By Phillip Wynn, Senate District 41 Member
Personal note: I spent three Saturdays in January door-knocking for one of the candidates in Iowa. That gives me no special credentials for writing this post, but thought I’d just put it out there.
This post is in two parts. First is about the media reaction to Iowa. The second is my opinion about what we Democrats should take away from the Iowa experience.
Any of you who’ve raised children will recognize the struggle a parent faces in trying to teach their children delayed gratification. A toddler wants what it wants now now NOW! It takes a big step in maturation for a child to learn to postpone getting something it wants. It isn’t easy to do, as witnessed by the fact that many adults seem to have trouble with the concept of delayed gratification.
This seems especially the case with many members of the news media. I have to wonder: Did many of them struggle with learning delayed gratification when they were toddlers? That would explain a lot of the media reaction to the delayed results from the Iowa caucuses.
Full disclosure: I stopped watching TV news a few years ago, and that was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Online news is better, and newspapers are still the best news source, in my opinion.
Still, even online I could tell that the morning after the caucuses, the big story was about what a horrendous fail the Iowa result had turned into. Run for the hills! The Democrats can’t even manage a dinky caucus! It’s a win for Trump! Dear God, we’re all going to DIE!
So as I’ve suggested, the best way to approach such stories is to regard the news media as acting like a frustrated toddler, stamping its foot and shouting, “I want it NOW!”
For you see, in its typical laziness and boneheadedness, the news media already had a narrative ready to go, the only thing missing being some blanks to fill in for the winners and losers of Iowa. Iowa was highlighted as the dramatic beginning of a dramatic horse race. Significant money had been invested in flashy graphics for the TV people, the “best” reporters had been assigned to the scene, theme music for the show had already been written and recorded. The only thing left was for the caucus-goers to do their thing, while the “reporters” zoned out into their cellphones, already knowing what they were going to say and how they were going to say it, the only mystery being who would play which role.
Instead what we got was one of the most dramatic displays of media ineptitude and cluelessness in the Trump era. The caucus-goers and the Democratic party didn’t play the role that had been assigned to them! We didn’t have results for the show that night! What are we going to do? Well, you know the one thing they wouldn’t do: look in the mirror for who to blame. So instead it’s those darned Democrats. They messed up! We were there and ready to cover it … and THEY messed up!
Sure, the app and all that. Yeah, there were problems. But if the media overreacted like a spoiled child, that doesn’t excuse Democrats buying into their bull, and overreacting themselves, taking on the narrative that the problems with the Iowa caucus constituted a dark day for the Democrats.
Baloney. Pure, unadulterated baloney. And the negativity of defeatism as well. We Democrats need to do all we can, inside ourselves and in our interaction with others, to avoid feeding this defeatism, because it will ensure defeat in November. There’s no need here to go into who the real winners and losers were in Iowa, especially because, as history tells us, the results aren’t dispositive in any case. And by that metric, the sane reaction to the Iowa situation among Democrats should be “meh”.
I’ve seen a lot of commentary about how bad the Iowa caucuses are, how Iowa shouldn’t be first, how it’s not representative, etc. etc. etc. In the here and now, I can’t see how such talk is anything other than a complete waste of time. The arguments against the role of the Iowa caucuses in the campaign are independent of the problems seen this year, and the two shouldn’t be conflated. Iowa is now behind us, no longer exists in the reality of the campaign NOW.
Let the news media continue to obsess about Iowa. They’ll move on soon enough, to cover the next thing in the campaign with the same tried-and-true and yet clueless approach.
We Democrats need to move on, too. Iowa? Meh.
Greetings all Senate District 41 members. Early primary voting at your city hall and by mail has begun! That means that our precinct caucus is just around the corner. The caucus is the meeting where we select delegates and set values for the DFL and the lead-in to our senate district’s convention in March. The delegates we nominate here get to represent us at the next conventions, perhaps even the state convention in June.
Minnesotans are the first in the nation to begin voting in the Democratic primary this year. And although Iowans will see their votes counted first, attending our caucus will be crucial for more than just picking a presidential candidate, here are my top three reasons to attend:
- Put your fingerprints all over the issues you care about! If you care about climate, healthcare, etc. then this is your chance to organize with other caucus members who care just as deeply as you do about the outcomes. You, the citizen, should be in the driver’s seat of your local policies and caucusing is the vehicle for getting those policies represented in the DFL party platform. The caucus is important for funneling ideas and movements up the chain to our party’s leaders. Bringing a resolution (or several) to the caucus is fairly easy, check out this guide from OurMNFuture.org/resolutions. They have an excellent summary of the process and plenty of template resolutions ready to bring straight to the caucus.
