About 25 people attended a meeting about “Doing Politics Differently” at the Nevada Public Library on May 31. Many in attendance were members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (CCI).
While most of the attendees were from Ames, there were a few there from other area communities, like Maxwell and Huxley.
CCI Senior Organizer Evan Burger, a resident of Slater, was on hand to share some thoughts and take notes about the discussion.
Things started with a few comments from CCI member Susie Petra, who said, “A lot of people are angry right now … I know I am.” Petra asked others, in regard to the recent Iowa legislative session, “Did you become as worried as I…?,” and she went on to list a number of decisions that she believes take away Iowans’ rights or control.
The main discussion of the evening, about how politics are currently done in Iowa and how politics could be done differently in Iowa, was led by Huxley resident, Brenda Brink, and included comments, concerns and observations about things going on both in Iowa and national politics.
Among the things shared or commented on during the meeting were the following:
• The U.S. has a lower voter turnout than many other industrialized nations … probably because many Americans think government is corrupt and don’t take part.
• President Trump broke all the rules in the political playbook … we need a new playbook, but not one about corporate power.
• Politics is about power and there are two kinds: Money power and people power. Money power is “their game.” People power is about organizing people and educating people that we live in a democracy and why they need to vote. It’s “our game.”
• Arguments were made both against and in support of the electoral college. One attendee said he feels we live in an “oligarchy,” while another attendee said he thinks the electoral process benefits Iowa.
• People have given up on politics/elections — so what will it take to motivate people? Answers included educating them about issues and about why they need to be educated about some of the issues.
• Not a lot of young people were in attendance; most at the meeting were age 50 and above. Why? Because younger people have families, young children and are home taking care of their kids, which is where they need to be. So how does CCI get a message to these people? Maybe by using all the different communication resources that are available.
• There was talk about gerrymandering in the state, which Story County Supervisor and CCI member Lauris Olson was quick to rebuff, saying Iowa is one of the fairest states when it comes to electoral boundaries.
• Someone questioned, “Do most Iowans know what the legislators have done in Iowa this year?” And there was some discussion about all that has happened being driven by the Republican trifecta of power; yet another said it’s more than a “party” thing; it’s a “special-interest agenda.”
One of the key ideas that came forth during the evening, in the midst of all the other comments and observations, was about competition versus collaboration/cooperation. There was concern among the people in the room about how we don’t talk about cooperation; it now all seems to be about competition.
While competition is important, most agree, they feel people need to work together to allow individual expression and individuals to compete on a level playing field in a rules-based environment.
“We are now in a society, where if it’s profitable, it must be moral,” one attendee commented.
Another person said, “There’s something insidious out there … We’ve got the numbers (of concerned people) out there now, and people understanding you have got be involved after the election (not just during).”
There was concern about how many candidates run an election talking about different issues than the issues they later govern on and vote for as legislators.
Olson came back to forefront of the discussion by saying, in her opinion, that doing politics differently and heading toward what CCI calls “movement politics” (which focuses on grassroots efforts) needs to be about finding “common ground,” “common goals.”
Another agreed, by saying that Iowa is about community — “That’s who we are,” the woman said, noting that Iowans from early on are a people who came together to accomplish great things.
There was also a huge concern expressed during the meeting about corporate media controlling the political message and how this has much to do with money and power. Business as usual, it was said, is about “Big money, big media.”
In the end, Burger said his biggest takeaway from the meeting, “is that there is a real hunger to do politics differently. I think everyone in the room agreed that business as usual politics have led to a situation today where people don’t think government works for them. We need a new kind of politics where big money doesn’t run the show, and politicians are accountable to everyday people.”
Those in attendance were invited to take part in the upcoming CCI Action Fund’s 2017 Convention, “Revolution Iowa: From Protest to Power,” July 15 at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines. United States Senator Bernie Sanders will be a featured speaker for the event.