Former Republican Congressman Jim Leach says back-scratching politicians have fueled the ire of people involved with the “tea party” movement. President Obama appointed Leach to serve as president of the National Endowment for the Humanities and Leach was in Iowa City last night for an event at the University of Iowa. During an interview with Iowa Public Radio, Leach was asked about the tea party movement.
“I think it’s definitely an expression of citizen frustration and sometimes I think it’s a reaction to an aspect of American politics that’s ironically a little too polite,” Leach said. “And the too polite dimension is people scratching each other’s back.” According to Leach, tea party activists are angered by politicians who are quick to seek special favors for their states or districts — bringing home the “pork” for their constituents.
Leach is in the midst of a 50-state tour, giving an address titled “Civility in a Fractured Society.” He talked about that last night in Iowa City. “The message is that we as a people have a choice and that is whether we pull together or pull apart,” Leach said in his interview with Iowa Public Radio.
“In terms of together, that doesn’t mean we’ll ever all agree on everything. It doesn’t mean that we don’t want to have good, strong arguments, but it does mean that we’ve got to think as a people and as a large family rather than as a community at war with itself.” According to Leach, the history of America is the sum is greater than its parts, but a lack of civility is endangering the country in his opinion.
“The consequence is a little bit like an athletic team that has a lot of good players, but can’t pull together,” Leach said. Leach served in the U.S. House of Representatives for 30 years, representing parts of eastern Iowa over those three decades. He is a native of Davenport who after being defeated for reelection in 2006 became a college professor, working with students at Princeton and Harvard. Leach became chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities last August.