If anything good can be said about the upcoming 2020 general election in the United States, it’s that women are competing against each other in all of the ticket’s top races where I live. At least once you get past the presidential race.
I can’t remember this happening before in Iowa, but here are the races:
- Sen. Joni Ernst, a Republican, is being challenged by Democrat Theresa Greenfield
- Rep. Abby Finkenauer, a Democrat, is being challenged in Iowa’s First District by Republican Ashley Hinson
- Democrat Rita Hart and Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks are slugging it out to succeed retiring Rep. David Loebsack, a Democrat, in Iowa’s Second District.
I live in the First District, but get to watch political ads for both congressional races — along with the Senate race — because KCRG, the ABC-TV affiliate in Cedar Rapids, covers all of eastern Iowa. Normally, this wouldn’t really affect me because I don’t watch a lot of network TV. But when 22 was home for a few weeks after graduating from Iowa State and leaving Ames, but before beginning graduate school at the University of Minnesota, she and her mom developed a routine. Every night at 6:30, they would watch The Big Bang Theory together on KCRG. Now that 22 is at graduate school, I sometimes join Janet to watch Penny, Sheldon, Leonard, Raj, Howard and the gang.
I’m not a huge fan of the show, but there is really only one downside to watching it. Each episode is about 22 minutes long. That leaves eight minutes for commercials. Friday night, all eight of those minutes were purchased by political campaigns for Ernst or Greenfield, Finkenauer or Hinson or Hart and Miller-Meeks. And since Election Day is still 53 days away, we’re going to be subjected to these commercials over and over and over and over again when all we really want to watch are the escapades of Penny, Sheldon, Leonard, Raj, Howard and the gang.
It is different, though, not seeing a bunch of old, white men campaigning in the commercials. This is a positive development and most of the credit, I think, goes to President Trump. His election in 2016 alienated a lot of women.
When he was inaugurated in 2017, Janet and I joined thousands of other Iowans — mostly women, but also some other guys — at a protest rally in Des Moines. Similar rallies were held that day in cities around the world. I remember thinking women may have finally arrived as a political force. In 2018, a wave of women, including Finkenauer, was swept into office. Clearly, that trend is continuing in Iowa again this year given that women are competing against other women in so many races.
This is a great development. The more Congress looks like the rest of the country — more women, more young people, more minorities — the better off we will be. Congress doesn’t need any more 80-year-old white men.
Unfortunately, one thing hasn’t changed even though more of the candidates are women: Negative campaigning.
It almost would be funny if it wasn’t so sad. Take, for example, the Senate race in Iowa. Based on the anti-Greenfield commercials, her critics seem to be criticizing her mostly for running her former businesses and behaving like a Republican. “She even signed the pink slips herself,” is the tagline of one such commercial.
In the other races, most of the ads being run in favor of candidates from both parties are just as ridiculous.
“We have a multi-billion-dollar anger industry that drives American politics,” Steve Schmidt, an American communications and public affairs strategist, said of this type of campaigning. He spoke on The Rise of Radicalism Under Donald Trump, an episode of the Lincoln Project podcast posted Thursday. Schmidt is a founding member of The Lincoln Project, a Super PAC organized by current and former Republican operatives opposed to Trump’s re-election.
“Polarization has become elemental to an election strategy where the broad middle has become completely disenfranchised,” Schmidt said. “And the polarization has started to yield to a radicalization of the most intense members of both parties, but most acutely in the Republican Party.”
If you listen to podcasts, I’d encourage you to give this one a try.
I’m a little skeptical of the people at the Lincoln Project – all of whom made good livings for many years running Republican political campaigns and filling the airwaves with the type of political ads that occupy every second of the 30-minute block not used to air The Big Bang Theory. At least they seem to have seen the error of their ways. Maybe.
There are only 53 days left until Election Day in 2020. At this point, I’m just hoping for enough of a shakeup that the winners will gather in 2021 and figure out a way to begin working together and compromising, which is at the heart of a healthy democracy.
And one thing is for sure: Iowa will send more women than ever to Congress. I think that is a good thing.