A Note About Iowa

Joni Ernst

One might wonder, given the polling out of the Hawkeye State, what the hell is wrong with Iowa. The idea that cowardice, ignorance, and tinfoil paranoia are Iowa values might strike many as strange, but that’s the thing: It is a question for Iowans.

No, really. It is perfectly within the rights of Iowa voters to send to the United States Senate a candidate who is incapable of distinguishing fact from opinion.

Ben Terris opens his glimpse into the Ernst campaign with a brief description of something rather quite expected:

Depending on the time of year, Iowa Senate candidate Joni Ernst (R) either thinks President Obama is an president that who refuses to lead, or is an overzealous “dictator” who is constantly “overstepping his bounds.”

We’re at the part of the Goldilocks story where the president is too small.

“We have an apathetic president,” she told a crowd in Newton, Iowa, as part of her 24-hour get out the vote tour around the country. It’s a different message from the time in January when she suggested that the president should be impeached for enacting parts of his agenda without Congress’s approval.

After the event, Ernst elaborated without elucidating exactly what she meant.

“He is just standing back and letting things happen, he is reactive rather than proactive,” she said. “With Ebola, he’s been very hands off.”

Contradiction is one of Ernst’s talents, which in turn makes her sound as if she has no clue what she is talking about. In Iowa, this sort of cluelessness is apparently a virtue.

What follows, though, might seem a bit excessive, even for Iowa:

“What should he have done about Ebola?” Esquire blogger Charlie Pierce asked her. “One person in America has Ebola.”

“OK, you’re the press, you’re giving me your opinion,” Ernst said.

And Mr. Pierce reminded her that he was observing a fact, so instead of answering his question, Ms. Ernst simply continued his criticism, winding up with arguing that the President of the United States does not care about Americans. No evidence, just her say-so. This kind of stupid arrogance, also, seems a virtue in Iowa.

But when asked to reconcile the two thoughts, that she thinks he acts both like a dictator and somebody who doesn’t even care enough to act, this is what she said:

“That’s where he is a leader. So many of the actions that he proposes taking are actions that should be done by Congress. Not by the president. He is our executive. He is our leader. He is our president. Congress should be making the legislative actions.”

The thing is that the entire article is quotable, and Joni Ernst herself distills the problem with Joni Ernst. She is ignorant. She is judgmental. She has nothing to support her paranoid rants. And this distills the problem with Iowa: Ignorant, paranoid judgmentalism wins votes. Outside observers are left scratching their heads; is the parenthetical letter after a candidate’s name really the only thing that matters to so many Iowans? She’s not the brightest bulb, to be certain, and there is some evidence that she is a factory defect that never lit up at all. But, hey, what does reality have to do with anything, as long as she has an “(R)” after her name?

Then again, Democratic supporters are down to observing the faults of midterm polling, and hoping the gap is enough to account for the difference. This is in Iowa’s hands, and the thing is that, as Republicans have told us what is coming if they win a Senate majority, absolutely nobody in Iowa who votes for Joni Ernst should be allowed to complain about gridlock and inefficient government. That is to say, they should not complain when they get what they voted for.

Iowa may yet dodge this self-inflicted humiliation, but apparently that little “(R)” is just so tempting.


Terris, Ben. “Joni Ernst says Obama both ‘apathetic’ and a ‘dictator'”. The Washington Post. 3 November 2014.

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