Gov. Reynolds promises Iowa will ‘act as a counterweight’ to the Biden administration at rightwing Christian summit

Secretary of State Michael Pompeo delivers remarks at the Family Leadership Summit in Des Moines on July 17, 2020. Pompeo returned to the event in 2021, post-Trump administration. — Ronny Przysucha/U.S. State Department

Gov. Kim Reynolds began her speech at the Family Leadership Summit in Des Moines on Friday by explaining she had a cold. The cold affected her voice, but did nothing to diminish the enthusiasm she showed at the annual meeting of the right-wing Christian lobbying group the Family Leader (inexplicably stylized as THE FAMiLY LEADER), which always features Republican politicians heaping praise on the group.

“Wow, look at this audience,” Reynolds said at the start of her 20-minute speech. “This is so incredible. God is on the move. “

Before the governor took the stage, Family Leader President and CEO Bob Vander Plaats had praised the governor and the Republican-led Iowa Legislature for the “best legislative session, we believe, ever.”

Vander Plaats became a force in Iowa politics by leading the losing fight against same-sex marriage, and then pivoting to leading the successful effort to defeat three Iowa Supreme Court justices in their retention elections after they voted to recognize same-sex marriage in the 2009 Varnum v. Brien decision. The Family Leader was formed by groups that opposed same-sex marriage, and it continues to fight against recognition of LGBTQ rights in Iowa.

Reynolds didn’t mention marriage equality in her remarks, perhaps because none of the apocalyptic damage opponents predicted it would cause actually happened. She did, however, focus her speech on the institution Republicans agree will cause the most apocalyptic damage: the Biden administration.

“Our nation is at a crossroads,” the governor told the audience of approximately 1,200. She warned the policies of the Biden administration “threaten the very principles on which America was founded.”

“This current administration speaks about unity while promoting a radical social agenda backed by extreme liberal activists and corporations,” Reynolds said, before running down a list alleged threats that would be familiar to any Fox News viewer. “Among other things it includes an assault on our First and Second Amendment rights; the federal takeover of our elections, taxpayer-funded abortions; abortions on demand; the demotion of religious liberty to a second-class right; the elevation of angry, every-shifting moral code of wokeness [sic]; bailouts; tax hikes; lockdowns; open borders; closed schools.”

“Believe me, this is not an agenda for Iowa, and it is not an agenda for our country.”

Reynolds told the crowd she wants the state to “act as a counterweight” to the Biden administration.

“And that is exactly what we’re doing in Iowa,” the governor said.

Reynolds ticked off a list of legislative accomplishments this year — met with approval from the audience — including requiring schools “to start their day with the Pledge of Allegiance.”

“Yay! This is America!” the governor added, as people applauded.

Reynolds also highlighted new laws imposing restrictions on voting, and the so-called “Back the Blue” law, which increases the ability of all law enforcement officers to avoid being held legally accountable for their actions, created new protest-related crimes, and offers protection against civil lawsuits under most circumstances to drivers who hit protesters in the streets.

The governor said the new law was needed to provide “support for our brave law enforcement who put their lines on the life [sic] every single day.”

Reynolds also touted her support for the anti-abortion amendment to the Iowa Constitution that passed the legislature this year. As usual, the governor distorted the views of people opposed to the amendment — which according to the Iowa Poll, is a majority of Iowans — falsely claiming they want taxpayer-funded abortions to occur “up until the moment of birth.”

The governor also referenced the latest Fox News-dominating fear, critical race theory.

“We’ve banned critical race theory, and any curriculum or training that teaches that the United States or Iowa is fundamentally racist or sexist,” she said.

The “divisive concepts” bill the governor was referring to does impose limits on how schools and government agencies in Iowa can discuss matters of race and gender, but does not mention critical race theory. The bill was introduced before critical race theory (in reality, all but absent in grade school curricula and frequently misrepresented by its rightwing critics) became a major talking point among Republicans.

In a written statement on Friday afternoon, Iowa Democratic Party Chair Ross Wilburn said, “The Family Leader does not stand for all Iowa families.”

“It’s shameful to see Governor Reynolds and Iowa Republicans continue to support an organization that promotes a hateful agenda and discriminates against LGBTQ+ Iowans.”

Reynolds, of course, took a different view of the group. In her speech she said “one of the silver linings of the pandemic” was how closely the state government worked with The Family Leader and other “faith-based organizations.” The governor said she looked forward to continuing to coordinate with The Family Leader on issues “like childcare, foster care prevention, mental health, substance abuse prevention and recovery.”

In addition to Reynolds, three Republicans with presidential ambitions spoke at the meeting on Friday — former Trump administration members Mike Pence and Mike Pompeo, as well as South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem.

Appearing on Iowa Press last week, Vander Plaats said Reynolds, “would be a great presidential candidate right now. She has a lot of stock across the country of how she has led during COVID, how she has led through the racial unrest and a lot of other things.”

If the governor decides not to run for president, Vander Plaats said “she would make a very compelling VP choice.”

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