No one thinks we care. Iowans care about corn, we are told. Iowans care about Busch Light, football, and nothing else. Iowans, most certainly, don’t care about impeachment.
Writing in the New York Times, David Brooks argues that when it comes to impeachment, the “fundamental reality is that many Americans are indifferent.” Art Cullen, our Pulitzer Prize winning Iowan, writes, “[Iowans] aren’t paying that much heed to the colonel or the diplomat or the defense official who courageously testified to Congress. Quid quo pro is not on their lips. Busch Light is.” Et tu, Art?
The teeming virus of journalists infecting the state are reporting that Iowans aren’t bringing up impeachment. As if we’d willingly talk about the suppurating boil on the face of country in polite conversation, our parents raised us better.
Also, the logic that we don’t care presumes that Iowans are incapable of caring about multiple things at once. Turns out, we can care about our struggling rural hospitals and poisoned ground water and the president doing crimes, all at once. We are complicated. We are human. Also, why would we ask about impeachment at the campaign rallies that cycle through our backyards and coffee shops? I want a Senate to impeach and a president to sort out the mess of our reproductive rights. Lord willing and our nitrates stop ruining the creeks and we make it to the election, impeachment will be sorted by then, one way or another.
Iowans do care. Letters to the editor have been flooding in to our mailbox and inbox since the first mention of “quid pro quo.” Both people who support impeachment and people, like Jeff Kaufmann, the head of the Iowa GOP, who don’t care so aggressively that they will shout they don’t care and hold signs that say they don’t care. Aggressively not caring about their not caring, which is a lot like caring, except less self aware.
And maybe I am wrong. It’s happened before. Maybe Iowans don’t care. But even then, the argument lacks any sort of historical context. At the beginning of the Watergate hearings, only 19 percent of Americans thought Nixon should resign. The vast majority still believed he was doing a fine job. Trump’s approval rating. in contrast to Nixon’s, is abysmal. Recent polls show 49 percent of Americans support impeachment. The only difference being, Nixon was better at crimes.
The narrative that Iowans don’t care is also a dangerous lie, because it gives our elected officials an escape hatch on ethical action. So far, Sen. Joni Ernst and Sen. Chuck Grassley have been dodging impeachment questions, because they are arguing just this: Iowans don’t care. I imagine their inboxes and voicemails say something different. But it’s an amoral stance to presume that consensus is morally urgent. Also, saying Iowans don’t care about impeachment in order to avoid the question on our president’s crimes privileges a logic that bends to mob apathy, rather than justice.
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After all it was Sen. Ernst on January 15 2014, when impeachment wasn’t even seriously being considered, who called for the impeachment of the president for acting like a dictator, not caring about the constitution and runnking amok. Such bold decisive messaging for Barack Obama, and yet our Senator can’t even carry a glass of water to the trash fire that’s the White House.
The cynicism and amoral politicking on what Iowans care about is a game that no one wins. And misses a fundamental aspect of Midwestern nature, which is that I’ve seen Iowans bleed from the head and aggressively insist they were fine and there is nothing to talk about, just to be polite. Why should it be any different for the open wound in the White House?
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