Actually, the break came at a very opportune time. I departed the state right after State Convention two weeks ago, and it's a good thing I did, because I've never been more frustrated with politics in my life than I was on that day. In fact, it only took about 3 hours for the party to enfuriate me to the point where I needed to be somewhere else.
What pushed me over the edge, you ask? The Iowa Democratic Party's total lack of direction. I tried to sit through all the speeches. I made it through Tom Miller, the guy who spoke for Denise O'Brien, Mike Mauro, Blouin, and Fallon. If you missed it, here was the basic theme of every speech:
Democrats: We're not the Bush Administration or Jim Nussle.
Beyond that, we could be absolutely anything. Nothing would surprise me. Or, as we often are, we could be nothing at all.
I'm enfuriated by Democrats who spend more time on the stump talking about their opponent's failings than their own strengths. Maybe 8 years ago we could have made an argument that running as non-Republicans might win an election. By now, we should be pretty sure that's not going to work.
But we haven't learned our lesson yet. Certainly, no one at the State Party Convention is voting for Nussle. But we still spent all day bashing him. Even Ed Fallon got into the game:
"I want to close with a chant that I recommend you use to help motivate you in the campaign this fall. 'Out-muscle Jim Nussle, out-hustle Jim Nussle, let's tussle with Nussle and win!'"
That's when I left. But at home, and even in Wisconsin, I couldn't get away from it. As if James and the Giant Deficit and Gordon Fischer weren't enough, now we've got Nussle and Flow, and just so he won't feel left out, Steve King's perpetual bashers have created King Watch. And of course, at first opportunity, Chris Woods and NoNeed4thneed heralded them. I'm not surprised by our actions, in fact I'm frustrated by the fact that I've come to expect them. Soon I'm also expecting to see the launch of Lamberti's Lies, Loser Leach, Liberals for the Last Term of Tom Latham, Whalen's Weaknesses, Dumb Doctor Dopf, Negative Northey, and of course, after the runaway success of Growing Up Gotti, it's only a matter of time before someone makes Growing Up Grassley. We'll do anything we can to beat the Republicans without being forced to stick our own necks out. The problem is, with this strategy, we won't beat many Republicans.
I spent a lot of time fishing with my dad while I was home. Apparently muskies are motivated by specific moon cycles. After a few hours with no success, my mind was somewhere else when I absentmindedly had this exchange with my dad:
DAD: Tonight's a moon phase, but the fish don't seem to know that.
KL: It's cloudy, maybe they can't see the moon.
Maybe we can't see the moon either. It's certainly not that we as Democrats haven't had the opportunity to bite. We're in a largely unpopular war, an economic downturn, and we're waist deep in corruption, but our candidates seem to stand with us on less issues every election cycle.
To carry the analogy a step further, it's not the clouds that get in the way, it's our rhetoric. Here's a great example:
In the fourth congressional district, I've only heard Selden Spencer speak a few times, and I've only spoken to him once, but the phrase "Bush clone" has come up in reference to Tom Latham every single time. Here's the problem: in 2004, Bush received over 153,000 votes in the district, and won it by over 7,000 votes. He won 17 of the district's 27 counties. Kerry won Ames and Mason City by 4,889 votes, and lost the rest of the district by almost 12,000. In the immortal words of P.O.D., If you wanna you can check my stats. Spencer has offered little or nothing else memorable in his message.
An early prediction: Spencer will win Story County. Latham will sweep the other 26 en route to a landslide victory.
Even in the perfect storm, we're unlikely to unseat any sitting Republican congressmen in Iowa this fall. And we're going to be stuck with this situation or worse for a long time unless we do the following things:
Provide reasonable alternatives: Here's the new rule in regards to the Iraq War, privatization of Social Security, tax cuts for the wealthy, and violations of privacy: If you're going to complain about any of these things, make sure you've got a solution. Don't just bitch about the problem. Don't support candidates who just bitch about the problem. Support candidates with legitimate plans to fix the problem.
Vote, campaign and work FOR change, not AGAINST the problem: Whether it was the 2004 IDP Coordinated Campaign or the Fallon campaign, I've worked with a ton of people who have told me the following:
"We need to work for (Kerry/Fallon) because we need to get rid of (Bush/Culver/Blouin/Nussle)."
If you're one of the people who say things like that, don't ever do it again. For people who are on board with your candidate, you're preaching to the choir. To independent and Republican voters, you're whining. And it's really, really irritating.
What's that mean for 2006? It's simple. Support candidates you can vote FOR. Don't vote AGAINST Jim Nussle, don't vote AGAINST a Congressional candidate, or a candidate for any other office. Either vote FOR Chet Culver and the other Democratic candidates, or don't. Either campaign FOR Democratic candidates, or don't.
And if you're one of the people who's gotten yourself fully absorbed in campaigning against someone, stop it. You're part of the problem.