Jane Meyer on extremism in state legislatures (7:11)
Had a conversation with an old friend and his wife last weekend. It was one of those “what the hell is going on in Iowa?” conversations that seems to be getting more and more frequent between those of us who stay in Iowa and those who have left.
Most of the folks we know who have left used to have fond memories of an Iowa where they grew up that included good schools with teachers that cared, small towns where merchants and people in authority knew the kids and knew their families. Their Iowa was an Iowa where people seemed to all be rowing pretty much in the same direction.
Now when we run into these folks they read what is going on in what used to be considered kind of the quintessential American state and wonder if we have all gone mad. Last week the legislature passed a bill taking away supportive health care for transgendered teens forcing many families in Iowa to make a tough decision of whether to stay and have a child suffer from the ignorance of the Iowa legislature or pick up stakes and move on.
In the case of our conversation we were talking of a mutual acquaintance whose decision appears to be to take the family to Minnesota where the legislature assured that folks who need health care will get health care whatever the circumstances. You know, a common sense approach.
After gutting schools, make it burdensome for teachers to teach and doing all they can to ban books in public schools, Iowa’s legislature is becoming a national laughing stock. We have become a national symbol of hate. So much so that not only are Iowans noticing but so are those who once had fond memories of their former state. It only took a few years and an electorate that took a drastic right turn.
As the folks we were talking to were lamenting the goings on in Iowa one uttered “what else can they do?” Well I said, since most of their action seem to be grounded in the ideas of legislating some perverse vision of their Christian religion and at the same time doing what they can to hand tax dollars to companies with little accountability, I look to see a couple of things happen.
First, I am surprised that Iowa has yet to go to privatized prisons. This is something that is really big in the ultra right wing states, particularly in the South. A great way to shovel money to some corporation with a great deal of smoke screens to obscure accountability. Seems like something Iowa’s new radical right could really get behind.
Second I have been wondering why someone as yet hasn’t looked at doing something to couples who choose to be childless. This caught their attention as they are childless. I continued that the radical right looks at childless couples as not fulfilling the purpose of marriage and thus some on the right think that a childless marriage should be dealt with.
The really hit close to home. This couple thought they were somehow insulated from the crazy politics of today. What could the legislature do they asked. I said I don’t know. End the marriage? Extra taxes? I just keep thinking that with less workers in the pipeline and some folks not having children I could see some super religious legislator putting the two together and saying – hey, you’re not contributing.
Such a concept when pushed on the far right outlets that dominate Iowa media and on Fox nationally could get some following. Look at what they did to a non-existent idea like Critical Race Theory – only existed in a law school class in the Ivy League one day, couple of months later it’s a national hysteria. CRT is not the only idea that they have done that with.
Look at WOKE. Down in Florida the crazy legislature passed an anti-woke law without even knowing what it is. They are banning books without ever looking at them because someone didn’t like It – or maybe because the author was black. You think there is any logic behind radical right thinking?
Remember that the radical right can sell this or almost any other concept on religious grounds. “Go forth and populate the earth” I think the bible supposedly says. So if you’re not having kids then you are violating their values. It can be sold.
While CRT and book banning and transgendered fear mongering and possibly childless couples take center stage our state government is dismantling public schools, hiring a state education director whose main experience is in dismantling public schools, reorganizing state government to make the governor an authoritarian leader and on and on. Smoke screens to cover the malfeasance.
Meanwhile across the Missouri River a courageous legislator by the name Senator Michaela Cavanaugh has brought the Nebraska state legislature to a stop as she filibusters a transgender supportive health care ban. In her state she has stopped all business for 3 weeks thus stopping any movement on that bill. Word came down Thursday that she has agreed to a break in her filibuster beginning Tuesday.
The very bottom line of what is happening in Iowa is that given what amounts to absolute power, it will be used no matter how “nice” you may think people are.
There’s no need to speculate about “what else can they do.” Take a look at SF 516, which has already passed the Senate. Desperate Iowa conservationists are trying hard to keep it from passing the Iowa House and becoming law.
It hasn’t gotten media attention as of this writing, except on IOWA CAPITAL DISPATCH. But it would have serious impacts on Iowa’s landscape, wildlife, and outdoor recreation. It’s a sneaky mousetrap bill — the goal is to get it quietly passed so it can snap shut.
Many individuals and groups oppose this bill, and the only group pushing it is the Iowa Farm Bureau. But in the 2023 Iowa Statehouse, that may be enough. The IFB has huge clout now, and this bill is something they’ve wanted for literally decades.
My spouse and I are childless by choice. The thought of a possible anti-childless bill is indeed scary. But at this point, we are much more frightened of SF 516, which is already reality. Anyone who cares about Iowa’s natural heritage and the outdoors should ask their House member to oppose SF 516.