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Advocate and Activist Zach Wahls Announces Bid for Iowa State Senate

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Ask not what your country can do for you; but rather, ask what you can do for your country!” -John F. Kennedy

After a glowing introduction, the very tall young man steps forward to the podium and announces his candidacy to replace a retiring State Senator in a style and physical appearance reminiscent of the sixteenth President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. Yet this 26 year old more accurately embodies President Kennedy’s request of Americans from nearly 58 years ago.

In his announcement earlier in the day on his Facebook page, Zach Wahls noted:

“This afternoon, I will launch a campaign for Iowa state Senate District 37, which is where I grew up and the place I call home. The incumbent, Democrat Senator and leader Bob Dvorsky, announced in August he would not be running for re-election. This is an all hands on deck moment for our state, and I am stepping up to do what I believe is the most good I can do. I am running to protect Senator Dvorsky’s legacy and to fight for every single Iowan who feels left behind or left out.”

For those who know Wahls or have followed his advocacy and activism since his bursting onto the Iowa political scene as a 19-year-old University of Iowa engineering student, this is a logical next step in his political journey which  launched with a speech he gave on February 1st, 2011.

Wahls stood before Iowa legislators that day, urging them not to pass a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage and civil unions. His reasons were deeply personal, as the final decision by the lawmakers would impact his his two mothers, Dr. Terry Wahls and her wife Jacqueline Reger. His moms were married after the Iowa Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in 2009.

Introducing himself as a “sixth-generation Iowan,” Wahls said he had achieved the Boy Scouts’ highest rank of Eagle Scout and attained a 99th percentile on his college aptitude test.

“If I was your son, Mr. Chairman, I believe I would make you very proud,” he testified.

Then he addressed the core issue. “In my 19 years, not once have I ever been confronted by an individual who realized independently that I was raised by a gay couple,” said Wahls. “And you know why? Because the sexual orientation of my parents has had zero affect on the content of my character.”

“I’m not really so different from any of your children,” said Wahls. “My family really isn’t so different from yours. After all, your family doesn’t derive its sense of worth from being told by the state, ‘you’re married, congratulations!'”

The video of that speech on YouTube and Facebook went immediately viral propelling the young university student into national prominence that included an appearance later that month on television chat show host Ellen DeGeneres’ widely popular program and then followed with a nationally-televised speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2012, which saw Barack Obama re-nominated for a second term as President of the United States. Wahls thanked Obama for his support of marriage equality.

Wahls also became a moving force in advocacy and activism for the LGBTQI community. In particular, he—along with Jonathan Hillis and Justin Wilson—founded Scouts for Equality in June of 2012 to actively overturn the ban on gay scouts and leaders by the Boy Scouts of America.

Then, on July 27, 2015, nearly three years after reaffirming its ban on gay members, the Boy Scouts of America’s National Executive Board voted to end the organization’s decades-old national ban on gay adults, while affirming individual units’ ability to select leaders in line with its religious principles. For Wahls, Hillis, and Wilson, it was no small victory.

Wahls and Scouts for Equality went on to launch a vigorous advocacy on behalf of 8-year-old Joe Maldonado, who the Boy Scouts of America expelled from the Cub Scouts because he is transgender, on December 30, 2016. Although the Boy Scouts had never had a policy on transgender boys, after kicking out Maldonado, officials announced that they were relying on birth certificates to determine eligibility.

Nearly a month later, Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh announced that the organization would allow transgender boys into the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. Surbaugh said “that moving forward, the BSA would accept the gender listed by parents/guardians on the youth’s application.”

After graduating from the University of Iowa, Wahls enrolled in a post graduate program in public policy from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. 

In addition to his advocacy work along with his younger sister, Zebby, he launched a KickStarter crowd-fundraising effort in 2016 to promote and sell playing cards that featured influential women such as Hillary Clinton, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Beyoncé, Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman and others. Two bonus cards were added in the initial run which featured Ellen DeGeneres and Betty White as jokers. The cards were wildly successful and sold out in their first run.

If his journey thus far is any indication, then there’s a very high probability that voters in his home district will send him to Des Moines to represent them in November of 2018.

