Thursday, October 23, 2014

Deeth Blog Endorsement: A Straight Ticket

Reading the Cedar Rapids Gazette's endorsements last weekend, I was struck by the same word over and over again: bipartisanship.

"______ has demonstrated the ability to work across party lines and make the compromises necessary to govern the country"...
"...we wanted to know which of the two men held a realistic view of what a first-year congressman could accomplish, and who could best play with others in a bipartisan way..."

"Given his continued history of working on behalf of constituents and bipartisanship..."
I'm here to take issue with all these endorsements, even though some of them were for the candidates I voted for, almost a month ago, and would have voted for sooner, if I could have, because my mind was made up months ago.
I'm here to endorse issue and ideological consistency, effective government that gets things done, a clear direction, and an end to obstruction.
My endorsement is for a straight ticket.

I don't even care so much which one, though I hope it's a Democratic straight ticket.

Mind you, it wasn't a perfect choice for me. I expect some Democrats to lose. I won't be heartbroken at some of those losses, or if some primary losers get another chance at another time.

(I won't name all the names. But I will note that Sherrie Taha is without question the single weakest statewide major party candidate of either party in my 13 general election cycles as an Iowan. She makes Tom Harkin's hapless 2008 rival Christopher Reed look Gipper-esque. At least he raised enough money for a new suit and a haircut.)

I took that stance months ago, right after a contentious primary. And I've stuck with it despite some disappointments, and even though some of my fellow Democrats have been less gracious.

But still, issue for issue, in every single race, every Democratic candidate is closer to my views than every Republican candidate. And if you're a conservative, the reverse is true.

You see, for the first time in American history, in the last half century the political parties have come to MEAN something.
For the full century between Appomattox and Brown v. Board, the two major parties were melting pots. The Tafts and LaFollettes coexisted in the Republican Party, FDR and Theodore Bilbo were fellow Democrats.

In that century, bipartisanship was a sensible norm. Getting things done required across the aisle coalitions and friendships. And the grandest across the aisle coalition of all passed the civil rights legislation of the 1960s. This is the era enshrined in our civics textbooks, tattooed on the brains of Objective Journalists and Editorial Boards.

And it's as quaint and archaic as a 48 star flag.

Not to mention 4 cent postage.

Because that civil rights coalition is what killed bipartisanship and reshaped the party system.

It's taken a transitional generation or two, but it's now been completed, down to the legislative and courthouse level. For the first time in our history, America has a party system based on ideology, with a strong overlay of region race and class.

And in the middle is only the punditocracy, pleading for "compromise" and "bipartisanship" where there is none to be had. The parties simply stand for different things.Things don't get settled in the back room any more. They get settled in the booth.

So vote for what you believe in. But be consistent. Mark that straight ticket and get out your like-minded peers. You may not like what gets done. But at least something will get done.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Free WHO? and Fishy Finances

 Compared to the high profile justice center holy wars of November 2012 and May 2013, and the June 2014 county attorney primary that revisited the same issues, the question of the scaled down proposal on this fall's ballot, for courthouse expansion only without a jail, has been incredibly low key.

Despite a little nudging on my part, this no formal, organized Yes campaign. There's a very real burnout factor as many of the same people were involved in the two yes For Justice campaigns and the Janet Lyness primary race. And mailings on a ballot issue are especially hard to target when the issue is sharing space on a general election ballot. In a special election you can target frequent voters but in a general, you have to target everyone, even though 10 to 20% are going to skip a bottom of the ballot question.

There have only been low key public forums and endorsements: Yes from the Democrats, No from the Republicans.

Which points out another thing making this tough. A bond issue needs 60% to pass. My rule of thumb is: almost any money issue starts off with an automatic 20% No vote, from people who just don't want to spend money. (See: GOP No endorsement.) That means a Yes side needs to pick up 75% of what's left to win, a near-consensus level.

