Republican strategy and divisive bills in the Iowa legislature

Matt Chapman wades into what is sure to be an intense debate over how Democrats should communicate with Iowans about this disastrous legislative session. -promoted by desmoinesdem

It’s no surprise that bills to regulate women’s rights and the gun omnibus were passed in the first week of April, right before the budget and when the end of session is looming.

These are very divisive laws, supported by the majority of the Republican base. The same folks who many of whom were hurt by laws stripping workers of bargaining rights, mandatory wage raises and even watering down workers’ compensation.

It will be interesting to see if this strategy works. My advice to anyone outraged by this session (and I acknowledge that it is too soon to do this now) would be to try to avoid the divisive issues. We have common ground with all workers in Iowa, and if we spend a lot of energy on guns or women’s rights, we will have a hard time trying to get change in our state.

If progressive Democrats get control of our legislature all these things will be corrected. We will have put them there and we will hold them accountable. Whether you’re for Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton or like me (I supported both, caucused for Bernie and canvassed for Hillary), this coalition is how we get there.

If the Republican strategy is not to succeed, we can’t fall into their trap. We can’t be free advertisement for their agenda that is corrupt and dangerous. And when we engage in arguments that a lot of times turn personal, we aren’t going to change anyone’s mind. We are just cementing their opinion and doing the advertising for the opposition. And wasting time and energy.

The policies working class Republicans voted for were not attacks on their livelihoods. None of them said “please strip us of our rights to a raise, an assault on chapter 20 or to be protected from being injured and having recourse.”

It was not the working Republican folks but the wealthy and the 1 percent who quietly did support this agenda behind closed doors. Americans for Prosperity, the National Rifle Association, the National Restaurant Association, American Legislative Exchange Council and others I’m sure did have input due to support and power they have across the country. But to focus on the power brokers is not only counterproductive, it is another trap.

They will label us as conspiracy theorists, and their base will eat it up. And the cycle will start again. I was pursuing an ALEC membership and I could try embarrass my member of Congress, but it is a waste of time. And what would I gain? An attaboy from like minded folks and a second of gratification. I can do better than that.

I have heard from a few Republican lawmakers that they have to vote the interests of the people that put them there. I think that is true. And the assault on workers just highlights who this session’s representation was for. Not the workers. The special interests. It is the fact, and we need to hammer this message to all working Iowans. Not specifically ALEC or AFP, but a generic special interest. To get lost in the weeds of just who this is will be a gift. “Who are you representing? Iowas workers or someone else? Because you have hurt all Iowa workers.” I think that is the way to shed light on who they are serving.

So don’t focus on the special interests. Focus on the flesh and blood lawmakers who are there to represent us. I will take the tack of just holding lawmakers accountable for their votes, who it affects and how. And then I will share it, and hopefully like minded folks will not just get themselves to the polls next cycle, but also get a few people educated on how important their vote is. This session would be a good teachable moment.

So let’s try to avoid these traps and focus on the ways this session has hurt Iowans. We need to spread the word and get folks to turn out who are concerned about workers’ rights and beat that drum for the next eighteen months.

This is a strategy that I think can win.

Dallas County resident Matt Chapman closely follows Iowa politics and legislative affairs.

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  • thank you for writing

    I’m firmly in the camp of talking about how laws passed by Republicans hurt Iowans, and not getting sidetracked with a debate about ALEC or Koch money. On the other hand, not every district is the same, and candidates running in different parts of the state may have reason to communicate differently about some of these contentious issues.

    I think Republicans are getting a lot of these far-reaching bills out of the way this year in the hope that next year, voters will forget. I expect the 2018 session will focus on a few small, feel-good actions.

  • Sometimes persuasion works

    For what it’s worth: at the last LWV meeting, a local doctor confronted Rep. Dave Maxwell and Sen. Tim Kapucian re: the 20 week abortion ban, saying that the women she had dealt with her practice wanted their babies – and only resorted to abortion because of fetal abnormalities, etc. Last night Rep. Maxwell was the sole Republican vote against the bill. I like to think that the Grinnell doctor’s comments had an effect on his vote.

  • Blind Faith

    Spoke with a Republican neighbor who I try to get along with the other day, and he asked me “how did we get here” (referencing the dysfunction/debacle at the national level). I wanted to say something along the line of “What did you expect?”, but I refrained. I just said “follow the money and you will get your answer” . He stayed silent with a confused look like he did not understand.

    There is too much cognitive outsourcing these days. Then when the ugly head of reality pops up, there is this aura of dismay for a few. But for the rabid died in the wool zealots they refute the truth and go to their Logical Fallacies.

    Blind faith is what drives followers of ideologues regardless if they are politicians or ISIS. In fact that Iowa Republicans act very much like a terrorist group helps me understand that facts are irrelevant to most conversations.

    Our state is being held by terrorists in suits. In their world you either comply or die. Their constituents are only those who voted for them. Makes me think of the furor over abolition in the 1850’s that set the groundwork for a civil war. Somehow the new Stand your ground portion of the gun bill anticipates this future anarchy, if not furthers it along. I think if Wisconsin and other Rust Belt Red states that have been taken over are any good predictors, they will double down next term and hang even nastier legislation as red meat all the while spending millions to create alternate facts and project the problems onto democrat scapegoats. They will have the dark money to say anything and get just enough sheeple to drink the koolaid. Case in point: a recent Wisconsin poll shows Scott Walker’s favorability has gone up.