One year into the Trump era, our republic still is standing.
Iowa was one of the Republicans’ biggest success stories of the 2016 election. Pundits wondered whether voters here were bucking our swing-state status, as Donald Trump finished nearly 10 points ahead of Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton, and Republicans won control of the Iowa Senate — cementing their complete charge of state government.
But just a year after the inauguration, mounting evidence suggests Iowa is souring on Trump. Republicans are left wondering whether the president will bring the rest of us down with him.
Most Iowa voters disapprove of Trump’s job performance in his first year, according to a Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll released last month. That survey found Trump’s approval rating in Iowa at just 35 percent, even lower than the national average and down from 43 percent among Iowans in July.
In addition to Trump’s slumping survey numbers, Democrats point to 2017’s special elections in Iowa to claim they’re prepared to make comebacks in 2018. Though none of the four Iowa House and Senate seats up for election last year switched parties, the figures show some promise for Democrats.
The most recent special election came in December in Senate District 3, covering parts of Plymouth and Woodbury counties in northwest Iowa. The Democrat candidate reached 45 percent in a district where Clinton barely broke 25 percent in the 2016 election. The liberal blog Bleeding Heartland called it a “stunning performance.”
Despite all the negative signs, I suspect Iowans are not rejecting the Republican Party or our values, but they are indeed turning away from Trump’s brand of scorched-earth politics.
Consider two other GOP politicians, Gov. Kim Reynolds and U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley.
The fiercest public backlashes they received last year weren’t over the Reynolds administration’s floundering Medicaid modernization, or Grassley’s support of the controversial tax reform law.
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Instead, Iowa’s top GOP banner carriers suffered public relations disasters over their Trump-style remarks reported in the media. Reynolds called her political critics “unhinged” in October, while Grassley belittled middle-income Americans last month for supposedly wasting their money “on booze or women.”
Iowans appreciated neither.
The same pollsters who found Trump’s support tanking in Iowa reported just so-so numbers for other Iowa Republicans. Fifty-one percent approve of Reynolds’ job in office, according to the Iowa Poll, while a slim plurality of survey respondents said they plan to support Democrats over Republicans in this year’s congressional elections.
Most Iowans realize few of the policies the Trump administration is pushing for are not his original ideas, and none will destroy our country, as the naysayers claim.
Yet Trumpism has had a very real impact on our shared political discourse. Stakeholders on all sides now seem emboldened to say hateful things about their political opponents, with shockingly little regard for truth or civility.
If Iowa Republicans hope to survive Trump’s demise, they must rediscover Iowa nice.
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