Former Iowa Democratic Party Chair Says Giving Up First Caucus Status Is a ‘Dark Day’ All Around

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — After signing the 1938 Munich Agreement that gave Nazi Germany the Sudetenland in western Czechoslovakia in exchange for Adolph Hitler’s promise that he had “no more territorial demands to make in Europe,” British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain said the deal had secured “peace in our time.”

Dave Nagle said Chamberlain’s spirit of appeasement lives on in the leadership of the Iowa Democratic Party.

The former three-term congressman who served as chairman of the state Democratic Party in the 1980s said last Friday was a “dark day” in Iowa history. That’s when Iowa Dems confirmed they had given into the demands of the Democratic National Committee, ending Iowa’s 50-year reign, at least for Democrats, as the first-in-the-nation presidential caucus state.

“I said four years ago, ‘We’ll lose it [leading caucus status] when we give it up.’ That’s what happened Friday,” Nagle told The Iowa Star.

After trying to appease the national party for months, the Iowa Democratic Party caved to the DNC’s plan to bump the Hawkeye State from the front of the line. The Iowa state party will delay releasing its 2024 caucus results until Super Tuesday, according to a letter obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation.

The move follows the DNC’s previously announced proposal, endorsed by President Joe Biden, to shift the 2024 calendar, replacing Iowa’s first-in-the-nation nominating status with South Carolina, whose Democratic primary will be held on February 3. Iowa Democrats will still hold their in-person caucus on January 15 but will produce its presidential preference results on March 5, when over a dozen states hold their nominating contests, according to the letter sent by Iowa Democratic Party Chair Rita Hart to the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee.

“We believe that this delegate selection plan is definitely a compromise, and it meets the requirements set forth by the Rules and Bylaws Committee and it complies with Iowa law for 2024,” Hart said in a Friday meeting announcing the move. “I have had repeated reassurance from the Rules and Bylaws Committee and its co-chairs that the presidential nominating calendar discussions will once again be opened up for 2028, where I expect that Iowa will compete strongly for a significant voice in the selection of our Democratic nominee.”

Nagle said Hart and state party leadership compromised more than Iowa values.

“This is very bad for the future of the party and it’s very harmful for the future of the state and the country,” said the Waterloo attorney who represented eastern Iowa in Congress from 1987 to 1993 and served as Iowa Democratic Party chairman from 1982 to 1985. He’s been active in Democratic Party politics for 55 years.

“For the party, it means we will not be able to access national money for any state races, and we’re already badly out-funded there,” Nagle said of Iowa’s shift in recent years to a deep red state. “Our caucuses raise a lot of money for Iowa Democratic candidates at a time we can least afford to be cut off from the significant asset we had.”

The state parties generate mountains of political cash from the months-long retail politics that take over early nominating states. Depending on the year, the states and the parties are inundated by candidates, campaigns, media, and, just as critically, donors.

Caucus capitalism means big business for Iowa’s economy, too. Catch Des Moines, the capital city’s local convention and visitors bureau, estimated that in the final week alone before the 2020 Democratic Party presidential caucuses, hotel revenue would hit $11.3 million. But the national exposure the kickoff caucus state receives is priceless.

“This is our Super Bowl,” Ben Handfelt, spokesman for Catch Des Moines at the time, told the Wall Street Journal. “It’s the one time every four years where all eyes are on Iowa, before we return to normalcy.”

The kerfuffle over Iowa’s placement in the nominating process has somewhat diminished Iowa’s usual quadrennial caucus capitalism cycle. Incumbent President Joe Biden’s re-election bid quieted competition for the Democratic Party nomination to begin with, but Biden’s snubbing of a red state in which he placed fourth in the 2020 caucus has effectively pushed Iowa Democrats out of their traditional position of prominence.

Iowa remains first for the Republican Party, however, and that’s where the action is. With more than a dozen challengers for the party’s 2024 presidential nomination, the rural Midwest state still holds primacy on the American right.

The Republican National Committee is keeping Iowa and New Hampshire first, contrary to the DNC’s schedule shifting to reflect a more “diverse” party. Hawkeye State Republicans will hold their presidential caucuses on Januaray 15, the first in the nation, as Iowa state law requires.

While the Iowa Democratic Party is technically holding its caucuses on the same night as Republicans, results won’t be announced until nearly two months later. Iowa Democrats will begin mailing presidential preference cards into the party on January 15, an act that appears to run counter to a state law banning mail-in caucuses. The law demands Iowans to be physically present to participate in caucuses.

New Hampshire Democrats are defying the national party and going ahead with their first-in-the-nation primary. Granite State Democrats face party penalties, including losing half their delegates at the Democratic Party’s 2024 presidential convention for their defiance. Biden’s name also will not appear on the primary ballot. New Hampshire law requires the parties hold their primary elections before any other state.

Nagle said the DNC and the state party have thrown Iowa under the bus. Pushing Iowa back, he said, ultimately hurts the entire political process because voters nationwide lose a critical vetting of the candidates, retail politics hard to find anywhere else.

In her letter to the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee, Iowa Democratic Party Chairwoman Rita Hart said she has repeatedly been reassured from national party leaders that Iowa will “compete strongly for a significant voice” in future early nominating contests.

Like Chamberlain in his deal with Germany, Nagle said Hart has been had.

“I thought we were supposed to be electing Democrats,” he said.

“We won the right to hold a meeting in January … Find out how many Democratic Party caucus-goers turn out in January compared to Republicans and you’ll have your answer on what we lost.”

– – –

M.D. Kittle is the National Political Editor for The Star News Network.
Photo “Iowa Caucus 2020” by Rbreidbrown. CC BY-SA 4.0.



Related posts