Last night was a very bad night for the Iowa Democratic Party and the future of our state. Iowa was engulfed in a red tidal wave that wiped out the party’s majority in the Iowa Senate, handing full control of state government over to the Republicans. The legislative session will be a frightening one, and many Democrats are wondering today whether the party can ever claw it’s way back from this red state status.

The answer is a simple one: we can.

Despite the incredible difficulties that lie ahead and the vast shift in Iowa policies certain to come, there are real reasons for hope. For one, in Iowa we have nonpartisan redistricting. Every year there are winnable seats all across Iowa. In 2010 Democrats went from 56 seats in the Iowa House to 40. They bounced back to 47 seats in 2012, and came within just a few hundred votes of getting a 50-50 tie. We’re at 41 now, and there will be over a dozen competitive districts to play in next cycle.

For the Iowa Senate, we’re facing a multi-cycle journey. That’s okay, we just need to accept the challenge. There will be two key pick-up opportunities next cycle in the Sioux City and Ottumwa-based districts. Depending on the mood of the country, two additional seats in suburban areas of Polk and Scott counties could be put into play. There will also be some tough defense districts in 2018, but Democrats should be able to gain back at least two seats to set us up for 2020. As long as Trump doesn’t have a crazy repeat victory night then, Democrats can recapture all of the seats we lost last night and put one or two additional districts into play. Ending 2020 with 30 Democratic senate seats is not an impossible dream.

In the short term, Democrats need all hands on deck for the special election on December 27th in Davenport for Joe Seng’s seat. It’s a heavily-Democratic district, but at this point no one is taking it for granted given last night’s results.

The other reason for optimism is this: President Donald Trump could turn out to be a total disaster. He’s going into the White House with barely half-formed policy ideas and no clear vision for the future. He won by running against everything. Now he has to do something. And with Republicans in complete control both nationally and in Iowa, they will completely own everything that happens. Their underlying conservative policies are unpopular. And Trump’s temperament problem could crop up in office and undermine everything.

The 2018 midterm could turn out as one of the greatest Democratic wave elections ever if Trump turns out as bad as many of us think he will be. Democrats in Iowa will be led by whomever we select as our party’s gubernatorial nominee. Hopefully a spirited primary gets activists excited, and we end up with a great candidate.

There are obviously many longterm structural, ideological and messaging problems within the Democratic Party, both nationally and in Iowa, that will have to be addressed. Honestly, I don’t think many of us know yet exactly what all the answers to that are. Hillary Clinton did not lose last night because of one single problem. We’ll have to dig into the election result numbers and do some soul-searching within the party to figure out how we address each one.

One thing, however, is clear: Democrats need to rebuild the state party back from its current shaky reputation. One of the more stinging embarrassments of late 2016 was President Barack Obama passing on one last rally in Iowa, the place where it all began for him. This was the site of his final rally in 2012, with Bruce Springsteen performing in front of a crowd of 20,000 in the East Village. Clinton’s last visit to Iowa over a week ago drew maybe 1,500 to Roosevelt High School in Des Moines. Obama loves Iowa, but we couldn’t even bring him back for one event. The fact that Iowa Democrats no longer have the national clout to make something like that happen is distressing. We need to prove to Democrats everywhere, here and nationally, that we run a competent, effective organization.

Even in all of the despair last night, there were some Democratic activists in Iowa who were ready and eager to immediately jump back into the fight. That’s encouraging, and hopefully we can keep that level of energy through into next year.

So, what can Democrats do today? I have one very small suggestion to start out with: collect and send in any legislative GOP mailers or ads you still have. Many of the Republicans running for the Statehouse essentially ran as Democrats on several key issues, like increasing school funding, even though they have fought that tooth and nail during past sessions. When they inevitably break their campaign promises once in Des Moines, they should pay for that. As soon as they vote to underfund our schools, Democrats need to call them out on it, share their old mailers or TV ads on social media and buy Facebook ads to spread it into their districts. We cannot only start talking about Republican legislators’ records with voters two months out from the 2018 election.

So check your mail piles and trash cans to see if you still have those mailers and email them to me at

Starting Line is also going to start laying out a series of posts about ideas and suggestions for where the Iowa Democratic Party goes from here, starting next week. Some will be big-picture visions, some will be simple suggestions for special projects that a dozen people could take on.

I’d like many of my readers to be a part of that discussion, and want to hear your thoughts and get your ideas. Sign up on this form, and I’ll be sending out questions throughout the next week.

