Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Make Iowa Great Again

We Must Make Iowa Great Again
Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, May 16, 2023, p. A5

Our country arose out of the ashes of authoritarianism. The Declaration of Independence charged the “King of Great Britain (as) having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states.”

Yet our founders knew, as John Quincy Adams wrote, “Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.”

Curious about how this happens? Read Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt’s How Democracies Die. [They describe its death with the detail of a Julia Child recipe for boeuf bourguignon.]

A law school colleague, when frustrated by students’ silence, would ask, “Is anybody listening? Does anybody care?” Polls reveal a significant percentage of Americans neither listen nor care. They say a populist authoritarian ruler is preferable to democracy.

[They’re not totally irrational.] They believe their needs are neither recognized nor addressed by a democracy ruled by a wealthy elite because, well, because they’re not.

Republicans have played the populism card with duplicity and skill. Democrats fought against their own most effective, pro-democracy populist: Bernie Sanders.

We have two national governments. The executive and legislative bodies in Washington, and the governors and legislatures in 50 states. Some of both are weakening democracy with strategies from the authoritarian’s playbook.

Consider Iowa. The consolidation of power from the people, cities, state agencies, and legislators into the governor’s office. Political ideology governing hires and judicial appointments. Restricting access to public information. Tax breaks and curtailed regulation for major donors.

From 1969 to 1983 Iowans kept re-electing another conservative Republican: Governor Robert Ray.

Ray’s accomplishments would more than fill this column. Here are a few. Public employees collective bargaining, Commission on the Status of Women, Iowa Council on Children, eliminating sales tax on food and drugs, Department of Environmental Quality, expanded funding for K-12 schools, making Iowa first in the nation to protect Native Americans’ graves.

Ray held daily news conferences, was pro-choice before Roe, and opposed the death penalty. He personally lobbied President Ford and Secretary Kissinger to change the law, enabling Iowa to welcome refugees from Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand. The first state to do so.

Ray realized that democracy requires more than constitutions and laws. It requires the norms of behavior essential to its survival -– especially “mutual tolerance” and “institutional forbearance.” It requires the “civic society,” the non-partisan organizations and coalitions Tocqueville observed in 1835. An awareness that hate is not a policy and should not be a political strategy.

[Our current political parties have made democracy more difficult.] We must turn to ourselves to rebuild the civic society it requires. If Linn County can bring together a variety of the world’s religions in its Inter-Religious Council, think of what other coalitions are possible.

Edward R. Murrow courageously exposed authoritarian Senator Joseph McCarthy in a “See It Now” March 4, 1979. McCarthy, he concluded, had [merely] exploited our fear. “Cassius was right: ‘The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.’”

Nicholas Johnson is the author of Columns of Democracy. mailbox@nicholasjohnson.org

Note: [Bracketed material] was deleted by the editor for space.

Declaration of Independence. “Declaration of Independence: A Transcription,” America’s Founding Documents, National Archives, July 4, 1776, https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/declaration-transcript

“The Declaration of Independence,” America’s Founding Documents, National Archives, https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/declaration

Adams quote. John Quincy Adams, “The Letters of John and Abigail Adams,” https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/49810-i-do-not-say-that-democracy-has-been-more-pernicious (“democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.”)

How Democracies Die. Steven Levitsky & Daniel Ziblatt, How Democracies Die, New York: Crown, 2018 Other related books: Madeleine Albright, Fascism: A Warning, HarperCollins Publishers, 2018 Timothy Snyder, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, Tim Duggan Books, 2017 Nicholas Johnson, Columns of Democracy, Lulu, 2018 Sarah Repucci and Amy Slipowitz, “Freedom in the World 2022; The Global Expansion of Authoritarian Rule,” Freedom House, undated, https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2022/global-expansion-authoritarian-rule

Julia Child recipe. Chef Kate, “Boeuf Bourguignon a la Julia Child,” Food, undated, https://www.food.com/recipe/boeuf-bourguignon-a-la-julia-child-148007 (with 44 steps of directions)

Anybody listening? Widely shared story at UI Law when I was there. I know of no “source” other than my memory. I’m not disclosing his name because I’ve not sought his approval. Although I hadn’t known of any other use of the questions than his when I put it in the text, a subsequent Google search for “Is anybody listening? Does anybody care?” produces a number of instances.

