The Race For Tom Harkin’s Senate Seat Begins
My senator, Tom Harkin, has announced that he is retiring from Congress and won’t run for reelection in 2014. As a five term senator, Harkin has been one of the more progressive members of the Senate in recent years.
According to some polls, the top choice for Iowa Republicans to run for Harkin’s Senate seat is Congressman Steve King from western Iowa. Yes, the same man who told an Iowa reporter, he’s never heard of a child getting pregnant from statutory rape or incest, in August 2012.
Same man who claimed insurance coverage of contraceptives will make us ‘a dying civilization.’
King is also a virulently anti-gay, right wing politician who takes every political viewpoint to its extreme. He takes pride in his hateful rhetoric and has even worked to remove members of the Iowa Supreme Court who legalized same-sex marriage.
The early choice for Iowa Democrats to run for Harkin’s Senate seat is Congressman Bruce Braley, a progressive from eastern Iowa. A poll of Iowa voters indicates that Braley would beat King in a direct contest, but it is still early for predictions.
Steve King is an embarrassment to Iowa. He is one of the reasons many people have a terrible impression of Iowa as some kind of backward, right wing haven for extremism and intolerance.
We have our share of right wing extremists, but it baffles me how people in his district could reelect him five times.
The truth is, Iowa is a fairly progressive state. We were among the first states to legalize same-sex marriage and Iowa has voted for the Democratic candidate in 6 of the last 7 presidential elections.
Since the 1980s Iowa has had a conservative senator, Chuck Grassley along with a progressive, Tom Harkin who have often cancelled out each other’s vote.
I’m beginning to think the reason for this could be due to a huge ideological divide in Iowa between eastern Iowa, where Congressman Bruce Braley lives, and western Iowa where Steve King comes from.
Not long ago, a 14 year old boy in western Iowa committed suicide because he had been relentlessly bullied by other kids in his school, after he had told friends that he was gay.
By contrast, in the small eastern Iowa town where I live, my kids tell me that they know of several openly gay students in their high school. Most other kids accept them or ignore them if they’re not comfortable. I’m told that there are no threats to these kids and no bullying.
I can’t explain how there is such a difference in political and social views between communities that are only 250 miles apart.
I sometimes wonder if our elected politicians do more than just reflect our values and beliefs, but perhaps through their rhetoric, they help shape some of the prevailing ideas in their communities. When Steve King attacks gay people as the source of our problems, he is allowing that bigotry to become acceptable in his community and encourages other bigots to be more vocal about their personal prejudices.
Iowa needs intelligent politicians who can bring communities together, instead of creating more division and intolerance. Let’s hope Iowans will keep that in mind while selecting a replacement for Senator Harkin.