If Iowa Republicans had their way, society as we know it would be dissolved, leaving scattered family units headed by white, male patriarchs. We would enter a life that was a combination of a Darwinian struggle for existence, non-denominational religion, and rugged individualism. Such families would have many children. Women would be allowed to continue to vote… for now. If one listens to Republican rants from the state capitol, some already believe their chosen tribal relationships are in place.
When Republicans declare war on trans people, or others who don’t lead what they consider to be a traditional life, they will fight until every one of them has been run out of the state or marginalized. The same applies to what’s taught in schools. It’s a crusade. The culture wars are more sinister if we don’t recognize their inherent neoliberalism.
Without saying what they were doing, Governor Kim Reynolds and the Republican crew embraced a conservative form of neoliberalism that includes private school vouchers, reducing taxes, gutting government spending, reducing licensing requirements, and tactics such as under funding the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to minimize the impact of regulations on business. Their unspoken goal is to enable the invisible hand of a global free market to work its magic. It’s as if they were students of Adam Smith at Milton Friedman’s Chicago school. There was even a Grover Norquist opinion in the June 7 edition of the Cedar Rapids Gazette.
Understanding the commonalities between Iowa Republicans and neoliberalism doesn’t make us feel better. It helps us understand what is at stake during the coming elections.
Thom Hartmann says the end of the neoliberalism era that began with the election of Ronald Reagan is at hand. What’s next? Voters gave Obama a chance to make changes. When he didn’t or couldn’t make needed changes in our politics, they gave Trump a try.
The surge in Trump support in the 2020 Iowa election is due largely to a lie he perpetrated that he was a populist candidate. His policies did little other than support the flow of money to the richest Americans while impoverishing the rest of us. He was hardly populist despite the fandom. Governor Kim Reynolds and Senator Chuck Grassley enjoy the support of the grifting ex-president. Reynolds posted she was honored to have it.
Where do we go from here?
People don’t like neoliberalism when they know how it impacts their lives. I would argue Iowa under Kim Reynolds is a textbook example of it. We must point out the neoliberalism inherent in current Republican rule every chance we get. We must do so for as long as it takes to get voters to recognize it. Before that, we ourselves must understand and be able to articulate the meaning of neoliberalism in 2022 Iowa.
It is not helpful that voter turnout in the 2022 Democratic primary election was lower in our county compared to 2018. We hear about doing things different and rural outreach, yet 82 percent of Iowa’s Democratic primary votes cast were in the 26 most populous counties. It is hard to see how any rural outreach would benefit Democrats given that scenario.
Iowa Democrats have no one who stands out as a populist candidate at present. While President Joe Biden is doing good work, the slim majorities Democrats hold in the House and Senate prevent him from doing more. Given the partisan divide of the legislature, Biden has actually accomplished a lot in his brief tenure. Biden’s age is apparent in his mannerisms and speech, yet his policies reflect a righteous attempt to reverse the ravages of neoliberalism. He believe society as we knew it is something that should endure, as should we all.
Where do we go from here? It is an open question.