Americans preferring autocracy. Matthew C. MacWilliams, “Trump Is an Authoritarian. So Are Millions of Americans; It’s not how we think of our fellow-citizens, but no matter who wins in November, the impulse will be very much alive in the country. What do they want?” Politico, 09/23/2020, https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/09/23/trump-america-authoritarianism-420681

Lee Drutman, Larry Diamond and Joe Goldman, “Follow the Leader: Exploring American Support for Democracy and Authoritarianism,” Democracy Fund Voter Study Group, March 2018, https://www.voterstudygroup.org/publication/follow-the-leader (“More than a quarter of respondents show at least some support for either a “strong leader” or “army rule. . . . The highest levels of support for authoritarian leadership come from those who are disaffected, disengaged from politics, deeply distrustful of experts, culturally conservative, and have negative views toward racial minorities.”)

Michael Hais, Doug Ross and Morley Winograd, “Protecting Democracy and Containing Autocracy,” Brookings, May 10, 2021, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/fixgov/2021/05/10/protecting-democracy-and-containing-autocracy/ (“Sixty percent of white working class Americans agreed with the statement that “because things have gotten so far off track in this country, we need a leader who is willing to break some rules if that’s what it takes to set things right.” Although only 40% of all Americans felt that way in 2017, almost 47% of them voted in 2020 to support a candidate for president who exhibited blatant authoritarian behavior.”)

Needs not addressed. See generally, Bing search: “What are some examples of ways in which the working poor have not been well served by the Democrats?”

“Working Poor,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Working_poor See especially sub-head “Obstacles to uplift”)

“7 Examples of Poor Working Conditions and How to Improve Them,” Pulpstream, undated, https://www.pulpstream.com/resources/blog/working-conditions

Republicans use of populism. See generally, Bing search: “("does Trump" OR "do Republicans") campaign as populists?”

Michael Lind, “Donald Trump, the Perfect Populist; Why the GOP front-runner has far broader appeal than his predecessors going back to George Wallace,” PoliticoMagazine, March 9, 2016, https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/03/donald-trump-the-perfect-populist-213697/ (“In Trump, many of the kind of white working-class voters once called Reagan Democrats have found a tribune who represents their views and values more consistently than conservative populists like the Dixiecrat George Wallace . . .. Trump tends to speak in a kind of code, starting with his “birther” campaign against President Obama, and his criticism of illegal immigrants and proposed ban on Muslims . . .. [T]he best explanation of Trump’s surprising success is that the constituency he has mobilized has existed for decades but the right champion never came along. . . . His populism cuts across party lines like few others before him. . . . Trump’s platform combines positions that are shared by many populists but are anathema to movement conservatives—a defense of Social Security, a guarantee of universal health care, economic nationalist trade policies.”)

Democrats rejection of Senator Sanders. See generally, Bing search: “What are some examples of the Democratic National Committee's opposition to Bernie Sanders?”

Lisa Lerer and Reid J. Epstein, “Democratic Leaders Willing to Risk Party Damage to Stop Bernie Sanders; Interviews with dozens of Democratic Party officials, including 93 superdelegates, found overwhelming opposition to handing Mr. Sanders the nomination if he fell short of a majority of delegates,” New York Times, March 2, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/27/us/politics/democratic-superdelegates.html (“Dozens of interviews with Democratic establishment leaders this week show that they are not just worried about Mr. Sanders’s candidacy, but are also willing to risk intraparty damage to stop his nomination at the national convention in July if they get the chance.”)

Michelle Hackman, “The feud between Bernie Sanders and the DNC, explained; This particular fight is about a data breach, but the war between Sanders and the DNC goes back much further than that,” Vox, Dec. 18, 2015, https://www.vox.com/2015/12/18/10623886/the-feud-between-bernie-sanders-and-the-dnc-explained (“The DNC has disciplined the Sanders campaign by essentially cutting it off from all the critical information it needs to canvass voters. The Sanders campaign has argued this is an overly stringent punishment, and indicated it’s part of the DNC’s larger prejudice against the Sanders campaign. . . . It's not much of a secret inside the Democratic Party that the DNC has favored Hillary Clinton's interests throughout the primary. Martin O'Malley, for instance, has criticized the organization harshly. "This is totally unprecedented in our party's history," he said, referring to the thin debate schedule, where most of the debates occur before the Iowa caucuses, and some were scheduled, unusually, for Saturdays. "This sort of rigged process has never been attempted before.")

