Iowans voted for walls and Wahls; one of them is a good thing
Iowa tends to get a pretty bad rap. For many, it’s an indistinguishable Midwestern state where we get corn and pork. Few consider Iowans particularly forward thinking or even very educated.
National news has focused on Steve King, who just won his 9th term as a US Representative from Iowa despite (or because of) inflammatory comments and a hard-Right political platform. King recently said he hopes Supreme Court Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor “will elope to Cuba,” which is probably the closest he’s come to supporting gay marriage. He also wants to use monies designated for food stamps for Trump’s border wall. King’s re-election confirms what many already think about a state that is 91% white.
But there was another story out of Iowa that smells a lot better than the innumerable swine, of which King does little to separate himself.
On Tuesday, at age 26, Zach Wahls became the youngest state senator elected in Iowa. Few recognize his name, but many know who he is. Wahls is the young man who spoke out – adeptly and passionately – for the legal protection of same-sex marriage; it is a law that is very personal to him since his mothers are lesbians.
It is easy to say that politicians are all alike – corrupt gasbags who care more about their own hides than anyone else’s. Some certainly live up to this, but it ignores the fact that something happens when the personal and the political collide for prosocial reasons that are more meaningful than money.
Wahl’s life with two mothers makes his childhood different than what many of us experienced, but it also means that when he says mothers are integral to the success of our society, he has lived the words he professes and knows the challenges they face more intimately than most. We need this type of representation.
Before the election, I posted information about why mothers need to vote for politicians that do more than just talk about how important they are. I said this because:
- The US is the only country in the developed world that that does not mandate employers provide paid leave for new mothers. The only others are Swaziland, Lesotho, and Papua New Guinea.
- Only 50% of moms age 18-34 qualify for FMLA as it is currently written.
- One in 4 kids is raised by a single parent, with 82% of single parents being mothers and 30% of single mothers living in poverty (vs. 18% of single fathers).
- 71% of mothers work with 40% being a sole breadwinner, yet for every child a woman has her salary decreases 5-10% while fathers’ go up 6% (on average).
- A family with two or more kids spends more on childcare than on housing.
A lot of this information is based on national data, but national policies draw on what states have shown to be successful. Wahls knows firsthand that mothers face an uphill run when it comes to thriving financially and personally and he has proven his ability to advocate for progressive legislation that is informed by its importance in his own life and the lives of his mothers.
It is said that a mother’s power lies in fact that the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world. I prefer more mothers were in office not just raising future politicians, but Wahls’ win shows the effect two strong mothers can have. They did more than just vote for a politician who waxes poetic about the importance of mothers. Wahls’ moms raised a feminist who will tear down walls that prevent mothers from getting the support they need instead of diverting family support checks into a wasteful border wall that helps no one.