Living in Society

Framing House District 91

Voting by mail.

On June 8, Cleo Krejci of the Iowa City Press Citizen wrote the following headline for an article about an election for state representative, “In Iowa’s new House District 91, voters to choose between conservative pastor and LGBTQ activist.”

While the headline may be true, to frame the race like this is awful and wrong. Krejci wrote:

Come Nov. 8, voters in Iowa’s new House District 91 will have the choice of two starkly opposing candidates: Republican Brad Sherman, a conservative Christian pastor who opposes same-sex marriage, and Democrat Elle Wyant, a transgender woman and LGBTQ activist.

Iowa City Press Citizen, June 8, 2022.

The contrast in this framing is easy for a journalist, misses a lot of what each candidate is about, and does a disservice to voters in the district.

The candidates are different. Sherman is from the party where controversial issues at the heart of his campaign are reduced to talking points, the meaning of which can be understood only if one knows how to interpret dog-whistle. According to a June 2 newspaper advertisement, Sherman stands for life, the second amendment, traditional family, state rights and energy independence, among others. Allow me to interpret: extremist anti-abortion, pro-gun ownership with minimal restrictions, anti LGBTQ+, especially anti-trans gender, don’t be making any federal laws with which he disagrees, and pro-fossil fuels extraction and exploitation over other forms of energy. Sherman is in the mainstream of the evangelical movement that brought us the 45th president. The best evidence of this is the endorsement he received from former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, a prominent Southern Baptist turned evangelical politician.

The mission of the church where Sherman is pastor “is to make preparations for the kingdom of God to come on earth as it is in heaven.” Sherman believes the purpose of government is to protect God-given rights. His non-denominational church is tucked away between a couple of Coralville restaurants. Being a pastor there is much different from being a pastor at a United Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian or other mainstream Protestant church, not to mention how different it is from Catholics, Jews and Muslims. From the git-go, Sherman is on the fringe.

Elle Wyant has a more specific agenda designed to serve the needs of everyone in the district. Wyant’s “Three Es” agenda doesn’t require any interpretation: education, economic development, and equity. These are topics the Iowa government addresses during each General Assembly and she’s ready to serve the needs of all constituents. In addition, Wyant has actually done things besides politics in broader society: 19 years working as a sales executive for a Fortune 50 company and five years as a row-crop farmer. Wyant seeks to fight for her community and be a voice for those left behind at the statehouse. As an advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, she knows what that means.

By now, voters in House District 91 may have forgotten sensationalized framing of the contest by the Iowa City Press Citizen. According to Pew Research, the economy was the top issue for voters during the 2020 general election. Wyant is positioned to address economic development while avoiding the noise of culture wars propagated by her opponent. Framing isn’t everything. It is a construct lying outside a campaign.

When we contrast what the candidates stand for, Sherman stands for the worst aspects of Iowa Republican policies. Elle Wyant stands for all of us. The choice is clear.


Hiroshima Day 2022

Hiroshima, Japan after U.S. Nuclear Attack. Photo Credit: The Telegraph

On the 77th anniversary of the United States dropping an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, hundreds of diplomats representing the states-parties to the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), along with representatives from civil society, are convening at United Nations headquarters in New York for talks that will shape the future of the international nuclear arms control regime at a time when the risks of nuclear proliferation and nuclear competition are growing.

Godspeed to the delegates!

I have been writing about nuclear arms reduction since the nuclear freeze days in the 1980s. We don’t seem to be getting anywhere. When the 45th president was in office, he contemplated re-introducing so-called tactical nuclear weapons into our military arsenal and would likely have withdrawn from the NPT if given the chance. He rejected the idea of the U.S. eliminating nuclear weapons.

Where do we go from here?

Nuclear weapons should never be used again. Conservative forces that came to power in the wake of Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980 have been steadily deconstructing the nuclear arms protocols that took so much work to put in place. Unchecked, they will continue their work. It seems clear people with common sense about nuclear weapons need a new narrative. This gets to be a worn sawhorse, but we need to elect politicians willing to reduce and eliminate nuclear weapons in accordance with Article VI of the NPT, an agreement the United States willingly signed and ratified. Who knows if the treaty could be ratified again in today’s polarized U.S. Senate?

