Why Won’t Grassley Really Debate?

Chuck Grassley is 83 years old and has served in the United States Senate for 35 years. Those two facts alone, in my opinion, would be sufficient reasons for supporting his opponent in Iowa’s 2016 Senate elections. But, there are so many more!

Initially seen as a down-home populist who spoke for the majority of Iowans and brought a certain common sense to Washington, DC, as the years have gone on, he has drifted inexorably to the right. As the so-called evangelicals of the right wing replaced the honorable and traditional moderate Republicanism of Iowa, Grassley decided he needed to carry their water on virtually every issue in order to be re-elected…time and time again. What do they say about power corrupting and absolute power corrupting absolutely? Case in point.

Today, Chuck Grassley is the embodiment of a Republican majority in Congress who have made it their sole purpose in life to oppose, defeat or at least block every initiative Barack Obama has brought forward. He is Mitch McConnell’s staunch ally in this and his latest contribution to the gridlock which has made this the most unproductive Congress in my lifetime makes that clear.

As head of the Senate Judiciary Committee (though not an attorney) Grassly has seen to it that any attempt to have a straight up and down vote on Obama’s latest nominee for the Supreme Court — Merrick Garland — is doomed to failure (at least until the results of the 2016 presidential election are known). He brags about this on the campaign trail in Iowa.

For the first time in recent memory, Grassley is opposed by someone who might actually be able to beat him. Patty Judge is a life-long Iowan, a farmer, a nurse and a dedicated public servant. She has served in Iowa’s State Senate, as Secretary of Agriculture under Gov. Tom Vilsack (now U.S. Secretary of Agriculture) and as Lieutenant Governor under Chet Culver. While Grassley campaign ads would have us believe that he invented wind energy as surely as Al Gore invented the internet, those discussions began way back when Judge was a State Senator, continued under her time as Secretary of Agriculture and Lieutenant Governor and now as she serves as co-chair of America’s Renewable Future.

While she is not flashy and her age is against her too (73 as opposed to Grassley’s 83), I was very impressed with her knowledge, commitment, and platform at a small fund raising event I attended here in Davenport yesterday. Since she will never be able to win the battle of the high-priced TV advertising which Grassley has already dominated, it is essential that her voice be heard and that she be able to take him on one-on-one where people can hear her.

So, I asked her about the debate schedule and she said that she had proposed four televised debates, one in each quadrant of the state. They heard nothing back from the Grassley campaign so they pressed him on it. Finally, the counter-offer came: one televised debate (on public TV) in Des Moines (on October 20! Way too late) and one radio debate. This is a race for the United States Senate! That is simply not adequate.

Chuck Grassley would much rather rely on his 99-county annual visits (some of which have now been called into question), his familiarity to Iowans, and his overwhelming support in conservative, western Iowa than to pit his record and ideas against Judge’s in open debate. Incumbents often resist larger numbers of debates. And it is usually for the same reason. They are not confident that their record will bear up under scrutiny or their ideas in open and honest debate.

Join me in urging the senior (and I do mean senior!) Senator from Iowa — perhaps on his ubiquitous Twitter account @ChuckGrassley — to have the courage of convictions and to defend them in four, accessible debates across the state he purports to serve.


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