For Democrats still shellshocked by their sweeping defeat in the 2016 election and depressed by Donald Trump’s inauguration, any positive sign for the future was been very welcome. A sense of optimism is necessary not just for grassroots activism to fight the new Republican agenda, but also to recruit Democratic candidates to run for key offices in 2018.
Many Democrats in Iowa are concerned that 2016 wasn’t simply an aberration, but the start of a shift in voting trends. Pointing out that Hillary Clinton won the national popular vote by three million is cold comfort to Iowans who saw their state go from Obama +6 in 2012 to Trump +10 in 2016.
Will Iowa snap back that fast if Trump is an unpopular president? That’s what many potential candidates are asking themselves right now. Running for office is a big personal commitment, in time, money and the scrutiny it brings down upon you. People should run because they feel it’s the right thing to do and/or they have a cause to champion, but it’s tough to fault some from passing on a race that seems unwinnable.
Fortunately, though we’re only into the third day of the Trump presidency, many encouraging signs are already emerging.
For one, that enthusiasm gap between the parties that folks liked to talk about during the general election? It sure seems like it’s flipped to the Democrats’ and progressives’ favors considering the dueling crowd sizes of the inauguration and Women’s March. The D.C. rally was estimated at twice the size of the crowd for Trump’s swearing-in.
More important was the turnout in cities across the country. Des Moines saw 26,000 show up to the local Women’s March outside the Statehouse, while crowds of hundreds popped up around the state. That should give Iowa Democrats reassurance that the backlash against Trump won’t skip Iowa.
Comparisons to the energy of the Tea Party were apt – there’s now clearly an energized grassroots base ready to fight. Some might question if it’s mostly made up of the people who voted for Clinton, as in it’s not an expansion of the party’s base. Even if that was the case, the biggest turnout for a rally Clinton ever got in Des Moines was about 3,000. With a 26,000 turnout yesterday, it’s clear Democrats will be much more united and enthusiastic when they’re fighting against Trump alone.
Trump’s first few days also haven’t really impressed. His inauguration speech didn’t do much to reach out to Americans beyond his core base of support. It’s still important to be cognizant of why he remains so popular among a slice of America, but he’s shown a complete inability to grow into the job so far.
And press secretary Sean Spicer’s “press conference” yesterday in which he just yelled at reporters was borderline unhinged. Now that he’s in the Oval Office, Trump needs to start producing results. It seems obvious he’s still fixated on petty appearances and grudges. That doesn’t bode well for a successful presidency.
On the state level, yesterday’s Iowa Democrats chair election produced a result that should unify activists. In the hours immediately after Derek Eadon’s victory, the vast majority of the SCC members from both Sanders and Clinton sides seemed happy and enthusiastic about moving forward and getting to work.
So while it’s obviously much too early to make any sort of prediction about the 2018 elections, Democrats have to feel good about what they’re starting to see. Assumptions that midterms would automatically be good for the party out of power isn’t a sure bet in Iowa now, but things appear to be moving in the right direction. There’s real reason for optimism, something many Democrats haven’t felt since election night.
by Pat Rynard
Photo by Greg Hauenstein