Rosario: Gov. Reynolds calls liberals ‘unhinged,’ highlighting ableism in politics


The Daily Iowan; Photos by Josep

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks during a Johnson County Republicans event in Coralville at the Radisson Hotel & Conference Center on Thursday, July 6, 2017. Iowa Gov. Reynolds spoke to Republican constituents who had a minimum donation of $25 per individual to attend, $125 to host, and $500 to sponsor. (Joseph Cress/The Daily Iowan)

“As we all know, as we travel the state, the liberals are unhinged. They are out for us.”

No, these are not the apocalyptic words of Infowars founder Alex Jones. This is a direct quote from your governor, Kim Reynolds, at a public fundraiser in Des Moines.

When Little Village emailed the Reynolds campaign to ask if the governor was specifically referring to any Iowans as “unhinged,” communications director Pat Garrett sent the magazine 31 links to various online media, 16 of which cited stories of constituents booing Republican congressmen, protests at public meetings, gubernatorial candidates lying in press releases, etc.

While I acknowledge politics can be brutal, I simply don’t care to ponder a shallow list of excuses for name-calling. It’s boring.

RELATED: Republican heavyweights strongly back Reynolds

First, Reynolds’ furthering of the “us vs. them” mentality in politics doesn’t really work for her as an elected official. She has the privilege of serving all Iowans, including the ones she disagrees with. And because she hopes to be re-elected, she should have taken a cue from Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” comment — alienating potential voters is a terrible campaign strategy. But what’s even more concerning is how she gaslights liberals as “unhinged” (literally meaning “mentally deranged”), another example of how right-leaning politics have normalized degrading mental illness for political gain.

I know I risk outing myself as a “triggered snowflake” here, but I have numerous mental illnesses. I take medication and attend therapy. It is disgusting to me that someone whose job is to serve the people would either use peoples’ illnesses as a sorry joke or a call to arms. But in today’s politics, such incivility is no longer the exception, it is the rule.

President Trump is notorious for this. While his mocking of a reporter with a physical disability got the most press, he continues to use insults that reference people with mental disabilities: “nutjob,” “psycho,” and “low IQ crazy” are some of his favorites. This trend has a trickle-down effect right to the UI College Republicans’ Twitter. Although, who’s to say Reynolds didn’t coin a variation of “the unhinged left” from the student organization itself?

More rightists in the new age of Trump Republicanism have taken to weaponizing ableism against their opponents, even co-opting the term “triggered” (an element of PTSD) to mean weak or sensitive. But that doesn’t mean leftists aren’t guilty of gaslighting. Although PC culture, for better or worse, has mostly kept liberals from hurling “psycho” insults at their supporters, it has not stopped many from labeling Trump with a scarlet letter of mental instability.

This can take a variety of forms; last year, average Twitter users poked fun with the trending #DiagnoseTrump hashtag, with diagnoses ranging everywhere from narcissistic personality disorder to psychopathy. Even mental health professionals have delighted in the dissection of the president’s erratic behavior via online think-pieces.

I hope Reynolds realizes dividing Iowans and using the pain of those she disagrees with to gaslight them is abhorrently wrong. There’s no denying, whether you like her policies or not, that the governor has made significant progress in this state. Failure to apologize for such a sordid choice of words may be what brings it to a halt.

RELATED: Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks at Johnson County Republican fundraiser

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