“Leaked DNC emails reveal details of anti-Sanders sentiment; Days before convention, cache of 19,000 emails released and several show officials scoffing at Hillary Clinton’s former rival and questioning his religion,” The Guardian, undated, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jul/23/dnc-emails-wikileaks-hillary-bernie-sanders

Authoritarian’s playbook. “Democracy Undone: The Authoritarian’s Playbook,” The Groundtruth Project, undated, https://thegroundtruthproject.org/democracy-undone-signs-of-authoritarianism/ (“In this project, Democracy Undone: The Authoritarian’s Playbook, GroundTruth reporting fellows in India, Brazil, Colombia, Hungary, Poland, Italy and the United States chronicled how seven nationalist leaders in each of these countries seem to be working from the same playbook.

It is a playbook that our reporting team has pieced together from the speeches and techniques in use by an interconnected web of populist leaders and their strategists as a way to gain power, impose their values and implement their agenda. The reporting is not intended to suggest that each of these countries is now under an authoritarian regime, but that their leaders are showing instincts and inclinations that lead to a brand of populist nationalism that, if history is a guide, can lead to authoritarian government. Scholars on democracy say these populist nationalist leaders seem to be following in the footsteps of China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and other authoritarian states in stamping out democratic principles and reshaping the global order.”

Elements include: Weaponize Fear, Undermine Institutions, Exploit Religion, Target Outsiders, Rewrite History, Divide & Conquer, Erode Truth.)

Kevin Douglas Grant, “Understanding the Authoritarian’s Playbook: Tips for Journalists,” Global Investigative Journalism Network, March 2, 2020, https://gijn.org/2020/03/02/understanding-the-authoritarians-playbook-tips-for-journalists/

“Authoritarianism,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Authoritarianism

“Autocracy,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autocracy

Governor Reynolds. Stephen Gruber-Miller and Katie Akin, “Which bills passed — and which didn't — in the 2023 Iowa Legislature. Here's the rundown:,” Des Moines Register, May 5, 2023, https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/politics/2023/05/05/the-rundown-on-the-bills-that-passed-in-the-2023-iowa-legislature/70147148007/

Lawmakers also prohibited instruction about sexual orientation or gender identity in elementary school, restricted which school bathrooms transgender students can use, banned school library books with descriptions of sex and loosened curriculum requirements for fine arts classes.

Banning gender-affirming care for minors Iowa doctors may not provide transgender kids with puberty blockers, hormone therapy or transition-related surgery on breasts or genitals. Reynolds signed the bill into law on March 22 . . .

Government reorganization Reynolds signed her massive proposal reorganizing Iowa’s state government, shrinking the number of cabinet-level agencies from 37 to 16 and giving her more power over the appointment, firing and salary of top-level state employees.

Medical malpractice caps Noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering are now capped at $2 million in lawsuits involving hospitals and $1 million in lawsuits involving clinics or individual doctors.

Private school scholarships Reynolds signed a law in January allowing every Iowa family to access up to $7,600 of state money per student to pay private school costs like tuition and fees. . . . The law . . . is expected to cost about $345 million annually . . ..

Property taxes Iowa property taxpayers will see an estimated $100 million in property tax cuts . . ..

Transgender bathroom restrictions People may not enter school restrooms or changing rooms that do not align with their sex at birth. Transgender students need written parental consent to request accommodations, . . ..

Banning school books depicting sex acts; restricting LGBTQ instruction, accommodations Republicans packaged several of their education priorities into one bill that Reynolds said will “protect children from woke indoctrination.” The bill requires schools to remove books with a description or visual depiction of a sex act. It prohibits instruction on gender identity or sexual orientation in kindergarten through sixth grade. If a student asks to use a new name or pronouns at school, the school administrator would be required to notify their parents. A “parents and guardians rights” section will give parents the fundamental right to make decisions regarding their child’s education, religious and moral upbringing, and medical care — except for gender-affirming care, which is prohibited by Iowa law. It also removes a requirement that schools teach about acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), or human papillomavirus, a common sexually transmitted infection known as HPV, and the vaccine to prevent HPV. Senate File 496.

Child labor laws Lawmakers passed a bill to allow teens to work longer hours and in jobs that were previously prohibited . . ..

Limiting auditor’s powers State Auditor Rob Sand will not be able to sue other statewide offices, or state executive branch agencies, departments, commissions or boards once this bill becomes law. Instead, disputes will be settled by a three-person arbitration panel. The bill also prevents the state auditor’s office from accessing certain types of personal information . . ..

