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…
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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…
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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…
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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…
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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…
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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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Has UKIP arrived in Iowa?

Has UKIP arrived in Iowa?

Gazette Column
A significant (and I believe growing) number of Iowans no longer fit neatly into the two historic political categories that have dominated American politics, and they are owning it. While there have always been political outliers — those who align with the majority of one platform or the other, but are holdouts on specific topics — the current shift is different because people are self-identifying differently. At political events in 2008 and 2012 it was not uncommon to meet Iowans who described themselves as a specific brand of party supporter. For instance, “pro-choice Republican” or “pro-gun Democrat.” Even while differentiating themselves from a larger political perception, Iowans continued to claim a party brand. Recently, however, some of those who previously identified “centrist Democrat” or “moderate Republican” have dropped the party…
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Political spin turning voters off

Political spin turning voters off

Gazette Column
A  new study by a Philadelphia media watchdog group has found that, in the lead-up to the 2014 midterm elections, more time during broadcast newscasts was devoted to paid advertisements by political campaigns and third-party groups than actual information or discourse on policy issues. Researchers found that ad time outpaced news on political issues at a ratio of nine to one. “ ... By the numbers, it was no contest. Political ads vastly outnumbered political stories of any kind and that difference was monumental when it came to political stories that addressed any of the public issues that were raised in the ads.” While we don’t yet have solid research regarding the amount of time Iowa newscasters spent discussing policy issues in comparison to the amount of time spent airing…
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Conservatives favor gender typicality in female politicians

Conservatives favor gender typicality in female politicians

Gazette Column
If research from Dartmouth is any indicator, Joni Ernst may have already lost the Republican primary for U.S. Senate. In fact, she may never have had a chance. The white paper, published this week, details how gendered facial cues can predict electoral success for female politicians. In other words, researchers wanted to determine if feminine appearance — especially facial cues of femininity — was correlated to success in political contests. [caption id="attachment_206" align="alignright" width="300"] State Sen. Joni Ernst appears at the Family Leader Forum at Faith Baptist Bible College in Ankeny, Iowa, on Friday, April 25, 2014. (Alison Sullivan/The Gazette)[/caption] While research has shown political success for male candidates is linked to perceptions of competence and attractiveness, this white paper demonstrates gender cues uniquely predict a female candidate’s success beyond…
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Mailer uses ‘pants on fire’ attack against Braley

Mailer uses ‘pants on fire’ attack against Braley

Gazette Column
Mailers recently distributed into Iowa’s 1st Congressional District by a Virginia-based organization and attacking U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley use messaging previously deemed false. [caption id="attachment_196" align="aligncenter" width="232"] Front of a mailer by Virginia-based Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_197" align="aligncenter" width="237"] Back of a Front of a mailer by Virginia-based Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce.[/caption] The mailers, shown above, were distributed Wednesday and Thursday. They encourage voters to contact Braley, the only Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, regarding his support of health care reform. The messaging is nearly identical to an earlier television ad buy, which was labeled as “pants on fire” by PolitiFact. Both the television ad and the mailers were produced by a funding group with ties to brothers Charles and David Koch. According to the Washington…
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