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Image courtesy Scouts for Equality, used with permission. 

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'POLICY WASTELAND'

Trump Has Left Behind a Republican Party Almost as ‘Toxic’ as He Is: GOP Adviser

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According to a report from Politico, Donald Trump may no longer be president but the Republican Party he left behind has been damaged to the point where it has almost become as “toxic” as he is to voters, according to one former top aide to a Republican senator.

As the report notes, high-profile members of the Republican party are still pushing Trump’s “Big lie” that the 2020 election was stolen from him and have made that their focus going forward in lieu of proposing new policies that would allow them to win back the White House and both chambers on Congress.

Writing for Politico, David Siders explained, “Nearly four months after the election and one month into Joe Biden’s presidency, the politics of grievance has become the near-singular organizing principle of the post-Trump GOP. And whether at CPAC or in statehouses across the country, policy prescriptions for restoring so-called voter integrity have emerged as the primary focus of the party’s energy.”

That focus on stopping people from voting could blow up in their faces, but worse still, it means they have no other message for voters other than the fact that they are lingering on Trump’s loss.

Benjamin Ginsberg, a conservative election lawyer asked, “Tell me what the innovative Republican policies have been of late?” before adding it is “probably a sign that the Republican Party is mired in a bit of a policy wasteland and doesn’t know which way to turn to get out.”

According to former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who served in President George W. Bush’s administration, there is no evidence of widespread election fraud and Republicans harping on it is, “a big distraction. And I worry that it will continue to be a big distraction as long as a certain individual makes statements that it was stolen.”

Former Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) adviser Kevin Madden was a bit more blunt in his assessment.

“It is a party that has been fashioned in the mold of Trump — Trump’s message, Trump’s tactics — and it is perfectly comfortable being a party that is defined by what it’s against,” he explained before adding, “… you become almost toxic as a party brand to larger, growing parts of the electorate. … The limitation of a message and a platform that’s just about disagreeing with the opposition is that it doesn’t speak to the broader concerns or anxieties of a big part of the electorate.”

You can read more here.

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RIGHT WING EXTREMISM

Matt Schlapp Lashes Out at Critics of CPAC’s Nazi Symbol Stage Design

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The head of the Conservative Political Action Committee on Saturday attacked critics noting CPAC’s stage looks like a Nazi symbol.

Matt Schlapp made his denial after “Nazi” trended nationwide on Twitter as users discussed the stage looking like an Odal rune symbol.

Schlapp, however, did not apologize. Instead he said, “stage design conspiracies are outrageous and slanderous.”

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GRIFTERS

Trump Is Making Noises About a 2024 Run to Get Rich Off the ‘Rubes’: Ex-White House Official

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President Donald Trump will be running for president for a third time in 2024, but the effort will be largely geared towards personal enrichment, a former official explained on Saturday.

MSNBC’s Alex Witt interviewed Anthony Scaramucci, who briefly served as Trump’s communications director in 2017.

“Is he going to run in 2024 or is this just a great excuse to fundraise?” Witt asked.

“I think it’s both,” Scaramucci replied. “I think he’s going to run in 2024, this is the most money he’s ever made — just imagine making $300 million off of these rubes that he’s coning after the election with his big lie. So he’ll run again in 2024.”

“Will he go to the finish line? Maybe not,” he continued. “There are 10 or 12 Republicans that see themselves as a future president. They’re going to try to find ways to undermine him, obviously Governor Nikki Haley already started that process, so I don’t know if he gets to the finish line, but why would he not run and raise money off the rubes that he’s raising money from?”

“Right, but if he runs, do you really think he doesn’t get the nomination?” Witt asked. “Today he would, there’s no doubt today he would get it.”

“I think it could get interrupted by the potential criminal investigations that are going on and the potential indictments, so if he runs and there are no indictments and I think he has a clear path to that nomination, and that’s why Sen. McConnell said ‘Of course I’m going to support him’ — which is even more levels of hypocrisy, but yes, he runs, he wins the nomination,” Scaramucci replied. “There is risk here, though, because of his potential tax fraud case and other cases — even the D.C. case related to the insurrection is a potential speed bump to him getting that nomination.”

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