So another year passed without progress on reducing our nuclear arsenals. If anything, the war between Ukraine and Russia heightened international tensions and has nations keeping their arsenals in place until we know the outcome.

Let’s hope the NPT Conference produces significant results and a viable plan for compliance with Article VI. The United States should lead this effort, although we have been recalcitrant about hanging on to our nukes.

Today we must consider what it will take to make needed change.

Living in Society

Iowa’s 2022 Midterms

Big Grove Polling Place Nov. 6, 2018

As the last month of summer proceeds to Labor Day, the official kickoff for the fall election campaign, our county party is not that organized. Partly, that’s to be expected as voters and activists engage in elections later each successive cycle.

Iowa Democratic Party Chair Ross Wilburn continues to make the case to the Democratic National Committee that Iowa should be first in the nation during presidential election years. The party has much bigger problems to address going forward than presidential preference.

The big news is there does not appear to be a state party coordinated campaign that helps synchronize efforts. Lack of a coordinated campaign creates an environment where every activist is free to do what they want regarding support of candidates. The county party chair asserted this was a good thing, freeing the group to turnout Democratic votes to increase county margin. It takes more than Democratic votes to win elections and that has in part been the work of individual campaigns. We don’t need a coordinated campaign for the simple reason of having one. What we have without one is a recipe for chaos. A skosh of chaos is okay.

Our county believes the best way they can help Democratic causes is to turnout as many Democratic voters as possible to offset the rest of the Republican state in statewide races. I call this the margin argument, which is spurious at best. Remove the votes from our county from the tallies for federal races in recent cycles and the outcome would be no different. The problem with the margin argument is precincts like mine, which have voted Republican in recent cycles, get lost in the push to turn out Democratic votes in our more populous areas. We need Democrats to win down ticket races and the margin approach doesn’t effectively help.

My years of working at the orchard made weekend campaign work difficult because of my schedule. As a retired septuagenarian, I’m reluctant to make phones calls and door knock people I don’t know, as I did in the past. Making phone calls and door knocking appears to be the main organizing activity being used in the county. I need to find another way.

I would feel better if more central committee members attended last night’s Zoom central committee meeting. By Labor Day, I hope to have an approach for this cycle because this year, more than previous, Democrats will need the help.


Postcard from Summer Holiday – #5

Clouds before the thunderstorm, Aug. 3, 2022.

The coronavirus pandemic continues in Iowa.

The number of hospitalizations for COVID-19 increased by 25 percent last week. The number of patients requiring intensive care nearly doubled. 35 Iowans died of the virus. The number of new people being vaccinated remained low in the state at less than 60 percent. The virus is ubiquitous. Click here to read a report from the local newspaper.

While fewer people don a protective mask in public, I still carry and wear mine when going to a retail store or large indoors gathering. I’m getting out with people more, yet it is mostly outdoors events where there is less risk of contracting the virus. Thus far I tested negative on the few times I got a COVID-19 test. I am learning to live with the virus.

Tomatoes, potatoes, onions, garlic and acorn squash on Aug. 3, 2022.

It rained most of Wednesday. In between showers I picked tomatoes so they would not burst from the influx of moisture. There are some problems with the way I planted tomatoes this year. They are too close together and the patch of Roma and cherry tomatoes is not producing as well as I would have liked. It was a mistake to plant them under the shade of the oak trees. However, the San Marzano tomatoes are doing fine and there are enough to can once they reach peak ripeness. I have some empty jars from our child to fill first, then will put up as many as possible for the pantry until the season is over.

There are too many cucumbers and plenty of pickles already prepared. A family can only eat so many. Every other abundance — bell peppers, zucchini, greens — can be dealt with by freezing them for future use. Herbs can be dried.

