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Almost #Ready For Hillary

ReadyThis is a close-to-home example of what is wrong with media today – wasted newspaper space that could have been used to inform.  [see Not Ready for Hillary, published in December, 2013.]

Almost Ready For Hillary

But I’m even readier for the media to grow up.

Recently, as editor of Blog for Iowa, I was contacted by a Washington Post political reporter who was working on a story about Hillary Clinton. Specifically, he wanted to talk about what he called “infamous” green snow shovels that the campaign gave out to supporters last time. He made no pretense of what he was doing. He basically was using the green snow shovel story to write a derisive article about Hillary, using a formula that the national media is enamored with now, focusing on some trite or sensationalistic aspect, and magnifying it – in this case, the (infamous!) snow shovels that I had not heard anything about or forgot.

Here is how he framed it:

“I’m a reporter for the Washington Post, covering national politics. I’m very sorry to bother you, but I wanted to ask your help on something. I’m writing a story about Hillary Clinton’s (in)famous green snow shovels: in the last days of the 2008 primary campaign in Iowa, Clinton’s folks bought more than 600 snow shovels and handed them out to precinct captains and other local leaders. I’m trying to find people who supported Hillary Clinton back then, and still have those shovels in their possession. I’d want to talk to them about their experience with that 2008 campaign, and whether they think Clinton has learned from her experience in Iowa back then.

I figured you might have seen or heard chatter from people who still have those shovels. I also was trying to figure out how I might put out a call for those folks on the Blog for Iowa, to ask if anybody had a shovel and wanted to talk with me about it. I’m going to be in Iowa next week, and would love to meet folks in person if they’re interested. I’m at 202.—.—-, if you’d rather talk by phone than over email.”

I replied to his query this way:

“Seriously? This is what you are using your position at the Washington Post to write about? You want to talk about shovels? How depressing. And you call yourself a journalist? We’re not in the Hillary camp yet, but we’re still not going to help you write your pathetic little “let’s make fun of Hillary” piece. We will talk to reporters that are covering the issues. Thanks for contacting us. I’m sure you’ll find plenty of idiots who will love to help you out but it’s not going to be us.”

Disclaimer: I admit that my reply was a little terse. Also, I had no idea at the time who if anyone spoke with this reporter, and I am not calling any specific person who talked to him an idiot. Iowans are just nice people. I did not hear from him again.

Last week, the story appeared on Washingtonpost.com, and it was as I expected. At the top a gigantic headline, “In 2008, Clinton Couldn’t buy Iowans’ love. So she bought them snow shovels” topped by a cute, folksy photo of some typical Iowans with one of the “infamous” shovels. The snow shovels were mentioned no fewer than 24 times throughout the article. There was not one but four photos of Iowans with shovels, evenly distributed throughout the text so that no matter where you were on the page, you could see one. The reporter extracted quotes from Hillary supporters who said of course, living in Iowa, they didn’t need a shovel because they already had one.

This is a close-to-home example of what is wrong with media today – wasted newspaper space that could have been used to inform. This guy spent two weeks of his life putting together this silly hatchet piece. He came out to Iowa for the purpose of getting photos of supporters with shovels! And we accept this as normal political reporting. The reporter could have asked open questions about what issues Clinton supporters think are going to be important this time around. Instead, he used what he thought was a clever hook (or click-bait) and in my view, very transparently tried to build a negative story around it with the intention of making her look bad.

To be fair, the shovel story would have been worth a mention, if the article had had a more authentic goal. But it wasn’t worth the singular focus of the article.

I’m almost ready for Hillary now. And articles like this one, are helping me get there.

Prairie Dog

Prairie Dog

Reprinted with permission from the Summer 2015 issue of  The Prairie Progressive, Iowa’s oldest progressive newsletter, available only in hard copy for $12/yr.!!  Send check to PP, Box 1945, Iowa City 52244.

On Jim Webb For President

Marine Corps SealJim Webb announced his campaign for president via email to supporters July 2, cross posted it on his web site and social media, then spent the Independence Day holiday weekend with family in his home state of Virginia.

When the Des Moines Register posted an article titled, “Presidential hopefuls discuss patriotism on July 4th,” the Webb campaign submitted the Marine Corps seal as his response. There was a caption referring to Webb’s combat service in Vietnam, but the seal was the submission according to the Register.

