Staff Columnist

Democrats have plans. The GOP has 'Socialism!'

2020 Democratic U.S. presidential candidate and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg grills at the Iowa Pork Producers tent at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., August 13, 2019. REUTERS/Eric Thayer
2020 Democratic U.S. presidential candidate and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg grills at the Iowa Pork Producers tent at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., August 13, 2019. REUTERS/Eric Thayer

So more than 1.1 million people attended the Iowa State Fair, and I’ve heard roughly a third were running for president. Can’t confirm.

Most of them are Democrats, according to sources close to hay bales. And they came bearing plans, piles of plans for what ails rural Iowa.

Democratic hopefuls brought plans aimed at fixing rural infrastructure, cleaning up water, targeting agribusiness monopolies and expanding available, affordable housing. They pitched job training, broadband access and big changes in farm programs. How about better access to health care and higher Medicaid reimbursement rates? Maybe that old bridge up the road could use some attention.

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand floated a $50 billion series of rural development block grants. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar proposed a loan forgiveness program for kids who study agriculture and agree to take jobs in rural areas, as well as more funding to modernize Mississippi locks and dams.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, as is her custom, released pages of plans, including an effort to prevent hospital mergers that lead to the closure of rural facilities, along with $25 billion to build new health centers.

Not to be outdone, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg released rural health care and rural economic plans, including expansion of telemedicine access, Regional Innovation Clusters and $5 billion to beef up apprenticeship programs so training is within 30 miles of every American.

This is just a small sampling of ideas and candidates. Maybe you like these ideas, and maybe you don’t. But they’re the issues we need to hear about, in not only in the caucus campaign but in Iowa campaigns next year.

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In an ideal world, Republicans from President Donald Trump on down would have a substantive answer to these Democratic plans. A contest of ideas would follow. That’s what they taught us in high school government.

But so far, Republicans have revealed mainly a one-part plan.

Stop socialism!

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst set the tone for 2020 in Iowa in her June reelection announcement.

“Make no mistake, the forces of the radical, socialist left are on the march all across our state and across our nation,” Ernst said. “Our freedoms are quite literally under attack, because the radical left will stop at nothing until socialism has spread from coast to coast.”

Public enemy No. 1 is the Green New Deal, a series of ambitious, progressive goals for addressing some big problems, including climate change, although it prescribes no detailed legislation. And its vagueness makes it a Velcro target for GOP fearmongering. The Green New Deal surely will ban our meat and confiscate our lawn mowers.

Give me short grass and thick steaks, or give me death.

First they came for the incandescent light bulbs, and I did nothing.

Certainly, the GND’s policy implications are debatable. So what’s the GOP counter plan for addressing these issues? Crickets.

Sending up cultural fear flares warning Iowans of little green libs beats running on the president’s record. Trump’s trade policies have decimated important farm markets. By the way, federal payments to farmers to make up for some of their trade losses are not socialism. No sir.

The administration’s refinery waivers are undercutting Iowa’s critical ethanol industry. Its ham-handed effort to move agriculture department operations to Kansas City has sparked an exodus of scientists and researchers at a time when agriculture needs science and research most.

Trump’s immigration crackdown, presented by Steve King, should be an anathema to a state in dire need of labor. As flooding worsens in the Midwest, the White House has become a scientific dead zone.

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Sure, Ernst and other Iowa leaders will criticize Trump’s trade and fuel policies. Sharply even, at times. But is there any doubt they’ll wholeheartedly support his reelection?

That’s because they must save Iowa from real threats — “The Squad,” scary tattooed immigrants and kneeling football players. It’s the absolute least they can do to help rural Iowa.

l Comments: (319) 398-8262; todd.dorman@thegazette.com

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