Governor Reynolds, don't become Donald Trump

Bruce Lear lives in Sioux City and has been connected to public schools for 38 years. He taught for four years in Alden and seven years in Cherokee, then represented educators as an Iowa State Education Association Regional Director for 27 years until retiring.

Anyone who watches television has seen the Progressive Insurance commercial where Dr. Rick helps young homeowners becoming their parents. He gives advice like, “We don’t need a line monitor.” “You don’t need to clap after a movie because no one in the theater made the movie.” “Don’t leave a long message on an answering machine, just text.”

I had three thoughts when I first saw this commercial. First, I was amused. Second, the old guy in me thought, young people would benefit quite a bit from becoming their parents. But the rational guy in me questioned, in a fast-changing world, do we really want young people becoming their parents? The answer was an emphatic no.

My third thought was that Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds might benefit from a little advice on how not to become Donald Trump.

Thankfully, there is only one Trump. But there are nearly 300 Trump clones on the ballot across the country for the midterm elections. Perhaps some of the former president's diehard followers want Reynolds to be just like their idol. Does Iowa really need to be led by another copy? 

So, as a public service, I decided to channel Dr. Rick and offer some unsolicited advice to Kim Reynolds on how not to become Trump.

Dear Governor Reynolds:

Your recent TV ad substitutes one black woman for another. Your ad has a clip of first-term U.S. Representative Cori Bush from Missouri saying she favors defunding the police. You’re running against Deidre DeJear, not Cori Bush. Not all black women have the same ideas. They’re not interchangeable. Substituting one black woman who favors defunding the police for another who (as you know) does not makes your ad both racist and misleading.

Also, it's an old-school dog whistle to use phrases like “Paying people not to work” with a visual of “FROM WORK TO WELFARE” after showing images of a Black woman.   

We hear it and it hurts our ears.

Frankly, it’s beneath you. It reeks of phrases Trump uses to ignite his base at rallies.

But your TV ads aren’t the only thing you’ve cloned from Trump.

On the first day of this year's legislative session, instead of the usual kumbaya opening day speeches, Iowa Senate President Jake Chapman attacked teachers and journalists, claiming they are pushing a "sinister agenda" and "wish to normalize sexually deviant behavior against our children.”

This set off a frenzy of right-wing law makers trying to outdo each other proposing bills banning books, sanitizing history, and restricting topics that could be discussed in public school classrooms.  

Last year, you and GOP legislators tried to pretend Critical Race Theory was being taught in Iowa public schools, even though none of you could clearly define the theory. Talk radio and right-wing TV say it must be bad, though, and since it helped a Republican win the Virginia governor's race, it must be good politically.

Governor, you missed an opportunity to lead. You can’t be responsible for what every legislator from your party says, but you can lower the temperature and be the adult that calls out childish nonsense. Instead, you doubled down.

In your Condition of the State speech, you accused teachers and school librarians of having books that would be X-rated if they were movies. That’s not true. Like Trump, you offered bluster instead of evidence, feeding the base while starving educators of the praise they earned, and the praise they needed.

Then you decided to gut punch public schools again. For the second straight year, you pushed a private school voucher scheme that would rob from the many to give to the few. It didn’t work because rural lawmakers, many from your own party, understood their children and grandchildren could be left with an underfunded public school system and no private school within reasonable driving distance. Those children would be abandoned in an education desert.

Instead of listening to rural lawmakers and school administrators, you decided to pick candidates in this year’s GOP primaries who would rubber stamp your third attempt at a voucher scheme during the next session. No other Iowa governor in modern history has campaigned against their own party's incumbents in a primary. What you did is like Trump recruiting election deniers to primary Republicans who were brave enough to publicly call him out for his dishonesty.   

Then you punched schools again by denying a cost-of-living increase that matched the inflation rate you and your party are now screaming about in your radio and TV ads. 

Iowa has a state budget surplus of $1.9 billion, but you pretend we can’t adequately fund public schools. It's as if you have become a “Private School Governor.” 

Iowa has a worker shortage. Decimating unemployment compensation won't fix the problem. Instead of offering creative solutions that might help grow our workforce, you chose to grandstand by sending highway patrol officers from Iowa to guard the southern border.

Like Trump, you’ve decided the hot button issue of immigration is more important than solving the problem. After all, it fires up the base and you get some national buzz on "Fox and Friends."

Over-the-top outrageous worked for Trump once. But he lost the last time around (even though you and your friends may pretend otherwise). Republicans also lost control of the U.S. Senate and House on his watch. Outrageous only goes so far—then it crashes. 

My advice: go back to being that young woman who worked at Hy-Vee, instead of becoming another Trump.


Top photo cropped from an image posted on Governor Kim Reynolds' Facebook page on June 14 2022.

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