Early in Meredith Willson’s beloved musical show, “The Music Man,” a chorus of townspeople sings a song called “Iowa Stubborn.” Here’s an excerpt:
“There’s an Iowa kinda kind-a chip-on-the-shoulder attitude we’ve never been without that we recall! . . . we’re so by-gone stubborn, we can stand touching noses for a week at a time, and never see eye-to-eye.”
That reputation might have served the plot of the popular show, but it fails the reality test, in my experience. In my newspaper days, I was blessed to work side by side with several former Iowans, and every one of them was friendly, generous and smart.
Iowans got into the news recently by setting a record for turnouts in a primary election after its secretary of state sent applications for mail-in ballots to every registered voter. More than 520,000 ballots were cast, beating the previous record of 450,000 set in 1994.
Immediately, Republicans in the state legislature drafted a bill that would make it difficult for this to happen again. The Iowa State Association of County Auditors, a nonpartisan group, expressed confusion over the purpose of this legislation, pointing out that this election was hugely successful thanks to the efforts of this secretary of state — record turnout, election-day process ran smoothly, results were available promptly. Why, the county auditors asked, would the state want to “cripple the process that led to such success?” according to a report in Fortune.
Here’s why. Large voter turnouts tend to favor progressive candidates and issues. Creating barriers to voting tends to discourage or actually prevent certain groups from voting, particularly minorities and seniors. President Trump and his fans therefore fear and vigorously oppose anything that would make it easier for these Americans to vote by suppressing their access to the ballot box. This is antithetical to what I cherish about being American.
How important is your right to vote? Let’s think about this. If you or I want to make a change in our government, what tools are available to us? If we are wealthy, we can corrupt the decision-makers with our money, but that’s a strategy that’s not available to most Americans.
But we can vote. Our U.S. Constitution guarantees us that. These days, voting can be a challenge. Consider voters’ experience in Georgia. Contrast it with what happened in Iowa.
When thousands of Georgia residents tried to vote last week, they were confronted with equipment failures, a dramatic reduction in the number of polling precincts, voting centers that failed to open on time, insufficient number of paper ballots, seven-hour lines in many minority communities, contrasted with a much easier time in white suburbs.
Trump, for his part, votes by mail, yet he opposes voting by mail, claiming it rife with fraud. This simply doesn’t align with the facts, but that detail has never stopped Trump, nor is it likely to inhibit the efforts of his party loyalists to make it hard for us to vote.
America’s Republican Party relinguished its soul long ago; its list of sins against Americans’ values is much too long to list in one place. But it crosses my line in the sand when it tries to take away anyone’s vote, particularly mine.
We — all of us — owe it to our nation and ourselves to fight back, by voting. We must. Nothing less than the future of our nation depends on us.