The John Zimmerman campaign showed us that about 30% of the Democratic primary electorate was willing to throw a highly qualified and experiences, and very likable, incumbent overboard as a protest vote over big picture criminal justice issues. (There was SOME overlap between that and the Automatic No vote, but most of that Automatic No was voting in the Republican US Senate primary.)

Throw in the architecture geeks and the folks who wanted a different location in, and that approximates the 45% No vote that "won," or blocked, the November 2012 and May 2013 proposals.

The Automatic No is unreachable, especially in this year's hyper partisan atmosphere, as is the contingent that wants to move out of downtown. The lower architectural profile of this plan  may appease the preservationists a bit. 

So the fate of the scaled back proposal is up to the lefties. Is setting the jail aside (for NOW, because sheer population growth means it's a problem that won't go away) enough to win some people over?

The shadowy "Free Johnson County" seems to be made up of only the libertarian leg of the left-libertarian Vote No New Jail/John Zimmerman coalition. The formerly prominent faded liberals seem to be sitting it out. Jeff Cox is pouring his energy into recruiting Bernie Sanders for president, and Caroline Dieterle and Carol deProsse are fighting the sales tax instead. (Zimmerman himself has left town, and is using his brand new law degree at a public defender gig in Missouri.)

So it's libertarian Sean Curtin who put his name on the above mailer, listing a box at Mailboxes Etc. for an address. That's the kind of address you use to hide.

I was amused to get one, after sticking my neck out on the other side three times in a row. But I was really looking forward to reading that campaign finance report, to see who paid.

You see, Vote No New Jail played really fast and loose with their campaign finances with implausible numbers and unattributed materials. Minutes after the last precinct reported in May 2013, Koch-backed Americans For Prosperity claimed victory.

Strategically brilliant: letting the 25% criminal justice reformers carry the message, then claiming victory on behalf of the 20% Automatic No.

So the finance reporting deadline Monday came and went with no Free Johnson County report (and no update under the old Vote No New Jail banner either). Perhaps I don't understand the strategy. Maybe they only sent a small, less than the $750 reporting limit, mailing only to their least likely voters, just to annoy us.

Or maybe, like last time, the big outsiders are waiting till the last second, to spend whatever they haven't already spent on Joni Ernst.

In either case, the courthouse campaign has been so low profile as to be easily forgettable. We have the same needs we did two years ago, a year and a half ago, that a too-narrow majority supported. This scaled-back proposal is nowhere near enough. But it helps. So don't forget to flip your ballot. On most, it's the next to last thing.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Elizabeth Warren in Iowa City

A Live tweet-blog:

But 50 yard line at Lambeau would be even better

Note beret and jersey in front row

Got a brief moment on the rope line: "THanks for coming to Iowa, come back!" Warren: "I will!"

Got home in time for 4th quarter, just in time to see them take Rodgers out of the game.

But really 38-3 before garbage time.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

In The Bubble

Sorry for the relative lack of original content here on the Deeth Blog. I've been deep inside the election process bubble. Right now life is less District Of The Day and more "how do I fix this kid's problem voter registration?"

So the story that leaped out to me the most this week was a logistics question: the death of Doug Butzier, the Libertarian Senate candidate.

The Libertarians have a second tier "party organization" status. You can register as a Libertarian (or Green) but they don't have primaries like the two full status parties, the Ds and Rs. The only way to get full party status is 2% of vote for governor or president. The Greens and Reform Party both had it and lost it in the last couple decades.

Because they don't have full party status, the Libertarians don't get to name a replacement candidate, but the votes get counted. And to be honest, most people voting Libertarian, especially in a race as close and as big a deal as this one, are doing so to Make A Statement without the expectation that Butzier would "win" in the traditional, take office sense of "win". Very few were voting for Doug Butzier the person. They were voting for Libertarian the label. So the statement doesn't really change with the candidate's death.

