Des Moines, Iowa
On August 13, 2018, the Iowa Democratic Party Veterans’ Caucus (IDVC), a military veterans group, was prohibited from walking in the annual Iowa State Fair veterans parade, despite having already been approved to participate. Decisionmakers cited the caucus’s partisan nature as sufficient reason to exclude it from the parade. Such apparent bias, according to Dan Gannon, Iowa Commission of Veterans’ Affairs chair, went against the event’s intended purpose.
The Iowa Democratic Party Veterans’ Caucus (IDVC) is the recognized voice for veterans and their families within the Iowa Democratic Party. The group’s motto is “Our Second Call To Duty,” and it advocates for policy and legislation to better the lives of veterans and their families.
Dan Gannon is chair of the Iowa Commission of Veterans’ Affairs, which was created to serve as a voice for veterans and their families. In each of Iowa’s 99 counties, there is a commissioner of veterans Affairs and a county director. Gannon, a Marine veteran who served in the Vietnam War, was also part of the unofficial group of organizers that helped plan the veterans parade.
Ron Healey is chair of the Iowa Democratic Party Veterans’ Caucus.
Kim Reynolds is the Republican governor of Iowa.
On August 10, The Iowa Democratic Party Veterans’ Caucus received notification that it would not be allowed to walk in the annual veterans parade at the Iowa State Fair on August 13, after having previously received approval for participation, according to IDVC chair Healey.
Immediately following the announcement, Democratic military veterans claimed that Governor Reynolds was behind the prohibition of the group. But the decision to ban the IDVC from the parade was apparently made by parade officials, not the state government.
According to Gannon, the caucus was barred from participating in the parade because of its political leanings. In an interview with the Des Moines Register, Gannon emphasized the nonpartisan nature of the parade. “This is not about politics; this is about veterans,” he said of the parade’s mission. Reynolds echoed this sentiment when she told a Register reporter, “You need to talk with the commission, but it has never been partisan. It should never be partisan.” She said, “This is about our veterans and it should be about saluting and celebrating them.”
The parade’s status as a nonpartisan event was brought into question by some members of the IDVC, however. For example, they noted the participation of Veterans for Peace, an anti-war group, and the Iowa Secretary of State, Paul Rate, a Republican running for re-election. Gannon defended their inclusion, however, arguing that they were still less partisan than the IDVC. Rate, argued Gannon, was already an elected state official who had established programs honoring veterans. “We don’t want a whole boatload of folks who have political messages,” Gannon said.
The decision to block the IDVC from marching marked an unprecedented step for parade organizers, who had allowed them to participate in previous years. According to Healey, the Veterans’ Caucus had marched in the 2008 parade, and Gannon himself remembered the group from 2015. In a statement, Healey wrote that such a move served only to exclude a group of veterans from a tradition designed to honor them. “By dis-inviting our veterans from a parade they have marched in for years, the Reynolds administration is telling Democratic veterans that their service is worth less than others’ for purely partisan reasons.” Some members of the veterans group still attended the parade, according to Healey, but stayed off to the side during the procession.
Iowa State Fair Commission to Clarify Veterans Parade Rules in 2019
In an article for the Des Moines Register, Gannon apologized for changing the eligibility of the group just days before the start of the parade. He said he will make it clear in 2019 that political parties can not participate in the event.
Prepared by Erin Doherty ‘20
Uploaded to tracker September 28, 2018