By Crystal Defatte
I spoke with Vice Chair of the Iowa Democratic Party candidate Jordan Pope to learn more about who he is, the party today, and how he’d like to bring it into the future.
CD: Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview, I know there is quite a lot our readers would like to know about each of the candidates. Could you start by telling us a little about yourself?
JP: I grew up on a small farm outside of Albia, Iowa. It was on this farm that I learned the values I still hold today. The values of hard work, honesty, and getting the job done. Although I’m young, I’ve experienced a lot in my life. From graduating High School in the top of my class, attending Simpson College where I now major in Political Science and Public Relations, to getting involved in the Democratic Party and becoming the youngest person to be elected a county chair, serving as 2nd Vice Chair of the 2nd District, to now serving on the State Central Committee
CD: Those are impressive accomplishments at any age. How old are you exactly?
CD: Have you had any other leadership roles in the past?
JP: I have been fortunate to be able to hold positions in both High School, College, and in the community. I founded my High School’s debate program as well as serving as my class Vice President. In College I have held the position of Class President, although I decided not to run for re-election early this year in order to focus on my commitments to the community and the Democratic Party. Along with my responsibilities with the Democratic Party, I have served on numerous community committees. Needless to say, I like to stay busy!
CD: Speaking of staying busy, besides your current positions as county chair, 2nd vice chair of the 2nd district, and serving on the State Central Committee, what has your involvement been within the Democratic Party?
JP: I have always had a passion for politics. I have been fortunate to have great public servants as role models. This gave me the opportunity to work on my first campaign at the age of 12, a local house race. That year, I also volunteered with President Obama’s campaign knocking countless doors and making a lot of phone calls. If I wasn’t in school, I was getting the vote out. I then continued to be involved with the Monroe County Democrats and was honored to receive their scholarship my Senior year. I was also active in 2014. I have also worked with college Dems on my campus and was active in the presidential primary prior to the caucus.
CD: It sounds like you are very politically minded and quite ambitious, are you planning on running for any other office during your time as a vice chair should you be elected?
JP: No. My focus is on building this party, getting my degree at Simpson College, and hopefully attending law school. My goal is to get more young people and minority’s like me involved in the party and for them to feel welcome and that is why I’m running. Ask me 15 years from now and my answer might be different!
CD: How would you plan on helping to build the party and ensure it is done in an inclusive manner?
JP: I want to start by saying this: my goal is not to go in there guns-blazing and the worst thing that can happen is shutting voices out. I believe that the key things that needs to happen as a party is that we need to engage the young voter and the minority voter, as well as retaking the rural areas that we have lost through the years. I have done this already in my short tenure as the chair of the Decatur County Democrats, where it can’t get much more rural or Republican. By making slight changes, we have increased membership and attendance at our meetings two-fold. On top of that, we have brought in a younger group of leaders. We were able to field a quality House candidate who we were proud to fight alongside. We did this while also putting our county party in a better spot financially than ever before. It is because of this that we will be in a better position moving forward to future elections. It will also be critically important that we are aggressively raising funds and in new ways. As the Finance Chair in the 2nd District I led our fundraising efforts this year. We were able to raise enough money on the night of our convention to not only pay our expenses, but also right a $10,000 check to our Congressman, Dave Loebsack’s reelection. We will end the year financially better off than ever before. I believe that if we start to build from the county up, we will achieve a stronger and more inclusive State Democratic Party.
CD: I’m glad you mentioned the rural voters because many contribute the party’s huge losses this past November to failing to win over both rural and working class voters. How exactly would you reach out to those communities in order to win them over?
JP: I would agree with you on that and to be honest with you, it comes back to our messaging. Rural voters don’t trust Democrats. We have some incredible policies, but that is not what is being heard. Rural voters believes Democrats are unaffordable, that they are going to lose their farms, lose their guns, and their financial security. This is not true and we need to work to change the narrative. One of the problems is that we are always on the defense as a party, we need to get aggressive and have a message that puts us on offense. From there we need to invest in a grassroots initiative. We are not going to be able to rely on an outside group to come in and organize the state like in ’08. We are the party that fights for the working man and we need to embrace that and not be modest in the results that we produce. This means going beyond identified Democrats, recruiting new registrations, and convincing the independent voter that our objectives are best for their pocketbook. We can do this, but I must stress once again that it will be a county up initiative.
CD: What does going on the offensive look like? How exactly would you work to get the message out to these groups?
JP: Going offensive means defining Republicans before they define us. We need to be quick to point out their flawed policies and not be afraid to show what we are doing to better the voter’s life. It also means actively recruiting new people to the party and today that has to include the aggressive use of social media. This goes hand in hand with the building of our local parties. Our message will get out through members of the community and neighbors. When they buy in we make connections and build an organization that will help us in future elections.
CD: You also mentioned fundraising, how would you suggest the party increase fundraising and identify/tap into new donors?
