116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
So it’s been 14 years this week since I walked through the doors of The Gazette.
Much has changed, but one thing hasn’t. I needed a column for today and this is it.
Also, I’m still exhilarated each morning when I check my inbox to see how my words have shaped the thinking of readers.
“If you don't like how our State is run pack your freaking bags and move to one of your pathetic run libtard states!” a reader wrote in an email I received just before writing this. He was referring to a recent column I wrote about the state budget surplus.
“You can't fix stupid! This is the catagory I would place you in with this article. Go live in Cali for a few then see how intelligent your article sounds.
“Let Freedom Ring!!!!” he concluded. That doesn’t include the freedom to criticize politicians he likes, apparently.
Yeah, when I first came to town, I would get notes from readers who disagreed with me. But some actually challenged arguments I made in columns. Now, most skip the formalities and simply want me to disappear.
If persuasion isn’t dead, it’s taking a very long, deep nap. So I recognize that I’m preaching to the choir, mostly. On the other side is a choir chanting “Shame!”
I often hear from disgruntled readers claiming they used to like my column but now I’ve become an angry hack. They wish 2007 Dorman had been dipped in amber while happily typing away about the future of Westdale Mall or whether to sell part of Twin Pines Golf Course. Those were the days.
Since then, stuff has happened. Maybe you noticed. The Iowa politics I knew after covering the Legislature for 10 years, with two competitive parties tempering each side’s worst impulses, is long gone, crushed in a Trumpian wave of resentment and grievance. It’s been replaced by a Republican Statehouse bulldozer that’s plowed through the last remnants of moderation, veering sharply right.
Watching that happen has made it exceedingly difficult for me to write “on the one hand, on the other hand” columns. When something you love is being ransacked, you need to pick sides. My views on issues such as civil rights, environmental protection and sticking up for underdogs really haven’t changed. We now have entrenched power hostile to all of them.
Readers are more outraged. Politicians are far more thin-skinned. Gov. Tom Vilsack called me on the carpet multiple times to take issue with stuff I wrote at my previous gig. But he never banished me from briefings or had his staff refuse to answer my questions or slow walk information requests.
The dodging and dishonesty is astounding. Our leaders can say just about anything and face virtually no consequences. Last month, the governor sent out fundraising texts telling supporters President Joe Biden is trying to remove her from office. She embraces mask myths and has an 86 percent approval rating among unvaccinated Iowans. Disinformation is now sound political strategy.
I still love to write, though I’ve done less of that since becoming Insights editor. I still have hope for newspapers, even though hundreds have closed since 2007. I know, it’s all liberals’ fault, after a 30-plus year conservative campaign to discredit journalism and create an alternative Foxian universe.
So if I could meet that younger, thinner, more optimistic me at the door 14 years ago, I’d have some advice. But I’d still tell him to walk through the door. Although Cali can be very nice.
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