Living in Society

Unrecognizable Iowa

Melting snow in late February.

Tomorrow night is the biennial organization meeting and election of officers for my county’s Democratic party. I plan to attend in person, even though video participation is available. I’m fit to be tied about our state-wide politics for a couple of reasons, yet mostly because Democrats lost our ability to hold back the extreme politics of the opposition.

We need a path to fixing this.

Former county supervisor Pat Heiden filled me in with a fundraising email on Tuesday:

Hello! I’m reaching out to you today because we need your help! The Iowa Democratic Party is initiating an aggressive plan to rebuild the Democratic Party in Iowa under the leadership of our new chair, Rita Hart.

It begins with us in Johnson County.

Email from Pat Heiden, Feb. 28, 2023.

I’m glad Heiden remains involved with party politics. She already worked a full career before winning her election. Instead of taking it easy after leaving office, she remains politically engaged. Good for her.

I previously received a fund raising email for the same event, to which I replied,

Happy one month left of winter!

You can take me off your political fund raising list. I won’t have extra cash for political donations until I hit the lottery or get our house fixed up whichever comes first. Also, I’m 80k words short of finishing my book, and pretty busy until I write them.

I’m a bit overdosed with these four speakers in any case. They are very available, apparently everywhere.

Have a great spring, if it ever arrives!

Regards, Paul

Email sent Feb. 25, 2023.

Gone are my days of seeking to be a recognized political activist. As a septuagenarian I’m more interested in conserving resources and preparing for elderly living, especially if I become infirm. I’m still fit to be tied.

After decennial redistricting, we landed in a Republican-leaning Iowa House and Senate District. Our Democratic senate candidate worked hard to win the 2022 election and came up short. Our Democratic house candidate was unopposed in the primary, yet took a new, demanding job after filing that prevented her from running the kind of underdog campaign that was needed. After living through the 2012-2020 cycles with Bobby Kaufmann winning all five contests, experience shows it unlikely we will be able to get these seats away from Republican incumbents. That is, unless the county party does something more to win in 2024. This is one of the reasons I plan to attend the organization meeting in person tonight.

Is it that bad? Yes, it is.

Our State Senator Dawn Driscoll is part of Republican party leadership. While she does communicate through a weekly newsletter, she has supported leadership initiatives, notably, school vouchers and setting liability caps for medical malpractice and the trucking industry.

She is floor manager for Senate File 443 which would reorganize how county supervisors are elected, requiring large counties like ours to eliminate at-large supervisor elections and establish districts where each voter picks only their own supervisor. This is a significant change. If it passes, rural voices will be less relevant than ever because to evenly divide the districts by population, urban voters will be part of and dominate every district.

Our State Representative Brad Sherman has sponsored 16 bills as of this writing. The list of bills resembles the playbook of right-wing interests. Included in his sponsorship list are bills covering means-testing for public assistance, anti-trans discrimination, K-12 social studies curriculum, prohibition of drugs used for abortion, a Second Amendment preservation act, voter suppression, changing the Iowa Civil Rights Act, closer scrutiny to books available in school libraries, nullifying the federal Defense of Marriage Act, and prohibiting abortion in the state. None of this is surprising. Elections matter and Driscoll and Sherman won fair and square.

Yesterday the national cancer registry released it latest report, saying Iowa was second in the nation for incidence of cancer. We are the only state where the rate of cancer cases is growing. Likewise, our public schools used to be considered best in the nation. We’ve fallen to 24th in K-12 schools, according to U.S. News and World Report. This is not to mention our deteriorating water quality, lack of population growth, and a workforce shortage that negatively impacts business.

While these things are not really news, everything is hitting at once. Iowa as presently configured is not a state I would choose if I weren’t born here. Young people wised up and chose to live and work elsewhere.

So, yes. I’m fit to be tied and young enough to try to do something about it. It will take all hands on deck to steer the ship back on a reasonable, responsible course.

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