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Colin Gordon: What’s The Matter With Iowa?

Gov. Branstad shakes hands with Drew Klein after Branstad signs union busting bill

U of Iowa Professor Colin Gordon wrote a story in Dissent Magazine that many of us have been wondering about out loud. That is simply “What’s The Matter With Iowa?”

Following perhaps the strangest election ever in Iowa, Republicans took control of both branches of the legislature thus giving them total control of Iowa’s government.

Despite not running on issues such as busting unions and voter suppression, those are the issues that the legislature immediately went to work on. As bills passed, Governor Branstad quickly signed them.

From Gordon’s article:

“Consider Iowa. In November, the Republicans gained two seats in the statehouse (increasing their majority to 59-41) and six seats in the state senate—flipping control from 25-23 Democratic to 29-20 Republican. In recent years, Republican aspirations and priorities in the state—the usual medley of tax cuts, privatization, and starvation of the public sector—have been clear enough, as has the role of the senate in blocking passage of the nastiest and craziest legislative proposals. But no one fully anticipated how quickly and dramatically the new trifecta would act. The battle in Wisconsin unfolded over months after Walker took office in 2011. In Iowa it was more like a bomb was dropped; three weeks into the legislative session, the damage was done.

The first blow was House File 291, a gutting of public-sector collective bargaining that was unveiled February 7 and signed by the governor ten days later. As in most states, Iowa’s public-sector bargaining law was a bipartisan bargain struck in the early 1970s, which raised pay and labor standards for public workers (especially teachers) in exchange for an effective no-strike pledge. The new public-employee relations code outdoes even Wisconsin in dismantling this bargain. Bargaining is now limited to “base wages,” with annual increases limited to 3 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower. All other contract details—health care, pensions, working conditions—are off the table. Public-sector unions must win a recertification vote before each new contract (every two to three years). To twist that knife, the law requires the union to win a majority of workers in the bargaining unit (not just those voting) and it requires for the union to pay for the election. And unions are now barred from collecting dues through payroll deduction, a practice that was already voluntary.

If the pace and scope of this legislative putsch is jaw-dropping, so too is the absence of any plausible connection between the challenges faced by the state and the solutions offered. Low commodity prices have trimmed state revenues over the last year, but the fiscal pressures animating attacks on the public sector, labor standards, and public education are almost entirely manufactured. A sweeping cut to commercial property taxes in 2013 slashed over $300 million from this year’s revenues. Business tax credits cost the state another $275 million—a large chunk of which are refundable credits paid out to the state’s largest corporations (the state paid defense contractor Rockwell Collins over $12 million for doing business in Iowa last year)”.

Gordon then notes that the laws that Republicans are enacting have nearly nothing to do with needs in Iowa. Instead almost all of the new laws are driven from outside by groups associated with the Koch brothers, especially ALEC. Gordon then concludes:

The ALEC/AFP fingerprints are not hard to discern. None of Iowa’s GOP legislators campaigned on this agenda. The ink was dry on the forty-two-page collective bargaining bill—a mash-up of longstanding ALEC language—before freshman legislators were given their codes to the copy machine. Public support for this and other measures (save a bit of astroturfing by AFP) was glaringly absent in charade of hearings that preceded their passage. And, tellingly, Governor Branstad put his pen to the collective bargaining bill not at a public event, but in a private ceremony for the benefit of the State’s AFP lobbyist.

This is a must read article for all serious scholars of just what is causing the phenomena of harsh anti-union, anti-women, anti-consumer legislation that is popping up across the country in state legislature after state legislature. Gordon notes that what happened in Kansas and what is happening here in Iowa is simply the old “bait-and-switch.” Campaign on issues that have popular support and then when power is achieved simply enact the legislation of those who paid to put your group in power.


This Weekend Legislative Forums

Saturday March 25, 10 AM
Allison Amvets Building, 718 9th st


Saturday, March 25 : 8:45
“Legislative Wake Up” with Story County Area Legislators at Ames City Council Chambers, 515 Clark Ave, 2nd Floor.

Saturday March 25: Noon

Renewable Energy Group, 416 Bell Ave

Saturday March 25: 9 AM
Bellevue City Hall, 106 North 3rd St.

Saturday March 25: Noon
Ranco Centinela 102 South Madison St.

Saturday, March 25: 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
Legislative Forum with Senator Mark Segebart & Representative Brian Best: DMACC, 906 N Grant Rd, Carroll

Saturday March 25: 9 AM
North Iowa Area Community College, 203 Brantingham St.