This year my participation in society is going through a sea change. I read the extensive activity list for seniors in the newspaper and don’t feel ready to join the group. There is too much to do at home. My cohort of elected officials is finding their way to the exits and it’s not the same with new folks. Local political candidates have not been engaging as they have in the past although that frees my time. The time since I left my last job at the home, farm and auto supply store has been a landing zone. I’ve not skidded to a full stop quite yet.

Once the garden finishes in October I’ll return to my autobiography. This will be the third winter writing it. In a good world, I’ll finish the draft of the timeline through completion of graduate school up to our wedding. When the written record begins in 1974, I have another choice to make: whether to edit writing from my journals, blog posts and letters into a narrative, or to write a new narrative based on them. It could go either way. For now, I’m focused on bringing the writing to the point in 1981 when I was living on Market Street in Iowa City.

For the moment, I’m still on holiday. I want to return to daily writing yet not that much. The picture of where I land after the pandemic is complicated by the fact it is not ending. I’ll have to seek other ways forward.

For the time being, the kitchen garden — harvesting and processing vegetables for storage — consumes much of my time. It is a good thing.

Living in Society

New Legislative Districts, New People

Woman Writing Letter

We moved to the Solon area in 1993. After redistricting, the new Senate District 46 and House District 91 are my fourth legislative districts. Each time I’ve gotten to know new people and adjusted to changes. I like my prospects for the general election.

Kevin Kinney is the Democrat running for re-election to the Iowa Senate. He farms in Johnson and Iowa counties. With Iowa being an agricultural state, we could use a farmer with his kind of common sense in the legislature. Solon Mayor Steve Stange endorsed Kinney and so do I.

Elle Wyant is running for the open house seat. I met with her at the Solon Beef Days Parade where she drove a classic car she sometimes enters in car shows. She has worked in sales for UPS for almost 20 years and has a tight focus on what she would work on if elected:  education, economic development, and equity. Elle also worked as a row-crop farmer for five years so she knows agriculture. Like Kinney, she is possessed of common sense and would stay focused on her priorities.

The election is three months out. Meanwhile, I hope you will evaluate these candidates. I believe they are worth our votes.

~ Submitted as a letter to the editors of four local newspapers in the new legislative districts.

Living in Society

Postcard from Summer Holiday – #4

Summer dinner during sweet corn season.

Iowa is heading into a major heat wave with ambient temperatures forecast in the high nineties by midweek. It seems it has been hot already yet this will be a scorcher with high humidity. My reaction to high heat and humidity is to get outdoors work done early in the morning, then move indoors to work at my desk or in the kitchen. Coping with heat waves has become ingrained into daily life.

I harvested the first of four tubs of potatoes yesterday. I grated and had the nicked ones for breakfast this morning. Hash browns, scrambled eggs and cherry tomatoes is one of my favorite summer breakfasts. These days we have tomatoes with everything, including locally grown sweet corn and green beans from the garden. It is the best time of year for a kitchen garden.

The freezer is beginning to fill with ingredients for future meals. The next big projects are putting up sweet corn and canning tomatoes.

Not much else to report at this point in the holiday. I’ve been getting out with people more. I avoid densely populated areas like the county seat and areas around it. It seems my sleep patterns are permanently changing to stay up and sleep later. I’ve begun reconstructing my daily schedule. Once that process is done, I’ll be back to daily writing here.

Enjoy the rest of summer! Stay cool this week!


A Solon Cemetery

View of the Saint Mary’s Catholic Church cemetery in Solon, Iowa on July 30, 2022.
Photograph of the now razed Saint Mary’s Catholic Church on Aug. 1, 2013. The cemetery was located around the church. Photo Credit – Wikimedia Commons.
The cemetery has a look of not being maintained. The closer the view, the more markers are found damaged and askew.

There are cemeteries like this across Iowa and the United States. I like the look of sunken and leaning monuments, and broken grave markers reflecting the passage of time. How is perpetual care done in places like these? Beyond mowing the lawn, not much is done except by family and volunteers. If I had family buried here, I’d maintain our burial site. What would happen after I’m gone? This cemetery is not featured on the current church website. I wouldn’t call it neglected, yet it is not a main part of the community.

Except for the image of the church, photography is by the author.

