116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
So the voting starts on Wednesday, folks. And your fall color forecast predicts the state could be even redder when the leaves settle on Nov. 8.
Unless something changes dramatically, Gov. Kim Reynolds is favored to win, with Republicans also expected to retain control of the Iowa Legislature. The GOP may also pick off some down-ballot Democrats in other statewide offices. Voters may give us the Bird and elect a new attorney general.
But being favored hasn’t stopped Republicans from going on the attack. They’re accusing Democrats of favoring everything from defunding the police to allowing schools to change kids’ gender. And don’t forget abortion up until the moment of birth. These fabrications are about as structurally sound as a pile of leaves, but, hey, it’s October. Anything goes. And anyone who points out the lies clearly has a liberal bias.
All that’s at stake for Democrats is whether they remain a viable political party in Iowa. No pressure. The polls are daunting.
It’s maddening and demoralizing for many of us. But we still get to vote, if you can navigate GOP voter restrictions. Just for fun, let’s review what’s at stake if Iowa stays red or sinks deeper into the crimson abyss.
For one thing, there’s the future of public schools in Iowa. Reynolds will no doubt claim a “mandate” to renew her push to use public education dollars for private school scholarships. And it’s entirely possible her next plan will not be limited to 10,000 students. While siphoning tens of millions of dollars from public schools, the Legislature will once again lowball state aid to public schools.
Really, this is all about helping parents use public money to pay for an education that better fits their worldview. It’s not about improving education in Iowa. Reynolds will have no plan to improve public schools, where the vast majority of Iowa kids learn. The attacks on public school educators and their “sinister agenda” will likely intensify.
Reproductive rights also are on the ballot. Reynolds is asking state courts to lift an injunction blocking the enforcement of a law that bans abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, before most women know they are pregnant. If the courts oblige and set a lower legal bar for judging the constitutionality of abortion restrictions, Reynolds and the Legislature may go further.
Free expression will be less free. The drive to ban books from school and public libraries will continue and gain new momentum. There may be more restrictions on what teachers can teach. Your kids will only learn history that’s acceptable to conservatives.
Civil rights are also on the line, particularly for LGBTQ Iowans. It’s likely a redder Legislature will consider legislation removing gender identity from the list of protected classes in the Iowa Civil Rights Code. That would add fuel to the assault on school districts with transgender student support policies. Opposition from business groups fearing the economic consequences of making Iowa a civil rights pariah may not be enough to stop lawmakers’ desire to pull the state backward. Oppose these efforts and you’re clearly a “groomer,” according to my emails.
Iowa’s mental health system will continue to receive supportive lip service from majority Republicans but not the funding it needs to expand access to affordable care. Republicans would rather sock away bucks to cover the cost of more tax cuts.
Speaking of tax cuts, we’re likely to see more of them instead of investments in public schools, state universities, mental health and other priorities. Republicans say they want to eliminate the income tax but haven’t explained how they would make up for the loss of roughly half of general fund revenues. Math, however, is unlikely to stop them.
That shining moment in 2020 when Reynolds signed a modest package of policing reforms unanimously approved by lawmakers is long gone. There will be no further action addressing racial discrimination embedded in our criminal justice system. Any proposal will simply be labeled as “defunding the police.”
Marijuana won’t be decriminalized, there will be no discussion of legalization and Iowa’s paltry medical marijuana program probably won’t be expanded under Reynolds’ watch. Iowans will simply keep taking their marijuana money to Illinois.
Dirty water will stay dirty. State parks will be underfunded. The Iowa Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund will remain empty. Lawmakers will likely look for more ways to cut the social safety net, lest too many Iowans lazily remain in their hammocks. Carbon pipelines will plow ahead, snatching land through eminent domain, while the legislative majority sits on its hands.
Potentially worst of all will be the disappearance of oversight, especially if Reynolds gets her wish and Iowans elect “her” attorney general and her auditor. The GOP Legislature has already shown it has no desire to act as a check on questionable or even potentially corrupt executive branch actions. The Legislature’s Oversight Committee is more interested in calling local school officials on the carpet to explain Black Lives Matter events.
A significant amount of this stuff is unpopular. But issues seem to be no match for partisan tribalism, fake culture war outrage and fearmongering.
So this is what’s at stake as the balloting begins Wednesday. This will be Iowa’s future unless something changes dramatically. Or maybe Iowa voters will surprise us.
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