Child care assistance eligibility changes . . . The bill also increases the program's work requirements: the child's parent or guardian must be employed an average of 32 hours a week to qualify for the assistance, or 28 hours a week if the child has special needs. House File 707.

Public assistance benefits Iowans would face a new asset test to receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, and households with more than $15,000 in assets would not qualify. Iowans receiving benefits like food and health care assistance would also be subject to regular checks to make sure they remain eligible. . . .

School librarian standards Under current law, schools must have a licensed teacher librarian. The bill would allow schools to hire a public library professional for the position who would not be required to hold a master's degree. The bill also lowers the number of foreign language and fine arts classes required to graduate and eliminates some school reporting requirements.

Trucking lawsuits Lawmakers have passed new limits on how much money Iowans can receive for pain and suffering in lawsuits over crashes with trucks and other commercial vehicles. Each plaintiff could receive a maximum of $5 million in noneconomic damages.

“Kim Reynolds,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kim_Reynolds See sub-heads “Tenure” and “COVID-19 pandemic”

“In 2018, Reynolds proposed cutting $10 million from Medicaid, which cares for eligible low-income adults, children, pregnant women, elderly adults and people with disabilities.[18] In 2020, she proposed a one-cent increase in the state sales tax (bringing it to 8 cents), offset by a phased reduction in the state income tax, including a cut in the rate for the top bracket from 9% to 5.5%.[19] Reynolds's proposed restructuring of the state tax code would represent a further reduction in income taxes, going beyond 2018 legislation (passed by Republicans in the state legislature and signed into law by Reynolds) that was the largest income tax cut in Iowa history. . . . Reynolds is a staunch supporter of Donald Trump.[23][24] She blocked two-thirds of requests from Democratic state Attorney General Tom Miller to join multi-state lawsuits challenging Trump administration policies or to submit amicus briefs in such suits; among the vetoed requests were proposals to challenge Trump policies related to immigration, asylum, abortion, birth control, environmental deregulation, gun policy, and LGBT rights.[25] Reynolds blocked Miller from including Iowa in a legal challenge to the Trump administration's repeal of the Clean Power Plan . . .. [I]n May 2018, she signed a "fetal heartbeat bill", one of the nation's most restrictive abortion bans.[31][32] In January 2019, an Iowa state judge struck the law down as unconstitutional. . . . In March 2019, she signed into law a bill requiring public universities to protect all speech on campus.[35][36] Through her judicial appointments, Reynolds shifted the Iowa Supreme Court to the right.[37] Her attorney, Sam Langholz, was appointed to a position in the attorney general's office to defend her policies in court. . . . Reynolds has a close relationship with the Iowa pork industry, and in particular with Iowa Select, one of the country's largest pork producers. She donated an afternoon of her time as part of a 2019 charity auction to benefit the company's owners' foundation; the owners had contributed almost $300,000 to Reynolds's campaigns.[43] A Republican donor who is influential in the pork industry placed the winning bid. The director of the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board said that he did not believe the auction violated state law, but attorneys for two former Democratic governors of Iowa said that it created the appearance of impropriety and was an error in judgment. In May and July 2020, Reynolds's administration arranged for COVID-19 testing to be done at Iowa Select's West Des Moines headquarters and at the Waverly facility partly owned by another campaign donor, at a time when those most vulnerable to the disease (healthcare workers and residents of nursing homes and other congregate-living facilities) were unable to timely get tested.[44] A separate pork production company that had donated $25,000 to Reynolds's campaign received a disproportionate benefit from a state pandemic business-aid program, receiving 72% of the program's initial rounds of disbursements. . . . In March 2021, Reynolds signed into law a bill that shortened the hours of polling places on Election Day, reduced the early voting period, and required that absentee ballots be received by ballot places before the end of Election Day.[46] . . . It was part of a wider effort by Republicans across the country to roll back voting access. . . . [S]he signed legislation that would allow landlords to reject tenants who pay rent with Section 8 vouchers. . . . COVID-19 in Iowa peaked in November 2020, but remained high into the next year. In late January 2021, the state had the nation's third-highest positivity rate[68] and third-lowest per capita vaccination rate.”)

