# Religious Right

Tell us something we don't know about Bob Vander Plaats

You don’t have to be a “friend and former adviser on three of Bob Vander Plaats’ campaigns” for governor to know what Dan Moore writes in a Des Moines Register guest editorial today. But the assessment packs more of a punch coming from a former close associate:

Bob is obsessed with the gay-marriage issue. He is so obsessed that he would rather see the Iowa judicial system destroyed, instead of pursuing a change in the law within the channels provided (a constitutional amendment).

This post continues below.

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Republicans waging war against judicial independence in Iowa

Bob Vander Plaats announced at a press conference today that he will not run for governor as an independent but will lead a public campaign against retaining the three Iowa Supreme Court justices whose names are on the ballot this November. Vander Plaats didn’t say who will fund the campaign, but promised more details on his “grassroots” effort next week. James Lynch reported yesterday that the Republican Governors Association will fund Vander Plaats’ crusade, which RGA officials consider “a model to be duplicated in other states.”

It’s been obvious for weeks that Vander Plaats wasn’t planning an independent bid for governor. The only question was what kind of face-saving deal would be struck between the bitter Republican primary rivals. The rumor mill suggested Vander Plaats might endorse Branstad in exchange for a promised future job. Instead, we have a different truce: Vander Plaats formally stands true to his principles by not endorsing Branstad. In return, the RGA (Branstad’s largest campaign donor by far) will pay for Vander Plaats’ revenge mission against Iowa judges.

Branstad has avoided publicly urging Iowans to vote against retaining the Supreme Court justices, and he didn’t have the guts today to take a stand for or against unseating them over a political dispute. In a written statement, Branstad said, “This is an issue on which Bob has often spoke with great passion and I understand his desire to pursue this path.”

How different from the Branstad of May 2009, who said “I do respect the existence of the separation of powers” when asked whether he regretted appointing two of the current justices, including Mark Cady, author of the Varnum v Brien decision.

The old Branstad wasn’t planning to run for governor again. The new Branstad doesn’t mind exploiting resentment over same-sex marriage for his own political gain. If that ends the careers of three good judges while elevating demagogues who don’t understand judicial review, so be it. Branstad appointee and Chief Justice Marsha Ternus has said this year’s retention elections will test Iowans’ commitment to an impartial judiciary. Branstad won’t join the right side in this fight.

On the contrary, Branstad has endorsed changing Iowa’s highly-regarded merit-based system for selecting judges. He has an interest in creating vacancies he could fill if elected governor, and he would rather pander to the religious right than allow judicial selection commissions to keep doing the job they’ve been doing for almost four decades. Some Iowa Republicans have advocated bringing back judicial elections or extremely stupid new restrictions on judicial deliberations. Branstad should know better than to play with fire on this issue.

Iowa House and Senate Republicans are probably overjoyed by today’s news. Vander Plaats will be working to turn out social conservatives who might not be thrilled with the party’s nominee for governor. That has to help GOP candidates in some of the battleground legislative districts. On the other hand, moderates may be turned off by the campaign against the judges. A Des Moines Register poll of likely Iowa Republican primary voters taken in June by Selzer and Associates found that 35 percent of respondents said some Iowans had “overreacted” to the gay marriage issue. The same survey found that 45 percent of likely Republican primary voters were against voting to remove Supreme Court judges because of their decision on marriage.

I’m concerned about the retention elections, because the judges are unable to campaign on their own behalf. Those who support judicial independence, such as the State Bar Association, are unlikely to match spending against the judges by conservative groups and the Republican Governors Association. Fortunately, Governor Chet Culver made his position loud and clear today:

“I support Iowa’s Supreme Court justices and more importantly, I support our judicial nomination and appointment process as it stands today.

“Iowa is known for having the fairest judge selection system in the country. We oppose efforts to make choosing our judges more political, more ideological.

“Terry Branstad and his running mate Kim Reynolds have made it clear that they want to change our system. Branstad has gone so far as to highlight Reynolds’s support for changing the state’s constitution, allowing the governor to reject all nominees sent by the judicial nominating committee, requiring the committee to send names again and again until the governor finds an appointee that supports a certain political agenda.

“This campaign is about the future of our state and about choosing to move forward, instead of backwards. The best way to do that is not to focus on ideological battles but to bring Iowans together by investing in our future to create jobs, continue our national leadership in renewable energy and build 21st Century schools.”

John Deeth seems optimistic that the Vander Plaats crusade will fail. He makes a good point today:

Just for the record, here’s how the math usually works out on these things: the judges almost always win [retention] by an 80%-20% margin, with 40% or so of voters just skipping the contests entirely. I don’t see BVP swaying a typical independent voter. If he has any impact it’s on the margins, lowering that undervote percentage.

In [the] 1992 ERA vote, I learned a tough but basic lesson: Loudly reminding your people to vote Yes in an otherwise low-profile race simultaneously reminds the other side to vote No. The polarity is reversed here but BVP faces the same dilemma.

In 2004, activists on the religious right “mounted an unsuccessful campaign to oust Woodbury County District Court Judge Jeffrey Neary in 2004 based on Neary’s decision to grant a divorce to two lesbians who had entered into a civil union in Vermont.” Here’s hoping Vander Plaats fails too.

Share any relevant thoughts in this thread. Do you think Branstad can get by with weasel wording on the retention vote for the rest of the campaign? Or will he be forced later to come out explicitly for or against keeping Justices Ternus, Michael Streit and David Baker on the high court?

UPDATE: A statement from the American Judicature Society is after the jump. Iowa’s judiciary has been recognized as among the best in the country.

AUGUST 11 UPDATE: How cowardly is Terry Branstad?

“This is a ballot issue, and Gov. Branstad believes this is an issue on which people need to decide for themselves,” spokesman Tim Albrecht said today. “He respects the secret ballot and believes people should vote their conscience.”

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Early reaction to Branstad's choice of Kim Reynolds

A string of prominent Iowa Republicans spoke out today praising Terry Branstad’s choice of State Senator Kim Reynolds for lieutenant governor. IowaPolitics.com posted the Branstad campaign’s press releases with encouraging words from Iowa GOP Chairman Matt Strawn, Iowa Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley, Iowa House Minority Leader Kraig Paulsen, former Congressional candidate and tea party favorite Dave Funk, former gubernatorial candidate Christian Fong, and Iowa’s representatives on the Republican National Committee, Steve Scheffler and Kim Lehman. Scheffler heads the Iowa Christian Alliance, and Lehman is a past president of Iowa Right to Life.

The Branstad campaign is anxious to avoid an embarrassing display of support for Bob Vander Plaats at this Saturday’s Republican state convention. Today they hit convention delegates with an e-mail blast and robocalls stressing Reynolds’ “conservative credentials.” The strong words from Scheffler and Lehman in support of the ticket may prevent any media narrative from developing about religious conservatives rejecting Branstad. The Iowa Family Policy Center (viewed by many as a rival to the Iowa Christian Alliance) backed Bob Vander Plaats in the Republican primary and vowed not to endorse Branstad against Democratic Governor Chet Culver. That group recently affirmed that Branstad would need to undergo a “fundamental transformation” to win their support in the general election campaign.

Lehman wrote at the Caffeinated Thoughts blog today that Reynolds’ “record speaks for itself.” Lehman’s long list of conservative bills co-sponsored by Reynolds in the Iowa Senate impressed Caffeinated Thoughts blogmaster Shane Vander Hart. He supported Rod Roberts for governor and was a leader of the petition drive lobbying Branstad to choose Roberts as his running mate.

