there's a silver lining that's NOT a part of that dark ugly cloud: fewer and fewer Republicans are willing to lend their names to the effort, at least straight out of the box.

In 2011, the first session after the GOP took over House control, 56 of their 60 members signed on to the amendment as co-sponsors.  This year, there are just 12.

The dirty dozen are disproportionately new members, from the class of 2012 (Greg Heartsill, Tedd Gassman, Sandy Salmon, Dean Fisher, and Larry Sheets) 2014 (Steve Holt, John Wills and Terry Baxter) or even 2015 (John Kooiker, who took over the Sioux county seat from the Legislature's premiere homophobe, the late Dwayne Alons). The only veterans on board are Clel Baudler, Ralph Watts, and Matt Windschitl.

Obviously there's been some turnover since 2011 with redistricting, defeats, retirements, and other offices.  But a LOT of people who were on board right away in 2011 aren't signed on as sponsors yet this year - big names like Speaker Kraig Paulsen, Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer, Senator In Waiting Pat Grassley, and ambitious types like Hagenow and Klein and Baltimore.

Some of that is Iowa Clean Districting.  In most states with gerrymandered districts, GOP legislators need only fear a primary challenge from the right, which pushes them to err on the side of crazy. But in Iowa, all but the reddest places are competitive, and just about everyone has to keep one eye on the general election.

But if that's so... where are people like Chuck Soderberg and Guy Vander Linden, from safe GOP seats?

Early sponsorship is just one indicator. Others may still sign on, and I expect almost all the House Republicans to in the end VOTE for actual passage, after which Mike Gronstal will kill it dead, dead, dead in the Senate.

But this is one indicator that, after four more years of marriage equality in Iowa without the Apocolypse or Rapture, the politics of this issue have gotten just a little more complex for Republicans.  Four years ago, there was de facto party solidarity. Now, the people actively pushing the issue are a fringe. 12 sponsors is an improvement... but it's still 12 too many.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Haters Gonna Hate, Hate, Hate, Hate... Iowa

If I had to bet the beret today, I'd say this is a shot of the 2016 Republican ticket.  Do you think I'm f***in with you?  I am not  f***in with you.

Are they all here? All but four - Mitt, Jeb, Bobby and Rand. Well, we're goin' anyway.

Yes, first prize in the Iowa caucuses is a Cadillac El Dorado. Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you're fired. 

It's caucus time, at least on the Republican side. (We Democrats are still stuck with the Some Dudes, begging Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, and Waiting For Hillary.  Quick quiz for Dems: Name the Hillary Chair in your county.) And most observers are saying Wisconsin's Scott Walker, the man who made my parents lifelong Democrats when they were in their late 70s, made the best sale this weekend.
Football still hurts.

My gut check is that Walker has just the right appeal to both tea partiers and establishment types, and a last name that is not Bush, to emerge from the... "field" is too dignified a word for the 23 speakers on Saturday.  "Mosh pit may be more accurate. Just ask Alan Keyes (the Ben Carson of 2000).

And for all the bread bag humor of the last week, Joni Ernst in her first month as a senator has roughly as much experience as half term governor Sarah Palin, who may FINALLY have jumped the shark on Saturday.  Yes, the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate.

So if Walker is the big winner, who's The Biggest Loser? Sit down, Governor Christie. Is it Palin... or Iowa?  Cokie Roberts on Sunday:
COKIE ROBERTS: I think Republicans should stay out of Iowa altogether. What happens to them is that they get pushed so far to the right in those venues that it gives them a terrible time in the general election.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Hurt Mitt Romney last time.

ROBERTS: It hurts them all. And, by the way, Steve King, who hosted this, is absolutely toxic in the Hispanic community. And if the Republicans want to get that vote, they shouldn't be showing up at a Steve King event.
Roberts has been an Iowa caucus hater for decades.  I still remember her near-glee in the 1992 cycle when Tom Harkin's candidacy and GOP rules that boxed out Pat Buchanan meant that there basically weren't Iowa caucuses, from the beltway insider perspective.  And the beltway insiders HATE our long travel times and complicated rules.

But her comments, and national reaction to Ernst's State Of The Union rebuttal, illustrate something that even the smartest Iowa insiders often miss.  They're not looking at this past weekend, or Ernst, or the snafus of Caucus Night 2012, as Iowa Republican problems.   They're looking at it as IOWA problems.

Iowa Democrats are held accountable for Steve King and for the reversed call on the results and for the Ron Paul national convention delegation and for bread bags, just as Iowa Republicans are guilty by association with Democratic caucus math and our refusal to release raw numbers.

And more national types are ready to pile on. Scott Conroy:
Branstad could have stopped there. Instead, he kept talking.

“And also,” he said. “It’s good for Iowa’s economy.”

There it was.

The reality that Iowa hotels, Iowa restaurants, Iowa political consultants and Iowa taxpayers in general all stand to benefit from the caucuses is no revelation. It’s just that those who are in on the joke don’t typically say so when the cameras are rolling.

But perhaps Branstad’s bracing moment of candor might now serve as a wake-up call for some of the likely Republican presidential candidates, who currently are best positioned to win their party’s nomination. These men might now ask themselves a critical question before launching their campaigns in earnest: Is Iowa worth it?
A question that Hillary Clinton asked very publicly in the spring of 2007.

