Why, oh why, is politics so nasty?
That was Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds’ lament yesterday when she was pressed by reporters about why she said at her recent fundraiser, “The liberals are unhinged and they are out for us.” Her stated excuse for the highly-provocative line was that online commentators had attacked her grandchildren in a post she made on her private Facebook page. I question if that was really the exact impetus for that specific line, but let’s go with it for now.
“There is no civil discourse left, and it is really sad,” Reynolds bemoaned in her press conference yesterday. “We ought to be able to talk about ideas, we ought to be able to debate ideas because that’s how you get to consensus and that’s how you move this country forward and that’s how you move this state forward … We do a better job of it in Iowa, we do. But it is just so vitriol and vicious right now, and I hope at some point we can get back to a discussion.”
Many – if not all – people in Iowa would agree. Our civil discourse has completely broken down, spurned on by extreme partisanship, polarized social media, dangerous demagogues appealing to the worst impulses in our society and a lack of party leaders standing up to it. Reynolds’ frustration is understandable and relatable in an American political system that seems completely unable to function due to nonstop anger and hatred.
Anyway, today Reynolds named Steve King as her campaign co-chair.
“Congressman Steve King is a strong defender of freedom and our conservative values,” Reynolds said in a press release. “He’s independent, principled, and is fighting the good fight in Washington, D.C. You never have to question where he stands. I look forward to him joining us in our efforts to build a better Iowa.”
Not even 24 hours after denouncing vitriolic political discourse, Reynolds named one of the nation’s most divisive, incendiary and blatantly racist politicians. The guy who claimed that most DACA Dreamer students were drug mules with “cantaloupe calves.” The guy who asserts that white, Western European cultures have contributed more to civilization than anyone else. The guy who had a Confederate flag on his desk. The guy who pals around with far-right European ethno-nationalists and promotes their racist ideology.
Yeah, that seems like a great choice for someone to co-chair your campaign if you’re hoping to bring back a more civil political society. You certainly don’t ever have to question where King stands, but you sure as hell ought to question whether you should stand with him.
Establishment Republican leaders in Iowa have long been annoyed with King’s antics and distractions, having to distance themselves from his comments and actions many times during the congressman’s career. And yet, time and again, they promote him in ways that make it clear they don’t really have a big problem with his rhetoric.
As I’ve written before, the moral thing to do with Steve King would be for the Republican Party to denounce him and refuse to support him in his reelection efforts. Obviously, with all of the politics involved with a sitting member of Congress and his base of support, that’s not going to happen. But if Republicans were really serious about distancing themselves from King, the least they could do is stop letting him speak at major Republican events. And they most certainly could not, you know, name him the campaign co-chair of their most important statewide race.
So, just like with Donald Trump, Republicans in Iowa who should otherwise know better are more than happy to embrace the most hateful, divisive elements in their party for political gain. And then they complain to the press about how hateful and divisive Iowa politics have become, as if this all just happened in a vacuum, or as if it’s only the fault of the evil liberals who are out to get them.
Look in the mirror, Governor.
by Pat Rynard