Power politics

EDITORIALS

BY ART CULLEN

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Red Oak, made clear last week that she is running a base election aligned with President Trump at great risk. It was a morbid but crucial point: If a Supreme Court vacancy occurs late in this election cycle, she will move ahead with appointing a successor even if the President is a lame duck. Of course, the Republican-controlled Senate did not show President Obama the same deference with the nomination of Merrick Garland as a justice. Ernst drew her line, that this is about power politics.

Ernst is misreading the mood of the electorate. Her approval rating for joining with President Trump at the brain has been steadily falling since 2016. Recent polls show her trailing Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield, within the margin of error. Few of us thought this possible in 2016. Also, Greenfield is raising more money than Ernst by a fair margin. Already we are inundated with TV ads.

Polls indicated that Iowans were anxious about health care, climate change, world trade and ethanol before the pandemic hit. Once America shut down amid division and confusion, the electorate’s mood has changed to wanting security and stability over crazy ideological arguments and cruelty. Steve King lost. Donald Trump is in big trouble. Joe Biden is polling well because he is perceived as steady and honest, and campaigning on bringing America together. Likewise, Greenfield has a neighborly quality and compelling story that appeals to independents. That is where the battle will be fought.

Democrats and Republicans will turn out in Iowa this November in record numbers. Congratulations to Secretary of State Paul Pate and our county auditors for insisting on actively mailing out absentee voter forms to all registered voters. (You may request one from the Buena Vista County Auditor.) There are more registered Democrats than Republicans. No-party voters will decide the margin. They are less likely to be ideological about Supreme Court candidates. They are suspicious of Trump. They want fairness — that has been the message across America all year.

Rushing through a Supreme Court nominee will backfire on Ernst. Of course, we hope she does not have the opportunity. Good health and best wishes to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and all the justices.

Local control is a joke

The Storm Lake School Board is left with little choice but to fling open the classroom doors and welcome back students safely as we can a month from now. The state has offered precious little guidance or support to guide administrators and boards. The governor will not issue a statewide mask order, and has made clear that she will not countenance contrary local orders. She also commanded that schools must operate at least half-time in-person, contrary to wishes of the Iowa City School District that had planned a phased opening. School districts are powerless in so many ways as a creature of the state. This is but another example.

Iowa is among 18 states considered “red zones” by the Centers for Disease Control, according to a secret list unveiled by the Center for Public Integrity. The CDC would recommend much stricter guidelines than what the governor contemplates. That’s why the list was kept secret. Iowa previously has rejected guidance from the CDC.

Because of short funding from the state, Storm Lake has battled chronic overcrowding issues in its schools for decades. Officials are trying to figure out how to allocate space to keep class sizes below 15 while spreading out. It’s nearly impossible. Teachers were teaching in closets and sheds during normal times.

We should insist that everyone wear masks. We are told that we are dreaming when you are dealing with kindergartners. About 90% of parents surveyed said they want their children back in the classroom come August. They need the jobs and can’t afford daycare. That is our state of affairs.

It is dangerous. It is inconsiderate of the facts. It puts low-paid teacher aides at tremendous risk. What works at Newell-Fonda or Alta-Aurelia might not work in Storm Lake. We are setting up a continuous cycle of infection among parents working in food processing plants, children confined within buildings, and school staff potentially carrying the coronavirus wider into the community. There are responsible ways to educate our children in this environment — by staggering classes, using virtual learning and providing child care as the Storm Lake district was trying to do. Gov. Reynolds is imposing a regimen over which local school boards have no choice and administrators little control. She is doing so in a cloak of secrecy over vital public health information that promises to fester this disease catastrophe. Only God can save us, because we have abandoned science and good sense.

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