Living in Society

Divided Government Comes Home

Morse Fence
Morse Fence

MORSE— State Rep. Bobby Kaufmann held a town hall meeting at the Morse Community Center, where 25 people gathered this afternoon to hear what is going on in Des Moines. He wanted to hear what we had to say, and some members of the audience had a lot of it. Kaufmann reported that local celebrity, Laurie Tulchin of the Newport Road clashes,  helped pay for the hall.

Johnson County Republican party chairwoman Deborah Thornton approached, after the formal part of the meeting, and asked me to sign a petition changing how we would be represented on the county board of supervisors. I don’t support the proposal and said so. She said, “that’s okay,” and moved on to others, after mentioning the Rand Paul event coming up in Coralville. It was an example of the new Republican diligence in what they may see as a Graham township opening to expand their base. Kaufmann won only 42 percent of the vote in Graham precinct during the 2012 general election. I know Graham precinct and believe her effort was futile. However, one had to appreciate her diligence and persistence.

I liked Bobby Kaufmann the first time we met, and still do. What is surprising is now that I have a Republican representative in the state house, I also like divided government. Even more than the so-called trifecta, when Democrats, under Chet Culver, controlled the governorship and both houses of the legislature. (Note: The three branches of government are executive, legislative and judicial. Legislators seem to forget the judiciary in their tripartite calculus).

In divided government people have to work together to conduct the state’s business, each holding the other party accountable. For a working stiff like me, that’s as good as it gets in government.

After the 2012 general election, I wrote in the Tipton Conservative,

“In the 85th Iowa General Assembly, House District 73 will be typical of Iowa, where our state representative and state senator, Democrat Bob Dvorsky, will be in the majority in their respective chambers. In order for anything to get accomplished, the senate and house must seek bipartisan common ground as a first step.

The mistake of past house Republicans has been to get some house Democrats to join in legislation, call it bipartisan, and lay blame in the other chamber when it was rejected. This went both ways.

Kaufmann has an opportunity to differentiate himself. If he rejects the stale blame game house Republicans have played with the Iowa Senate, and, as he promised during the campaign, works toward bipartisan solutions to get meaningful legislation passed and forwarded to the governor, then he will grow his base of support and help his re-election prospects.

However, if he plays the blame game, his prospects for re-election diminish.”

It is too early to tell how the session will play out, and for me, everyone is too chummy over in Des Moines. Today, Kaufmann demonstrated that whether or not he read my letter, he gets what I had to say and has been working toward getting something done in divided government. He repeatedly mentioned his relationship with Democrat Dave Jacoby of Coralville (and their seven lunches together this session). He gave Jacoby credit for helping craft bills that gained true bipartisan support when put to a vote. It is hard to legitimately complain about that.

As a citizen, I believe our legislature doesn’t need to do dumb things like prop up the nuclear power industry, support economic development deals like the one with Orascom, or turn away an expansion of Medicaid in some reasonable form. If I don’t agree with Kaufmann on some important issues, he is doing the work of representing the district. At the same time, my state senator is protecting me from Republican bad ideas.

Now that divided government has come home to roost, one finds it not very progressive, but better than expected.