Killer Kim Reynolds and the Fascist State of Iowa

Photograph Source: Gage Skidmore – CC BY-SA 3.0

The affluent and older white male “leftists” who minimize the threat posed by the ever more fascistic Republican Party tend to live in big “blue” cities where the Amerikaner Republivolk are a distinct minority. Some of these privileged urbanites might want to spend some time in a pandemo-fascist white-supremacist state like Iowa, which sent Steve “We Can’t Restore White Civilization with Other People’s Babies” King to nine U.S. House terms between 2003 and 2021.

Trumpism-fascism is far from dead in Iowa (and in many other “red states”). The anti-science white nationalist MAGA party has a stranglehold here. It holds the governors’ office, 32 of 50 seats in the state senate, 59 of 100 seats in the state house, 5 of the 7 state supreme court seats, both of the state’s 2 US Senate seats, and 3 of the state’s 4 US House seats.

I have no love for the dismal, dollar-drenched, neoliberal Democrats in Iowa or anywhere else, but this lopsided Republifascist representation (enabled to no small extent by the Weimar-like Dems) comes with lethal consequences.

Iowa’s Republican governor “Killer Kim” Reynolds sent chills down spines within and beyond her state when she preceded Super Bowl Sunday with a last-minute repeal of Iowa’s last remaining COVID-19 mitigation measures. With no consultation with state public health officials, Reynolds proclaimed that:

+ Iowans would no longer be required to wear masks in public when close to other people for at least 15 minutes.

+ Iowa businesses were no longer required to limit the number of customers or keep them socially distant in an establishment (store, restaurant, bar, etc.).

+ there would be no more limits on the number of people who could gather in public.

It was precisely the sort of policy move that drives serious public health experts to drink.

Reynolds’ socio-pathogenic proclamation coincided not just with coming super-spreader Super Bowl gatherings in private homes and sports bars but also with the passing of a morbid state benchmark: 5000 coronavirus deaths.

The governor’s assault on public health, science, and basic human decency came in a state that ranked near the national bottom for vaccinations and testing but near the top for COVID-19 positivity. Iowa’s 20% positivity rate is exceeded only by that of two other pandemo-fascist white-supremacist red states: Idaho (24.3%) and South Dakota (23.1%), whose governor Kristi Noem is hailed by pandemo-Nazis for her “bold fight back” against medical expertise.

It’s not just about the virus. There’s more to make one figuratively if not literally sick coming out of the Republikaner statehouse in Des Moines:

+ A Republican bill, likely to be signed into law by Reynolds, will creates new barriers to voting, including shortening the time for Iowans to cast absentee ballots. This measure is meant to calm Trumpenvolk who have fallen for the big fascist lie that the nefarious Marxist child sex trafficker Joe Biden pilfered the 2020 presidential election. (According to the demented state senator Jim Carlin [R-Sioux City], “Most of us in the Republican caucus believe the election was stolen.” Advancing false beliefs, abject untruths contradicted by all available evidence, for propagandistic purpose is a critical part of the fascist political playbook.)

+ A draft Republican bill seeks to punish Big Tech companies for removing fascist content from Internet platforms.

+ A draft Republican bill would punish the state’s public universities for harboring academics committed to scientific investigation and free thought (and for not turning their classrooms and speaking rosters to Christian fascist white supremacists) by abolishing academic tenure at the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, and the University of Northern Iowa.

+ A draft Republican bill would forbid the use of the New York Times’ 1619 Project in any state school curriculum from Kindergarten through college. The 1619 Project’s sin? It treats Black chattel slavery (1619-1865) as central to the American historical experience and as essential background for understanding the nation’s contemporary stark racial disparities and conflicts.

+ A draft Republican bill would drastically increase the number of signatures required for third- and no-party candidates. (This is aimed at Libertarian US House candidate Jack Holder, who the Iowa GOP blames for costing them the House seat in Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District. Holder’s sin denied the Republifascists full control of the state’s Congressional delegation.)

