Bryan English of Iowa Family PAC (Iowa Family Policy Center, IFPC ACTION) responded to criticism of their endorsement of Bob Vander Plaats in an op/ed posted at The Iowa Republican.  The title of the post seems somewhat inflammatory… “GOP Establishment Risks the Future of Their Party by Marginalizing Marriage.”  A question came to mind when I read that.  Is criticizing Vander Plaats marginalizing marriage?  Basically that is what he is accusing Craig Robinson of doing, and by default myself as well since I criticized the endorsement.

Most of his post appears to be about attacking former Governor Terry Branstad, and he makes a good case.  I said I can agree with their not endorsing Branstad in the general election.  I would be surprised if they did.  I know many would disagree with my sentiment in that regard, but I do think Governor Branstad has issues not only on social policy (and certain associations), but fiscally as well.

That said in a general election if I had to choose between Governor Branstad or Governor Culver redux, I’ll take Branstad 5.0, but he isn’t my primary choice.  Vander Plaats is on his third attempt to persuade voters, and appears to be failing miserably.  English I don’t think, in this piece at least, is making a good argument for him either.  He said:

In part because the endorsement was delivered in conjunction with a marriage event, and because many in the media and the political establishment have committed to painting Vander Plaats as a one issue candidate, commentaries have largely overlooked the references to individual responsibility, societal stability, defending the sanctity of life, promoting limited government, the commitment to high quality education where parents are empowered, and the elevation of an ethical free enterprise system in the endorsement.

Vander Plaats in his campaigning managed to place himself in that category of a “one issue” candidate.  He has not made the case fiscally.  He doesn’t have a plan to reform state government (to be fair neither does Branstad, I’m not defending him either).  His primary thrust in his campaign has been protecting traditional marriage (again any reader of this blog knows I’m wholeheartedly with them on this issue).  But to stand out among the other two conservatives who are still in this race, is pushing for the executive order.  English continues:

Contrast that with the bold vision of Bob Vander Plaats for defending marriage and restoring the Constitutional separation of powers. Like many Iowa voters, Vander Plaats is not willing to accept the weak excuses of entrenched politicians who often seem more interested in promoting themselves and protecting their political future than they are in preserving the principles this state and nation were founded on.

The Iowa Family PAC is fully aware of just how difficult it’s going to be to pass the Iowa Marriage Amendment. Some unsuccessful amendment attempts made as recently as the 1990’s serve as a stark reminder of just how important it is to engage the process at every level. Rather than complicating the issue, the Vander Plaats plan to issue an executive order staying the Court’s opinion until the people of Iowa have an opportunity to vote on the definition of marriage forces the Legislature to take action. While the executive order has the backing of legal experts like Dr. Herb Titus, and Constitutional scholars like David Barton, political insiders afraid to take a risk or to make a stand have decided it’s easier to snipe at the leader than it is to offer leadership of their own.

That vision isn’t bold, it’s likely unconstitutional.  You can’t protect the constitution by violating it yourself.  How exactly will an executive order force a legislative vote if the GOP still doesn’t hold the majority? It doesn’t.  It will invite lawsuits however.  How do you think the courts are going to rule?

I understand the sentiment though.  I am frustrated as well.  That is why we can vote not to retain justices.  We can call a constitutional convention (though if conservatives don’t hold the majority in the Iowa General Assembly that might backfire).  Justices can even be impeached.  Governors can pressure the Legislature via veto, calling special sessions, extending the session, etc.  There are ways pressure can be applied.  Then we need legislative election victories, in many ways this is even more important than the gubernatorial election.

Mike Hartwig of IFPC responded to my post yesterday (at least he didn’t accuse me of marginalizing marriage).  He challenged my support of Rants and Roberts:

Chris Rants is a good guy and seems to be motivated by principle not politics, a change over the 10+ years I’ve known him. But for me, he’s not there yet. Rod Roberts is a great guy too but frankly, he isn’t a leader of the caliber we need at the helm of the state. What public policy has he influenced people on? What agenda item has his name and face on? I can’t think of anything. I see him as a great support person but not someone leading the charge. His speaking ability is lacking. His political ideas on how to lead the state out of the mess we are in aren’t evident.

I don’t know Rants’ history like Mike probably does.  What I do know is that he is the policy wonk in this campaign.  I enjoyed my time with him.  He genuinely seems to care for Iowans.  He appears to be a well-rounded candidate both socially and fiscally.  With Rod Roberts not being the caliber of leader that we need… what is that exactly?  Oh that’s right, bold.  I think Roberts has the right temperament, so I would disagree.  He is somebody whom you can trust.  He is who he says he is.  I have had the chance to interview him, get to know him, read his op/eds, and watch his record.  He is solid.  Regarding his speaking ability, he does just fine (have you seen the current governor speak?), and who was the last person that was voted into office for their speaking ability and rhetoric?

Oh yeah… maybe we shouldn’t use that as criteria.  That unfortunately is what I see Vander Plaats being.  Great speaking ability and rhetoric.  You ask what has Roberts done, what has Vander Plaats done except talk?  Absolutely nothing.

If Roberts ideas weren’t evident… perhaps he gave a bad interview with IFPC.  They were evident when I interviewed him, and have been articulated further since.  I haven’t heard Vander Plaats’ ideas to reform government.  I’ve heard him make some horrible statements regarding medicare/medicaid which he had to backtrack on.  I’ve heard him address federal issues, but I’ve heard nothing about state government reform.  I’ve offered to interview him before and that was originally accepted, but not followed through on by his campaign.  The offer still stands.

Perhaps he does have ideas but isn’t articulating them well.  He needs to address fiscal issues clearly, concisely and often.  People know where he stands on marriage.  What we don’t really know is where he stands on everything else.  It’s pretty telling that this is the third time he has run yet Iowans, by and large, still do not know the man.

He’s got a lot of work to do.

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