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Guest Commentary

Sadly, for today’s Iowa GOP, it pays to be ignorant

2/18/2015

GUEST #1
By Herb Strentz

Although the Iowa press has not reported it yet, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has taken himself out of the Iowa caucus scene and the race for the GOP presidential nomination.

Matter of fact, he did so two years ago in January 2013 when he told fellow Republicans, “We must stop being the stupid party.”

Given current affairs, it’s time to revisit Jindal’s comment that stirred things up — at least briefly.

Jindal’s comment came in the wake of the 2012 elections in which blunder after blunder cost the Republicans election victories. Remember Jindal’s full quote?

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“We must stop being the stupid party. I’m serious. It’s time for a new Republican party that talks like adults. It’s time for us to articulate our plans and visions for America in real terms. We had a number of Republicans damage the brand this year with offensive and bizarre comments. We’ve had enough of that.”

Had enough?  Maybe for Jindal, but for the right wing of the GOP, “Stop being the stupid party” is fightin’ words. “Being the stupid party” remains the party mantra these days.

GOP candidates enter Iowa with fear and trembling. Anticipating the worst, they fear a campaign gaffe in which they say something sensible — about vaccines, immigration reform, climate change and the like — thus infuriating the religious right. (Gil Cranberg, former editorial page editor of The Des Moines Register and Tribune, characterized the anti-vaccine crowd as demanding “A right to infect.”)

Here’s a hypothetical doomsday quote for a GOP candidate in Iowa: “Regardless of what your opinion is on climate change, you should consider that reducing reliance on fossil fuels and being concerned about greenhouse gas emissions in our atmosphere may make sense.”

Hah! Kiss that candidacy goodbye.

Likewise, it’s the end of the road in Iowa for any candidate who does not scoff at scientific findings or research and who does not endorse bizarre notions of creation, United Nations plots and almost mandated concealed weapons.

If we’re going to go back two years for Jindal’s futile plea, we might as well resurrect another from around that time by New York Times columnist Gail Collins: “We have seen the future, and everything involves negotiating with loony people.”

Little did she know.

Rather than talking sense, GOP candidates are well-advised to praise Iowa’s Christian right for giving editions of The Founders’ Bible to each state legislator.

That’s the version of scripture beloved by our “Founders.” You know, folks like U.S. Sen. John Henry Hammond of South Carolina who, in 1858, praised God — May I have an Amen! — for giving us slavery because, “I believe it to be the greatest of all the great blessings which a kind Providence has bestowed upon our glorious region.”

Amen! That’s our Founder talking.

Good grief!

If you want to talk sense instead of nonsense, look again at part of Jindal’s 2013 comment: “It’s time for a new Republican party that talks like adults. It’s time for us to articulate our plans and visions for America in real terms.”

There is yet time for a GOP candidate to surface, someone who would help the Iowa party regain its stature and welcome back folks like those virtually driven out of the party by the frenetic religious right. Those are and were folks like Joy Corning, the late Mary Louise Smith, Dottie Carpenter and Art Neu and Andy Varley, Lyle Krewson, Sue Mullins and Maggie Tinsman, Jim Leach and others who could make us proud — not ashamed — to be Iowans.  It really is time for a new Republican Party to reclaim its heritage in Iowa.

May we have an Amen! CV

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

 

GUEST #2
By Steffen Schmidt

Iowa Caucuses and Straw Poll as relevant as ever

Every four years, the contrarians come out of the woodwork trashing the Iowa Presidential Caucuses and the Ames Straw Poll.

Retired Drake journalism school professor Herb Strentz had his opportunity at this Whack-a-Mole in Cityview. In “Adieu to the relevance” of the caucuses and poll, he avers that Congressman Steve King’s Freedom Summit is proof of the irrelevance of Iowa. He quotes the left-wing wag Scott Galindez, featured in Anarchist publications such as The Rag Blog, who wrote that Iowans are “God-fearing, pig-castrating, gun toting whackos.”

First of all, Professor Strentz may have missed the fact that there is no such a thing as “Iowans.” There are Independent-No-Party voters, there are lots of Democrats (Iowa is probably still purple), there are seriously lefty Bernie Sanders Democrats, there are Libertarian-Rand Paul Republican Iowans, and there are even lots of moderate Republicans or Mitt Romney would not have tied for first place in the last Iowa caucuses. Iowa is much more diverse than the fool out of town critics can ever imagine.

By the way, in Iowa we have members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, and, for all I know, other diverse branches of the Lutheran faith. Now that’s diversity!

Second, the Iowa caucuses are a terrific testing ground for candidates. They can hone their skills, meet lots of self-confident people at cafés, community centers, the Iowa State Fair, and people’s homes, people who will straight out ask hard questions with no intermediaries. And poor candidates like Rick Santorum can beat a rich businessman like Mitt Romney by burning up shoe leather and going to 99 counties shaking hands and selling himself.

Third, Strentz misses the point completely that Iowa allows us and the massive media horde that come here to assess the character and communications style and skills of contenders. Anyone watching Steve King’s Summit from “gavel-to-gavel” cold not help but see the differences between Gov. Scott Walker and Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina and Sara Palin.

Fourth, the Ames Straw Poll is a terrific, fun political festival. The media loves it. Those attending the event (including me) love it. The Iowa Republican Party loves it since it raises a ton of money. Ames and Story County love it because these fool politicians leave a big chunk of money with us. It’s called a Republican stimulus package for us.

Fifth, Joni Ernst WON the Senate race. No matter how much the left dislikes her, the Democrats blew that race and almost every other race in 2014. That’s how elections work, Professor. The majority works hard, turns out large numbers and wins elections. I recommend that the Democrats carefully study Joni’s campaign. They will learn how to win elections.

And, of course, the East Coast dandies who write about the Iowa caucuses have their own axe to grind, and their own “groupies” to satisfy.

I, for one, am a huge fan of the Iowa Caucuses and the Straw Poll. They create political excitement. They show what highly motivated voters are as opposed to the low information and low intensity voters who turn out for primaries.

Let the candidates roll in! CV

Steffen Schmidt is originator and co-author of the largest selling American government college textbook and Professor of Political Science at Iowa State University. His Iowa Caucuses online course launches in September.

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