Dear Clayton County Democrats,

Today, June 27,2018 was a terrible day. In fact, I am as disheartened today as I was in November 2016. Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement from the Supreme Court effective July 31, handing President Trump a second Supreme Court nomination, of which Sen. McConnell said will be confirmed this fall. Kennedy represented to many a center of the road approach to judicial review, a crucial swing vote the power of which I’m sure he relished. But looking back at the decisions he’s joined this session, including stripping union rights and empowering people who lie about abortion access, as well as casting his vote to essentially elect President George W. Bush in 2000, Kennedy was never the savior we wanted him to be.

He’s remembered fondly by many on the left for his groundbreaking opinions granting marriage rights to gays and lesbians throughout the country and upholding non-discrimination ordinances, but this has been the lone bright light in an otherwise parallel career to Scalia or Roberts or Thomas. He was always hostile to union rights, to a woman’s right to choose, to any curbing of corporate power. He took part in the continuous gutting of the Voting Rights Act and, though he voiced concern, did little to preserve the privacy of everyday Americans. In brief, he was never our guy. Who ever the President nominates will vote exactly as Kennedy has done with few a few notable exceptions.

So where does it leave us as Democrats? Almost exactly where we were before Kennedy announced his retirement: almost completely out of power, but now without our supposed moderate hero on the highest court. There is nothing we can do electorally to stop the nomination of a new justice. Republicans are in power and will confirm a new judge before the fall elections. But what we can do is to work as hard as we can to flip the house to Democratic control. Once Democrats take power in the House, they will chair all of the committees and have all the investigative powers endowed in those chairpersonships. The daily bouquet of conflicts of interest and scandals from Trump and his cabinet will be subject to close scrutiny for the first time. The Senate is a much bigger lift, but anything that we can do to hold our seats is vital.

It’s a Washington truism that the courts are the final check on executive and legislative power. And for federal matters like immigration, it is often true. But the true check on the power of the federal government lies in the states themselves. All powers not vested to the federal government by the Constitution are retained by the states. States’ rights. Often it is the go-to argument of those seeking to enshrine the worst kind of prejudices and mean ideals: pro-slavery, pro-Jim Crow, pro-discrimination. What it really means is that states can control what goes on within their own borders. Before Roe v. Wade granted access to abortions throughout the country, abortion rights were a state by state issue. Even if Roe v. Wade was overturned, unless abortion is specifically outlawed in that decision, which would fly in the face of decades of precedent and would be legislating from the bench–a most egregious form of judicial overreach that I can’t imagine the sometimes sensible Chief Justice John Roberts would be able to stomach, individual states would be able to determine what access they would allow. The same would be true for gay rights, for union rights, for determining how voting districts are drawn.

So what does all that mean? It means that the most important elections are not the flashy federal elections that spend all the billions of dollars, it’s state and local elections. If we elect a Democratic Iowa House and Senate along with Fred Hubbell as governor, they can repeal the restriction to union rights and abortion access that the Republicans passed these last two years. They can get us out of the horrendous Medicaid privatization scam that has been a travesty from the start. They can undo the restrictive voter ID law. By re-electing Attorney General Tom Miller, he can continue to fight in federal court unfair and unconstitutional actions and laws made by the federal government. By electing Democrats as county supervisors, we can make sure our natural resources are protected and not sacrificed to the needs and whims of big-agriculture and oil companies.

In Clayton County, which is part of House Districts 55 & 56, we have two great candidates running for the state house. Kayla Koether and Lori Egan are both strong candidates who have been hitting the pavement since last year to get their message out to voters in Northeast Iowa. On the county level, Joleen Jansen and Richard Dinan are running for county supervisors to break the stranglehold Republicans have had on the board. None of these candidates can do it on their own. We need volunteers at all levels of the campaigns. We need people to make phone calls, to knock on doors, to march in parades, to write letters to the editor, to drive people to the polls, to register voters, to spread the word through social media, to help organize candidate events, to raise money for mailers and advertising.

If you are in Clayton County and want to get involved, reply to this email or contact us on or on our Facebook page. We will be marching in four parades in July–join us! If you are not in Clayton County, contact your local Democratic Central Committee. Or call the Iowa Democratic Party at 515-244-7292, and they’ll point you in the right direction. Even if you don’t know what you can do, even if you don’t know if you’ll have time, get your name on the list so we have a strong list of motivated Democrats to turn to.

We as citizens of Clayton County, and of Iowa’s First Congressional District, do not have the power to change any of Trump’s policies on our own. Our representative is but one voice in a chamber of 435. But by voting in a solid Democratic block into state and local governments, our voice will be strong and act as a counterbalance to all the terrible policies ushered in by Gov. Reynolds and the Republican leadership.

THIS IS A CALL TO ACTION! We cannot be bystanders in 2018. We must elect Democratic leadership into the governor’s office. We must regain control of the state house. We must return sanity to our body politic. We cannot let hopelessness and infighting and being too busy and being too tired and being too frustrated keep us from rising up and saying, “This is not who we are as Americans, and we will be bystanders no longer!”

Brian Bruening
Clayton County Democrats

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