Living in Society

Postcard from Summer Holiday – #3

Wildflowers along the state park trail.

The Midwest is bracing for a heat wave next week when ambient temperatures are forecast in the 90s. On Wednesday it is expected to reach 103 degrees. The Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Service issued a reminder to farmers of what to do to protect their investment in livestock. It is going to be a scorcher in the corn belt from top to bottom.

I finished my month of posts at Blog for Iowa earlier in the week and am ready to turn my attention back to Journey Home. This blog has had four names since I created it to move from Blogspot to WordPress in 2008. If we ever get out of the coronavirus pandemic, I might give it a fifth. We are at a distance from the end of the pandemic.

The challenge in the garden is keeping the plants watered, yet not too much. They will survive the heat with adequate hydration. Early morning or late evening watering has been best.

Tomatoes are beginning to ripen and we had our first slicers for dinner last night. Yesterday I grated and froze zucchini for winter soup and tried a quick dill pickle recipe I saw on TikTok. From here until Labor Day, part of every day will be food preservation. I have a row of San Marzano tomatoes to convert to canned wholes for use throughout the year. I tasted the first ripe ones and they were deliciously different from other varieties I have grown.

My sleep patterns have changed while on holiday. I stay up until 9 p.m. and am sleeping through the night, getting six or seven straight hours of sleep. It has been a long time since I did that. I’m hoping the new patterns persist.

I keep plugging along with reading and have almost finished Loretta Lynn’s memoir Coal Miner’s Daughter. The book reminds me of the part of Appalachia where my father was born and how people there lived and still do. Lynn’s birthplace, Butcher Holler, Kentucky, is about 85 miles from Father’s birthplace. Of course, Lynn got to know June Carter Cash and Johnny Cash through her music. June Carter Cash is a shirttail relative of ours.

It is easy to see why people liked Loretta Lynn’s music back in the 1970s. She was part of a social revolution that changed how people lived. In part, it was based on Roe v. Wade and introduction of the birth control pill which Lynn wrote about. In her song, “The Pill,” she wrote, “I’m tearing down your brooder house ’cause now I’ve got the pill.” Husband Doolittle got a vasectomy after birth of their twins and Lynn wrote about that too.

Wildflowers bloom in July with an ever-changing array of color. Now that the garden switched from planting to harvesting, I walk along the state park trail almost daily to watch nature’s changes. Even though The International Union for the Conservation of Nature added the migrating monarch butterfly to its “red list” of threatened species in July and categorized it as “endangered,” I saw a few Monarchs on the trail yesterday.

The world we know may be dying due to the climate crisis yet there is evidence of our past in every walk along the trail. Stay cool next week!

Living in Society

Can Deidre DeJear Win? The Answer is Yes!

Deidre DeJear.

I attended enough events and got enough one-on-one time with Deidre DeJear – both during her current campaign and when she ran for Secretary of State – to know she would be a good governor. When I compare her to other Democratic gubernatorial candidates, she is hands down the most enthusiastic I’ve seen in recent years. We Democrats need some enthusiasm to defeat the Republican machine.

I like her and plan to vote for her yet this race is not about me.

The question I get asked repeatedly is “Can she win?”

At her June nominating convention, DeJear said, “My story being possible in Iowa, ensures that all our stories are possible.” It resonated with me when I heard it. Iowa writer Chuck Offenburger said it would resonate with Iowans if it were broadcast across the state.

Offenburger laid out a case for DeJear in a July 18 column.

He gave reasons why continuing a Reynolds administration would be a bad choice. His conclusion about Reynolds’ governance is “Doesn’t that sound like a whole lot of big-government overreach — which Republicans are normally the first to bitch about — by a governor who might be trying to stretch her shelf life too long?”

Offenburger also told DeJear’s story. He concluded with “It’s time for Barack & Michelle Obama to make another visit to Iowa.” It is polished writing of an experienced journalist which Democrats should read. I believe the column helped DeJear’s cause.

As counterpoint, Offenburger’s writing seems likely to be drowned out by the conservative noise machine with its ubiquitous right-wing radio, television and social media chatter. Not enough people have heard this case. More need to.

