GOP Lawmaker Tells Students Upset By Trump Win to “Suck It Up,” Proposes New Criminal Penalties for Protesters

State Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton. Photo: Iowa Legislature

In an interview Friday with conservative radio host Simon Conway, state Rep. Bobby Kaufmann announced his plans to launch an investigation into how much Iowa universities have spent setting up “safe zones and cry zones” for students upset by the results of the presidential election (which, according to the universities, is $0), then introduce legislation to slash their budgets by triple that amount. On Monday, Kaufmann added in an interview with the Des Moines Register that the bill would also establish new criminal penalties for demonstrators who block roadways, a reaction to Friday’s protest in Iowa City that shut down the eastbound lane of Interstate 80 for nearly half an hour.

A Wilton Republican who is the son of Donald Trump-backing state GOP Chairman Jeff Kaufmann and chairs the House’s Government Oversight Committee that previously investigated an LGBTQ youth conference because of a complaint from anti-gay activist Bob Vander Plaats, Bobby Kaufmann told Conway he had already partnered up “with a good friend of mine,” Sioux Rapids Republican Rep. Megan Jones, to work with him on what he said he’ll call his “Suck It Up Buttercup” bill once the new legislative session begins in January.

Kaufmann did not respond to requests for comment Monday from the Informer that included a list of questions in an email asking, among other things, what he thought should be done to address widespread reports of alleged acts of hate perpetrated by Trump supporters, among them an election night incident at Iowa State University in which a freshman claimed students yelled “Donald Trump, make America great again” and “Fuck you, niggers” at her group of friends from their dorm windows. (Efforts to reach Jones Monday were also unsuccessful.)

Nor did Kaufmann respond to a question about his inspiration for the “Suck It Up Buttercup” name. The phrase has appeared as part of a headline in lists of offensive articles published at Breitbart, a leading “alt-right” news website catering to white nationalists, since the site’s executive chairman Stephen Bannon became CEO of the Trump campaign in August and was recently appointed as the president-elect’s chief strategist. (The phrase has also been used with relative frequency by commenters on the site, often to dismiss minority or feminist concerns.) The article’s full headline reads, “Suck It Up Buttercups: Dangerous Faggot Tour Returns To Colleges In September,” a reference to the speaking tour of Breitbart senior editor Milo Yiannopoulos (who is gay), a major alt-right figure who was banned from Twitter in July for inciting racist trolling targeting Ghostbusters actress Leslie Jones. According to Yiannopoulos’ website, the Dangerous Faggot Tour will visit ISU’s Memorial Union Dec. 9.

The Informer also asked Kaufmann for his thoughts about Trump’s remark during the third and final presidential debate that he might not accept the election’s results if he were to lose. (Some of Trump’s white supremacist supporters warned of a race war if Clinton were to win.) Kaufmann didn’t reply to that either. But on Friday, he called anti-Trump protests “absolutely asinine” during his interview with Conway, asking, “How absolutely undemocratic is it to protest a fair, democratic election?”

When the new legislative session begins Jan. 9 (PDF), Republicans will control all three branches of Iowa’s state government.

Here’s the full transcript of Kaufmann’s remarks on Conway’s radio show:

Well, this is absolutely asinine. How absolutely undemocratic is it to protest a fair, democratic election? How many of these universities did you see setting up safe zones and cry zones for Romney supporters, or for McCain supporters? If you were opposed to Barack Obama’s election, you were a racist. If you would have been opposed to Hillary Clinton’s election, if she would have won, you would have been sexist. But since Donald Trump won, you’re seeing universities using taxpayer dollars to set up cry zones, so people can talk about their feelings and how insensitive they are. And this is almost like I’m telling a joke. And so I have decided to take action.

I have visited with a good friend of mine in the Legislature, Rep. Megan Jones, and we are going to conduct a thorough investigation into exactly how many taxpayer dollars — you want to do this on your own? That’s your First Amendment democratic right. But I’m going to find out exactly how many taxpayer dollars are being used for these cry zones and for all these different safe zones you can talk about your feelings, and I’m going to take whatever that number is and I’m going to triple it and cut it from the university’s budget. If you can afford that, then your budget’s too big, and Megan and I have decided to officially call this the “Suck It Up Buttercup” bill.

Gavin Aronsen
Gavin Aronsen is an editor and reporter for and founding member of the Iowa Informer. He previously worked as a city reporter for the Ames Tribune, research assistant to investigative journalist Wayne Barrett at the Village Voice, and in various roles at Mother Jones, where his work contributed to a National Magazine Award nomination for the magazine's digital media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Email: garonsen [at] iowainformer [dot] com.