Resurrection Saturday, brought to you by a Republican and Democrat
By DOUGLAS BURNS
Conventional wisdom says bipartisanship is dead and rural America is dying.
Well, then, welcome to Resurrection Saturday in Jefferson, Iowa.
Rural Iowa is fighting, with Jefferson as something of its Rocky.
Only instead of throwing punches, Jefferson is landing economic-development haymakers with the arrival of Wild Rose Casino & Resort, the passage of a game-changing school project, and now a branch of Accenture, where software-development careers will take root and blossom, bringing the community and region along with it.
It all happened without tweets from the right or triggers on the left.
In fact, in my second listen to the speeches from Saturday night, remarks punctuated and paused with applause, it’s clear to me some of the loudest signs of approval came for the bipartisan nods two politicians — one Democrat, one Republican — gave each other.
U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna, a 42-year-old California Democrat with national political potential, and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, the first female to hold that role, and a Republican leader fairly fresh off a strong re-election, showed the sort of bipartisan amiability — what we used to call comity on Capitol Hill — from what had seemed like a bygone era.
Good jobs really do bring out the best in people. And those 30 jobs at Accenture in Jefferson promise to be more than just good.
Accenture’s arrival in Jefferson is the result of Iowa’s brand of collaboration, Reynolds said.
“Congressman Ro Khanna, welcome back to Iowa,” Reynolds said. “I want to thank you for your work in Silicon Valley and Washington, D.C., on behalf of job growth and innovation in rural America.”
There is some talk of creating an Iowa office in Silicon Valley to foster the connections needed for more tech career development in rural areas in Iowa.
And to hear Khanna, who represents the heart of Silicon Valley, tell it, Reynolds would be a welcome visitor.
“The governor is very popular in my district,” Khanna said. “People say, ‘Please say ‘hi’ to the governor.’”
The two leaders toured the new Accenture Forge, and spent some time chatting privately on issues related to further extension of technology in rural Iowa, which both see as essential in their service, Khanna on a national level and Reynolds in battling for her state.
In the age of split-screen acrimony on cable television, and split-second political charges and recriminations on social media, the audience of 400 people for the dedication of Accenture’s branch in Jefferson delighted in the genuine human warmth Khanna and Reynolds showed each other.
“I was very moved when we were talking to the governor about her story,” Khanna said. “I didn’t know this until I got here. She finished her college degree at the age of 57 as a grandmother and then goes on after that to become a governor and one of the leading advocates for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).”
Reynolds’ emotion was palpable as Khanna delivered that line.
The congressman, a son of two Indian immigrants, said he sees parallels with his own underdog story and the governor’s.
“I had someone in college say, ‘You could never get elected in this country. Go work on (Capitol) Hill.’ But this country thought different,” Khanna said. “At the age of 40, they elected me to represent arguably the most powerful economic district in the world.”
Khanna knows such a position gives him more influence, and more responsibility, than most other members of Congress. He’s choosing to use some of that clout for us in Iowa.
He doesn’t have to do it.
Khanna is not running for president and may never pursue the nation’s highest office. But he’s representing us.
And Reynolds is smart and gracious enough to see what her friend, Linc Kroeger, does.
“I can’t think of any person in this country doing more advocacy for rural Iowa and the nation, especially for a state they don’t live in,” Kroeger, an Accenture executive, said of Khanna.