If Webb has a natural constituency, I am part of it. We share common roots in western Virginia, we both felt a duty to serve our country in the military, we both had ancestors who served on both sides of the Civil War, and we both believe the Scots-Irish heritage is an important American legacy that continues to be influential. Because his campaign is so different, I’m not sure what to make of it.

I expect to find out.

What we know is the East Coast liberal establishment has not taken to Webb as a Democratic candidate for president.

Barbara Morrill of Daily Kos had eight words for Webb, “Good luck Jim, You’re going to need it,” and posted a link to polling that showed Webb at the back of the heap at 1.2 percent, ahead of only Lincoln Chafee who was at zero.

David Corn of Mother Jones took umbrage with Webb from the git go.

Perhaps the most favorable East Coast establishment liberal article came from Alex Seitz-Wald of MSNBC, who wrote,

The former senator, author, decorated Marine combat veteran and Navy secretary is a true maverick. He’s a rebel who refuses to play by Washington’s rules, and he has excited some liberals with his anti-conformist ethos.

Webb’s refusal to play by the rules, and his willingness to break with convention, is considered refreshing in an age of deep dissatisfaction with politics. But it also means he often ends up alone, as when he defended the Confederate flag after the shooting massacre last month at a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina.

By throwing out the political playbook and letting seven months pass by without building a real campaign infrastructure, Webb went from being the first potential candidate to declare an exploratory committee to being the 15th candidate to officially enter the race.

And his ideological heterodoxy and refusal to comport to anybody’s doctrine makes it unclear where he stands in a Democratic field that has so far broken down cleanly along ideological lines.

In a canvass of likely caucus-goers in the Peoples Republic of Johnson County over the last few days, I found a lot of people have established camp with a candidate. By that reckoning, Webb’s delay, from last November when he formed his exploratory committee to his announcement, cost him support in this and probably other liberal centers of the state.

Webb 2016 has a steep climb to get a share of Johnson County delegates, but it may not matter much. Johnson County is an island in a sea of disgruntled Iowa voters and that’s where Webb’s opportunity to pick up delegates may be.

Among Iowa Democrats, delegates matter most in the caucuses, and the smart money is on activating people so as to maximize delegate count. Webb could target historically neglected and disaffected Democrats, including those in conservative areas, as a tactic to garner delegates. There may be a winning path, but at this point, who knows what Webb has in mind for strategy and tactics given his close to the breast style?

I spoke to both Joe Stanley, Webb’s Iowa campaign coordinator, and Craig Crawford, his communications director in Clinton June 26. Both Stanley and Crawford are long-time friends of Webb. Crawford summed up the situation, “We will need people, lots of people.”

Webb surrounded himself with people he can trust for the campaign, but in Clinton, the focus was on whether, when and where to announce. In the audience were cousins from Cedar Rapids, and three former Marines, including at least one who was in his Vietnam combat unit.

Fox news is the only media outlet quoting an unnamed source saying Webb planned to announce his bid for the presidency at the Clinton County Democrats Hall of Fame Dinner. For those who understand Iowa Democratic politics, that makes no sense. Even if it were true, county party chair Jean Pardee’s reading a letter from Bernie Sanders to those gathered, and Senator Amy Klobuchar devoting half her 23 minute speech to advocating for Hillary Clinton were both very predictable at a high visibility county party event.

Where does that leave Webb 2016? His campaign tag line is “Leadership You Can Trust.” One has to believe he’s serious about running, given his personal character. From here the path leads to gaining enough trust among Democratic caucus-goers and primary voters to win some early states. If the liberal establishment has been dismissive of Webb’s campaign, he may be relying on family, friends, veterans and an extensive personal network to secure the nomination. It should be engaging to see how he expands his network and gains trust, and if that’s possible.

Webb’s campaign strikes me as pure Appalachia. To understand him we may need to get back to his roots, and keep on the sunny side.

#AskBobby: An Internet Adventure In Hilarity

Jindal is probably in there someplace

Jindal is probably in there someplace

Hey, it’s a holiday weekend. Not just a holiday weekend, but one of the big holidays of the year. If there is one legacy in America that I love is the irreverence with which Americans have always viewed their politicians. When some politician tries to puff themselves up like an overblown balloon it seems there have always been Americans nearby with a pin to let the air out.

