We used to be proud to be Iowans—The sequel

John and Terri Hale own The Hale Group, an Ankeny-based advocacy firm focused on making Iowa a better place for all. Contact terriandjohnhale@gmail.com.

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.


    I too am so saddened by what has happened to "my" Iowa:
    -- Lowered education standards, and the only strategy is to lower them some more;
    -- Troubles with access to healthcare and the only strategy is to privatize, resulting in profits for the private sector and a hugely higher error rate for Medicaid payments.
    The list is longer but what is worse is how Democrats at the State level seem to have lost their fight back" skills, e.g..,
    -- The State Committee's job is to raise money, so what are they doing? Well, committee members and leadership aren't even trying.
    --Why aren't individual IDP committee members on the phone asking people to join Clubs. That's their job. The State Chair and VC (why do we need 3 when no one knows how to dial the phone?) should be calling previous top givers and regular Club Members. Are they? Not to my experience.
    -- Why is the IDP hosting the fall dinner in the early Spring? Are they incapable of hosting more than one event? If people's Clubs paid for the Liberty & Justice Dinner in the fall and other events, too? Isn't this breaking the trust with traditional donors? Is there so little creativity that no one can think of a name for a Spring event?
    -- And adding to the incompetency? What about a fight to protect the Iowa Caucuses?
    At the last DNC meeting, a DNC member got caught in the press whining ... oh, the DNC has been talking about this and has a proposal, and it isn't fair. That's embarrassing for all of us.
    No strategy. No fight. Just stand back and whine.
    Could we please have a strategy? That strategy could begin with:
    1. It's state law -- Iowa has organized Caucuses since the 1930s, and state Republicans and Democrats have cooperated for at least four decades to hold their Caucuses on the same day. Does the DNC think Iowa Democrats will just lay down and politely stop holding their Caucuses while the Republicans run free to say anything they want? I hope not!
    2. Iowa and New Hampshire are the only two states where candidates have opportunities to listen to voters individually and to test their organizations and messages. Everything else is on the plane -- top-down, not from the voters up.
    3. Let's get real. TOM PEREZ had a strategy for killing the Caucuses, and we should talk about it. Perez's strategy was to require considerable changes in the Caucuses -- 1st -- by counting votes twice in different ways;
    2nd -- by requiring a particular app be used ...
    3rd -- made by a particular company, and;
    4th -- by making sure there was no time to test the app after its delivery. T
    The Perez plan was nasty, unfair, and deliberate.
    ALMOST WORSE was how Iowa's State Chair did not understand his job. He thought his job was to say "YES, SIR!" to Perez. Another word for this is "kow-tow"; KOW-TOW TO PEREZ. This was wrong. The committee should have said NO. And the Chair doubled down with no backup plan if the app should fail. Call this malfeasance.
    The frosting on the cake of incompetence was the State Chair, and his side-kick, both of who ran and hid because they didn't know what to do, while sending out an inexperienced spokesperson to defend the IDP failure. She hadn't a clue as to what to say and the press ate her "alive".. All of this fell very neatly into Perez's plan to make Iowa look like a mess.
    But generally speaking the GOOD NEWS was how the COUNTY CHAIRS DID THEIR JOBS, as did the precinct captains, so what the IDP leadership should do is, to TELL THE TRUTH:
    a. IDP Chair resigned -- FIXED!
    b. Lesson Learned -- FIXED
    c. Defend the Country Chairs and the grassroots who did their jobs.
    d. Ask real questions:
    .....Do National Dems really believe that Democratic candidates won't bother to talk with Iowa?

    4. One more thing: What are Iowa's DNC members doing? They should be on the phone talking to DNC members every day, educating, and counting votes. They should be defending Iowa's county chairs and great grassroots system. They should be talking about how rural America is starved for Democratic attention, and so far, Iowa is the only place rural voters' opinions really matter. RURAL MARGINS MATTER. THESE MARGINS MAKE POSSIBLE STATEWIDE WINS.
    If Iowa has DNC representatives who do not know their counterparts around the country, Iowa isn't getting its money's worth.
    Good policy comes from education and coalition building. Iowa's reps should be working to educate and create coalitions. Are they? I don't think so. Most didn't even bother to attend the Rural Caucus meeting at the last DNC meeting. They missed the opportunity to make friends and talk about the value of the Caucuses. HELLO! Iowa is a rural state whether Des Moines and perhaps a couple of other cities think so or not.

Login or Join to comment and post.