Sunday, August 13, 2023

Sure You're Depressed, But At Least You Ain't an Iowa Democrat


Iowa Democrats are at their lowest [psychological] point in decades. “It is so bad,” said Claire Celsi, a Democratic state senator from West Des Moines. “I can’t even describe to you how bad it is.”

--Huynh & Epstein

Since 2018, I've been occasionally focused (hard) on Iowa and the chances that Democrats can flip some important seats.

In 2018, ex-baseball player J.D. Scholten made national waves challenging toxic spill Steve King, who represented the 4th CD of Iowa. Scholten showed strength, too, in a heavily Republican-leaning district and came within 3.4% of actually overtaking King. Scholten tried again in 2020 (same results), but the Democratic star of 2020 turned out to be Theresa Greenfield, mounting a lively "country girl" campaign designed to undercut incumbent Joni Ernst's tough hog-wrangler image. Greenfield ended up with just over 45% of the vote (which is less than winning but more than losing big).

The article in the NYTimes referenced above sez that Iowa Democrats "are despondent, exhausted by repeated defeats and the loss of their first-in-the-nation nominating contest." It's one thing to lose a single race; it's something wholly other when the DNC decides you, Iowa, won't be the first-in-the-nation Democratic caucus any longer. That honor (and that party-organizing tool, with all its economic side benefits -- the pouring in of money and personnel) goes now to South Carolina. Democrats are down, depressed, in the Dumps where sad ghosts dwell. There are ripple effects: Democrats in the State Legislature -- a minority that has no power whatsoever -- began to eat their own.

The trajectory for the Democratic Party in Iowa mimics the recent path of the NC Democratic Party:

Iowa’s transition to a deep-red state has taken place with remarkable speed. Democrats controlled the State Senate as recently as 2016. In 2018, Democrats won three of the state’s four congressional seats and three of the six statewide offices. But after the party’s bungling of its 2020 presidential caucuses, President Donald J. Trump cruised to victory in Iowa that November.


The underfunded, little-known Democratic nominee for governor lost by 19 percentage points to Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, and carried only four of the state’s 99 counties. Republicans took all four congressional seats for the first time in 50 years, enacted a gun rights amendment in the State Constitution, ousted two of the three Democrats in statewide office and took supermajority control of both chambers of the Legislature.

Gosh. Sounds familiar, like maybe we've been here before and didn't learn anything. Now, while Iowa Democrats are Sisyphusing a huge stone, trying to recruit viable candidates under a defeatist cloud, at least the Democrats of North Carolina have some new energy -- and a new strategy -- because of 25-year-old Anderson Clayton.

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