But after reviewing the usual litany of attacks, the Daily Caller's W. James Antle comes to our defense:
No, Iowa hasn’t been kind to well-organized, big-money conservatives who could have more easily competed against the establishment frontrunners. But in most cases, that’s because the big-money conservatives blew it.

Phil Gramm didn’t play well on the stump. He gambled that he could challenge Iowa’s first-in-the nation status by competing in the Louisiana caucuses beforehand and lost. As in lost both the Louisiana and Iowa caucuses, finishing fifth in the latter, just two points ahead of Alan Keyes.

Fred Thompson and Rick Perry were similarly out-hustled by underfunded social conservatives. Thompson didn’t look like he wanted it. Perry didn’t look like he could count to three. Iowans are supposed to vote for them anyway?

The bottom line is that the early states provide the only opportunity for real competition. It’s the last chance for lower-tiered candidates to have a fair fight with the big dogs and raise the money they need. After that, the race quickly shifts to who can put up ads in the greatest number of expensive media markets simultaneously.

The Iowa caucuses are sort of like that Winston Churchill quote about democracy: the worst system, except for all the others tried.
 As they say on the right, mega-dittoes.

As for Saturday, Nia-Malika Henderson cuts to the chase and gives us Saturday In One Sound Bite from each speaker. I admire the efficiency.

Yet my sense from the 2007-08 cycle is that the locals in Iowa usually have a better sense of what's really happening in caucus land than the nationals. So for my money, the smartest take on Saturday comes from Douglas Burns in Carroll, who puts it in Top 20 List format. (though you could have made it a countdown, Doug).

Mainstreaming Marijuana: Legislators at NORML forum

It's funny how issues get mainstreamed, and how fast some issues move.

Just a few years ago, I was considered a crazy radical for supporting marijuana legalization.

Then in the last two years, through the justice center campaigns (but not the November 2014 courthouse campaign, because there WAS no campaign) and the 2014 county attorney primary, I was a hopeless reactionary, a "tool" of the "Democrat machine." My position hadn't changed a bit; I still supported legalization, I just didn't believe a county attorney could do so unilaterally.

In any case, things have evolved so fast that the legalization movement hardly needs me anymore.

On Sunday the Iowa chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML, met with about 25 Iowa City community members for its first community and membership meeting in the area at the Iowa City Public Library.

I didn't hear about this ahead of time.  I might have gone to show support. I might have stayed away, to avoid people whom I agree with on the issue but disagree with on tactics, or on some other things, or who I just personally dislike.

But it turns out that some of those in attendance matter far more than me.  The most important part of the article is buried low:

"State Sens. Bob Dvorsky and Kevin Kinney attended the meeting."

That's two legislators. Two members of "the Democrat machine" which sometimes gets called "the Dvorsky Machine."  That's Bob Dyorsky, a retired corrections official, and Kevin Kinney, a just-retired deputy sheriff.  And Johnson County's third Democratic Senator, Joe Bolkcom, is the lead sponsor of medical marijuana issues in the legislature.

With those guys there, you hardly need me, do you?

“My political advice would be all your emphasis should be on (Senate Study Bill 1005) to get that changed to try and move forward with what we actually got passed last time,” Dvorsky said. “I’m not sure why decriminalization is in there either. I think you need a clean bill that just moves it from Schedule I to Schedule II, and that’s part of the holdup, I think, in trying to get something done.”

Pragmatic advice from a key legislator.  Popular opinion is moving faster than I've ever seen it move on any issue except marriage equality. (Pleeeease let Alabama's first gay marriage be interracial too. I want to be SURE heads explode.) And Kevin and Bob see that.

Here's hoping that the nullifiers who opposed the justice center and Janet Lyness give credit where it is due, and praise Kinney, Dvorsky and Bolkcom as loudly as they attacked Lyness and justice center supporters.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Subtext of the Bread Sacks

Well, the good news is she didn't talk about castration.

The bad news: now we Iowans have to hear bread sack jokes for the forseeable future.

Joni Ernst's shoe protector story was of course familiar to her constituents. But it was new to the national audience. And it was trotted out again, in a speech that we all know was very carefully vetted, for a reason.

"Breadbags on my Shoes"?? Was that a Dolly Parton hit from the 70s? Should it have been? Wow, she made Bobby Jindal look like Pericles Cultural elitist Maher was mocking, but he was accidentally right.  The story of the bread bags is the story of the rural white working class, that frustrating rabble that debunks Marx by voting culture above economics.

Look back at that Senate race.  Can you think of a better way to describe it than a culture war?  Bruce Braley tried in vain to make it a culture war about issues, actual pocketbook issues.  But Ernst and her handlers successfully sidestepped that cowpie and made it a culture war about image.  They asked Iowa to look in a mirror and vote for what they saw, and more people saw Farm Gal than Trial Lawyer.

The bread bags are cultural signifiers to the increasingly Appalachian voter base of the GOP.  So's the high school Hardees job  They're a way of saying white rural poverty and values are somehow "better" values than "urban" (and we know what that means) poverty.  I heard your dog whistle there.

And what was Ernst's ticket out?  The only jobs and education program rural white America sees as truly valid: the military.

We'll be hearing a lot of these stories the next couple years.  Republicans have to grow their Appalachia vote to have a shot at winning Ohio and Pennsylvania and with them the presidency.

