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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  1. Shane, Craig’s article raised a question: did the Iowa Family PAC risk the successful defense of marriage by endorsing BVP. The reply addresses the foolishness of missing the forest for the trees. You are making the same mistake.

    Does the successful defense of marriage hinge on a BVP victory? No. The constitutional issues (by the way you really need to study up there, my friend) and the social issues in play are much larger than any one candidate. Would a BVP victory help advance the cause more quickly? Yes.

    Also, don’t overlook the warning from a GOP insider like Craig, he doesn’t seem to think that Terry Branstad cares about marriage either. He is afraid that if Branstad wins the primary that we risk future success on the issue of marriage. He basically makes the case for getting behind another candidate and going “all in.”

    Based on what you and I heard out of Branstad’s mouth back in October, there’s no hope that he would ever stand up to the court.

    So, disagree with the BVP endorsement. That’s fair game, but don’t misunderstand the article I wrote for today. The recurring message is not just “anybody but Chet,” but is increasingly “anybody but someone who has already been governor.” There is too much at risk, and too many examples of Culver and Branstad not being up to the task. If the GOP puts Branstad on the ticket in June, they risk another loss in November.

    1. @Bryan, Of course I need to study up on it more, so do you, but if you followed the link to the post I did I feel like my argument is pretty sound. I think I’m in pretty good company with my assessment.

      That said if Vander Plaats should win the nomination and the general election, I hope I’m wrong. I don’t want to see him fail, but taking the constitutionality question out which we can bicker back forth on endlessly. I just don’t think it’ll work. It can’t be enforced. So how will an unenforceable executive order push a General Assembly who may well still have a Democratic majority to vote? I don’t think it will, you do. This is a matter of opinion, not fact. So we’ll just have to agree to disagree. Again, if he’s elected, I really hope I’m wrong.

      Also, hopefully you’ve been reading enough of my stuff to know I’m not backing Branstad in the primary.

      Who am I supposed to choose if he wins the nomination though? Is Vander Plaats going to make another “bold” decision and run as an independent?

  2. Shane…I think you are off on your understanding of separation of powers. The fact is, we really don’t know what an executive order might accomplish. All of it is speculative.

    I would rather vote for Culver again than to put someone like Brandstad back in office. Why does Brandstad have the financial backing of someone like Tom Coates, who supposedly is so outspoken about gambling in Iowa? Brandstad is the reason gambling is legal in this state!

    Brandstad has a proven track record against marriage (appointing 3 of the justices who voted against it last April), against family (legalizing gambling), against life (his running mate!). Like I said, if Brandstad is what the Republican party puts forth and the choice is between ONLY Brandstad and Culver then I would vote for Culver. I am sick of the same old crap that either party keeps putting forth for us.

    You are right in your support of Roberts. He is a good man. But with the revelation of being able to only raise 100K, how long can he stay in this race? BVP has more money and backing now than he has ever had before. You criticize him being a “one issue” candidate but the reality is that even you could do a better job at governing this state than Culver is currently doing. I don’t have a problem with BVP having a learning curve. He can’t possibly be any worse than Culver or Brandstad!

    1. @Michael Demastus, Regarding the executive order… I think I pretty much agreed that it is speculative – on both sides.

      I can’t vote for Culver. I just can’t. I wouldn’t be thrilled about voting for Branstad either. I’m not going to defend his record.

      I know Roberts is a long shot, and I don’t know. But you know as well as I do that Vander Plaats was pretty well anointed “the one for for evangelicals to back” long before. Had that not been done, perhaps things would be different now.

      I’ll reiterate what I’ve said before. If my choice in June is between Vander Plaats and Branstad, I’ll go with Vander Plaats. He had better wise up stop harping on federal issues that a Governor has nothing to do with, and bone up on fiscal issues.

      I appreciate your faith in my being governor though :). I’ve said that Gumby would do a better job than Culver (and I’m only half joking).

  3. Shane, I understand your anger over the endorsement of BVP and not Roberts or Rants; however IFPC is in a tough spot. I bet they wouldn’t endorse during a primary if Terry Branstad wasn’t in the race. With Terry Branstad, it is almost a sure thing that he will win the primary; however, if the so-cons are united behind one candidate and not three, they would have a better chance of getting a solid so-con to win the primary than doing nothing and not helping 1 candidate with grassroot support. I think IFPC learned during the 2008 primaries about how not endorsing someone until it is too late is dangerous. James Dobson and many other Christian Conservatives didn’t endorse the strongest so-con in the race, Mike Huckabee, and in fact endorsed other weaker candidates or didn’t do anything at all. That perhaps led to a splintering of the vote in South Carolina between Mike Huckabee and Fred Thompson which led to a McCain victory. You should endorse in the primary because it might be too late by the time the general comes around and you are left with a moderate candidate who will not lead on your issues. Thank you.

  4. Honest question: Do you think some of this is simply which issues fire you up as a believer? Is there room for individuality and unique spiritual conviction in this area [politics]? My spiritual gifts, personality, and station in life as put there by God may determine some things in a primary like this.

    For example, if you are extremely concerned about School Choice/Parental Rights and lower taxes and have two candidates that are for lower taxes and both are wishy washy on the School Choice issue, then my decision about who to vote for becomes less ideological and more practical. Especially if you factor in that both are pro-life; both are believed by the voter to be believers. Who has a better shot of getting what they say they are going to do done?

    I wonder if this current situation can lead social conservatives passionate about their relationship with Christ and their civic duty to come to different [gasp] conclusions than some in the emerging evangelical political leadership would. Is this OK?

    I suppose these conversations are a natural and healthy part of the primary process but I’m ready for the primary to be over and focus on defeating a Governor that has championed the gay agenda by turning sexual orientation and gender identity into Civil Rights, consistently fostered an increased hostility toward private education in Iowa, spent taxpayer dollars like a drunk trust-fund baby, and goes to Washington to request further Federal bailout dollars. These are things no one in the Republican primary have done or would do and why ANY of them deserve a vote over Culver.

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