Iowans Talk about SJR2001 and the Traditional Family
by Paul Deaton
“This discussion is not about traditional marriage, it is about the decimation of the middle class brought on by the policies of President Ronald Reagan.”
Last summer, at the lineup for a parade during our town festival, the local Catholic priest walked up to our state representative and asked for his position on “protecting the traditional family.” It was a confusing question, and behind it was the question whether or not the elected official would support a change in the Iowa constitution to define “marriage” as “between a man and a woman.” When the representative said he would not support such a change, the priest said in a loud voice, “Then I will do everything I can to defeat you in the next election.”
A few minutes later, the priest brought over a member of the Knights of Columbus to say that he felt he did not have a say in the Iowa Supreme Court decision to overturn the 1998 law with this definition of marriage. He explained that enabling the schools to recognize the validity of what he called “non-traditional marriage” was undue pressure on him as a working person trying to raise a traditional family.
The irony is that many of the members of the Knights of Columbus in our town register their party preference as Republican and it was a Republican president who initiated the social change that puts pressure on working families of every political party. This discussion is not about traditional marriage, it is about the decimation of the middle class brought on by the policies of President Ronald Reagan.
Many of us are familiar with the film Roger and Me, by the Flint, Michigan native and film maker Michael Moore. The film depicts the human impact of auto plant closures on Flint natives during the late 1980s. The closing of Buick City and other automobile manufacturing plants in Flint was just a small slice of what the Reagan presidency did for working class people. I experienced Flint, Michigan during the Reagan years first hand.
After the auto plants closed in Flint, I made a trip there to recruit truck drivers from some of the 25% of the community that was unemployed. While we paid less than what the auto workers had made, we found many takers for our non-union jobs.
In that union town, people did not like non-union companies replacing the UAW jobs. Protesters showed up when any company recruiting non-union workers came to offer employment. I ran into these protesters more than once. One night the four tires on my vehicle were slashed while I gave a presentation to a group of about 25 people. I fixed the tires, went home and came back the next month because I felt that eventually the bitterness would subside and economic needs would drive people to take a job with a US company. I was wrong about that. The way of life for many of the people I met was just plain gone.
We don’t often hear this part of the story of the Reagan Revolution. It is a story about the internationalization of the auto industry specifically and corporate America in general. It is a story about moving production of goods to foreign lands where the cost of raw materials, labor and government regulation favored making our automobiles, washers and clothing. It is a story about when Mexico became too expensive, the jobs moved to China and Southeast Asia, leaving behind a push that brings Mexican immigrants to the United States to take jobs our citizens don’t want to support their families. The Reagan years were harsh on families and created the roots of the world in which we live today.
This week, Iowa SJR 2001, “A Joint Resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the State of Iowa specifying marriage between one man and one woman as the only legal union that
is valid or recognized in the state,” failed to get the support needed to pass in the Iowa legislature. I suspect we have not seen the last of this debate in our communities.
The sooner we recognize that the debate is not about the definition of marriage, but about the policies of our government and the pressure these policies put on the middle class, the sooner we will stop pointing blame at each other and work together to fix the society that started breaking, partly as a result of the Ronald Reagan presidency.
If Washington is broken, then this work belongs to each of us.