To my mind, Reynolds’ record in the Iowa Senate says only that she sticks with the consensus in the Republican caucus. She has not taken any unusual positions or been outspoken on any major issues under consideration. An acquaintance I spoke with today, who spends a lot of time at the capitol every year during the legislative session, had not even heard of Reynolds before this week. That’s how low her profile has been during her two years at the statehouse. Reynolds may be a reliable back-bencher for conservatives, but I don’t see her as a strong advocate for the religious right. She doesn’t have the stature to drive the agenda if Branstad is elected. Like Todd Dorman wrote yesterday, the lieutenant governor gets to do “whatever the governor lets you do. And in a Branstad administration, if the past is an indicator, his mate will be the special director of the Department of Not Much.”

Nor is there any indication that Reynolds would urge Branstad to make social issues a priority. I think this pick indicates the business wing of the Iowa GOP is fully in charge–or at least one faction in that wing. Others in the business community appear to have been pushing for Jeff Lamberti or Jim Gibbons to be selected as Branstad’s running mate.

Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge spoke about Reynolds today on behalf of the Culver campaign. She suggested that Reynolds may not help Branstad with the social conservatives who supported other candidates for governor, because she “comes out of the same camp as Terry and Doug Gross rather than out of the camp of Bob Vander Plaats or Mr. Roberts.” In a press release and news conference, Judge also emphasized that we don’t know much about Reynolds’ views on key issues, and that her learning curve will be steep, because she has relatively little experience at the statewide level: “It will take a lot of study on Kim’s part. […] If [Branstad] keeps her in the basement in a small office as he did [former Lieutenant Governor] Joy Corning, then she’s not going to have much of an opportunity to know what’s going on.” Say what you will about Patty Judge (I’m not a fan), but she did have a strong legislative record and eight years of holding statewide office going into the 2006 campaign. She has had real influence on policy in the Culver administration.

Being a blank slate may have its advantages, however. Iowa State University Professor Steffen Schmidt thinks Reynolds was a good choice because she is so unknown that she won’t turn voters off or take attention away from Branstad.

Share any thoughts about the Branstad/Reynolds ticket in this thread.

UPDATE: Jason Hancock pointed out at Iowa Independent:

Kim Lehman, another member of the Republican National Committee and formerly president of Iowa Right to Life, praised Reynolds’ selection and her legislative record, ticking through each of the bills she has sponsored since entering the state Senate in 2008 and concluding, “Reynolds went into office and took the bull by the horns and got busy.”

However, a closer look at the bills Reynolds signed on to reveals she only sponsored one piece of legislation on her own – a requirement that the Department of Natural Resources develop depredation plans to fill harvest quotas of antlerless deer in each county that have not been met at the end of the last established deer hunting season each year.

Other than that, she nearly always joins with all or a large majority of the state Senate’s 18 Republicans to push bills.

FRIDAY UPDATE: Reynolds gave an interview to Kathie Obradovich and spoke about being a recovering alcoholic. This is not going to be an issue.

The Branstad campaign is trying to counter opposition to Reynolds over her support for a recreational lake project that angered some property rights advocates. Today the campaign released an endorsement from State Representative Jeff Kaufmann, who tried to intervene in that dispute on the side of property owners.

“I remain dedicated to the fight for private property rights in this state,” said Kaufmann. “The last four years of Democratic control of the Legislature has yielded no strengthening of these rights.  The Democratic majority has not allowed debate of a single property rights bill despite overwhelming support for the 2006 landmark legislation.”

“Our attempts to protect property rights will be thwarted, as usual, by Governor Culver and Democratic leadership without Republican control of the Legislature,” added Kaufmann. “To me, all other property rights discussions are secondary to that goal.  I look forward to working with Kim Reynolds in the future to protect property owners in the future.”

The Branstad campaign also sent conservative blogger Shane Vander Hart a statement from Reynolds about eminent domain:

I fully support the 2006 legislation that curtailed the use of eminent domain to take private property. I do not support eminent domain for commercial development purposes. I support eminent domain only for essential public services.

That answer satisfied Vander Hart. However, one issue with these recreational lake projects (like ones proposed for Page County, Clarke County and Madison County in recent years) is that the advocates will claim the land grab serves an essential public service, like providing more drinking water. However, analysts dispute whether the lake is really needed as a drinking water source, or whether that’s a ruse to obscure the real goal behind the project. A few people stand to make a lot of money if the farmland they own can be developed as lakeshore property. So the question is whether the state would allow other people’s farmland to be condemned in order to create a lake that’s basically a private commercial development.

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Branstad sticking with Doug Gross playbook

Terry Branstad made it official this morning, picking State Senator Kim Reynolds to be the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor. Reynolds is a former Clarke County treasurer and past president of the Iowa county treasurer’s association who was elected in 2008 to represent Senate district 48 in southern Iowa. The Des Moines Register’s Tom Beaumont published more background on Reynolds here. His piece depicts her as “solid on core GOP issues” and “focused on economic development.”

Looks like Branstad has picked precisely the kind of candidate his former chief of staff Doug Gross would want on the Republican ticket.

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Dream recruit may spark Republican infighting in Senate district 45

Iowa Republicans have landed Sandy Greiner, their dream candidate against first-term Democratic State Senator Becky Schmitz in Senate district 45. The southeast Iowa district includes all of Washington, Jefferson, and Van Buren counties, plus part of Wapello and Johnson counties (map here). Schmitz defeated Republican incumbent David Miller by 184 votes in 2006, but the area leans slightly Republican in terms of voter registration.

Greiner represented Iowa House district 89, which makes up half of Senate district 45, for four terms (1993 to 2001). She then served for two years in the Iowa Senate before redistricting prompted her to return to House district 89 for another three terms (2003-2009). Consequently, she starts the race with high name recognition in the area and will be able to campaign almost as an incumbent. Republican blogger Craig Robinson sounds ready to declare this seat won for the GOP.

Greiner will be a stronger opponent for Schmitz than the three Republicans who had previously declared for the seat (Richard Marlar, Randy Besick and Dan Cesar). However, I would not assume that local Republicans will be united behind her this fall. Greiner is linked to business elites who have battled with activists on the religious right for control over the direction of the Iowa GOP.

Join me after the jump for more background on Greiner and why I suspect some social conservatives will fight her candidacy.

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A closer look at the Rod Roberts campaign for governor

I expected Terry Branstad to drive all of the lesser-known Republicans out of the governor’s race. To my surprise, State Representative Rod Roberts has not followed the lead of Paul McKinley, Christian Fong, Jerry Behn and Chris Rants. Roberts told WHO’s Dave Price last weekend that he is staying in the governor’s race all the way to the June primary.

Roberts acknowledges the other two men have raised a LOT more money and are better known. After all, Branstad has been governor 4 terms before. [Bob] Vander Plaats has run for governor 3 times. Roberts plans on not just going after typical Republican primary voters to make up for his lack of recognition (he also added that he will just have to outwork the other 2). He plans on getting Democrats and Independents who are unhappy with the money Governor Chet Culver has spent since he took over and who are also unhappy with the overall direction of the state. Roberts told me this will be the year for the outsider. And he said he will be the outsider.

Join me after the jump for closer look at Roberts and his campaign strategy. I doubt he has any chance of winning the primary, but his presence in the race will probably help Branstad.

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Iowa Chief Justice: retention elections will test commitment to impartial judiciary

Shortly after the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously cleared the way for same-sex marriage rights in April 2009, prominent social conservatives in Iowa vowed to vote out three Supreme Court justices who face retention elections in November 2010. Those are Chief Justice Marsha Ternus and Justices Michael Streit and David Baker.

Judges do not campaign actively for retention, but today Ternus commented on the upcoming elections during an Iowa Public Radio appearance. (continues after the jump)

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Silver linings of a Branstad candidacy

Terry Branstad is kicking off his “official” candidacy for governor today, launching a tour around the state. His campaign announced fairly strong fundraising numbers last week and just leaked an internal Republican primary poll showing Branstad leading Bob Vander Plaats by 63 percent to 18 percent.