Paul LeBlanc, “Iowa governor signs controversial law shortening early and Election Day voting,” CNN, March 9, 2021, https://www.cnn.com/2021/03/08/politics/kim-reynolds-voting-iowa/index.html (“Republican Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Monday signed into law a controversial bill aimed at limiting voting and making it harder for voters to return absentee ballots, her office announced Monday. The legislation, which passed both Republican-controlled chambers of the state legislature last month, will reduce the number of early voting days from 29 days to 20 days. It will also close polling places an hour earlier on Election Day (at 8 p.m. instead of 9 p.m.). The bill additionally places new restrictions on absentee voting including banning officials from sending applications without a voter first requesting one and requiring ballots be received by the county before polls close on Election Day.”)

Robin Opsahl, “What you need to know about 2023 legislative session: Bills that passed, died, and Iowa’s newest laws,” Iowa Capital Dispatch, May 5, 2023, https://iowacapitaldispatch.com/2023/05/05/what-you-need-to-know-about-2023-legislative-session-bills-that-passed-died-and-iowas-newest-laws/ (“Democrats criticized the measure for changes they say give more power to the governor and state attorney general. Moves like making the Office of the Consumer Advocate a division under the attorney general’s office and giving the governor more power to set salaries and remove agency workers will hurt state government oversight and accountability, opponents argued. . . . The governor signed the bill into law in February, which sets a $1 million cap for clinics and doctors and $2 million cap for hospitals in medical malpractice lawsuits . . .. Reynolds signed House File 718 into law, providing an estimated $100 million in tax relief to Iowa property owners. The new law sets maximum property tax levy rates for cities and counties . . .. Local government officials and advocates warned the property tax cuts could hurt localities’ ability to provide essential services, as property tax revenue funds local law enforcement, road repairs and other services Iowans depend on. . . . Senate File 496 . . . prohibits teachers from providing instruction and materials involving “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” to K-6 students, requires schools to seek written parental permission if a child asks to use a name or pronoun different than the one assigned at birth, and says school staff cannot knowingly “false or misleading” information on a child’s gender identity to their parents. . . . The Iowa Board of Regents is not allowed to spend funding on diversity, equity and inclusion programs at Iowa’s three public universities until a study is conducted under a measure passed in the education appropriations bill Wednesday. . . . Senate File 542 made national news for allowing Iowa minors to work in potentially dangerous fields like mining and meatpacking [and] also expands the maximum daily hours minors ages 14 to 17 can work [and] also allows 16- and 17-year-olds to serve and sell alcohol at restaurants until kitchens close . . .. Iowans receiving SNAP benefits would have to go through asset and identity tests in order to remain eligible for public assistance under Senate File 494. . . . Food insecurity advocates said these limits discourage saving, and that many legitimately needy Iowans could lose food assistance because of reporting discrepancies and bureaucratic problems through the identity verification requirements. The Legislative Services Agency projected 8,000 Medicaid recipients and 2,800 SNAP recipients may be removed if the bill is signed into law. . . . Lawmakers also discussed liability limits for the trucking industry this year, with the House and Senate reaching an agreement to cap noneconomic damages at $5 million in lawsuits against against trucking companies whose employee caused injury, death or other damages. . . . Democrats said a bill restricting the state auditor’s access to information was “politically motivated” against Democratic Auditor Rob Sand, and puts billions in federal funding at risk. Senate File 478 limits the office from obtaining personal information when performing an audit [and] also strips the auditor of the ability to issue subpoenas to government offices and agencies. Disputes where an audited entity believes it does not have to turn over requested information would be settled by a board of arbitration, with two members appointed by the offices or departments involved in the dispute, and a third member appointed by the governor. . . . A bill requiring the Iowa Department of Natural Resources prioritizes maintenance of current public lands over acquisition of new lands died in the House committee process following significant public opposition from conservationists, cyclists and hunters who said the measure would limit the growth of Iowa’s parks and trails. . . . House File 572 proposed criminal charges for drone surveillance of livestock facilities without the permission of the property owner, in response to animal welfare groups publishing videos and pictures of the condition and treatment of animals at Iowa livestock and dog-breeding facilities.

Sen. Mike Bousselot, R-Ankeny, argued the bill is needed to protect Iowans’ personal information. Sand said his office has not published Iowans’ confidential information, and that the version of the bill sent to Reynolds limits the office’s ability to uncover government waste, fraud and abuse.

