Iowa Democrats decry ‘embarrassing’ behavior by progressive group at Grassley event
Discourse at Iowa political events on the right and left has been getting increasingly uncivil, but a recent Carroll appearance by U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley that culminated in heated words and physicality may have gone too far.
In a press release Wednesday, Iowa Democratic Party Chairwoman Sue Dvorsky lambasted statewide progressive group Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement for “obstruct[ing] town halls and other events, even physically blocking Senator Grassley from talking with the media and getting into his car after an event on Monday night.”
“The behavior of Iowa CCI is unproductive, embarrassing, and has no place in a serious debate,” Dvorsky said. “Yes, we should be working to protect Social Security, doing everything to keep our air and water clean, and ask our elected officials tough questions. Unfortunately, this group has become less focused on results and more focused on creating chaos that gets their name in the paper.”
Douglas Burns, co-publisher of the Carroll Daily Times Herald as well as an alum and still frequent contributor to The Iowa Independent, attended the Monday night Grassley town hall at New Hope Village. So incensed by the display of certain activists at that meeting, he wrote an opinion piece labeling the same as “moon-howling” and “despicable.”
… Most of the CCI contingent was not from Carroll County. Some were paid political hacks clearly bent on pushing (literally) Mr. Grassley into a YouTube moment with shouted, confrontational questions.
Now, of course, CCI members have a right to be heard, to voice their concerns in strong and certain terms.
But they overstepped the bounds of civil discourse in Carroll in a big way by confronting Grassley in a physically hostile way, inhibiting his free movement. …
Speaking with The Iowa Independent Tuesday, Burns remained notably frustrated by what he had witnessed the previous night.
Upon further investigation into the matter, The Iowa Independent was told by sources who also attended the meeting that the activists appeared to be “playing it up for video cameras” that were present.
Only weeks ago, it appeared that several labor unions, the IDP, Iowa CCI and other local progressive groups were literally marching in lock-step as they demonstrated in Des Moines against GOP policies in Iowa perceived as hurting middle and low income families.
Iowa CCI tweeted the following quote from Howard Zinn, ~~but has otherwise not issued a public reply to the IDP release~~: “When a social movement adopts the compromises of legislators, it has forgotten its role, which is to push and challenge the politicians not to fall in meekly behind them.”
Responding directly to Dvorsky’s remarks, Iowa CCI notes that Dvorsky and other members of IDP staff were not in attendance at the Carroll event. The group says its members stand by their beliefs and their behavior at the event.
“It’s unfortunate that Sue Dvorsky and the Iowa Democratic Party have this view of the town hall based off of one reporter’s distorted account of what happened,” said Rosie Partridge, small business owner and CCI member from Wall Lake. “I was there. People raised their hands, asked questions, and it was anything but disruptive.”
The organization, which has been active in the state for more than 30 years, has been instrumental in pushing for and achieving environmental policy, especially as it pertains to large agricultural operations. They have also advocated for everyday citizens to take a more active role in government in an attempt to stymie corporate policy influence. Members are not known for being timid or quiet when they demonstrate — in the streets, outside the Governor’s mansion, at town hall events or under the golden dome — but physical altercations have always been rare.
“Iowa CCI is doing a disservice to the state, to true progressive values, and to their members who signed up to make a difference and change our state for the better,” Dvorsky said. “Instead of bragging about ‘crashing’ a town hall, designed to give citizens a forum to discuss their concerns, they could be educating Iowans about what’s really at stake and actually make a difference.
“It’s unfortunate that they continue to mistake screaming for persuasion and embarrass themselves in this manner.”
Ferol Wegner, a CCI member from Des Moines said, “Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are so important, and so vital to the future stability and vitality of our country [that] sitting back quietly while career politicians debate cuts to our livelihood would be unacceptable. It is our duty as citizens to change the debate to raising revenues from wall st and the super wealthy so elected officials know what we want, and then to hold them accountable.”
At this time last year, presumed tea party activists attended and disrupted several events by state and national elected officials. Like Iowa CCI reportedly did at the Grassley event, the right-wing activists carried signs and shouted or booed their disapproval, often drowning out answers or comments from the elected officials. There was no press released or denunciation from the Republican Party of Iowa concerning the actions of such individuals last year.
(Editor’s note: This post was updated to include responding statements from Iowa CCI.)