It’s conceivable that Vander Plaats’ campaign could take off in the coming months. Right-winger Marco Rubio is now considered likely to defeat Florida Governor Charlie Crist in that state’s U.S. Senate primary, despite commanding leads Crist had in polls a few months ago. However, I assume Branstad will lock up the Republican nomination with little trouble.

Branstad will undoubtedly be a tough general-election opponent for Governor Chet Culver. The biggest hurdles for a challenger are usually name recognition, fundraising, and getting voters to imagine the challenger doing the job he’s seeking. Branstad is well-known, has done the job before, and has wealthy donors behind him. Frankly, I’d rather not have him in this race.

But my mother taught me not to focus too much on the negative. After the jump I offer some silver linings of a Branstad candidacy.  

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Could Vander Plaats pull off an upset?

I’ve been assuming for the past few months that there’s no way Bob Vander Plaats can defeat Terry Branstad in this year’s Republican gubernatorial primary. Branstad’s statewide connections from his four terms as governor and his support from major donors should give him an insurmountable edge, especially in the eastern Iowa counties. While Vander Plaats would have a great shot at winning a caucus or a statewide convention, I didn’t see any way he could keep Branstad below 50 percent in the primary, especially with Branstad likely to raise far more money.

I’ve started to rethink my assumptions as conservative Republicans have spoken out against Branstad.

Everyone knew the Iowa Family Policy Center’s political action committee would endorse Vander Plaats at some point, but their statement yesterday went far beyond expressing a preference for Vander Plaats. The IFPC made clear that they will not support Branstad in the general election if he wins the GOP nomination.

Follow me after the jump for more on the IFPC’s endorsement and how Vander Plaats could win the primary.

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Previewing the Vander Plaats case against Branstad

Bob Vander Plaats was the clear front-runner in the Republican field of gubernatorial candidates a few months ago. He’s been campaigning for the job longer and more actively than anyone else. He had contacts statewide from his 2006 campaign for lieutenant governor, and from Mike Huckabee’s presidential campaign. He also had several endorsements from state legislators and a big lead in a Republican poll taken in July.

During the past six months, various potential Republican candidates have ruled out a campaign for governor, including Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey and State Auditor David Vaudt. Efforts to recruit a business leader (like Mary Andringa) failed too. Some Iowa politicos believe that these people backed off not because they thought Governor Chet Culver was unbeatable, but because they couldn’t see a way to defeat Vander Plaats in the Republican primary.

Most people would now agree that Vander Plaats is an underdog. Branstad will have more money, more media coverage and more support from Republican power-brokers. He’ll be able to cite last week’s Research 2000 poll, showing Branstad narrowly ahead of Culver, but Vander Plaats way behind the incumbent.

Vander Plaats won’t give up without a fight, though. He has promised to stay in this race through the June primary, and he has some strong cards to play, as I’ll discuss after the jump.  

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Branstad running mate speculation thread

Former Governor Terry Branstad is expected to announce soon that he’s running for governor again. The rumor going around town is that he will name his running mate immediately upon entering the race. One person I’ve heard mentioned for that role is former State Representative Libby Jacobs. She represented Iowa House district 60, containing most of West Des Moines, from 1995 until she retired in 2008.

Jacobs would be a logical choice for Branstad in some ways. She could help correct the gender gap that hurts Republican candidates. She could help the GOP in wealthy suburban areas that are no longer solidly Republican. Jacobs never faced serious opposition in House district 60, but Chet Culver carried the district in 2006. Although House district 60 voters elected Republican Peter Cownie to replace Jacobs last November, Barack Obama narrowly beat John McCain in the district.

Jacobs also has time to embark on an aggressive campaign. In May of this year, she was laid off as a spokeswoman for the Principal Financial Group.

Choosing Jacobs would incur some political risks for Branstad, because she was a fairly reliable pro-choice vote in the Iowa House. Jacobs hasn’t been active in Planned Parenthood like some other former Republican women legislators (Joy Corning, Janet Metcalf, Betty Grundberg, Julia Gentleman), but that distinction won’t matter to social conservatives. Certain people on the religious right had trouble accepting even GOP Congressional candidate Mariannette Miller-Meeks, who was against abortion rights with very few exceptions.

Branstad didn’t attend the Iowa Family Policy Center’s big fundraiser in September, and he skipped last weekend’s Iowa Christian Alliance dinner too. Selecting Jacobs or any other pro-choice running mate would indicate that Branstad agrees with his longtime top aide Doug Gross, who says Republicans will continue to lose until they stop alienating moderates and shift their focus from social issues to the economy. In effect, Branstad would be telling social conservatives, “I’ve got the money to win this primary, we need to appeal to the center, now sit down and shut up.”

Republicans who believe Gross hurts the party and are looking for Branstad to distance himself from him will be disappointed. Those who share Bob Vander Plaats’ view (Republicans have been losing elections in Iowa because they’re not conservative enough) will be enraged. Expect WHO talk radio host Steve Deace to go ballistic if Branstad shuns his campaign advice.

Of course, the rumor about Jacobs could turn out to be false. Branstad might choose a running mate with strong backing among social conservatives. That would indicate a desire to unify the party and neutralize critics who are angry that he chose Joy Corning to serve as lieutenant governor. If Branstad has any concerns about losing the Republican primary, he might take this route. Doing so would undercut Vander Plaats, who has already pledged not to pick a pro-choice running mate. State Representative Jodi Tymeson, who co-chairs the Vander Plaats campaign, is widely expected to be his choice for lieutenant governor.

Share any relevant rumors, thoughts or predictions in this thread.

Iowa GOP building new machine to sell old ideas

Thomas Beaumont wrote about the Republican Party of Iowa’s revamped outreach strategy in Monday’s Des Moines Register. GOP chairman Matt Strawn is working on several fronts to bring the party back to power after three consecutive losses in Iowa gubernatorial elections and four consecutive elections in which Republicans lost seats in the Iowa House and Senate.

Strawn’s strategy consists of:

1) meeting with activists in numerous cities and towns

2) using social networking tools to spread the Republican message

3) building an organization with a more accurate database

After the jump I’ll discuss the strengths of this approach as well as its glaring flaw.

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Let's try this one more time

I’m still waiting for some Republican, any Republican, to explain the concept of judicial review to religious conservatives who refuse to accept the Iowa Supreme Court’s ruling in Varnum v Brien.

GOP moderates led by Doug Gross have been warning that Republican candidates won’t win in 2010 if gay marriage is their only campaign issue. But I haven’t heard anyone challenge the assertion by many conservatives that the Supreme Court’s decision is just an opinion with no legal force.

Since no Republican has stepped up to the plate, I’m offering a brief lesson on judicial review after the jump.

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Republican moderates don't stand a chance

UPDATE: I had no idea while I was writing this post that Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania had decided to switch to the Democratic Party–yet another sign that moderates have no place in the GOP.

The day the Iowa Supreme Court announced its unanimous decision in Varnum v Brien, noneed4thneed wrote on his Twitter feed,

All chances for moderate Republicans to get elected in Iowa were dashed today. Social conservatives run Republican Party of Iowa now.

Now that the 2009 legislative session has ended with no action to overturn the Iowa Supreme Court, and same-sex marriages are a reality, I am even more convinced that noneed4thneed is right.

A few thoughts on the Republican Party’s internal conflicts are after the jump.

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Anti-gay marriage group targets Iowa Republican Senate leader

While visiting a friend in Pella today, I found an orange piece of paper lying on her doorstep. I picked it up, expecting to see publicity for some local event like next month’s Tulip Time festival.