Saturday March 25: 10 AM
Glenn Miller Birthplace Museum 122 West Clark St.

Saturday March 25: 10 AM
Colfax Public Library, 25 West Division St.

Saturday, March 25: 9 a.m.-10:30 a.m.
Legislative Coffee with Council Bluffs Area Legislators at Wilson Middle School, in the Auditorium, 715 N 21st Street.

Saturday, March 25: 10 a.m.-noon
Legislative Forum with Scott County Area Legislators at St. Ambrose University in the Rogalski Center, 518 W. Locust


Monday March 27: 8 AM

Grounds for Celebration, 2645 Beaver Ave.

Monday March 27 : 8 AM

Hy-Vee 3330 ML King Parkway

Tuesday March 28: 6:30 PM

DMPS Central Campus, 1800 Grand Ave.

Saturday March 25: 8:30 AM
Iowa Central Community College, Triton Cafe, 1 Triton Circle

Saturday March 25: 9 AM
Frist Street Grille, 719 1st St.

Saturday March 25 : 10 AM
Logan Community Center, 108 West 4th St.


Saturday March 25: 9 AM
Legislative Forum, Maquoketa City Hall, 201 E Pleasant Dt. Maquoketa

Saturday March 25: 1 PM
ISU Extension Office, 101 North Polk

Saturday, March 25: 8:30 a.m.-10:30 a.m.
Mount Pleasant Legislative Forum at Iowa Wesleyan University in the Chadwick Library, 107 W. Broad Street.

Saturday, March 25: 8:30 a.m.-10:30 a.m.
“Legislative Wake Up” with Story County Area Legislators in the City Council Chambers of Nevada City Hall, 1209 6th St.

Saturday March 25: 8 Am
South Slope Cooperative Comm. 980 N Front St.
Legislative Forum with Johnson County Area Legislators at North Liberty City Hall, 3 Quail Creek Circle.

Saturday, March 25: 8:30 a.m.-9:30 a.m.
Oskaloosa Eggs & Issues at Smokey Row, 109 S Market Street.

Saturday March 25: 8 AM
Forster Community Center, 404 Main st.

Saturday March 25: 8 AM
Shenandoah Fire Station, 400 West Sheridan Ave

Saturday March 25: 10 AM
Sioux City Public Museum, 607 4th st.

Saturday March 25: 10:30 AM
Drive with Cops Training Room, 2900 Justin Dr, Ste 1.

Saturday March 25: 8 AM
Westside Legion Hall, 316 Lincoln Hwy.

Saturday March 25: 9 AM
Farmers and Merchants State Bank, 101 West Jefferson St.

Is Fox News The Real President?

Trump:  “Fox and Friends in the morning.. they’re very honorable people.”



Iowa’s Only Democrat Dave Loebsack Fighting For Rural Hospitals

Loebsack:  “I represent a rural part of America and I’m proud to represent that part of America, but I’m concerned that this legislation does little to nothing to help those in rural areas. We must ensure that our nation’s health care works for all Americans.”


Republicans Shell The Democratic Party

Polling Place

“The objective is to destroy the coherence of the enemy’s defense, to fragment and isolate enemy units in the zone of attack, and to secure operationally decisive objectives.” U.S. Army Field Manual No. 3-09.22

The political battlefield changed during the first session of the 87th Iowa General Assembly. Democratic efforts to hold the line while in the minority have been difficult at best. One distasteful bill after another has been signed into law by the governor.

On Dec. 1, 2016 I wrote, “The current Iowa Democratic Party should be completely blown up — new people, new office, new strategy, new tactics, new everything.”

I still believe that, although Iowa Republicans are doing some of that work without us. They are doing everything they can to weaken the Democratic hand in 2018 and beyond.

The swing toward Trump and more general Republican values has been an eye opener. What worked in 2006, the last time Democrats elected a governor, won’t work now. The good news is people who were not politically engaged before 2016 are getting involved in protecting what’s left of Democratic values in government — even if the horse is out of the barn.

The General Assembly has devolved into the majority saying, “f*ck you we’re doing whatever the hell we want.” The debate about bills seems mostly among Republicans. Egregious bills restructuring Iowa’s politic landscape are too numerous for a short post. I’ll mention just one: House File 516

While a majority of Iowans support use of identification at polling places, if passed by the senate, HF516 may impact marginal voters in Iowa who either don’t have an ID or are discouraged from participating in the process. Democrats have relied on those votes in the past. The bill passed the House on March 9. The Senate companion bill, Senate Study Bill 1163 passed subcommittee March 1. The bills are solutions looking for a problem.

