Ron Reagan's message would surprise Linn County Republicans

Gerald Ott of Ankeny was a high school English teacher and for 30 years a school improvement consultant for the Iowa State Education Association.

The image at the top of this post comes from the Linn County Republicans’ graphic promoting their upcoming October fundraiser. The event is billed as a Reagan Breakfast starting at 7:00 AM. We all know Reagan won’t be there. The former president, never one to get up that early, has been dead for nearly 20 years. 

A Reagan impersonator, the self-described MAGA presidential candidate Larry Elder, is the guest speaker. 

Elder announced his presidential campaign in April during an appearance on the (now defunct) program “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” He followed up with a tweet, saying, “America is in decline, but this decline is not inevitable. We can enter a new American Golden Age, but we must choose a leader who can bring us there. That’s why I’m running for President.” 

I do wonder if the new “American Golden Age” is anything like Ronald Reagan’s “shining city on a hill,” where “trickle down” economics made the rich richer.

I also wonder whether Elder knows about Ron Reagan, the younger.

The other Ron Reagan, the former president’s son, would be happy to stand in for his pop. Ron, Jr., as Elder may recall, told The Daily Beast back in 2020 that his father would have opposed Donald Trump, remarking that:

 “The Republican Party at this point, for a whole host of reasons to do with Donald Trump, is an entirely illegitimate political party just made up of a bunch of sycophantic traitors mouthing Kremlin propaganda to defend this squalid little man who is occupying the White House. 

“This is a dying party. They either have to remake themselves entirely or they will disappear eventually. Within a decade the Republican Party will be a minor fringe group if it continues going this way. My father would have been ashamed of this Republican Party. He would have been embarrassed and ashamed that a president of the United States was as incompetent and traitorous as the man occupying the White House now (the last year of Trump’ admin). He’s a disgrace to the office of the presidency.”

Tough words. Tough talk — actually said and meant. But I guess Linn County Republicans think the elder Ronald’s face on a flier can still draw a crowd. 

I’m really alarmed by the meeting’s advertised topics: “Iowa’s Crisis in Education,” subtitled: “How the Woke Left is Indoctrinating Our Children … and what we must do about it.” And further subtitled “A report from the state house.”

Is it possible to recycle last year’s crisis? Didn’t Iowa’s GOP trifecta claim to have addressed this crisis? 

Maybe it takes a while for news of universal school choice to filter down to the Linn County Republicans. If so, they probably haven’t heard that books that offend have been banned, or that new anti-LBGTQ safeguards are in place, or that a trans girl can’t participate in sports, or that parents are the new chiefs of public education, or that offering a lesson on what’s called critical race theory could end a teacher’s career. A teacher in Texas was canned for teaching Anne Frank, who, while hiding from the Nazis during WWII, filled the time by crafting actual literature that speculated about things any 13-year-old might wonder about. 

So, Linn County peeps, get ready to hear reports from Republican State Representatives Brad Sherman (Iowa County), Jeff Shipley (Van Buren County), Brooke Boden (Warren County), Steve Holt (Crawford County), Skyler Wheeler (Sioux County), and Cindy Golding (at last, someone from Linn County). Expect each to share repetitiously their respective contempt for CRT, DEI, SEL, the NEA, Hillary, Joe, and LBGTQ, especially trans girls who, as Holt et al will claim, can unfairly out preform real Iowa girls in swimming, croquet, and hopscotch.

In addition to Elder, the other morning’s speakers will no doubt clear up the Linn County Republicans’ confusion. Six state representatives, all knowledgeable about the 2023 session’s emasculation of public education (think the final scene of Mel Gibson’s Braveheart). I thought the session left no stone unturned. 

Senate File 496, which Governor Kim Reynolds signed in May, has only been in effect for a few months. Yet literacy-abusing Moms for Liberty are ready to launch a new raid on school libraries or classrooms, meant to pare lessons of offensive wokeness like “love thy neighbor” and Flowers for Algernon

Perhaps the MAGA crowd in Linn County still believes the 1908 edition of Little Black Sambo, as illustrated by John R. Neill, is still appropriate reading material for elementary kids. Banning that book would be woke, too lefty-extreme for the likes of Holt or Wheeler, who would ban the Battle Hymn if they knew poet-writer Julia Ward Howe was an abolitionist. 

If I attended the Linn County Republicans’ Reagan Breakfast, I’d be particularly eager to hear from Holt. Denison is where Donna Reed was born. My wife teasingly claims her father once had a date with Reed.

While in Denison High School, a teacher gave Reed the book How to Win Friends and Influence People. The book, Reed said many years later, greatly influenced her life. She won the lead in the school play, was voted Campus Queen and was in the top 10 of the 1938 graduating class. After graduating high school, Reed planned to become a teacher but was unable to pay for college. She decided to move to California to attend Los Angeles City College on the advice of her aunt.  And the rest, as we say, is history and a credit to Denison High School.

As for Representative Steve Holt, he graduated from Spartanburg (South Carolina) High School in 1976 and became a 20-year Marine Corps enlisted officer who completed Jungle Warfare, Desert, and Cold Weather training, to become a drill sergeant. Actual prep for the Iowa legislature. He is the owner/operator of Summer Magic Tropical Snow, a restaurant offering (as per the sole review) “…some of the best snow cones anywhere. There are lots of flavor combinations and my kids love it.” 

In the 2023 session, Holt’s name was associated with the first thirteen bills enrolled in the House, most education-related, earning him a 87 percent rating from CPAC and a zero from public educators who opposed all these autocratic measures.

If I were among those attending the Linn meetup, I’d quiz Holt about his October 2021 essay entitled “52% of Trump supporters favor secession to preserve the principles of our republic,” as printed in the Des Moines Register

Holt, whose wife is a teacher, wrote,

Our public school system once actually taught reading, writing and arithmetic, and the skills needed to become a responsible and productive citizen. Today, many of our schools teach values that are an affront to the faith-based values of our families, while also promoting a disdain of our nation that defies logic. The 52% know well the warning of John Adams: Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.

Adams was a deist, not a theist as Holt would have us believe. Adams closed his Letter to the Militia of Massachusetts by saying “Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net.” It seems doubtful Adams had Trump in mind, but the terms “avarice” and “revenge” paired with the whale-and-net image seems prescient.

In addition to Holt, the event will feature a bevy of other self-righteous mockingbirds, talking about Iowa’s “crisis in education,” which apparently is what the Woke Left (we public educators) use to indoctrinate “our children.”

The Linn County Republicans would be better served had they invited Katie Dodge Hanson of nearby Lansing to speak. She wrote about Banned Books Week in a letter to the Cedar Rapids Gazette, saying:

Banned Books Week has been shining a light on censorship since it was founded in 1982, and the fight for free expression is as urgent as ever. The American Library Association reported the highest number of attempted book bans in the last 20 years. Despite this trend, 70 percent of parents in the United States are opposed to book banning. In fact, only a few people from extremist, dark money groups like Moms for Liberty are responsible for a majority of book bans nationwide. They want to ban books, limit what our students can learn, and divide our communities.

Those of us who live in rural counties value our public schools and want them to be strong and well-funded. We value an honest education and the freedom to learn. We do not need politicians deciding what books we can read and what can be taught.

Together, we must oppose extremism on School Boards and in the State Legislature.

Amen. I say again, Amen.

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