Instead, I found a flier comparing Iowa Senate Republican leader Paul McKinley to a “chicken,” because he “refuses to do what it takes to get a vote on the Iowa Marriage Amendment.” McKinley asked Senate Majority leader Mike Gronstal to co-sponsor a leadership bill with him so that the Senate could debate a constitutional amendment on marriage, but Gronstal refused.

Public Advocate of the US, a right-wing group based in Falls Church, Virginia, paid for this flier, according to text at the bottom. That group’s president, Eugene Delgaudio, has been using direct mail and “conservative political street theater” to advance anti-gay views for years. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him show up in Iowa on Monday, when same-sex marriages become legal.

The stated goal of the flier is to generate phone calls urging McKinley to take bolder action on the Iowa Marriage Amendment, but I wonder whether the real purpose is to support different leadership for the Senate Republican caucus. McKinley was elected Senate Republican leader last November on a pledge “to rebuild this party from the ground up,” but according to the Iowa Republican blog, some conservatives,

including WHO Radio talk show host Steve Deace, don’t think that the Republicans in the Senate have done all they can since they have not made a motion to suspend the Senate rules and force the Democrats’ hand.

Republican State Representative Chris Rants tried to attach a marriage amendment to unrelated legislation in the House and forced a vote on suspending House rules. Only two House Democrats, Geri Huser and Dolores Mertz, voted with Republicans on the procedural motion. Presumably Republican candidates and interest groups will attack the other 54 House Democrats next fall for not backing up Rants.

Alternatively, the flier could be nothing more than an opportunistic attempt to raise the profile (and mailing list) of Delgaudio’s group in Iowa. Does any Bleeding Heartland reader know whether Public Advocate of the US has ties to any rival of McKinley’s within the Republican Party of Iowa?

I don’t know whether this piece is being circulated in conservative neighborhoods across Iowa, or mainly in heavily Republican Pella. If you’ve seen it in your town or county, please post a comment in this thread or send an e-mail to desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com.

The full text of the one-sided, 8 1/2 by 11-inch flier is after the jump.

UPDATE: McKinley criticized the Iowa Senate’s failure to take up the marriage amendment in his closing remarks on the final day of the 2009 session.

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Dream scenario: A primary challenger for Grassley

Angry social conservatives are speculating that Senator Chuck Grassley could face a primary challenge in 2010. The religious right has been dissatisfied with Grassley for a long time (see here and here).

After the Iowa Supreme Court announced the Varnum v Brien decision, Grassley issued a statement saying he supported “traditional marriage” and had backed federal legislation and a federal constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. But when hundreds of marriage equality opponents rallied at the state capitol last Thursday, and Republicans tried to bring a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage to the Iowa House floor, Grassley refused to say whether he supported their efforts to change Iowa’s constitution:

“You better ask me in a month, after I’ve had a chance to think,” Grassley, the state’s senior Republican official, said after a health care forum in Mason City.

Grassley has supported legislation in the past decade to establish marriage as between a man and a woman, and to enact an amendment to the U.S. Constitution banning same-sex marriage. […]

“But it doesn’t have to be marriage,” he added. “There’s things like civil unions.”

Grassley said the amendment he supported left the issue of government acknowledgment of same-sex relationships, such as civil unions, up to states

to allow or ban.

Wingnut Bill Salier, who almost won the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in 2002, says conservatives are becoming “more and more incensed [the] more they start to pay attention to how far [Grassley] has drifted.”

Iowa GOP chairman Matt Strawn denies that party activists are unhappy with Grassley. I hope Salier is right and Grassley gets a primary challenge, for reasons I’ll explain after the jump.  

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Religious right will target three Iowa Supreme Court justices in 2010

Social conservatives made clear at yesterday’s rally against gay marriage that they will try to remove Iowa Supreme Court justices next year:

“This is only the beginning,” said Danny Carroll, a former legislator and now chairman of the conservative Iowa Family Policy Center. “We will remember and we will remember in November.”

Chuck Hurley, also a former legislator and president of the policy center, noted that in addition to legislators and Gov. Chet Culver, three Iowa Supreme Court justices would face retention elections next year.

That includes Chief Justice Marsha Ternus.

“Maybe she will know how it feels after November of 2010,” said Hurley.

Justices Michael Streit and David Baker also will be up for retention elections next year. The Supreme Court struck down the state’s gay marriage ban on a 7-0 decision.

“Three judges on the ballot. We will remember next November,” Hurley said. “You are not fooling anyone.”

In Iowa, judges are appointed through a merit-selection process that was approved by voters in the 1960s. Voters decide whether to keep a judge in office. Supreme court judges are up for retention every eight years, while court of appeals and district court judges are up every six years.

I automatically vote to retain every judge, whether conservative, moderate or liberal, unless I have heard from trusted attorneys that the judge is incompetent or corrupt. In more than two decades of voting I’ve only voted against retention once or twice. I’ve disagreed with some court rulings, just like Hurley and Carroll disagree with the Varnum v Brien decision. But our justice system depends on judges being able to interpret the law without fear of reprisal.

The threats from Carroll and Hurley underscore how extremism has become mainstream for Iowa Republicans. These are not fringe wackos; Carroll and Hurley are both former state legislators.

Marsha Ternus has 16 years of experience on Iowa’s high court. She was appointed by Republican Governor Terry Branstad (as was Mark Cady, the author of the Varnum v Brien decision). Streit and Baker also have lengthy and distinguished legal careers. Yet that means nothing, because social conservatives want to impose their religious beliefs on everyone.

We’ll need to remember to tell our friends to vote yes on retaining all judges in November 2010. Many people never bother to fill out the back side of the ballot.

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Reality and satire convergence alert

“They’re Coming to Your Town,” a new DVD produced by the American Family Association, looks and sounds like a spoof created by The Onion. Click the link to watch the trailer and read the transcript. Here’s an excerpt:

It could happen to your town.

Man: They’ve come out of the closet.

AFA presents a look at how a handful of homosexual activists infiltrated the Eureka Springs, Arkansas government and changed the very moral fiber of the city. […]

Learn the strategies used by gay activists and don’t let this happen to your city. This DVD is a must-teaching tool – watch, and learn how to fight a well-organized gay agenda to take over the cities of America, one city at a time.

Man 3: If it hasn’t happened in your town, get ready, because it is going to happen.

Oh no! Gays are coming to my town to take over the government! Mr. desmoinesdem said this trailer reminded him of the anti-Communist films they made during the 1950s.

Speaking of satire, here’s a piece from the latest Onion: I’m Not One of Those ‘Love Thy Neighbor’ Christians. Excerpt:

My faith in the Lord is about the pure, simple values: raising children right, saying grace at the table, strictly forbidding those who are Methodists or Presbyterians from receiving communion because their beliefs are heresies, and curing homosexuals. That’s all. Just the core beliefs. You won’t see me going on some frothy-mouthed tirade about being a comfort to the downtrodden. […]

We’re not all “Jesus Freaks” who run around screaming about how everyone should “Judge not lest ye be judged,” whine “Blessed are the meek” all the time, or drone on and on about how we’re all equal in the eyes of God! Some of us are just trying to be good, honest folks who believe the unbaptized will roam the Earth for ages without the comfort of God’s love when Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior returns on Judgment Day to whisk the righteous off to heaven.

Now, granted, there are some Christians on the lunatic fringe who take their beliefs a little too far. Take my coworker Karen, for example. She’s way off the deep end when it comes to religion: going down to the homeless shelter to volunteer once a month, donating money to the poor, visiting elderly shut-ins with the Meals on Wheels program-you name it!

But believe me, we’re not all that way. The people in my church, for the most part, are perfectly ordinary Americans like you and me. They believe in the simple old-fashioned traditions-Christmas, Easter, the slow and deliberate takeover of more and more county school boards to get the political power necessary to ban evolution from textbooks statewide. That sort of thing.

