Robert Leonard

Robert Leonard

Robert Leonard is the author of the blog "Deep Midwest: Politics and Culture," on Substack. He also hosts a public affairs program for KNIA/KRLS radio in the south-central Iowa towns of Knoxville, Pella, and Indianola. His columns have been published in the New York Times, TIME, the Des Moines Register and more.


Rules of the universe — and pickup trucks

By: - August 5, 2023

Dad was a carpenter. I remember when I was very young, he kept his tools in the trunk of our only family car, a Chevy sedan. Every morning, he would lift the trunk lid and put his sawhorses in, and in those days before bungee cords he would tie the trunk lid down with rope […]


Conversations with flag people along the highway: Potato chips and birdwatching

By: - June 24, 2023

For the past two weeks or so, road construction crews have been resurfacing the asphalt highway that runs in front of our house. On maps, it’s called Highway G-71, but it’s known locally as the “Bussey Stub.” Maybe a dozen years or so ago, before COVID took him from us, I asked a former county […]


Is NRA curriculum coming to Iowa schools?

By: - April 23, 2023

I walked into our Pella studio on a recent morning, and Dave, a friend and co-worker had a question for me before I even had a chance to put my computer bag down. “What do you think about the gun legislation they’re considering at the Statehouse?” he said, or something close to that. Like many […]


Drowning public schools in the bathtub to promote GOP ideology

By: - March 18, 2023

Grover Norquist, founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform told National Public Radio in 2001, “I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.” Republicans have been remarkably successful at reducing government effectiveness since […]


Leave the Iowa Caucuses alone

By: - November 20, 2022

I looked over the shoulder of the chair of the Marion County, Iowa, Democratic Party, who was also a caucus official, and watched as she keyed in the results from one caucus location in Knoxville, Iowa, that fateful night, Feb 3, 2020. She poked her finger at the keyboard on her iPhone, once, then again, […]


Nothing prepared me for a thrifting trip to ‘The Bins’

By: - October 30, 2022

My daughter Johanna was home from college over the weekend, and “thrifting” was on her mind. So, wanting to spend as much time with her as possible, my wife Annie and I tagged along with her to the Goodwill on S.E. 14th Street in Des Moines, and I’m happy we did. I was exposed to […]


Knoxville is the new skydiving capital of Iowa

By: - October 9, 2022

The Des Moines Skydivers, currently jumping out of the Winterset airport, will build a new home in Knoxville. On Oct. 1, members of the group checked out what jumping out above Knoxville would be like. Their move to town will be official on April 1, 2023. I interviewed Randy Roth, spokesperson for the group, in a […]


Homecoming TP, high school mascot names and other ‘traditions’

By: - October 1, 2022

I dropped by the Bussey, Iowa (population 387) Post Office a week ago Friday morning, right about sunrise, to get the mail. I was delighted to see the Twin Cedars High School kids had TPed the town for homecoming. In 2021, Twin Cedars had 95 students enrolled in the high school, which means there are about […]


A trip to Perry brings home why we need immigration reform

By: - September 14, 2022

I went to Perry, Iowa (population 7,836) on Friday to help train a new news guy at Raccoon Valley Radio. Perry is about an hour and a half long drive away from home. I had planned to arrive mid-morning, but at about 5:30 a.m., a gut feeling told me to leave soon. So I did. I arrived […]


Flip the sky: Other ways to look at the world around us

By: - August 16, 2022

Many years ago, I spent a weekend at a cabin near the top of Mt. Evans in Colorado with three acquaintances — an anthropologist, a geologist, and a biologist. There was no television, no internet, and we spent a couple of nights together at over 14,000 feet with probably too much cognac for that high […]