If there’s one thing I’ve heard from Iowans consistently over the last few months, it’s that they’re exhausted, on the inside and out. I’ve heard it from neighbors, friends, family, and my colleagues at work from both sides of the aisle.
To be honest, that goes for me, too. Sometimes, I wake up and it feels like the world is on fire.
While the reasons might be different for all of us, there doesn’t seem to be any shortage of them.
Families struggling to make ends meet while costs continue to rise. A neighbor with a chronic health condition who desperately wants to get life back to normal, but uncertain if the pandemic is finally over. Kids still adjusting from the last two tumultuous years but watching the endless divisions on social media between their peers and adults.
Frankly, politics should be added to that list, too.
I’ve only been in the Iowa House for a few years, but I know we’ve got to do a better job listening to Iowans and to each other.
I was reminded of that this week while watching President Biden’s State of the Union address and then Governor Reynolds’ response to it.
While I realize most Iowans probably tuned them both out because we’re all tired of politics, there were several areas of agreement.
First, they both talked about Ukraine. Putin’s unprecedented invasion of Ukraine is wrong and we’re all united in support for the people of Ukraine.
Second, they both talked about our strong economy. Over the last year, seven million new jobs have been created and the nation’s unemployment rate has been cut in half. Here in Iowa, we also have record low unemployment and probably the biggest challenge we face today is finding enough people to fill the jobs we have open.
While it wasn’t directly noted by the Governor in her response, she also highlighted several issues that took a commitment from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle at the state level and the federal level – as well as the President – to accomplish.
Making new investments from the President’s bi-partisan infrastructure bill combined with state funding to fix up more roads and bridges here in Iowa starting this summer. Enacting recommendations from the Governor’s Child Care Task Force with $200 million from President Biden’s American Rescue Plan. Expanding access to high-speed internet across Iowa with resources from the federal government and state government pooled together. These are just a few examples of things we got done together, but don’t talk about enough.
I’m certain I’ll get some angry feedback from folks on both sides claiming I’ve given too much credit or assigned too much blame.
I just think it’s time to turn the page.
It’s time to start listening to each other again and talking about the Iowa values we share that bring us together, not push us apart.
It won’t be easy, it won’t happen overnight, and I’ll be the first to admit I’m going to get it wrong sometimes.
But it’s past time to get started. I’m going to work tirelessly to find more ways to bring Iowans together and focus on unity instead of division.
Let’s turn our exhaustion into hope and exchange our anger for optimism.