Monday, January 19, 2015

MLK Day Linkfest

Some post-Ferguson post-Staten Island clips I've been saving for today. I can't add much to what these writers have said. If you've got the day off, use some of your time to read.

The struggle continues, and it's not just a domestic issue. Rachel Gillum and Tony Johnson:
Americans should be concerned when the nation’s principles and values are compromised. Losing credibility on domestic human rights and social justice issues is detrimental to U.S. foreign policy and national security because it weakens America’s legitimacy as a global ethical and moral leader. Recently, U.S. State Department officials calling for justice and accountability in repressive societies have been questioned and criticized over America’s treatment of black Americans. As a defender of human rights and champion of ethics-based domestic and international policies, the United States must promote a just society, supported by the rule of law, and a respect for all of its citizens with as much fervor and commitment at home as it does abroad.
And it's not just a regional thing, as Isabel Wilkerson writes:

It was because of the Great Migration — six million black Southerners fleeing Jim Crow from World War I to the 1970s — that African-Americans now live in every state of the union. They were seeking political asylum within their own country in what was, in effect, one of the nation’s largest and longest mass demonstrations against injustice. It was barely recognized for what it was at the time, arising as it did organically, rather than from a single leader, much like the protests today. Both migrants and protesters were pleading with the world to take notice that something was terribly wrong in the places where they lived.

One of the few contemporaneous studies in the early years of the migration, published by the Chicago Commission on Race Relations in 1922, surveyed Southern migrants to determine why they had come north and what they had hoped to find. The migrants responded:

“Freedom in voting and the conditions of the colored people here.”

“Freedom and chance to make a living.”

“Freedom and opportunity to acquire something.”

“Freedom of speech, right to live and work as other races.”

“Freedom of speech and action. Can live without fear, no Jim Crow.”

Those desires went little noticed. Indeed, it was resentment toward the Southerners’ arrival and obstacles to their entering the mainstream of Northern life that helped create the current conditions.
Gene Demby at Politico on a civil rights generation and tactics gap:
The ambivalence many younger activists feel toward Sharpton—and the civil rights establishment more broadly—isn’t just some intergenerational beef between old-heads and young bucks. Some of it is tactical. Tory Russell of Hands Up United thought that Sharpton’s proximity to the families of Michael Brown and Eric Garner was, in part, a way to shield himself from criticism. “When Al Sharpton comes to St. Louis, he don’t come out unless he’s with the parents,” Russell said. “It’s a cloak. He can say ‘you’re attacking the family!’”

But Hayes said that there was a financial and socioeconomic divide, too. “Organizers, a lot of times, have advanced degrees and worry about things like proper email etiquette,” he said with some sarcasm in his voice. “The nonprofitization of social movements has led to their professionalization.”

He said that the existence of a professional civil rights class has made it harder for people with less education or money to participate, and those older, more established groups often soak up resources and donations that the newer organizers need. “If the only way we can get [financial] help is to be a 501(c)(3)”—the tax designation for nonprofits—then something’s wrong,” Russell said.
And J on Oprah Winfrey as an example of that gap:
She's looking for the civil rights movement of half a century ago. But today's protests against racism look and sound different because today's racism looks and sounds different.

The fight there was between people who believed racism was good and people who believed racism was bad. Today, the fight is over whether racism persists as a live force in American life at all.

The battle is no longer between people who say African Americans should have equal rights and those who don't. It's between those who believe that we already have a colorblind society —a society where, if you just listen to what police officers say and don't behave like a thug, you'll be fine — and those who believe that racism still infects the criminal justice system, including among people who don't believe themselves to be racist.
The flash point of the current movement is law enforcement.  Via Daily Kos, The Real Reason Police Hate Bill de Blasio:
Emphasizing his multiracial family and personalizing issues of social and economic inequality has allowed him to capture the support of an Obama-esque coalition of people who never had access to the halls of power. Further, like Obama, he projects a masculinity that is empathic and introspective -- anathema to the patriarchal attitudes that dominate hierarchal institutions like the police...

Therein lies the fundamental split between the Mayor and the NYPD -- it is the clashing of egalitarian and authoritarian mindsets. There was no tipping point in their relationship. Bill de Blasio was hated by the police from day one.
Not to paint everyone with one brush. There are progressive-minded law enforcement folks, some of whom are my friends and some of whom are Democratic elected officials who want to fix things.  Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo shares a long message from a liberal NYC cop who tries to explain some of the mindset going on at NYPD today.  The whole thing is worth a read, here's a taste:
The siege mentality that animates the Tea Party national is alive and moving in Law Enforcement, which even under normal circumstances perceives the world as “us against them.”  The closing of ranks when the Brotherhood is threatened is palpable.

There is a sense, too, that the protesters have crossed over the line of free speech. Free speech should not include the right to block traffic, or bridges - and there is a sense that de Blasio has allowed that… the sense is that we enforce those laws that the people put in place. And when the politicians allow people to break those laws in the name of free speech, the cops feel betrayed. I get the reason behind civil disobedience, etc, but civil disobedience is normally undertaken at the risk of arrest. I think even the cops respect that.
Michelle Chen at The Nation argues that the larger labor movement is the pressure point
What to make of a union of workers who have historically been charged with breaking strikes and protecting the property of corporations?

Should the labor actions of recent weeks alarm New Yorkers? If PBA members go beyond passive de-policing and escalate to a confrontational “coup” against the Mayor, the cops could shift from patriarchal enforcers to a rogue agency. But New Yorkers should not buy the conservative line that these events are a reason to weaken public sector unions across the board.

