The 1776 Pledge is a pledge of division

Bruce Lear: Pretend patriots are afraid to let students understand all of American history so they can make informed judgments.

When a girl or boy joins the Scouts, they pledge to be a part of a troop and a part of the community of scouting. When a college student joins a sorority or fraternity, they make a positive pledge to be a part of something. We pledge allegiance to the flag as a community of Americans.    

But not all pledges are positive. Some drive a wedge between us. The 1776 Pledge isn’t about building a community. It’s more like a tool to mold public schools into a political prop instead of a place of learning.

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The real obscenity is punching down on marginalized kids

On this Transgender Day of Remembrance, I should be writing about the 46 transgender or gender non-conforming people who have been killed in the United States so far in 2021—the most recorded in a single year. Most of those murder victims were people of color; young Black trans women are especially at risk.

Iowa Republicans didn’t speak out today for ensuring the safety or equality of trans or gender-nonconforming people. When GOP politicians acknowledge LGBTQ Iowans exist, it’s usually to portray them (and any attempt to accommodate them) as a threat to straight white Christians, whom Republicans value above all others.

Governor Kim Reynolds scored points with her base by scapegoating trans athletes in the spring. More recently, conservative politicians and their activist allies have demanded that high school libraries remove books that explore sexual themes, especially queer sexuality. They are also targeting books by authors of color that supposedly contain obscenity or portray some institutions in a negative way.

Iowa Senate President Jake Chapman announced this week that he is having legislation drafted “to create a new felony offense” in Iowa for educators who disseminate “what I believe to be obscene material.” Chapman promised his bill will have “additional mechanisms to force prosecutions or allow civil remedies.”

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GOP sweep in Ankeny may boost party spending on local races

Republican-aligned candidates had mixed results in this month’s city and school board elections across Iowa, but they swept the board in the Des Moines suburb of Ankeny. Not only did mayoral candidate Mark Holm win by 20 points, both Republican candidates for city council (Kelly Whiting and Joe Ruddy) were elected, as were all three school board candidates campaigning against mask mandates (Joy Burk, Trent Murphy, and Sarah Barthole).

In contrast, anti-mask candidates for school board were shut out in many other large Iowa school districts, including Cedar Rapids, Davenport, West Des Moines, Ames, and Waukee. Candidates taking the same stance won only one out of three available seats on the Urbandale and Linn-Mar school boards.

Although no single factor fully explains the GOP’s success in Ankeny, conservative candidates benefited from an unusual level of partisan spending on what are nominally nonpartisan races in Iowa. The likely result will be more spending by political parties to promote future candidates for city and school offices.

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Tiara Mays for Johnston school board

Editor’s note: Iowa school board elections are happening on Tuesday, November 2. Bleeding Heartland welcomes guest commentaries advocating for Democratic or progressive candidates running for these nonpartisan offices. Please contact Laura Belin if you are interested in writing.

Tiara L. Mays is running for an at-large seat on the Johnston Community School District Board of Education.

Tiara has lived in the Johnston community for more than six years and is a parent of a student within the district. She is a dedicated central Des Moines area community leader and volunteer who works with youth and collegiate undergraduates both locally and statewide.

Tiara’s key priorities include:

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Democrats keep majority on Johnston city council

Bryan Burkhardt won the June 22 special election for a Johnston City Council seat despite a strong write-in campaign by local Republicans on behalf of Jim Gorsche. Unofficial results posted by the Polk County auditor’s office showed 1,032 votes for Burkhardt (51.1 percent), 783 write-in votes (38.8 percent), all but six of which were for Gorsche, and 203 votes for Adam Haar (10.1 percent).

Turnout was just under 14 percent, not bad for a summer local election, which received little media coverage.

Burkhardt, a Des Moines Area Community College professor and small business owner, will serve the remainder of Scott Syroka’s term, which runs through 2023. Elected to the council in 2019, Syroka resigned early this year to serve as deputy director of communications in the Biden-Harris administration’s Office of Personnel Management. John Temple has been filling the vacancy on the council since February; he didn’t compete in the special election.

Local elections are nonpartisan in Iowa, but Burkhardt and Haar, the top two vote-getters in the city’s May 25 primary, both had support from area Democrats. Gorsche finished third in the four-way primary.

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