When people I don’t know ask me, “Can she win?” they are likely referring to one of the following things.

The governor is commanding the polls with a 17-point advantage in the latest Des Moines Register Iowa Poll. DeJear is behind in fundraising as well. With a bit more than three months until the Nov. 8 election, DeJear and Iowa Democrats could overcome these disadvantages with hard work and more voter engagement, especially as we get closer to the election. Can she win? Yes she can if you vote for her and convince your friends to do likewise.

Deidre DeJear is black. There is a racist strain running throughout Iowa with Iowans who won’t vote for a black governor regardless of their qualifications. Can she win? Yes she can if you vote for her and convince your friends to do likewise.

Is there a “Blue Wave” coming in November? Some express skepticism, including me. We are worn out from the elections beginning in 2010. When we drag out the old sawhorse about Obama’s 2008 and 2012 wins, or the true story of Tom Vilsack’s come from behind victory, we seem to be running out of Democratic anecdotes. We need new stories of a kind to which Iowans across the state can relate. Deidre DeJear is that story.

Can she win? Yes she can if you vote for her and convince your friends to do likewise.

She could use your financial donation as well. Click here to donate.

Click here to access Offenburger’s column and share it with a friend or family member.

~ First published on Blog for Iowa. A version of this post ran as a letter to the editor in the online Des Moines Register on Aug. 4, 2022.


Supporting Access to Abortion After Dobbs

Wildflowers on the state park trail.

In the Des Moines Register Iowa Poll released on Sunday, “A majority of Iowans – 60% – say abortion should be legal in most or all cases, at a time when the state’s Republican lawmakers have new freedom to restrict the procedure.” That’s the highest percent since the Iowa Poll began asking the question. The percentage favoring keeping abortions a legal option is higher nationwide.

American voters opposed overturning Roe by a 30 point margin. Politicians such as Governor Kim Reynolds and Congresswoman Mariannette Miller-Meeks have said Roe was settled law. Nearly 70% of Americans did not want the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade. 75% of people say decisions on abortion should be left to the woman and her doctor, including 95% of Democrats, 81% of independents and 53% of Republicans.

With the willing help of Judiciary Committee Chair U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley, president Trump appointed three justices to the U.S. Supreme Court. All three said Roe was established precedent and settled law during their confirmation hearings. Yet here we are. What is popular doesn’t matter. Telling the truth doesn’t matter. In Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, the court overturned Roe v. Wade. Conservatives who advocated overturning Roe v. Wade (since it was decided) are like the dog that caught the car.

No matter our income or where we live, Iowans value the freedom to make our own decisions, including access to safe and legal abortion. Abortion remains safe and legal in Iowa and we are fighting to keep it that way. We intend to protect our freedom from Republican politicians hellbent on taking it, who attempt to divide us and legislate for the wealthy few. From Sen. Grassley who stacked this court, to Gov. Reynolds who requested abortion rights be overturned at the federal and state levels, we seek their removal at the ballot box.

We all care about someone who has had or has considered an abortion. Most people likely know someone in this situation. We must ensure everyone has access to the care they need. Taking this right away won’t end abortions, it will simply make them harder to access for people with fewer resources. Limiting access to abortion puts pregnant people in danger and puts their lives at risk. Denying access to safe, legal abortions strips Iowans of a fundamental right.

What is there to say about abortion that hasn’t already been said? Very little.

Despite the Iowa Poll, some conservative Iowans continue to assert that a “majority of Iowans are pro-life and support every individual’s God-given right to an opportunity to live.” Thing about Roe is the discussion of when life begins was had in court and settled. I doubt conservatives who make the claim about when a fetus becomes an individual have read the court documents of Roe v. Wade. Their assertions reflect a position of ignorance.

If, as suggested, the dog caught the car, what comes next is a jump ball with conservatives having the home court advantage, especially those who have organized to overturn Roe v. Wade since it was decided. When asked why Roe wasn’t codified in law already, a Democratic legislator said “some things are just settled.” That is, until they aren’t.

~ First published at Blog for Iowa