Watchdog Blog

Herb Strentz: The Press Says Ho-hum as Radical Zealots Move to Seize Iowa

Posted at 11:41 am, February 18th, 2010
Herb Strentz Mug

One of the riddles of news coverage of Iowa politics, at least for me, is why the Iowa Republican Party is not reported for what it is: Not a political party, but a driven assembly that wants to force feed its perspective on Christian beliefs down the throats of the rest of us.

More than 30 years ago, the national Republican Party began a concerted effort to invite Christian conservatives to come on board. In Iowa, they took over the ship.

Their revamped GOP has ignored or insulted widely respected Republicans like former Gov. Bob Ray, perhaps the most popular elected official in state history; former U.S. Rep. Jim Leach, admired by everyone except his party in Iowa, and the late Mary Louise Smith, who once was co-chair of the national party with George H.W. Bush. Marv Pomerantz, a major donor to the party and supporter of John McCain, was denied what amounted to his dying wish — to be a delegate to the national 2008 GOP convention — because a relative was considered to be sympathetic to the programs of Planned Parenthood.

Go figure.

The Christians’ leading candidate for Iowa governor in 2010, Bob Vander Plaats, has written that moderation or compromise — that is, working in harmony with those you disagree with — makes Jesus Christ want to vomit.

Yet as we get closer to the November election and the question of whether the zealots will seize the state and not just the GOP — the Iowa news media in news stories and editorial comment continue to treat the bizarre shift as little more than politics as usual with Christians as standard bearers for conservative thought. Except it’s not conservative, it’s radical.

Iowa newspapers and television stations ignore the party’s loony political platform — because, they will tell you, no one pays attention to platforms anymore!

Well, a few do. Gil Cranberg has written in Nieman Watchdog and elsewhere about how scary the Iowa GOP platform is – but that’s not news to the conventional media in Iowa.

On the other hand:

The Sunday New York Times Magazine of Feb. 14 had a cover article about the efforts of the Texas Board of Education to rewrite history to comport with conservative religious doctrine. Chief board spokesman for that approach is a dentist who believes that the earth was created less than 10,000 years ago. His and others’ efforts to pressure textbook publishers to comply with their ignorance is significant because the major textbook markets like Texas, California and New York are central to the success of the textbook industry.

The capture of conservative Iowa politics by the religious right came to mind in a curious place for me, the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney , Australia. We were “down under” for a vacation in January and the Gardens were welcoming, well done and open without charge.

Within the Gardens are several smaller areas, including “Darwin ’s Garden.” That area is marked in part with six polished metal letters, each about seven-feet tall, spelling out D-A-R-W-I-N. Each letter carries information about Charles Darwin’s work in botany and biology or quotes a tribute to him.

I commented to an Australian that such a public garden likely would not see the light of day in the U.S., even if there were a matching Garden of Eden. He was dumbfounded. He could not believe that in the 21st Century such an approach would be expressed, let alone countenanced. Yet most “GOP” candidates at the state and national levels are as anti-Darwinian as they come.

Which led me to another resource that I turn to when burdened by religious zealots who want to take control of government, the play and movie, Inherit the Wind.

Written in 1951, Inherit The Wind was made into a movie in 1960. The drama is based on the Scopes “Monkey Trial” of 1925 — in which a school teacher was convicted of, gasp, teaching about evolution. The protagonists are attorney Clarence Darrow, who defended the teacher, and William Jennings Bryan, three times a presidential candidate and the megaphone for the religious right of his time.

So I picked up the script of the play and fortuitously, opened to a line from Darrow (called Henry Drummond in the play) that was on point with the schemes of the Texas Board of Education.

Accused by Bryan of wanting “to destroy everybody’s belief in the Bible and in God!,” Darrow responds: “You know that’s not true. I’m trying to stop you bigots and ignoramuses from controlling the education of the United States.”

That 1925 mission of Darrow is relevant today in understanding Iowa politics.

5 Responses to “The Press Says Ho-hum as Radical Zealots Move to Seize Iowa”

  1. Frank House says:

    Having been to Europe several times in the last two years…I am still distraught at how we are percieved by others in many countries of Europe…particularly in the EU. Without a doubt,all of the comments I have heard when social issues come to the conversation are not complementary…in fact the opposite.They indicate we are the spoiled,hypocrits of the world.That we scream for human rights around the world,yet look not in our own front yards.That we are founded on equality yet deny it to many in our land of the free.That we are the prudes…the caught in the dark days of religious monarchies. Pathetic and sad for us that many here misuse and abuse the Bible unknowingly or even worse..purposely to exalt themselves under the guise of evangelism. Radical,extreme…yes…but so dangerous to.

  2. Always Been Proud says:

    Yes, Iowa is so extremely conservative that one of the most liberal U.S. Senators, Tom Harkin, comes from Iowa.

    Go figure.

    Do you libs even read the nonsense you write? A 7th grade elementary teacher would flunk you for your inability to develop a coherent paragraph.

    Oh, and by the way, most patriotic Americans don’t give a flying french fry what the EU thinks of us. They sure don’t mind taking our foreign aid or our defense umbrella.

    Who doesn’t have “equality of opportunity” in the USA? Get out of bed, get a job, and you’ll be more equal than you can even imagine.

  3. rosemerry says:

    Proud of what??, I get really fed up with US narrowminded socalled patriots who PRETEND europeans want or need their “defence” or their constant warmongering. Who have you helped?? Get out of other people’s countries and take NATO with you!

  4. Always Been Proud says:

    Hey Rosemerry, I don’t see your EU governments asking us to leave. I assure you that most Americans want our boys (and our money) to come home. I wouldn’t care if another Hitler came along and put you all in chains again.

    How do you think WWI and WWII would have worked out if American boys weren’t there to save your sorry asses? The only thing that kept the boot of fascism off the neck of the planet for the last 100 years was the USA. If we left you to your own means, all of Europe would be part of the USSR. You may not think that’s something to be proud of, but we do.

    Rue the day that there isn’t a free USA to allow you to leave inane comments like yours. You want us to leave Europe? Get your leaders to kick us out. That would be fine with me. We don’t need ungrateful people like you taking our help and our money…and then complaining about it.

  5. BadReligion says:

    ABP, WWI was an imperial slugfest, and none of the business of the US. Woodrow Wilson’s administration lied to jingoes like you, and the US entered the war. If that had never happened, the war would have burned itself out, with no crushing defeat, and Hitler probably would have spent the rest of his like working in an art gallery. Also, the boot of fascism has been applied to many countries as a deliberate consequence of US policies. And what makes you think the USSR would have wanted all of Europe? That’s more of a Trotskyist idea.

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