As we count down the hours until the end of this much maligned year of 2016, many are eager to forget all the awful memories from a such a volatile, nasty year. As for writers like myself, the end of a year comes with regrets about planned stories not written and projects never completed. I have notepads filled with story ideas that I just plain ran out of time to finish.
But one abandoned post in particular sticks out, not one that was cut due to lack of time, but by a change in circumstance. I had planned on writing a personal reflection on Hillary Clinton’s victory a few days after the election, both from the perspective of someone who worked on her first campaign and as a new father of a daughter who might one day look up to her. As with some of my story ideas, I pre-write part of it when a good line or two pops into my head, as I did with this one that’s still sitting in my drafts folder:
“My daughter Julia was born in the year that gay marriage was legalized in the United States, and will turn one year old two weeks after the country elected its first female president. I can’t even begin to imagine what American society will look like, or what opportunities will be available to her by the time she has a child of her own.”
Of course, that reality did not come to pass. And it’s not like a country with a second Clinton presidency wouldn’t have had its problems as well, but to be born into a time when societal equality was sprinting ahead would have been exciting, indeed.
But instead, she’s going to grow up in a world where harassing and belittling women is no impediment to becoming the most powerful man on the planet. A world where scapegoating minorities and inflaming racial tensions is used as a political cudgel. A world where a sense of unearned privilege among well-off people excuses all manner of awful behavior, from bullying to hate speech.
And that’s just the cultural and societal impacts. The real tangible policy consequences of Republican power have already been felt, only to get worse now that they hold full control at the state and national level.
Thanks to the votes of Republicans like my own legislator, Peter Cownie, to underfund Iowa’s public schools for years, the West Des Moines school district cut its three-year-old pre-school program for this upcoming year. I’d be surprised if after these next two GOP-run legislative sessions there’s any public pre-school left. Which means our daughter will either miss out on two years of early education – when the brain is developing the most – or we’ll have to find a way to come up with many extra thousands of dollars a year for a private school.
That’s part of the reason I was amused by the new trend for white liberals immediately after Donald Trump’s election to say things like, “Well, I’ll be okay, but I’m really worried about you.” There are certainly populations within the United States that will fare much worse off under Trump than others, but to think that anyone’s getting through the next four years unscathed is silly.
Politics is personal. It’s important for everyone to realize what’s truly at stake in their life based on which party is in power at their statehouse and in Congress.
In Iowa I’m not sure everyone has really come to terms yet with just how drastically the Republican majorities are going to change Iowa laws and culture. Things are about to go from bad to downright unrecognizable. Our state, known by many for its impressive history of social progressivism, strong public schools and relatively balanced, informed and respectful political climate, may look nothing like it once did after just two years of complete Republican control. Iowa could turn into another ultra-conservative experiment like Kansas, or become a land of scorched-earth partisan politics like Wisconsin, where family members can’t even speak with one another any more.
And many of the changes to school funding, water quality rules, collective bargaining and healthcare administration will have a direct, personal impact on you, me and most of the people in this state. We can make sure there is considerable fallout to Republicans’ actions.
The 2017 Iowa legislative session convenes in a little over a week from now. Republicans will have their way on a number of issues no matter what, but no one is going to let them change Iowa without a fight. Starting Line for one will be transitioning into more of a watchdog role next year, focusing in on uncovering the real effects of Republicans’ legislation and linking those back to the specific legislators who voted for them.
And when they make those votes, there will be consequences. Iowa has not turned into a solid red state. Many of the newly elected Republicans can get swept out of office just as easily when Iowans realize that what they campaigned on isn’t at all like how they’ll govern. Because their extreme agenda will hurt Iowa families – yours and mine.
Things didn’t turn out the way many of us would have liked in 2016, but I’m ready to go up to the Statehouse in 2017 and fight like hell.
How about you?
by Pat Rynard