How we got here?

Bleeding Heartland user dbmarin is a fourth-generation artist-educator and former Des Moines Register beat reporter with roots in Buxton, Iowa. -promoted by Laura Belin

The last five years have been a real education for me moving back to my home state of Iowa after living in Northern California for the last 30 years. As Robert Ray-sensibility gave way to Terry Branstad and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), I wondered, what were the national and state Democrats doing about all of this? Surely, they could prevent Iowa from moving way too far away from its sensible-progressive heritage.

Apparently I misjudged something along the way because around 1988 or 1989, Rush Limbaugh arrived to stay on Des Moines radio. (During the late 1980s, I thought most Iowans would be too smart to allow caustic BS from a Cape Giradeau, Missouri loudmouth to take hold.)

How did we get here? The links below highlight decisions made with far-reaching implications we now are dealing with. I’m sure others could point to even more bellwether events..and they’d probably be right.

Here we are at the doorstep of another election cycle and I’m once again wondering if my once-blue or at least purple Iowa can regain its ability to communicate a message of solidarity and trust with the now-necessary ability to stand up for regular Iowans and resist the (now almost literal) insurrectionists at the gates.

I’m sure we’d all agree that a course correction is in order. Perhaps reflecting on how we got here will help spur that correction.

From an opinion column by Michael Sainato, published by The Guardian in February 2017: “Elitist Democrats Consider Abandoning Rural America”

“The question neither Maloney nor Luján will answer is whether they should recruit moderate to conservative candidates in rural districts or just abandon them altogether,” reported The Washington Post in an article titled, “Should House Democrats write off rural congressional districts?” This piece, and the DCCC strategies it outlines, embodies what is wrong with the Democratic Party: Their elitist arrogance is why Hillary Clinton lost the presidential election and why the Democratic Party is in the position it is in now.

To make matters worse, Democrats’ perceived solution to this disconnect with rural working and middle class areas is to offer moderate or conservative candidates. The Washington Post was one of several mainstream media outlets that propagated the narrative during the Democratic primaries that Bernie Sanders only did well in rural areas—citing several rural states where Sanders won by huge margins against Clinton—in order to whitewash his campaign. However, now the DCCC and the Post have come to the consensus that a lack of moderate to conservative Democratic candidates in these areas is the problem.

In reality, the Democratic Party runs candidates who aren’t a real choice between parties, and, therefore, voters opt for the actual Republican rather than the Republican-lite offered by Democrats.


July 26 post by the Daily Kos Elections staff: “Crossover voting aided Iowa Democrats in 2020, but GOP kept firm hold of state House”

This longtime swing state lurched hard to Donald Trump in 2016 after backing Barack Obama twice, but Democrats hoped that a shift back to the left would help them claim their first state House majority since 2010, which would have required a pickup of four seats. Instead, though, Trump beat Joe Biden in Iowa by a wide 53-45 margin, and Republicans secured a 59-41 majority in the lower chamber after netting six seats.

As bad as 2020 went for Team Blue, though, crossover voting actually worked in their favor in Iowa in a year when it mostly benefited downballot Republicans nationally. Five of the 63 Trump seats in the 100-member House, where members are up every two years, are held by Democrats, while just one of the 37 Biden districts is represented by a Republican. […]

The reddest Democratic-controlled turf is HD-52 in the northeast corner of the state, where incumbent Todd Prichard won his fifth term 54-46 even as Trump was romping 62-37; […] The one Biden Republican, by contrast, is Eddie Andrews in the Des Moines area.

Editor’s note from Laura Belin: The Elections Daily Kos team calculated the votes for Joe Biden and Donald Trump in every Iowa House and Senate district. The results are available in this spreadsheet.

Top image: Map showing county-level voting for president in 2020.

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  • Red Iowa

    The impact of Rush Limbaugh (on WHO in particular) cannot be overstated. Every truck and farm tractor radio aired that pontificating pantload statewide for decades. Meanwhile, the Dems ran to the right trying to recapture defecting (and defective) Reagan/Grassley democrats. It all pushed the GOP crazy train even further to the right, until it stopped at the QAnon station, where it remains parked today.