Courtney T. Ball

Pleasantly Surprised by Joni Ernst

Last night I had no interest in watching politics on TV. Instead of the State of the Union address, I watched the first two episodes of Amazon’s award-winning show Transparent. (It was decent, by the way). That’s one great thing about the internet. I can watch presidential speeches and political commentary when I’m rested instead of letting it ruin a relaxing evening at home.

I didn’t even know that the newly elected Senator from my state (Iowa’s Joni Ernst) was offering the Republican response to Obama’s address until this morning when I got on Facebook. I’ll go ahead and disclose that I’m a far-left leaning liberal who is getting used to embarrassment caused by Republican politicians from the western half of our state. Folks like Steve King and Bob Vander Plaats have repeatedly gained national attention for their ignorance and hateful bigotry. Joni Ernst’s campaign didn’t inspire much hope for better representation when it highlighted hog castration, harleys and handguns. So, when my Facebook news feed lit up with comments deriding her ten-minute response to the State of the Union speech, I groaned and prepared myself to roll my eyes once again.

Maybe it was my incredibly low expectations, but I finished feeling pleasantly surprised. Sure, she was stiff (both in manner and hairdo), but wouldn’t you be if you were two weeks into your job as a freshman Senator and you were asked to give the Republican party’s nationally televised response to the State of the Union? And yes, her story about bread bags may seem a like an odd choice for the biggest speech of her political career so far, but the fact is, I could relate. I too experimented with bread bags both inside and outside my shoes during Iowa winters.

What really caught my attention, though, was the amount of common ground I saw between her speech and the President’s. Other than her brief comments on “Obamacare” and the Keystone pipeline, most of what Senator Ernst spoke about lined up nicely within the priorities Obama outlined in his State of the Union speech.

Wouldn’t it be great if she and others in the Republican majority decided that for the next two years they would work hard with the President and other Democrats to actually get things done instead of hold our country hostage through more caustic, polarizing gridlock? Perhaps it’s naive to hope for such a positive turn toward bipartisan cooperation in our nation’s capitol these days. But at least the spokesperson for each party last night signaled a willingness for such a change. As citizens, we should celebrate and encourage that tone rather than degrading the conversation into the kind of mean-spirited cheap shots I saw this morning.

For now at least, I’m proud of the way Senator Ernst represented Iowa in her first major public appearance, bread bags and all.

Raygun Breadbag

Raygun t-shirt inspired by Joni Ernst

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Courtney Ball

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  • Courtney,

    I was not as mortified as I expected to be….main criticisms from me: her reference to the Keystone Jobs Bill (not Keystone Pipeline), her comments/concern about healthcare made no sense, and her comments on defending life seemed irrelevant in a response to that particular SOTU speech. That being said, I agree with you, whether it was low expectations or not, it was much easier to stomach than her acceptance speech.

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