A Morning with Iowa Republicans
by Paul Deaton
Progressive politics takes us to some strange places and today it took me to the Hotel at Kirkwood on the southwest side of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. There, the Branstad-Reynolds road to victory tour lined up the entire Republican statewide slate on a stage along with Mitt Romney and Mariannette Miller Meeks. For 10:00 o'clock on a Tuesday morning, there was a reasonable crowd, maybe 125 people with the candidates and press. It was very scary and Halloween is not even here yet. What was scary was their ideas, not their presence, even if they were lined up on the stage like a strange bunch of wax figures in a row.
The Republican enthusiasm this election cycle seems based on a gauzy notion about how the United States was founded and what that founding now means. Most of us who studied the agrarian individualism of the 18th century get it that to the Europeans who came here, with their legal systems, religions, architecture, agricultural practices and ideas about government found the continent to be, as F. Scott Fitzgerald called it, “a fresh, green breast of the new world,” theirs for the taking.
Never mind their genocide of the native populations that forever displaced them. Never mind their deforestation of a continent that released greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, starting our path towards warming the planet. Never mind their slaughter of the buffalo and the plowing of the prairie, turning it from a natural, self-sustaining ecosystem into a platform for factory-like agricultural practices that resulted in depletion of much of the land's richness. Never mind all that.
What the Republican enthusiasm would have us believe is that once our forebears were pioneers, and we should become pioneers again. Rather than work together to save what is left of the commons so that everyone can benefit, government should devise better schemes to exploit the commons so that those with initiative can get ahead and join the wealthy class. Their talk about opportunity falls flat with plain folks like us. These Republican enthusiasts are not concerned about us. They are concerned with a future where “what's in it for me” is the driving question.
After Branstad's speech a friend turned to me and asked, “did you hear it?”
“Hear what,” I said.
“Branstad wants to phase out regulation.”
I heard it, but it faded quickly from my mind, because it is just another talking point from the powerful interests who influence politics in this state. It sounded like one of the Farm Bureau's points, but I'm not sure, they all blend together. Of course they want less regulation.
What this time did for me was to re-energize my efforts to get out the vote. If constant reminders from friends to get involved won't motivate, listening to Kim Reynolds, Mitt Romney and Terry Branstad with their wall of conservatives behind them surely will.~Paul Deaton is a
native Iowan living in rural Johnson County and weekend editor of
Blog for Iowa. E-mail
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Nice job Paul – that was a great summation of our history and the current state of the Republican Party. Arron