Starting Line On Hiatus As We Consider Future

As you’ve probably noticed, Iowa Starting Line has been rather quiet lately. I’ve decided to stop publishing for the time being as I consider significant changes to our operation or whether to continue on at all.

In reality, this hiatus began at the start of December, it’s just taken me this long to finally write the official post about it. I had intended to only take a personal break for a couple of days, but ended up crashing so hard that I’ve barely been able to string together a few sentences for weeks. Working 60 to 80-hour weeks for the past six years straight with practically no breaks probably contributed to that.

This decision is for two reasons, both related to the 2020 election.

The first is financial. While we’ve had considerable success in building up a news outlet from scratch and expanding it significantly in the past two years, our funding situation is always fluid and comes from different sources each year.

With Democrats getting blown out in Iowa yet again this November, I’m concerned about how much left-leaning money will be coming into Iowa in the immediate future. Starting Line was able to expand how it did in part thanks to interest in the Iowa Caucus race and competitive 2020 general election campaigns, along with the advertising revenue that came with those.

If the general mood is that people believe Iowa to be a red-leaning, non-competitive state, getting investments here for the broader progressive infrastructure gets more difficult. I actually think that our race for governor will be very close, but it will probably be early to mid-2022 when some polls come out showing that, and national folks will then engage here in a big way again. My concern for Starting Line is getting through 2021.

As such, if we do continue publishing at Starting Line, the staff will unfortunately be reduced to just myself going forward, though I hope to add back on as things improve. Still, it’s a very frustrating decision to make, as I very much wanted to keep longterm, permanent positions intact after expanding.

The second reason is with the disappointment in how those November elections turned out — not so much that Republicans swept nearly every contested race, but how and why it happened.

There’s three major issues that made this election so particularly demoralizing.

Too Many Wave Years

Since 2010, Iowa has experienced four Republican wave years (2010, 2014, 2016 and 2020), one good Democratic year (2018) and one relatively neutral year (2012). This has become an exhausting phenomenon to live through, where it seems that everything gets decided by the “national mood” or larger factors far outside the control of any person or campaign or issue. So you end up with good public servants that just get wiped out regardless (that’s not to say there haven’t been many bad campaigns run in Iowa — there most certainly have — it’s just that the good ones lose too). And then you have total idiots unfit for office elevated by blind party voting.

These wave years have essentially made everything that happens on the ground seem that much less important, including good journalism, which is my next point.

Journalism’s Limited Impact

Iowa handled the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 worse than nearly any other government in the entire world, resulting in thousands of unnecessary deaths. And at every step along the way, Iowa’s press corp held Gov. Kim Reynolds and other leaders’ feet to the fire, asking tough questions and exposing ways in which the state was covering up the extent of the outbreak and failing to contain it.

And it feels like none of it mattered. Iowans continued to engage in reckless behavior that resulted in killing their neighbors or themselves. And Reynolds and her fellow Republicans were rewarded for their ineptitude — we found and heard stories of many first-time voters who came out to support the GOP ticket as a backlash to how they felt COVID changed their lives (despite living in a state with some of the weakest restrictions).

I do want to be clear: I don’t think the worth of a Brianne Pfannenstiel or Dave Price or Tony Leys or Kate Payne article rests on whether it costs Republicans votes. Nor does a good piece of journalism’s impact need to have anything to do with an election — good policy decisions or consequences from reporting can happen regardless of who’s in power.

But good lord, you’d think Iowa’s disastrous experience with COVID (or, you know, everything else) would have at least given Iowa voters second thoughts about delivering a massive political win to the party in charge of this mess. It would have been one thing if Joni Ernst and Iowa House Republicans had just barely hung on, where you could attribute the narrow victory to other issues. But Ernst’s comfortable victory and Republicans’ upsets to improve their House majority were striking given the environment they ran in.

There are many, many reasons as to why journalism’s impact was limited, all of which we won’t even begin to get into here, but the bottom line is this: good journalism should hold the powerful accountable, but it should do so in reality, not just theory. And if voters aren’t listening to it, then what are we doing here?

