The soon-to-be-new members of the Iowa Democratic Party’s State Central Committee are quickly making their mark on the organization. Those elected at the district conventions several weeks ago won’t be seated on the party’s governing body until after the state convention, but many still attended the central committee meeting in Des Moines this weekend. Roughly half of the new members backed Bernie Sanders in the caucus, and this weekend the committee voted to recommend the creation of a new Progressive Caucus at the state convention on June 18.
The idea for such a committee isn’t new – it’s been debated within the party over the years, but disagreements over what it would stand for kept it from becoming a reality. And at this weekend’s meeting the discussion reportedly didn’t fall solely along Clinton/Sanders lines, with several central committee members who backed Hillary Clinton bringing the motion forward and speaking in favor of it. The main argument in its favor was that it would provide a welcoming home for new, left-leaning Democrats to enter the party structure.
The central committee’s vote, however, was simply to recommend its creation. The proposed Progressive Caucus will still be debated and voted upon at the state convention, but this recommendation should help it along.
This progressive group already exists in a way online, in the form of a Facebook group started by Jason Frerichs, the chair of the Montgomery County Democrats. There members discuss progressive policies they’d like to see enacted in the state party’s platform and debate which candidates to support in the upcoming primaries. The conversations are considerably more productive than what you see on other Facebook sites.
“The idea is to push more of those progressive ideas forward,” explained Holly Herbert, a newly-elected central committee member from the 3rd District who supported Sanders. “The group is open to everybody. There’s folks who support Sanders, there’s folks who support Clinton, and there’s some who don’t necessarily like either.”
“Part of the reason I joined the group was I was interested to see what people were talking about locally,” she added. “I feel like so much of this has been focused on the presidential race, and I think it’s more important to focus on local politics.”
Others had reservations over what the organization would stand for. John McCormally, who was re-elected to another term on the central committee, was unsure going into the meeting, but ended up voting in favor of the caucus’ creation.
“One of the issues with it is ‘progressive’ is a fairly broad term,” McCormally said. “It can mean different things to different people. And with the diversity caucuses that we have, it’s pretty easy to identify what their mission is. The African American Caucus is about increasing African American participation in the party and addressing issues affecting that community.”
There was also a concern about what it might imply about the rest of the party.
“What I don’t think is good is to sort of say that this part of the party is progressive, and the rest of it is not,” McCormally said. “I think that is not true. I think most of the people in the state central committee and as a whole in the party would define themselves as progressive. It may not mean the same thing to each person.”
But the chance to give a specific outlet for those new to the party who lean further to the left to have a place to organize within ending up swaying some members.
“If this gives people who felt disenfranchised, or who didn’t feel they had a home in the party, a place to enter the party, then it’s great,” McCormally concluded.
The Progressive Caucus was only one of five new organizations endorsed this weekend. A Women’s Caucus, Rural Caucus, Senior/Retired Caucus and Labor Caucus were also recommended.
These would add to the caucus committees the party already has: the Asian/Pacific Islander Caucus, Black Caucus, Disability Caucus, Latino Caucus, Native American Caucus, Stonewall Democrats Caucus and Veterans’ Caucus. Each caucus receives a vote on the state central committee.
by Pat Rynard