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How are Democratic voters like Jesus?

A leading voice of Republican social conservatives in Iowa makes a surprising analogy in an op-ed piece from Tuesday’s Des Moines Register:

Jesus Christ, whom many Republicans claim to follow, summoned his followers to be either hot or cold toward Him, because a “lukewarm” commitment makes Him want to vomit. I believe this accurately reflects the mood of voters in the past several elections where Republicans have witnessed consecutive defeats.

We have followed the misguided advice of “experts” to abandon our principles and move to the middle so we can supposedly win. In essence, we have become “lukewarm” on life, on marriage, on the Second Amendment, on limited government, on balanced budgets, on lower taxes, on parental rights in educating and raising children, on faith, on family and on freedom. The net result is that voters have spit us out of their mouths. […]

The “elite” politicos and Iowa’s dwindling Republican establishment are now convening committees and strategy sessions to advise their “flock” to abandon the party’s principles and move even further to the middle if they hope to win again. The voter sees and tastes the “lukewarm” and compromising attempts to gain positions and power. The result is no trust, and the voter, like Christ, wants to throw up.

If Republicans are to win again, they must authentically embrace their core principles and effectively communicate a compelling message of bold-color conservatism that inspires faith, family and freedom.

That is no fringe politician talking. It’s Bob Vander Plaats, a businessman from northwest Iowa who ran for the 2002 gubernatorial nomination, was the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor in 2006, and chaired Mike Huckabee’s presidential campaign in Iowa.

If you click the link and read the whole piece by Vander Plaats, you won’t find any opinion poll data backing up his assertions about why Iowa voters have been rejecting Republicans.

National polling shows that the electorate as a whole thinks Republicans lost the 2006 and 2008 elections because they were too conservative. At the same time, Republicans are more likely to reach the same conclusions as Vander Plaats: their party is losing because its candidates have not been conservative enough.

I’ll be honest: I’d be happy to see the Republican Party of Iowa embrace Vander Plaats’ faith-based political strategy. I suspect that’s a path toward further losses for the GOP in 2010.

Quite a few GOP legislative candidates who put social issues front and center in their campaigns lost last Tuesday.

Vander Plaats does not name any specific candidates whose moderation allegedly made voters want to throw up. One who drew a lot of fire from the social conservative crowd was Mariannette Miller-Meeks, Republican candidate for the second Congressional district. She was a strong candidate, in my opinion, and it would be ridiculous to argue that she lost for not being conservative enough. This district has a partisan index of D+7. No Republican in the whole country represents a Congressional district with that much of a Democratic lean. Mike Castle of Delaware is the only one who comes close, and he is not a religious conservative firebrand.

The Vander Plaats piece is further evidence of the deep split in the Republican Party of Iowa. It won’t be easy to heal under any circumstances, but especially not if social conservatives insist on driving their party off a cliff.

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Help us track future presidential candidates' Iowa visits

It’s never too early to start preparing for the next election. In September, Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer headlined Tom Harkin’s Steak Fry.

Next month Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal

will keynote a fundraising dinner for the Iowa Family Policy Center’s “Celebrating the Family” banquet, a high-profile Christian conservative event in a state pivotal in presidential races.

The governor’s spokeswoman, Melissa Sellers, confirmed that Jindal will attend the event November 22 and also will make a stop in the Cedar Rapids area to see some of the recent flooding damage there.

I’m keeping my eye out for reports like this, but if you hear about any Iowa visits planned by likely presidential candidates in 2012 or 2016, please post a diary here or e-mail me (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com).

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Does the DM school board majority want to get Narcisse re-elected?

Because if they do, they should stay on the present course.

I didn’t write much about the Des Moines school board campaign, because I don’t live in the school district and didn’t have a firm grasp of what all the eight candidates stood for.

As I noted last week, three incumbents kept their seats in a relatively high-turnout election. The outcome was a setback for school board member Jonathan Narcisse, who was hoping to get a few allies elected.

That said, it appears to me that the majority on the board is now overplaying its hand in an effort to further marginalize Narcisse. Not only do I suspect this will backfire, I also think they are wrong about the prevailing level of satisfaction with Des Moines Public Schools.

At its meeting last Tuesday, the school board majority chose not to act on Dick Murphy’s ill-advised motion to censure Narcisse, probably because Narcisse had retained the prominent attorney Alfredo Parrish. Instead, the board

referred his alleged misconduct to Polk County and state officials for further investigation.

Board members voted 5-1 to forward alleged violations of state ethics laws and school board policies to the Polk County attorney’s office and Iowa attorney general’s office. Narcisse abstained from the vote.

The board rejected member Teree Caldwell-Johnson’s proposal to refer the alleged violations to an independent agency for investigation before referring them to authorities.

“Not once in closed or open session has this board been presented evidence to support the claims,” said Caldwell-Johnson, who cast the lone no vote.

Narcisse isn’t going to win any awards for congeniality, but I doubt that this action will diminish his standing among those who elected him to the school board.

From what I gather, the people who are comfortable with current governance of the Des Moines Public Schools interpret the recent election results as proof that the people are satisfied with the status quo.

However, Narcisse represents a significant number of Des Moines residents who are concerned about graduation rates and other problems in the district’s schools. If he wants another term on the board, I wouldn’t bet against him finishing in the top four next September (when four seats will be up for grabs).

The Des Moines Register’s reporting on the school board race focused on the fact that three challengers backed by Narcisse lost. But did they really lose because of their association with Narcisse and his criticisms?

A major controversy that developed during the school board campaign received little attention in the Register’s reporting. Some community activists, led by the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa, repeatedly sounded the alarm about a threat to the school board from the religious right.

Gil Cranberg reported shortly before the election on the contents of the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa’s newsletter:

The headline on the lead article in the publication warns, “Religious Right Plots to Control Iowa’s Largest School District.”

The Alliance’s board represents a large number of religious denominations. Its mission includes challenging “political extremism based on religion;” and its goal is to ensure “that the work and influence of government and religious entities remain separate.” The Interfaith Alliance newsletter identifies the Iowa Family Policy Center as opposed to these goals and says it is “helping to elect three candidates to the school board.” The three are unnamed. Connie Ryan Terrell, the Interfaith Alliance’s executive director, said that’s to avoid engaging in electoral activity and jeopardizing the organization’s tax-exempt status.

The Alliance is not bashful though about bashing the Iowa Family Policy Center. The newsletter said the Center is “not supportive of public education and works tirelessly to privatize education by diverting additional public funds to private schools.” Further, the newsletter said, the Family Policy Center “advocates for prayer in school, teaching intelligent design as science curriculum and posting the Ten Commandments in public schools.”

If you read Cranberg’s piece, you will learn that those three unnamed candidates (opposed by the Interfaith Alliance and supported by the Iowa Family Policy Center) are the same three candidates Narcisse was supporting.

It wasn’t just one newsletter. The Interfaith Alliance of Iowa sent out several mass e-mails alluding to a threat to the public schools in Des Moines. One that I received on August 28 included this passage:

The religious right is not concerned about academic integrity, graduation rates or academic equity across a school district.  Regardless of Supreme Court rulings or state law, the religious right inserts itself into school board races across the country to gain control of school boards and impose conservative Christian education and “family values” on the public school students. Their ultimate goal is privatization of the public schools, which you can be assured, will not be equitable.  It is important these concerns are raised in the election process rather than debating them later at school board meetings.

I know you care about your community overall and specifically the children of your community.  I ask you to get involved!

·        Ask all the candidates if they have received the support (verbal, voter-organizing, or financial) of the Iowa Family Policy Center or the Iowa Christian Alliance.

·        Ask all the candidates, do they support having a public education system or should the public education system be privatized?

·        Ask all the candidates, if elected, what role will their faith and/or values play in shaping public policy for the school district?  What is their view on maintaining a boundary between religion and government, including public schools?