Robin Opsahl, “Gov. Kim Reynolds’ [Condition of the State] address highlights private school scholarships, agency restructuring,” Jan. 10, 2023, https://iowacapitaldispatch.com/2023/01/10/gov-kim-reynolds-address-highlights-private-school-scholarships-agency-restructuring/ (“One of Reynolds’ biggest goals in 2023 is finally passing into law her educational savings account program, which had failed in the Iowa House the past two sessions. This year, her proposal would designate $7,598 for each student who wishes to transfer from a public school to a private school. . . . The governor proposed consolidating Iowa’s 37 cabinet agencies into 16, and to eliminate several vacant full-time equivalent positions which are currently funded. . . . The governor said the state has many unnecessary and sometimes counterproductive rules that make the state’s economy less competitive. On Tuesday, she signed an executive order issuing a moratorium on new rulemaking, in addition to directing state agencies to review their existing rules.”)

Jane Mayer, “State Legislatures Are Torching Democracy; Even in moderate places like Ohio, gerrymandering has let unchecked Republicans pass extremist laws that could never make it through Congress,” The New Yorker, Aug. 6, 2022, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2022/08/15/state-legislatures-are-torching-democracy

Governor Robert Ray. “Robert D. Ray,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_D._Ray (“He served as the 38th governor of Iowa from January 16, 1969 to January 14, 1983.”)

Paul Hillmer, Book Review of Matthew R. Walsh, The Good Governor: Robert Ray and the Indochinese Refugees of Iowa, annals-of-iowa-8568-hillmer.pdf (“Governor Ray was . . . conservative enough (by 1970s standards) to be strategic about resettling them [Vietnamese refugees] in a fashion palatable to Iowans, and savvy enough to anticipate and blunt criticism.”)

“Robert D. Ray,” The Robert D. and Billie Ray Center, Drake University, https://raycenter.wp.drake.edu/robert-d-ray/ (“During his tenure, Iowa re-tooled and greatly expanded funding for K-12 education. Ray led creation of a merged Department of Transportation and elimination of the sales tax on food and drugs. He established the Iowa Energy Policy Council and then Department of Environmental Quality, both ahead of their time nationally. In the late 70s, Ray led the way for bottle and can deposit legislation, dramatically cleaning up Iowa’s roadsides.

“During the Ray years, Iowa’s judicial system was reformed and community-based corrections implemented. Students at two dozen private colleges benefitted from the novel Iowa Tuition Grant program. Ray worked with business and labor on breakthrough legislation while improving Iowa’s business climate and promoting ag-business trade on three continents.

“Governor Ray established the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women and Iowa Council on Children, assisted Native Americans living in Iowa, and issued Executive Orders advancing civil rights. He established the Governor’s Economy Committee, a Task Force on Government Ethics, the Science Advisory Council, and the Iowa High Technology Commission. . . .

“In the late 1970’s Governor Ray became a worldwide leader in the humanitarian re-settlement of refugees from Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam by helping them relocate, find jobs, and start new lives in Iowa. ‘I didn’t think we could just sit here idly and say, let those people die. We wouldn’t want the rest of the world to say that about us if we were in the same situation,’ said Gov. Ray. ‘Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.’ A problem developed when Tai Dam refugees were not allowed to settle as one group in one location. Governor Ray visited the White House and State Department to implore President Ford and Secretary of State Kissinger to make an exception. Finally, the Tai Dam were invited to re-settle in Iowa, together.”)

Linh Ta, “Not from Iowa? Here's 5 things to know about one of Iowa's most influential governors,” Des Moines Register, July 10, 2018, https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/2018/07/09/robert-ray-5-things-know-iowas-former-governor/767773002/

1. “In the late 1970s, Ray helped thousands of refugees from Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam re-settle in Iowa in light of the turmoil in the region caused by the Vietnam War. When no other states had extended offers of help . . ..”

2. “Iowa Public Employment Relations Law, also known as Chapter 20. The law mandated that public employees give up their right to strike in exchange for the ability to collectively bargain for wages and benefits like insurance plans along with a host of other work-related matters.”

3. “Ray established the Iowa Energy Policy Council and then the Department of Environmental Quality. One of his favorite bills . . . was the 1979 ‘bottle bill’ . . . which placed a refundable nickel deposit on containers of pop, beer and wine to encourage recycling and reduce litter along the state’s roads.”

