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Reviews | Democrats in Iowa: Lose Yourself! (And they wonder why they struggle in rural America.)


Mr. Biden owes nothing to Iowa. He finished fourth in the caucuses. He owed Rep. James Clyburn, the dean of the South Carolina Democrats, plenty of time for an endorsement just before the Palmetto state primary, where black voters put Mr. Biden over the top. It was a nice reward. We understand that too.

In fact, the caucuses haven’t been the best thing for Iowa. TV commercials never stop. It puts you in a bad mood to think that everything is going wrong all the time. We asked good questions and the candidates gave good answers, then forgot everything. Despite all the attention, nothing has really happened to halt the long decline as the state’s main streets dry up, farmers disappear and undocumented immigrants live in the shadows. Republican or Democrat, the outcome was pretty much the same. At least the Republicans will cut your taxes.

It is therefore normal that South Carolina goes first. Iowa can do without it. Republicans stick to Iowa, Democrats consider it a lost cause. No Democratic state senator lives in a significant portion of western Iowa. Republicans control the governor’s office, the legislature, and soon the entire congressional delegation. No one organized the thousands of registered Latino voters in meatpacking towns like Storm Lake. Democrats are barely trying. The results show it.

The haunted old brick factories along the mighty Mississippi River are dark, thanks to Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton and everyone else who sold us out for “free trade.” Keokuk, the gateway city to the river, was once a bustling industrial and maritime center, but recently lost its hospital. Your best hope in the Jefferson campaign was to find a casino to save the town. You can’t haul a load of hogs to the packinghouse in a van anymore – you need a contract and a tractor-trailer. The sales barn and open markets are quaint souvenirs. John Deere tractor cabs will be made in Mexico, not Waterloo. Our rivers are filled with manure. This tends to frustrate those left behind and resentment escalates into insurrection when it’s obvious the government isn’t there to help.

It’s hard to feel from 30,000 feet. So Donald Trump landed in Sioux City on the eve of the midterm elections to claim his bet in front of a large crowd buffeted by gales from Nebraska. “The Iowa way of life is under siege,” Trump yelled. “We are a nation in decline. We are a failed nation.

They loved him. Democrats consider the crowd deplorable and told Iowa to get lost.

Art Cullen is editor of the Storm Lake Times and author of “Storm Lake: A Chronicle of Change, Resilience, and Hope from a Heartland Newspaper.”

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