- Meet fellow Democrats that are not just political junkies, but political actors! These are your neighbors, our kids attend the same schools, and our caucus attendees are committed to building movements around Democratic values. You could watch the news ‘til your eyes turn to mush, but you won’t really understand your community until you mix it up with other local DFL’ers. I promise that you will come away from the caucus feeling motivated, excited to get involved, and impressed with your Fighting 41 community.
- Help build the movement that will dump Trump! It is incredible to think that we have lived through three years of chaos, lies, dysfunction, and corruption. November 2020 cannot come fast enough. The caucus is where our ball gets rolling, where we activate new DFL members and motivate long-time attendees. This is your chance to join the blue wave that will dump Trump and spark a new progressive era.
When is the caucus? On February 25th at 7pm
Where? If you live in Columbia Heights, St.Anthony, or Hilltop you caucus at Columbia Academy: 900 49th Ave NE. Columbia Heights, MN 55421.
If you live in Fridley, Spring Lake Park, or New Brighton, you caucus at Fridley High School: 6000 W. Moore Lake Dr. NE. Fridley, MN 55432
Note from Editor: Abigail is a member of DFLSD41 living with Type 1 diabetes. This her 1st blog post in a series of posts dealing with her personal struggle with diabetes, her experience as outreach coordinator for Minnesota #insulin4all, as well as the issues surrounding the skyrocketing price of insulin. Please join us January 29th at 6PM at Columbia Heights Library for a forum where Abigail and others will be discussing the cost of prescriptions and medical care. Info and RSVP here
My name is Abigail, and I have somehow made it this far in life, despite substantial obstacles and barriers. I have been living with Type 1 diabetes for 24 years. At the age of six this devastating diagnosis was something I couldn’t compartmentalize. It consumed me. As I sat on my hospital bed, I vividly remember a nurse pulling over a tray with several syringes. I felt a loss of my senses, and suddenly, I couldn’t breathe. I experienced my first anxiety attack as the nurse told me that I would need to take shots of insulin everyday, multiple times a day, for the rest of my life. In that moment I searched for a reaction from my parents, I didn’t feel I could trust my emotions and looked to them for reassurance. If I am being completely transparent, in the moments that followed I thought of my family and how this would weigh on them. I felt the pressure of great responsibility. However, not the kind of responsibility most kids worry about, this wasn’t my mom pleading with me to clean my bedroom. I had to learn how to save my life. I had to adhere to proper mentation and discipline well beyond my years. With six years of innocence behind me, I was now searching for whom I was supposed to be. Needless to say, diabetes fractured my life in a way I was not prepared for. The terrifying reality was that, without insulin even for a few hours, I could die.
In 1996 access or affordability was not a concern. Insulin was $20 a vial, It was a pillar of the household and there was never a short supply. If insulin was ever a financial burden growing up, my parents never spoke of it. Now, people living with diabetes are living in crisis. They have been struggling to overcome barriers such as: unaffordable health plans, navigating prior authorization and formularies, or simply going without insulin and tragically dying as a result. It is no secret that insulin prices have increased at alarming rates over the last 30 years. We have been burdened by a 1200% list price increase since analog insulin hit the market in 1996. There is simply no reassurance from manufacturers that these lock-step prices, used as bargaining chips between manufacturers, will relent.
I can admit that I have had to ration my insulin at various times in my life. At the age of 18 I was working full time as a medical assistant, while attending part time nursing school. I aged off of my parents health insurance, but felt I had made preparations by obtaining health insurance through my workplace. As I approached the pharmacy to pick up my prescriptions I was mortified by the out of pocket costs. I had no idea what to expect. But, when I found out that one vial of insulin was nearly $200, my heart sank. I don’t use one vial of insulin per month, I use three. The total cost of my life essential medication was over $600. I made the decision to put back all of my other prescriptions. This meant my testing strips, syringes, emergency glucose, and more was no longer an option. Over time it became impossible to afford my insulin. Every time I would pick up my insulin the price would increase more and more. My blood sugars were running high, and most of the time I was unaware of what my blood sugars were because I didn’t have my testing supplies. I started rationing food so I would require less insulin. Eventually I was missing school and work due to sickness. It became hard for me to keep up and ultimately my academic advisor suggested I take a step back to focus on my health. I found that with the absence of school, I had more time to work. I pushed forward and insisted that I just needed to make more money to afford my insulin. My young adult life was becoming grossly limited and defined by the cost of insulin. Within the first month of trying to navigate a complex and unmerciful healthcare system on my own, I was admitted to the hospital with diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). It wouldn’t be the last time.
