DES MOINES, Iowa—A popular slogan for T-shirts and bumper stickers here in Iowa’s capital is “Des Moines: Hell Yes.”
The gag, which is now very mainstream, is about Des Moinesians owning the negative views of their city as boring. In fact, another popular T-shirt from the same maker invites you to “Let us exceed your already low expectations.” The message is that we get it, okay, but we’re going to keep on keeping on.
But most Americans don’t have low expectations of Des Moines. Most Americans have no expectations of Des Moines, because, except for the presidential caucuses held in Iowa every four years, it doesn’t matter much to their lives. If they visited, though, they would find a mostly safe, prosperous, and pleasant place to live. Indeed, you would find much the same thing in other smallish cities across the country, from Salt Lake City to Rochester, New York, to Birmingham, Alabama.
Being good at being a regional hub or state capital in a mostly rural area is neither edgy nor defiant. It is virtuous, maybe even impressive, but it is not an act of rebellion. So what’s up with Des Moines being in your face about it?