Puffing about accomplishments that don’t exist and blaming others for problems they caused has been typical fair especially for those on the Republican side. Wednesday the staff of one of those self-aggrandizing Republicans who will be spending a lot of time in Iowa because he thinks so much of himself that he is running for president, came up with a brilliant idea. Let’s put up a twitter thread to let our man take questions from the people.

The candidate is Piyush (Bobby) Jindal currently governor of Louisiana and new part time citizen of Iowa. The Twitter thread is here. The American people were up to the challenge of deflating the overblown balloon that has characterized Jindal’s view of himself and his accomplishments. So with sharpened wits they had at the puffery with great success. Here are a few. Enjoy in the grand American tradition of bringing overblown heads back down to size.

Warning: excessive laughing may result in sore ribs and crying.

Chris Murphy ‏@NotOnMurphsTurf 2h2 hours ago
#AskBobby Why would anyone vote for you nationally when you have been completely disinterested and ineffectual at the state level?

Gothwave ‏@GothwaveLtd 3h3 hours ago
#AskBobby When Jesus delivered the constitution did He want to be President?

Vance Nickelson ‏@vnick72 21h21 hours ago
#AskBobby Who do you hate more: teachers, state workers, women, gays, or poor people? Does it help if someone is a member of more than 1 ?

Bryan Behar ‏@bryanbehar 23h23 hours ago
#AskBobby So you say state employees can deny same-sex marriage licenses? Are we free to choose which laws to obey? (Tweeted while driving)

Mrs. Betty Bowers ‏@BettyBowers Jun 30
#askbobby Are you peeved with Jeb for using a fake name that panders to the redneck Republican base even better than your fake name?

EqualityRising! ‏@EqualityRising_ Jun 30
#AskBobby Will your religious objection directive allow Clerks to withhold divorcees & non-virgins Marriage licenses?

NonProphetess ‏@nonprophetess Jun 30
#AskBobby – @BobbyJindal If gays get married and no conservatives are around to throw a fit, does it still violate their religious freedom?

Larry ‏@LarryLarmeu Jun 30
If you’re going to spend 5 days a week in Iowa can we put the gov mansion on AirBnB & make up some of the deficit you’ve created? #AskBobby

NonProphetess ‏@nonprophetess Jun 30
#AskBobby – @BobbyJindal Is the cognitive dissonance of having a biology degree and being viciously anti-science overwhelming?

Zack Kopplin ‏@ZackKopplin Jun 30
.@BobbyJindal if I sail too far will I fall off the edge of the Earth? #AskBobby

Bearded Stoner ‏@beardedstoner Jun 30
Many have responded to the news of your candidacy with laughter. Thoughts? #AskBobby

Note: This is also a reminder of how important a neutral internet is. With corporations owning all other media (radio, TV, newspapers magazines) it is vital for democracy to survive to keep the internet out of corporate hands.

Sunday Funday: 15 Minutes Of Fame Edition

Happy 4th of July

IT IS A MAJOR HOLIDAY WEEKEND. You guys really don’t expect the old quizmaster to work too hard do you? So let’s relax with a little quiz to remind you how much you have forgotten over the years.

Today we will bring up some names or places related to politics in some ways, some may be new some may be dated a bit. But at one time these names were in our memories due to at least some interest from our mainstream media. Don’t think too hard, it is a holiday:

1) The Southern Avenger

2) Dan Cathy

3) Christine O’Donnell

4) Maureen McDonnell

5) Robert Bork

6) Dave Brat

7) Anita Hill

8) Kaci Hickox

9) Heather Poe

10) Scott Phillip Roeder

11) Piyush

12) Matt Schultz

13) Kent Snyder

14) Harriet Miers

15) Monica Goodling

16) Rob Ford

17) Boris Nemtsov

18) Alexis Tsipras

19) Sandra Fluke

20) Paula Broadwell

Some of those neurons tingling toward the back of the head? Quite a sensation isn’t it. If you have Obamacare you can have it checked tomorrow.
Answers:

1) advisor to Rand Paul and radio DJ who had to leave the campaign because of racist statements. In news recently for saying confederate flag must go.

2) CEO of Chik-fil-a who made statements opposing gay marriage thus involving his company in the political spotlight.

