By Herb Strentz
Here’s an easy assignment for you:
1. Forget what GOP Gov. Terry Branstad says
about the political platforms of the Democratic
and Republican parties in Iowa. At worst, he’s
trying to mislead you; at best, he is trying
to hide his embarrassment.
2. Likewise, dismiss much of the news coverage
and commentary in the press regarding the party
platforms. There’s not much to deal with there
anyway, because the media pretty much treat
the platforms as meaningless.
If there is a third step, it is to recognize
that the GOP platform is an embarrassment to
the party and to the State of Iowa, while the
Democratic platform is business as usual — as
predictable as a union hall speech or a civil
rights rally. Democratic Party candidates and
voters will have little or no trouble living
with their platform.
Sane Republicans will either ignore much of
their platform or take Branstad’s approach and
lie either to themselves or to us about the
Here is what Branstad told The Des Moines Register:
“…(Y)ou can take either party platform and you
find that parties tend to be controlled by the
more ardent left or right and that doesn’t really
reflect where the candidates are going to come
Fact is if the Democratic Party platform were
as loony as the GOP’s, the Democrats would mandate
abortions, repeal the Second Amendment on the
right to bear arms, and give the United Nations
flag equal flagpole status with Old Glory.
But the Democratic Party platform, a bit more
than 6,000 words, takes positions that reasonable
people may disagree on, but nonetheless work
out compromises faithful to democracy and collective
decision making. The Republican platform, a
bit more than 11,000 words, is peppered with
positions that reasonable people flee from and
decrees that don’t tolerate compromise.
Here’s what former GOP State Senator Mary Kramer
wrote in a letter to the editor in the Register:
“…(T)he party that calls itself Republican today
appears to be a caricature of those principles
(of individual responsibility). Instead, it
has become an exercise in self-aggrandizement
and power by people who wish to impose their
beliefs on others by seizing control of processes
while driving out those who disagree. Those
who control the party processes refer, usually
with contempt, to RINOs, meaning Republicans
in Name Only.
“As a longtime Republican activist, I suggest
the term RINO much better describes those who
are attempting to control the party today.”
Kramer’s assessment is on point but also is
one you generally find in letters to the editors
or in conversations with Republican friends
and not in the news coverage or commentary in
the Iowa news media.
An online item in the Register said the Iowa
GOP platform “touches upon” abortion, same-sex
marriage, the abolition of several federal agencies,
etc. touches upon?
To say the platform “touches upon” these topics
is like saying the Salem trials of the 17th
century touched upon ignorant fears of witchcraft,
that the Scopes trial in 1925 touched upon evolution,
that McCarthyism of the 1950s touched upon demagoguery.
We’re in our own version of these episodes today,
thanks to the religious right and its control
of the Iowa GOP, which is why it is folly to
say that all political platforms are alike.
The nice part of all this is you can judge for
yourself by reading the platforms, readily available
at party websites.
In the meantime, one can hope that Kramer, who
admits to being naïve and idealistic despite
years in politics, can help get the Iowa GOP
back on track — a task made more difficult because
the news media seem oblivious to what’s going
Herb Strentz is a retired administrator
and professor in the Drake School of Journalism
and Mass Communication and writes occasional
columns for Cityview.