Discover more from What the hell happened to Iowa?
Julie Gammack and Rekha Basu have a question
...and an announcement
Julie Gammack and Rekha Basu have a question about the state each one has loved and called home.
What the hell happened to Iowa?!
They intend to blanket the state by asking Iowans that question and share their findings in an upcoming podcast of that name in collaboration with the Cedar Rapids Gazette. Gammack and Basu each have a long history of chronicling Iowa and Iowans, and both are baffled by the stark changes here.
And they want your help.
Many Iowans have been asking some version of the same question since November, when the GOP swept control of the Iowa House, Senate, and executive offices, leaving a lone state office, the auditor’s, in Democratic hands. That new leadership quickly announced plans to fundamentally reshape the state, from privatizing Iowa’s long-respected public school system at taxpayer expense to banning abortions past fetal heartbeats. Iowa voters also passed a constitutional amendment subjecting Iowa’s already paltry gun restrictions to a much tougher judicial standard.
How did this happen in a once bipartisan state with a long reputation for progressive laws on women’s rights and interracial and same-sex marriage? Iowa was twice carried by Barack Obama and represented for decades in the U.S. Senate by Republican Charles Grassley and Democrat Tom Harkin. It was the first state to admit a female lawyer to the bar in the 1860s and erected the nation’s first mosque in the 1930s. Iowa legalized interracial marriage an entire century before the rest of the country and became the second state to allow same-sex in this century.
Today that Iowa is unrecognizable and Gammack and Basu, one an Iowan by birth and the other by choice, want to understand why. They welcome your suggestions of people, places, and particular issues around the state that may hold some clues to this turn-around.
Gammack, born and raised in Iowa, began as a talk radio host on WHO-AM in the 1980s. Later, she was a daily feature columnist for The Des Moines Register. She returned to the state in 2020 after two decades in Annapolis and Chicago as a career facilitator for business leaders. She launched the Okoboji Writers Retreat in 2021 and the Iowa Writers Collaborative in 2022.
Basu, born in India, raised around the globe and in New York, recently ended a 30-year stint as an opinion columnist for The Des Moines Register, where she focused on issues of justice and gender and civil rights. At different times, she also hosted a weekly Rekha's Voice segment on KCWI-TV and a weekly talk show on the Register website. Before coming to Iowa, she was a reporter and editorial writer in New York.
Julie and Rekha are dear friends with shared values, although their approaches to issues are different enough to provide contrast and perhaps a bit of drama, tension, and humor. As they seek to understand what’s happening beneath the surface of Iowa’s rich, dark soil, they’ll offer a bit of ‘good trouble’ mixed with ‘Iowa nice.’
Please email your thoughts to email@example.com.
And stay tuned for “What the hell happened to Iowa?”
You can download the podcast from the Cedar Rapids Gazette and podcast hosting services after it is launched. Subscribers here will be the first to know. It is free to subscribe. However, we welcome your assistance if you want to support this advertising-free content.