Our role in democracy



Iowans have an extraordinary opportunity and responsibility, starting now, to lead the nation away from the politics of fear, incompetence and corruption on full display over the Christmas holiday. The federal government was partially shut down, again, over immigration. The treasury secretary incited a panic on Christmas Eve by announcing that six major banks remain solvent, resulting in the biggest Dec. 24 loss on record at the Dow Jones. A second child died of neglect at the border. Trump sat alone at the White House and tweeted his disgust for the FBI, for Democrats and for immigrants (forgetting in the moment that the Holy Family were refugees at the Nativity). We keep thinking: This must be the low point. But it never is.

Our President is a pervert spanked by a porn star on his bare bottom with a magazine. He is a tyrant who seeks to deport citizens of the United States, specifically Southeast Asian and Latino, to foreign nations. He is an inveterate liar. The President has incited violence against a free press. His closest advisors are in prison or awaiting it for fraud involving the security forces of Russia. He started a trade war with China that remains far from resolved, and sparked trade disputes with Canada and Mexico, that sapped what little vitality corn and soybean markets had. We are now subsidizing hogs owned by Smithfield Foods, which is owned by the Chinese, because of this idiotic trade war. Our allies around the world don’t know if we stand with them anymore.

Iowa gave the President a wake-up call by electing two Democrats to Congress, Abby Finkenauer of Dubuque and Cindy Axne of Des Moines. Steve King is the only Republican congressman left from the Tall Corn State, and JD Scholten is about to do him in. Democrats made a mistake by nominating a fatally flawed gubernatorial candidate: a rich corporate heir from Des Moines who didn’t make much of an effort along the blacktops. They will correct themselves in the Presidential nominating process that has begun.

Our first step, as a state, is to conduct a clean and transparent caucus process. The state Democratic Party is sensitive about the Berniecrats claiming that the Clintons rigged the process last time around. There always will be confusion surrounding caucuses because they are confusing. But every time they produce the right result in winnowing the field, never more important with 30 pretty decent candidates scratching around for a spark.

Polling indicates that the sophisticated caucus-goer wants somebody who reflects their values, but mainly they want a winner. If the secret to Trump’s success was in the Midwest — and we can actually boil it down to Iowa, Wisconsin and Ohio, the three purplest of the dozen swing states — and rural voters, then Democrats need someone who can win those three bellwethers by snatching just enough rural independent voters away from Trump. Iowans are apt to hone in on Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, and Sen. Sherrod Brown and Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, as politicians who understand the frustrations of those left to the whimsy of markets and weather. They are proven Midwestern winners. It would hurt none of them to talk about Tom Vilsack as a running mate, if you’re looking for rural roots, integrity and a sharp mind that could unravel Hoosier Mike Pence in seconds.

They might be attracted to the cry of justice from El Paso’s Beto O’Rourke, a son of the Borderlands who actually understands the centuries-old American immigration pattern. Poll after poll by the highly respected Ann Selzer of Des Moines reports that we Iowans support comprehensive reform with a pathway to citizenship at rates hovering around 70%. A recent national poll she conducted for Grinnell College confirmed that most Americans are not anti-immigration and certainly not anti-refugee. What they are for: a system that makes sense and maintains order, and that protects the vulnerable. That message has resonance in this cycle. Just a few of us want troops at the border chaining up children. Most of us want to stop the madness.

Iowans yearn for a civil discussion. We want to know how the government can help agriculture cope with climate change. We would like to see more renewable energy from the Great Plains. We want to know how we can maintain rural health care systems in a time of clampdowns on state and federal funding. And yes, we want to discuss how world trade impacts places like Storm Lake with people who aim to do something about it.

You can be a part of that incredibly important process. If you are a Republican dissatisfied with your leader, you will have a chance to stand up for John Kasich or some other maverick looking for an opening as Ronald Reagan once did. If you are an independent, you can step in to a Democratic caucus and help determine who the party nominee might be. If you are a Democrat, you will have the chance to meet the cream of the crop in intimate settings and pose intelligent questions that often otherwise wouldn’t get asked on the cable news.

This administration has challenged the idea of citizenship, of the voting franchise, of the First Amendment, and the very idea of the rule of law. Iowa begins the process of a nation recommitting itself to the foundation of one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all. That is actually what is at stake. The candidates are already here, asking for you. Don’t let this opportunity to save a nation through democratic revolution pass you by.