When you have sold your soul, the person you hate the most is the truth-teller. Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann’s excoriation of state Rep. Andy McKean in The Gazette (Rep. McKean’s party switch is a charade, May 1) is a great example of this phenomenon.
Both men are intelligent and well-educated. Both men have devoted much of their professional life to the Republican Party. When Donald Trump first rose to prominence in 2015, both men were uncomfortable, if not disgusted, with the direction in which he moved the Republican Party: the appeals to racial prejudice, religious intolerance, sexism, etc.
After any initial discomfort, Kaufmann sold his soul. He could have resigned his position as chair. To do so, though, would have compromised his paycheck, his future within the Republican Party, and perhaps be costly to his son’s political future within the Republican Party. Rather than deal with any of that Kaufmann consciously became chief Iowa cheerleader for whatever Trump does or says.
McKean had his own misgivings about Trump in 2016. Despite these, he thought he could make a difference in Des Moines on behalf of his friends and neighbors in Jones, Jackson and Dubuque counties.
After a 15-year absence, McKean returned to Des Moines as a legislator and found a different place. The parties work together less often. The Republican Legislature is more interested in pushing far right ideological goals than anything else.
In this situation McKean could have been a bump-on-a-log legislator. He could have become a party loyalist mouthpiece like Kaufmann. Instead, McKean recognized the oath he took as a legislator was not to any president or party. The oath he took as a legislator was to the Constitution of Iowa and the people of his district.
Voters in Jones County have already elected McKean 14 times. They know his character. When McKean’s conscience cannot allow him to remain in the Republican Party, that speaks volumes to the friends and neighbors he has known for a lifetime.
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Kaufmann knows McKean is a man of integrity and is trusted locally. That is what he cannot abide. That is why Kaufmann feels he must attack McKean. Because if other Republican leaders start following their conscience as McKean has courageously done, and refuse to blindly follow the president and his party, Kaufmann knows the whole damn thing may come crashing down on him.
l Nate Willems is a former Democratic state lawmaker from Mount Vernon.