JP: I think this is two-pronged. To be realistic, we are going to need our leadership to be on the phone making the tough asks that brings in the money that is so crucial to our operation. This goes along with ramping up not only our direct mail solicitations, but even more crucial, our electronic platform solicitations (email, social media, etc.). I especially feel the latter is being underutilized and will help with the low dollar donations. Which in turn, creates a stronger party membership that is bought into the cause. The second part is as much party building as it is fundraising, and that is assisting county parties in creating local fundraisers that build their local coffers while also strengthening the party at a local level, which in turn strengthens the party as a whole.
CD: Going back to the huge losses this year, besides losing the rural and working class voting blocs, what would you say were the biggest contributing factors to those losses?
JP: I don’t believe that we have had the rural voters for some time now. Which in itself is an issue. I believe that because of the enormity of the presidential election, we as a party did not know how bad off we were until it was too late. It also goes back to the system, fundraising, and the message. The system, especially in Iowa, allows such a huge monetary influence in these local races. For example, it is unbelievable that the Republican Party can in-kind over $100,000 to a single house candidate. The Republicans have learned how to manipulate the system to their advantage and we currently lack the ability to change the system and refuse to play the game. This is in part because we have come to believe that Iowans won’t believe this outrageous, radical message being pushed by the other side, but it is working and as a result, we are losing. We need to do better at fundraising, get on the offense, and get our message out!
CD: The message you speak of is defined by the beliefs of the party, but as I’m sure you know, the members of the Democratic Party you would be serving fall all over the left half of the spectrum when it comes to political ideology, and therefore don’t always agree on the finer details of the message. Where do you fall on that spectrum; would you consider yourself centrist, left, or far left leaning?
JP: I believe in the principles of the Democratic Party and therefore I am a Democrat. No one is going to agree 100% with each other , but I don’t see it is constructive to hold a label besides Democrat
CD: You may not wish to identify in a way other than Democrat, but many on both sides seem to recognize a difference between progressive and so-called neo-liberal policies and politicians. What differences do you see, if any?
JP: So I want to loop this back to the Iowa Democratic Party and what my goal is. There is no doubt that we are a diverse party and we go through an incredible process to build our platform. The goal of our leadership and my goal if I would be fortunate enough to be elected would be to ensure that our party was welcoming, indicative to all, and would help to elect Democrats up and down the ballot.
CD: The platform saw a profound shift to the left during this year’s convention, with many of the planks and plank amendments being seen as too progressive by some and not progressive enough by others. This serves as a prime example of the division within the Democratic Party. How do you plan on helping to heal the divide between neo-liberals and progressives?
JP: I’m glad that you brought this up. We just got through a very divisive primary and there is no doubt that tensions are still high, but it starts with us treating each other with civility. In the end, we still believe in the same basic principles and we know that our government works better when we have Democrats in office. As a party, we must ensure that we don’t suppress people and their voices, because the beauty of the Democratic Party stands out when we all come together, because it is that diversity that makes us great and strong. I would encourage that we keep our party open and we STOP tearing down fellow Democrats! It is ok for us to disagree
CD: Given how controversial it has been, how committed are you to the current IDP platform and running candidates who will support it?
JP: It is up to the voters to decide what candidate they will support and not a decision that would be made by the SCC. Democratic voters must decide what candidate best fits the issues that they care about in a primary.
CD: True, but some would say that the party leadership should have an active role in recruiting new candidates. Is this something you would take part in?
JP: Absolutely! I have already done this in my county and district, but I would stress the importance of leadership not anointing candidates or discouraging people from running. We should encourage anyone with a passion to help better their community and then let the voters decide.
CD: How would you as vice chair encourage people to run at their local levels and how would you help them win their races?
JP: To start, it begins with training. I am not going to know the best people to run out of Muscatine County, but if we provide training to our local county chairs, who are already established in the community, that’s when we get things cooking. It all starts by providing the resources needed to the county party and then going up from there. It will also be essential that all of this recruitment should be coordinated through the caucus leaders. I see the State Party to be there for assistance and guidance not to steer the boat.
CD: Switching gears a little, what do you see as the role of the constituency caucuses in the party and how would you support them in that role?
JP: I believe they play a crucial role in our party, because they help bring a diverse voice to our SCC and when used correctly, they build a strong unified message that will helped Democrats in the future. If elected, I would want our party to continue to utilize them as they give us perspectives that I or other members of leadership may not possess.
CD: We’ve talked about a lot of important issues. What would you say are your top 5 first 100 days goals?
JP: Within the first 100 days I would want to see the development of a comprehensive plan. This would require a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunity, and Threats) Analysis that helps layout the plan to achieve goals of increasing party membership, strengthening county parties, fundraising, and candidate recruitment. This plan would be critical to helping us take back the legislature in 2018 and make strides in local offices.
CD: I wish you luck in trying to achieve those goals, should you be elected. Is there anything else you’d like us to know about yourself, your goals, positions, or candidacy in general?
JP: I think we’ve covered the key components. Thanks so much.
CD: That’s all the questions I have for you today then; it’s been a pleasure getting to know you and your ideas. Thank you once again for agreeing to the interview.