Could Someone Unseat Sen. Chuck Grassley After 36 Goddamn Years and a Million Batshit Tweets?

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The presidential election isn’t the only nightmare awaiting us in November. Welcome to Congressional Cacophony, a new feature on The Slot about House and Senate races that really, really matter. Suggestions? Pitches? Email us.


A fun fact: once you’re elected to office in this country, without term limits, it will basically take an act of God or a particularly disgusting intern sex scandal to unseat you. Which is what makes it unlikely that Iowa Senator and 36-year incumbent Chuck Grassley will get kicked out of office this year, despite dipping poll numbers, a pretty serious opponent, and an infamously terrible Twitter account.

Grassley, who is 82, hasn’t lost an election since 1958, when he was first elected as an Iowa state legislator, giving him an unbroken 42 years in office. And he’s remained relatively popular since being elected in 1981 as a Senator, until this year. That’s when two things happened: demented soft-boiled egg Donald Trump’s meteoric rise to power, and the refusal of Senate Republicans to hold confirmation hearings or even a polite lunch, with poor benighted Merrick Garland, President Obama’s Supreme Court pick.

Grassley is one of the Republicans refusing to even look Merrick Garland in his sad puppydog eyes. But as The Atlantic pointed out, that’s probably not going to cost him his seat in November, when he’ll be challenged by former Lieutenant Governor and Democrat Patty Judge. His refusal to appoint Garland is making his poll numbers dip, but Grassley will probably be just fine. Why? Because, as The Atlantic puts it, he’s simply not as crazy as most newer breed Tea Party-flavored Republicans, and he shows up to work:

Grassley hasn’t missed a Senate vote since 1993, and he’s known for responding to every letter, email, and phone call he receives. He’s helped to pass several Farm Bills and been a fierce advocate for adjusting the federal farm payment program to support small farms, making him popular with conservative Iowa farmers. He has a history of challenging executive agencies and advocating for transparency in government. In 1992, he wrote the production tax credit that jump-started wind energy in Iowa. Today, the Hawkeye State is the third-largest producer of wind energy in the country.

But perhaps even more importantly, Grassley has a reputation for being authentic. “He’s got a folksy charm to him,” Peterson said, “He’s a relatively easy guy to like.” Before this year, Grassley was known outside the state of Iowa mainly for his endearingly incoherent—and sometimes accidental—tweets, sent from an account he runs himself.

The first part of that passage makes sense: Grassley generally does his job! He’s accessible to his constituents. But that Twitter account as part of his “folksy charm”? Please look at how this man tweets:


Those are normal, workday tweets, the ones that rely on a mixture of abbreviations so ridiculous and acronyms so arcane that nobody could possibly understand them.


Then there are the tweets that Grassley busts out when something exciting happens:


And then there are the ones when he gets spicy about the press, as he did just days ago:


That one triggered lots of jokes from reporters, who are definitely super elite. Me especially.

Patty Judge, meanwhile, supports raising the minimum wage, helping lower college costs, pushing through gun control measures, and, best of all, has committed to serving no more than two terms if she’s elected. Judge told The Globe Gazette (politely) that Grassley has spent a lot of time in office, but that maybe not all of it has been as productive as it could’ve been:

She said Grassley attends many functions and is noted for traveling to all 99 Iowa counties every year.“This is not about how many ribbons you’ve cut. This isn’t pie in the sky. This is about bread-and-butter issues and I would welcome the chance to debate him on the issues,” Judge said.

Asked if Grassley’s age was a factor, she said, “No, not at all. But serving 36 years in the Senate is an issue. That’s too long. I favor term limits and I will commit today to serving no more than two terms if I’m elected.”


The takeaway here is that probably no one should serve for 42 years. No one should, like Strom Thurmond, serve for so long that by the end they’re widely believed to be senile and essentially being carried into votes by their staff. But especially, nobody should tweet like this:


Grassley photo via AP, Patty Judge photo via Iowa Public Television/YouTube. CC logo by staff male Bobby Finger



No one should serve for 42 years, but two terms is still on the short side. When you don’t have long-serving senators, the most experienced people on Capitol Hill are lobbyists and staffers. You know, people nobody elected.