Government

Potential 2020 candidates call on Iowa Democrats to create the wave that will change Washington

Iowa Sen. hopeful Zach Wahls talks to guest speaker U.S. Sen. from Oregon Jeff Merkley during the Johnson County Democrats 2018 Fall BBQ at the Johnson County Fairgrounds in Iowa City, Iowa on Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Iowa Sen. hopeful Zach Wahls talks to guest speaker U.S. Sen. from Oregon Jeff Merkley during the Johnson County Democrats 2018 Fall BBQ at the Johnson County Fairgrounds in Iowa City, Iowa on Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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Twenty-three days before the Nov. 6 election, four potential 2020 presidential candidates introduced themselves — in some cases, reintroduced themselves — to Johnson County Democrats.

But they talked little of their 2020 plans, choosing instead to focus on the midterm election and the possibility of electing Democrats at the state and federal level as a defense against what they see as the destructive policies of President Donald Trump and Republican control of Congress.

“Focus on 2018. We can’t wait until 2020,” was Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s advice for party activists who attended the annual Johnson County Democratic barbecue Sunday at the county fairgrounds. The chairman of the Democratic Governors Association said that Trump cannot stop Democratic governors from pushing for net neutrality, voter rights, family leave or infrastructure plans.

“They can’t build a birdhouse in Washington “(but) they can’t stop us from state progress, and that’s why we really need to focus on state races right now,” Inslee said.

U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon urged Iowa Democrats to use “every moment these next 23 days because our vision of we-the-people government is in deep trouble, and we can change course through people power in this election.”

The election is “extremely critical” because the president “has all the inclinations of a petty tyrant” in his efforts to suppress the role of the media and stymie protest.

“He doesn’t want criticism from any quarter,” Merkley said. “We need to send a robust message that is not our America. The press is essential. In our America, the voice of the people is essential.”

Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, back in Johnson County for the second time in a month, encouraged Democrats to “go out, knock on those doors and make those phone calls and have those tough conversations with people who disagree with you” for the next three weeks.

“It’s very easy to get sucked into the darkness that you see a lot when you turn on cable news,” Gabbard said. The only way to overcome the “hatred and bigotry seemingly surrounding us … is the power of us, the power of the people standing together, not in hatred and darkness, but in love,” which should not be confused with weakness. “There is no force more powerful than love.”

Andrew Yang, an entrepreneur, attributed Trump’s electoral success to the rise of automation in the places such as the Rust Belt and Iowa, where 40,000 jobs have been lost to automation and 12,000 retail jobs have been lost as Main Street is replaced by Amazon.

“When factories close, blue turns to red,” he said.

He proposed a “trickle-up,” human-centered economy that provides a $1,000-a-month “Freedom Dividend” for all working-age adults, that provides Medicare for all and that measures progress by quality of life rather than gross domestic product.

The only way to change Washington, Yang said, “is if you create a wave and bring that wave crashing down on Washington. That is why I am with you all tonight, to create that wave.

“It’s up to you, the Democrats of Iowa, to actually address the problems that got Donald Trump elected. It is up to you. Not one else will do it,” Yang said.

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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