Middle-aged women (still) leading political activism

Middle-aged women (still) leading political activism

Gazette Column
A funny thing happened in the wake of last year’s presidential election. No, it wasn’t that more women signed up to serve as foot soldiers on the political battlefield. They’ve always been there — marching, dialing and door knocking. The humorous part is how some are now surprised, how those individuals have forgotten or never understood herstory. According to common belief, women are not generally political leaders. We’re told that politics is too nasty a business for most women, or that most women simply aren’t capable of grasping the nuances of public policy. But that only holds true if “being politically active” is defined as giving major speeches or running for elected office. Women have — for more years than I’ve been walking the planet — served as the backbone…
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Parallel messaging gave GOP Statehouse control

Parallel messaging gave GOP Statehouse control

Gazette Column
Have casual conversations with Iowans and a pattern emerges of the ways the national 2016 election narrative did and did not apply to the Statehouse. Since November I’ve been quietly talking to people around Iowa. I’ve reached out to farmers and small town residents I met during research on rural communities, as well as urban dwellers I met through discussions on public transit and affordable housing. As a general rule these aren’t folks who’d be labeled as political activists. That is, they vote, but don’t shake signs outside Congressional offices or hold court with the county central committee. They live in the present, focused on taking their kids to activities, worried about their mortgage and expending energy on careers or higher education. Nearly all political nuance is lost on them.…
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Cedar Rapids women discuss why they’ll march

Cedar Rapids women discuss why they’ll march

Gazette Column
Trio will be among thousands participating in Women's March on Washington Calling these three Cedar Rapids women who will be part of the Women’s March on Washington “precious snowflakes” is a waste of time. The “snowflake” moniker, derived from the 1996 novel “Fight Club” and typically used to describe college students perceived as over-protected and too easily offended, was widely co-opted by supporters of President-elect Donald Trump to describe and dismiss those who showed somber emotions or actively demonstrated in the wake of the presidential election. It’s been so frequently used on social media in connection to the women marching on Jan. 21 that it’s effectively shorthand for demonstration participants. But when I asked Marilyn Davenport, Denise Mineck and Velga Easker what they would say to those that attempt to…
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In 2016, rural areas roared

In 2016, rural areas roared

Gazette Column
While it’s possible to look back on 2016 as a single year, doing so doesn’t provide clarity. The past year was a culmination of a decades-long and ever widening urban-rural chasm. To hear the national media tell it, the big news was the presidential election. But November was merely the coup de grace, a death blow to end ongoing suffering. I began my career in journalism in the late 1980s. Those were perhaps the final heydays of community journalism — local papers, run by local families. The next decade was marked by large news corporations gobbling up smaller dailies and weeklies. Each incarnation brought more cost-effective management by new parent companies, and fewer local jobs. Local presses stood still. Circulation and ad sales were centralized. Newsrooms emptied. Vertical integration of…
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Still a lot of work to do

Still a lot of work to do

Gazette Column
Throughout the community one question seems to dominate personal interaction: “How are you feeling?” I’ve been asked by people I see each day and those I only have occasional opportunity to speak with. Convenience store clerks, local members of the clergy, co-workers, neighbors, transit riders and drivers and community activists of all stripes are curious, some perhaps morbidly so, on my and their other neighbors’ state of mind. So, how are you feeling in these first post-election days? I am, of course, disappointed that the nation has not finally elected a woman to its highest office. I’m especially concerned by the years of misinformation and sexism that led to undeserved backlash against Hillary Clinton, and a campaign with an overall anti-women tone. More than shock at Donald Trump’s public disrespect…
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Let’s just leave ‘rape’ out of it

Let’s just leave ‘rape’ out of it

Gazette Column
A not-so-funny thing happened in the wake of the latest politically-charged dust-up between Linn County Auditor Joel Miller and his former primary opponent Joe Stutler. My colleague, Todd Dorman, offered a concise rundown of the controversy, which features Miller ordering the Cedar Rapids Police Department to arrest Stutler. Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden, who supported Stutler in the primary, called out Miller’s actions as a “deplorable abuse of the legal and political process.” For anyone who has followed Linn County politics over the past few years, this is merely par for the course. Who said what, who did what and the reason behind it is shuffled around and lost in a landscape that’s too politically charged, and too focused on past transgressions and opportunities for one-upmanship. Most residents, I…
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Break free from personality politics

Break free from personality politics

Gazette Column
When I made the first trips south to visit family and friends after moving to Iowa, diminishment of my homespun accent drew the most curiosity and confusion. “What did you say?” one of my sisters, a Texas resident, asked, repeating the word “garden” with an exaggerated and distinctly East Coast soft “A” (gah-din) to mimic what she heard. “Y’all sound like damn Yankees.” [caption id="attachment_164" align="alignright" width="300"] Demonstrators are seen in silhouette, marching through Times Square in New York November 25, 2014. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)[/caption] Although said in jest, the assessment was not a compliment. It was the first acknowledgment that I was changing, becoming more “other” than “same,” and a precursor to subsequent political discussions. One brother, in particular, is especially vocal about his right-leaning political view. After returning home…
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Can’t blame Donald Trump for ‘Repeal 19th’

Can’t blame Donald Trump for ‘Repeal 19th’

Gazette Column
Given the trajectory of this campaign cycle it’s easy to imagine Donald Trump pushing to disenfranchise half of America. But the #RepealThe19th hashtag predates his campaign. News stories surfaced this week linking Twitter hashtag #RepealThe19th to Trump supporters. According to those reports, Trump supporters hatched the plan after viewing projections by FiveThirtyEight pollster Nate Silver of what the election would look like if only one gender voted. The United States of Women vs. The United States of Menhttps://t.co/F455bP3D8I pic.twitter.com/qjr6zLh640 — 538 politics (@538politics) October 12, 2016 In a male-only world, Silver predicts Trump would receive 350 electoral votes and move into the White House. A companion map, showing only female voters, had Hillary Clinton earning 458, and Trump with just 80. After the maps were published, some Trump supporters posted…
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Mike Pence did what he had to do

Mike Pence did what he had to do

Gazette Column
Do not blame Mike Pence. In this week’s vice presidential debate Pence did the only thing he could. Wisconsin radio personality Charlie Sykes said it best when he described the logical outcome of years of attacks on the news media to Oliver Darcy, politics editor at Business Insider. “We’ve basically eliminated any of the referees, the gatekeepers,” he said, adding that now when Donald Trump says something outrageous and patently false, he’s expected to fall in line or be labeled a sellout. This is a “monster” created by conservatives, who are now “reaping the whirlwind.” “At a certain point, you wake up and you realize you have destroyed the credibility of any credible outlet out there,” Sykes said. And, no, Sykes hasn’t gone full tilt. His statements weren’t intended to…
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Trading expectations for reality in Linn County supervisor race

Trading expectations for reality in Linn County supervisor race

Gazette Column
Seems like everyone is excited about the number of women up and down the ballot. But there is one hotly contested Linn County office where no female names appear. The Gazette’s Editorial Board has been busy with candidate interviews, which are one part of our endorsement process. To date, we’ve sat down with candidates involved in nearly every contested regional race as well as the statewide races that will appear on local ballots, and have more scheduled in the coming days. These are similar meetings to those we hold throughout the year with elected officials, advocacy groups and others except that they tend to be more diverse in their scope. We aren’t gathered to discuss a single issue or learn about a specific concern. There are some things that the…
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