·        Ask all the candidates, would they vote to support or oppose the teaching of creationism, intelligent design, or Christian doctrine in the SCIENCE curriculum taught by the district’s teachers?

·        Ask all the candidates, do they support or oppose the districts’ employment and student non-discrimination policies which includes sexual orientation and gender identity?  And how would they work to enhance the implementation and effectiveness of this policy?

An e-mail from the Interfaith Alliance on September 2 urged readers to attend school board candidate forums and ask similar questions.

I am convinced that this issue is partly why turnout was so high on September 9. I know of people who voted for the Des Moines school board incumbents because they were worried about giving the religious right a foothold.

It didn’t help that two of the three candidates aligned with Narcisse sent their own children to parochial schools. Obviously, they still have a right to run for the school board, because their property taxes support public schools. On the other hand, many people felt that people who kept their own kids out of public schools should not be involved in governance of those schools.

Here is an excerpt from an e-mail the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa sent out the day after the election:

It’s a good day for public education, religious freedom and democracy!

Regardless of where you live in Iowa , most of you knew about the particularly bitter election battle for 3 seats on the Des Moines School Board.

Most of you were aware of the work of the Iowa Family Policy Center ( Iowa ‘s largest religious right organization) to “reclaim” Iowa ‘s largest school district.  You understood the potential danger if that came to fruition, not only for the Des Moines school district but for the entire state.

And I am sure most of you know by now that IFPC was NOT successful in “reclaiming” the Des Moines schools!  Voters across Des Moines averted IFPC’s efforts with an amazing turnout (about twice as many as last year).

The children, families, staff, schools, district and democracy won!

On September 18 the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa sent out a fundraising e-mail, noting with pride that

It’s been a little over a week since the voters in Des Moines resoundingly pushed back the efforts of the religious right to “reclaim” the Des Moines school board.  Thank you for your support and for your help to inform other voters.

My point is that I would caution administrators and school board members not to conclude that the voting public are mostly satisfied with the Des Moines Public Schools. They may have supported incumbents for different reasons. If so, they may not be in a hurry to punish Narcisse next year.

Speaking of Des Moines residents who feel poorly served by the public schools, I support David Yepsen’s proposal to move away from at-large elections for seats on the Des Moines school board:

Winners who come out of individual districts have to listen to their constituents and work with winners from other districts to get things for their own. Out of that political process, everyone benefits.

At-large elections haven’t worked in the Des Moines schools. Instead, some neighborhoods feel left out. Huge majorities from one neighborhood can impose leaders on others. This is a particular problem in Des Moines, where for generations, the community has sometimes split into east-side, south-side and west-side factions.

It’s flared up again in our schools because the east-siders and south-siders think the west-siders, who often elect more of the board members, aren’t doing as much for the east-side and south-side schools as they do for their own. Never mind the facts that suggest otherwise – the feeling is there.

Electing board members from districts would help cure it. It would also encourage more people to seek office. As it is now, many qualified people from some neighborhoods don’t run for the board because they figure they have no chance in a citywide election. If candidates had to come out of districts, more new leaders would be tempted to run.

West-siders have dominated the Des Moines school board for a long time. Bringing some balance to the board would reduce tension in the community.

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Vote in your local school board election

School board elections are being held across Iowa today. Get out and vote, even if you don’t have kids in school. All property tax payers have an interest in effective management of school district funds, and all citizens should be concerned about the quality of public education.

Some school board races are hotly contested, as in Des Moines where eight candidates, including three incumbents, are seeking three seats.

Other races are boring. The two incumbents on the West Des Moines school board have no challengers on the ballot, but I went to vote for them anyway. I don’t want some stealth candidate from the religious right winning a seat with 50 write-in votes.

If you’re reading this at work, it should only take you a few minutes to vote on the way home today. (As of 10:00 am, just five people had voted in my precinct.) Or, if you’re reading this at home, zip out to vote before or after dinner.

If you’re not happy with the leadership of your local school district, consider throwing your hat in the ring for the next school board election.  

A few good links on Palin and her speech

I really have no idea how Alaska Governor Sarah Palin went over last night with voters who are not already strongly committed Republicans. I will reserve judgment until we see the next round of polls from must-hold states for John McCain, such as Ohio, Virginia and Colorado.

Huffington Post reported on the reaction from focus groups of married and unmarried supporters of Hillary Clinton. I recommend reading the whole article, but here’s an excerpt:

First, women in both groups were impressed with Palin’s speaking ability and poise. But they were hardly convinced that she was qualified to be vice president, or that she truly represented the “change” they were looking for, especially in light of what was deemed an overly harsh “sarcasm” pervading her address. […]

In the “married” group, when one attendee kicked off the discussion by saying “she’s a good speaker, and a crowd pleaser,” the rest of the room articulated their agreement. “I didn’t expect to be as impressed as I was,” said another respondent. But then another woman added: “Once she started mudslinging, I thought, it’s the same old crap as other politicians. McCain used her to get the women’s vote. And she’s using McCain.”

“Thank you,” another woman responded. “That really upset me; there was no need for that. It was snippy.”

The unmarried group also voiced similar objections to the harsh, partisan edge of Palin’s remarks. “I’m not impressed with her at all as a person,” one said, citing her “finger pointing” and general sarcasm after the group had generally agreed that she was a talented public speaker.

Natasha Chart, who grew up in a conservative, religious family, posted a fascinating commentary on last night’s proceedings at MyDD, complete with King James Bible quotations. She notes that

Jesus didn’t ask the faithful to give good speeches. He didn’t ask of them that they should be from small towns, or some certain geographic region. He asked that they do something real, something material, to lighten the loads of their fellow travelers in this life.

Marc Ambinder thinks Palin may have just made Barack Obama “yesterday’s news”:

Sarah Palin is, quite simply, the celebrity of September. Interest in her will be enormous. Just as Democrats painted on Barack Obama’s blank canvass in January and February of 2007, Republicans and independents will get the chance to fill in their view of Gov. Palin. She’s the new thing. The object of curiosity. The press and the larger media will obsess over her and her family and her life.

TruthMatters thinks the Republicans lost a huge opportunity when they cut the biographical video on Palin out of last night’s program:

First they lead into her with Romney and Rudy, basically putting the country on notice, We Are Republicans And We Mean Business.

They GOP is basically telling us now, that the culture wars are back and they mean it.

Then they go into the prime time hour, the thing millions of American’s are going to see, is nothing but Rudy and Palin non-stop attacking democrats and anyone who is NOT a Republican.

And Rudy really screwed it up, because he ran long and they didn’t play her video. Her Video was suppose to make America fall in love with her, anyone remember, Michelle’s, Hillary’s, Joes, and Obama’s from last week? They NEEDED that video tonight to introduce her, espeically if this was how she was going to come out. She gave no substance, nothing but attacks, she showed us she was a hard right Republican, and she means business.

Now her base loved it. she is getting rave reviews from the right. This from redstate.com says it all “Sarah Palin. An Amazing, Historic, Epic Win.” but here is the problem. In their sheer hubris is all I can say, they seem to think that they are still the majority in this country. What they are ignoring is they are turning off every non-republican in this country. Since the convention and Sarah’s introduction, Obama has taken the lead in independents and increased his Democratic numbers.

The GOP has seem to have forgotten that Sarah was suppose to reach out to independents and the frustrated Hillary supporters, because there aren’t enough GOP voters anymore their party numbers are down. but instead they are now stuck with the 2004 strategy of excite the base and get out to vote.

For a “real vetting roundup” on Palin, read this post by georgia10.

Kos notes that the Republican convention is drawing fewer television viewers than the GOP convention four years ago and a far smaller audience than the Democratic convention drew last week. CORRECTION: the latest ratings show Palin drew almost as large an audience last night as Obama did last Thursday.