4. “Gov. Ray established the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women and Iowa Council on Children. He also issued several executive orders to further civil rights, including Executive Order No. 46, which furthered initiatives like affirmative action and equal employment opportunities in state government programs. Ray was also one of the first U.S. leaders to enact laws to protect Native American graves.”

5. “During his tenure, Iowa re-vamped and expanded funding for K-12 public education. While Ray was governor, funding for Iowa's K-12 schools expanded and reduced its reliance on property taxes.”)

“Robert D. Ray: An Iowa Governor, a Humanitarian Leader,” Iowa Pathways, Iowa PBS, undated, https://www.iowapbs.org/iowapathways/mypath/2687/robert-d-ray-iowa-governor-humanitarian-leader (“The U.S. State Department would not allow a large group to settle in one location. So Ray worked with the State Department and then President Gerald Ford to make an exception. ‘I thought there was a good reason for the exception and so I worked with the State Department and the White House. And I remember making the trip to talk to Henry Kissinger and then to Jerry Ford. And in the final analysis they agreed and they made the exception; and so we were able to invite the Tai Dam to come to Iowa.’ -Governor Robert D. Ray . . .

“Then on Tuesday night, January 16, 1979, a documentary called ‘CBS Reports with Ed Bradley: The Boat People’ aired on national television. Governor Ray saw it and was once again moved to action, . . . They also made a visit to a new refugee camp in Thailand—just over the border from war torn Cambodia where victims had escaped from the government headed by a ruthless leader named Pol Pot. There they witnessed horrible living conditions, starvation and death. Once again, Governor Ray responded to what he saw. . . .”

“The Iowa Bureau of Refugee Services is the only entity run by a state government that is certified as a resettlement agency by the U.S. State Department.”)

“Governors of Iowa: Robert D. Ray,” Iowa PBS, Oct. 17, 2022, transcript and link to video, https://www.iowapbs.org/shows/governors-iowa/ray

Quotes from transcript:

David Yepsen: Bob Ray was a republican moderate and there were a lot of people in the Republican Party who were more conservative. He was opposed to the death penalty, he was pro-choice, now this was before Roe so it was a different era on the abortion issue.

Doug Gross: He was very much a republican but in terms of making decisions it wasn't through a partisan or even through a, certainly not through an ideological lens. He would always be tough on us because he would say, well the easy decisions are the political decisions. It's easy to decide what you should do that makes more political sense for you so you can further yourself. What's tough is trying to figure out what is the right thing to do and then trying to figure out how to sell that within a political system. That's the tough work of governance. And because of that he was exacting in terms of the decision-making process we would make. We would never talk about the political implications of a decision. If we would, he's usher us out of the office, literally. I know that sounds crazy today but that was absolutely the truth. . . .

David Yepsen: . . . Ray and his team launched a full frontal charm offensive with the Iowa National Press Corp. Daily press conferences would mark the early days of Ray's tenure and his staff were tuned into reporters and the potential news of the day.

Governor Terry Branstad: He did press conferences when he first became Governor every day.

Brice Oakley: . . . Governors and those people in that position that don't, that think that the media is their enemy, make a serious mistake, in my view. And I think that was his view. He didn't like to be criticized by the media and that happens, it goes kind of with the territory. But it didn't happen very often because he was prepared and he would be candid. . . . Governor Terry Branstad: I think they also had the idea that if you don't feed them raw meat they'll feed on you. That was a little bit of the reason for having the regular press conferences. The media would say, well the Governor is very open and we could ask him any question just about any time we want to. And I think that's good. . . . As state employees threatened to strike without broad improvements in wages and benefits, Ray helped craft a legislative compromise creating a collective bargaining process for decades to come and what some describe as an essential Bob Ray bill focused on environmental cleanup later known as the Bottle Bill.

Tai Dam;

Vinh Nguyen: When you talk especially with Southeast Asians, we consider him as the, I hate to say it, but almost our God, the Savior, especially the Tai Dam population. Who would have the courage to ask the President to take all the Tai Dam to the state of Iowa at the time, 1,500 of them?

Governor Ray was set for a planned foreign trip of American governors to China. But he requested an additional stop in Asia to visit refugee camps near the border of Thailand and Cambodia. Upon arrival, local officials urged American governors and their staff to follow them to one of the region's largest encampments. Former State Department Diplomat Kenneth Quinn was with Ray.

