I remember sitting with my dad at the kitchen table, eating lunch together, and listening to Paul Harvey news.
Paul Harvey was the first talk show radio host I ever heard. He had a 5 minute program every weekday at noon. I never discussed the show with Dad because I had noticed Dad would talk passionately about what politicians should do for farmers then he and Mom would vote for the slick familiar character working against the farmers’ interest and for corporate interests. Somehow this experience launched me into being a life-long Democrat.
Things have changed a lot since I was a kid. Not in quality but in magnitude. Political talk show hosts have celebrity status. They have currency with the electorate no matter how mean and nasty they talk nor how fantastical their claims. Iowa’s family farms, once proudly feeding the hungry, are now unfenced acreage, a cog in the corporate factory-food business churning out corn syrup and corn starch to fatten the people of America.
The primaries are over; the gubernatorial race features incumbent Democrat Chet Culver against the Republican Terry Branstad. This election feels like a flashback. Terry Branstad was already Iowa governor for 16 years.
After experiencing the degradation of Iowa facilities under Branstad’s past leadership, the idea of more privatization is not attractive to me so I wondered what Senator Tom Harkin had to say at his 33rd annual “Harkin Steak Fry.” Senator Harkin shared this predication, “You take it from me: Chet Culver is going to beat Terry Branstad like a rented mule on November 2.” That perked me up.
On September 7, 2010 I read “Branstad proposes ‘A Better Iowa for Veterans.” With this proclamation he appears exceedingly disingenuous. He should have taken care of the veterans during his first term in office, and he had 4 terms to do right by the veterans.
One of the big themes for this election is the use of embryonic stem cell for medical research. Gov. Chet Culver has lately been predicting his support of embryonic stem cell research will garner him enough Independent votes for a win. He often mentions that his opponent holds an “extreme ideological opposition” to giving state funding to this type of research. Branstad’s spokesperson, Tim Albrecht, has bemoaned this type of “name calling” by Gov. Culver.
I was thinking, maybe, there exists the possibility that Gov. Culver is correct because the University of Iowa’s medical research is a great point of pride with Iowans. The use of embryonic stem cells has been effective in bone marrow transplantation and great breakthroughs have been made using embryonic stem cells for understanding autism, alleviating Down syndrome, treating cancer, slowing Parkinson’s disease, making Alzheimer’s drugs, and curing Type 1 Diabetes. Iowans are good, caring people. Not only would many people around the world be helped but also the families of Iowa voters, including my family.
But when I asked Dr. T.G. Volm who practices at an Iowa City area hospital, he explained to me, “I do not think that will change the election. Culver is seriously behind in the polls. Culver was opposed to gay marriage, has been pretty conservative on social issues and needs to find some way to get voters to the polls. That is not likely to happen. He has played to the middle of the road in a state that does not have much of a middle road left. So it is back to emotional scare tactics. Like Grassley’s “Death Panels”, fear drives people to the polls, not reason…it has become a game of terrorizing Americans, not offering leadership, just scare people enough to vote.”
The prediction that Gov. Culver’s stem cell research isn’t enough to change people’s mind is disappointing. The observation that fear wins elections over common sense is disturbing to me. Traveling through the USA I was always happy to return home where I would be surrounded by other Iowans whom I consider to be solid, fair and full of common sense.
Another disturbing theme of the election is the failure of former Gov. Branstad to take the 1994 floodplain/watershed recommendations and implement them so the 2008 flood of Iowa could have been avoided. On September 14, Democratic state Senator Hogg (Cedar Rapids) made well-known his insistence that Branstad address the issue of neglecting to take flood prevention action when he had the power. On September 24 The Independent Iowa reports that no explanation has been forthcoming from Branstad. Instead Branstad has chosen to avoid giving an answer by blaming Gov. Culver for his reaction to the 2008 floods; although even experts have highly commended Culver on his response. The Republican’s strategy to me signals some degree of ineptitude and a comfort level with transparency.
For an analysis of the election race from a keen observer of politics I got in touch with, Jim Cullen, editor of The Progressive Populist. Mr. Cullen told me, “. . . I think Culver’s best hope is that he can raise independent Iowans’ suspicions about the Tea Party’s influence on Branstad, who was very popular as a moderate Republican governor in the ’80s and ’90s but now has tacked right on some issues to satisfy the teabaggers, as Sen. Charles Grassley also has in his re-election campaign. But the teabaggers also play to the populist streak in Iowa, which will be hard for Culver and the Democrats to overcome. It’s a very tough race for Culver, who is competent but not a very charismatic centrist, running against a talented politician who still knows most of the movers and shakers in all 99 counties from his 16 years as governor.”
Jim Cullen’s comments bring up a disturbing point about voters, they seem to prefer charisma over competence. Seems to me we Democrats have a lot of explaining to do before the elections to make our case for Gov. Culver.
I’m pretty sure former Governor Terry Branstad will get the vote of my parents. Unfortunately.