Meet Rmax Goodwin, moving at top speed these days through six counties in the south and southwest of Iowa as a field organizer for the Iowa Democratic Party. Four of the counties he's responsible for are contiguous --- Lucas, Wayne, Decatur and Clarke; the other two, Cass and Adair, are a little farther north and to the west. Rmax is living during the campaign season in Creston, since Union County bridges the gap, and driving at top speed from one to the other.
His job is not for the faint of heart --- or those who tire easily. Ninety-hour work weeks are not unheard of and the pay isn't that great.
It could be that southern Iowa, where Rmax has been working for a month now, has been something of a cultural shock for the Los Angeles native. But he's too polite to focus on that. Although a veteran volunteer, most notably during the 2012 Obama campaign in California, this is is first outing as professional organizer.
And in case you're wondering about "Rmax," pronounce it as it looks, "R" then "max." It's a consolidation of two given names. And for heaven's sake say "hi" if you see him --- even if you're a Republican.
Iowa is an odd state politically, in that you can never be sure which way it's going to jump. Our urban areas tend to be progressive; rural areas, not so much --- and the rural south of Iowa is Republican territory. Our progressive youngsters tend to leave and infusions of fresh blood are rare, so it's a bit like a stagnant pond where blue-green algae blooms during election years. Not that I would ever compare Republicans to blue-green algae, of course.
And it's not exactly a hotbed of political activism in either party. Friends who are active, or as active as it gets around here politically, in Republican affairs tell me they have difficulties similar to those experienced by Democrats when it comes to involvement.
This is an interesting year in Iowa politics in large part because veteran U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, a reliable progressive and close to my heart, chose not to seek re-election. So that race is hotly contested, matching Democrat U.S. Rep Bruce Braley, like Harkin a reliable progressive, against Republican state Sen. Joni Ernst, of Red Oak.
There's no way of telling exactly what Ernst's positions on some issues are, since in order to rally the faithful she has to straddle the gap between Iowa's Tea-partyesque loons, and there are many of those, and more sensible Republicans --- and there are some of those, too.
She does seem to favor privatization of Social Security, not good news for old people or those who will be old one day; wants to repeal Obamacare; believes fertilized eggs are little people, so is unlikely to be sympathetic toward women who prefer to manage their own reproductive processes; and favors a U.S. Constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage (and has co-sponsored Iowa bills to put gay Iowans' right to marry on the ballot).
The extremist National Rifle Association is a wholehearted backer, too; and a memorable primary ad featured "give-me-a-shot" Ernst firing off a six-shooter.
Sadly, I'm not much of a political activist myself --- emotionally ill-equipped to make phone calls and go door to door. But I'm going to try a little support work this year.
Lord knows, I've no interest in giving any Republican a "shot." That's like handing a 6-year-old an assault rifle.
Lucas County Democrats work the phones to rally the party faithful at the Freight House in Chariton Wednesday evening.