Everyone Just Digging Back In

When Reynolds held her first press conference after the election, I sat down ready to type up something on it. But as I looked around on Twitter, I noticed how everyone was reporting on her latest COVID briefing in the exact same manner they had before the election. There were the same righteous outrage takes, the same in-depth informative posts on the numbers. We just had an election where voters said resoundingly “we don’t care” to Iowa’s COVID disaster, and no one was trying to present that information in a different way.

In fairness, there hadn’t been much time for reflection yet, but as the weeks drew on, I mostly saw a similar lack of introspection on the political front.

The way Democratic campaigns are run in this state is not working. The longterm infrastructure here is lacking. And many of the suggestions of how to do things differently are the same things I’ve heard after 2010, 2014, 2016…

So many of the post-2020 takes boiled down to “this simply proves what I’ve said all along.” Others are in denial that anything needs to change (in part because it would mean they’d need to) and are dismissing the election results as solely due to it being a bad year.

I am deeply skeptical that the Democratic campaigns run in 2022 (or the broader party/progressive infrastructure) will look much different from 2020.

What’s Next

So, what to do? I see a couple of different options of what Starting Line and I could do in the future and would be happy to hear your feedback on it. It may be another month or two until we get started back up, as if we do keep going, I would actually like to put deep thought into how we can do things better.

Here’s some possibilities:

1. Shut Down

In some ways, I just want to be done with politics. I’ve been involved here in Iowa for nearly 18 years, and I feel like I’ve more than done my part. Starting Line has been exhausting, sometimes unrewarding work, and the amount of toxicity you have to put up with in Iowa politics increases every year. It might be nice to have a job with normal hours and reasonable pay for once.

Meanwhile, everything in the U.S. feels like it’s on a continual downward slide that nothing is going to reverse. And if we’re really in a “lol nothing mattes” world, then what’s the point of spending all this energy in a broken political system when facts simply don’t matter?

And the most depressing aspect is this: if you’ve followed my work over the years, you know I like to highlight younger political leaders. Regardless of their backgrounds or ideological stances, it’s good to have fresh eyes and new ways of thinking in politics. But lately, I see some of Iowa’s up-and-coming leaders making the exact same mistakes their older predecessors did.

Of course, we have built up something important and rather influential here at Starting Line. Making a complete break with it might be good for the mental health, but there’s a lot of potential still here. And I unfortunately think that operations like Starting Line could be a big part of the solution to today’s news/disinformation problem in politics.

2. Sell It/Partner With National News Organization

We have quite the property here with Starting Line. I try (and often fail) to explain this to Iowa donors, but Starting Line’s influence and national reach with our social media feeds and behind-the-scenes relationships is immense. Nearly every national political reporter follows us. Any time I see an interesting tweet from a national policy leader, elected official, well-known activist or opinion writer, I find that they’re already following us.

For any national news outlet or organization who wanted to make a big jump into Iowa political reporting, purchasing the Starting Line outlet or doing a partnership with us could make a lot of sense.

Like it or not, Iowa always finds its way into the middle of national politics. The Republican presidential primary will likely still start here regardless of what happens with Democrats’ caucus. The campaigns for the Senate seat and governorship here in 2022 will be important. Starting Line could retain its left-leaning bent or just go straight analytical as it covers all of this for a larger organization.

3. Stay The Course

While I’m extremely frustrated by 2020 and the lack of change afterwards in everything, I’m also hesitant to just throw out our current model. I’ve always tried to keep our focus narrow with Starting Line so that we could be really good at one thing — this wasn’t ever supposed to revolutionize journalism as we know it or single-handedly change Iowa politics. And we have really excelled at what we do — go back and check our accomplishments post in case you missed it.

But if we’re only playing a role in a larger broken political system, how effective is it? A big part of our success is in influencing the broader Iowa politics conversation and how the media covers certain topics, but if voters aren’t paying attention to those outlets, what can we accomplish?

Still, I also wonder if this could end up as a situation of “you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone” if we move away from this model. This past year, Republicans did a far better job at pushing their oppo research on Democrats out to friendly outlets like the Free Beacon, Breitbart, Daily Caller, Fox News and even the Epoch Times. They produced countless stories damaging to Iowa candidates, but it had a limited effect coming from national outlets.

