At Liberty by Adam Sullivan

What will Dems do in 2018?


Conventional wisdom and recent history suggest that 2018 will be a good year for Democrats. The incumbent president’s party often sustains losses during midterm elections, and there are early but obvious signs that opponents of President Donald Trump’s policy agenda will be organized and motivated.

Many journalists and pundits have compared the emerging Trump resistance to the Tea Party movement that started after the 2008 election — grass roots, confrontational, and at least a little bit politically radical.

Both grew out of presidential elections in which their parties nominated establishment candidates — Hillary Clinton now, John McCain then — over so-called insurgent or grass roots candidates — Bernie Sanders now, Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul then.

What remains to be seen is whether frustrated Democrats in Iowa and around the country are prepared to take on their own party, the way the Tea Party has.

There is a strong team player mentality in politics. It’s a pressure on each member of the party not to play too rough with one of their own. But the Tea Party helped Republicans affirm a stronger tradition of intraparty conflict that has been crucial to the movement’s lasting influence.

What would the Iowa Democrat’s version of the Tea Party look like? Here’s some free advice from a lifelong Iowa Republican.

There will be ample opportunity to run grass roots candidates against the establishment in 2018. Democrats have wide open fields for governor, three other statewide seats, and three out of our four U.S. House seats, along with a few establishment incumbents who are ripe for a primary challenge.

Attorney General Tom Miller and Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald have served nearly 70 combined years in their respective offices and both have suggested they will seek re-election in 2018.

Congressman Dave Loebsack is a six-term incumbent in Washington, D.C. and has an “intolerable” rating from Progressive Punch, an left-leaning project that measures a representative’s votes against how liberal his district is. In other words, the analysis says Loebsack’s votes are out of line with his district.

I should note that I was a paid staffer and am a personal friend of Loebsack’s Republican opponent in the 2016 election.

If Iowa Democrats want to “drain the swamp,” they can start with their own primaries.

Whether or not you agree with them on tactics and policy, the Tea Party has made a lasting impact on our political environment. Tea Party politicians made that clear last month when they derailed the majority Republicans’ health care reform bill.

Several of the party’s key leaders in Congress came to Washington, D.C. as Tea Party challengers to fellow Republicans. Trump is not really Tea Party, but you could certainly say his anti-establishment campaign was made possible by the Tea Party.

In Iowa, Reps. Steve King and Rod Blum, and Sen. Joni Ernst have embraced Tea Party groups or policy positions to some degree.

Will the Trump resistance turn out to be a political movement, or just a political moment? It’s too soon to say.

I believe the answer rests in the 2018 Democratic primaries. We will all be better off if the Democrats subdue their team player mentality, the way Republicans have.


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Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.