Janice Weiner (IA): ‘Who Would Be Here if Immigrants and Refugees Had All Been Rejected?’
Janice Weiner (61), a Democrat from Iowa City, IA, is president-elect of her synagogue, Agudas Achim, and on its safety committee, an area where she gained expertise while in the Foreign Service. She is very active in the Democratic Party, serving as first vice-chair of the Johnson County Democrats (the “bluest county in Iowa”) and was recently elected to the city council in Iowa City. She also serves on the Iowa City Foreign Relations Council.
What traits are you looking for in a candidate?
Integrity, empathy, decency, caring for others, as well as honesty, are very high on my list. I’m also drawn to women—it is so past time.
What are your three top issues?
Thanks to this administration, everything seems as if it’s risen to crisis proportions. Climate change, women’s reproductive rights, health care (especially mental health care and addiction treatment) are at the top of my list. But it is an endless list, and I can’t leave off the need to rebuild government and our relations around the world.
Does religion affect your political views?
My moral structure is built around my Judaism. The notion of radical empathy, which I drew from a sermon our rabbi gave; the need to give back; to treat the stranger well, since we were once strangers in a strange land; tikkun olam. Who would be here if immigrants and refugees had all been rejected?
What traits make a candidate unacceptable to you?
When candidates don’t listen—when they presume to know—that is not acceptable. When they are “anti” any number of groups of people in this country—that is disqualifying. If they are crude or rude to any group—I have no time for that. Look who we have in the White House now because people held their noses and voted for him so they could get their policy on Jerusalem or on abortion. A person’s character matters, and I won’t forgive Trumpian behavior.
Are there policy positions that are make-or-break for you?
At this point, I will vote for the Democratic nominee, full stop. Any person of conscience has to pay attention to the climate crisis; to health-care reform; to our plague of gun violence that is a national health-care emergency; to our foreign policy and international relations, which have been shredded; to wages and workers—the list seems endless.
What do you think about the Democratic field of candidates?
One of the advantages of being in Iowa is you get to go to see everybody and meet them and talk to them and meet their staffs. I know more staff members than you can imagine. Right now, I like Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris. I am not wild about the older men who are running. But I will vote for whoever gets the Democratic nomination, and I will work for them regardless of whether they’re one of my top candidates or not.
Do you support impeachment?
I think we have reached the point where, to preserve the integrity of our system, we have no choice. I believe there will be articles of impeachment but no conviction in the Senate. However, every single senator will have to go on record. When you have career public servants who are blowing the whistle, it is (despite what many will say), not a “political witch-hunt.” It is about saving our system of government.