PHILADELPHIA — There’s a good chance you’ve already heard about the dust-up surrounding the 2016 Democratic National Convention.
Members of the Iowa Delegation are tuned in, curious and concerned about how the resignation of U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz as DNC chairwoman and the email controversy behind it will impact the convention and upcoming general election. Many are dreading more distracting spectacles, such as the rowdy scene Monday morning when Wasserman Schultz addressed members of the Florida delegation only to have the breakfast meeting overrun with protesters.
Few in Philadelphia believe Wasserman Schultz acted in good faith, some believe she worked purposefully to diminish U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential aspirations. No one I’ve spoken with believes she should continue to lead the DNC.
But behind the cable news buzz and national headlines, Iowa Democrats are quietly looking not only to this election, but to the next cycle.
“What we know is the influx of supporters from the Sanders campaign is good — very good for the Democratic Party,” Iowa delegation co-chair Paul Gandy of Fairfield said.
“Political parties need regular infusions of new blood, and this election cycle provided just that.”
Gandy, a Hillary Clinton delegate, says all levels of the Iowa party need to actively engage the newcomers and let them know how valuable they are.
“Too often we see people come in and try to make a change at the top of the ticket and, if the campaign isn’t successful, supporters can become disengaged,” he said. “I don’t want that to happen.”
Sanders supporters in Iowa have already made lasting change through their participation in the caucus and convention process, he added.
“They’ve influenced the party platform, they made their voices heard at the state convention,” he said.
This Iowa delegation, for the first time in recent history, is not only led by the IDP chairwoman, but by two vice-chairmen. It was one of the changes delegates made at the state convention, when Gandy was elected a vice chairman on the Clinton side and Jason Brown of Cedar Rapids was selected from the Sanders side.
Sanders delegates expressed concern the national team was going to be led only by chairwoman Andrea McGuire, a past Clinton supporter who remained neutral throughout this cycle. Electing vice-chairmen was a compromise that has effectively eased tensions between delegation members.
“We can find solutions and opportunities for everyone,” Gandy said. “I believe it is vital that we do, and I believe we will emerge even stronger.”
No doubt the latest controversy, which has renewed and reinforced accusations by some Sanders delegates that the process was rigged against him, will make party unity more difficult. It also hampers work by Sanders delegates to shift the Bernie-inspired Political Revolution from campaign support to broader public policy advocacy.
“We value everyone. There’s room for everyone. That’s what we’ve got to keep believing and saying,” said Gandy.
This column by Lynda Waddington originally published in The Gazette on July 26, 2016. Photo credit: Lynda Waddington/The Gazette