In today’s hyper-partisan times, truth has become the victim. Call it what you want: spin, half-truth, selective omission, or just plain lies. The misinformation that dominates our political system today comes with a big cost to all of us.
Last month, Lorena Schulte and Officer Robert McFarland were murdered by two inmates while doing their job at the Anamosa State Penitentiary. It’s a terrible tragedy that was preventable because the warning signs have been there for years. An uptick of prison violence. Prison overcrowding. Stagnant state funding. Hundreds of corrections positions left unfilled and even more of those positions cut over the last decade.
The safety of the frontline workers in our prisons is the responsibility of the Legislature and the Governor. As policy makers, it is our duty to ensure that those who go to work to keep us safe, return home to their families each night.
Our state failed Lorena and Robert.
Earlier this week, we offered four recommendations to improve safety in our corrections facilities: funding to fill and restore public safety positions, giving frontline workers a say in their own workplace, launching an independent investigation, and starting new safety training procedures.
Our constructive recommendations were met with the same misinformation Republican leaders peddled in the campaign, that Democrats don’t care about public safety. I’m angry that these leaders can’t move beyond the campaign and insist on using disinformation to deal with unsafe working conditions in our prison system that led to a terrible tragedy.
It’s a lie and, at the end of the day, it prevents an honest discussion that is desperately needed to protect the dedicated public servants who put their lives on the line every day.
Unfortunately, this pattern of misinformation from Republican leaders in Des Moines has become the playbook for every difficult policy decision we face today.
Look no further than the current pandemic. How many poor public health decisions have been made because some of our leaders refuse to trust science and the advice of public health officials? Low testing and slow contact tracing. Botched vaccine rollout. Ignoring mitigation efforts recommended by experts. Far too many of the decisions made by the Governor and Republican leaders during this pandemic have been driven by misinformation and politics.
The misinformation playbook was also used to change Iowa’s voting laws. Leaders in Des Moines used the misinformation and conspiracy theories that led to the insurrection at the US Capitol in January as the basis for changes to election law that make it more difficult to vote in Iowa.
When session began in January, I challenged every elected official in Iowa – regardless of party – to call out the lies and conspiracy theories so pervasive in our political discourse today.
It not only undermines our democracy, but stifles the hard decisions that have to be made to prevent another tragedy from happening in places like Anamosa.
Before the session ends, I hope the Governor and Republican leaders turn the page on their misinformation playbook. We’re ready to get to work.
State Representative Todd Prichard of Charles City serves the 52nd District in the Iowa House and is the Iowa House Democratic Leader. Contact him at email@example.com, 515-281-3054, via Twitter @RepPrichard, or Facebook, Todd.Prichard.Iowa.