Rod Blum’s town hall vetting stinks

Rod Blum’s town hall vetting stinks

Gazette Column
If you happen to have a spare cup of courage lying around, please pass it to U.S. Rep. Rod Blum. Blum has agreed to four in-person meetings at public places in Iowa’s 1st District during the May recess. That’s the good news. The bad news is that he and his staff are busy redefining “public” by instituting unnecessary roadblocks for those who want to hear from and speak directly to one of the four men who represent Iowa in the U.S. House. Those who hope to attend are required to let the Congressman’s office know ahead of time. The registration process through Eventbrite requires submission of the applicant’s full name, email address and physical address. Upon arrival, Blum’s newly activated personal Stasi will be posted at the door to demand…
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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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Campaign finance: How much would you pay?

Campaign finance: How much would you pay?

Gazette Column
Many Iowans lucky enough to make it through the highly competitive process of becoming a delegate to their political party’s national convention are still hard at work as they solicit money for the trip. You may have seen the pleas in your social media feeds or heard them firsthand at organizational events throughout the state. Being elected a delegate to the Republican or Democratic national convention is an expensive proposition. Not only do many would-be delegates underwrite the cost of their election campaigns, but each is responsible for taking time off work, writing checks for convention fees and paying all their own travel and lodging expenses. How much does it cost? It varies each year, depending on your political persuasion and the convention location, but always runs in the thousands.…
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Party platform influence is poor concession

Party platform influence is poor concession

Gazette Column
Word is that Democratic officials are hoping to heal the rift between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders supporters. It’s a good goal, even if the action behind the intent points to a questionable start. An agreement allowed Sanders to select five people to serve on the party’s platform committee at the national convention in Philadelphia this July, which is roughly one-third of total membership. Clinton selected six including committee leadership, giving her campaign a controlling interest, and U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who leads the Democratic National Committee, named the remaining four. This is a deviation. Previously and typically the DNC head names the entire slate, presumably with the blessing of the presumptive or actual presidential nominee. Since Sanders and his supporters have worried their policy proposals, especially those in…
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This is no time for a food fight

This is no time for a food fight

Gazette Blog
Raise your hand if you remember when Congress debated making ketchup a vegetable. Many people remember the absurdity, even as they’ve forgotten the context. In 1981 — back when I was just another kid in the school lunch line — Congress hoped to take a ride on President Ronald Reagan’s spending-cut coattails by demanding the USDA cut $1 billion from child nutrition programs. But proposed legislation neglected to specify what should be slashed. School lunches were then mandated to have a meat, a grain, a dairy and two servings of fruits or vegetables. USDA officials told Congress they could make the cuts and still meet the requirements if pickle relish and ketchup could be reclassified as vegetables. You’d think after the subsequent backlash that Congress would have learned Americans want…
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Critics mistaken to dismiss Iowa as ‘too white’

Critics mistaken to dismiss Iowa as ‘too white’

Gazette Column
Another Iowa caucus season, another long line of critics ready to diminish the state’s first-in-the-nation status based on resident demographics. Fortunately such tired narratives have once again fallen to performance. Network television analyst Jeff Greenfield, writing for Politico, labeled the caucuses “a blight on American politics.” He quoted Democratic operative Joe Trippi to make his point: “After Iowa and New Hampshire, the Democratic primary race the rest of the way is an electorate that is 54 percent white and 46 percent minority.” It’s no secret that Iowa residents are predominantly white — more than 87 percent so, according to the U.S. Census Bureau — or that the state’s overall percentage of minority populations rest below the national average. Few fail to note, however, the significant gains by minority groups in…
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Time for Iowa Democrats to clean house

Time for Iowa Democrats to clean house

Gazette Column
Nearly two years ago Iowa Republicans made changes to protect the first-in-the-nation caucuses. Iowa Democrats must now do the same. Republican corrections were a public and painful affair. Following 2012 caucus tally mishaps, members of the “liberty movement” staged and executed a plan that had 22 of Iowa’s 28 national delegates supporting Ron Paul as the GOP nominee. Paul supporters also took key state roles, claiming seven of 18 seats on the Republican State Central Committee, under the leadership of movement member A.J. Spiker. Infighting began. Some potential presidential candidates were wary of the party’s ability to provide a level playing field. Within two years Spiker and his allies were removed. The party rebuilt trust and pulled the caucuses back from the brink of political irrelevance. Let’s hope, four years…
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Wendell Willkie is a 2016 cautionary tale

Wendell Willkie is a 2016 cautionary tale

Gazette Column
This is what happened in 1940 when Republicans opted for a political outsider National pundits pondering what a Donald Trump nomination means for the Republican Party and the nation have been reading the tea leaves. They’d be better off reading history books. This isn’t the first time party activists have engaged in friendly fire or looked beyond political loyalists for a savior. Seventy-five years ago Repubicans decided a businessman was their best presidential bet. Like Trump, Wendell Willkie, the GOP’s 1940 presidential nominee, once considered himself more left than right. Less than a year before he was named the GOP nominee, Willkie was registered as a Democrat. And he too bucked the establishment. Willkie didn’t run for the nomination, instead taking a stand at the party’s national convention in Philadelphia.…
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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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In Johnson County: No GOP voice, by choice

In Johnson County: No GOP voice, by choice

Gazette Column
Looking forward to hearing from the Republican candidate in the Johnson County Board of Supervisors special election? I’ve got some bad news for you. Early voting began this week for the Jan. 19 special election to replace former supervisor Terrence Neuzil, who has moved out of state. Although two candidates appear on the ballot, neither represents the Republican Party. Democrats met Dec. 16 and held a nominating convention that named Lisa Green-Douglas as their candidate. Chris Hoffman, a member of the North Liberty City Council, was nominated by petition and is running without party affiliation. Johnson County Republicans could have fielded a candidate during a December nominating convention of their own. None, however, was held. Perhaps it is Johnson County’s long-standing history of electing Democrats that has produced such apathy…
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