“There is the ‘fake’ problem of ‘fake’ people casting votes – it is simply not a problem in Iowa,” Iowa Senate Minority Leader Robb Hogg said in in his 2017 opening day remarks at the state capitol. “People aren’t risking severe criminal penalties to cast an illegal vote. We don’t need government barriers to voting in Iowa. Voting is a fundamental right.”

“The fact is voter ID laws are intended to suppress the vote of the elderly and disabled, people who are home bound and/or do not normally drive,”  the Iowa Democratic Party posted on their web site.

These arguments miss the point. Under the guise of “election integrity” Secretary of State Paul Pate is working to adopt a nationwide agenda to create conditions more favorable for people to vote for Republican candidates. Republican operatives believe they do better in elections when the electorate is constricted. With less voters, their minority views on almost everything have the potential to dominate our elected offices and the legislative agenda. To my point, they are doing that now, without a Voter ID law. Any Voter ID law signed by the governor will force Democrats to develop a new playbook for future campaigns.

The Democratic Central Committee elected political consultant Derek Eadon as chair on Jan. 21. I met him during the 2007 Obama campaign. He seems like a decent guy. A lot is resting on Eadon’s shoulders as Iowa Republicans won the 2016 presidential contest by 9.6 points, and took control of the Iowa legislature.

If and when a Voter ID bill becomes law Democrats will have to adjust. What is more concerning is the Republican artillery barrage has only just begun. They control the legislature now and will until the 88th Iowa General Assembly begins in January 2019. People say the second session of a general assembly is less toxic but I don’t believe that — not now, not ever. Conventional ideas about politics flew out the window last year.

It rots to be in a defensive position. The key to maintaining viability as a party is to hunker down, let the shells fall where they will, and rebuild. It is incumbent upon the new party leadership to focus not only on people who register to vote as Democrats, but to build an electorate that supports our candidates.

For now, Democrat activists resist, constituents should contact legislators, and, if Eadon and his leadership team are worth their salt, rebuild our defenses to conduct a counter attack to recapture the legislature. This is possible, indeed likely over time. Time is the one commodity in short supply for Democrats as Republicans reshape the political landscape.

Trump Voters And The Democrats’ Dilemma

The question Democrats are struggling with in our new, surreal President (pussy-grabber-in-chief) Trump world comes down to, in its simplest form, should we (1) despise the Trump voters or (2) feel empathy for them?

It is not merely a political question; it also has moral and practical implications.  Should we do what Jesus would do,  forgive them because they know not what they do, and try to bring them back into the fold? Or should we see them as racist, misogynist, mean-spirited idiots who may just get us all killed? Or are they just unemployed, disaffected, otherwise decent, ordinary people who through no fault of their own have been brainwashed by the vast right-wing propaganda machine?  All of the above?  How do we solve this?  Perhaps some of us have already decided for ourselves; others may still be working it out. Maybe we don’t all have to do the same thing.

There are plenty of articles and books already out there on the subject. Here are some  thoughts by Frank Rich in an article for Sunday’s NYMagazine, No Sympathy for the Hillbilly: Democrats need to stop trying to feel everyone’s pain, and hold on to their own anger. 

I’ve chosen a few excerpts. You can read the entire article here.


No Sympathy for the Hillbilly

by Frank Rich

It is  a fool’s errand for Democrats to fudge or abandon their own values to cater to the white-identity politics of the hard-core, often self-sabotaging Trump voters who helped drive the country into a ditch on Election Day. They will stick with him even though the numbers say that they will take a bigger financial hit than Clinton voters under the Republican health-care plan. As Trump himself has said, in a rare instance of accuracy, they won’t waver even if he stands in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoots somebody. While you can’t blame our new president for loving ‘the poorly educated’ who gave him that blank check, the rest of us are entitled to abstain. If we are free to loathe Trump, we are free to loathe his most loyal voters, who have put the rest of us at risk.

Berkeley sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild, in her election-year best seller, Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right,  was inspired by Thomas Frank’s What’s the Matter With Kansas? She wanted “to scale the empathy wall” and “unlock the door to the Great Paradox” of why working-class voters cast ballots for politicians actively opposed to their interests…

In “What So Many People Don’t Get About the U.S. Working Class,” a postelection postmortem published to much op-ed attention by the Harvard Business Review, the University of California law professor Joan C. Williams proposes that other liberals do in essence what Hochschild did…

“The best advice I’ve seen so far for Democrats is the recommendation that hipsters move to Iowa,” Williams writes — or to any other location in the American plains where “shockingly high numbers of working-class men are unemployed or on disability, fueling a wave of despair deaths in the form of the opioid epidemic.”

