We must do better

John Grieder is a Democratic activist in Waterloo. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Like so many Iowa Democrats, I have watched this gubernatorial primary with a keen eye. With Terry Branstad leaving Terrace Hill for China and Governor Kim Reynolds continuing the same failed policies, 2018 seemed like the year of hope for turning the governor’s mansion back to blue. I’ve watched and heard and hoped with most of the candidates, flitting from one to another. I fully admit that I have been fickle and changed my mind more than once.

Even now, my absentee ballot sits upon our counter unfilled. So many thoughts, hopes, and fears play out when I look upon that ballot that I have to leave it blank for now, because I do not as yet know the path forward.

But I do know this, as a teacher. The 2018 election represents a critical juncture point. For the last eight years now we have starved our K-12 system and our Regents system for cash. The GOP can crow and strut about whatever magic math they have come up with to make themselves feel better. But I’ve seen reality. I’ve seen classrooms without paraeducators because the district cannot afford them. I’ve taught in classrooms with textbooks from when I was in high school a decade ago. I have sat with former students commiserating and lamenting the burden of debt we will face long into the future. Kim Reynolds and her merry band of thieves may sing a good tune, but they have thoroughly stabbed education in the back in our great state.

As a teacher, brother, and friend to people suffering from mental illness, I have witnessed the true horror of our current system. A broken, balkanized system that does too little for too many. Too often we turn to our law enforcement officers and teachers to serve as makeshift therapists and resources managers. Too many are shipped too far from home for treatments, treatments that rely on family support in many cases, to be truly effective. All thanks to a mismanagement of priorities.

As a millennial and a father, I have witnessed with dismay the degradation of the natural places in our state. A quick buck has become more important than a ten-point buck. A quick fill of the corporate coffers is more vital than a clear, quick river that hydrates thousands. Mammon has replaced Mother Earth, and it will be my generation and my daughter’s who will have to live with the consequences.

I could go on and on, with a litany of terrors that the state legislature and Governor Reynolds have sowed amongst us. But we are so familiar with it that to belabor the point would be tedious and tiresome. What is vital to understand: we need to make serious gains this November as a party. We need to make Kim Reynolds a less than one-term Governor and flip the Iowa House and inch back towards a majority in the state Senate.

And so it was with dismay that I watched the Nate Boulton story play out yesterday. I have heard from Nate; once at a Camp Wellstone training in Des Moines and another time at a candidate forum in Waterloo. I thought he gave clear, articulate passionate answers. I applauded him when he stood up for workers like me and our right to collectively bargain. And I gave him serious consideration for governor.

What has been most disturbing to me are two pieces. First, that once again, another person who held the public trust has betrayed that. I found the Boulton campaign’s statement on the issue shallow, vapid, and not enough. It is not enough to merely not be the worst person. It is not enough to blame the place rather than take personal responsibility. I do believe Boulton should leave the race and his Senate seat. Those we place in charge of us should be held to a higher standard. We have argued, rightly, that former Senator Bill Dix had to go due to the gross sexual harassment found in the Iowa Senate caucus and in his own personal behavior. We were right to hold him accountable. We are right to hold the Senate GOP responsible. But that must also mean we hold ourselves accountable.

That leads me to the second part. What is even more disturbing than an elected official violating the common trust is how quick we are to question and accuse victims. Democratic social media threads have been replete with questions of timing, suspicions, and outright misogyny towards the women who came forward.

Let us be clear: the victim is not to blame, ever. Not because of what they wore, not because of where they were, not because of what they were doing. No victim of sexual assault is to blame, ever. Period. But too often we have let our political tribalism replace our base humanity. Too often our team winning, whoever our team may be, is more important than the people hurt along the way.

That’s not who we are as a party, or at least not who we should be as a party. We must do better. We must continue our long and storied tradition of standing up for the average Iowan. We must continue to fight for the worker, the student, the immigrant, and those at the fringes of society. We must continue to fight hard for a more equitable world where those who are exploited are comforted and those who exploit are held accountable.

We must do better about setting aside politics and remembering our humanity. This November is too important and we must do better. Because if we don’t, then we don’t deserve to win.

Editor’s note: Boulton suspended his campaign for governor on May 24, after the author wrote this post.

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