Pat Murphy campaigning like it’s 1999

Have a look around. This is the year of the political outsider. Too bad 1st Congressional District Democratic hopeful Pat Murphy was robodialing instead of reading the memo.

From the GOP’s reluctant embrace of a Donald Trump presidential bid to Hillary Clinton’s leftward drift courtesy of Bernie Sanders, has there been a time in recent history when political party loyalty held less value? In states with the largest primary and caucus turnouts the message is undeniable and the so-called establishment is taking a hit, for good reason.

Voters are tired of the same people, running for the same offices, saying the same things on the campaign trail and then doing very different things once elected. Voters are no longer entertained by the once revered practice of partisan grandstanding unless there is action behind the words.

Pat Murphy (left) talks with the press on February 5, 2014.
Pat Murphy (left) talks with the press on February 5, 2014. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

In the South the mind-set is summed up as “all hat, no cattle.” Perhaps in Iowa it could be “all stink, no hogs,” or maybe that’s just as good of a slogan as any for Murphy’s second attempt at a congressional seat.

Last month Democrats met for their 1st District Convention in Van Horne and some of the most thunderous applause of the day came when Linn County Supervisor Brent Oleson was handed the microphone.

Oleson, a lifelong Republican and party activist, only recently switched his party affiliation to Democrat.

He’ll tell you it wasn’t a decision he made easily or lightly, that he still is the same person, pushing for the same policies and holding the same values.

No one in the audience of Democrats — especially the Bernie Bunch newcomers — doubted his authenticity. They applauded his tenacity, resiliency and willingness to set party aside when it no longer meshed with personal political belief.

Murphy either didn’t hear or didn’t understand the support given to Oleson.

Murphy’s speech derided his opponent, Monica Vernon, as a party outsider. Vernon was a Republican until 2009. Making sure the voters know this sketchy history is Murphy’s primary campaign goal.

In fact, to hear Murphy tell it, he exited the womb while clutching his Democratic voter registration card. Please disregard that later certificate of approval he was handed by Iowa Right to Life.

Audience reaction: Bewilderment and polite applause.

But it is a refrain Murphy either can’t or won’t resist.

Speaking with The Des Moines Register, Murphy again wanted voters to equate party longevity with worthiness.

“I’ve got a proven record,” he told reporter Jason Noble. “(Monica Vernon) doesn’t have squat. Is that an OK word to use? Squat?”

Pretty sure that depends on your definition, Mr. Murphy.

As a mother of three, Vernon built a market research firm from the ground up. (Disclosure: Vernon Research Group was purchased by The Gazette Company in 2013.) She served on the Cedar Rapids City Council, often as Mayor Pro Tem. She’s led the Metropolitan Planning Organization.

When devastating floods hit Eastern Iowa in 2008, Vernon was instrumental in the recovery effort.

Going back further, Vernon helped raise $1.7 million that was used to build the Madge Phillips Center for homeless women and children, and has served on more local committees and groups than need to be listed here.

Is it too late for Murphy to backtrack? Surely he meant to say “a lot” instead of “squat.”

Otherwise, based on Murphy’s words and Vernon’s record, I might need to will her my faded gym T-shirt: “Squat like a boss.” She’s earned it.

To keep things even, I have an old Gore-Lieberman shirt from the 2000 presidential election that I can give to Murphy. Back in 1999 marching lockstep and party loyalty was a big issue. It’s worth remembering that Democrats came out on the losing end then too.

This column by Lynda Waddington originally published in The Gazette on May 22, 2016. Photo credit: Stephen Mally/The Gazette