If that continues unchecked, however, we could end up in a situation where right-wing outlets funded by billionaires produce the majority of content on key Iowa races, and that could have a big impact over time.

I also know how to fund this kind of operation, which is extremely cost-efficient for what it produces and accomplishes. If I’m feeling more optimistic of where Iowa politics is going in the future, sticking with what we’re good at (while still constantly working on what we can improve, obviously), might be the smarter thing to do.

One other quick note: if we’re to continue this, I hope people actually take better advantage of what we’re producing. We’ve written countless stories that you would think campaigns would want to get in front of an audience with digital ads. There are many legislative candidates who we’ve written up profiles of that would seem to benefit from voters reading them, but instead their Facebook ads are all just replaying their TV ads. I truly don’t understand what some Democrats’ digital teams are thinking — if a problem is that there isn’t enough news about your candidate, then maybe you should boost the news that is there into people’s social media feeds.

4. Mass Readership Model

The biggest problem we have right now in American democracy is the spread of misinformation and voters getting trapped in media echo chambers where not only are their views reinforced, they also plain don’t hear about a lot of actual news that happens. How many Donald Trump voters will literally never hear of his impeachable phone call to the Georgia Secretary of State from yesterday?

Many in politics do not fully understand the role of what you could call “outsider voters,” people who are deeply distrustful of the system, don’t listen to mainstream news, and who respond strongly to any kind of anti-establishment or anti-expert messaging. Their news comes up in YouTube ads, online forums, and in their social media feed. Those are the kind of people who voted for the first time for Trump and who political ads and factual news articles simply aren’t getting to.

And it’s getting easier for people to tune out mainstream news as that news gets harder to access. Newspapers’ increasingly strict paywalls are dramatically reducing their influence in the world. If the Register has a big investigative report that’s a subscriber exclusive that only several tens of thousands of people will read at best, what’s its real impact? We know that Reynolds and other Republicans can simply ignore these things when their political base doesn’t even know about it or doesn’t believe it.

Starting Line does have a very large and rather influential audience, but it’s largely made up of people already engaged in politics. The most impactful mission we could focus on might be figuring out how to present factual information that is more engaging and trusted by people who are outside the normal political process.

ACRONYM attempted this by establishing local online progressive news outlets and pushing their and others’ content out through social media ads, which had some fascinating successes and setbacks.

I also have a theory that might be fun to test out: if you make regular news items sound mysterious, they might resonate more with those who distrust the system. I mean, there are legit, real-life, true conspiracies being perpetrated on Iowans all the damn time — powerful, wealthy interests working with corrupt or complicit politicians to enrich themselves and screw over working-class people. And yet, the way the news and political campaigns present these facts somehow get dismissed by voters who at the same time believe wild Q-Anon theories about every elected official being involved in a child sex trafficking ring.

Anyway, this approach would require a significant retooling of how we write and who our audience is, which would abandon some of the advantages we’ve built up over six years. And this idea also veers very close to my concern of trying to do too much — can one news outlet with a small or one-person staff fundamentally change how a significant number of Iowans get their news? I’m not so sure, but it might be worth it to try.

5. Investigative News

Perhaps what I would personally enjoy most is doing a one-man investigative site, spending days and weeks at a time digging into stories no one else is and uncovering what I can discover. Don’t worry about website traffic, just break stories that people can’t ignore. There’s many little unsolved threads from Iowa’s COVID pandemic that we didn’t have enough time to chase down even with a full staff.

But, as discussed above, how much impact would it have if so many people can just ignore it or would never see it through our site or even mainstream news outlets? I’m also less sure how to fund this approach.

6. YOLO It

I am not happy with how Democratic campaigns are run in this state. I am not happy with how nothing ever changes cycle to cycle.

Throughout this past year, I expressed my concerns and suggestions to friends who work on campaigns privately. Sometimes it has an effect, sometimes it doesn’t. My own personal preference is to not put people on public blast on decisions that have already been made, where your criticism isn’t going to change anything — I personally see that as performative, but to each their own. People also simply cannot handle public constructive criticism in any manner, and I cannot single-handedly change human behavior on that front.

