The Iowa Democratic Party met at Drake University last Saturday to conduct a diversity workshop. In the press release the Party described the workshop: “The goal of the workshop is to educate, motivate and facilitate discussion among IDP Constituency Caucuses with an overall theme of ‘Diversity in Action.’”
The weekends leading up to elections are key door knocking and phone calling days critical to turning out the vote. The fact that the IDP took an important half day on a Saturday less than 2 months before the presidential election demonstrates the importance the party places on holding a discussion on diversity. It should be noted that many of the attendees were going directly from the adjournment at 1:00 pm to phone banks or walking doors.
The importance that Democrats place on diversity perhaps can best be described by contrasting how the Republicans view diversity. Following the 2012 loss, Republicans conducted a self-assessment and reached the conclusion that to be successful in 2016 they needed to expand their outreach to various constituencies. They specifically said they must reach out to Latinos, women, African Americans and youth. Now, we know the Trump campaign has not only ignored the Republicans’ own advice, they have been digging a deeper hole for themselves.
In a July poll among youthful voters, 44% identified as Democrats and 28% as Republicans. That poll showed Republicans only polling at 7% among black voters and 12% with Latinos. Trump has only a 19% favorable rating among registered Asian-American voters. Likewise, Republicans are lagging among women voters.
Iowa Democrats are doing exactly what Republicans refuse to do by enlarging the size of their big tent. The IDP is increasing their outreach to more of these specific groups. They have added five new constituencies to their affirmative action caucuses. They added caucuses representing progressives, women, rural, senior/retiree and labor at their 2016 Convention. The Saturday diversity workshop was the first meeting since the convention to bring all the 12 caucuses together.
There were breakout sessions so the members of each of the caucuses could meet and “motivate and educate” to their specific needs. There may be some Democrats that are wondering why Iowa Democrats need 12 specific caucuses representing various constituencies. Following the breakouts Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad was given the opportunity to explain why it’s necessary and how all Democrats gain from embracing diversity.
Rep. Abdul-Samad described an incident that happened to him which proved to be an epiphany. He explained he was a member of the Black Caucus and he could qualify as a member of the Senior Caucus. However, it was a health crisis that qualified him as a member of the Disability Caucus. He had a knee transplant that resulted in a significant incapacitation. Suddenly, he was living in a world he had never experienced. He needed help to get around and he discovered he had to negotiate the world from a wholly new perspective. He realized this was the world of coping with a disability.
He continued by explaining that’s exactly what diversity means. It’s understanding the world from the point of view of others. He encouraged the audience to embrace and learn from others as he did from his experience. Everyone is limited by their own personal life events. We each can gain from sharing with everyone.
He emphasized how important it is that we don’t just reach out to our constituencies every four years. If Democrats want to earn voters’ support it must be an ongoing consistent effort of outreach. Democrats must prove they understand the needs and issues that drive each constituency and provide meaningful solutions to each. The IDP workshop was an important step for Democrats toward embracing and celebrating their diversity.
Below are the twelve affirmative action caucuses and their Chairs. The ones in bold are new in 2016.
Asian/Pacific Islander Caucus, Som Baccam
Black Caucus, Jamie Woods
Disability Caucus, Catherine Crist
Labor Caucus, Tammy Wawro
Latino Caucus, Brenda Phongsavanh
Native American Caucus, Loutish Dumkrieger
Progressive Caucus, Jason Frerichs
Rural Caucus, Colleen Caldwell
Senior/Retiree, Jean Pardee
Stonewall Democrats Caucus, Devin Kelly
Veterans Caucus, Caleb Humphrey
Womens Caucus, Melinda Jones
by Rick Smith