Grappling with these contradictions might actually foster a more democratic labor movement. Ari Paul argues that police unions deserve not solidarity from other city unions, but rather, healthy antagonism—public sector workers like teachers should take a forceful stance against police brutality.

The point of labor organizing isn’t necessarily promoting ideological purity among the proletariat; it is to take the power structure of waged labor that forces the exploited to be complicit in their oppression, and empower them to resist to the greatest extent possible.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Pew-Pew Finger Shot Fired In Senate Primary

The first shots are being fired in the 2016 Democratic Senate primary.

Did you know we even HAD a Democratic Senate primary? Or even ONE candidate, let alone TWO?

Yes, we do, but it's between the two titans who got a quarter of the vote between them in 2010 against Roxanne Conlin, and who raised hundreds of dollars for the race: long ago legislators Bob Krause and Tom Fiegen.  And they're using heavy duty campaign weapons.  "Slingshots" is too stromg a word for social media posts and letters to the editor.  It's more like pointing fingers at each other and going pew! pew!

Here's Krause's letter in today's Iowa City edition of the Register Press Citizen:
Recently Tom Fiegen, a possible challenger to me for the Senate Democratic nomination, made a disturbing comment on his Facebook page. In response to a Des Moines Register article, he said: “Farm Bureau is the environmental equivalent of the Klu Klux Klan.” I have the utmost respect for the Iowa Farm Bureau, and completely renounce the comparison by Fiegen as not representative of the Democratic Party or hopefully the ultimate nominee.

As does Fiegen, I have marked disagreements with the Farm Bureau concerning its position of in support of total volunteerism on clean water initiatives in Iowa. However, I recognize that the only pathway to a common sense solution requires dialogue and civil debate. Name calling does not make a civil or productive debate.

The Ku Klux Klan is a proponent of racial terrorism. The Farm Bureau has no ties to the KKK or commonalities with it. The hyperbole by Fiegen is irresponsible and creates another barrier to a solution. In any future race for U.S. Senate, I will approach debate in ways that connect Iowans to issues and one another.

Bob Krause

As Iowa Democrats gather today to elect a new chair, our weakness in this top of the ticket race next year should be near the top of the priority list. As I've noted, this race could change very fast if Chuck Grassley pulls a last minute retirement.  Some of the state chair candidates are talking about a 99 County Strategy, and this race is important to that. 

And on a pragmatic level, I'll go so far as to say our weakness in the Senate race cost John Kerry the statewide win in 2004. That's not a slam at Art Small, who did us a favor by filling the ballot line.  It's a critique of those who didn't recruit someone stronger.

There's recent reports, that I'm not finding at the moment, that Tom Vilsack is poking his nose back into in-state politics, and looking for something to do post-cabinet and something to do to help Hillary Clinton.

Vilsack may not be a perfect progressive.  (No one is, though that seems to be the standard lately.)  The fact that he's been Secretary of Agriculture for six years without becoming a punching bag for the right will cause some environmentalists to be distrustful.  But he's credible and still has name ID, and could no doubt raise money. 

I don't think all things being equal he could BEAT Grassley, but he could run a serious race.  I handicap him at a base of 42-44%, far better than the 28 to 33% we've seen against Grassley in the past.  If he wants to help Hillary, this might be the best thing he can do.  Take one for the team and help her win here.  And he'd be well positioned in case lighting should strike.

With Chuck Grassley, the Let Sleeping Giants Sleep strategy won't work. Like Terry Branstad, he'll set out to run up the score and bring along down ballot people.

I'm not saying Tom Vilsack is THE person for this race.  Maybe it's Christie.  True, she failed in her own run and took some damage, but she's still pretty base-popular.

But my point is: we need to be thinking at that level, and not settling yet again for the fourth tier.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

What's it say on that statue again?

Since I didn't alienate enough people yesterday sticking up for Dave Loebsack, today I'm going to talk about Israel.

Well, not really.  I'm still skittish enough to edit my thoughts heavily before sharing - one of the restraints I accept for writing with my real name. Not that I would do it any other way.

But I'm coming out of my shell a little on this, so I'll share a couple separate, opposite thoughts from the Jewish community, where free, or at least freeER, speech on the subject of Israel is possible.

Shmuel Herzfeld, rabbi of the the National Synagogue and founder of the National Capital Jewish Law Center, writes in response to the anti-Semitic undercurrents resurfacing in France post-Charlie Hebdo:
Jews should not be forced to move to Israel  to be safe. For some Jews, Israel is not an attractive option. They might not know Hebrew; maybe they don’t want to move to another place where terrorism is a daily concern; or maybe they are not Zionists at all.

For several reasons, Americans have an obligation to answer this call. For one, as a superpower, the United States carries a certain moral authority. If we take a leadership role in protecting French Jewry, it will send a message to European countries that we do not have patience for their excuses about being unable to provide proper protection for their Jewish citizens.

Furthermore, the United States must not make the same mistakes it has made in the past.
That's entirely in keeping with my Statue of Liberty policy on immigration: that America was founded as and should forever remain the universal land of refuge - religious, political, and economic. If only we had held to those values in 1945. Or, better yet, in 1933.

