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Iowa’s changing Republican Party

Iowa’s Republican Party, reflecting national trends, is transforming itself from the Party of Abraham Lincoln to the Party of Ayn Rand.

Lincoln, a prairie lawyer, staked his political career on the proposition that the purpose of government is to provide the necessary things for citizens that they could not attain for themselves.

Rand, a novelist and libertarian philosopher, viewed government as a primary source of evil, sought to minimize its size, thereby allowing powerful private interests, largely business enterprises, to rule the day.

The corresponding shift in Republican priorities can be seen on many fronts. It is noteworthy that within a month’s time of Iowans celebrating the storied career of former Iowa Republican Gov. Robert D. Ray by naming a World Food Prize humanitarian award in his honor, Iowa Republicans also enthralled themselves by inviting Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, to deliver the keynote address important party events. More recently, Gov. Terry Branstad has invited Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., (who, reportedly, requires his congressional staff members to read Ayn Rand novels) as the keynote speaker at the governor’s annual birthday-party-fundraiser.

Ray made a lasting mark on our history by proving, as Iowa’s governor, that state government agencies, effectively managed, could improve the lives of all — even the least of us, such as vulnerable Hmong refugees, invited from Southeast Asia to settle here. Cruz and Ryan, to date, competing for the mantle as a national leader of the insurgent tea-party Republicans, have made their mark by devoting themselves to the cause of shutting down our federal government and bringing its beneficial operations to a chaotic standstill.

In the passing Republican era, effective governmental leaders such as Ray were viewed, upon retiring from effective service in elected office, as qualified to lead other critically important private and public institutions — ranging, in his case, from insurance companies to a prestigious private university.

In the New Republican era, politicians such as Cruz and Ryan, unabashedly seeking that party’s nomination for president of the United States, and without any proven record of leading any institution whatsoever — whether it be private or public — demonstrate their supposed qualifications for that office by engaging in demagogic efforts to shut down the federal government in a failed attempt to kill Obamacare.

Following this vision, leaders of Ayn Rand Republicanism, in Iowa, as in other states, espouse the view that privatized and corporate interests will operate best in a shriveled-government nation.

In the brave new era of Ayn Rand Republicanism, one that, in Iowa, now ties the vision of a radically conservative novelist of the last century to the likes of Branstad, Cruz, and Ryan, the breadth of our political vision may be no wider than the crimped views of the executives and owners of our largest corporations and the money managers of our largest private investment funds.

James C. Larew

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