Elections have consequences.
Sometimes they are immediate and obvious.
For example, after Gov. Kim Reynolds led the Republican Party to a smashing victory this year, it’s thought she’ll get pretty much whatever she wants when the new, mostly Republican General Assembly convenes in January.
These include more tax cuts and school credits, as well as abortion and book bans.
These are the fruits of Reynolds’ 19-point electoral victory, one of the greatest ever for an Iowa governor.
Reynolds flaunted amazing coattails on Election Day, something no other modern-day governor has done, and helped elect Republicans to the attorney general and state treasurer, two positions the GOP hasn’t held since Bob Ray was governor four decades ago.
Republican control of the Iowa Legislature when it meets in January will be by a margin unseen in the past half-century — 34 to 16 in the Iowa Senate and 64 to 36 in the Iowa House of Representatives.
But there can also be consequences that are not so obvious today.
As Republicans move forward, they should remember that while their victories in Iowa are unprecedented in modern times, Iowa is now an outlier from the rest of the country.
With the exception of Iowa and a handful of other states, the Republican red wave expected on November 8 did not materialize. And that’s unusual because typically the party that doesn’t hold the White House makes significant gains in off-year elections.
According to this year’s results, Democrats will have control of two branches of the federal government — the White House and the Senate — for two more years.
The fallout from Democratic control in Washington could spell trouble for Iowa Republicans on both the economic and political fronts.
First of all, the economic boom that Iowa experienced after the pandemic is over.
Most of the economic benefits Iowans have experienced over the past two years have come from the unusual generosity the federal government has pumped into the state to counteract the economic turmoil caused by COVID conditions.
It makes more sense when you think about it this way: Before Democratic Congresswoman Cindy Axne was defeated, she was the only Iowa Democrat in Washington. Like it or not, she helped funnel huge amounts of post-Covid relief funds to Iowa, and Democrats happily lent a hand when they thought they could take back part of Iowa.
By Axne’s count, more than $16 billion in federal pandemic aid has made its way to Iowa over the past two years.
That is twice as big as the total budget of the state government.
Those federal dollars should keep federal finances in the black for a while, though the windfall could also encourage additional Republican tax cuts.
In any case, the red wave in Iowa will also have political consequences.
Iowa used to be considered a purple state with roughly equal parts Republican, Democrat, and Independent.
But not now. If you think of Iowa as a lake, it’s now a red sea with some blue islands in places like Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Ames, and Waterloo.
With the red wave sweeping Iowa, it’s inconceivable that Democrats would want to start their nomination process in Iowa in 2024, as they have routinely done for the last half century.
But Republicans will. In fact, the Iowa Republican Party has already agreed to Donald Trump coming here and continuing his quest to reduce the nation to its lowest common denominator.
The question in 2024 will be whether Iowa will become even more of an outlier than it is now, or whether sane Republicans will pull the state back off the ledge.
In any case, the current polarization in Iowa could lead to legal fireworks when the state’s new Republican attorney general, Brenda Bird, clashes with Polk County’s new district attorney, Democrat Kimberly Graham.
On social issues ranging from abortion to transgender rights to gay marriage, Bird and Graham stand on opposite sides that could end up in court.
And when that happens, we will really know what the consequences of this year’s election are.