Last night was rough. But despite Iowa’s sudden rightward shift, that’s not what this state fundamentally is about. Democrats will fight back, and we will win.


by Pat Rynard
Posted 11/9/16

20 thoughts on “The Fight To Take It All Back Begins Today

  1. Include by opening up the Democratic Party to all the former Republicans that have switch. The old guard dem gurus do no good for keeping access closed to us.

  2. Pat Raynard: Quickly, Each precinct has a captain and 2nd in command as well as helpers have them fan out and grab from the leftover fliers at the other guys headquarters. P.S. This should have been going on during active campaigning, Da !

  3. The Democrats in Iowa and nationaly do not know how to play politics like the republicans and until they learn how to match them, they are a lost cause.

    1. You are correct Charles. We need new progressive leadership who not afraid to get a little bloody fighting with the GOP. We need legislators who are not afraid to go toe to toe with them too.

  4. This blog generally has great things to say, and I’m onboard with the need for Dems to step up the plate now. But I feel obligated to point out that the title of this post pretty badly misses the point that you’re trying to make — “The Fight To Take It All Back Begins Today”. We don’t need to fight to take something back… we need to collaborate to build the future. It’s an entirely different mindset! Fighting to take things back is what leads to power plays and old dogs guarding their power. It’s why the D’s have such an incredible leadership void in Iowa right now. There are a lot of great candidates that ran this year – most of whom lost – but now have experience running a campaign. These are our future leaders who are gaining the experience they need to be successful in the future. How can we support their growth and development as candidates who can put forth an attractive vision — not fighting the R’s, but rather focused on meeting Iowans where they are at — so that 2-4-6 years from now, Iowans are on board with building, together, a future worth working for?

    1. That is a whole lot of inference based on just one word. I don’t agree with any of that, so I think you simply took some misperception from the title

      1. We absolutely must look at how words work. Linguist George Lakhoff does this exceptionally well with few words. Find almost anything he wrote. Words do matter!!

  5. I know this might not be a popular answer, but happy ads DO NOT work against these liars. We need much better opposition research, and need to have ads ready to refute their lies. Mower’s campaign left the damn “death tax” lie and other horse hockey about regulations to keep pig crap out of our water sound like he was some lunatic. Young has no “family values” because he has no family. And Konfrst and Celsi, how in the damn hell did we not vet the tax issue and the blog. Hagenow is a corrupt ALEC stooge, and this was never hammered. 2 winnable seats, thrown away over mistakes a high school student council member would avoid.
    Having 150 separate campaigns is ridiculous. Centralize fund raising and whatever functions work that way. Maybe 1 office for every 15 (10 house, 5 senate).
    We need to run issue advocacy ads every leg session and be extremely aggressive in mobilizing social media to pressure legislators when the act in the interest of big ag. Get rid of a few poli sci majors and get experts in other fields to advise the campaign. And finally, do research to find out which issues are wedge issues that can position us to win. Wedge issues that are not bullshit, but daily issues that the ALEC addled puppets who are the core of the GOP legislators here in Iowa.

    1. The last Central Committee meeting of this year is scheduled for Monday, November 14, 2016 at 6:30 PM to be held at the Machinist’s Hall, 2000 Walker St., Des Moines. Be there to start the purge.

  6. “Last night was a very bad night for the Iowa Democratic Party and the future of our state.”

    It is not a bad thing for the future of Iowa. Changing party control when it has become destructive of moving the state forward is a good thing. There are many issues that were not debated in the Iowa Senate because a dictator said we were not going to listen to the people of Iowa.

    Iowa is in a better place to day with a new focus on the future.

  7. “The other reason for optimism is this: President Donald Trump could turn out to be a total disaster.”

    Wishful thinking. What should happen is Democrats should step up, get involved and help make Iowa and America better instead of plotting obstruction. Politics has become too uncivil. America needs patriots to start working together instead of plotting to damage the other party.

    “He won by running against everything. Now he has to do something.”

    You know this is not true. You also know that 90% of Clinton’s campaign was nasty, name calling and personal attack devoid of issues. Every four years the Dems call R’s racist and deplorable. It needs to stop, maybe Dems could show some leadership and eliminate uncivil politics.

    “And with Republicans in complete control both nationally and in Iowa, they will completely own everything that happens.”

    You mean like President Obama blamed Bush for the economy for 8 years instead of fixing it? Trump will fix Obamacare and make the economy and jobs that are above a living wage grow.

    “Their underlying conservative policies are unpopular.”

    That’s why Trump got elected, because his ideas were unpopular??? The fact is Donald Trump understands the people that the Democratic Party has forgotten. That’s why they lost the election in Iowa and across the US.

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