Next Steps For The Iowa Democratic Party

Guest Post from Derek Eadon. All potential IDP chair candidates are welcome to submit op-eds on their plans.

The shock of Election Day has finally worn off. I wish I could say I was surprised at the results, but unfortunately that was not the case. The shock came from the worst-case scenario being realized. Donald Trump was President. In Iowa we had lost the Senate, the one thing that was protecting us from Republican overreach. The reality is, though, none of us should have been shocked by last Tuesday’s results. Those that were, were not looking at the right indicators.

If there is a silver lining to our losses across Iowa and the country, it is that there is now an appetite to have tough conversations. Our message, our structure, and our plan moving forward all need to be revised. I am all for recycling, but not when it comes to failed tactics, ideas, and leaders.

Before the election was over, there was talk of who the next chair of the Iowa Democratic Party would be. I was flattered that folks were gauging my interest. I have had very strong feelings on how the party can do better, and thoughts on what the plan can be moving forward.  The inability to change how our party fundamentally operates has been frustrating, but there is an opportunity now.

After years of working for change within and outside the party, I am now considering putting everything aside and running for Chair of the Iowa Democratic Party. Over the last few months, especially the last week, I have been listening as much as I can to members of our party on what we can do better. I hope to engage in even more conversations and travel the state to hear from folks. Regardless of who ends up running for chair, here are some of my suggestions for how we move forward based on what I have been hearing. This list will continue to grow and change as more conversations happen, but I think it’s important to start this conversation now.

Priorities for the Party Moving Forward

  • Make the party more accessible to new members and build lasting relationships. If we are a big tent party, we need to act like it. Everyone should be welcome and we need to treat each other with respect, especially now. New people joining our party are what will make us better.
  • We shouldn’t just host big fundraisers and reach out to communities of color and young voters near an election, we need to have open communication and smaller community events. We need to prove to these communities that we support them.
  • Recruit, develop, and support candidates across the state. Provide them the tools and confidence they need to put their name on the ballot.
  • Provide training, incentives, and resources for local Democrats who want to begin to organize in their communities and develop their skills. We need to rebuild at the local level.
  • Develop a concise message on economic fairness and aggressively highlight the Iowa GOP’s tendency to help their donors and take away opportunity from Iowans.
  • Use the state’s organization to respond to GOP overreach aggressively and in real time. This upcoming legislative session is crucial.
  • Through specific initiatives on candidate recruitment and local organizing, expand our local and national donor pool with a sponsorship program.

Based on those priorities, the requirements of the next State Party Chair become clear.

  • A new generation of leaders is emerging in Iowa and we need someone that can tap into that energy. We cannot keep depending on failed candidates from the past to run for office or lead the party.
  • The Party is not a stepping-stone. We need someone who prioritizes the party and does not use the party to help their own political future.
  • We need someone who has seen success in the state and has worked on a national level.
  • We need someone who is disciplined and aggressive with messaging and will be a good spokesperson.
  • We need someone with experience fundraising and managing large operational budgets.
  • We need someone with experience reaching out to rural, minority, and younger voters.
  • We need someone to do the job full time. The upcoming few years are too important to leave to a part time volunteer. This is a model that has worked in other states and organizations. One should not have to be independently wealthy to run the party or run for office.
  • We need someone that is ready to face the onslaught from Iowa Republicans. They will undoubtedly go after LGBT rights, women’s health, workers’ rights, and voting rights immediately. Our Party has to be ready to respond before the legislature convenes.

The upcoming few weeks will include much needed conversation. Emotions remain high, and that’s not a bad thing—we should be passionate about our party. I believe the right person can turn those conversations into a positive change to the party and be ready to lead the charge for the legislative session.


by Derek Eadon
Posted 11/17/16

Derek Eadon has worked in Iowa politics for 12 years. He is an experienced organizer, manager, and spokesperson. He started as a canvasser and organizer for the Iowa Democratic Party. He worked for all three of President Obama’s successful Iowa campaigns, including serving as Iowa General Election Director in 2012. Derek currently works on some of the most important causes in the progressive community. He has managed and raised funds for many local and national issue campaigns over the last few years. Some of the issues he has worked on include: climate change, clean energy, gun control, child poverty, early childhood education, paid leave, pay equity, justice reform, anti-fraud, and anti-smoking efforts. In addition to being a nationally renowned strategist, Derek has assisted with many local Iowa political and issues campaigns as a volunteer.

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