3) “I am not a witch” tea partier O’Donnell ran for senate in Delaware in 2012

4) Wife of former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell convicted of accepting bribes while first lady of VA.

5) Nominated for SCOTUS in 1987, his defeat led to Anthony Kennedy being on the court today

6) Extreme right winger who defeated the unbeatable Eric Cantor in Republican primary last year for congress seat.

7) Former staffer of Clarence Thomas testified to his sexual harassment at confirmation hearings.

8) Nurse who was ordered confined by NJ governor Christie when she returned from West Africa on concerns of ebola contamination

9) Wife of Mary Cheney. Opposition to gay marriage became a major issue to budding politician Liz Cheney

10) Murderer of women’s health doctor Robert Tiller

11) Bobby Jindal’s real first name

12) Iowa’s previous secretary of state. Most noted for trying to purge voters from Iowa rolls

13) Campaign manager for Ron Paul in 2012. Paul hated the ACA. Snyder died of pneumonia because he could not get insurance (previous conditions) and waited too long to see a doctor. Left half a million in medical bills.

14) Nominee to replace Sandra Day O’Connor on SCOTUS by GWB. Considered a joke by everyone.

15) Justice department lawyer involved in firing US attorneys based on political views.

16) Former right wing mayor of Toronto Ontario. Noted for drug incidents and outrageous statements while mayor

17) Political opponent of Vladimir Putin shot to death in broad daylight in Moscow last year

18) current premier of Greece whose name you may hear daily but didn’t know how to spell

19) Georgetown law student whose testimony to a congressional committee on birth control pills led to attacks on air by Rush Limbaugh. These attacks have led to Limbaugh losing many outlets.

20) biographer and lover of Gen. David Petraeus. His revelation of military secrets to her led to his disgrace

Enjoy the FIFA women’s championship tonight. Should be a good match.

Questions Related To The Confederate Flag Situation

Time to ride off into the sunset

Time to ride off into the sunset

Celebrating our country’s birthday we thought that some questions need to be asked as a follow up to the recent question that was spurred by the happenings in Charleston, SC:
“Why are government buildings in the US flying the flag from a treasonous group?”

These questions are also simple:
“Why do the governments of some states have holidays that honor traitors?
“Why are government buildings such as schools named after traitors such as Robert E. Lee or Jefferson Davis?”
“Why are there monuments to traitors to our country?”

In a stunning fallout of the racially driven murders in Charleston, SC, many Americans finally awoke to the fact that the flag of a treasonous group still flies in many places often sanctioned by the local and state governments. When Americans finally awoke to these flags flying, they also realized that the state supporting this flag is wrong.

In a similar vein, it appears to be time to examine all the state supported support of vestiges of the Confederate states. Private citizens may certainly do so if they desire, but tax money nor state approval should be given to those who committed treason. And such support definitely not go to those who supported the cause of maintaining slavery. It is well beyond time that their legacies be consigned to museums.

We do not have any Benedict Arnold Elementary schools in this country nor monuments to him. Germany has nothing honoring Rommel. Similarly, we should not have honors for men like Lee or Davis.

Flagging In Meaning

1923664_21240999712_6212_n(Editor’s Note: These photos were published in early 2002 in the 911 issue of Hasta Cuando, a Spanish-English punk political magazine out of Pilsen, Chicago. They are by an extraordinary Chicago artist, teacher and musician, Rebecca Wolfram and reflect her response to the shallow and zealous patriotism after the destruction of the World Trade Center and bombing of the Pentagon.).

I usually loathe flags and symbols in general. Symbolic gestures are a lazy way to avoid substantial meaningful change. Focusing on symbolism is an intellectually dishonest way to ignore substantive argument. Not looking at a thing for what it is, but what it represents oppressively denies subjective experience.

And so, this 4th of July Holiday weekend, I’m sure most of us will have seen the store shelves and picnics festooned with US flag napkins, paper plates, table cloths, bikinis, beach towels, and parades lined in red, white and blue. People die for the flag, kill for the flag. But as Arund1923664_21240784712_2070_nhati Roy explained, “Flags are bits of colored cloth that governments use first to shrink-wrap people’s minds & then as ceremonial shrouds to bury the dead.”

