Pilot Editorial

Wednesday, July 3, 2002

Culture war as election issue

A group of largely conservative GOP leaders from across northwest Iowa has selected Steve King of Kiron as the Republican candidate and likely heir apparent to the Fifth District congressional seat.

This is as it should be. Like Steve King or not, he was a clear winner in the popular vote, and it would have been foolish for a relative handful of people called to a "special nominating convention" to oppose a legitimate candidate who has won his election.

Everyone, it seems, is already handing the fall election automatically to King. Every media article from the beginning of the campaign stated that whoever won the Republican primary will be the next to warm a seat in the House of Representatives.

And in fact, the Democrat in this race hasn't done a thing to oppose that. If he's ever been in this area at all, it's news to us.

The system isn't necessarily set up to match the best candidates in the general election, of course. If it were, a proven leader like Brent Siegrist or John Redwine or even a political newcomer like Jeff Ballenger might just stand up and announce an independent campaign. But going against the party is political suicide when it takes serious money to mount a campaign. So they do the best they can do, step aside with grace.

King himself predicts that the election effort will be "easier rather than harder" after the primary, and it's probably true.

Still, after the euphoria of victory wears off, King will need to address some realities.

He was not exactly a winner of the people's mandate variety. He out-campaigned his three foes and did it well, but his politics did not manage to gain him the needed 35 percent approval of his own party's voters. Even as the popular vote winner, it took three ballots at the convention in Denison to get him a majority.

King clearly has support, but he will need to discover what is on the minds of the majority of people who have not seen him as the best choice initially.

Don't expect any moderation. In his words, "It's not about compromise if you want to get something done for Republicans."

King's going to want to get things done for Republicans, but also for all of the people regardless of their political affiliation. Compromising of core ideals would be a mistake, but so might be a no compromises at all attitude.

It also bothers us somewhat to hear that King was introduced by former Senate candidate Bill Salier as a "culture warrior" in a continuing "culture war."

We suppose he refers to King's efforts to get passed the "English as the Official Language" law in Iowa. That issue got some mixed reactions in Storm Lake, which has seen cultural diversity for several years and has worked hard to find the positives in immigration as well as to deal with the challenges.

We aren't sure when Iowa went to war against culture, or cultures, or who declared the war. There is a need to protect our borders from illegal passage, a need to enforce immigration law and stop drugs and crime from passing into our country.

There's also a need for understanding. For the music and food and literature and ideas from around the wide world. For neighborliness. For education and job training and population growth.

If we are to fight this cultural war, we hope that there is room in the front lines for this too.

Steve King is our winner, as he should be. Now he must step up and represent all, and the battle cry for west Iowa should be unity, not divisiveness.