Living in Society

Republicans Sweep Big Grove

Big Grove Precinct, Nov. 3, 2020.

Big Grove Precinct is definitely Republican territory.

Republicans swept the top races in the Nov. 3 general election, choosing Donald Trump as president, Joni Ernst as U.S. Senator, Mariannette Miller-Meeks as U.S. Representative, Bobby Kaufmann as State Representative and Phil Hemingway for County Supervisor. Had there been two more Republicans in the race for county supervisor, they would likely have won here too.

The table below contains the canvassed results in the top four races.

U.S. SenateErnstGreenfield
U.S. HouseMiller-MeeksHart
State RepresentativeKaufmannPulkrabek
Johnson County, Iowa Official Canvassed Election Results, Nov. 3, 2020 General Election

Big Grove Township is characterized by its proximity to work. Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Coralville, Muscatine and the Quad-Cities are all within a daily automobile commute and plenty of people I know here work in all five places. In 1993 we chose to build our home here for this geographical reason. With the comparatively low price of gasoline, it turned out I worked in all of these places except Muscatine.

When I first read the voter list I got from the auditor in the fall I was surprised at how many new names appeared on it. We have become a community with a certain reputation: a strong faith community, good schools, ample employment opportunities, a great library, well maintained infrastructure, and reasonable taxes. Because of this we attract new people, mostly families. As a poll observer for the Democratic Party it hadn’t occurred to me that so many people I didn’t know were voting the Republican ticket. That in-person voters chose President Trump 411 to 128 for Joe Biden is evidence new people moving into the township are mostly Republicans.

Despite few options for high speed internet access, many people in the township work from home during the coronavirus pandemic. Last summer the pandemic created a much different social dynamic where neighborhoods became important and neighboring was more common than it had been. Activities that flourished had little to do with politics. I posted a photo of me wearing a Biden Harris t-shirt on my Facebook page. One neighbor commented during an in person conversation they felt likewise but couldn’t do the same because of work relationships connected through social media. While there was a lot of media buzz this cycle, many people kept for whom they were voting private and this affected our everyday interactions by making them apolitical. Until the very end, it was as if there was no election on Nov. 3.

I can’t overstate the impact of the Secretary of State’s decision to mail absentee ballot requests to every active voter. Contrary to conventional wisdom that more people voting favors Democrats, it had the opposite effect. I also noticed long-time Republican-leaning neighbors, who weren’t on my voter list from the auditor, showed up at the polls to register and vote for the first time in years. Republican turnout was huge because of the systemic variance initiated by the Secretary of State.

Something else was afoot. We don’t turn the television on in our house so I can’t assess the impact of television commercials. Like many in my situation I saw political ads on YouTube, social media and internet news sites. I assume others saw them too. Because of the pandemic my provisioning trips have been reduced to less than one per week. When I drove to get provisions I would hear political radio ads. The local newspapers focused on local races with letters to the editor and paid advertising. I felt insulated from the influence of advertising, because of no television, combined with a pro-active method of acquiring news through paid subscriptions to four newspapers and a well-curated Twitter feed. In other words, I saw hardly any advertisements on Facebook or Twitter, and what I saw in local newspapers and heard on the radio informed me of what candidates were doing rather than being any form of persuasion. Whatever may have caused it, and I assume advertising was a big part of it, people were very motivated to vote this cycle.

At this writing President Trump has not conceded the election to Joe Biden who is clearly, unequivocally the winner. The president is challenging the election results in the courts and the effort has thus far fallen flat. I can’t speak to his erratic behavior or his shoddy legal cases, yet it seems clear he has a vague notion derived from the ancient Greek Theater that the Supreme Court will somehow hand him the election deus ex machina. Good luck with that.

I looked at the county results for U.S. Representative in the Second Congressional District and Mariannette Miller-Meeks walloped Rita Hart everywhere except in the most populous counties. The race is too close to call after the counties canvassed the votes so Hart requested a recount on Friday. With a margin of 47 votes, a recount may swing the election to Hart, or it may not.

I have my beefs with the Democratic Party and how they conducted the election effort. My main concern was they provided no support for me to be able to work my precinct the way to which I have been accustomed. When asked how they planned to reach voters without a phone number in the database they provided no substantial answer. When asked to produce a list so I could work my precinct they said they could not. “That’s not how it works,” one organizer told me. The result was I was left to fend for myself, which is pretty much where the results of the election left me, on my own. Even if I had the tools requested I’m not sure I could have flipped the precinct, so my beefs are likely moot.

The friends with which I built a precinct organization beginning in 2004 are aging, dying and moving away. New people arriving are Republican-leaning. Combine that with lack of a coherent Democratic message for voters and the view from today is we will remain a Republican precinct for a long while.

Despite the challenges, I’m not ready to give up. The election hasn’t killed me yet. Here’s hoping it made me strong enough to survive the coronavirus pandemic and fight another day.