However, the number of bad strategies that get repeated year in and year out is just ridiculous, and I may have finally hit my breaking point. There are many individual bad actors in Iowa politics that need to get called out and see their influence reduced or removed, and I certainly know who those people are.

The problem is, would it actually change anything? The power of self-interest in literally everything is strong, and doing a one-man crusade against it, as good as it may feel to do, could go nowhere. And I certainly don’t see other folks making sacrifices, so why should I?

Thanks For Your Readership

As always, I’ll end with a very big thank you to our readers and supporters over the year. Continuing to write and operate just for our many loyal fans is very nearly worth it alone. But we do have some decisions to make.

While we likely won’t get back to regular publishing for a month or two (if we do at all), I’ll probably write stories every now and then or post some guest pieces. With this overly-long piece out of the way, it may be easier to write up some of the many, many ideas I’ve had since the election that I simply haven’t had the energy to do.

 

by Pat Rynard
Posted 1/4/21

Iowa Starting Line is an independently owned progressive news outlet devoted to providing unique, insightful coverage on Iowa news and politics. We need reader support to continue operating — please donate here. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for more coverage.

38 Comments on "Starting Line On Hiatus As We Consider Future"

  • Oh, Pat! I want to thank you for all you have done. Thanks to you, Bleeding Heartland and the new digital news sources coming online I feel I can stay connected to my roots from wherever I am.
    You’ve done us all a great service.
    You need a good rest. Keep us posted.
    Julie

  • Regardless of how you move forward, please know that your work has been greatly appreciated. As a relative newcomer to the state, your reports have been timely and informative. Good luck with the decision making process.

  • I am as frustrated as you about the awful condition of our state,and our fellow Iowan’s inexplicable acceptance of it.Whatever direction you take Iowa Starting Line-I will be there!

  • Thanks for your excellent work. I know it’s exhausting and frustrating. I am one of your many, many fans. Be well, Ann

  • This posting in excellent!
    Thanks, from an Iowa voter, living in Europe and very active in helping overseas Democrats vote.

  • Hate to see you throw in the towel. Understand and completely associate with the frustration. Been a Democratic clerk in the Iowa Legislature for 8 years and the descent into incompetent GOP governance is mind boggling. If we didn’t have family here, we would leave. But the “loyal opposition” needs to stay the course. We need your voice and skills.

  • Dear Pat – I thank you greatly for all the energy, attention, love, enthusiasm, and desire to uphold democracy I sense has driven you and Starting Line. I’ve read and learned from many articles and have definitely appreciated the content and subsequent ponderings.

    I look forward to hearing the decision/s you make as ’21 unfolds. For now, thank you and to all who have contributed to The Starting Line these six years.

    Take care and be well.

    Kim
    Atlantic, Iowa

  • Pat – Thanks for laying it on the line. I sure feel your frustration. Unless we in this party are willing to try new ideas, given what we’ve been doing has had disastrous outcomes, we’re doomed to continue losing. Your voice would surely be missed. There are not many Democratic voices in Iowa media and yours would be a huge loss. That said, you have to place your and your family’s well-being at the top of your priorities list. You are great at what you do, but there are other ways to continue to fight for progressive ideals. We all need to be “happy warriors” per HHH, with an emphasis on “happy”!

  • Thank you for each word written, each minute put toward bringing Iowans good reporting, and deep dedication. Fear not, there are some of us Iowans left who care deeply about what is right and just. The time is always right to fight against injustice, a very, very wise and influential human said. Fight on, in whatever way you are able with no apologies.

  • Thank you for expressing my feelings throughout! I live in NW Iowa and looking at the past county vote records, 3 out of 4 voters voted for Trump. The same number voted down the line for his enablers. I am bewildered by those clinging to their religion and yet supporting such democracy destruction.

  • Starting Line has been an invaluable source for years. I understand the need to change, especially after a decade of disappointing public policy in iowa that seems impervious to the results of investigative journalism. Iowa — and much of the Midwest — still needs reporters and policymakers who can shine light on the problems iowa is facing and what political leaders can do to confront these challenges. If you see a different path for democratic campaigns in 2022, I hope you will find a way to join an effort that can bring those better campaigns to voters. Otherwise, I hope you will focus on investigative reporting, as those articles often have the benefit of alleviating the worst consequences of bad policies in iowa even if they don’t lead to a broader change in leadership that the situation needs.

