Archive for November 21, 2010
Turkey Time for Iowa House Members
by Paul Deaton
there was an original thought in the 2010 House session, it was missed
among the self-serving and often overly personal anecdotes alleged to
have relevance to what Iowans face every day.“
While pundits in the corporate media make hay over analysis of the 2010 midterm results, for most Iowans, the vote on November 2 began a time of letting go for a while. We enter a period where people enjoy a respite from politics to turn to things like considering how will we spend the Thanksgiving holiday. Iowans will ask questions. Will we have money to pay the bills, let alone, buy holiday gifts for friends and family? The unemployed continue to wonder if they will find work. Will we be able to maintain our health over the cold winter months and will insurance cover illness if it hits? It is a tribal time of traditional rituals, behaviors and reflection about where we have been and outlook for the new year. We should expect something similar from the 2011 legislative session in the Iowa House of Representatives.
Tribal rituals: The first of tribal rituals is already finished with the election of Kevin McCarthy as Democratic minority leader. The challenge for House Democrats, as always, will be to hold the caucus together to check the Republicans as they attempt to move forward with legislation that infringes on the values of Iowans. In the past, Democrats have been undisciplined in holding the caucus together both in the minority and the majority. With McCarthy as the selected leader, it is an indication of continuing the status quo.
Tribal behaviors: There was a discussion in the caucus this week about possible endorsement, by Iowa Democratic House members, of the New START Treaty that is being considered for ratification by the United States Senate. Legislators put themselves at a distance from such an action for fear that they would pay a political price for standing up for United States national security and reduction of strategic nuclear arms. Based on this, behavior among the House Democrats seems headed for self preservation and getting by. Nothing new there.
Reflection: If a person listened to house debates using the streaming audio provided by our tax dollars, the level of debate seemed disappointing in many ways. What the author heard most last session was the parroting of powerful interest talking points, especially during the debate over the nuclear power study bill. It is audacious to post the positions of each registered lobbyist on every bill on the government web site. What is disappointing is that what lobbyists want seems to matter more than what Iowans do, and the debate reflected that.
If there was an original thought in the 2010 House session, it was missed among the self-serving and often overly personal anecdotes alleged to have relevance to what Iowans face every day. What legislators seemed to do was look for small victories in micro-segments of society where they could make a difference. Some of this is needed, but in the end it does not matter much if we miss the big stuff.
Outlook for Next Year: If House Democrats are worth their salt, Leader McCarthy will emulate the Republicans and hold discipline of Democratic members as a first priority. If he fails to do this, then we can expect more disappointments in 2011 with each member who is peeled off to vote with the Republican majority. There is a need to work in a bipartisan manner to right-size the government and balance the budget. At the same time, the leadership that gave up 25 seats to the Republicans in the midterms without a fight seems unlikely to hold discipline to accomplish important initiatives regarding public health, the environment, energy and in putting Iowans who want to work back to work.
I am okay with the lobbyists who work in the law library, the cafeteria, the meeting rooms and the rotunda, infesting the state house like termites in a damp floor joist. I really am. It is what free government is about. What Democrats are expected to do is put people before powerful interests and unless we become disciplined more than we have been, the 2011 session seems destined to sink into mediocrity. Many argue we are already there.
I am talking to my House member, and hope you are too. Click here to contact your member of the Iowa House of Representatives.
Deaton is a native Iowan living in rural Johnson County and weekend
editor of Blog for Iowa. E-mail Paul Deaton