Many of you may recognize this as former Senator Tom Harkin’s comparison of the two political parties. He often used this comic line as a simple and easy-to-understand description of the difference between Democrats and Republicans.
“Just remember one thing,” Harkin said at the Democratic Convention in 2000. “All you ever needed to know about this election, you’ve learned from driving. If you want to go backward, you put it in R. But if you want to go forward, you put it in D.”
In addition to Harkin, many other Democratic politicians, including Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, have used this explanation of the two parties’ agendas.
This simple contrast between the two parties is more relevant than ever this year. Since the Republicans took complete control of the three branches of government, we are seeing this play out in real time. From Des Moines to Washington, D.C., the Republicans have shifted the government into a head-long rush backwards to a darker, meaner and dangerous past.
The Republican controlled Iowa Legislature has Iowa Democrats playing total defense. Democrats’ minority position in the Legislature prevents them from driving forward any improvements in the lives of Iowans. Their courageous efforts have been restricted to attempting to slow the Republicans’ reckless rush backwards.
The Iowa Republican leadership have zealously pushed through the most ruthless assault on workers, teachers, unions and women in memory. Rather than advancing the lives of most Iowans their actions will take Iowans backward. Backward to a time in history when Iowans had less control over their lives. Backward to a time before workers had a voice in their futures. Backward to a time before women had control over their own bodies and their healthcare. Backward to a time before Iowa teachers could negotiate for their families economic well-being.
Republicans are obliterating the Democrats’ forward move to boost the minimum wage in four Iowa Counties. Slashing the minimum wages of those workers from the $10.75 (Polk County) target back to $7.25 is a heartless plunge backwards. The Republicans’ brutal blow crushes the hopes of thousands of Iowa families to provide for themselves. The Republicans’ cruel disregard for those hard working Iowa families is a disgusting step backwards.
The Republicans’ malicious war on workers and teachers has resulted in the stripping of union workers’ rights to negotiate their own futures. It symbolizes how fanatic this Iowa Republican Party has become. Over 40 years ago, it was Republican Governor Robert Ray that signed the collective bargaining law this Republican Party just discarded. Today’s Republican Party overturned forty years of that labor peace in a rushed and uncompromising plunge backwards. In addition, their gutting of worker compensation benefits of injured workers is further evidence of their fanatic attacks on Iowa’s working men and women.
This Republican controlled Iowa Legislature will go down in history as the most extreme and reactionary in memory. Their vindictive assault on Iowans’ rights reverses years of progressive improvements in the lives of Iowa’s families.
At the national level, President Trump’s proposed slashing of safety net programs that benefit the most helpless guarantees a return to insecurity for millions of Americans. His cuts to government investments in agencies like the National Institutes of Health will impair the nation’s reputation to remain a leader in research. Trump’s vow to resurrect the 18th century fuel of choice, dirty coal, is a complete betrayal of America’s commitment to embrace state-of-the-art renewable energy sources.
The Trump Administration’s proposed slashing of funding for education, the environment and science will diminish America’s ability to compete in a global economy. His wholesale retreat on leadership in the world will result in making America a great disappointment to the rest of the world. Trump’s agenda will set back America’s historical position as a leader of the free world.
Former Senator Tom Harkin would probably never have guessed that Republicans could reverse so much he and other Democrats have accomplished. Keep in mind, Trump is just getting started and the Iowa Republicans will control the three branches of Iowa government until at least 2018. How much further backwards can Republicans take Iowa and the nation in the next year?
by Rick Smith