Joni Ernst, in her new book “Daughter of the Heartland: My Ode to the Country That Raised Me,” tells readers how she has worked across the aisle in the U.S. Senate and describes the disappointment she feels when partisan bickering stalls progress on helpful legislation.
“Both sides demonize their opponents and make them into caricatures of evil,” Ernst says in the book’s introduction. “It can get exhausting. But I refuse to accept that it’s the only way to operate.”
Ernst, elected in 2014, says “one of my biggest goals” in the Senate “is to cut through noise and work with everyone who shares my goals — even if they are on the other side of the aisle. Iowans pride ourselves on listening and sharing, which are values that can seem in short supply on the national stage.”
The introduction to her 220-page memoir, however, is wildly different than how she portrayed herself to voters last summer when launching her reelection campaign.
“Make no mistake, the forces of the radical socialist left are on the march all across our state and across our nation. We must, we must do our part to defeat them,” Ernst said at her Roast and Ride event, pausing to let the crowd prolong their applause.
Ernst spent more than six minutes of the 32-minute speech railing against “Washington liberals” and “coastal elites” before announcing her reelection campaign, twelve minutes after she got on stage.
“Folks, I need all the help I can get,” she said. “Our freedoms are quite literally under attack because the radical socialist left will stop at nothing until socialism has spread from coast to coast.”
She even channeled President Trump’s penchant for nicknames in her reference to “Sleepy Joe Biden.”
Within the book’s first few pages, Ernst laments how politicians are “constantly spinning things their way. There’s no right or wrong. Just your party and its stances. But what happens when party lines interfere with the country’s needs?”
She goes on to talk about a bill for veterans she worked on with Sen. Elizabeth Warren and how she left a man standing “with his mouth opening and closing like a guppy, his son next to him mortified” after explaining why she collaborated with the progressive Democrat.
“Hyperpartisanship has infected our dialogue these days, and that’s a shame,” Ernst says, noting conversations she had with her Democratic predecessor, Tom Harkin.
“I always keep in mind that when I was in the National Guard helping flood-ravaged communities at home, or overseas trucking urgently needed supplies from Kuwait to Iraq, nobody ever stopped to ask what party I belonged to,” Ernst says. “We shared common missions then. Why can’t we do some of that in our politics?”
In a recent podcast interview with ABC News reporters, they pointed to the “positive message” about politics Ernst espouses in her book and how dramatically it differs from today’s partisanship.
“Well, I do have a different take on politics,” Ernst said on “Powerhouse Politics. “I can certainly be ‘Iowa nice’ but I can be strong. I have never been a hater. I don’t want to waste my time on hatred, and I know absolutely that the other members within the Senate are members that, at one point I may disagree with them, but on another day I might actually agree with them on a topic and want to work with them on a solution for my Iowans or for our Americans.”
When pressed on how Ernst reconciles her approach to politics with the conspiratorial and bombastic style of President Trump, she deflected by describing it as a “different leadership type.”
“What I can do, and what I tell my constituents,” Ernst said, “is that I will carry myself in a way that I see becoming of Iowa.”
By Elizabeth Meyer
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