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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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…
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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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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…
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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…
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