Shawn Sebastian: To put the pandemic politics of Trump, Reynolds, and Ernst behind us, we must reach out to Iowans and turn pain into action, rooted in justice. -promoted by Laura Belin
This week, my family felt firsthand the complete failure of our political leadership. After nearly a week without power, and without a refrigerator or electric stove, my parents — who both have pre-existing conditions — had to go out every day and risk contracting a deadly disease just to eat a meal.
How did we get here?
Our leaders dragged us down here through denial, lies, incompetence, putting profit over people, and a fundamental lack of vision.
It began when Governor Kim Reynolds denied the reality of the pandemic, refused to listen to health experts, and let corporate ag monopolies like Tyson and Smithfield call the shots instead. She facilitated deadly outbreaks in meatpacking communities that quickly spread. Economists said that the only way the jobs would come back was if the pandemic was under control, but after months of inaction and coverups, we’re suffering through the greatest job losses since the Great Depression.
U.S. Senator Joni Ernst did her part by blocking continued unemployment benefits, leaving 40 million people without income and triggering further economic catastrophe. At the same time, the derecho left 200,000 Iowans without power and, after weeks of delay, President Donald Trump is denying full disaster relief to Iowa.
But that betrayal didn’t stop Reynolds and Ernst from putting on their smiles and cheering on Trump at the Republican National Convention this week — acting as if 1,000 Iowans haven’t died, 60,000 Iowans haven’t gotten sick, and Iowa isn’t a global COVID-19 hotspot — one of the most dangerous places on earth — because of their failures.
Trump, Ernst, and Reynolds have no plan to get the pandemic under control and no ideas to bring jobs back. Their lack of vision is killing us. They’re not even trying to come up with solutions to our problems, which is why their reelection strategy isn’t focused on winning votes, but restricting voting access instead.
Luckily, organizations of working-class people in rural America did the work that Trump, Ernst, and Reynolds refuse to do. We came up with a vision of the future: Relief, Recovery, and Reimagination: A Federal Policy Agenda to Meet this Moment in Rural and Small Town America.
In our agenda, we lay out the policies that will deliver our vision of communities anchored by thriving small towns with diversified economies, strong safety nets that meet people’s needs, a family farm food system, a plan to rapidly transition to a renewable energy future, and a massive federal jobs program that invests in us to rebuild our communities and take care of each other.
Achieving that vision requires more than just voting. It requires sustained collective action. That’s why I’m a dues-paying member of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement Action Fund and why I’ll be speaking at their virtual convention, Rooted In Justice, on Saturday, August 29.
To put the pandemic politics of Trump, Reynolds, and Ernst behind us, we must reach out to Iowans, have deep conversations, make connections, listen with empathy, and turn pain into action. Then we’re going to have to push newly-elected leaders to be as bold as the moment demands. That’s why joining the Iowa CCI Action community is more important than ever. While our political leadership fails, we need each other to get out of the mess we’re in and build our positive vision of the future, beyond the election.
When my family lost power, our neighbors stepped up. One neighbor had a generator and ran an extension cord through our yard so we could make coffee. Another friend with a gas stove brought us a pizza. When faced with a crisis, Iowans show up for each other. We’ve seen it from our neighbors, frontline workers, teachers, and nurses. We’re the ones who will build our vision of rural communities where we can all thrive together, and voting is just the first step.
Shawn Sebastian is originally from Ames, Iowa. He is the Senior Strategist for Rural People and Planet First Campaigns at People’s Action. He is a featured speaker at Iowa CCI Action Fund’s Rooted in Justice Virtual Convention, Saturday, August 29 at 10:30 am. To register: www.cciaction.org/rooted