Move over, Sarah Palin; Joni Ernst is the GOP's new star

The hog-castrating senator from Iowa is the perfect face for a party driven by right-wing obsessions

Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin, you are now officially the Republican Party’s gone girls. The GOP has a new diva: Joni Ernst, the just-elected United State senator from the cornfields of Iowa.

An Iraq war vet, Harley rider and gun-toting hog castrator, Ernst was put on center stage this week to give the Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union speech. With her ranks of whitened teeth and dramatic helmet of hair, the Iowa National Guard lieutenant colonel carried out her assignment competently, although her rhetoric could have been pulled from a talking-points memo turned out by an intern at the Republican National Committee.

Once she got past describing her youthful days plowing fields on the family farm, working “the morning biscuit line at Hardee's” and traipsing to school with plastic bread bags over her shoes, Ernst had nothing especially illuminating to say. Much of her speech was composed of the usual generalizations about supporting the troops, cutting spending, balancing the budget and being grateful to live in “the greatest nation the world has ever known” – plus, several jabs at the president for being a hopeless failure.

The main task she had been given was to convince voters the new Republican-controlled Congress is raring to go and ready to “get Washington working again.” That’s a hard sell, and she offered scant evidence to prove that this Congress would be much different from the last two, which are now ranked as the least productive in history.

“You’ll see a lot of serious work in this new Congress,” Ernst promised. “Some of it will occur where I stand tonight, in the Armed Services Committee room. This is where I’ll join committee colleagues — Republicans and Democrats — to discuss ways to support our exceptional military and its mission. This is where we’ll debate strategies to confront terrorism and the threats posed by Al Qaeda, ISIL and those radicalized by them.”

To summarize: Committees will meet and debate tough issues – bold action, indeed.

Ernst got little opportunity to reveal much of her own political philosophy, other than a passing pledge that “we’ll defend life.” Life is a fine thing to defend, but what she may mean is that Republicans will try to pass a “personhood” amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would in effect make a just-fertilized egg a citizen of our great republic, thereby banning all abortions and several types of birth control. She voted for a similar law when she was in the Iowa Legislature. 

If you think that might be going just a little too far, there’s more.

Ernst wants to overturn Obamacare and is open to the idea of impeaching the president. And, like the Confederates of old, she thinks states can and should nullify federal laws they do not like and resist federal authorities who try to enforce those laws.

The freshman senator from Iowa thinks food stamps and the minimum wage are bad ideas. She hates handouts from the government, at least for other people. Her own extended family is reported to have received close to half a million dollars in farm subsidies over the years.

Counter to the conclusions of arms control experts, Ernst continues to think that Saddam Hussein really had weapons of mass destruction that justified the invasion of Iraq. She also disagrees with 97% of the world’s scientists who say that climate change is real and caused by human activity. Oh, and she buys into the story making the rounds among paranoid right-wing conspiracy theorists that the United Nations is scheming to drive American farmers off their land and into the cities.

To some, all of this may seem like a peculiar take on reality, but Ernst can find a legion of kindred spirits among many GOP members of Congress, the base of the Republican Party and her philosophical sisters, Palin and Bachmann. When she was running in the Republican primary last year, some political operatives worried that she was too much of a conservative ideologue, but there was no reason to be concerned. Joni Ernst got elected and is now the perfect new face to represent a party in which conservative ideologues drive the agenda for everyone.

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