If Ernst or Braley had died, the whole senate election would be called off. The rest of the election would go on but there would be a special senate election in December. The dead candidate's party could replace them, the other candidates would be the same.

This happened in 2012 when state Senator Pat Ward died, at exactly the same point in the cycle, three weeks out. The Republicans replaced her, the Democrats had to keep the same candidate. In that case there were no third parties. If there had been they would have stayed on the ballot. (There's not a way for third party candidates to qualify for the special election unless they qualified for the regular one first.)

The law varies by state, with high profile examples. Anyone reading this blog remembers Mel Carnahan's posthumous election to the Senate in 2000, followed by the appointment of widow Jean Carnahan. But two years later, when Paul Wellstone died about two weeks before the election the Minnesota DFL had to replace him at the last minute with Walter Mondale.

And in the UK, if the even most minor of minor Monster Raving Loony (this is a real party) candidates dies, the whole election for that seat is rescheduled.

So the Senate race goes on despite Butzier's death, and if you think things between Braley and Ernst are getting nasty, check out THIS classic election from 1950: Yosemite Sam vs. Bugs Bunny.

I've never understood why the default frivolous write in vote is supposed to be Mickey Mouse followed by other Disney characters - and yes, it's true. Always Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. And never, despite the similar alliteration, Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck.

While I'm at it: you have the absolute right to cast a write in vote - in Iowa, at least, but not in California or other top two "open primary" (sic) states.

And 15 rural township offices in Johnson County will be decided by write in because no one filed. It's likely someone will win with one write in vote and getting their name drawn out of the hat. (I'm offering a beret if needed.) We used to have a rural voter who wrote his own name in for every uncontested office. (Yes, his ballot was secret so we don't KNOW that it was him, but come on.) Then, finally, it happened. He wrote himself in for an office with no candidate, and got his name drawn. so after finally winning an election... he turned the job down.

But my point is: use that right to write with some good judgement. No one's going to see your Mickey Mouse vote except the people working the polls. They won't laugh. They have to count them by hand, they've seen it all before, and they've worked a very long day.

And don't even get me started on Fred Hoiberg. That's actually the origin of the nickname: a write in vote for Ames Mayor. Which, if Iowa State has another good season, he could probably win for real.

It's a common though that the pollworkers are volunteers. They get paid. In our county it's $10.50 an hour, with time and a half after 8 hours a day. And we need more workers. Specifically, we need REPUBLICAN workers. The law says we have to balance evenly, Dems and Rs (the law allows  room for a few no parties and third parties). So if you have six workers at a site, it's 3 and 3. If you have seven, it's 4 and 3.

So basically we have to balance 50-50, in a community that's two to one Democratic. I have no idea how 80% Republican Sioux County does it but they aren't my problem. Republican readers, your services are needed and welcomed.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

What Columbus Day?

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving. All the turkey, none of the genocide. Next time we colonize a new world, let's hope for less smallpox and more spaceships.

Never did write up that Jack Hatch event from Thursday, but it's all there in the tweets.

Interesting read of the week is this Iowa Republican piece on targeted legislative races. Watching what little TV I watch, the spot I'm seeing in eastern Iowa is for Ken Rizer, challenging Dem freshman Daniel Lundby.

And what's the greenest way to live? Certainly not in a refrigerated city in the desert, but maybe not in a tiny house off the grid either. Maybe it's... New York City?

The last thing we need to do is reject “the metropolis” in favor of “rustic aspirations.” What purveyors of  handwringing pastoralism don’t get, and are very invested in not getting, is that the big, crowded, dirty, dense metropolis, the kind where people can actually live happily without owning a car, is in fact hugely better for the planet than the way most First Worlders live. 

The average Vermonter burns 540 gallons of gasoline per year, and the average Manhattanite burns just 90.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Who's in the field?

