Spineless

Massachusetts’s Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, “cannot support Donald Trump for president” but doesn’t say who he will support.

Maryland’s Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, didn’t vote for Trump, instead saying he “voted for Ronald Reagan.”

Nebraska’s Sen. Ben Sasse, a Republican, slammed Trump on a constituent call, noting his strong disagreements are “why I didn’t agree to be on his re-election committee, and it’s why I’m not campaigning for him.

These are cowardly positions and do not take a stand against Trump’s real harm or against greater Trumpism. Say what you will about The Lincoln Project, but that group of former Republicans seem to understand the need — and be willing to — blow up Republicanism to defeat Trumpism.

No, Baker’s and Hogan’s and Sasse’s stances are all cowardly attempts to retain political power for Republicans.

The tell in all of this, whether it’s a voting for a dead man who, even if resurrected, is ineligible to serve as president or an unwillingness to openly endorse the only other presidential candidate who has a chance of beating Trump, is that Sasse’s concern that the president’s recklessness could lead to a “Republican blood bath.”

Democrats need sane conservative opposition to keep them honest, and they haven’t had that in a long time. Republicans haven’t, apparently, needed to be sane to win and wield power.

But Republicans are clinging to this fantasy that they can defeat Trumpism and save conservativism. But they miss that, right now, they can’t defeat former without burning down the latter.


In the run up to the election we can expect other Republicans to jump ship. Here are some who are open about not supporting Trump, but squeamish about offer support to Joe Biden, who is, you’ll recall, the only candidate on the ballot who can defeat Trump.

Utah’s Sen. Mitt Romney, a Republican, did not vote for Trump, but says who he did vote for is “something I’m keeping private at this stage.

Shut Up and Grapple

Dan Gable on Wednesday, lured to President Donald Trump’s Des Moines super-spreader event, hosted against the backdrop of the state’s COVID-19 cases passing 100,000 and hospitalizations at their highest point since the pandemic began, with the promise of a Presidential Medal of Freedom:

This guy’s already a one-time champion. But because he’s open for learning, and he’s already very competent, he’s going to be a multi-champion president of the United States of America.

Waiting for the backlash of conservative pundits telling to Gable to “stick to sports.”

Lyz Lenz’s departure from The Gazette

On Oct. 5, 2020, Lyz Lenz tweeted that The Gazette had “fired” her that morning. This is the email I sent to Executive Editor Zach Kucharski and Opinions Editor Todd Dorman.

Zack and Todd,

No doubt you’ve heard from a number of folks regarding Lyz Lenz’s departure from The Gazette. I wanted to express my concern to you both about this development, while acknowledging that I have little insight into why it may have occurred and that tweets are hardly a solid factual foundation on which to build a strong understanding.

I will miss Lyz’s attention, her reporting and her strong-and-sometimes-divisive voice. This is a loss for The Gazette‘s opinion pages.

But my larger concern is that the timing of her departure leads to the appearance that The Gazette is kowtowing to Republican Party and its political candidates in Iowa who made the unfortunate choice to refuse invitations to engage with your editorial board because of her columns or, perhaps more simply, the headlines they carried.

I suspect that is not the reasoning.

I hope The Gazette will offer its readers, subscribers and community some insight into the decision making, and will continue to cover our community with clear eyes and thoughtful commentary.

Yours, Nick Bergus

Public Service, Compassion and Empathy are on My 2020 Ballot

Iowans start voting on Monday, Oct. 5, in person and at home by mail.

I’m voting for people who value public service. Who see government as help not as a hinderance. Who have compassion and empathy. I vote for these values because our system and the people we elect are imperfect. Public leaders face difficult decisions, and public leaders without these core values wield power selfishly, diminish our public institutions and enact heartless policy.

Here’s how my ballot, voted in Iowa City precinct 12, will look. 

Federal

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris for president and vice president; Theresa Greenfield for US Senate; Rita Hart for US Representative, 2nd District

Each of these folks will back better access to healthcare, public education and science-based solutions to climate change, the raging pandemic and gun violence.

State

Mary Mascher for State Representative, District 86

You don’t have to talk with Mary Mascher long to get how much she cares, trust that she will return to Des Moines and fight for public education, choice, and working families.

(If I was in another district, I’d be proud to vote for Lonny Pulkrabek, Dave Jacoby, Amy Nielsen or Christina Bohannan)

County

Lisa Green-Douglass, Royceann Porter, Rod Sullivan for Board of Supervisors, Brad Kunkel for Sheriff, Travis Weipert for County Auditor

With a governor and legislature looking to restrict county and city governments and school boards, it’s a tough time to be a local leader in Iowa. These supervisors have done well with the tools they’ve been allowed.

It’s a tough time to be in law enforcement, and we are rightfully asking tough questions. But Brad Kunkel is the right person to do this for Johnson County. He knows we ask too much of law enforcement and that the traditional tools are too often inadequate. He will continue to advocate for diversion programs and alternatives to jail.

Travis Weipert is running unopposed, but I will proudly cast my vote for him because I know he values his role in empowering voters to exercise that right. Time and again, Weipert has gone to bat for voters in Johnson Country, whether at the state house or the court house.

Judiciary

Yes for retention

I know how I felt when Iowa Supreme Court justices Ternus, Baker and Streit, who along with their colleagues had unanimously decided in Varnum that our state constitution guaranteed marriage equality, weren’t retained following a campaign from the right.

Iowa doesn’t elect judges, and our non-partisan process for selecting them has been eroded with recent changes. Retaining judges unless they make decisions outside of the law or violate ethical rules is how we resist a partisan judiciary.

