Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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May 8, 2015

Sullivan’s Salvos     5/12/15

In this edition:

*Dane County
*The American Electorate
*Democratic Party Hall of Fame
*Did You Know?

*Dane County
         A large group of Johnson County representatives traveled to Dane County, Wisconsin on May 4 and 5 for a series of tours and discussions. Our entourage included 14 Johnson County employees, 3 Iowa City employees, and two citizens who paid their own expenses. I will write about this in greater detail later. For now, here are a few thoughts:

*The governments of Dane County and City of Madison were wonderful hosts. They were all very helpful and personable.

*We have EXACTLY the same problems! I read their equivalents of the local paper, the University paper, and the alternative weekly. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought I was reading the papers from home.

*Dane County and Madison do not have all the answers, but there are certainly things we can learn from visiting with them.

*Troy Gardens is a fabulous model for the future development of the County Poor Farm!

         We spent time on jail overcrowding, disproportionate minority contact, racial equity, affordable housing, tiny houses, local foods, and more. All in all, this was probably the best trip I have ever taken as a Johnson County Supervisor.

         Thanks to the staff and elected officials in Dane County for the fine hospitality, and thanks to our own Andy Johnson for all his hard work in arranging this wonderful trip!

         I am not offended by being called a “politician”. In my book, anyone who chooses to run for elective office is a politician by definition. According to Merriam Webster, I am pretty close. They define politician as: a person who is professionally involved in politics, especially as a holder of or a candidate for an elected office.

         Yet many elected officials are very put off by the term “politician”. They prefer “elected official”, “”public official”, “public servant”, etc.

         Three things: First, when did the word politician become a dirty word? If you don’t like being called that, don’t run for office! Secondly, you will never get to control what folks call you. Like George Costanza, you cannot pick your own nickname! Finally, I get called many worse things! If it gets no worse than “politician”, I’ll take it!

*The American Electorate
         We are reaching the time of year where pundits spend a lot of time describing voters and voter behavior. I happen to believe they are usually wrong. Here, then, is my take on the American Electorate:

         I think the American Electorate breaks into 7 groups: Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Other Parties, Average Folks, Don’t Care, and People with Barriers. Let’s take a look at all 7 groups:

         About 20% of the US electorate are Republicans. These folks are going to vote virtually 100% of the time, and will almost never cross party lines.

         About 18% of the US electorate are Democrats. These folks are very likely to vote (though not quite as likely as Republicans) and will almost never cross party lines (though they are slightly more likely to do so than Republicans).

         Those two groups are pretty easy to understand. The press seems to misunderstand the others.

         About 10% of the US electorate are Independents. (No Party is the actual registration status in Iowa.) This group watches the news, and votes regularly, though not in the percentages as those affiliated with political parties. These are the folks who vote for Barack Obama and a conservative City Council. They routinely voted for both Karen Kubby and Jim Leach. They might lean a bit left of center on more issues than not, but will never admit it. They HATE talking politics; the topic is uncomfortable. The majority (but not all) of these folks supported the GOP in ’68, ’72, ’80, ’84, and ’00. The majority (but not all) of these folks supported Democrats in ’64, ’76, ’92, ’96, ’08, and ’12. This is essentially the group over which hundreds of millions of dollars are spent every two years.

         About 2% of the US electorate belong to Other Parties, or pretend they do. This group includes Libertarians, Greens, Socialists, etc. This group spends a lot of time complaining (and rightfully so) about our two party system. In exchange for their frustration, they like to drive the two major parties crazy. They know that every percentage point matters, so this small group is able to punch well above its’ weight.

         The group I am calling Average Folks makes up about 30% of the electorate. These people do not follow politics much, and are unlikely to vote except in a Presidential election, if then. While it might be fair to characterize this group as low information voters, they are not stupid. They are just busy. They are working longer and harder for less. They are likely to have second jobs. They have kids and elderly parents for whom they need to care. It is a struggle to maintain housing and transportation. Life is hard, and these folks are fighting the good fight. With the possible exception of Obamacare, they have not seen either party do much for them since 1964. They have not completely said “screw it” like our next group, but they see little reason to vote.

         The sixth group I am calling Don’t Care, and they make up about 10% of the electorate. This group has decided to throw in the towel. This group believes all politicians are crooks. They see no reason to vote, and mentions of politics bring out hostility. These are the people who slam doors in the faces of canvassers.

The final group I am calling People with Barriers. This amounts to about 10% of the electorate. These folks have not necessarily thrown in the towel, but voting just ain’t happening. This includes people in prison and jail; people who have criminal records; very elderly people; people with disabilities; eligible immigrants; basically people for whom the barriers to voting are just too high.

         What do you think? Have I characterized things correctly, or not?

*Democratic Party Hall of Fame
Save the date! The Johnson County Democratic Party is holding our Annual Hall of Fame Awards event on Saturday, May 16 at 7pm at the Coralville Marriott.

Please join us for coffee, desserts, and plenty of old war stories! A cash bar will be available. Parking is available for a small fee on either end of the building.

The Hall of Fame inductees for 2015 are: Gary Sanders, Ro Foege, Pat Ikan, and Dennis and Robin Roseman. We hope you can join us in recognizing this remarkable group!

Tickets are available for a $25 suggested donation. People who cannot afford that amount should still feel welcome, but please call 354-7199 so we can get a count.

Sponsorships are available at the following levels:
$100         includes two tickets
$250         includes 4 tickets
$500         includes a whole table (8 tickets)

Checks can be mailed to:
Johnson County Democrats
PO Box 1773
Iowa City, IA 52244

If you have any questions, please contact Rod Sullivan at 354-7199 or We hope you will join us for a fun evening, and lend your voice to those who are honoring these very deserving people. We look forward to seeing you!

*DID YOU KNOW?  Voter turnout in US Presidential elections peaked at 82% in 1876. Since 1968, voter turnout has ranged between 49% and 59%.

Anyone interested in learning more about County government should take a look at the County website-

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As always, feel free to contact me at 354-7199 or I look forward to serving you!



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