It's a symbol

Bruce Lear reflects on the federal government shutdown, drawing on 30-plus years of experience negotiating educator contracts. -promoted by Laura Belin

For some, symbols are more important than solutions. Sound bites outrank substance, and winning will trump a wall any day.

This fight isn’t about a wall. It’s about a symbol to gin a gullible base. In President Donald Trump’s mind, it’s win-win. If he doesn’t get his wall, he has the symbol of the wall. If he does, he can brag, “Look at that big beautiful wall I built for you.” It’s a narcissist’s dream. It’s the public’s nightmare.

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History made in U.S. House: How the Iowans voted

Democratic Representatives Abby Finkenauer (IA-01) and Cindy Axne (IA-03) joined a long list of “firsts” when they were sworn in on January 3. Iowa had never elected a woman to the U.S. House before 2018, but now women make up half of our state’s delegation. The “most diverse Congress in history” includes record numbers of women and members of religious, racial, ethnic, or LGBTQ groups that have not previously represented their states in Washington. Finkenauer also became the second-youngest woman to serve in Congress, after Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.

The first votes in the 116th Congress involved some drama within the Democratic caucus, but Iowans did not rock the boat.

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The 18 most-viewed Bleeding Heartland posts of 2018

Sometimes I feel nostalgic for my “past life” covering Russian politics. Social media didn’t exist, and my colleagues and I had no information about which articles most interested our readers. Potential for clicks or shares didn’t factor into our story selection. We wrote up what seemed important to us.

On any given day, a half-dozen or more newsworthy Iowa politics stories present themselves, but I only have the capacity to cover one or two. I look for ways to add value: can I highlight events not covered elsewhere? Can I offer a different perspective or more context on the story everyone’s talking about?

Although chasing traffic will never be my primary goal, doing this for more than a decade has given me a decent sense of which topics will strike a chord with readers. But you never really know. Just like last year and the year before that, surprises lurked in the traffic numbers on Bleeding Heartland posts published during 2018 (353 written by me, 202 by other authors).

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Recognizing Bleeding Heartland's talented 2018 guest authors

The Bleeding Heartland community lost a valued voice this year when Johnson County Supervisor Kurt Friese passed away in October. As Mike Carberry noted in his obituary for his good friend, Kurt had a tremendous amount on his plate, and I was grateful whenever he found time to share his commentaries in this space. His final post here was a thought-provoking look at his own upbringing and past intimate relationships in light of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations against Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

Friese was among more than 100 guest authors who produced 202 Bleeding Heartland posts during 2018, shattering the previous record of 164 posts by 83 writers in 2017. I’m thankful for every piece and have linked to them all below.

You will find scoops grounded in original research, commentary about major news events, personal reflections on events from many years ago, and stories in photographs or cartoons. Some posts were short, while others developed an argument over thousands of words. Pieces by Allison Engel, Randy Richardson, Tyler Higgs, and Matt Chapman were among the most-viewed at the site this year. In the full list, I’ve noted other posts that were especially popular.

Please get in touch if you would like to write about any political topic of local, statewide, or national importance during 2019. If you do not already have a Bleeding Heartland account, I can set one up for you and explain the process. There is no standard format or word limit. I copy-edit for clarity but don’t micromanage how authors express themselves. Although most authors write under their real names, pseudonyms are allowed here and may be advisable for those writing about sensitive topics or whose day job does not permit expressing political views. I ask authors to disclose potential conflicts of interest, such as being are a paid staffer, consultant, or lobbyist promoting any candidate or policy they discuss here.

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Buena Vista County part of DOJ's voter intimidation stunt

Buena Vista County in northwest Iowa is among 35 localities where U.S. Department of Justice personnel will “monitor compliance with the federal voting rights laws” on November 6, the Justice Department revealed this morning. Attorney General Jeff Sessions warned, “fraud in the voting process will not be tolerated. Fraud also corrupts the integrity of the ballot.”

There is no documented incident of voter fraud in Buena Vista County, just one “accident involving human error” in 2016. So why would the DOJ single out this area for scrutiny?

Like the other jurisdictions the DOJ is targeting, Buena Vista has a large non-white population. Voting rights advocates saw Sessions’ announcement as an effort to intimidate eligible voters.

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Vacuum up the monsters

There are monsters under the bed. And they are coming for us.

They are coming for our hard-earned savings. They are coming for our property. They are coming for our children. They are coming for our way of life.

This is the agenda that the right has been pushing on Americans for the last 30 or so years. And it is working for the same reason my twins, when they were toddlers, were afraid that monsters lurked under their beds.

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