On the flip side, we have the editors of Commentary with 3600 words. It's a hard to excerpt piece and it presupposes a certain knowlege of and a particular interpretation of history.
Jews should have the right to choose to stay in France or anywhere else on the planet Earth they wish to live, from the center of Hebron to the top of Mount Everest. But the issue is not right but reality. Jews in France—and, given certain trends, elsewhere in Europe, from Great Britain to Scandinavia—have to consider their literal survival.
Current Israeli policies are, as I see it, dismissed:
Zionism was not a utopian vision. It was a program, and remains a program—the means by which Jewry can and will survive into its fourth millennium...

Now the real challenge comes from within Zionism itself—with the way practical Zionism has disappointed some Jews. These are people who have replaced practical Zionism with what might be called “conditional Zionism.” For the conditional Zionists, Israel was once the port of call for Jews adrift. Now, they say, the storm is over and the threat to Jewry comes more from what they see as the calamity that the storm has wreaked on the port....
If Israel does not behave as the conditional Zionists wish it to behave, if it does not enact policies the conditional Zionists wish it to enact, if it does not confront its own external challenges in a manner that salves the consciences of the conditional Zionists, then it is not deserving of their support.
But the conclusion is firm and absolute, and dismissive of what Herzfeld argues:
For every French Jew at risk, for every Jew everywhere at risk, and for every Jew who chooses, Israel is home. Its existence before the Holocaust would have saved millions. Its existence after the Holocaust saved and created millions. Seventy years after the Holocaust, Jews in Europe are in need of it again.

The existential necessity of Zionism after Paris is not only a fact. It is a charge for the future.
Most interesting to me?  How I came to know about this article.
Why is it that Christian conservatives are so interested in this topic?

In any case, both these pieces represent the kind of root-level conversation we need to be having about the Middle East if things are ever going to get solved. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Rodney Dangerfield of Iowa

You'd think after a decade, people would start thinking of Dave Loebsack as a real congressman.

Yet even after five straight wins, and even though he is now the highest ranking elected Democrat in Iowa, Loebsack is still the Rodney Dangerfield of Iowa politics: he don't get no respect.

For those not following there's a good flame war in the Iowa Twittersphere. The latest round of Loebsack bashing is over the Keystone pipeline vote.  Loebsack is being called a "traitor" for tactically voting yes on a bill President Obama is certain to veto.

It's easy to bash Loebsack for this vote because he had to actually take a vote.  Because of COURSE in the alternate universe Senator Braley and Senator Conlin and Congressman Mowrer and Congressman Murphy and Congresswoman Appel would never have voted for it.

I might have gone the other way myself, but the Keystone fight pits two pieces of the Democratic coalition, environmentalists and labor, against one another.

I'm not saying this weighs on Loebsack's thinking, and I haven't talked to him directly about it.  Dave may be a bigger man than me, but if I were weighing labor vs. environmentalists, I'd remember: in 2006 labor was solidly in Loebsack's corner.  Meanwhile, environmental groups like the Sierra Club, who supported practically every other Democrat on the planet, were backing Jim Leach in the name of "nonpartisanship." 

Some, the "objective" press in particular, have never forgiven Loebsack for beating Leach, the last reasonable moderate Republican on the planet, the one token Republican that liberal groups and voters could support and get warm fuzzy "independent" feelings about. As if, in our hyper-partisan era when party labels actually mean something, "nonpartisan" was even a thing anymore.

Others won't forgive Loebsack for standing his ground and staying with his district - and it was, basically, his district - when they wanted to kick him to the curb and install Christie Vilsack (who was living in Des Moines, not Mt. Pleasant, on Map Day). No one ever, in public, other than me, suggested that it was maybe Leonard Boswell who should step down instead. We all saw how well THAT turned out. And we also saw how the idea of Christie Vilsack as a candidate was better than the reality of Christie Vilsack as a candidate.

I'll admit to a strong pro-Loebsack bias. I knew Dave long before he was a big deal, back when HE was one of MY volunteers knocking doors in Mt. Vernon. Back when he was gutsy enough to back Bill Bradley when us activists were being issued marching orders from Des Moines and DC to line up for Al Gore.

I was there at the beginning when the Loebsack "campaign" was just a half dozen people in a living room.  I stuck up for him on these pages while the rest of the Iowa bloggers ignored him.  So 2006 was a good year?  Not good enough for Becky Greenwald and Selden Spencer. Remember them?  (Maybe that's another reason some folks have chips on their shoulders about Loebsack: they dismissed his chances and bet on the losers.)

In the 40 years since the 1974 landslide, only two Iowa Democrats  have been able to defeat an incumbent Republican member of Congress: Tom Harkin on multiple occasions, and Dave Loebsack.  And Dave did it with ZERO support from the national party.

In 2006 30 freshman Democrats took over Republican seats. Today, Loebsack is one of only seven who remain in the House (three have gone to the Senate, Bruce Braley not among them).

Dave Loebsack is now in his fifth term. That's almost as long as Berkeley Bedell served.  It's as long as Mike Blouin and Dave Nagle served, COMBINED. All three are rightly regarded as legends of the Iowa Democratic Party. Yet Dave Loebsack is still looked at as a "fluke."No one's asking if Dave is going to challenge Grassley, or if he's going to run for governor, the way you'd normally talk about your party's top elected official.