  • Thank you, Pat, for everything you do. Whatever your decision, please let us know how to find your writing moving forward. You are a bright light!

  • Maybe I missed it, but one approach I did not see puts you in the role of editor working with a company of stringers. You curate issues identified by your “reporters,” make assignments, edit for publication what gets submitted. Each stringer may also be a fundraiser for the total operation. I don’t know exactly how the fundraising might work. More exploration needed.

  • Pat, thank you so much for all your hard work and good reporting. I appreciate your perspective on going forward and hope you will choose the course that you have the most passion for. From my perspective, the Democratic party needs a complete retooling and the bad actors need to be called out.

    A big fan of Starting Line,

    Kay Riley

  • I certainly do understand your frustration, Pat. What recent elections seem to indicate is that many Iowa voters are Lemmings, willing to jump over any cliff their Republican masters point to. So they don’t pay attention to new information. Maybe we could use some hard-core investigative reporting, some muckraking, if you will, targeting the worst of our incompetent leaders. Be more offensive, and eventually the DSM Register and other MSM might pick up your stories. But meanwhile, take a rest. You have deserved it.

  • I found the Starting Line late, and haven’t had any interactions with you, so not sure if my opinion is worth much. 1st off, yeah, take a break. 2020 was brutal for a myriad of reasons, the election disappointments are just one.

    If you decide to come back or restart, I think it would be good for Iowa. I don’t have any answers on the hows and whats, etc., but more local independent journalism is never a bad thing. My thinking is a partnership with ACRONYM would not be ideal, mainly because they are viewed by some as a “Left-wing Fox News”. But if that’s the only way, then that’s the only way.

    I’m sure you have heard of the Texas Tribune. They have had some success existing with the non-profit format. In addition to wealthy folks practicing philanthropy, they have found a way to get regular contributions from “Main Street” folks. Also, they received funding from the Knight Foundation.

    I am almost 100% sure that you know all of that, but that was all I had as far as advice. Hopefully, you will find a way to restart after a “mental” rest from all of this.

    Now while it’s not close to being the same thing, after working 20+ years in IT Security/Audit/GRC, I know a little bit about working in a thankless job, being constantly underfunded, having to give bad news to people who don’t want to hear it, and generally being a whipping boy. Lot’s of fun, huh?

    OK, just want to wish you luck in the future!

    PS, if I win the Power Ball, I’ll have my people call your people 😉

  • As an former Iowan now in CA, I have appreciated your reporting. However, I always felt a bit frustrated by your definition of politics to be almost completely electoral politics and the doings of officeholders and their electoral challengers. I might suggest as a way for a reformulated ISL to operate would be to focus more on the non-electoral political and social struggles in Iowa. It is my own conviction as a historian, teacher and organizer/activist that (as Bernie said often) change comers from the bottom,not the top and the laws and governmental actions follow the pressures of the movements and organizations below. Perhaps you could look at the possibility of partnering with progressive groups (ICCI, unions, worker centers, DSA chapters, OR chapters, BLM groups, immigrant rights groups, progressive faith groups, etc.) for support and a bigger mass base which could then be an alternative to depending on national money which is predicated upon Iowa’s unique position in national presidential politics due to the early caucuses. Just my 2 scents, of course.

  • Pat
    Thank you for your insight and honesty. I have always enjoyed and learned from your reporting. I certainly don’t have the answers but hope you get needed rest and distance for a bit. I’m wishing you well
    !

  • I get and understand you and all you have written. I agree.
    Yes, take a break and be kind to yourself. You need care and to be cared for.
    And know that people care and are immensely grateful for what you have been writing and posting.
    My mom always said “It is darkest before the storm” and “after the rain, comes the rainbow”.
    So I hope the “rainbow” shines forth to you and you get a second wind.
    You are providing a service, a respite of good information, of thoughtful and insightful articles that we can rely on, think on, and see the “naked empowers” that are out there.
    Be well. Rest well. Then continue on in a way that you can be comfortable with.
    Bless you.