Along with the fascism comes the environmentally toxic corruption. The Iowa GOP is advancing a measure that will reward campaign contributions from Hy-Vee and other corporate retail interests by rolling back the state’s bottle bill, which puts a redeemable five cent deposit on bottles and cans for certain beverages like soda, beer, or mineral water. The bottle bill is an environmental plus that helps homeless people eat an occasional meal, but it is considered a costly pain in the butt by Hy-Vee.

Reynolds is expressing her love for corporate Big Ag by advancing a bill that would require most gas pumps in the state to contain only ethanol-blended fuel. That’s just what Iowa’s badly polluted, nitrogen-laden waterways and soil need – an artificial boost to the ethanol industry so that even more of the state’s land can be planted with fertilizer-intensive corn crops.

But of course. Kim Reynolds is the governor who tried to take tens of millions of dollars of federal Coronavirus money and give it to a computer firm she likes. The Treasury Department’s order that she return the money to the state’s Coronavirus Relief Fund was, the Cedar Rapids Gazette reported, “a defeat for Reynolds, who had argued in October that a $57 million contract with cloud-computing company Workday was ‘necessary’ to address the pandemic — even though the contract was signed months before COVID-19 hit Iowa in March.”

. This is the same governor who signed a Republican COVID-19 liability bill into law last June. The legislation granted lethal for-profit nursing home chains and other corporations immunity from lawsuits resulting from their lethal lack of protective measures. (By October of last year, 643 Iowa nursing home residents and 61 nursing home workers had died from COVID-19.)

Nice, no, Iowa nice. Like other fascists past and present, Killer Kim and the Iowa Republican Party are in bed with capitalist interests. Corruption is no anomaly for them.

As the white nationalist Iowa state legislature and governor assault voting rights, academic freedom, pandemic protection, third parties, livable ecology, and civic decency, nobody in power in Des Moines could care less that Iowa is one of just five states in the country where the Black incarceration rate is more than ten times higher than the white incarceration rate.

The COVID-19 epidemic that has run through Iowa’s prisons, infecting 4605 prisoners, and killing 19 so far, has almost certainly disproportionately targeted Black and brown people.

(In the Iowa state prison in Anamosa, fully 815 of 950 inmates had tested positive for the disease according to state data, 819 inmates had tested positive by last November.)

The disproportionate sickening and killing of poor and nonwhite people is okey-dokey with corporate neo-fascists like Kim Reynolds and her fellow white nationalists in Des Moines. Let us never forget how “Killer Kim the Covid Queen” responded to the large-scale sickening disproportionately LatinX workers that broke out in the state’s meatpacking industry last spring. In a clear violation of the state’s administrative code, Reynolds proclaimed that a worker who declined to report to the industry’s unprotected shop floors was engaged in a “voluntary quit” that made them ineligible for unemployment benefits.

The message to workers was clear and fascistic: get back on to the killing floors, putting your lives at grave risk, like obedient little brown peons, or starve.

Reynolds went on to say that legendarily exploitive animal-slaughtering meatpackers like Tyson Foods were “doing the right thing” to protect workers in their disease-fanning plants.

Reynold’s claim to believe in Tyson’s commitment to workers’ safety was of course absurd. Tyson kept its Waterloo, Iowa plant open even while local officials pleaded for its shutdown as the pandemic hit Iowa last late winter and early spring. As USA Today reported last November:

“managers at the plant …downplayed the severity of COVID-19 to both supervisors and processing workers. While supervisors were aware of the virus, avoiding the plant floor, they denied the existence of ‘confirmed cases’ at the plant to workers. One manager, John Casey, directed supervisors to ignore symptoms of COVID-19 to continue to work and allegedly urged supervisors to direct their staff to do the same. Casey also reportedly likened coronavirus to a ‘glorified flu.’”

One thousand of the plant’s workers caught the virus and five died. In a lawsuit filed by the family of one of those killed, it was learned that Tyson managers placed bets on how many of their mostly LatinX employees would get sick.

It is unknown if any wagers were made on how many workers would die.

Which reminds of something a good old boy white Amerikaner Iowa state trooper said to young white, Black, and LatinX George Floyd protesters a quarter mile south of Interstate-80 last May: “we’re not afraid to put you all in body bags.”

Paul Street’s latest book is This Happened Here: Amerikaners, Neoliberals, and the Trumping of America (London: Routledge, 2022).