A Little Iowa History That Might Put Its Vote for Obama in Perspective

By Fordham professor Mark Naison:

Some people are astonished that a 92 percent white state, which is heavily agricultural, voted for President Obama in two straight elections, in contrast to states with similar demographics and similar economies like Kansas and Nebraska. But if you’re historical research takes you back to the 1930s, you won’t be surprised. Iowa was the organizational center of one of the most radical agrarian organizations in American History, the Farm Holiday Association.

The Farm Holiday Association was organized by small farmers who felt they were being driven into poverty by low prices for what they produced and by bank foreclosures on their farms when they couldn’t paid their loans or mortgages. On the verge of losing everything, they picked up their rifles and engaged in highway blockades, which prevented agricultural goods from being transported to markets until prices went up, and armed occupation of courtrooms to prevent judges from seizing farms that had gone into arrears. So large was the support for these actions among Iowa farmers that truck traffic ground to halt in large portions of the state, and judges were forced to extend payment periods on farm loans or drastically reduce their interest and principal.

These actions began in 1931 and continued into the early years of the New Deal when parity payments under the Agricultural Adjustment Act allowed many farmers in the state to have enough income to stave off foreclosure, but in the interim, they prevented mass impoverishment and displacement of the state’s family farmers.

I don’t know if today’s Iowa voters have a historic memory of these events, but it has been my experience, from my own family, that stories of resistance struggles do get passed down from generation to generation and can shape people’s identities long after the initial event took place.

Mark Nason

Peggy Noonan: ‘We are a big, complicated nation. And we are human beings. We are people.’

Peggy Noonan (a Republican) in the Wall Street Journal on Romney’s recent flubs:

I wrote recently of an imagined rural Ohio woman sitting on her porch, watching the campaign go by. She’s 60, she identifies as conservative, she likes guns, she thinks the culture has gone crazy. She doesn’t like Obama. Romney looks OK. She’s worried about the national debt and what it will mean to her children. But she’s having a hard time, things are tight for her right now, she’s on partial disability, and her husband is a vet and he gets help, and her mother receives Social Security.

“She’s worked hard and paid into the system for years. Her husband fought for his country.

“And she’s watching this whole election and thinking.You can win her vote if you give her faith in your fairness and wisdom. But not if you label her and dismiss her.”

Read more here.