May 29, 2024

COLUMN: If politicians won’t listen

My high school government teacher, Mr. Grasmick, taught that those who serve in elected positions are elected to represent their constituents. It is the elected leader’s responsibility to listen to constituents and vote in a manner representing the majority of the voting population regardless of the constituent’s political affiliation or the elected leader’s party affiliation.

Politics in Iowa went sideways following the 2016 election.

Despite vocal opposition by a large number of their constituents, Republicans in Iowa, including the governor, have consistently passed legislation strongly opposed by Iowans. It seems that elected officials forgot that they were accountable to their constituents and expected to represent all Iowan and not practice partisan politics and accommodate the wishes of the governor.

During the 2017 legislative session, the Iowa legislature achieved the trifecta. Both chambers of the legislature and the governor’s office were controlled by Republicans and legislators declared a mandate had been given and proceeded to turn a deaf ear to Iowans. Opposition to proposed legislation was ignored and laws changed regardless of whether Iowan’s wanted the change.

Let’s review Iowa’s political landscape since January 2017.

In 2017, collective bargaining laws, in place since 1975 and passed with bipartisan support, were gutted without public demand. Public education bore the brunt of political battles, facing underfunding and partisan attacks on issues like student vaccinations and curriculum decisions, disregarding safety and science. Educators were unfairly scapegoated, accused of having a “sinister agenda” and blamed for various problems, leading to disrespect for the profession and a teacher shortage in Iowa.

The concept of “parental rights” was championed selectively, particularly concerning decisions about gender-affirming healthcare for children. Critical Race Theory became a contentious issue despite little evidence of its presence in Iowa schools, and unfounded accusations of pornographic materials in school libraries led to book banning without clear guidelines. LGBTQ rights were targeted with laws on bathroom use and transgender athletes, despite a lack of significant participation by transgender athletes. Culture wars guided policies with little regard for what Iowans wanted or needed to maintain strong schools, good paying jobs and access to public services.

Public money was diverted to private schools under the guise of parental choice, despite opposition from the majority of Iowans. State government underwent reorganization, resulting in the elimination of commissions and gender-balanced membership requirements. Legislation granting “personhood” to fetuses surpassed women’s rights. Meanwhile, tax cuts persisted, leading to budget constraints for cities, counties, and schools, while issues like water quality and environmental protection were neglected.

When partisan politics, loyalty to a caucus, or fear of a governor override good sense and a refusal to listen to constituents, it’s time to seek different leaders. The current trifecta of Republican leaders exists in a silo where they listen only to each other, lobbyists, and Governor Reynolds. The place to make a change and make “Iowa Nice” again will begin to happen at the ballot box in November with the most likely place to shift, the Iowa House of Representatives.

If politicians won’t listen to constituents, then Iowans must elect legislators who will. Iowa is becoming unrecognizable. Know the voting record of the incumbent candidates. Remember their record and whether they were willing to listen or even respond to an email when you cast your ballot. Every vote matters. Iowa’s future is in our hands and to let our voices be heard.