She further urges liberals to discard “the dorky arrogance and smugness of the professional elite”  that leads them to condescend to disaffected working-class whites and “write off blue-collar resentment as racism…”

Read the entire article at


Watch Joni Ernst Cedar Rapids Town Hall Meeting

Watch Live: U. S. Sen. Joni Ernst holds a town hall meeting in Sinclair Auditorium at Coe College on Friday, March 17, 2017.

Posted by The Gazette on Friday, March 17, 2017

Sen. Dvorsky: Johnson County Target Of Voter ID Bill

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Removal Vote On Mayor Of Muscatine Thursday Morning

Muscatine City Council with Mayor Broderson

The somewhat mysterious process that the Muscatine City Council has used in their proceedings against Muscatine Mayor Diana Broderson will become much clearer Thursday morning when a removal hearing will be held at City Hall at 8AM.

As far as I can tell the meeting is open to the public.

The attempts to remove Mayor Broderson have been reported across the country. There have been undertones of sexism and of highly partisan politics for those of us viewing it from outside of the city. Removal of mayors is not a common process in this country.

Perhaps the best in depth story on this situation comes from the Voice of Muscatine blog from last month.

Since the council has been united in this process, one can probably expect a vote for removal to be a foregone conclusion. I have no idea what action may be taken after that, if any.

Sunday Funday: Basketball Sunday Edition

A man who could pick the winners!

Please do not disturb the lump on the couch. That is me. I have not had much chance to watch my favorite sport this year{ college basketball. Today is my day. If disturbed I may react strangely. I may break down in loud sobs asking some deity “Why, Why, Why????” So please approach with caution.

It is still women’s history month and so we will work in a couple of good questions on women along with many on the continuing strange saga of the world and the US of today.

Were you paying attention?

1) “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.” Who made this statement in a tweet last week?

2) In response to the above tweet white supremacist leader David Duke stated “sanity reigns supreme” where?

3) Who was the female Speaker of the US House of Representatives?

4) Which of Iowa’s senators claimed “little faith” in CBO estimates for the number that would become uninsured under the Republican replacement for the ACA?

5) Approximately how many did the CBO say would lose insurance in a decade under the Republican replacement?

6) Due to the Brexit vote, what part of Great Britain is renewing calls for a referendum on independence?

7) In a much anticipated vote in the Netherlands Tuesday what favored white nationalist candidate came in a distant 2nd?

8) The administration’s proposed budget will eliminate what popular and necessary program that helps sustain seniors?

9) What major cable news program broke the big story of having received a copy of the current president’s taxes in the mail?

10) Who did they speculate may have sent them the Trump tax return?

11) A state senator from what state was caught engaging in sex with an underage boy?

12) The new Secretary of State said that it may be necessary to take “pre-emptive military action” against what other country?

13) Who was the first woman in space?

14) The Girl Guides (Girl Scouts) from what country have cancelled all trips to the US due to the fear of problems at entry and exit?

15) Two former administrators from what university pled guilty to mishandling sexual abuse reports in the Jerry Sandusky probe?

16) What oldest golf club in the world voted to admit women to avoid being dropped from the rotation for the British open?

17) “Bombogenesis” is the term used to describe the coming together of what recent storm?

18) Who was the first woman to run for vice-president on a major party ticket?

19) The administration’s proposed budget also eliminates funds to what parent entity of Big Bird’s network?

20) What woman was the first to run for president on a major party ticket?

Today’s nugget of wisdom comes from Upton Sinclair “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!”


1) Iowa’s own Steve King

2) In Steve King’s district!

3) Nancy Pelosi

4) Grassley

5) 24 million

6) Scotland

7) Geert Wilders

8) Meals on Wheels

9) Rachel Maddow

10) Donald Trump himself

11) Oklahoma

12) North Korea.

13) Valentina Tereshkova in 1963 – believe she just turned 80

14) Canada

15) Penn State

16) Muirfield

17) the blizzard that hit the northeast US Tuesday and Wednesday

18) Geraldine Ferraro in 1984

19) Corporation for Public Broadcasting. One way or another CPB will probably be cut

20) if you missed this hang your head – Hillary Clinton.

Time to catch some games!