Letter to the editor: Something smells in District 65

Land near Prairie Park Fishery (the planned site of a future Cargill rail yard) in House District 65, Cedar Rapids. — Izabela Zaluska/Little Village

By Chad Cooper, Cedar Rapids

“Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” –Samuel Johnson

Grant me the liberty to rework Sammy’s famous line: Politics is the last tent for a huckster. That’s better for my purposes.

Representative Liz Bennett faces a primary contest from Harry Foster in House District 65 on June 2. Being a resident of Oakhill Jackson (which is in District 65) and a responsible and committed citizen, I did a little research. Foster is registered as a Democrat for this primary, but a quick search shows that he ran unsuccessfully as a Republican against Bennett in the 2016 general election. Well, shit, I thought, something smells foul here, and it isn’t just Mt. Trashmore and Cargill. So, I probed further and found that Foster lost in 2014 running as a Republican for State Senate District 33. Looks like Harry’s mantra is If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em and then probably still lose! (By the way, Harry, you can use that as your campaign slogan free of charge. I won’t even ask for credit.)

Unfortunately, Harry’s values don’t seem to align with his newfound party affiliation. The most recent interview I could surface was this one from Caffeinated Thoughts back in 2016.

Here are a few of the more salient excerpts:

Describe your worldview and what role that would play as a state legislator: I am politically conservative and would work to reduce taxes and restore personal accountability.

Do you support recently passed legislation in the Iowa House allowing kids under 14 to use handguns with parental supervision: Yes.

Do you support traditional marriage and is there anything you hope to do as a state legislator regarding marriage and how?: I will advocate for traditional marriage and promote legislation supporting and returning to traditional values.

When does someone become a person and at what point should they be granted all constitutional protections of a person under the law?: Life begins at conception, constitutional rights are based on the nationality of their parents.

Your top three issues of concern are?: Promoting constitutional principles, limit government and uphold traditional values.

Oh, Harry, you wily scoundrel! You know that’s not the Democratic Party platform! Yet here you are — a registered Donkey. I know all about pulling wool over eyes, but this is more like throwing a shit-soaked polyester jacket in my face. An under-informed voter could look at a ballot, see that D beside Harry’s name, and think he’s a progressive thinker.

This all comes on the heels of news from Bleeding Heartland in March that Susie Weinacht — former two-term Cedar Rapids City Council member — switched her party affiliation from Democrat to Republican and filed papers to run for House District 67, only to pull them two days later. How does this all work? You get one in and one out? Political osmosis? Gov. Kim Reynolds did recently nominate Weinacht to a four-year term on the Iowa Parole Board, so maybe Weinacht opted for the bigger paycheck?

Opportunism pays well, and if there’s one thing a politician is it’s an inherent opportunist — from the lowliest city council member to the highest-ranking senator. They’ll peddle some sweet talk about civil service and might even throw out an accomplishment or two, but those are often unintended or peripheral developments for these attention seekers. They might get something accomplished, but the mess they’ve created with their other actions sullies it. It leaves you wondering if having a politician involved was even worth it. It’s kind of like that now-debunked tip to urinate on someone to help a stingray sting: a problem was ostensibly solved, but now the whole area smells terrible, and the entire conceit was false to begin with.

And before you come at me with any Teddy Roosevelt “man in the arena” bluster, let me cut you off to say articulating an opinion on a public forum also counts as an arena, and I’m even willing to admit that every now and then you find a decent candidate with pure ideals. Hell, I even referenced a couple in previous pieces I wrote not long ago. The problem is all the muck, mire and deception you have to wade through to find a good one, and it doesn’t make it any easier when candidates are playing musical chairs with party affiliations. And anyway, when it comes to presidential quotes, I’ve always preferred Ulysses S. Grant: “Cheap cigars come in handy; they stifle the odor of cheap politicians.”

You said it, Uly! Most people running for office really lend credence to the line about not trusting anyone in shoe leather, synthetic pumps or sensible flats. But, for every sucker born every minute, there’s a politician rolling into the world to eventually ask for that sucker’s vote, and then use that vote — and that sucker — for their (the politician’s) gain.

Get enough politicians in a room, and behold the circus-like frenzy of networking and bullshit that ensues. You don’t need to be within that circus tent to observe the frenzy, though; that show is on display every election cycle.

I don’t have a very prosaic way to end this piece, but here are a few points of unsolicited advice:
Do your research before casting a ballot. Even a few minutes and a Google search can be profoundly informative.

Make sure to cast a ballot. You have until May 22 (this Friday) to request an absentee ballot. Voting is as important as ever, especially in local elections.

And finally, stay at least six feet apart from other people temporarily but at least 10 feet apart from most politicians permanently.

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