A Question: Why Do We Need to Lower the Bar for Iowa?

Joni Ernst and Sarah Palin push misogyny as an Iowa value.

Because Joni Ernst and Sarah Palin say so.

Hey, Iowa, are you embarrassed yet?

Republican Joni Ernst defended Tuesday her decision to abruptly cancel a meeting with the Des Moines Register Editorial Board last week, telling CNN “it didn’t make sense” because she knew they would back her Democratic opponent.


How about now?

Meanwhile, this is a Republican wanting to change the rules.

In truth, it’s more of a custom, but here is the logic: Part of demonstrating one’s fitness for office is being able to endure the campaign. Whatever we might think of the so-called horserace, it happens to be part of the customary standard. And, yes, you’ll hear it again starting with Iowa in the 2016 presidential cycle. For now, though, Joni Ernst wants a pass because she can’t sweep the series.

As Dana Bash noted for CNN:

Despite insisting the cancellation was not about avoiding tough questions, the reality is any editorial board is a tough room.

Still, Bash works hard to throw Ernst a bone:

Alison Lundergan Grimes got tripped up earlier this month at an editorial board meeting with the Courier Journal when she refused to say if she voted for President Barack Obama.

Not taking such a risk so close the election comports with the Ernst campaign strategy right now, which is to exude confidence, likeability and keep the focus on fixing a broken Washington.

Think about it for a moment. Start with the idea that who you voted for is not fair game in a job interview. But then we might consider that this is an electoral contest, and, yes, this sort of thing is part of the horserace. To the other, what is its value in the marketplace? The point is to argue that who one voted for disqualifies them from a job.

Perhaps editorial boards should just ask candidates to recall and explain every vote they’ve ever cast. That is to say, virtually every voter has, at one point or another, voted for an idiot. And look what ones votes can cost. Then-Sen. Zell Miller (D-GA) reminded us how low one has to go in order to satisfy Republicans when he spoke in front of the 2004 Republican National Convention and blasted fellow Democrat, then-Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, for a congressional vote on a defense omnibus bill over a decade before. It was an effective attack that gave Dick Cheney cover for having recommended certain budget cuts. Those cuts, outlined by then-Secretary of Defense Cheney for the House Armed Service Committee, matched the list of programs Miller claimed Kerry voted against. But here’s the thing: In opposing the omnibus bill, Kerry was voting with the military brass.

So did, say, a Democrat from Washington state ever vote for Brock Adams? Or a Republican from Oregon vote for Bob Packwoood? How about this question from the Evergreen State: “So you’re saying you don’t remember whether you voted for the thirty-dollar car tabs?” Or from the Seattle area: “You cannot remember whether you voted to cancel EMS funding in King County?” Which to those who remember those elections would seem odd, given how vociferous supporters were, and how proud of themselves they were. These days, as the state continues to struggle to find a balance between demand for state services and the destruction of the state’s primary revenue stream, not a single one of them would admit to voting to destroy public finances. And they never got their thirty-dollar car tabs, either. And, well, in truth, the tax rebellion party ended the morning after the EMS vote when the proud rebels suddenly had to answer their neighbors for cancelling EMS services; they pretended they didn’t understand what they voted for—you know, proud ignorance—and a special election was hastily arranged for three months out, and voters in King County restored public funding for emergency medical services.

That’s where the road leads if we decide to press candidates on who and what they voted for. Seriously, are congressional Republicans ever going to be asked why they voted to give privilege to non-tribal Americans under their version of the Violence Against Women Act? Remember that the basis for the last stand of House Republicans against VAWA renewal in 2013 was that it was unfair to ask non-tribal Americans to answer tribal courts for crimes committed in the jurisdiction of those courts because, well, local jurisdiction just isn’t good enough. And remember that many Republican incumbents will use their vote for the racist VAWA substitute as evidence of their support for VAWA and women. Frankly, that seems more important, more functionally relevant, than whether someone voted for the Democrat or Republican in the last presidential election.

In the Ernst consideration, though, this is what it comes down to: State Sen. Joni Ernst (R-12) is a tinfoil conspiracy theorist with an incoherent policy outlook, and doesn’t want to face tough questions from an editorial board, so she demands special accommodation.

And at this point, less than a week before Election Day, polling suggests that is what a majority of Iowa voters want. Sam Wang’s argument that “Midterm National Senate Polling Error Is Five Times Larger Than In Presidential Years”, while technically insightful, offers no real comfort. That is to say, there are only certain states and certain electoral-marketplace conditions by which a race like this can be close at all, speak nothing of the advantage being for the dunce.

What statement will Iowa voters offer the nation to define Hawkeye values?

Stay tuned. We’ll know soon enough. Like, oh, say, Tuesday night, maybe Wednesday morning.

Or maybe that is a betting pool unto itself: Which statewide vote—i.e., gubernatorial or U.S. Senate—will take the longest to certify?

And if it is Iowa? Well, the race is already close enough to beg the question: Really? Is it really about the letter in parentheses after the elected official’s name?

Yeah, stay tuned.


Bash, Dana. “Joni Ernst defends skipping Des Moines Register meeting”. CNN. 28 October 2014.

Wang, Sam. “Midterm National Senate Polling Error Is Five Times Larger Than In Presidential Years”. Princeton Electoral Consortium.

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