I still think selecting Palin was a huge mistake for McCain, whose main talking point against Obama was that he lacked sufficient experience to lead.

Also, give me a break from the talking point about Palin having “more executive experience than Obama and Biden combined,” as if Obama and Biden’s in-depth knowledge and experience crafting federal policy is worth less than being a small-town mayor and serving half a term as governor.

Watch this great clip from last night’s Daily Show, which juxtaposes Karl Rove on Palin’s tremendous experience with what Rove said about Virginia Governor Tim Kaine a few weeks ago. Kaine has served as governor for longer than Palin, managing a state much larger than Alaska. Before that Kaine was lieutenant governor of Virginia, and before that he was mayor of Richmond, a much larger city than Wasilla, Alaska. Jon Stewart noted that “Karl Rove is bitterly divided on the experience issue.”

After the jump I have posted the text of a mass e-mail from Obama’s campaign manager, David Plouffe. He specifically takes Palin and Rudy Giuliani to task for mocking Obama’s experience as a community organizer. That was certainly one of the low points of Palin’s speech, in my opinion. At least George H.W. Bush pretended to value community activists (“1000 points of light”) twenty years ago.

UPDATE: For the full text of Palin’s speech, click here.

Small-town native Mike Lux had this reaction:

while I appreciated Sarah Palin’s tribute to small-town values at one point in her speech, the values she exhibited in the rest of the speech were not the ones I recognized from the small towns I know. […]

The Sarah Palin I saw last night had a mean streak a mile wide. If me or my brothers and sisters would have been as sarcastic and demeaning to someone as Sarah Palin was last night, my mom would have sent us to our room. I know that Palin was just trying to be funny when she compared herself to a pit bull, but she was just about as nasty as one, and in the dog-loving families I know from small-town America, people generally prefer dogs that will play well with kids and neighbors. And the community organizers that Palin made so much fun of [are] the folks who organized the potluck suppers at church and the Lions Club charities, the ones who really made those small towns go.

Lux should understand that when Palin made fun of community organizers, she wasn’t talking about people who run church potlucks in small towns. I tend to agree with billmon:

Used the way the GOP speakers used the words tonight (i.e. with a sneer), community = ghetto and organizer = activist.

It essentially was a coded way of pointing out Obama’s work in, with and for the black community (see? even I’m doing it) on the South Side of Chicago. Also the fact that his work involved helping low-income people stand up for their legal rights, as opposed to a GOP-sanctioned “real” job like business owner or career military officer (or moose hunter.) They were trying to put Obama back on the same level as Jesse Jackson — i.e., the black protest candidate — and mocking him for it.

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Palin speech/GOP convention open thread

I won’t be watching in prime time, but I plan to watch the repeat of Sarah Palin’s speech on C-SPAN later. I expect her to bring the house down in St. Paul. Those delegates are her kind of Republican.

Chatter away about what you’ve seen and heard today. I will update later.

UPDATE: I hope John McCain runs his new Obama/Palin comparison ad in every swing state:

MSNBC’s First Read has already fact-checked this ad:

It’s important to note that there are a few misleading assertions in the ad. For one, the “Journal” that’s cited is the conservative and partisan Wall Street Journal editorial page. Two, to call Obama the Senate’s most liberal senator is dubious. (The charge comes from the National Journal ranking Obama as having the most liberal Senate voting record of 2007, but he was nowhere near the top in 2005 and 2006; it’s also worth noting that Obama missed many Senate votes in 2007, so that ranking is a bit skewed.) And three, the charge that Obama “gave big oil billions in subsidies and giveaways” is misleading. (According to nonpartisan fact-checkers, the 2005 energy bill the McCain camp is referring to actual resulted in a net tax INCREASE on oil companies.)

Speaking of fact checks, First Read notes that Mike Huckabee was wrong to assert in his RNC speech that Sarah Palin received more votes running for mayor of Wasilla than Joe Biden received running for president. First Read says nearly 80,000 Americans voted for Biden for president.

I suspect that estimate is low. Probably somewhere between 5 and 10 percent of Iowa Democrats stood up for Biden at their precinct caucuses, although he only ended up with 1 percent of the delegates because of the 15 percent viability threshold. Also, Biden was not on the ballot in Michigan, but presumably some of those “uncommitted” voters preferred him.

The Democratic National Committee launched a fun website called JustMoreoftheSame.com. Check it out.

SECOND UPDATE: Democratic bloggers seem divided on whether Palin gave a great speech (to the audience she was trying to reach) or whether she was boring.

Josh Marshall had this to say about Rudy:

You’ll notice that Rudy Giuliani apparently ran too long and they had to drop the Palin mini-movie that was supposed to introduce her speech. Normally people get fired for goofs like that. They didn’t want Rudy’s blood and iron speech the day after Gustav so they bumped it until tonight. Big mistake. He positively dripped with a kind of curdled anger, the origin of which is difficult to grasp. But he actually seemed to get angrier and angrier as the speech progressed — off chopping his hands around, baring his teeth. I know the people in the hall loved it. But I think a lot of people will see it as whacked. Rancid. Curdled. Palin’s speech ended up being much more partisan than I expected. But that was added to by the fact that she had to start her speech while the auditorium was still awash in the teeth-gnashing froth ginned up by Rudy’s speech.

THIRD UPDATE: I caught most of the repeat of Rudy’s speech. I cannot imagine that helped McCain with anyone but the most hard-core Republicans. Talk about mean-spirited. All those loud “boos” from the audience made the crowd seem mean as well. And it was surreal to see Hizzoner from New York make fun of Obama for being too cosmopolitan. I agree with RF–if millions of Americans caught that speech while tuning in to see Palin, Obama will benefit.

Also, it was bizarre to have the camera cutting to Cindy McCain holding baby Trig during Rudy’s speech. Most young infants don’t like being passed around and held by total strangers.

FOURTH UPDATE: Mr. desmoinesdem and I watched the repeat of Palin. She did a lot better than Rudy, obviously. I’m sure she generated a lot of enthusiasm among the GOP base. We have no idea how that speech sounded to a typical undecided voter. Some of her culture war language and criticism of Obama sounded a little petty to me, but I’m obviously not the target audience. She lied again about opposing the Bridge to Nowhere, but will she get called on that? The visuals at the end of her holding baby Trig with the rest of her family on stage were great.

I think Obama and Biden should ignore her and focus their fire on McCain.

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Not all evangelical conservatives are thrilled with Palin

Many conservative pundits were not impressed by John McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate, since her glaring lack of experience undercuts McCain’s main message against Barack Obama.

On the plus side for McCain, just about everyone agreed that putting an anti-abortion mother-of-five on the ticket would delight the evangelical Christians who were so crucial to George Bush’s re-election.

Although the “pro-family” interest groups applauded McCain’s choice, I had a hunch that Palin wouldn’t be unanimously embraced by the evangelical rank and file.

I lurk and occasionally comment at a few “mommy blogs” written by religious conservatives. Checking in on some popular sites in the evangelical Christian blogosphere over the weekend, I did find some commentaries that praised Palin for her views and for continuing a pregnancy while carrying a child with Down syndrome.

However, if you join me after the jump, you’ll see that plenty of evangelicals are far from “fired up and ready to go” for this Republican ticket.  

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Christian conservatives in Iowa GOP snub Grassley

If you thought the deteriorating relations between Senator Chuck Grassley and evangelical Christians were just kabuki theater designed to make Grassley look more moderate than he is, maybe you should think again:

Evangelical Christians in Iowa, dominant in the state’s Republican Party, have denied Sen. Charles E. Grassley his request for a place on the state’s delegation to this summer’s Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn.