Memory Problems

Chuck Grassley, Iowa’s octogenarian senator, still has a good memory. Following the death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg and the rush of those who are bringing our democracy to its knees to install a conservative majority on the highest court that will last a generation, Sen. Grassley seems to have taken the high road, acknowledging his role in undermining the Constitution and enabling a wannabe dictator who lost the popular vote, and suggesting we need to proceed carefully.

Under the headline “Grassley joins call to delay Supreme Court nomination,” The Des Moines Register quotes the good gentleman from Iowa as saying:

The fact of the matter is that it’s been standard practice over the last nearly 80 years that Supreme Court nominees are not nominated and confirmed during a presidential election year. Given the huge divide in the country, and the fact that this President, above all others, has made no bones about his goal to use the courts to circumvent Congress and push through his own agenda, it only makes sense that we defer to the American people who will elect a new president to select the next Supreme Court Justice.

Wait, sorry, didn’t check the dateline. That’s from 2016.

He has since performed some amazing acrobatics for a 87-year-old man to explain his complete reversal. He’s done everything short of suggesting he said all those things with his fingers crossed on Opposite Day, and if we just used the right decoder ring we could understand how this time is different.

In conclusion, United States Senator Charles Ernest Grassley is a lying hypocritical liar.

It Could Be Worse. In Iowa Nice Praise of Test Iowa

There have been a lot of complaints about Test Iowa and Gov. Kim Reynolds’ response to COVID-19. Those complaints do not feel very Iowa nice. It could be worse.

So I wanted to offer some overdue praise.

Since Test Iowa’s launch, I had been dutifully submitting my personal information to the state via its opaque website. It’s easy for me, since I have a cell phone, email address, ready access to the internet and my health.

I was tested on Aug. 10 in Cedar Rapids, and I can honestly say that my Test Iowa test was the best thing to happen to me that day.

Each week, I received a personalized link and encouragement to “crush the curve.” I would follow that link, reenter my name, email address (twice for confirmation), cell phone number (twice for confirmation), date of birth, street address, city, state, ZIP code, gender, height (in inches), weight, underlying conditions, demographics of my household, and job. I was glad they were being so careful to make sure it was me.

In May, testing became available to anyone could get an appointment regardless of symptoms who after two months and a $28 million no-bid contract to help us crush the curve. And we did, as Iowans undertook serious group study to get ahead and help set the grading curve here in the Midwest.

As the school year crept up on us, even though we’d been super careful and hadn’t set foot inside a grocery store, restaurant or movie theater since before spring break, my family wanted to get tested. Scheduling our tests was four simple steps. Our process was:

  1. Plan some vacation time, since we couldn’t guarantee testing on a specific day and no testing is done on weekends or evenings.
  2. Check testiowa.com each morning in the days leading up to our time off to see if we could schedule a test.
  3. Schedule a test. Then log in as my wife and schedule another test. Then log in as my daughter and schedule a third test.
  4. Print our QR codes on actual paper to be ready to go for our test.

While we live in the fourth most populated county in the state, and minutes from the state’s hygienic laboratory, we had got to travel to Linn County for testing. Since we’re not transportation dependent and own the required hardtop vehicle (no walk ups!), we had no problems getting to the test site, as it had good signage from the interstate.

The test took just minutes, and the care worker who shoved an incredibly long swab up my nose twice for 10 seconds each could not have been kinder and more professional.

I received my results — negative — about 24 hours later (once I could find a place with enough LTE data to load the website).

Derecho

This week was our summer vacation, originally set for hiking the Colorado Rockies; we stuck closer to home amid the pandemic. 

And so, as Monday’s derecho storm rolled in, we were at Palisades-Kepler State Park, just east of  Cedar Rapids. We sheltered first in our car, buffeted by 100+ mph winds, and then in the park ranger’s basement.

After the storm passed, we abandoned our car and hiked the quarter mile out, over broken trees, downed power lines and dying wildlife. We were fortunate to get a ride home with my parents, who had downed trees and no power at home.

We returned home to find no power, a terrified dog and at least two large tree limbs had gone through our roof and ceilings. Our damage was much less than many.

Thanks to the kindness of neighbors and friends, we got cleaned up, kept our phones charged and our coolers full of ice. Many others offered help, because that’s what Iowans do. Thank you.

Power was restored this morning, thanks to overnight work by linemen and foresters, 108 hours later. 

Dismantle Our Current Structures

Redefining what public safety means for the University of Iowa will require the campus community to think differently and to dismantle our current structures in order to build a better future.

Everyone has a right to be skeptical that real actions and change follows, but when that quote follows “in order to truly reimagine public safety on our campus, we must approach the issue as though we are starting from scratch” in the press release from our big public university?

This moment is different.


Or maybe not. Skepticism is OK.

One-track Minds

We’re in the midst of a moment: police brutality, the long-time callous disregard for Black lives, has come to the fore with opportunity for rapid change and reform.

And.

We’re in the midst of a moment: a global pandemic infecting millions of Americans, and killing thousands without an end — or leadership — in sight.

And.

We’re in the midst of a moment: an incompetent wanna authoritarian for whom cruelty seems to be the point stands for election.

And.

We’re in the midst of a moment: the point-of-no-return for our climate.

And so on and so forth.

Humans are so bad at focusing on more than a single rage-inducing issue at a time, our wannabe authoritarian has (inadvertently?) weaponized it against us.

In short: you can stay mad, but you can’t stay mad at the same thing if more horrors keep popping up. There’s so much coming at us and the rapidly-dying media that we can’t keep our focus long enough to make the case that is obvious.

It’s so easy to forget. To forget the compounding weight.

We humans like to chuckle about how goldfish forget something once they hit the other side of their bowl. Or about how dogs only think in the present tense. Or how birds can’t count above three. Gosh, they’re so simple.

And here we are, stuck on our one track.