Dan Piller

Critical Alamo Theories

Dan Piller: Iowa Republicans may learn the same lesson that Texas has reluctantly absorbed: history is not easily contained by the dry wording of a law.

Governor Kim Reynolds happily signed a law that her fellow Republicans approved in the Iowa House and Senate, banning the use of “specific defined concepts” on race or sex for local governments, schools, and public universities.  

The law is principally aimed at racial diversity sensitivity training, but the governor fired a warning broadside to Iowa’s school teachers when she declared in a written statement that the bill bans “Critical Race Theory,” even though those words are nowhere in the bill. Speaking recently to the Carroll Times Herald, Reynolds added that schools would be able to teach about destruction of Native American life in Iowa, “As long as it is balanced and we are giving both sides […].”

What “Critical Race Theory” and “both sides” really mean, at least in K-12 education, probably will have to be hashed out before judges, perhaps with the same entertainment value achieved almost a century ago with the famous Scopes Trial in Tennessee. But Reynolds’ message to Iowa teachers was unmistakable: tread very, very carefully when talking to students about race.

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Rural broadband: A mirage

Dan Piller: Far from rescuing rural Iowa, more broadband will hasten the exodus from farms and small towns into the cities. -promoted by Laura Belin

Everybody loves the idea of spending billions of tax dollars to wire the countryside with high speed broadband that is otherwise economically unfeasible. President Donald Trump took a few minutes away from trying to overturn the election last December to reward his loyal rural supporters with $10 billion for the high-speed internet access. President Joe Biden wants to set aside billions more for rural broadband in his “infrastructure” master plan.

In Iowa, Democrats are so cowed by the popularity of rural broadband they’ve acquiesced to Governor Kim Reynolds’ idea to let rural interests help themselves to hundreds of millions of state taxpayer dollars, mostly paid by Iowa’s city dwellers who amount to two-thirds of the state’s population, for rural broadband even though rural broadband will thus join anti-abortion and unlimited gun rights as Reynolds’ calling card to her rural base for her reelection next year.

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Donald Trump's farmers: A diminishing political asset

Dan Piller: The real problem for Trump in Iowa is that the big farm choir he thinks he is addressing has been reduced to something more like an ensemble. -promoted by Laura Belin

President Trump’s rally at the Des Moines International Airport on October 14 will no doubt be billed by the media, and probably Trump himself, as his bid to solidify the farmer support that was so crucial in his 2016 Iowa victory over Hillary Clinton.

Trump has put his (or more properly, the taxpayers’) money where his mouth is, bestowing more than $2 billion in direct aid to Iowa farmers this year alone, along with more than $1 billion the previous two years to soften the damage caused by Trump’s trade wars with China, Mexico, and Europe. Media reports in advance of his visit put the total package nationally to farmers this year at an eye-catching $46 billion, a number that won’t charm economically hard-pressed taxpayers in America’s cities.

The real political problem for Trump in Iowa is that the big farm choir he thinks he is addressing has been reduced to something more like an ensemble.

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When Iowa farmers took to the streets--and got results

Dan Piller: The “Farmers Holiday” movement was the Black Lives Matter of the Corn Belt during the early 1930s. Mass protests, including blocking traffic, changed government policy.-promoted by Laura Belin

The churches, coffee shops, and co-operatives of northwest Iowa that gave us Steve King and a huge majority for Donald Trump in 2016 are no doubt generating massive disapproval of the Black Lives Matter protests, adding their voices to the call for “law and order” in the distant cities.

It might come as a surprise to many of these folks, who probably nodded through their Iowa history courses, that they enjoy their status as entitled owners of some of the richest farm land in the world primarily due to the government rescue of agriculture in 1933. That policy was a response to civil disorders that on several occasions prompted the governors of Iowa and Nebraska to call out their National Guards.

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Thoughts on a post-Trump agenda for Democrats

Dan Piller speculates on what the federal government might attempt if the 2020 presidential and Congressional elections swing toward Democrats. -promoted by Laura Belin

Democrats have learned, the hard way, to never count on a landslide before votes are cast. But the combination of a 1930s-style economic collapse, President Donald Trump’s manic blunderings, and his dismal poll numbers no doubt generate dreams in progressive minds of a landslide election in November that sweeps them into unchallengeable control of both the White House and congress in a manner similar to the Democratic sweeps of 1932 or 1964.

So what might happen if Joe Biden and a host of happy progressives settle into power in Washington next January (probably after walking past gun-toting, camouflage-wearing Trumpers making a Last Stand)?

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Down on the farm with Trump

Dan Piller: Donald Trump benefitted from a slumping agricultural economy in 2016, but the Iowa farm economy has slid even further on his watch. -promoted by Laura Belin

A mystery that will baffle historians a century from now is how a fast-talking New Yorker like Donald Trump could win Iowa’s six electoral votes by with a 9.4 percentage point margin over Hillary Clinton despite losing six of Iowa’s most populous counties.

Trump was called a “populist,” which would have surprised original 19th century populists such as Andrew Jackson and William Jennings Bryan, who at least lived in the outlier states of Tennessee and Nebraska and faithfully represented the values of their regions.

But despite a near-total lack of connections and experience with Iowa, Trump overcame Clinton’s margins in Scott, Polk, Story, Linn, Black Hawk, Johnson, and Scott counties to win big in rural counties. Trump’s politics of resentment played well in non-urban Iowa, beset by losses of population, schools and businesses, rising drug and crime problems, and a feeling of being culturally denigrated by Clinton and the coastal-dominated political and media elites.

Trump also benefitted from a slumping Iowa agricultural economy in 2016, which tends to work in favor of challengers. But there lies the rub for President 45; the Iowa farm economy has slid even further on his watch. As farmers take to the fields to plant this month, troubling numbers are coming from all sides as the effects of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and the trade war on agriculture are tallied.

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