But it’s been quite an eventful flag waving couple of weeks.

Rainbow Gay Pride Flags flutter in parades and across social media screens around the world after the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling.

1923664_21240994712_5799_nAfter the brutal racist murder of members of a prayer group at the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, the Confederate Flag has now descended from atop flagpoles in front of National Monuments and State Legislatures. Even historic revisionists white folk are losing their ability to deny its violent, racists origins – people have the google to dispel their racist idiotic claims.

1923664_21240799712_2478_nFinally, the ISIS flag suffered a brilliant shaming at the Gay Pride Parade in London when artist Paul Coombs marched with his parody of the ISIS flag, substituting the caliphate propaganda with inscriptions of dildos and butt plugs. Coombs explained, “It [the ISIS flag] has become a potent symbol of brutality, fear and sexual oppression. If I wanted to try and stimulate a dialogue about the ridiculousness of this ideology, the flag was key.” Glaringly, Coombs flag was also key to exposing CNN’s shoddy journalism when it spread the panicky story that the flag was actually ISIS in the parade, rather than just a dildo afficianado making a political st1923664_21240989712_5131_natement.

These series of events reminds me of Peter Gabriel’s anti-war, anti-nationalist lyric from, Games without Frontiers, “Andre has a red flag, Chiang Ching’s is blue. They all have hills to fly them on except for Lin Tai Yu.” The lyric references extremist leaders prevailing in 20th Century, meanwhile peaceful democratic people remain sans patria…

1923664_21240774712_1698_nAnd as with all flags, ours are signifiers a very real raging fire that like the prairie fire’s smoldering, are signs of renewal as much as destruction.

And though the Gay Pride flag waves magnificently across parades 1923664_21240764712_1357_nand facebook statuses, it is a bittersweet victory. We can rightfully claim victory in the marriage equality ruling, yet it still remain legal in many states to fire someone for their sexual status. You can marry, but not work. You can marry, but you can’t shop in my store.

The Confederate Flag, long a symbol of white pride, of a hateful sublime oppression that remained to oppress African Americans in spite of and in backlash to the passage of the Civil Rights Act, is being taken down. As I write this, the seventh Black Church has been burned since the Mother Emanuel AME massacre.

As we w1923664_21240754712_1138_natch horrified at the carnage of ISIS, we remain un-elucidated about the murderous regimes that created this grassroots tyranny.

We are all subjected to this Treachery of Images.  Our work is to unravel the threads of all those flags, and use them to knit together a humanistic meaning and society.

 

July 4th Perspective From Frederick Douglass

One of the major tensions in this country is the wide gap between our ideals as espoused in documents such as the Declaration of Independence which we celebrate today and the reality of life in the United States. Certainly the signature line of the Declaration that most Americans can quote by heart – “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” – is at the very foundation of that tension. How can all men (I would opine that this does include women) be equal if the many laws of this country have been set up over the decades to produce unequal outcomes based on things such as race, gender, religious choice and financial status among them.

Here is a clip that has James Earl Jones reading an excerpt from a speech by Frederick Douglass. The address was on July 4th of 1852, less than a decade before the Civil War. While slavery specifically ended, inequalities have persisted throughout our history, often aided by laws and court decisions that are meant to keep our citizens unequal.

Have a safe Fourth. Celebrate and enjoy our country. But give a thought to what you can do to help the country achieve its ideals.

PSA From Progress Iowa For Independence Day

How-To: Talk to your Conservative Uncle at 4th of July!

By Progress Iowa

Discuss confidently with your Conservative Uncle as he goes through the 5 stages of SCOTUS Grief

As you spend time with friends and family this holiday weekend, you know what’s coming: the conversation you can’t avoid with your conservative Uncle.

He’ll usually corner you about the latest conspiracy theory invented by Rush Limbaugh, but this holiday might just be different —> after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage and upheld Obamacare last week, your conservative Uncle will probably be reeling in grief.

How you discuss health care and marriage equality with him will depend on which of the 5 stages of grief he’s experiencing: anger, denial, bargaining, depression, or acceptance.

five stages of conservative grief

five stages of conservative grief

As always, we’re here to help, no matter which of the 5 stages he’s experiencing:

Stage 1: ANGER
Many Republican Presidential candidates find themselves in this stage [Source: ThinkProgress], so it won’t be surprising if your conservative Uncle is here as well. He may claim that the Court didn’t have this authority and that the Justices should be elected.
Our advice: remind him about the three branches of government, checks and balances, and the need for one branch to be independent and free from politics. If that doesn’t work, show him this Schoolhouse Rock video that breaks it down simply.

