The two chairwomen?Susan Frazer, chair of the Scott County Republicans, and Susan Pamperin, chair of the Scott County Democrats?are young, attractive, energetic, highly intelligent, and intensely committed to their parties. In the new vernacular: They're the bomb!
In an interview with both Susans, they explored the challenges they face as heads of their county parties, especially with the responsibility of first-in-the-nation caucuses, which puts Iowa in the spotlight every two years; encouraging more volunteerism; motivating more voters to the polls; educating voters on the myriad candidates and issues; and organizing the single most important political grassroots effort?the Iowa caucuses.
Susan Pamperin: The caucuses create an opportunity to encourage issues we'd like to see pursued nationwide. It comes with a sense of responsibility. We try to make sure all individuals involved are as educated as they can possibly be about the candidates and issues. Iowa is a great training ground for candidates. They get to practice their message because candidates are literally invited into people's homes, and have one-on-one contact with everyday voters.
Susan Frazer: It is a very important process for Iowa because such a small group of voters, in context of the sheer number of voters nationwide, gets to influence who will be the future candidates and upon what issues they will focus. Candidates can be made or broken in Iowa. Voters make a big difference by just showing up.
Susan Pamperin got involved in politics because she recognized it as the means to effect change in her work environment. Because Pamperin is a federal employee, she is prohibited from running for office. "If you really want change to happen, it's truly up to you," she affirmed. It is a learning experience and takes a great commitment of time and effort."
Susan Frazer agrees that the commitment is a large one and found herself at a time in her life when she could afford to give the necessary time. " I kept looking at my choices every year and didn't like them. I began working for candidates, and eventually I was asked to run for chairman."
In a world of party politics that has become blurred by the similarities of, or perhaps the lack of distinction between candidates, it is important to distinguish between the nation's two major political parties. With two Susans at Scott County's helm, both of whom who are bright, articulate, well educated, and passionate, it might appear to be more difficult than ever?but appearances are deceiving.
There is no confusion for these two dynamic females, who embrace their parties' politics with all the gusto of established veterans of campaign battles. Both Susans are instantly likable, engaging, and, most importantly, hugely credible. Suddenly, the old political machine traditionally characterized by our senior citizens is being augmented with the younger, vibrant energy of feminine personae, complete with purposeful dedication, compassion, and, thankfully, humor.
So what does it mean to be a Republican or a Democrat for these two chairwomen, and what are the challenges each faces as they move toward November's election, especially with nearly 50 percent of Scott County voters registered as Independents?
Susan Frazer: I would characterize Republicans as the party of the individual. Republicans believe opportunity exists on an individual basis, not a group basis. We allow for the individual as an individual without having to affiliate one's self with a larger group.
The goal is to get all our party's candidates elected because we know there are certain legislative measures that they are going to support, although not every single piece of legislation is going to be supported by every candidate. Once the candidates are elected, they are ultimately the ones who must get the legislation enacted. Support for specific legislation is not as organized a process as getting candidates elected, but we certainly write letters and demonstrate support individually. There are instances when a more concentrated effort ensues over an issue in order to educate the public, such as a special election.
There are low percentages of eligible voters voting, regardless of the election year, so obviously we want more people to participate. But do we want more voters just turning out, or do we prefer informed voters casting their ballots? It isn't just about presidential elections, either. We have elections for county and state representation that effect things much closer to home. These candidates have a much greater influence on our day-to-day lives. There was less than 25% voter turnout in this election with a jam-packed slate. The state average was only 33%, not a whole lot better. But we prefer to look at the glass half full and are optimistic about the future.
Susan Pamperin: While it is true that Republicans are more self-dependent, Democrats look at the inclusive body believing we are stronger in numbers. We are more cohesive because we focus on the diversity, the exotic differences and potential among all humans, yet in context of our similarities. We look for opportunities for a hand up, not a hand out. Democrats believe there is community responsibility on the whole.
We want more participation from the public. It is a much healthier process that way. People feel disengaged from the process. Too many feel their voice doesn't matter. Voters feel that once candidates are elected they are no longer accountable to the promises they made. Part of the problem is that you cannot represent a single body of constituents. You must represent the entire constituency. It is difficult to keep every promise, and hard choices are periodically made. Reelection is one way to learn if you've been accountable. But some of the responsibility belongs to the constituency to continue to participate. The more people participate, the more accountable the electeds will be.
When asked how the parties can improve representation of the taxpayers and dispel the more common belief that special interests are traditionally served first at all level of politics, Frazer responded without hesitation: "reduce taxes," while Pamperin with equal agility countered: "provide better services." Their answers demonstrated the quintessential difference between the parties and provided a classic illustration of the divergent philosophies for political problem solving.
Susan Pamperin: Those who are registered as Independents truly vote for the individuals. We consider these voters potentials. We [the party] provide a mechanism for candidates to pursue these individuals, but it is largely the responsibility of the candidates to win those votes. With respect to taxes, the saying goes that the only good tax is a tax that you pay but that I don't. Traditionally, if I support a particular cause or special interest, then I might favor the candidate who also supports it. But if I am against a particular issue, then I will be displeased with the candidate who supports it.
Susan Frazer: I agree that it is the candidates' responsibility to persuade voters. But I think the issue is more fundamental. What should the role of government be? We must look at the things government is doing, especially at the federal level. The criteria should be whether as a state, city, or individual, am I able to provide this service on my own? The services that cannot be provided by individuals, municipalities, or states are the services that the government is constitutionally required to do. However, there has been a broadening of federal powers, therefore it takes more and more dollars to accomplish those things. But where does providing for needs stop? Needs are endless. Once you have satisfied one need, another arises. At some point, you have to weigh the cost versus the benefit. If all your dollars filter through Washington first and the payroll is being met on a federal apparatus before those dollars come back to the state or community, doesn't it make sense to implement such things closer to home? It isn't that we shouldn't have the services, but how far should it have to travel or be routed before the services are actually provided? Governmental oversight should include money supply, enforcement of contracts, and protection of property rights.
Susan Pamperin: In terms of providing services, the pooling of tax dollars causes the implementation of those services to be more effective. By providing particular services not necessarily perceived by Republicans as governmental in nature, Democrats feel it is good for the population as a whole because we are providing needed services to the citizenry in totality.
Democrats would not look at services in terms of what are the minimal things government can provide, but what are the maximum things we can benefit from? It comes down to an expression of our values, such as education, Social Security, and health care as examples. We view these things as being more effectively addressed at a higher level. We can be more effective if these things can be accomplished on a grander scale.