Two months ago, Bleeding Heartland published a column recounting our first-time escape to Arizona for a brief respite from Iowa cold and snow, and our encounter with someone who surprised us when he said “I used to be proud to be an Iowan.”
The column outlined the reasons he, and we, were frustrated about the Iowa that we now see vs. the Iowa that used to exist. They included:
- The lack of bipartisan leaders in state and federal government who are willing and able to work together for the common good.
- The decline in support for what used to be something that all Iowans agreed on: a best-in-the-nation public school system.
- The attacks on K-12 educators, who used to be respected and are now accused of having a “sinister agenda,” bringing pornography into the classroom, indoctrinating rather than teaching children, and even “grooming” students for sexual abuse.
- The failure to seriously address longstanding environmental problems that result in our lakes, streams and air being spoiled.
- State leaders playing Big Brother by telling locally elected school boards, city councils and board of supervisors what they can and cannot do.
- A desire to return to the past, where book-banning is popular, where it’s OK to discriminate against those who have different skin colors, genders, sexual orientation or faiths, and to further limit a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body.
The response to that column was overwhelming. It received hundreds of comments online and on social media. We heard from dozens of people directly.
The vast majority of the reaction was favorable, with comments like “You said what we’ve been thinking.”
Unsurprisingly, we also heard from a few readers calling us “lefty socialists,” “west coast liberals,” and saying things like “If you no longer like Iowa, maybe you should leave it.” (Our response: John is left-handed but not a lefty, we view ourselves as progressive Midwesterners, and we’re not leaving—we choose to stay and work to make Iowa a better place.)
Overall, one message came through loud and clear: a significant number of Iowans from all parties are dissatisfied. Some of that frustration translates into bewilderment, some into disgust, and some into anger.
One responder said they were fed up with politics and politicians, and asked if there was any real difference between the parties.
We believe both parties agree on the need to make things better, but don’t agree on for whom.
Our sense is that Republicans believe in good jobs, education, and health care for some, while Democrats believe in good jobs, education, and health care for all.
On jobs: Republicans want well-paying jobs with good benefits for some, but not for those working in packing plants, child care, nursing homes, assisted living centers, the hospitality industry, and so on.
Democrats want better jobs for everyone.
On education: Republicans want quality education for those in some settings. They underfund public education, attack teachers, and seek to use public dollars for private schooling.
Democrats want quality education for every student in every setting. They support teachers, and want public dollars to be used for public schools.
On health care: Republicans want good health care for those who can afford it and expect others to either avoid care or rely on a less than desirable Medicaid program.
Democrats want to create a health care system that serves everyone well.
We believe that 2022 is a litmus test for Iowa.
Will we stay on our current path, with full Republican control of state government and the GOP holding most of Iowa’s Congressional seats, or will we shift gears and give Democrats the opportunity to lead?
Pollsters and pundits would have us believe Iowans are fine with Republican control. We’re hearing something very different, and believe that Iowans will express their frustrations at the polls; producing some big surprises in the November elections.