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Guest Commentary

Stop the presses! Des Moines Register column makes sense!

2/5/2014

The Des Moines Register had quite a scary headline for Iowa Republicans the other day — over a Rekha Basu column: GOP’s lack of diversity could make it obsolete.

But if you want an even scarier headline, consider this one: GOP’s lack of diversity won’t make it obsolete.

As a bonus to the thought-provoking headline, the column had the best one-sentence summary of the Iowa GOP that any paper has published in the past decade or so: “It is inhospitable to anyone but white evangelical Christians who oppose abortion and who think being gay is a lifestyle choice.” (Maybe Basu could have worked ignorance of evolution into that, but why quibble?)

Those on the political/religious right who take offense at the inhospitable-to-anyone-but line might find solace in the fact that her comments are scripturally sound.

It’s right there in Isaiah 40:3 or Mark 1:3: “…the voice of one crying in the wilderness.”

No, not the wilderness of the Old Testament Israel or the New Testament Galilee.

We’re talking about today’s wilderness of political reporting and commentary that refuses to recognize what a farce the Iowa religious right has made of Iowa’s holy of holies — the sacred caucuses!

For more than a decade, the Iowa press and the national press have refused to acknowledge what Gil Cranberg, former editorial page editor of the Register and Tribune, began writing about almost 40 years ago — how the Iowa caucuses needed some tweaking way back in the ’70s, and how those same caucuses are now a certified basket case today thanks to the stranglehold the religious right has on the Iowa GOP.

Much of the concern about the Iowa caucuses is papered over because, come January of presidential election years, the caucuses are the only game in town. And the national press treats them in serious fashion, just as the gambler in the Old West played the saloon’s rigged roulette wheel “because it’s the only wheel in town.”

Small wonder Basu’s column should come as a breath of fresh air to those who marvel at the biennial absurdities in the Iowa GOP platform. And, of course, there is the compounding absurdity of how political reporters and commentators see no relevance between the facts that the folks who write the planks also pretty much are the folks who want to dictate who should be the presidential candidate of the Republican Party.

The latest suggestion that the Iowa GOP’s failings won’t make it obsolete is how Democratic and Republican leaders in the state turn handsprings over how great they are at compromising.

Look at how great we are at the state level, they say. Look at how great politics is at the state level, the press reports.

Why, we’ve learned to compromise.

Both parties agree to adjourn their sessions in the Iowa House and the Senate at the same time!

Both parties say public education is important!

Both parties are proud of the Iowa and Iowa State basketball teams.

And that’s about it. Things get a bit more divisive when the talk to turns to pollution of Iowa waterways, a crumbling infrastructure and other aspects of our civic life.

But have you heard? The Iowa caucuses are only two years away and Iowa will again be the center of the political universe — at least for those who fervently oppose abortion and think being gay is a lifestyle choice. CV

Herb Strentz is a retired administrator and professor in the Drake School of Journalism and Mass Communication and writes occasional columns for Cityview.

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