Stage 2: DENIAL
This is the stage that can be most difficult to break through, if he genuinely believes the Court’s ruling won’t stick. Your conservative Uncle may have fallen under the spell of the Fox News bubble —> the more information he digests, the less informed he becomes [Source: Business Insider].
Our advice: let him know that regardless of what he thinks, this is happening. And the polls are already in — large majorities support both of last week’s Supreme Court decisions [Source: CNN]. Suggest that he change the channel to anything but Fox News, where he’ll discover that marriage equality and affordable health care are here to stay!

Stage 3: BARGAINING
Once he’s accepted that these rulings have taken effect, your conservative Uncle may think states can revolt, or there may be some other solution to get rid of the rulings.
Our advice: remind him that Obamacare has been law since 2010, and three fourths of the country were already living in states where same-sex marriage was legal before last week, the few who are trying to resist are quickly coming to terms with the fact that the Supreme Court has ruled [Source: Washington Post].

Stage 4: DEPRESSION
Your conservative Uncle may seem in despair. He may claim not to recognize this country, or that faith and family aren’t what they used to be.
Our advice: tell him he sounds an awful lot like the people who weren’t comfortable with interracial marriage forty years ago. Or less than a hundred years ago, when women were gaining the right to vote. Then remind him that our country’s history is a timeline of our citizens gaining freedoms: from slavery to voter access, desegregation to civil rights, women’s rights, and gay rights. And remind him that the members of nearly every major religious faith supports same-sex marriage, as well as taking care of their neighbors [Source: Public Religion Research Institute].

Stage 5: ACCEPTANCE
It’s unlikely your Uncle has reached the acceptance stage, but if he has, congratulate him! He’s joined the record high number of Americans who support same-sex marriage [Source: Gallup] and recognized that Obamacare is working “better than even many supporters realize.” [Source: New York Times].
Our advice: celebrate and enjoy with the newest progressive in your family!

Remember, the first step is recognizing which stage of grief your conservative Uncle is experiencing. Then engage in conversation accordingly.

Good luck, and have a great 4th of July weekend!

Matt Sinovic
Progress Iowa

Hillary And The Golden Road

Hillary PrideThe energy and excitement of Hillary Clinton’s Iowa organizers is very high. On a scale of 1-10, it’s a 16.

In May I met with Clinton campaign organizer Janice Rottenberg at the North Dodge Hy-Vee in Iowa City. She was busy on a conference call when I arrived ten minutes early.

Her handshake was firm, her voice confident, her manner enthusiastic. Rottenberg is an experienced political activist who demonstrated ownership in the Clinton campaign. From past campaigns I recognize one or two others like her in Clinton 2016. Between those I know personally and those I know through social media, they are sunlight diamonds who put on their wings to engage in politics. They seem to like the work very much.

If people like Rottenberg are the face of the Clinton campaign, Hillary will be hard to beat in the Iowa caucuses. They represent the polar opposite of what Iowa Democrats had become, bringing a positive, youthful energy to what otherwise have been desultory meetings among aging party operatives. They bring the party with them, and in doing so have the potential to elevate the Iowa Democratic Party.

If one doesn’t know where Hillary Clinton stands on an issue, the problem is likely with that person. For goodness sake, she has been around so long, and everywhere in the media. She has been part of the public conversation on a wide range of issues since the 1996 publication of her book, It Takes a Village.

That may be the flaw in the Clinton campaign: people feel they know her too well. In Iowa we like to survey the whole field before caucusing for someone, and while we know Hillary, we are also curious about the others.

It was with some regret I told Janice that Hillary was my second choice. I’m confident she entered that in a database soon afterward, probably before she left Hy-Vee.

As I returned to my car to drive the nine miles home, I thought about how my views on political campaigns had changed, and about the Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion).

Hey hey, hey, come right away,
Come and join the party every day;
Hey hey, hey, come right away,
Come and join the party every day.

