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Open letter to readers: Today and tomorrow

By Lynda Waddington | 11.17.11

Wednesday was a difficult day for The American Independent News Network, which is the larger entity that operates The Iowa Independent. Our chief executive and founder announced two of our sister sites would close and their content would be moved to The American Independent.

ACS lockout continues; plan emerges to repeal sugar protections

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By Virginia Chamlee | 11.15.11

A recently introduced bill could have far-reaching impact on the U.S. sugar industry, including American Crystal Sugar, a farmer-owned cooperative that locked out 1,300 Midwest workers on Aug. 1.

Cain campaign: Farmers know more about regulations than EPA

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By Andrew Duffelmeyer | 11.15.11

The chairman for Herman Cain’s Iowa effort says the campaign “relied more on the word of farmers than Washington regulators” in deciding to run an ad containing claims the Environmental Protection Agency says are false.

Mathis wins, Democrats maintain Senate control

Liz Mathis
By Lynda Waddington | 11.08.11

The Iowa Senate will remain under the control of a slim 26-25 Democratic majority when it reconvenes in January 2012.

Press Release

PR: Nation should work to address veterans’ challenges

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

BRUCE BRALEY RELEASE — As US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan ends, it’s more important than ever that our nation works to address the challenges faced by the men and women who fought there.

PR: Honoring veterans, help in hiring

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

CHUCK GRASSLEY RELEASE — A difficult job market is challenging the soldiers, sailors and airmen who have protected America’s interests by serving in the Armed Forces.

PR: In honor of America’s veterans

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

TOM LATHAM RELEASE — No one has done more to secure the freedom enjoyed by every single American than our veterans and those currently serving in the armed services.

PR: Honoring and supporting our nation’s veterans

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

DAVE LOEBSACK RELEASE — Veterans Day is an opportunity to reflect on the service of generations of veterans and to honor the sacrifices they and their families have made so that we may live in peace and freedom here at home.

COMMENTARY: Obama Leaves No Aftertaste In Rural America With ‘Bitter’ Remarks

By Douglas Burns | 04.21.08 | 6:00 pm

Rural Americans, of both the bitter and optimistic variety, really don’t have much of a problem with Barack Obama’s closed-door (but open-mike) characterizations of many of us.

We are exhausted with two weeks of effete urban commentators, caffeinated with $4 lattes and speaking through studio-makeup-shined faces, telling us what we think about what Obama said.

And, yes, we can smell Hillary Clinton’s contrived outrage, her false fury over the remarks, for what it is: political opportunism, the carbohydrates fueling the Clintons’ royal run.

You see, we don’t have to guess on this one. We don’t need talking heads on MSNBC to do our figuring and ciphering. Here in western Iowa’s small towns we actually got to know Obama about as well as any voters in contemporary American presidential politics can.

As a reporter and columnist based in Carroll, the hub of west-central Iowa, I tracked Obama’s schedule for the nearly one-year campaign in Iowa. Some days, Obama would be in five, six or more small communities.

I’d give Obama better odds at finding his way from Carroll to Sioux City without a map than any of the pundits calling him elite.

Speaking as a small-town American (Carroll has a population of 10,000) I can say this: We want a president smarter than everyone we know. Obama passes that test. Does it make him “elite” in our eyes? Yes, but in the manner of a standout student, a superior speaker, not an out-of-touch pol.

This isn’t to give Obama a free pass with what he said earlier this month at a fund-raiser in San Francisco:

“You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them.

“And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate, and they have not.

“And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

Obama made a classic American mistake with these hyper-chronicled meanderings about “bitter” small-town people.

You can’t joke or characterize people who don’t live and look like you. Even if, well, you are right.

As a white, rural man, I am on a foundation of quicksand should I write anything about Bill Cosby’s assessment of the African-American community’s values implosion or repeat challenging comments Hispanic friends make about their own evolving culture in western Iowa.

But I can tell you that Obama, while talking like white men dance with those San Francisco comments, is on firm factual footing.

In his groundbreaking book “What’s The Matter With Kansas,” Thomas Frank could just as easily have been talking about western Iowa when he probes deeply into why working-class people vote against their own economic interests.

“How is that the Kansas conservative rebels profess to hate elites but somehow excuse from their fury the corporate world, even when it has so manifestly (hurt) them?” says Frank.

Moreover, he writes, “Apparently there is no bad economic turn a conservative cannot do unto his buddy in the working class, as long as cultural solidarity has been cemented over a beer.”

We see it right here in western Iowa in our desperate small towns.

“Walk down the main street of just about any farm town in the state, and you know immediately what they’re talking about: this is a civilization in the early stages of irreversible decay,” Frank writes of Kansas.

Why do people who live in dilapidated homes in Iowa’s forlorn villages, people whose first electric light may have come through the Rural Electricification Administration, people who live in a land capitalism long since left behind, vote for corporate-shilling, government-bashing conservatives?

Conservative Iowa politicians and their followers are actors in a tragic play. They posture as independent pioneers living in mud huts and getting by with just a mule and plow, plenty of pluck and nary a buck from Uncle Sam.

But Iowa – and western Iowa to even greater degree – is reliant on the federal government in the way of a newborn and his mother’s milk. In short, rural America needs the federal government.

All of this doesn’t make for good political brochures, and dependence is not the image we want to project. It does happen to be true, though. The proof is in the cashed checks.

Consider this fact alone: From 1995 to 2002, total U.S. Department of Agriculture subsidies for farms in Carroll County stood at $114 million, with 2,348 recipients, according to a federal database used by the Associated Press and The Des Moines Register. Our American way of life of preservation of the food supply demand that these subsidies continue.

That considered, does any thinking person believe Obama’s brief and failed turn as a rural anthropologist will hurt him more than what Republican presidential candidate John McCain said today in Alabama?

“We must reduce barriers to imports, to things like ethanol from Brazil, and we’ve got to stop subsidizing ethanol in my view,” Senator McCain said.

If the ivory-towered urban elites hawking their tiresome flyover views on cable television each night want to see what a bitter small-town American looks like, they can come to western Iowa during the second year of what we have every reason to expect would be a decidedly anti-rural John McCain presidency.

Barack Obama misspoke. John McCain didn’t.

Rural Americans know the difference.

Comments

  • laura vecsey

    Everyone in America Should Read Your Piece on Obama Great column today. We all knew rural America is smarter than urban America can bear to stand, or tell.

    Thanks for writing.

  • laura vecsey

    Everyone in America Should Read Your Piece on Obama Great column today. We all knew rural America is smarter than urban America can bear to stand, or tell.

    Thanks for writing.

  • Rich

    Are you a member of Obama's Staff? Interesting spin.  Ethanol subsidies are not a long term answer for the American farmer but you immediately dismiss JM's position.  It is no surprise, you appear to be a liberal and I would not expect a liberal or a journalist to truly understand business or economics.

  • Rich

    Are you a member of Obama’s Staff? Interesting spin.  Ethanol subsidies are not a long term answer for the American farmer but you immediately dismiss JM’s position.  It is no surprise, you appear to be a liberal and I would not expect a liberal or a journalist to truly understand business or economics.

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