  • Thank you for all you have done to promote Democratic values in Iowa. Some of the things you said about Democrats in Iowa and the outlook for us are discouraging. I agree that the Iowa Democratic party needs to make changes and that there are many people in Iowa who need to wake up and vote for their own best interests.

  • I began following IOWA STARTING LINE over the last two years, and have been very impressed by your work. This post is so eloquent. I hope the break you’ve taken so far has helped a little, and that you’ll be able to continue the break for as long as you need.

    There hasn’t been a single day since the election when I haven’t wondered why so many Iowans don’t know, don’t care, or both. It is so frustrating to see so much good journalism being ignored by so many.

    I don’t feel qualified to weigh in on what future direction would be best. All the options you’ve described seem reasonable to consider. After your eighteen years of hard work, I hope you will be able to choose the option that works best and is most fulfilling for you personally.

  • I’m very sorry to hear that Starting Line’s hiatus will continue, perhaps permanently, but I certainly understand you need to do what’s right for you after doing so much for so long.

    There are a lot of insightful things to digest here, but one of my first thoughts is on your point #6 regarding campaign strategy: I think it would be very helpful to share your thoughts further on what’s not working, even if only in broad strokes. I think you would definitely get support from others who also want to help make change in how things are done.

  • Pat, we are so thankful for your service to Iowa for that’s what it’s been these last 18 years. From the comments above, you can see are are so well-regarded and so important to us. But I understand the “burned out” feeling. After all the thought and effort you put into Starting Line, Iowa continues to drift to the right. (If people will believe QAnon, they may well believe anything. By the way folks, google QAnon. A guy who started a porn hub on the internet accuses Democrats of being pedophiles!!!???) Personally, I think it’s conservative radio which people can listen to while doing chores, housework, driving in a car (or tractor!), etc. Through all the lies and misinformation we are slowly edging away from Democratic norms into oligarchy.

    Perhaps, if it’s your “thing”, you could write more about political ideas and less about electoral politics. Gerrymandering should be outlawed – it is taxation without representation for members of the party that’s on the outs. We need term limits. No one should be able to give vast sums of money to any candidate or political party or any organization supporting either one. Frankly, I’m thinking we need a whole new political system – parliamentary style. But I don’t have the energy to fight that battle.

    Be well. Take a rest. Do what you need to do. And know how much we have appreciated your bringing Starting Line to us.

  • After living in Iowa 35+ years, I only found my way to your wonderful site in late October, just before the election. I totally understand your frustration and need for some r & r before you decide what you’ll do. But don’t underestimate the good you have done: finding new voices like yours is exciting, helps the rest of us stay sane(r) and gives us new info & perspectives. Thank you!

  • I’ve probably been a mostly passive reader, but I have read all of your posts through these last stressful years, and without them I would have felt uninformed about so many things I wanted or needed to know. You have also helped keep up a sense of solidarity, which is otherwise hard to feel when we are geographically scattered and, as you point out, don’t seem to win that often. Iowa is our home for better and alas, worse–we can’t give up. I do think that without investigative journalism, unheeded as it often is, our world would be a much worse place, because chipping away at corruption eventually affects how people think and act, even though one can’t always draw a one to one correlation. And then, of course, humans were born to resist. Whatever you decide, thanks for your heroic efforts in the past, and I wish you all the best.

  • Please don’t give up. I’m new to Iowa but you have been an amazing political resource since I moved here. I don’t usually interact, but I get every post you make and read every article. Your right Iowa Democrats don’t want to change. They want to do it the way it’s always been done. It doesn’t work. But there is a new model that’s being shown to work, Stacey Abrams, AOC, Ilihan Omar, are showing us the way. We need a voice like yours to light a fire under the Iowa Democratic parties ass. I love the idea of investigative reporting, but I think a number of your ideas on how to move forward are great. Just don’t give up. What you are doing is reaching people

  • Pat,
    Iowa Starting Line has been such a resource, particularly to us Iowans who aren’t Des Moines-based. I don’t have an easy answer for you, but I hope we still get to hear your voice and read your reporting in the future. Best of luck!

