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Political Mercury

Shouldn’t Iowans be among most offended by Rebel flag?


No other state, North or South, had a higher percentage of its “military age” male population — between 15 and 40 — serve during the course of the Civil War than Iowa, according to Iowa Public Television.

By the end of the war in 1865, 76,534 Iowa men had served in the Union army, and of those, 13,169 died, the public television station reports.

That considered, shouldn’t Iowans be as offended as anyone at the sight of a Confederate flag?

“That’s up to every Iowan, and we did have a lot of veterans that stood for the Union during the Civil War,” U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said Thursday. “It was a wonderful service to our nation and they stood up for what they believed in. So I think that is important to note.”

On a conference call with Iowa media, Ernst said she didn’t want get into refereeing historical offenses.


“As far as who is offended and who is not offended, again, every Iowan will have their right to be offended or not offended by the actions, or by a certain symbol, whatever that symbol may be,” she said. “I prefer to move ahead and not dwell on what happened many years ago. And we’re a very inclusive nation, and I think we need to move forward with that.”

Ernst did comment in the conference call on South Carolina’s decision to remove the Confederate flag from the state capitol grounds.

“I believe it was time for it to come down, but again, that was a decision that had to be made by the members of that state legislature,” Ernst said.

Gov. Terry Branstad, an avid reader of Iowa history, referenced Iowa’s strong presence in the Union Army ranks in criticizing a Marion County Republican Independence Day parade float sporting Confederate flags.

“That’s really disloyal to all those veterans from Iowa that fought to save the Union and fought against that flag, so I just think that is most inappropriate,” Branstad said, according to The Cedar Rapids Gazette. “It’s disrespectful to all those Iowans from Marion County that went down to fight to save the Union, so I’m totally baffled that that would happen in this state.”

Read your history, some pretty awful things happened in the border area with Missouri around the Civil War.

According to the IPTV account, which relies on Leland Sage’s history of Iowa, there were no major battles between Union and Confederate forces in Iowa. “Instead, Iowa soldiers fought mainly in the western Confederate states — Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee. They also fought bravely with Gen. William Sherman in Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina,” IPTV reports. CV


A quick note on Ernst’s accessibility

Since this column space has criticized Iowa’s junior senator’s early lack of interaction with the press, it is only fair to note that the senator’s weekly conference calls with the media are wide open to all comers and that the senator fields dozens of questions from print, radio and television reporters as well as bloggers.

The questions cover a sweep of issues, and her staff can undoubtedly help Ernst prepare on issues of the day (bird flu, foreign affairs, pending legislation), but there are always wild-card questions. The senator is fielding as many questions as her predecessor, Sen. Tom Harkin, on these weekly calls.

And she’s nimble, quick on her feet, with questions there is no possible way her staff could predict are coming.

If Ernst thinks Iowa first, trusts her own judgment, and dismisses the national conservative talking points from time to time, she will be a more formidable political force in the years to come. I think in her heart, Ernst would like to break with conservative elements of her party on immigration. As a military veteran, she’s had more experience with diversity than most Iowans, and she must be hearing daily about the labor shortage in most of rural Iowa from businesspeople.

Asked on that media call about a potential vice presidential slot, Ernst, a Red Oak Republican, said the next ballot that will contain her name is in 2020 for re-election as a U.S. senator. CV

Douglas Burns is a fourth-generation Iowa newspaperman who resides in Carroll. He and his family own and publish newspapers in Carroll, Jefferson and other neighboring communities.

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