DKA is the result of too much sugar in the bloodstream. This happens when there is a deficiency of insulin to properly break glucose down and be used as energy in the body. DKA compromises every system of the body, including vital organs and brain function. The physical pain during this process is profound. I often describe the feeling as being a fish out of water, with glass fibers coursing through my bloodstream. In this state the only way to bring the body back to homeostasis is by hospitalization. Between early 2008 and late 2009 I suffered DKA seven times. On one occasion, the last vial of insulin I had fell off of my bathroom counter and onto the floor. It shattered. I grabbed a syringe to try to draw back what little I could off of the floor, but it wasn’t enough. I was rushed by ambulance, in respiratory distress, and fell comatose on the way to the hospital. I would remain in the Intensive Care Unit for six days. When I am forced to reflect on that time, I realize how lucky I am to still be alive.
I decided something needed to be done, and I wasn’t going to find a solution on my own. I took to social media circa 2010 and started a support group for people living with diabetes. Soon I saw that insulin affordability concerns were widely prevalent. People started to share their stories, collaborate on ideas, and I found that I no longer felt ashamed of my situation. I was blind sided when I learned that people frequently utilized the internet for black market insulin and supplies to avoid the unfathomable costs at the pharmacy. This wasn’t just a problem in the small Minnesota town I lived in, this was a national crisis. A national healthcare crisis that birthed a worldwide grassroots advocacy movement: #insulin4all.
“We the People of the United States….”
-Preamble, US Constitution
“…[G]overnment of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
I’ve been seeing a lot of folks in my Facebook newsfeed bemoaning, “the government.”
“Government is wasteful,” the argument goes.
“It’s inefficient,” it continues.
“It is a monopoly with no incentive to be innovative,” the argument often concludes.
Some of you might be nodding your head in agreement with this argument and, I’ll admit, when I worked for the government I could always get a new pen from the supply room when I needed one.
But humor me as I provide a brief civics lesson. The United States is a republic. A republic is a form of government in which supreme power is held by the people and their elected representatives.
To put it in other words, the government is YOU and the people you then elect to represent your interests. I would hope that when it comes time to make decisions about what the role of government should be (including things like what taxes should be collected, how tax revenue should be spent, and what kinds of tasks we expect government to perform), we could have faith that the people we’ve elected have the information they need to make the best decision possible.
Now, let me tell you what this post is not. It is not a defense of the government as it currently functions. There is too much money in politics, and corporate personhood has eroded the meaning and significance of the rights granted all persons by the U.S. and state Constitutions.
Let me now be clear about what this post is. It is a call to action! If the government is YOU and you sit around criticizing the government, you should start your criticism by mocking your reflection in the mirror. Because, if you want the government to better reflect your values and if you want elected leaders to better respond to your needs and wants, then you need to stop complaining on social media and start getting involved in selecting the people who will represent you and make those important decisions about the role of government.
And you’re in luck, because the process of selecting our elected leaders starts anew on February 25, 2020. The GOP and DFL will be hosting their precinct caucuses, and it is from there that all party-related decisions flow, including who will bear a party’s endorsement on the general election ballot. If you want a say in who that person will be, then attend your caucus and become a convention delegate. After all, there’s more to elections than who is or is not running for president.
Maybe you think the party you’re most closely aligned with is off-base on a particular issue. Then offer a Resolution on Caucus Night and try to recruit people to support it and/or offer it themselves. If your resolution or issue has a critical mass of support, it could become part of your party’s platform, which is basically a document that states what a party’s values are.
Maybe you begrudge the two-party system and thirst for additional options. Well then ask the people who knock on your door how their candidate feels about making it easier to have third-party candidates on the ballot, or what they would do to reverse the judicial precedents that weigh heavily in favor of promoting the two-party system. Ask what the candidate is going to do to get money out of politics to level the playing field so that average citizens can run for office, and not just those who are wealthy or have time to sit and make fundraising phone calls.
You can also ask the candidates themselves! Go to a candidate forum or attend a meet-and-greet and hear straight from the candidate’s mouth what their opinions are on the issues that matter to you.
But, above everything, vote in the general election. We are empowered through voting to choose who will represent us and decide what the role of government should be.
Because, in case you forgot, the government is YOU. You hold the supreme power of the state. Either be involved in exercising the power of government or hush.