Letter to the Editor: Wanted: A New Type of Leadership, a New Attitude, and a New Direction

Editor Note: A variation of this letter recently appeared as a guest post in Bleeding Heartland. 


Hey Iowa Democratic Party, wake up and see what you have become!

My name is Chris Laursen. I am an activist  and political dissident from Ottumwa, Iowa and I am here to tell the truth, a truth we all know. The Democrats are no longer the party of the people. They are the party of Wall Street. The progressives of America have woken up to this reality. Establishment Democrats, you enabled the charlatan named Donald Trump to become the leader of the free world. Own it!  

What happened to the party of the people? We have witnessed the Democratic Party slip away from the people and into the grips of neoliberalism for many years, characterized  by voter suppression, media collusion, tsunamis of special interest money, a rigged playing field and millions of disengaged and disenfranchised voters. This last election cycle was reflective of these facts. The party cannot win elections when it alienates half of its base and ignores rural America and undecided voters.

Democrats have lost the White House, both houses of the U.S. Congress and both houses of our Iowa Legislature. Nancy Pelosi is dead wrong when she told CBS News, “I don’t think people want new direction.” The fact is that if Democrats don’t change their direction they are going to wither and die a slow, painful death. Examine the youth vote in the Democratic presidential primary to find evidence of this certainty. Democrats, your loyal base is aging. What are you going to do to attract and energize young voters?

The Iowa Democratic Party’s State Central Committee is faced with a very important decision in the forthcoming month. Who will they select to steer the helm of the IDP?

In my opinion, there is a simple, logical litmus test that defines the type of Democrat the IDP chair candidates are deep inside. Did they support Bernie, the one candidate who dared to challenge the Democratic Party to reform itself? Or did they support the candidate who has come to define everything that is broken and corrupt in the Democratic Party?

Which candidates for chair will ensure that the IDP supports real progressive candidates in future elections? Iowa voters need more voices to select from than the usual urban professionals who willingly toe the party line. The IDP must start supporting the reformers, the subversives, the ones who will shake things up.

Which candidates for chair will resist giving thousands upon thousands of IDP dollars to politicians like Dave Loebsack? I don’t want to give my hard-earned money to a party that in turn gives it to corporate lap dogs. Don’t worry — corporate America will take care of their financial needs. The IDP needs to promote candidates and incumbents that are not part of the “pay to play” system. Sanders has proven that you can be a viable candidate without selling yourself out.

What candidate for chair will be able to unite, the still smoldering, two factions of the state party? RoseAnn DeMoro, Executive Director for the National Nurses United., recently shared her perspective about the emblematic division among Democrats and the struggle to name the DNC chair, ” If the Democratic Party rejects the Sanders base, it will be at their extreme peril.”. Now is the time to unify and look forward together. Let’s build the bridge. It is crucial. The IDP needs a chairperson with exceptional organizing abilities, a strong work ethic, the willingness to address the underlying problems and a sense of integrity that is palatable for all Democrats.

None of the candidates for chair are perfect, but there are clearly a few who stand out amongst the others. Progressives who have left the party, like myself, want to come back but are reluctant to do so until there is a true change in the leadership of the IDP. State Central Committee, we need you to select a candidate that is prepared to reform our state party. Obviously, the current message of “business as usual” politics is not resonating with Iowa voters or a large portion of the base.

Democrats, you are not entitled to my vote and support. You have to earn it. The jersey I wear is not blue or green. My jersey is the color of everyday Americans who are disaffected with the load of B.S. that they are spoon fed every election season.

If you want progressive fighters back in your fold, shape up! If you want to build the party and not tear it down further, get it together. If you want to attract the silent majority who are sitting on the fence, start listening. And if you want to start winning again, start selecting party leaders who want to reform.

-Chris Laursen

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One comment

  • I heartily agree, Chris, “The IDP needs a chairperson with exceptional organizing abilities, a strong work ethic, the willingness to address the underlying problems and a sense of integrity that is palatable for all Democrats.” if I were writing your essay, I’d underline the word “all.” I do like “bridge” metaphors, but find litmus tests incongruous with bridge-building. Keep the faith.


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