Joni Ernst and the Democratic Failure

Joni Ernst
Joni Ernst, Republican Senate candidate from Iowa

Iowa and the Democratic Failure

Joni Ernst, the Republican senatorial candidate in Iowa, is expected to win the open Iowa Senate seat. Nate Silver of 538 Blog gives her a 70 percent chance of winning. Recent polls give her lead as large as 7 points. This is a seat Democrats should win, not necessarily because of the strength of the Democratic ground-game or because Bruce Braley is a great candidate but because Joni Ernst is a radical. Didn’t know that? That’s because Democrats often fail to convey Republican radicalism and extremist rhetoric in a way that sticks with voters. This failure could cost the Democrats the Senate.

Ernst is sympathetic to the idea of nullification. Though she has never explicitly endorsed the idea of nullification, she did say “we have talked about this at the state legislature before, nullification.” What? The Iowa State Senate talked about nullification? It continues:

as U.S. Senator why should we be passing laws that the states are considering nullifying? Bottom line: our legislators at the federal level should not be passing those laws. We’re right…we’ve gone 200-plus years of federal legislators going against the Tenth Amendment’s states’ rights. We are way overstepping bounds as federal legislators. So, bottom line, no we should not be passing laws as federal legislators—as senators or congressman—that the states would even consider nullifying. Bottom line.”

Bottom line: senatorial action should be guided by the premise that states can nullify laws. This presupposes that states can nullify laws.

States can’t do that. Nullification and idea of state sovereignty over the federal government were huge contributing factors to the Civil War. Some outside group easily could have created a political ad in Iowa with dialogue along the lines of “Joni Ernst is sympathetic to the idea of nullification. I thought we settled that a long time ago, in 1861, with the Civil War.” Strong rhetoric but it would be resounding. It pegs Ernst as a radical. Democrats didn’t do enough to make it clear that Ernst supports an idea that contributed to the onset of the Civil War.

In January of 2014, Ernst stated that President Obama had “become a dictator” and needs to face consequences for his actions, “whether that’s removal from office, whether that’s impeachment.” Without substantiating her claims whatsoever, Ernst contends that “he [President Obama] is not following our Constitution”.

I could write a very long article about how Obama is acting within Constitutional limits. Republicans are quick to call for impeachment without any actual grounds for such an action. Their favorite talking point, Benghazi, remains a ridiculous conspiracy. There’s talk of impeachment for his actions in Libya even though they were constitutional under the War Powers Act. Anything other calls for impeachment are on purely ideological grounds – radical conservatives don’t like Obama’s liberal policies and therefore he must be violating the Constitution and should be impeached. It’s ridiculous. That a candidate for the highest legislative house in the country can make such incredulous statements and still be poised to win is the fault of voters and Democratic operatives. I would make an argument about how Obama is not a dictator, but by doing so I would be giving an ounce of standing to her insane assertion. While it’s harder to make good soundbites from these comments because of voter ignorance and apparent readiness to embrace populist anger over unsubstantiated claims, it would be possible to create a lit piece outlining the error in her statements. Or they should create an ad with the soundbite of the image. Voters may be ignorant, but they can tell craziness when they hear it (for the most part). Let Ernst’s words sink her campaign.

Her craziness continues with remarks about Agenda 21. Many people outside of the far-right GOP have not heard of Agenda 21 and there’s a natural reason for that – it’s not a big deal.

Agenda 21 is a voluntary action plan developed by the United Nations and national governments at the “Earth Summit” in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992. At the Summit, governmental leaders around the world agreed on the need to become more sustainable—to meet today’s needs without sacrificing our future. Agenda 21 presents a vision for how all levels of government—especially in the developing world—can take voluntary action to combat poverty and pollution, conserve natural resources and develop in a sustainable manner.

Agenda 21 is a non-binding agreement that seeks to offer a vision for a better and more sustainable world. Fringe Republicans, though, have seen it as a conspiracy that launches a major threat to private-property laws in America. Ernst is one of them, saying

The United Nations has imposed this upon us, and as a U.S. senator, I would say, ‘No more. No more Agenda 21.’ Community planning — to the effect that it is implementing eminent domain and taking away property rights away from individuals — I don’t agree with that. And especially in a place such as Iowa, where we rely heavily upon our agricultural community, our rural communities. We don’t want to see things like eminent domain come into play

She demonstrate absolutely no understanding of the implications and visions of Agenda 21. What she’s saying nonsense and demonstrates, along with her aforementioned beliefs of nullification and impeachment, the gross lack of critical thinking and reasoning abilities. Ernst is motivated by the likes of Glenn Beck, radicals who perceive threat when there is none. There is no basis for her attacks on Agenda 21. Here’s some text democrats should have used: “Joni Ernst doesn’t believe in environmental sustainability. Do we really want someone who fails to understand the importance of sustainable agriculture to represent the people of Iowa?” and/or “Joni Ernst fails to understand even the most basic pieces of legislation. Her gross interpretations of Agenda 21, which provides a vision for a sustainable future, twist her viewpoints to extremism. Do we really want a Senator who can’t understand basic policy?” Don’t be nice, Democrats, attack her and expose her for the radical she is.

Don’t be nice, Democrats, attack her and other Republicans for the radicals they are.


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