"My first election no one thought I was going to win," Loebsack has said, "and my second election no one thought I was going to lose." And in his third, fourth, and fifth, Democrats seem to take his victory for granted as well. People assume, that because he's a college professor with a beard, or because the seat includes Iowa City, the whole DISTRICT is Iowa City and that the seat is safe.  They therefore he think should have a safe-seat, Dennis Kucinich type voting record. 

Yes, Johnson County is his donor base and his vote base, but the People's Republic is only one-fifth of the current 2nd District.  We're not even the biggest county, Scott is. In Scott, Loebsack barely won a majority, by just 215 votes.  And while Johnson voted 69% for Loebsack, his next best county was Des Moines at just under 56%.  This is not a safe urban majority seat. It's a clean Iowa districted swing seat that is going to be a fight every time.

Leonard Boswell, tempermentally, culturally and ideologically, was a Blue Dog. He was PROUD of that shit.  Dave Loebsack's no Blue Dog.  He's a too-cautious progressive.  Instead of attacking him, we should be encouraging him.  And in this political climate, it's critical for Democrats to hang on to what we have, rather than tearing it down because it's not perfect.

Belated Dave Loebsack Birthday Reception
You are cordially invited to a Belated Birthday Reception for
Congressman Dave Loebsack on
Saturday, January 24th, 2015
4 - 6 PM

At the the Sanctuary Pub
405 S. Gilbert Street
Iowa City, IA

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Ready For Warren Parties Tonight

Don't think it'll Happen, but I approve:

Iowans Organize House Parties As Part of Coast-to-Coast Effort to Draft Elizabeth Warren for President

On Wednesday, grassroots supporters across the country will participate in a series of Ready for Warren house parties.

In Iowa City, Veronica Tressler, a small business owner who founded and operates Yotopia Frozen Yogurt, will host her friends and neighbors at her home, where they will write postcards to Elizabeth Warren urging her to run for president in 2016. In Des Moines, Susan Webster will do the same at her house.

“Warren is bringing together a growing coalition of people who want to fight back against the powerful interests that crashed our economy and left Main Street with the bill – and that’s reflected in the house parties that are being planned now,” campaign manager Erica Sagrans said.


WHERE:     Home of Veronica Tessler
                    811 E. College St.
                    Iowa City, IA 52240

WHEN:        8:00PM CT  
                    Wednesday, January 7, 2015


WHERE:     Home of Susan Webster
                   2920 Kingman Blvd
                   Des Moines, IA 50311

WHEN:       6:00PM CT
                   Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

The Christie Bandwagon

It's not every day I get to bash on both the Packers' next opponent AND one of my least favorite Republicans, but today is that day.

As most political people and a great many non-political sports fans now know, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie roots for the Dallas Cowboys. (So did my ex-wife.)

Cheering for the Cowboys may be just about the most Chris Christie thing ever.  In order to explain that, I need to explain what being a fan means, and how you get to be a fan.

Fandom isn't random.  There needs to be some connection.  For most of that, this starts with geography.

I didn't choose the Packers as much as I inherited them. When I was very very small I just understood that We, meaning our whole extended family, were Packer fans.  It was literally part of the landscape, part of the regional gene pool.

Here's two maps of predominant NFL preference by region. First, Facebook...

Next Twitter. (Some cool interactive stuff when you click through.)

Not identical maps in the fringe regions, but more similar than different.  And only if you're from a place without its own real team - Iowa being a great example - do you get away with just PICKING a team.

You can, a limited but unspecified number of times, change allegiance.  You get to convert to your new hometown team or your spouse's team, but you also get to keep your team of birth no questions asked.  The NFL even plays with this in a recent promo.

Note that the Cowboys fan in the ad became one because she met a celebrity. Hold that thought.

But changing your team has to be tied to an actual life change.  Because one of the key aspects of being a True Fan is LOYALTY.

This is how I grew up in Wisconsin.
It wasn't always Discount Double-Checks and Lambeau Leaps. There was a time when the Packers were a sorry excuse for an NFL franchise, an embarrassment to the memory of Vince Lombardi.

The Green Bay Packers went through five head coaches between Vince Lombardi leaving in 1968 and Mike Holmgren arriving in 1992. Each had a lower winning percentage than his predecessor.

From 1968 through 1991, the Packers had four winning seasons. They qualified for the post-season twice and won exactly one playoff game. They went through more than 30 quarterbacks, some of whom seemingly had no idea how to throw a forward pass.

There were terrible trades and forgettable draft picks. The franchise lacked direction at the top, leadership in the locker room, talent on the field.
Yet we cheeseheads (we weren't called that yet) looked forward to every season with as much hope as Charlie Brown, and every time the ball was pulled away we knew NEXT year would be different and the Pack would be Back. 

Throughout that whole time, the stands were filled, as if Starr and Nitschke were still on the field and Vince still roamed the sidelines. Every game since 1960, Lombardi's second season, has been sold out. Pre-season, exhibition, win, lose, EVERY. SINGLE. GAME.

In an era of middle of teams moving literally in the middle of the night and abandoning fans, the Packers were unique.  That accident of history, grandfathered in ownership structure where the team literally belonged to the fans helped cement an intense bond to the whole city and state that few can match.

It's all artificial and vicarious, of course.  Aaron Rodgers is from California and grew up a 49ers fan, the 49ers Colin Kaepernick is from Wisconsin.  Luck of the draw, luck of the draft.

But the joy of the hometown fans, the pride of the community, is real.  And especially so in Green Bay.

