Des Moines Politics: I’m Out

For most of my adult life, I’ve thought about going into politics. I specifically wanted to run for Des Moines City Council. That is no longer a goal or even a consideration for me. Not only does it kill whatever joy I have, it makes me feel like I’d be selling my soul. Here’s what pushed the decision:

For the last couple months, I engaged in an email conversation with council member, Josh Mandelbaum. I voted for him, and he seemed like the ideal liberal to represent my section of the city (where you can’t go far without running into a BLM sign). I was also asked to partake in Carl Voss’ campaign. I declined because I was concerned about his lack of work for people of color. Voss himself went door-to-door including to our home. I made my concerns clear to him, and he said he was aware and would work to improve it.

I was wrong to believe in either man.

Voss, it seems, has rolled over and played dead to appease the rest of the council. He’s stopped being responsive to emails or social media messages. It feels like a total bait and switch. That might be harsh, but it is my experience with him, and I’m beyond disappointed.

Mandelbaum gave me a little hope because he was so willing to engage. And then I realized he was lawyering me in his emails. I see no soul in his response; just legal maneuvering to make it look like he cares. I know ego-writing when I see it. I engage in it all the time, I graded it for twenty years, and I edited four books (this, friends, IS ME EGO WRITING). I know when someone is trying to leverage their experience.

But experience means jack if you don’t give a fuck. Caring is asking questions and trying to figure out how to do better. And none of the words Josh Mandelbaum sent me seemed about anything more than his ego. I recall no questions about what he can do better. I felt no effort to empathize. The whole thing read like campaign about why I should vote for him again.

It should also be clear I’m pretty sure the only reason he contacted me was because I threatened to run against him the next time he runs. It seems he saw a threat to his power, and he wanted to squash it.

This is why people hate politicians. This is why good people don’t run for office, and if they do, they end up so corrupted that there is little redemption left.

To my fellow Desmoinians: I hope you dig deep into what’s going on behind the scenes in this city. A major portion of the control here is about real estate. It’s about who owns what, who controls zoning, and who is related to or friends with whom. Des Moines is not unique in this sense. However, the Cownies are STEEPED in this apparent real estate corruption, and the rest of the city council is not much better. (I also had a moment where I found myself in Cownie’s old office before he was mayor, and the art on his wall shocked me to my core. It’s something I’ll never forget, but it’s also something I will never be able to prove. I trust no one in that family. Not even a little. And yes, I voted for Cownie more than once, and I’m ashamed of that.)

So, I’m out. I want to keep my soul. I want to make differences for others, and none of that happens in politics. What I want is community. I’ll always post about local stuff as long as I’m in this city, but I hope it will always be about the people we all can help, befriend, and support, not the people we can bribe and control.

Enjoy yourself, Des Moines City Council. I hope you find deep meaning in the pockets of the power-rich in this city because you’ve almost certainly lost your wholeness.