Ambassador Ken Quinn: And strewn about this open field are 30,000 or so estimated human beings, all Cambodians, who are in the most unbelievably, most incredibly devastated state any of us had ever seen. It's like a scene out of Dante's Inferno, the seventh level of hell, the worst place, the worst suffering and 50 to 100 a day are dying and their bodies being bulldozed into mass graves. And those who are suffering, the children who are orphans. And Governor Ray has always had his camera and he took a lot of photos.

The horrors of Southeast Asia would embolden Ray to bring more refugees to Iowa. But first, he would need to rally support back home.

David Yepsen: I was going to head out to meet him at the airport and see what he had to say. And I remember in the newsroom talking about it, we were wondering, is he shooting pictures over there? Everybody knew he had a camera and would like to take pictures.

On the tarmac in Des Moines, Ray shared his experiences with reporter David Yepsen.

David Yepsen: It was emotional for him to talk about and he would look at me and he said, I watched people die. Well, that's pretty chilling.

Ambassador Ken Quinn: And then David Yepsen says, do you have any photos? Do you have any pictures?

David Yepsen: Can I have your film? We can process it. And he kind of stopped and looked at me, you could tell he was thinking about it, he said, sure.

Ambassador Ken Quinn: A pretty big moment for a politician to hand over all of the film, all of the pictures he had taken to a journalist.


David Yepsen: Even today I remember that as a powerful moment that really had struck him and moved him to continue acting to help these refugees.

Governor Robert D. Ray: . . . I don't know what greater calling there could be than to save human lives.

[There were two groups of 1500 refugees each.]

In 1979, at the global conference on refugees, America would announce a massive expansion of its program, allowing 168,000 Asian refugees each year into the United States.

Norms - Mutual tolerance and institutional forbearance. How Democracies Die, p. 212

Civic society, organizations and coalitions. How Democracies Die, p. 218

Tocqueville. Democracy in America, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democracy_in_America

Daniel Stid, “Civil Society and the Foundations of Democratic Citizenship; Civil society can act directly to solve critical problems, but its indirect effect might be just as important: allowing individuals to participate, collaborate, and—in the process—develop into citizens capable of upholding democracy,” Stanford Social Innovation Review, Aug. 16, 2018, https://ssir.org/articles/entry/civil_society_and_the_foundations_of_democratic_citizenship (“Tocqueville believed that associations operating outside the sphere of government and economic life—what we now refer to as civil society—were essential bulwarks against any incipient democratic decay and despotism. . . . Townships and voluntary associations were the means through which citizens who knew and trusted each other could solve problems, as well as broaden their individual perspectives and develop their civic skills.”)

Linn County’s Inter-Religious Council. Inter-Religious Council of Linn County, https://irclc.org/ (scroll down for list of board members identified with the following religions: Baha’I, Bethel AME, Humanist, Jewish, Lutheran, Mormon, Muslim, Unity, and Zen)

Edward R. Murrow. “Edward R. Murrow,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_R._Murrow

Edward R. Murrow’s IMDb page, https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0615386/

“Murrow’s Famous ‘Wires and Lights in a Box,’” speech to the RTNDA [TV industry] convention, Oct. 15, 1958, https://www.rtdna.org/murrows-famous-wires-and-lights-in-a-box (“This instrument [television] can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and even it can inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise, it's nothing but wires and lights in a box.”)

Murrow’s McCarthy “See It Now.” A video of this historic broadcast is now available on YouTube. “Edward R. Murrow - A Report on Senator Joseph R. McCarthy,” See It Now, CBS, March 9, 1954, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dMgoi9pBRwg

Joseph Wershba, “Murrow v. McCarthy: See It Now,” New York Times, March 4, 1979, https://www.nytimes.com/1979/03/04/archives/murrow-vs-mccarthy-see-it-now.html (“The actions of the junior Senator from Wisconsin have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad and given considerable comfort to our enemies. And whose fault is that? Not really his. He didn't create this situation of fear. He merely exploited it, and rather successfully. Cassius was right: ‘The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but In ourselves.’”)

Murrow’s concluding quote, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves,” is from Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” Act 1, Scene 2.

And see, Oliver Tearle, “A Short Analysis of Cassius’ ‘The Fault, Dear Brutus’ Speech from Julius Caesar,” Interesting Literature, undated, https://interestingliterature.com/2021/04/cassius-speech-bestride-colossus-fault-not-in-our-stars-julius-caesar-analysis/

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