Iowa is one of a number of states where most voters have concluded that the Democrats have nothing to offer, and have fled to the GOP. The Associated Press is a Democratic Party news source, but–to paraphrase Dwight Yoakum–the AP may be slow, but it ain’t blind. Thus tomorrow’s headline: Dems in Iowa wilderness struggle for power in Trump era.
In less than a decade, Iowa Democrats have withered, from in-charge to almost irrelevant.
After sending progressive Tom Harkin to the Senate for 30 years and twice delivering the state for Barack Obama, Democrats are powerless in the House, Senate and statehouse, and remain stunned by President Donald Trump’s solid Iowa victory last year.
“There’s a prescription for getting them back,” former Iowa Democratic Party executive director Norm Sterzenbach said of rural and working-class white voters. “We just need someone who can talk to them.”
Let that sink in for a moment. The Democrats don’t have politicians who can talk to voters in their own state. That seems like a fundamental problem.
On the eve of the 2010 midterm elections, Democrats controlled both state legislative chambers and had occupied the governor’s office for 12 years. The party held three of five House seats, while Harkin was Obama’s right hand in the push for the health care law.
But economic blowback from a national financial collapse, a poorly handled state budget crisis and the widespread revolt by grassroots conservatives against the Affordable Care Act created an angry backlash in 2010 against Democrats, especially in Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio.
2010, the year of the Tea Party, was bad for Democrats across the country. But Obama wasn’t done pushing voters toward the GOP.
Iowa was also undergoing a rapid, politically consequential demographic shift. Iowa ranks in the top 10 of states with the highest population of whites and in the top 15 of those 65 years and older. According to U.S. Census data, both groups — two pillars of Trump’s win statewide and nationally — increased simultaneously after 2010 and became a bigger percentage of Iowa’s electorate.
The percentage of whites in Iowa increased after 2010? I don’t think so. What did happen is that white voters grew increasingly tired of the Democrats’ endless yammering about “white privilege,” an idiotic concept that the Dems can’t possibly sell to an Iowa farmer or implement dealer.
Especially stark has been the decline of rural Democrats. … The last rural Democrat to hold statewide office was Gov. Tom Vilsack, elected in 1998.
“That’s been kind of a sea change,” said Doug Gross, a moderate Des Moines Republican and former nominee for governor. “It’s difficult to go into the rural areas of Iowa and find anyone who will admit to being a Democrat.”
That tells you something, doesn’t it? And Iowa is not alone. There are hardly any rural Democrats anywhere. My own state, Minnesota, is a few years behind Iowa. But in rural Minnesota, too, you would have to search assiduously to find someone who will admit to being a Democrat after the fiasco of the Obama administration. In another four years, maybe six, Minnesota will be, like Iowa, a red state.