I got a robocall poll this evening. Which was funny because at the moment I got the call I was attending a Jack Hatch event (more on that next post). I'm fairly certain it was a legit poll poll. There were no "push" questions (Would you be more or less likely to vote for Bruce Braley if you knew he ate kittens for breakfast?)

The call came from my own 319 area code, an MCI line that looks to be from Cedar Rapids. It asked about the Senate and Governor races. I'm a cell-only person and I don't get a lot of telemarketing calls, but my number is listed on my voter record so I assume they were using some sort of voter data.

First question was how likely I was to vote, and "already" was included under very likely. If it had been a campaign rather than a real poll, "already" would have been its own choice and would have ended things. And since I voted almost two weeks ago, the campaigns probably already have me off the lists for mere mortal GOTV calls. (Though I still get the fundraising calls...)

Next up was my opinion of Bruce Braley (very/somewhat un/favorable) followed by same questions for Ernst. Then I was asked who I would be most likely to vote for - and interestingly the question included all six candidates.

After "voting" for Braley I was asked whether I has followed much media coverage of Braley, and how that affected my opinion of him, followed by same for Ernst. (I may be mixing the order up. A good poll rotates.)

The whole sequence repeated for the governor's race. I maneuvered myself next to Hatch in the hope that a live operator would come on and I could say "Hey, Jack, is my opinion of you favorable or unfavorable?" then hand him the phone. But I had to settle for the fun of pressing my 2 for Hatch while standing next to him. (After the call we chatted about it and he said "that's not ours.") Again, the third party candidates were all included.

I was wondering if the 2nd District race would come next, but instead we moved into demographics.  Gender age and income were included, as well as residence (larger city/suburb/small town/rural/"on a farm") party ID (Dem/GOP/Independent with no other options) and ideology *very/somewhat liberal/conservative). Race was not asked.

The more interesting demographic questions made me think this was more about Senate than Governor: gun ownership (no), union membership (yes) and choice (most pro of the four options offered).

I'm inclined to think the Register is not involved because they normally lead with a screen-out question about whether or not you work for an elected official (I lied and said no because I felt like that was an unfair reason to be excluded, and I didn't necessarily vote with my former boss. Or even for him.) I also doubt it's the Gazette because they'd be likely to include the congressional race.

My guess is it's a national firm that's acquired a local number for this purpose. Will be watching for results. Anyone else got a similar tale?

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Sanders Peels Paint Off Walls, Sounds Like Candidate in Iowa City

Another item I donated:
Winner: Jan Hook of Solon

Winner was Becci Reedus. But the hottest auction item was pair of tickets to next week's Hawkeye game.
It didn't, which is an indicator of how good the keynoters were because I really love Legos.

I actually stuck Cardboard Barack up there at the mic just for fun. Then got seriously thanked later: "so glad we're not distancing ourselves from the President."

One in a whole sequence of "squealing" references

And later on I made sure to do just that!

Roll call: Dvorsky Bolkcom Kinney*, Jacoby Mascher Lensing Stutsman Johnson*, Pulkrabek Weipert Lyness Painter Kriz, Harney Neuzil Sullivan Rettig Carberry*. * are candidates not yet elected. Also mayors Kuhl and Lundell, councilors Throgmorton and Kunkel.
And with that he begins, to "BER-NIE! BER-NIE! BER-NIE!" chants.

May be first since Jesse Jackson to pull that off.

Surprise was that it was only partial.

But as Vernon speaks:

Look closely to see beret:

But not everyone was impressed:

And unlike the Steak Fry I didn't miss anything important:

Friday, October 03, 2014

Independent Socialist Headlines Democratic Party Event, Cats and Dogs Living Together

I'm a major party hack, and proud of it, but I've always tried as a writer to be fair to third parties. I felt that attraction to alternative parties in my youth before I "sold out," as I've been accused.

