Snyder: Represent the real Iowa

Joni Ernst and Bruce Braley are running for the U.S. Senate.

Joni Ernst and Bruce Braley are running for the U.S. Senate.

Stephen Snyder

The most recent Senate debate between Bruce Braley and Joni Ernst revealed very little about the candidates outside of why each candidate believes the other is not fit to serve. The largest issue that the two seemed to argue: which of the two is more of a down-home, country raised, Iowan. Not only did I suffer through the exchange on television during the original broadcast, but then again on the internet and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on Comedy Central.

When our politicians put out that image of Iowa and its citizens, I become incomprehensibly embarrassed. And the rest of the nation makes sure we stay embarrassed for a good while. I should say that I have no issue with the rural or farming communities of this great state. The professions they undertake and the way in which they live their lives would both literally and figuratively break me, but that lifestyle is not representative of the Iowa that I, or the majority of Iowans, identify with.

Agriculture is undoubtedly a major factor in the economy and lifestyle of Iowa, but according to the Iowa Farm Bureau, less than five percent of Iowans make their living by farming. Meanwhile, Des Moines’ insurance industry is not only one of the largest in the nation but in the entire world. That being the case, it seems to me that politicians would be better off groveling at the feet of the insurance companies than trying to convince the rural segments of our state that they have their best interest at heart because first off, it isn’t true. Secondly, appealing only to the minority of voters is a risky campaign strategy.

Not only are farmers among the minority of Iowans, but rural living in general does not show the true image of Iowa. According to the United States Census from 2010, 64 percent of Iowans live in urban settings.

Every time that Ernst, Braley or any politician on the national stage generalizes Iowa’s citizens in order to fit into a long outdated archetype of what it means to be from the Midwest, I feel a little bit farther away from my home because I love my state a little bit less. Stop letting the national media outlets feed off of your pathetic attempts to pander to a long dead ideal.

More to the point of our Iowan politicians publicly making fools of themselves and by extension all of us, I think it is important to express the following opinion, because I believe that it is in line with the beliefs of many, if not a majority, of Iowans.

Dear Mr. Braley and Mrs. Ernst, I do not care that your father operated a grain elevator, he isn’t on the ballot. You will never convince me that “drinking well water” when you were a child has made you a better Iowan, a better politician or a better person. Next time I have to watch the two of you on television—and I will watch, because this is important, so behave accordingly—I would love to hear a little less about why your opponent is a bad choice.

Tell me instead why you are the correct choice. Tell me about your plans to better our state and our country. Tell me why you deserve my vote, not why your opponent does not. And if during those explanations you refer to your “small town roots” or your “Iowan values” as they relate to the hogs you castrated or your first job in third grade, you will lose my respect and possibly my vote.

Iowa is my home. I cannot just go find a new one. I have defended and promoted this arbitrary plot of land to the end of my wits, so I would appreciate it if you would stop giving the people who persistently bash and simplify my home free ammunition to use against us. If you want to represent me; if you want to represent my state, then stop telling me where you came from and start showing me where you think we’re going. I need to believe in you, not a caricature of what you think the citizens of this state want to hear.

I live in a great place. I live around some of the most caring, compassionate, and kind people in the United States. I truly believe that. So if you want to go to Washington D.C. and have the word “Iowa” attached to your name whenever you speak, then start acting like you know where the hell you’re from.