2016 Iowa caucus is no rural friend

2016 Iowa caucus is no rural friend

Gazette Column
Thank goodness it’s nearly time to pitch the hay bales back in the barn. Presidential candidates — declared and exploring — have been milling about Iowa for more than a year. They’ve tucked celebrities and national figures into their suitcases, unpacking them alongside talking points in cities and towns from Rock Rapids to Keosauqua. They’ve posed on our farms, sat at our kitchen tables and strolled the midway at the fair. But, with the exception of ethanol, few bothered to discuss agriculture, much less ongoing and worsening challenges in rural communities. To be fair, school transportation budgets, child poverty, broadband access, land values, post office closures, food safety, water quality, workforce challenges and the like aren’t sexy topics. They are nuanced and difficult. Threats of carpet-bombing or promises of wall…
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Trump, UKIP and other body blows to compromise

Trump, UKIP and other body blows to compromise

Gazette Column
Maybe instead of merely reacting to GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump “crazy talk,” it’s time to start understanding its appeal. Almost a year ago, I wrote about the correlations I’ve seen between the views of people who no longer fit neatly into either of the two dominant political parties and members of the United Kingdom Independence Party, commonly known as UKIP. An excerpt from the previous column: “Those who identify as UKIP feel they’ve been left behind economically and are adrift politically. They are incredibly anxious about the direction of their nation. Sound familiar? “While this British ideology that began in 1993 — the first to win a nationwide election in nearly 100 years — has been painted as a predominantly conservative movement, the survey shows its members hold liberal…
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A ‘rock star’ caucus won’t serve rural America

A ‘rock star’ caucus won’t serve rural America

Gazette Column
If rumors are believed, this is the day Iowa Democrats have either been wanting or dreading: Hillary Clinton is expected to announce her entry into the 2016 presidential contest. The past few weeks have seen the official entry of Republicans Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, also to mixed emotions from the GOP faithful. Unfortunately, my concerns following the 2008 and 2012 contests are growing. I’m not convinced the new normal of Iowa caucus life as a string of mega-events, requiring tickets for entry and little time for truly critical audience participation allow for an adequate airing or thoughtful discussion on the complex issues surrounding rural communities. Campaign stops and events surged to unprecedented proportions in the 2008 contests. During his first trip into Iowa following a 2007 announcement, for instance,…
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Owning the political conversation

Owning the political conversation

Gazette Column
If feedback on my “caucus countdown” column is any indication, there is a lot of interest not only for a wider field of potential 2016 presidential candidates, but for the nation to have a broad conversation regarding the future of money in politics, the overall economy and, specifically, the middle class. And, as is usually the case, there is significant disagreement on how such conversations can be generated and spread. [caption id="attachment_216" align="alignright" width="300"] Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren celebrates on election night. (Elizabeth Warren/Flickr)[/caption] There is some thought a strong third party candidate on the left or right would be able to leverage the most influence; that those within either of the two large parties will be unable to rise above the star power of high-profile candidates. Some have pointed…
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The caucus countdown

The caucus countdown

Gazette Column
It is probably what most people think of — or at least what most people thought of eight years ago — when they consider the Iowa caucus. A handful of people are gathered around a conference table at the local library. There are a few handouts on the table top, flanked by packages of cookies. Hopes and concerns about the future of the country are on display, but the real tension in the room centers around speculation of a presumptive Democratic nominee and how such a situation could chill certain discussions in the Hawkeye State and beyond. “A lot of people are really eager to avoid a coronation of Hillary (Clinton) or another (Ralph) Nader fiasco,” said Jeffrey Cox, who actively has been gathering signatures to persuade Sen. Bernie Sanders,…
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