August Recess

View from an Iowa Barn

View from an Iowa Barn

SOLON, Iowa — While Trish Nelson takes a well-deserved break, I will attempt to fill her shoes at Blog for Iowa.

Delegates from the national party conventions dispersed last week and there is a lot to write about. Party and twitterverse aside, the telltale sign the election campaign shifted to a new phase was when a political friend called last Tuesday for help finding lodging for our Iowa Democratic Party organizer.

As politics takes a summer vacation in August for most Iowans, I want to cover as much ground as I can, and less of what everyone else is posting. Following is part of my storyboard.

I’ll cover each of the four Iowa congressional candidates at least once. This is mostly to learn what I don’t know. My Congressman Dave Loebsack was confident about his chances in the second district when I saw him in July. Monica Vernon is a hard worker and fighter, and the prospects look good for her winning against first term congressman Rod Blum. Jim Mowrer and Kim Weaver are running in the western half of the state, and those races will be informative. These four races are the most important, yet under-covered in the state.

Because of it’s high visibility, I’ll rely on the coverage of others for the U.S. Senate race. As primary winner Patty Judge attempts to upset incumbent Chuck Grassley it is unclear she has the organization to win or that he is truly vulnerable. A campaign operative told me convincing Iowa Democrats Grassley is vulnerable is a key challenge. My reaction when she spoke near my home July 17 was she needs to point out the faults of her opponent less and talk more about Democratic values. Let third parties do the work of calling out Grassley on his many flaws.

Here is an entire month of posting about the presidential contest in four sentences. “Republicans nominated Donald Trump and Mike Pence for president and vice president respectively at their national convention. If they think they are going to win this election solely by demonizing Hillary Clinton they are on crack. I disagree with them on virtually everything so that’s enough said about the mogul and his sidekick. The focus should be winning down-ticket races.”

There will be discussion of the 2020 presidential caucuses during the 2016 campaign and I land in the camp of eliminating Iowa’s first in the nation status. With due respect to Dave Redlawsk, author of Why Iowa: How Caucuses and Sequential Elections Improve the Presidential Nominating Process, the quadrennial presidential caucus should be the first casualty in blowing up the Iowa Democratic Party. I have long believed first in the nation helps Republicans more than Democrats and plan to lay out my case over the next few weeks. Shorter version: Democrats should stop helping Republicans organize in Iowa.

Iowa native Ari Berman posts constantly about the importance of voting rights after Chief Justice John Roberts gutted the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder in 2013. What are the challenges to voting rights in Iowa? There has been a lot of posting about the Iowa Supreme Court decision about voting rights for convicted felons. There is more to elucidate.

What else?

At the county fair our group had a corn kernel vote on security issues. Air and water quality were most important to fair-goers’ sense of security by a distance. Forestry management is part of that discussion. People forget the state was once prairie with oak-hickory forests that stood and regenerated for millennia. What is surprising is how slight is the modern role of urban sprawl compared to pressure on forests. I hear almost no one discussing forestry management and its impact on air and water quality yet see farmers tear out riparian buffers on a regular basis to plant a few more rows of corn and beans. This issue needs a voice.

Our government insanely wants to spend more than a trillion dollars re-furbishing our nuclear arsenal. What we should be doing is eliminating it. I’ll share some of the work of my colleagues in International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War during coming weeks.

Nuclear power is on the wane nationally and some attention should be paid to the Palo, Iowa plant. Their permit was extended to 2024, and already there are rumblings at the plant that the “good jobs” there will be going away. It is in Iowa’s best interests to shutter Duane Arnold Energy Center and I’ll explain why.

Lastly, we need an alternative to our industrial food production system. There is a nascent local foods movement, but its rise has not been fast enough. There are substantial questions about local foods sustainability in its present form. Issues like land ownership, creating markets, reducing the use of pesticides, and scalability are all unresolved. If the local foods movement does not work toward solutions, one questions whether it will exist as a distinct entity going forward.

These and other topics will be my summer. I hope readers will follow along as I do my best to make it worth while to return to Blog for Iowa often.

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