Mr. Grassley may attend the party’s Sept. 1-4 nominating convention in St. Paul, but not as a voting delegate.

With a majority of nine out of 17 members on the Iowa Republican central committee, religious conservatives made Iowa Christian Alliance President Steve Scheffler chairman of Iowa’s 40-member delegation in a vote immediately after their state party convention July 12.[…]

Mr. Grassley had said “yes” when asked by Iowa Republican Chairman Stewart Iverson if he wanted to be a voting delegate to the national convention, Mr. Iverson said.

Political observers in Iowa saw the move against Mr. Grassley as retribution for his having tangled with evangelical pastors in his state. He initiated a Senate Finance Committee investigation of six televangelists for conspicuous personal spending.

“That had nothing to with it at all,” Mr. Scheffler said Sunday. He said Mr. Grassley and the other members of the Iowa congressional delegation already had national convention floor privileges – meaning they could walk the floor but not vote.

Grassley’s office refused to comment when contacted by the Washington Times regarding this story. Staffers quoted in the Des Moines Register today downplayed the significance of what happened:

Beth Pellett Levine, Grassley’s press secretary, said Grassley won’t be a delegate, but he will attend the convention and will have floor access as a federal elected official.

She said Grassley, as well as Iowa’s two Republican congressmen, Reps. Steve King and Tom Latham, will not be delegates “in order to give additional Iowa Republicans the opportunity to participate in the floor proceedings and activities of the national party convention.”

Levine said that Grassley told state party leaders he would be a voting delegate if they wanted, “like he has previously, but the more Iowa Republicans who participate in the event the better, in his view.”

James Carstensen, a spokesman for Latham, said the congressman “never requested to be a voting delegate so as to allow more party activists to participate in the convention.” Aides to King, similarly, said he didn’t want to take a spot away from other delegates.

Columnist Robert Novak wrote on Saturday that “evangelicals and their allies” dominating the state convention in Iowa earlier this month “dumped their critic,” Grassley.

I don’t know how much this is retribution for Grassley’s investigation of the televangelists and how much is just Christian conservatives flexing their muscles after their power grab at the Iowa GOP state convention earlier this month.

Either way, it seems like quite a snub to a five-term U.S. senator, who has held a voting delegate slot at previous national Republican conventions.

The Republican Party doesn’t have superdelegates, so members of Congress do not automatically become voting delegates to the national convention. But you would think the party central committee would show some respect to the Republicans in Iowa’s Congressional delegation.

I don’t think anyone would mistake me for a big fan of Representative Leonard Boswell, but I’d never support denying him a vote at the Democratic national convention in Denver.

That said, I can’t say I’m too unhappy to see Iowa Republican leaders antagonizing Grassley. Maybe he will get irritated enough to retire rather than seek re-election in 2010. After all, Democrats seem poised to pick up at least four seats in the U.S. Senate this November, and perhaps as many as eight or nine.

In case anyone cares, I’ve put the full list of GOP delegates to the national convention after the jump. The two Republican elected statewide officials, Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey and Auditor David Vaudt, are delegates, as is Polk County Republican chairman and blogger Ted Sporer.

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Where are the "family values" advocates?

I’ve never watched an episode of “Big Brother” and don’t ever plan to, but for some reason part of this Associated Press article on the new season caught my eye when the Des Moines Register published it:

Libra Thompson, a married 31-year-old human resources representative from Spring, Texas, left behind her husband and three children — including 4-month-old twins — to participate in “Big Brother 10.” During production, Thompson and the other “Big Brother” contestants are prohibited from communicating with the outside world.

Hang on, I thought–doesn’t the taping of this show go on for a long time? I flipped back to the beginning of the story and found that indeed, contestants are isolated in a house for three months.

When I started writing this post, I looked for the link to the AP story to see if it mentioned the age of Thompson’s older child, and I realized that the Register’s print version cut out part of the relevant passage:

Libra Thompson, a married 31-year-old human resources representative from Spring, Texas, left behind her husband and three children — including 4-month-old twins — to participate in “Big Brother 10.” During production, Thompson and the other “Big Brother” contestants are prohibited from communicating with the outside world.

“It’s better for me that they’re younger,” said Thompson of her newborns. “At four months old, they’re not going to remember much. It’s probably going to be a little bit more difficult for my 4-year-old. However, I’m going to stay focused and remember the reason I’m here, and that’s the cash. That will help me.”

That is a big trauma to inflict on your children for money. I know that $500,000 is a lot of money, but Thompson isn’t a homeless, unemployed person who has no way to feed her family besides appearing on this show.

I had to laugh when I read this description of her strategy:

Strategy: “I’m intuitive. I think I’ll be able figure out how to push people’s buttons.”

I wonder if Ms. Thompson is “intuitive” enough to realize that disappearing for three months could permanently affect her children’s bond with her and ability to form secure attachments generally.

I wouldn’t seek to impose my parenting style on others. I wouldn’t judge any woman for going back to work when her children are young, or for taking overnight trips away from young children (for business or vacation). But to deprive children of the sight, sound, smell and touch of their mother for three full months, for no reason other than a desire to make money, is deeply disturbing.

I assume the children will receive loving attention from their father and substitute caregivers. Nonetheless, I worry that such a lengthy separation from the mother could have lasting effects along the lines of those described in this scholarly paper by a psychologist:

Bowlby (1973) identified three phases of a normal response to separation. The child first protests the loss and uses attachment behaviors to try and bring back his mother. When Mother does not return, the child seems to despair, but still awaits her return. Eventually he seems to detach and appears to lose interest. However, attachment behaviors will return upon reunion if the separation has not been too extended. Following reunion, the child whose parent has been appropriately responsive to his attachment behaviors will often cling to the parent, demonstrating anxiety at any hint of separation.

Bowlby’s theory provides a new perspective on clinging behavior, or separation anxiety. In contrast to traditional psychoanalytic models which viewed separation anxiety as a displacement of some other fear (Bowlby, 1988), Bowlby saw anxious attachment as the result of real or threatened separations or temporary abandonments by caretaking figures during childhood (Bowlby, 1973). When a child knows that an attachment figure will be available whenever he needs a secure base, he will develop a lifelong ability to tolerate separations well, and will handle new situations confidently. Lacking such knowledge, he will demonstrate anxious attachment and general apprehensiveness at new ventures.

The availability of an attachment figure during childhood also influences the person’s response to losses. When a frightened child needs his mother but ultimately finds that he is abandoned and alone, he protects himself from further suffering by detaching himself from any awareness of his feelings and needs. Summarizing studies of children who underwent prolonged separations, Bowlby (1980) noted detachment as the final stage of dealing with a separation. During detachment, the child stops emitting attachment behavior and even turns away from attachment figures when they return (as Robertson’s [1952] film of a two-year-old’s week long hospitalization and separation from his parents poignantly demonstrates).

Bowlby saw detachment as the result of a deactivation of the system of attachment behavior. By defensively excluding from awareness “…the signals, arising from both inside and outside the person, that would activate their attachment behavior and that would enable them both to love and to experience being loved” (Bowlby, 1988, pp. 34-25), children experiencing prolonged separations can block attachment behaviors and its associated affects. Once established as a defensive process, detachment then becomes the child’s characteristic coping style.

I don’t care if Thompson “turned it out” during her audition for Big Brother. In my opinion, the producers of this reality show should not have selected a mother with such young children as a contestant. But hey, anything to attract an advertiser-friendly demographic like thirty-something working moms.

I find it more revealing that there’s no public outcry from the self-appointed defenders of “family values.” Why are social conservatives not calling for a boycott of CBS or its advertisers if the producers of “Big Brother” do not send this contestant home to her children?

Apparently a show that celebrates leaving small children in pursuit of money is not as worthy of condemnation as various sitcoms and drama programs that have been called anti-Christian.  

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