When winning is losing
Over the decades, as the rift between our national political right and left grew into a chasm, Republicans in states like Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska took total control of their state legislatures.
So many of these agricultural-base states have domineering Republican state governments now, with political majorities that do not reflect the actual population, even if they do represent the voting majority.
The institutional vote suppression tactics now typical of those red states has helped maintain that false majority in state government and in Congress, which profoundly complicates the problem rather than solving it in any way. It just makes the inevitable event horizon look all the more like a black hole they can’t escape.
Iowa’s proud Republicans revel in their power, dancing joyfully at each election victory, despite the fact Iowa politics has descended steadily into bitter partisan division with less and less demographically balanced representation every election.
But in their joy of winning these unrepresentative elections, they have become blind to the damage it has done to our entire democracy, and they are ignoring other, less joyful trends, like population drain and even whole congressional district losses that are directly the result of their partisan politics.
Maybe conservative Iowans want those young families to leave for bluer pastures, because they think they aren’t right for Iowa. Maybe Republicans did this intentionally to somehow purify their encapsulated realm. Maybe Republicans just don’t care if the future is lost, as long as their present looks “right” to them.
But there is simply no changing the hard truth that Iowa Republicans have overseen, and in many ways actually created, the biggest brain drain and steady loss of young families in the history of The Tall Corn State.
And they need to own it.
They just can’t blame Democrats, no matter how they want to try.
They proudly disempowered progressives long ago, so they can’t point a finger that way.
For all the revelry at winning conservative victories, they seem completely ignorant or in full denial of the mass exodus they have created in the young families of Iowa.
Republicans pride themselves in their protection of factory farms and feedlots, unrestricted application of known carcinogens and fencerow-to-fencerow farming, but they somehow didn’t see how the feedlot stink, the poison well-water and that constant cancer threat, the loss of everything that made Iowa beautiful, has driven away their future. But that is exactly what is happening, as they celebrate “winning.”
Iowa Republicans were in charge of all this, they ruled from on high as it all happened, enabling each other to profit from their careless laws. In the process they lost everyone else. And now they think preventing abortions will somehow reverse this pattern, when it is their own selfish, greedy policies that created the population drain in the first place.
No one really expects stubborn conservatives to reverse their futile, frustrating course backwards through history. But we all know, they have to own it. There is no other option for the history books to expose in the future. If they pride themselves in their political victories, they also must take responsibility for the unfortunate results.
Republicans have celebrated victory over and over again because they get their voters to the polls as more progressive people just looked for the exits rather than the ballot box. But even as they danced their victory jigs, those same joyful Republicans created the worst decline in Iowa population in its history, and they have to take the blame for that profound failure if they want the credit for those victories.
Long before Trump clarified this basic truth about the national party as a whole, Iowa Republicans were celebrating political wins even as the entire state lost, in ways that will never be repaired.
Iowa Republicans’ “family values” hypocrisy has driven young families out, and built huge obstacles to new people ever wanting to come in, or come back. If they are proud of your power, then they must own its results.
Enjoy your current victories, Republicans, because the frustrating future you have created for Iowa isn’t going to be nearly as kind. You are wholly responsible for Iowa’s loss of its best young people, because you were proudly, totally, in charge while that decline occurred.
You may have been the winners, and Iowa was the loser.
Iowa’s proud Republicans have proven, especially in the Trump era, that winning can be losing, in the worst way.
John Patterson is a former Jefferson resident who lives in Kansas. His grandfather, Pat, was chairman of the Greene County Republican Party during the Eisenhower/Nixon years.