So to me, more than most fans, your choice of team says something about your feelings about community. 

Chris Christie and I are about a year apart in age.  So our formative sporting memories are from the same era.

Christie was born and raised in Newark, New Jersey, at the north end of his state.  The Jets and Giants were just in the process of relocating to the Meadowlands from New York proper. And there's enough Eagles fans in the state that unlike me, he had a little bit of a choice.

At left are the 1971 standings for the NFC East and Central.  The divisions are the same today except for the now Arizona Cardinals.  Note the Cowboys in first place, and my Packers in the cellar.

Dallas won the Super Bowl that year.  In the 1970s they made five trips to the Super Bowl and won two.  The Eagles and Giants didn't get to the Big Game the whole decade.  It was EASY being a Cowboys fan in 1971.

What does this tell us?  It tells me that Christie is the worst kind of fan: a bandwagoner.

I have an extremely old and beat up Packer hat that I wear on special occasions like mowing the lawn.  I have two newer, nicer hats: one green for home games, one gold for away.  (I take this seriously.) I keep the old one to prove I'm not a bandwagoner.

Bandwagon fans fixate on whatever team is winning Super Bowls in their formative years.  It's OK if you're from neutral ground (Lonny, you get a pass on the Steelers) as long as you stay loyal when things get lean.

But for a Jersey kid to pick not just another team, but a divisional arch-rival? That. my friends, is a statement of character.  You have to be a special kind of jerk down to your DNA to be a Jersey boy cheering for the Cowboys in the 70s.

A young Chris Christie, the guy who would grow up and close a bridge at rush hour because Screw Youse Guys, looked at his hometown losers and went with the winners, the glitzy corporate champions. Not to to make too big a deal out of an 11 year old's football choice - but isn't it a great metaphor for his politics?
Not that this principle is universal. 

This Sunday, the Cowboys face the Packers.  The Cowboys, the richest team in the league, owned by Jerry Jones, the closest thing to a real life J.R. Ewing as could exist.  The Packers, the last small town team, owned by the community, by the fans.  Wealth vs. community. Not to read too much into it... but isn't that also a great metaphor for our whole country?

Monday, January 05, 2015

I Can't Comment On What I Haven't Read

I haven't read the most talked about article in Iowa politico-journalism today. And I doubt a lot of other Iowans have read past the headline.

"Top Iowa Democrats Slow to Rally Around Hillary Clinton," says the Wall Street Journal, and pretty much my entire Twitter feed is tweeting and retweeting and commenting.

I'd offer my thoughts, but the only thoughts I'd offer would be my overarching opinion of the Hillary In Iowa question.  I haven't read the article itself, because it's paywalled.

I have seen a few paragraphs, via Marketwatch, but that, too is just a tease of the full piece. And I've seen one amusing yet spot on critique from Ed Kilgore, headlined "The Wing Ding Factor." (Iowa Dems get the reference).
Candidates in both parties for state and local office in Iowa (and to a lesser extent, in other early states) are accustomed to enjoying the benefit of world-class mailing lists, state-of-the-art campaign infrastructures, and top-shelf campaign staffers from all over the country. These goodies come to them courtesy of presidential candidates, proto-presidential candidates, people who want to work on presidential campaigns, and people who want to influence presidential campaigns. This is why Iowans so fiercely protect their first-in-the-nation-caucus status, and also why they hate uncontested presidential nomination contests. So of course they don’t want HRC to win without a challenge.

The “Wing Ding” factor is something you should keep in mind when reading about the fertile soul Iowa offers to anyone contemplating a challenge to HRC.
I'd chip in a quarter or a buck to read the whole Wall Street Journal thing and excerpt the parts I needed as fair use for a legit critique.  On RARE occasions I've paid for archival content that I really, really need.  (I'd do it more, ironically, if I were getting paid to write.  But I can't justify it for a hobby.)

WSJ doesn't give me that option.  I'm looking at a $12 for 12 week introductory offer for ONE publication that I would rarely read, in order to access ONE article of interest.

As a formerly employed journalist, I have profoundly mixed feelings about all this.

But that genie has already left the bottle.  The music industry learned it first, followed fast by journalism, and the movies are doomed soon.  Information industries are going to have to find a business model to fund the creation of content (i.e. paying musicians ad reporters) other than pay per copy or advertiser support. A way to make money without charging anything.

If I had the answer, I certainly wouldn't be blogging for free right this moment. I have a theory, at least for journalism, that ultimately political interests will pay for content creation, and the news consumer will have to approach media with foreknowledge and critical thinking.

In the meantime, my time is limited and I can barely keep up with all the free information screaming at my head.  And unlike most, I'm giving back by creating content myself, whatever that's worth.  (Not enough to make me a Must Follow Iowan on Twitter, I guess.)  So the Wall Street Journal will have to get along without my 12 bucks.  That paywall makes that article less critical to me, and I had my own article to write.

No Room In The Inn

So Mike Huckabee quit his day job over the weekend, which everyone assumes means he's gearing up for a 2016 run.

But the 2008 Iowa Caucus winner can't simply pick up where he left off.  He's got some obstacles ahead.

One of those obstacles is fundraising, which I suspect is why Huckabee got out of the Fox gig.     Huckabee was unable to capitalize on his surprise Iowa win, because he was unable to raise money fast enough to be competitive in the next wave of states.

