Letter to the Editor: The Terminal Corruption of the Iowa GOP
By Kent Williams, Iowa City
On October 9, 2021, former President Trump came to the Iowa Fairgrounds for a rally. He took the opportunity to publicly support Senator Charles Grassley. Grassley did not respond by praising Trump, but saying, “… if I didn’t accept the approval of someone who has 91% of the Republican voters in Iowa, I wouldn’t be. not so smart. I am smart enough to accept this approval.
Maybe we’re supposed to get a hunch of Grassley’s unusually honest and lukewarm reaction to Trump’s endorsement that he’s not in the former president’s tank. But standing next to Trump and shaking his hand forever binds the longest-serving U.S. senator in office. Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, Representative Ashley Hinson and Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks also took part in the rally, signaling their willingness to embrace Trump’s corruption and the clear threat to democracy.
If you’re an Iowa Democrat, you’ve coexisted with the Iowa Republicans your entire life. They are your neighbors, your colleagues, even your family members. You can like them, even like them, but you know not to discuss politics with them. It’s part of “Iowa Nice” – good neighborliness trumps partisanship. Iowa is a purple state. We (or most of us) want Iowa to remain a great place to live and raise a family.
But it has become clear that there is something rotten about the Iowa GOP. One-party rule in Iowa has not only allowed Trumpism to flourish. It also allowed them to incorporate transparent and cruel legislation into state law. They passed laws undermining voters’ rights, against life-saving mask mandates and unconstitutional restrictions on abortion rights. The governor is fully engaged in a disastrously inadequate response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Iowa GOP Chairman Jeff Kaufmann has gone to war with Cedar Rapids Gazette, prohibiting GOP candidates from speaking with the Gazette ‘drafting committee. In particular, he lashed out at opinion columnist Lyz Lenz, ultimately pressuring the newspaper to fire her and succeeding, at the Gazette ‘it’s shame. His crime? She was opinionated, which was a requirement for this job.
Perhaps most disgracefully, the Iowa GOP legislature has passed laws prohibiting the teaching of “critical race theory” and Bill 1619. This bill seeks to silence any critical appraisal of l American history, for the fabricating of downright racist myths that dominated public education about American history until well after the Civil Rights movement. Perhaps it’s no surprise that Polk County’s Eddie Andrews and Muscatine’s Eddie Cisnero are the only Republicans of color in either chamber of the Iowa Legislature.
Another iconic action by the Iowa legislature is the rejection of the non-partisan design of districts in the wake of the 2020 census. The Iowa redistribution process has long been cited across the United States as a example of the correct way to define congressional districts. Still, it looks like the Iowa GOP will reject all non-partisan district cards so they can gerrymander at their leisure.
All of this would be bad enough, but there are many examples of public corruption and mismanagement in the executive under Governor Reynolds. Oversight by legislative committees has been weak and ineffective, both of Iowa businesses and the government itself. The state of Iowa has become more polluted, sick and corrupt under the watchful eye of the GOP. It’s hard to believe that the Iowa GOP cares so little about the health and well-being of the people of Iowa, but their actions make it hard to believe otherwise.
I grew up in a family of staunch conservatives. They were deeply religious and tireless supporters of Nixon, Reagan, and the two Bush presidents, but I could see the good in them. They had a constant commitment to charity and good citizenship, even though I disagreed with them on a lot of things. But in Iowa, that kind of Republican is a dying breed. What we have left in Iowa is a ruling party determined to take away citizens’ rights, serve the selfish needs of their wealthy campaign contributors, and most blatantly, acquiesce in the patently false lies of the former President Trump.
We don’t need a Republican Party that goes with everything Democrats and Progressives want. But we need an honest, living GOP in the reality that all Iowa residents share, regardless of their political beliefs. It ended in Iowa years ago.