116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
“Todd Dorman hates everything.”
This is not the title of my forthcoming autobiography, but rather a Facebook comment on last Sunday’s column, “Come feel free again in red state Iowa.”
You might recall, in response to Gov. Kim Reynolds’ plan to used COVID relief funding to launch an ad campaign promoting Iowa, I whipped up a couple of my own concepts. I used a touch of satire to point out many of the things our Republican-run Statehouse has wrought that aren’t exactly welcoming.
Although I don’t hate everything, I am pretty salty about Iowa’s political direction. I care deeply about my native land, so I use my small megaphone to register my objections. That rankles a lot of people. So be it. I’m not staying quiet.
Fortunately, most readers who chimed in agreed with my take.
“Totally captivating, totally educational, totally brilliant, totally accurate, totally scary,” wrote a reader who came to Iowa from Pennsylvania in 1971, when the Republican Party was very different from what it is now. “We avoid ‘talking politics’ with anyone but family. The odds of Iowa changing during my lifetime are slim to none.”
“My first thought keeps evolving: "what the hell has happened to the beautiful state I so dearly love?" Your column of June 20 pretty much sums it up,” wrote a reader who lived in Iowa for 58 years, moved to Colorado for 13 years and returned in May 2020.
“I am sure people consider themselves ‘Iowa Nice,’ but I can't for the life of me understand how Kim Reynolds is tolerated as governor, and how politicians (namely Republicans) have shut out us voters from public comment and access to decision making,” the reader wrote.
Some readers I heard from have left Iowa.
“I am one of a large cohort of young former Iowans who have the means to go somewhere better. The fact Iowa needs useless expensive adverts to "attract" people to the state is in itself proof of the problems Republicans have created for themselves,” a reader argued.
One reader left years ago and hoped to come back.
“Once again you hit it out of the park,” he wrote.
“I left Iowa 40 years ago, I still have family living in Cedar Rapids. I visit them and the state regularly. I no longer recognize the Iowa I left. It has become hateful and ignorant. WHAT HAPPENED?
“I was planning on retiring back to Iowa for the quality of life, smart people with progressive ideas, low housing costs, negligible crime and exceptional health care. Not anymore,” he wrote.
Of course, some did not like my marketing pitches.
“It must really suck to be you,” a reader wrote. “Nothing is ever good. It is so easy to blame and to find fault. It wouldn't hurt if you decided to compliment someone who you disagree with politically.”
Covering politics and the Legislature for many years, I’ve met many Republicans I respected, and some I admired, even if I disagreed with their politics. I had a good working relationship with GOP lawmakers, who didn’t duck interviews or constantly heap scorn on the media.
Unfortunately, very few of them are still involved in politics.
“I have a deal for you,” another reader wrote. “In your next Sunday Insight column list 10 things you actually think are nice about living in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. If you can do that I will send you 10 dollars via check.”
My column wasn’t really aimed at Cedar Rapids, and I actually live in Marion. But this is pretty easy. Five seasons, five smells. You can keep the 10 bucks.
One reader said he enjoyed the column, but fibbed.
“The reason I enjoyed it so much is because it was such a great representation of how liberal, ideologues like yourself in the media have such a gross disregard for facts,” wrote the reader, who is excited to be moving from Illinois to red state Iowa.
What followed was a very long note criticizing the liberal media, Critical Race Theory and liberal hacks such as myself. He praised Reynolds’ pandemic response, our budget surplus, etc.
“I cannot wait to relocate from this BLUE, disgrace of a state that is Illinois and arrive in the GREAT STATE OF IOWA,”
Did I mention he’s moving to Iowa City?
A reader also asked me why I stayed in the first place. This is a question I’ve been thinking about.
There were moments that seem to matter, stuck in my aging mind.
There was the night after high school graduation when I stood on a gravel road with some friends drinking, um, pop. Lightning filled the Western sky and the outflow winds from the storms swept across the fields and cooled the muggy air. I closed my eyes and thought, this is where I want to live. Might have been the pop talking.
When I was a page in the Iowa House in 1989 I watched lawmakers debate and pass a bill adding sexual orientation to the state civil rights code, decades before other states took up the issue. Rep. Tom Jochum, a Catholic Democrat from Dubuque, stood to voice eloquent support for the bill and the House fell silent. It passed but failed in the Senate. We lost Jochum last year.
When I returned to the Capitol as a reporter nine years later, the friction of opposing viewpoints and partisanship certainly existed, but it often yielded reasonable, durable compromises, even with the GOP holding the coveted trifecta. It was a brand of politics I thought I understood, until our red state trailblazers fired up the bulldozers in recent years.
Watching young Iowans bound out of the Iowa Judicial Building on a sunny April morning waving the Varnum decision over their heads is a sight I won’t forget.
Maybe it was our wedding at the Church of the Land at Living History Farms on a gorgeous September day, or an October morning trout fishing beneath a tree canopy covered in frost. Good schools for our kids certainly factored in. And I don’t want to live anywhere that a white Christmas isn’t at least a possibility. So many moments that pulled us in and kept us here.
Why did we stay? When should we go? For now, the right answer is stay and be heard.
(319) 398-8262; firstname.lastname@example.org