Living in Society

Week Before the Midterms

Kale and Black Beans Cooking in Guajillo Chili Sauce

People are edgy about the election.

I live on the fringe of a blue island in a sea of red politics that was Iowa in 2016. This election may be the only chance to turn the tide to a more comfortable shade of purple for a long, long time.

The stakes are high.

Based on my hundreds of voter contacts this cycle it seems like people have had enough of Republican excesses and are ready for sensible change in the right direction. Or, as our gubernatorial candidate Fred Hubbell said, “change, the right way.” The polls show a tight race between Hubbell and Governor Kim Reynolds.

Republican Governor Terry Branstad gave Democrats a gift when he privatized Iowa Medicaid. The entire operation was so poorly run patients couldn’t get needed services and treatment, providers couldn’t get paid, and administrative costs soared. An unseen story is of families trying to place patients in nursing homes who wouldn’t take them if they were on Medicaid or if they had certain types of diseases. There are other unseen stories like this. Whether there is a role for private insurance companies in managing Medicaid is an open question. The way Branstad did it was an utter disaster. His successor, Kim Reynolds, did not correct the problems. As I’ve written elsewhere, if Democrats can’t win the midterms on this, they had better just fold up the tent and go home.

What about voters?

Others have had more voter contact than I have but I see two simultaneous effects of the negative public environment that has characterized the 87th Iowa General Assembly and the first term of President Trump. Some are motivated to resist the policies of Republican rule and have. Some have withdrawn into a tight circle of friends and family, church and work, and volunteer only in roles where politics is not a topic of discussion. In the latter is the seed of a new style of politics where people can find more to connect them than separates them. That is hopeful.

It is easier for people to connect via social media (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter particularly) than it was during the 2006 election cycle, the recent Democratic surge election. To some extent we can become isolated at home, and in cells, because of our addiction to computers. I believe social media has created some divisions yet the physical proximity we have in our communities will prevail in the election of government representatives. Much of my community work is with people who register to vote differently. We can easily agree about many topics — things like the Republican grave digger is probably a good choice to work as a township trustee where the board manages two cemeteries. Social media is influential, but person-to person relationships trump it.

It is good to be on edge just before the election. People who have been outspoken about problems with the Democratic party have pretty much clammed up… for now. Local writer Jeff Cox, in the Fall 2018 edition of the Prairie Progressive, asked, “What is the Democratic agenda for Iowa?” The better question is who are we as a society? Answering my question is more likely to bring people together to work on common issues. A lot depends upon what questions we ask after the election. First priority is to make sure our friends and neighbors vote on or before Nov. 6.

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