Republicans Fail Iowans In 2015 Session

Senator Joe Bolkcom

Senator Joe Bolkcom

(Editor’s Note: Joe Bolkcom represents Iowa Senate District 43 in the Legislature. The following editorial appeared in the Iowa City Press Citizen, and is reprinted with permission of the author).

When considering the accomplishments of the 2015 session of the Iowa Legislature, it makes sense to be clear about where we started.

In Iowa, Republicans control the governor’s office and the Iowa House. Democrats control the Iowa Senate. That means bipartisan support is required for any idea to pass the legislature.

  • Republican opposition, for example, prevented the following common sense ideas from reaching the governor’s desk:
    ­ An increase in the minimum wage.
    ­
  • A crack down on dishonest employers who refuse to pay employees what they are owed.
    ­
  • An anti-bullying law to give all students a safe and supportive place to learn.
    ­
  • The elimination of the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse so no Iowa abuser can ever be sure they got away with it.
    ­
  • Tougher laws against domestic violence and human trafficking.

I again led efforts to bring Iowans responsible, regulated access to medicines made from cannabis. The legislation we wrote is based on the most successful approaches adopted by other states, including Minnesota and Illinois. It was approved with bipartisan support in the Senate, but was blocked from a vote in the House by Republican leaders.

It takes time for even good ideas to become law. The minimum wage hike, the wage theft crackdown, the anti-bullying effort, the tougher laws on domestic abuse and human trafficking, and medical cannabis will all be ready for the House to consider next January.

While I was disappointed those ideas did not become law, I’ve very happy to report that steep, permanent cuts in state support for the University of Iowa were decisively rejected.

I want to thank the many Johnson County residents who spoke up against a misguided proposal from the Iowa Board of Regents.

I’m proud that Democratic state senators and my Johnson County House colleagues, led by Senate Budget Chairman Bob Dvorsky of Coralville, made it clear that so-called “performance based funding” goes nowhere as long as Democrats hold the majority of the Iowa Senate.

Local school funding was the most contentious issue of this session. We need to face the fact that Iowa no longer leads the nation in student achievement.

Other states are investing more and seeing better results. When it comes to per student funding in our K-12 schools, Iowa—the education state—has slipped into the bottom third of the 50 states.

Education is the next generation’s ticket to a better life and is key to building a high-wage, high-skill Iowa economy. That’s why I worked hard this session to get our state’s support for education back on track. Unfortunately, despite hard work from Iowa educators, students and parents, the best that can be said is that a status quo education budget was approved.

It might be enough to prevent Iowa from falling further behind, but it won’t help our young people catch up to students in other states.

The Republican argument that Iowa can’t afford first class schools is ridiculous. Our state’s economy is growing and we have almost $1 billion in savings. And the same House Republicans who voted against education turned around and introduced legislation calling for massive tax giveaways to wealthy Iowans and out-of-state corporations.

What Iowans need to know about this session is that support for public education is now a partisan issue at the Iowa Statehouse. That’s unfortunate, but it is true.

Legislative Democrats support strong local schools and affordable access to community colleges, public universities and private colleges.
Legislative Republicans don’t.

In fact, the Republican majority of the Iowa House was so opposed to responsibly funding Iowa’s local schools that they ignored legal deadlines and caused fiscal uncertainty in hundreds of school districts.

More than 1,100 Iowa teachers were pink-slipped this spring because of Republican intransigence in the Capitol. Republican members of the legislature stubbornly refused to bargain, even to the point of threatening to shut down state government.

Most Iowans, be they Democrats or Republicans, do not share this strange hostility toward public education. That’s why Iowa candidates for office always promise to support local schools.

The 2015 session is when the gap between campaign promises and votes cast in the legislature became a Grand Canyon.

In the coming months, I’ll be working to tell as many Iowans as possible the story of the failure of legislative Republicans to support our local students.

My goal is to help the majority of Iowans who support our schools gain the attention of the Republican members of the Legislature.

If they do, the next session of the Iowa Legislature will be the one that reverses Iowa’s slide with regard to educational leadership.

Contact Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, at joe@joebolkcom.org.

(Editor’s Note: Yesterday, Governor Branstad used his authority to line item veto the bipartisan, bicameral agreement on school funding. Bolkcom, who uses Twitter sparingly, posted twice in reaction to the governor’s veto).