Today would have been my Dad’s 79th birthday. He grew up as a poor kid from Elm Creek, Nebraska and became a very successful banker. He never went to college (something he was unnecessarily embarrassed about) yet at one time he ran 21 banks throughout the Midwest. He was married to the same woman for 45 years. He served for 16 years on the Kearney, Nebraska City Council. He passed away a year and a half ago and one of the things I miss most was talking about politics with him. He was a guy who didn’t have much a filter and in his honor this blog will be filter free. It is worth noting that he was OK if people disagreed with him; he was always willing to debate and respected those who didn’t agree with him.
I am certain he would have been fascinated by the politics of 2016. The fact that the biggest national political issue today is about bathrooms would amuse him. Very little made him grumpier than politicians who wasted time on issues that aren’t really issues. In a time when there are real issues such as hunger, homelessness, education, terrorism, and worsening income inequality, he would be appalled at all of the energy and rhetoric being poured into conversations about who uses what bathroom. It would occur to him that he took leaks in public restrooms unharmed for 77 years. He would note that if someone does something bad in a restroom they should be punished. Done; now talk about something important. He would be appalled that an Iowa Senator is holding a Supreme Court nomination hostage for purely partisan political reasons. He was appalled that Iowa’s Governor and Republican legislators are shifting resources away from education in order to line the pockets of big businesses. He would want to know if my quality of life had changed significantly because my legislators are cutting taxes in Iowa. I don’t know about many of my middle class friends, but my taxes are pretty much the same as they have been for quite a while. Someone is getting tax cuts in Iowa, but it doesn’t feel like it is me. What my Dad would recognize is that schools are getting hosed. Our Governor and Republican legislators would try to paint it some other way, but they are hosing public education; and they are doing it with almost no public debate.
I became politically active because of my Dad. He used to host fundraisers in our home. He was invited to attend the State of the Union on two different occasions. He was passionate about politics. He was also a man of some wealth who knew that the role of government was to expend it’s resources and energy into making the playing field as fair as possible. How is the playing field made more fair? Educate our kids. Provide a reasonable safety net for those who are struggling. Get out of the way of small businesses. Most importantly, listen to the people who you represent. Don’t simply serve as puppets of those who already have the most.
If our leaders aren’t listening to us then we have to take matters into our own hands in November. I promise you that politicians are doing things today that they hope we will forget in November. We can’t forget. They have to answer our questions. I don’t know what your issue is, but my issue is education. There are legislators right here in my neck of the woods who haven’t said a peep in the last two years publicly about this issue, but they aren’t going to be afforded the luxury for long. If you’ve got an issue, be sure your candidates answer.
I would give anything to hear my father mock those who want to talk about bathrooms today. Instead, I am going to spend some time reading about real issues. I am going to study about why Iowa can’t support education at the rate of inflation. I am going to read about the policy failures in Kansas and Louisiana so that I can ask my legislators what they can learn from those train wrecks. I am also going to read a little bit more about some of my Dad’s heroes. He loved George McGovern, Jimmy Carter, Tip O’Neill, and Robert Kennedy. People who believed that government was a force for good. I miss talking to him, but I do think I learned a little something from him.