  • When your tent becomes so big and candidates repeatedly promise fringe issues and minority groups that their concerns will be addressed ahead of the average work-a-day voters and independent voters instead of addressing what affects WE THE PEOPLE as a WHOLE . This is why folks ether don’t vote or vote for the republicans . ” A rising tide lifts all boats ” something democrats have abandoned in their attempt be something for to many fringes and not accomplishing anything for the whole !

  • Nothing smart to add other than just thank you. Pat thank you for all you and your team have done across the years. Your work has been invaluable and appreciated by so many. First met you back in 2017 around fair time and your courtesy and professionalism was much appreciated.

  • Pat, thank you again. I wanted to share this, written by a friend who lives in one of the reddest rural counties in the state.

    “I hope he doesn’t throw in the towel. The real value is in helping keep those of us living in the deep red hinterlands from giving up.”

  • Politics can be exhausting and living in Iowa surrounded by rural counties that consistently vote red is frustrating. I hope that some time away will allow you to recharge and find the avenue that works well with your interest and commitment. As a Democrat, I have been dismayed by the bench building that the Republican seem to bed good at. Senator Grassley is up for election in 2022 when he will be 90 years old. He is a formidable candidate because of his longevity and power in the Senate. Looking ahead, I am wondering who will be the Democrat to rise to challenge Sen. Grassley? Should he decide not to run, I am imagining a scenario where Pat Grassley, the Speaker of the Iowa House, will be put forward to maintain the “Grassley Seat” in the Senate. Senators enjoy 6 year terms and incumbents have a difficult task to unseat them. Our “Dean” among the Democratic Representatives in Congress is Cindy Axne, who is beginning her second term. What is the strategizing to secure competitive candidates at all levels of government to break the Republican hold on state and national offices?

  • Dang I just found your publication last year. I was shocked, actually, that there was a left-leaning publication at all in this ridiculously and embarrassingly red state. 2020 was a metaphorical gateway year for those of us who recognized it as such – I sincerely hope you find your true path in 2021 and beyond.

  • Why not an annual funding appeal? Digby does it every year, as do LGM, Naked Capitalism, Emptywheel, and many others. If ISL has been doing it, I do not remember.
    Option 1: If you want to affect votes, look to where votes come from and help those institutions. That’s what I got from reading Democracy for Realists. Those writers downplay elections as not good for much except orderly personnel changes.
    Option 3: It takes time to become recognized. You may be giving up too soon. And eventually news reports matter, collectively more than individually. It takes a long time to shift public opinion. See the suffragettes or the abolitionists, etc.
    Option 5: Do what you love. Why not?
    Option 6: I can’t wait to read these stories.

  • I fully understand your frustration, Pat. And I think you are due for a “vacation”. But what you have done here, as you well know, is very important in this age of misinformation. Unfortunately, people tend to, more and more lately, only read and listen to things they want to see and hear. But we can’t afford to let those who profit off misinformation win. We still need, now more than ever, the truth. How that can be delivered affectively and reach more eyes and ears… I have no answer. But I’m guessing social media, as unreliable as it is as a source of truthful information, will probably have to be a part of the solution. We exist in unsettling times right now. But I have faith that, as we moved on from the ’60s, we will move on from here and sanity will eventually prevail. I just hope that you and Starting Line are a part of that. You have my full support in whatever direction you go.

  • Pat, I can’t tell you how much it has meant to me to see you cover Iowa stories that are important and no one else takes the time to. Seeing how Stacey Abrams has helped change Georgia for the better, I am hoping people like you with your tenacity and wit can remind Iowans that we really do need a government that works for everyone, and not just the wealthy who no longer care about our schools, roads, rural hospitals, rural development, public health, mental health…I could go on and on, which is why we need voices like yours. I hope you take a much-deserved break to explore other options to for Iowa Starting Line. Georgia reminds me there is a way to wake Iowans up and improve our state so we don’t continue to hallow it our for the special interests.

  • As an old school Democrat my views are much more moderate and mainstream than what is typically printed here. With that said as a senior citizen who rarely leaves home I have been very grateful for your top notch reporting of the Iowa Caucus and politics.

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