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Guest Commentary

An Iowa GOP caucus vote for None of the Above

11/18/2015

To no one’s surprise, Donald Trump did not call off his quest for the GOP presidential nomination — even though he was asked to do so in a July 15 Des Moines Register editorial.

To the contrary, his campaign continues to provide evidence in support of what the Register observed four months ago: “Trump, by every indication, seems wholly unqualified to sit in the White House.”

Unfortunately, it’s even worse than that. The characterization “by every indication seems wholly unqualified to sit in the White House” applies to many of the other GOP candidates, including Dr. Ben Carson — who looms as Trump’s chief rival in the Iowa caucuses.

There’s no reason to back away from that July editorial, however. It was a good start in expressing despair over the field of candidates.

So how about a Plan B that still might rescue all of us — Iowa Republicans and Democrats, the Iowa caucuses and the nation — from the folly of the 2016 campaign?

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How about a push for a “None of the Above” option in the Feb. 1 caucuses?

“None of the Above” could be a protest against political campaigns driven by excessive funding, excessive lies and excessive egos.none-of-the-above-logo

“None of the Above” might even be a step toward longtime Republicans regaining some control of their party from the right wing evangelicals. Such a step would benefit just about everyone except those from the fringe, the true believers who became the party’s base thanks to their zeal and the caucus format. Their effort was aided by an Iowa press that refused to recognize the obvious as the evangelicals turned political party platforms into their scripture.

If you doubt that, think of the epithet RINO — Republican In Name Only. You have to marvel at the chicanery in how the acronym RINO became the ticket to exile for those who cherished Republican principles — like the late Mary Louise Smith and Art Neu. Driving them out as RINOs allowed the interlopers to take control of the party machinery and put the “Republican” label on their zealotry. And the press denied it was all happening. Matter of fact, a Register editorial of June 3 reassured readers that, according to polls, religious beliefs would have little to do with the outcome of the 2016 caucuses. Forget about the Republican caucuses of the past 28 years — going back to the 1988 second-place finish of televangelist Pat Robertson. Forget about the holy writ in GOP platforms. Polls, we are reassured, tell us religion won’t be that relevant to the GOP caucus.

Yeah. Sure. And now the GOP Taliban is upset because Starbucks didn’t print the gospel of Luke Christmas story on its holiday coffee cups. Boycott non-believers! Another plank for the party platform?

Which brings us back to “None of the Above.”

Suppose long-suffering Republicans, those who say they are without a political party, decided to show up at their February caucuses, along with Independents and others, and cast their handwritten ballots for “None of the Above.”

The beauty of it is that they would not have to make it a statewide effort. They could focus on, say, 15 or 20 of the largest precincts in the state — enough to grab our attention — and offer a rebuke to the candidates and to those who stole the party from them.

Such a development is overdue. It might save the Iowa caucuses from being discarded as a plaything of the religious right. It might even shape up the Democratic Party, which has lost some backbone and sense of purpose because right-wing machinations leave moderate voters with little choice but to vote Democratic as the lesser of two evils.

And some day, Hallelujah! — thanks to the Iowa caucuses — both parties might offer voters presidential and vice presidential candidates wholly qualified to sit in the White House.

What a concept! 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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