Of Unity, Progress, and Litmus Tests

As a lifelong holder of minority opinions I am accustomed to candidates I support being defeated.  I’ve never done the math but I’ll bet my record for supporting the winning candidate in a primary is just slightly north of 50 percent (far worse if you only look at the Presidential races!).  I suppose this may be something future candidates who seek my endorsement may want to keep in mind, but anyway….

I select candidates I support based on a wide range of criteria.  Issues are of course first among equals, but also on my mind are things like the need to broaden our party and diversify our slate of elected officials, the various candidates’ experience levels and my personal knowledge of their capabilities and drive, as well as some sort of an X-factor that I suspect all of us harbor and none of us can define.  In the contested races, I don’t think it’s any secret that among the winning candidates I supported were Deidre DeJear and Zach Wahls.  I also worked for Mike Carberry and Cathy Glasson, who were not as fortunate.

It would be easy to argue with my choices, and many did, from across the spectrum of membership of the local and statewide Democratic Party.  And that’s as it should be!  The whole purpose of primaries is for us to fight like siblings.  In the general election though, we have to be a family.

The Democratic Party “family” certainly has its divisions, and what you call them tends to depend on where you happen to stand – or not – among them.  Labels get tossed around – “Progressive,” “Establishment,” “True Progressive,” “Machine,” “Liberal,” “DINO,” “Berniecrat,” “Closet Republican,” “Socialist.”  Choose your favorite epithet or badge of honor.  After a while they wash together and become meaningless.

Like many others involved in politics I’d like to believe I defy being cast as one particular label, but no one else is going to believe that.  Those who see me as a hard-left progressive will continue to see me that way.  Those who think I’m an establishment sell-out will see me that way.  All I can hope is that in addition they will find me to be forthright and honest in my convictions and strong but not totally rigid in my positions.  After that, well, they say if you want a friend in politics get a dog. I have a dog.  His name is Archie.  He’s a great dog.

Last week’s primary results were thunderingly decisive.  Here in Johnson County Democrats voted in record numbers for a gubernatorial cycle primary, and statewide it was close to a record.  Those who, like me, thought that a number of races might be razor thin were proven wrong (see first sentence, above), and folks who thought the Governor’s race might go to convention were also decisively shown otherwise.  For the record I thought it would, until roughly the last 2-3 weeks of the primary.  As Yogi Berra said, “Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.”

Every two years politicians considerably more successful, talented and well-known than myself will announce quite earnestly that “This is the most important election of our lifetimes.”  Well, this is the 19th one I’ve been through since attaining the age of majority.  The last one, in 2016, was without a doubt the most consequential of my lifetime, and that fact had nothing to do with me getting elected.  It had everything to do with President Trump getting elected, and with his doing so alongside “trifectas” in DC and Des Moines.  While 2 years from now may prove more important still, there is no doubt that 2018 is crucial.  The stakes have never been higher.

Our land and water are at stake.  The progress we’d been making on reversing global warming is itself being reversed.  A century-plus of progress on workers’ rights is being decimated.  Our children’s education is being sold down the river.  Mental Healthcare is in crisis.  Racism is rampant. And a 231-year-old constitutional republic and liberal democracy is under threat.

2018 is no time for a “No-true-Scotsman” logical fallacy about who is more (or less) progressive than whom, bickering amongst ourselves while the Republican Party consolidates power under the banner of Donald Trump and the Branstad/Reynolds administration.  Because that is precisely what they are counting on.

Fred Hubbell is the leader of the Iowa Democratic Party,  our candidate for Governor, and he has my full-throated support.  His primary victory was a clear majority, more than doubling-up his next-closest rival.  The time to second-guess or “Monday-morning-quarterback” is over.  I am proud of the showing and the grassroots campaign Cathy Glasson and her staff put together and they should be too.  It was an insurgency, a thing to behold – inspiring, emboldening, and over. 

John Norris has and deserves our respect, as well.  So do the other candidates. As does anyone who is willing to stick their neck out and say, “I’m willing to serve, if you’ll have me.”

By this I do not mean that we should stop fighting for our [insert label here] values.  But it does mean that doing so successfully, making progress on our issues, will be considerably more likely if Democrats can flip the House and take over Terrace Hill.  Even more so if we can send Representatives Blum and Young out to pasture and help capture at least one house of Congress.  And if you think that fighting amongst ourselves or sitting at home and sulking is going to help your version of progress become reality, then you need to re-read your Sun Tzu.

We must all get out there and work like our lives depend on it, like our children's lives depend on it, because they demonstrably do.  Our future rests on how hard we Democrats get out there and advocate for our candidates up and down the ballot.

So, I am pleading with you: contribute in any and every way you can.  If you have money, give money. If you have time, give time.  Make phone calls.  Knock doors.  Write letters to every editor in the city, county, and state.  Then in November, grab every person you know by their metaphorical collars and drag them to the polls.  Make sure everyone you know votes for each and every Democrat on their ballots.  If we do that, we will win.  Then you can have one week off before we return to our customary bickering ahead of the 2020 cycle, and we can do so from a position of renewed strength rather than frailty.  

#TeamHubbell

Litmus Test.jpg