Rural Iowa and an approach to political dialogue

Charles Bruner: Democrats need to recognize rural Iowans’ frustration with the political system and start finding common ground.

Broadly generalizing, rural Iowans are good folk. They work hard and play by the rules, care about their neighbors, and seek to leave a future where their children can succeed and prosper. If an African American family moves in next door, they welcome them with fresh-based bread or cookies. They regard a child with Down syndrome reaching the age of majority as a part of the community and look out to see that youth is supported by and included in community life. They are entrepreneurs and tinker to be good stewards in preserving the land and community, in the context of a corporate agricultural economy.

Those qualities may not distinguish them greatly from city folk, but rural Iowans frequently have much more sense of and hands-on involvement in community life.

They also are older, whiter, and less likely to have college degrees than their urban counterparts. In 2008 and 2012, nearly half of Iowans outside large metro areas voted for Barack Obama for president. But a third of those who had voted for Obama switched away from the Democratic candidate for president in 2016. Donald Trump received about two-thirds of the rural Iowa vote in 2020.

Democrats have been wringing their hands over this shift – and the change in the county coffee shop conversations that must have occurred in small-town and rural Iowa.

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Once again, Democrats are in denial

Ira Lacher: Why is it so difficult for Democrats to do what Republicans are great at—seize an issue and run with it in a straight line to pay dirt?

On November 2, Democrats took a shellacking, losing the governorship of Virginia and nearly New Jersey, along with many local elections, once again illustrating they can’t convince enough Americans they share their values. Three days later, proving Napoleon’s adage “In politics, stupidity is not a handicap,” some doubled down.

Despite the Democratic-controlled U.S. House finally passing President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill that promises to repair dangerously broken bridges and highways, hasten to bring broadband internet to hundreds of rural counties, and enable scores of other improvements throughout much of America, six Democrats believed it still wasn’t progressive enough, and voted against it.

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What the bipartisan infrastructure bill will spend in Iowa

The state of Iowa will receive approximately $5 billion from the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill headed to President Joe Biden’s desk, according to calculations published by U.S. Representative Cindy Axne (IA-03). Axne, the lone Democrat in Iowa’s Congressional delegation, was among the 215 Democrats and thirteen Republicans who approved the bill late in the evening on November 5. (Procedural matters earlier in the day led to the two longest votes in U.S. House history.)

Iowa’s three Republicans in the chamber—Representatives Ashley Hinson (IA-01), Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-02), and Randy Feenstra (IA-04)—opposed the infrastructure legislation.

When the Senate approved the same bill in August, Iowa’s Republicans landed on opposite sides, with Senator Chuck Grassley supporting the infrastructure package and Senator Joni Ernst voting against it.

HOW FUNDS WILL BE SPENT IN IOWA

The bill involves about $550 billion in spending not previously approved by Congress. Axne’s news release estimated Iowa’s share of several large pieces. Our state stands to receive:

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Grassley touts infrastructure vote; Ernst quiet on opposition

Can you guess which Iowa senator is up for re-election in 2022, and which one won’t face Iowa voters for another five years?

In a rare gesture of bipartisanship on August 10, the U.S. Senate approved by 69 votes to 30 a bill that would spend $1.2 trillion on infrastructure projects. Iowa’s senior Senator Chuck Grassley was among nineteen Republicans who supported final passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, despite being unhappy with the amendment process. Senator Joni Ernst stuck with the majority of the GOP caucus in opposition; the no votes included potential 2024 presidential candidates Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.

In a written statement enclosed in full below, Grassley said, “Iowa’s aging infrastructure risks slowing economic growth and eroding daily comfort and convenience. This bipartisan bill fixes potholes, rebuilds bridges, upgrades water systems and brings broadband to rural corners of our state. Investing in Iowa’s infrastructure will pay dividends for decades to come.” His news release highlighted reports showing Iowa has more structurally deficient bridges than any other state and many large roads in poor or fair condition.

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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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