Courageous business Republicans needed

Jim Chrisinger is a retired public servant living in Ankeny. He served in both Republican and Democratic administrations, in Iowa and elsewhere. 

When we retired back to Iowa from Seattle in 2018, Iowa was trending purple. The Des Moines metro was a hot destination for young professionals and families. No more.

MAGA has displaced the pragmatic and welcoming conservatism that Governor Bob Ray and U.S. Representative Jim Leach personified and so many of us admired.

How does this development sit with business Republicans now cohabiting with their new MAGA partners? It can’t be comfortable. MAGA folks aren’t even conservative, not at least the way most of us knew conservative.

Rather than speak out against MAGA, my perception is that establishment Republicans fall back on both sides-ism when talking about Iowa’s predicament. I heard two examples recently: “the word ‘moderate’ is anathema in both parties” and “both parties are dominated by extremists.” Not true and not true.

Joe Biden won because he personifies moderate, and moderate Democrats usually win primaries in all but the bluest districts. Not so in Republican primaries. And while of course there are extremists in both parties, moderates anchor the Democratic party while establishment Republicans keep their heads down for fear of triggering Trump’s base and right-wing media.

MAGA is bad for Iowa business. We don’t want to create North Mississippi here. We don’t want to drive away young people, businesses, and investment. We don’t want to invite business boycotts. This is no way to solve a workforce shortage.

Iowa needs business Republicans to step up and put Iowa back on track. Democrats and independents will help, but they can’t do it alone.

To my business Republican friends, begin by unequivocally and publicly condemning lies. Defund liars. Truth grounds not only our politics, but our society and families. Start by calling out the Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen and that our fair and secure elections are rife with fraud.

Announce that you will not support Donald Trump as the 2024 nominee, not because he’s a loser, but because he’s unfit for any office of public trust, let alone the presidency. Correct those who fantasize that January 6 was anything other than an insurrection.

Condemn political violence and the threat of it, particularly against election officials and volunteers. Call out those who demonize teachers as groomers. Reject book banning. Help our once-outstanding public schools shine again. Condemn QAnon for the conspiracy theory it is. Refuse to whitewash history.

Stand up for science and save lives. COVID-19 is not a con; vaccines are not a plot.

Weigh in against legislation that discriminates against vulnerable Iowans, including our LGBTQ peers. These neighbors are human beings deserving of Christian love and respect. Do you really feel threatened by a few trans kids and drag shows?

To be successful, you need to do more than speak out, though speaking out is critical. Contribute, withhold contributions, and even vote for Democrats at least some of the time.

Go back to straight ticket Republican voting once your party returns from detox.

If not you, who? Now would be a good time to start.

Top photo of the downtown Des Moines skyline by f11photo, available via Shutterstock.

  • Branstad

    Terry Branstad was always too conservative for me. My first realization was in the 1974 legislative session when, as a young, freshman representative from North Iowa, his mic was up on SF 531 opposing the public employee collective bargaining bill that I supported and Gov. Robert Ray eventually signed. The law lasted until 2017 when Republican majorities canned the law as a gratuity to the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity. In the meantime, Branstad became governor in 1982. The teachers union was a political force then and he sought their support. In 1988 he put $100 million into a special salary bill for teachers and gained their support in his reelection in 1990 and fashioned himself as the “education governor,” and (despite not getting ISEA’S endorsement in 1994) went on to tool up his education credentials through the remainder of his first reign. The main force in his “kitchen cabinet” was the wealthy businessman Marvin A. Pomerantz, who was a U of I grad and a strong proponent of public education that he credited with his personal success. Most also credit Pomerantz with keeping Branstad focused. Pomerantz passed in 2008 and Branstad was re-elected in 2010, but lacked a Republican majority in the legislature until election 2016. I don’t know who Branstad was relying on for advise, but sizable campaign funding came from Bruce Rastetter whose interests are large-scale agriculture and ethanol production. With Lt. Governor Reynolds (now governor) multiple-year reversals for public education began in the 2017 session with the dismantling of Ch. 20, the bargaining law.

  • I don't know "business Republicans"... I have no idea whether, in general, their relationship with the New Red Iowa government is "comfortable" or not. For all I know, most are happy as clams.  According to the old proverb, silence implies consent.

    The general business silence is not just on social issues.  I see from the lobbyist declarations that businesses and business associations are not registered on SF 516, the jolly little Farm Bureau bill that intends to bring a grinding halt to all future public land acquisition in Iowa, even though we are already at the bottom of the national public-land barrel. 

    Think that would help grow Iowa's workforce?     

    • As a quick update...

      SF 516 is now apparently dead for the session, a political miracle that is an enormous relief to conservationists across Iowa. If only the same were true of other bad bills.

      • it feels like a miracle

        Many of us were told Republicans were going to run an amendment in committee. Then they just didn't bring it up.

  • So why are businesses not more vocal

    When the LGBT laws were being debated 15 years ago in Iowa, business was at the table. More than lobbying for the anti-discrimination laws, some of Iowa's largest businesses were quite vocal in their support. It begs the question why business does not use its large megaphones more. Business groups continue to take stands on some of the cultural bills-as seen on some lobbyist declarations, some. Noteworthy, is the lack of public display of disaffection with the cultural messages being sent.

    • I think partly they are afraid

      of retribution from the governor and the GOP majority.

      But also they care more about getting their tax cuts and regulatory fixes than anyone else's rights.

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