Dear Senator Ernst:
Congratulations on your victory. I did not vote for you, and do not expect to vote for you in 2020, but the people of Iowa chose you and that's what democracy is about. I wish you well in your term and hope for a few occasions where you can put Iowa ahead of partisanship.
Democracy is also about serving all the people, not just your supporters, and it's with that in mind that I want to discuss your other service, in the National Guard.
You've said you'll decide in the spring whether or not to retire from the National Guard, which you are eligible to do. Your military service was central to the public persona that, more than actual positions on issues, helped you win. You are to be thanked for that service, along with millions of other service people less prominent than you, though it should not make you immune from other criticism.
Serving in public office is also serving your country.You missed some votes in the legislature for Guard duty. You missed more votes campaigning than on duty, but the Guard duty blurred that distinction.
Ironically, despite missing those votes, one of your most effective messages was attacking your opponent for missing meetings, Veterans Affairs committee meetings. The charge - Bruce Braley doesn't care about veterans - was easier to grasp than the reality - ALL meetings of ALL committees are poorly attended and overlap with other meetings and duties. You know that just from your four years in Des Moines and it's true squared in DC, but that reality was impossible to explain in an ad.
But having made that attack, fair or not, you now have an extra obligation to show up.
Your continued personal military service at this point is largely symbolic, more about maintaining that public persona than about actually defending the country. You have a new role in public service, a different role in defending the country.
You'll be on the Armed Services Committee and the Homeland Security Committee (along with Agriculture and Small Business). The best thing you can do for the country is to be at those meetings, and to be on the floor casting votes to represent us three million Iowans. Yes, even though those votes will mostly be the opposite of what I want.
Remember - that's the standard you set for your opponent. And even if you hadn't made those attacks, that's the role you sought and earned.
Symbolically staying "close to the troops" by staying in the National Guard is not going to work. Uniform or no, you are never ever again going to be seen as Lt. Col. Ernst. You're SENATOR Ernst.
And Senator, it's time to retire from the National Guard.