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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Lawsuit challenges English-only voting materials in Iowa

The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) of Iowa is seeking a judicial order declaring that the state’s English-only law “does not apply to voting materials, including ballots, registration and voting notices, forms, instructions, and other materials and information relating to the electoral process.”

The state’s largest Latino advocacy organization filed suit in Polk County District Court on October 27, according to the Democracy Docket website founded by Democratic voting rights attorney Marc Elias. His law firm is representing LULAC in this and other cases related to voting rights.

LULAC previously petitioned Secretary of State Paul Pate to allow county auditors across Iowa to accept official Spanish-language translations of voter registration and absentee ballot request forms. However, Pate’s legal counsel informed the group in late September that the Secretary of State’s office “is still under an injunction” from 2008 “which prevents the dissemination of official voter registration forms for this state in languages other than English.”

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On picket line, Tom Vilsack says Deere workers deserve "fair deal"

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack stopped by the United Auto Workers picket line in Ankeny on October 20 to express support for John Deere workers who have been on strike since October 14. He is the first cabinet secretary in recent memory to join union members on a picket line.

While speaking to the workers, Vilsack recalled how important the UAW’s support was to his first gubernatorial bid in 1998. Backing from organized labor helped him win the Democratic primary by less than a 3-point margin. He then came from behind to defeat Republican nominee Jim Ross Lightfoot by a little less than 6 points in the general election. “You don’t forget the people who gave you an opportunity to serve. You just don’t.”

Regarding the issues that prompted the strike, Vilsack told the UAW members,

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Redistricting commission opts not to advise lawmakers on Iowa map

Iowa’s Temporary Redistricting Advisory Commission reported to the Iowa legislature on September 27 about public feedback on the first redistricting plan offered by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency.

In contrast to the last four redistricting cycles, the five-member commission did not recommend that state lawmakers accept or reject the proposal when they convene for a special session on October 5.

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Governor holds over agency directors Iowa Senate didn't confirm

In an unusual move, Governor Kim Reynolds is allowing two state agency directors she appointed early this year to continue serving through next year’s legislative session, even though they lacked the votes to be confirmed by the Iowa Senate.

Reynolds withdrew the nominations of Department of Management Director Michael Bousselot and Department of Administrative Services Director Adam Steen shortly before state lawmakers adjourned for the year in May. Days later, she rejected the directors’ resignations, saying she would resubmit their names to the Senate in 2022, documents obtained through public records requests show.

The governor’s office has not publicly announced Reynolds’ decision to hold over Bousselot and Steen and did not respond to Bleeding Heartland’s inquiries.

The Department of Management handles state budget planning as well as disbursements from Iowa’s general fund and various other funds. The Department of Administrative Services handles human resources, payroll, and procurement of goods and services for state government.

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Open letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan

Mike Tramontina is a lifelong Iowan who enjoys paddling and fishing in Iowa’s rivers and streams even though they are “unfishable” and “unswimmable.” -promoted by Laura Belin

May 5, 2021

Dear Administrator Regan:

It was very disappointing to read the Des Moines Register news article about your visit to Des Moines. While it is good that you joined the announcement of the demolition and redevelopment of the Dico site, you then went to meet with agricultural leaders to learn about the ethanol industry and livestock production. The disappointment was not making time to even take a question about Iowa’s filthy water and disgusting air.

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