Staff Columnist

Iowa is drawing lots of attention for its red state wisdom

Old Iowa Postcard from 1930s. Front Image.
Old Iowa Postcard from 1930s. Front Image.

Iowa is making headlines across the nation.

Late Friday, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced she would rescind the state’s already thin list of coronavirus restrictions and precautions. Limits on gatherings, social distancing and mask-wearing were tossed out the window.

She did this as new, more contagious virus variants are showing up in Iowa. The state is also lagging in the percentage of its residents who have been vaccinated. But the state has lots of empty hospital beds, so pack the bars, folks.

She neglected to tell Iowa journalists about her plans during a news conference the day before. On Monday, we learned the governor made her major public health decision without consulting the Department of Public Health.

Also on Monday, Reynolds offered her first public explanation, not to Iowans, but to Fox News host Sean Hannity.

“We’re dialing it down, we’re opening up and we’re going to continue to do everything we can to come back better and stronger than ever,” Reynolds told Hannity.

Hannity previously tried to push the big lie that Donald Trump won the election. But at least he can take comfort knowing that Trump still is president of Iowa.

Over on the even more conservative Newsmax network, U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson showed up to condemn funding in the Democrats’ COVID relief bill for state governments. Some of it would go to “bailouts for blue states,” Hinson explained. As we’ve learned during the Trump years, blue states are not really part of the United States.

Then there’s red state Iowa sitting on a fat surplus while its citizens struggle.


Hinson, a recovering journalist, was interviewed by Grant Stinchfield, “#MAGA Champion,” according to his Twitter bio. On Tuesday Stinchfield tweeted about the Senate impeachment trial, “You know what this impeachment shame 2.0 is about? Fear. The left is scared of President Trump and what is to come.”

Hinson finds the idea of meeting with our editorial board frightening, and we’ve never even incited an insurrection.

Iowa has joined Arkansas and Mississippi in considering bills banning schools and universities from using the New York Times’ 1619 Project as part of their history curriculum. The Pulitzer-prize winning project, led by Waterloo-native Nikole Hannah-Jones, puts the experiences of Black Americans, slavery and the deeply rooted racism at the center of the American story.

State Rep. Skyler Wheeler, R-Orange City, the bill’s sponsor, argues the 1619 Project is “leftist propaganda,” that surely “turns fourth-graders into activists for leftist policies.” Nothing keeps Wheeler up at night quite like legions of grade school Marxists.

His bill cleared a House subcommittee Tuesday over the objections of opponents, including subcommittee member Rep. Ras Smith, D-Waterloo.

“America is about the opportunity to have diverse thought and rigorous debate about what it means to be American,” Smith said.

Iowa House Speaker Pat Grassley has resisted requiring the use of face masks in the Capitol during the ongoing pandemic, arguing a mandate can’t be enforced. But last week he denied Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, D-Ames, the opportunity to speak from the House floor because she was wearing jeans. That’s a violation of the dress code. Deadly virus? Meh. Denim? Never! Many headlines followed.

And it’s freezing. But spring will come. The rest of this stuff? We’re stuck with it.

Remember when Iowa got attention for being ahead of the curve on civil rights, launching our first Black president, supporting quality public schools and demanding a non-crazy government? Seems like very long ago.

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