Learning from our history of finding scapegoats

Learning from our history of finding scapegoats

Gazette Column
Sadness, fear and confusion. Those are the three emotions woven throughout conversations I had in the wake of a 2008 immigration raid in Postville. For nearly the same reasons, these emotions also surrounded the Muslim residents taking part in a community demonstration last weekend. The alignment is understandable, if regrettable. [caption id="attachment_913" align="aligncenter" width="640"] People of many faiths gathered on May's Island on Saturday, Dec. 19, in a show of support for Muslims and other immigrants, who have recently been targeted in political rhetoric. The solidarity demonstration was organized by the Inter-Religious Council of Linn County. (Lynda Waddington/The Gazette)[/caption] Some Postville Hispanics were spared the felonious identity theft convictions faced by 389 male workers — a prosecution strategy that the U.S. Supreme Court later found lacking. Instead of being bustled…
Read More
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…
Read More
More GOP cronyism staining UI

More GOP cronyism staining UI

Gazette Column
Some of us have friends. Some of us have friends who use their professional positions to funnel us money. Guess which kind former Republican Party of Iowa chairman Matt Strawn has. A records request to the University of Iowa by the Associated Press found $321,900 in no-bid contracts awarded to Strawn’s consulting company. Strawn, in turn, subcontracted firms led by others with GOP ties to perform at least part of the work. The contracts were managed by UI Vice President for External Relations Peter Matthes, a former Iowa Senate Republican Caucus staff director who served alongside Strawn. Strawn’s company was, for instance, hired in the spring of 2013 to conduct online and grass roots advocacy. That contract totaled $24,900 — just a hundred dollars below a threshold triggering quotes from…
Read More
Political training added to Iowa Renewal Project

Political training added to Iowa Renewal Project

Gazette Blog
Three 2016 GOP presidential hopefuls scheduled to appear If a national movement coming to Des Moines as part of the Iowa Renewal Project is successful, Iowans may see many more conservative pastors and church leaders on their 2016 ballots. The movement — the Men and Women of Issachar — is the brainchild of David Lane, a politically-connected religious conservative, and was named after one of the twelve tribes of Israel — specifically the tribe that sent 200 men with the ability or vision to decipher the signs of the times and direct the actions of David’s army at Hebron. “Nobody is confused that politicians are going to save America,” Lane said in January when he announced the movement, which hopes to encourage and train at least 1,000 church leaders and…
Read More
Too bad Barack Obama isn’t a Muslim

Too bad Barack Obama isn’t a Muslim

Gazette Column
The first U.S. visit by Pope Francis made clear that most Americans have finally sat aside anti-Catholic prejudice, a process that began decades ago. John F. Kennedy, a Roman Catholic, knew what he was getting into when he began his 1960 presidential bid. Before him, only one Catholic, former New York Gov. Al Smith, had been a presidential nominee for a major U.S. political party. Smith’s 1928 campaign fractured under rumors that he’d construct a tunnel connecting the Vatican to the White House or that he’d amend the Constitution to make Catholicism the national religion. That year Iowa’s own Herbert Hoover, raised a Quaker, was elevated above Smith and into the White House. It was due to this history, I believe, that Kennedy chose to take his candidacy to the…
Read More
The view from stage right

The view from stage right

Gazette Column
Imagine the Iowa Straw Poll in its glory days. Now pretend that no one there really likes or trusts each other. Pump up the humidity and temperature to the consistency of a bowl of soup. Finally, multiply everything you just imagined by 100. That was the scene Wednesday as I crossed the U.S. Capitol Complex. A highly publicized Tea Party Patriots rally, led by presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Donald Trump and featuring former GOP vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, was organized to oppose a nuclear diplomacy deal with Iran. Off the stage, a variety of issues were on display. Signs, T-shirts, hats and even lawn chairs offered messages regarding marriage, religious freedom, President Barack Obama, gun control, education, health care and assorted federal agencies. By the time the chorus of…
Read More
Immigration forum will target ugly rhetoric

Immigration forum will target ugly rhetoric

Gazette Column
Young people with handmade signs and women wearing ankle tracking devices surrounded several members of Congress to relay their real-life horror stories. Congress did nothing. The women and young people were what was left following a massive 2008 immigration raid at a Postville meatpacking plant. They were destitute, relying on a local churches for food and other necessities. Husbands, fathers and brothers were either awaiting deportation, or had already been deported. Nearly all were also handed a criminal conviction, ensuring they would no longer have the option of entering the country legally. [caption id="attachment_1035" align="alignleft" width="300"] A marcher wears an ankle monitoring device during an immigration reform march through the streets of Postville on Sunday, July 27, 2008. The women fitted with the ankle devices wore them for roughly 19…
Read More
Branstad, GOP hopefuls differ on local control

Branstad, GOP hopefuls differ on local control

Gazette Column
Education shortfalls are a manufactured crisis Spend a little time with the 2016 GOP presidential candidates and you’ll hear their plans to loosen government’s reins and provide local leaders more flexibility. If such goals are successful, however, its doubtful Iowans existing under the Branstad administration will experience relief. Debates about local control are as regular as general elections, and equally effective. But that hasn’t stopped all levels of politicians from sounding an alarm. For instance, in March 1953, then-U.S. House Majority Leader Charlie Halleck, an Indiana Republican who died in 1986, spoke before a joint session of the Iowa Legislature on the risk of expansion beyond “the smallest unit of government capable of handling the job.” “With every transfer of responsibility from Des Moines or Indianapolis to Washington, there is…
Read More
Even in death, straw poll hype continues

Even in death, straw poll hype continues

Featured, Gazette Column
Candidates, please idle your wallets. Members of the Republican State Central Committee voted Friday morning to officially end the Iowa Straw Poll, a GOP caucus staple since 1979. No doubt built on good intentions, and once worthy of the national attention it received, it’s later years brought unparalleled focus on money instead of organization. And while the autopsies now underway will include a host of details concerning the Iowa Straw Poll’s demise — i.e., Gov. Terry Branstad’s early burial plot purchase or the ongoing refusal of GOP leaders to include participants in planning for a new Boone-doggle — the terminal infection was introduced years ago. The disease was more pronounced each year as supporter excitement and campaign organization took a back seat to purchased victories. Cause of death? Let’s call…
Read More
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,…
Read More