Another obstacle is Rick Santorum.  The improbable former senator went from losing his seat by 20 points to an Iowa caucus win* seemingly out of nowhere... but in large part, that was because Huckabee took a pass on 2012.  How many people on Huckabee's now-stale list feel a fresher allegiance to Santorum?

Santorum faces the same money woes post-Iowa as Huckabee. In part that was Santorum didn't get the official W till two weeks late.  But in part, I think it's an inherent weakness of social conservatives at the presidential level. As I noted a couple years ago, social conservatives are more plugged into church-based donating, and if you're all tithed out, it's harder to donate on short notice to a fast-surging campaign, or the donation is smaller.

Huckabee and Santorum are competing for exactly the same niche (or NICHE if you prefer). There's no room in the inn (see what I did there) for both, and though I suspect they both run, one drops out post-Straw Poll (which WILL happen).  Ames 2007 narrowly decided that Huckabee, not Sam Brownback, would be the SoCons Not Mitt. Within days Brownback's crowds had dwindled to nothing, and in a few weeks he was out.  America's gain, Kansas' loss.

If I'm wrong, and I've been known to be especially when discussing internal GOP politics, the winner of a split social conservative field is Rand Paul.

The Paul Dynasty is interesting in that support seems to be transferable across the generation.  Ted Cruz is just another tea partier but Rand is FREEDOM!!!1!  Also interesting: the Paul ceiling and the floor of support are close together.  They'll get 20% in a twelve candidate field and 20% in a two candidate field.  The difference is, 20% in a twelve candidate field is enough to win.

Kim Ron Il got 21.5% in 2012 and was just three points short of a win. That was in a race with six significant candidates and the winner(s) at 24.5.  If the field stays splintered a dozen ways, and the math breaks right, Kim Jong Rand wins at 21.5%.  In 2012, Santorum carried Marshall County with just 22.1.

Johnson County's seen a weird left-libertarian alliance in the last few years on local stuff.  Assuming neither Warren or Sanders runs, which I'm assuming though I'm still hoping, the anti-war pro-weed crowd is much more likely to be interested in Kim Jong Rand than in Hillary vs. Jim Webb.
Again, I'm no genius on internal Iowa Republican politics, but not too much of a stretch to say and 79.5% of Iowa Republicans don't want a Kim Jong Rand Iowa win.

I'm still predicting Scott Walker is the nominee. Mainstream enough for the establishment, crazy enough for the crazy.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Beret Bid Raises $420!

The Deeth Blog Beret Bid worked out better than I ever could have hoped.

If you're joining late: I donated a beret to Johnson County's mitten and hat tree, and Janelle Rettig had the idea of auctioning it off for the Crisis Center.

Yesterday was the last day to bid, and a good old fashioned bidding war escalated.  We'd climbed up from $50 at the start of the day to $140, and I anticipated a last second $150 winner.

Then out of nowhere, or at least out of New Jersey, David Redlawsk swooped in with a $200 bid with a half hour to go.  You'll remember the Rutgers psephologist from his years in the UI poli sci department and Johnson County Dems, and his co-authorship of caucus book "Why Iowa?"

At that point Supervisor Mike Carberry, who played a big role in pushing up the price, folded.  At 5:00 and 1 second I checked the inbox and declared Redlawsk our winner.  The beret was leaving town, but at least staying in the B1G.

A few minutes later my phone buzzed and I opened up an email from Chris Liebig, timestamped at 4:58, offering $210.

We had a problem. I'd declared the winner but we had a late, decisive ballot with a timely postmark.  I was about to call Matt Strawn to ask him how to change winners, but I had a better idea.

Upon further review of the play, I've decided to donate a SECOND, official and event-worn, beret and declare Redlawsk and Liebig co-winners (since Dave happily agreed to go up another sawbuck).  Just like the 1995 Ames Straw Poll.

That still leaves me with one to wear, and increases the total raised for the Crisis Center to $420, since Dave happily agreed to kick in another ten.  Not a bad return on investment, since I paid about two bucks each at, yes, second hand stores.

Thanks to all who bid the beret(s) up.  Donations are still welcome here.  For the record I do still have ONE beret left to wear.And I'm always shopping.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

How will this Deeth Blog Poll win affect me, Al Franken?

With the beret bid contest going on (current leader: Swisher mayor Christopher Taylor at $50; deadline for bids tomorrow) , I almost forgot that the Deeth Blog was also running another contest.

Since for the first time in 30 years, Iowa Democrats will no longer have a US Senator, I asked Democratic readers to choose a neighboring state Democrat as our surrogate senator.

I kind of forgot, because there was an immediate overwhelming favorite. Today we hit midpoint on the decade, and it seems like the 2010s truly are the Al Franken decade. 

And my worries that the two Minnesotans would spit the vote were for nothing, as Franken's senior colleague Amy Klobuchar finishes second.

My personal vote went to Tammy Baldwin, thanks to my Wisconsin bias, and she finished third. Dick Durbin and Claire McCaskill are distant also-rans.

Franken spent his first term, after a months long recount and a razor thin win with about 42% in a three way race, keeping his head down.  He was as serious as possible, staying off the talk shows and talking almost exclusively to Minnesota media.

Now that he's been comfortably re-elected with a clear majority, Franken has proven he was no fluke.  Here's hoping he takes his unique blend of wit and intelligence and plays a bigger role pushing the Democratic message.  He has a whole extra state to represent now.