And one of my current pet peeves is the increasingly popular "top two" primary, or as it's mis-named in California the "open" primary, that pits the top two finishers, regardless of party, against one another regardless of party. So you may have a general election between two Democrats or two Republicans, which is supposed to make things more "moderate." But what it definitely does is it shuts the third parties out of November completely.

Here in Iowa it's an interesting time for the un-parties, with an independent socialist headlining the Johnson County Democrats' barbecue this Sunday. It's Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders' fourth recent trip to Caucus Land.

One of the issues Sanders faces, should he run, is whether to run as a Democrat. The election outcome of 2000 set third party activism on the left back at least a generation, so activists who consider themselves both lefty and Democrats - including more than a few elected types who don't pass every local lefty purity test - are not Ready and are approaching Sanders with cautious optimism.

Vermont doesn't have party registration, and Sanders personally has had a friendly relationship with Democrats. But to make a serious run he needs a Today I Am A Democrat moment, and wouldn't Iowa City be a perfect place for it.

There are those who don't call themselves Democrats, of course. In my professional journalist days, when writing was a paying job and not just a hobby squeezed into personal time, I might have gone to Wednesday's third party candidate's forum. (More here) Instead, some followup:

There's a not insignificant chance that Iowa will get a third full status party out of this election. It takes 2% of the vote, for governor or president only, maintained every general election, to earn that status in Iowa, one of the higher standards in the country. (Other states use other offices, or allow the status to last longer.)

The Greens were a full status party for two years post-Nader, but they only have one candidate, a legislative contender, in the whole state. The Libertarians are trying but they always seem to fall short, especially with small l libertarianism playing a big role in Iowa GOP politics recently. Both these parties have a third party "organization" status, earned by petition.

No, the group seriously contending for full party status is Jonathan Narcisse's Narcissist Party - oops, "Iowa Party," which has no other candidates for any office.  Narcisse came close to the magic 2% in 2010, with 1.8%, and if the governor's race is still seen as uncompetitive come election day - people don't LIKE Branstad but don't KNOW Hatch - Narcisse may seem like a place to throw a protest vote.

What would an Iowa Party Of One Mean? Don't ask the Nebraska Party, because they're just the one-state name for the arch-conservative Constitution Party. The better example may be the Reform Party, Ross Perot's abandoned plaything that won full status in Iowa in 1996 following his second run.

No more than a couple hundred folks ever registered Reform (which was abbreviated F to avoid confusion with the other R party) but the state paid for a full-fledged Reform Party primary in 1998, with thousands of ballots for dozens of voters.

Not to sound election office whiny. The point is an orphaned political party with legal status can be a vehicle for anyone or anything. Ask Jesse Ventura, the only Reform Party member to actually win an election, who saw the remnants of the national structure taken over by Pat Buchanan's hard-right minions.

(It was less cute than this. Can anyone explain why some minions have one eye, and some have two?)

Ventura withdrew himself and the Minnesota organization out of the shell of the  Reform Party, and the group carries on as the Minnesota Independence Party. (Much credit to their chair, my friend and collegiate roommate Mark Jenkins.)

The Minnesota IndependenCE party is, unlike the Alaska Independence Party, not looking to secede despite the convenient border with Canada. And it is definitely not to be confused with IndependenT, though that confusion is common with any party name that includes any variation of the term. Just recently it came to light that former first daughter Jenna Bush had registered with New York's IndependenCE Party, thinking it meant "independent." (Again, non-secessionist despite Canadian border.)

In all past elections, Iowa candidates who did not list a party - and by "party" I mean full status, third party status , or no status, just nothing - were listed as on ballots as the somewhat legalese "Nominated By Petition." This year's Senate race is different: Rick Stewart has been listed by the ostensibly appealing "Independent," and Ruth Smith is listed with no labels at all. (Interesting thing, that No Labels.) In the past both would have been listed as "Nominated By Petition." Why the change, Matt Schultz?

And if the Narcissists get their 2%, does "Iowa Party" get abbreviated as "I" and cause even more confusion?