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Gromotka: Iowa politics goes viral

BY ADAM GROMOTKA | MARCH 31, 2014 5:00 AM

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Starting with Gov. Terry Branstad’s confidential-employee-settlement fiasco, it’s been a less-than-smooth few weeks for the face of Iowa politics. Silly antics have coupled with a number of other issues to create the image of a state that likes to get hung up and focused on insignificant details and petty quarreling, a state of 3 million people led by politicians who are out-of-touch with real concerns, big and small. Iowa politics have become a representation of why the national political scene is so gunky, incompetent, and unable to consider the needs of the masses, and the Internet is more than willing to spread the message.

On the petty quarreling side of the spectrum, we’ve seen a showdown take place between Rep.Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. Braley, a Senate hopeful, was captured on tape belittling Grassley, calling him a “farmer from Iowa who never went to law school, never practiced law …” at a fundraiser in Texas. This sent the GOP into an uproar, and Iowa Republican and potential Braley opponent Joni Ernst rushed to Grassley’s aid, demanding that Braley apologize to Grassley and “every other farmer in Iowa.”

It was like something from a tabloid, something you’d expect to see on Bravo, tucked into reruns of “The Real Housewives of New Jersey.” In the clip, Braley’s even standing next to a table loaded with bottles of booze, adding to the scandal.  A handful of semi-innocuous words became a point of fussy argument — reality TV-esque drama.

And while we’re on the subject of Republican Senate hopeful Ernst, it would be an opportune time to discuss the silly side of Iowa politics. Last week, Ernst released a political ad and spurred a national cringe describing her experience with pigs. More specifically, in the commercial she explains her experience cutting off … well, apparently she’s castrated a lot of pigs and apparently that would help her “cut pork” on Capitol Hill — shudder-inducing double entendre at its finest.

The ad is complete with a lovely hog barn backdrop and a silly little cut to a squealing piglet. As Ernst shares her plans to save America money, we’re treated to a montage of more little piggies, and her talking points flash on the screen in big, earthy fonts. At the end, Ernst tells us that we should make big spenders in Washington squeal, and we again hear the silly, stock squealing sound. It’s something from the nightmare vault of bad advertising, alongside the likes of cheesy commercials for used-car dealerships. And of course, it was Sarah Palin approved.

I don’t mean to sound cynical, but with the eyes of the whole country’s political intelligensia ready to shift to Iowa next year, I wonder how our behavior in Iowa will affect political strategizing. If we continue to act like a silly Midwestern state that likes petty drama and fulfilling stereotypes, if we continue to represent ourselves that way, presidential candidates are sure to abuse the fact while campaigning, which would only add to the unnecessary embarrassment.

I hope that politicians in Iowa will decide to act professionally as election season nears. They are our celebrities, our opportunity to shine on a national scale. Right now, they’re not doing so hot and, unfortunately, they are going viral.


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