Weekend open thread: Mind-blowing edition (w/poll)

The latest episode to divide Iowa Republicans is a warning from Republican Party of Iowa officials in response to planned traffic safety checkpoints in Polk County. After the jump I’ve posted more details on that story.

Having grown up during the 1980s, when “card-carrying member of the ACLU” was a term of abuse Republicans used against liberals, I’m still floored whenever Republicans actually care about potential encroachment on civil liberties by law enforcement officials.

That’s far from the most mind-blowing political reality of our day, though. Just for fun, at the end of this post I put up a non-scientific poll for any Bleeding Heartland readers, but especially those “of a certain age.” Think back 20 to 25 years and ask yourself, what reality of 2013 would be most shocking?

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

On September 30, Regina Zilbermints reported for the Des Moines Register,

Law enforcement officers will set up a traffic checkpoint Friday evening in the western part of Polk County, officials said.

Officials will set up a neutral system to choose which cars to stop, authorities said. For example, every third or fifth vehicle may have to pull over.

Drivers who are stopped can expect officers to check that all turn headlights, brake lights and turn signals work and that drivers have current license, registration and insurance documentation.


Republican Party of Iowa leaders posted this alert to “Iowa Constitutional Activists” on the front page of the Iowa GOP’s website and on Facebook:


by Republican Party of Iowa

Central Iowa police are planning “traffic safety checkpoints” in Polk county on Friday night. The Iowa GOP strongly urges you NOT to give in to any illegal searches of your car. Only comply by providing your license, registration and insurance if requested.

The Iowa GOP also reminds you that recording police officers, both with audio and video is completely LEGAL and has been upheld numerous times by numerous courts. Be sure to have an objective “witness” by recording your conversations with police.

So if you’re around Des Moines friday night and come across an unnecessary “random” police checkpoint, be sure to:

1. Record the conversation

2. Comply only with license, registration and insurance

3. Do not volunteer any additional information and do not permit a search of your vehicle for any reason.

4. Send the Iowa GOP any audio and video you have of your interactions with police.

“Authorities said vehicles will be systematically chosen by officers to enter the checkpoint. For example, it may be decided that every fifth vehicle will be directed to a station within the checkpoint.”

I don’t agree with Ron Paul-supporting “liberty” activists on much, but as a card-carrying member of the American Civil Liberties Union, I also would not consent to a police search of my vehicle following a random traffic stop. I wouldn’t hesitate to cooperate with requests for license and other documentation, nor would I be confrontational or videotape the encounter. But I think it’s reasonable to be cautious about police searches without probable cause. Not to disparage any law enforcement officials in Polk County, but there have been cases elsewhere of police planting contraband in people’s cars.

As it turned out, there was no grand conspiracy behind the traffic stop on Friday. KCCI news reported,

“It wasn’t bad, (there’s) not much to it,” said Brendand Burtnett, of Slater.

Authorities said that once stopped, drivers can expect a brief visual verification that turn signals, brake lights and headlights are functioning properly and that current licensing, registration and insurance documentation check out.

“He just had me turn on my lights, make sure the horn works, all the blinkers and everything,” said Sharon Born, of West Des Moines.

“I had a right rear stop light out that I didn’t know about,” said Kermit Veach, of West Des Moines. […]

Officers will distribute educational material emphasizing traffic safety during the stop.

Authorities said the event is designed to assist drivers and passengers by checking vehicle equipment.

“It’s a dangerous world now. It doesn’t hurt to go through this once in a while, I guess,” said Veach. “It’s not an intrusion. It might be a little bit of an inconvenience, but it’s not an intrusion to anybody.”

Some Republicans were not happy that state party leaders encouraged a hostile attitude toward the police.

It’s the most popular Facebook post in Iowa GOP history, with more than 700 ‘likes’ and nearly 1,000 ‘shares,’ said Steve Bierfeldt, the party’s executive director.

“I think people believe that if the police are pulling people over for drunk driving or for driving erratically, that’s a good thing,” Bierfeldt said. “But there’s no need for police to randomly pull people over based on no evidence.”

Branstad, who has a chilly relationship with party leadership, declined to comment through a spokesman on the Iowa GOP’s advice.

But Doug Gross, a longtime Iowa Republican fundraiser and Branstad strategist from Des Moines, called the advisory “nuts” and a distraction that’s costing the party at a time when it should be ramping up financially. […]

“Their function is to win elections and instead they have run the party into the ditch,” Gross said, referring to state GOP party leaders.

Several Republicans also renewed calls for Iowa GOP Chairman A.J. Spiker to resign. Spiker was not available for comment Friday, a state party official said.

Rep. Clel Baudler, R-Greenfield, a retired State Patrol trooper, also said he was concerned about the direction the state party is headed and called for change.

“We have a situation within the state party leadership that needs to be taken care of,” Baudler said.

Iowa Democratic Party Executive Director Troy Price sought to capitalize on Republican divisions.

The Iowa Democratic Party’s executive director issued a statement saying he is “baffled” by the GOP’s advisory, but he said “not cooperating with the law has been a very real and disturbing trend” from Republicans “in the past few months.”


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