The Dystopian Fever Dream of President Trump Becomes a Reality

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Last night, America’s worst impulses, embodied by a bigoted, bloviating reality TV star who stoked racial and anti-immigrant paranoia, won the endorsements of scores of white supremacists, and once bragged about grabbing women “by the pussy,” triumphed over a deeply unpopular establishment candidate on a campaign of lies with few coherent policy proposals that defied all conventional expectations.

Nationally, Republicans now control all three branches of government. The same is now true in Iowa, where the Senate’s slim Democratic majority was previously the only safeguard against legislation including efforts to overturn residents’ same-sex marriage rights, restrict women’s reproductive rights, and disassemble collective bargaining rights.

Complicit in Trump’s victory were Gov. Terry Branstad, whose son served as Trump’s state campaign director; Sen. Chuck Grassley, who has cynically prevented President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee from even being considered in hopes of a Trump victory; Sen. Joni Ernst, who has spoken out against sexual assault in the military yet endorsed a candidate accused of sexual harassment or assault by a dozen women; Bruce Rastetter, the corrupt overseer of higher education in Iowa who is reportedly on Trump’s shortlist for secretary of agriculture; Congressman Steve King, an open white nationalist; and many other Republicans in the state who were often too cowardly to even criticize a candidate so unhinged that his own campaign staffers wrested control of his Twitter account in the final days of his campaign.

The implications of Trump’s unprecedented upset are anyone’s to predict, but could cause profound and long-lasting damage to American democracy. His victory was cheered by Russia’s autocratic leader, Vladimir Putin, who was happy to exploit foreign policy tensions by proxy of a candidate who repeatedly lied about opposing the Iraq war and possesses a dangerously cavalier attitude about nuclear weapons. Trump’s open misogyny, coupled with the allegations of sexual misconduct against him, have reopened old wounds of women who have been victims of rape. His frequent verbal assaults against journalists betray the most basic tenets enshrined in the First Amendment. Before the election, minority students at Iowa State University, a school run by a Rastetter confederate who has given little more than lip service to its many diversity problems, expressed their fears of post-election racist reprisals days after Latina students were harassed at a Campustown pizza joint by chants of “Build the wall.” That hardly scratches the surface of Trump’s offenses.

Election results were more mixed in Story County’s contested races. Democrat Kim Weaver won more votes than King, her racist opponent, in an otherwise uncompetitive race. Democratic Reps. Lisa Heddens and Beth Wessel-Kroeschell predictably coasted to re-election once again, with Libertarian Eric Cooper taking an impressive 8 percent of the vote running an advocacy campaign against the latter candidate. Bakken pipeline opponent Keith Puntenney was easily defeated by Boone Republican Sen. Jerry Behn in a district that spills over into part of the county. Linda Murken, another pipeline foe, was defeated by Martin Chitty, a climate denier funded by Rastetter allies, in her race for the county Board of Supervisors, but transparency advocate Lauris Olson prevailed in her contest to shake up the board’s longstanding old boy’s club.

Elsewhere, marijuana was legalized in four states, sweet relief for the hangover of Tuesday’s shocking result.

The dystopian reality of a president-elect Trump is the starkest of contrasts from Barack Obama, a president whose birthplace Trump racistly denied yet whose trademark dignity allowed him to swallow his disappointment and say of the GOP’s disgraceful nominee, who at the final presidential debate suggested he would not accept the results of the election if Clinton were to win and later spread false rumors that the election would be rigged, “We are now all rooting for his success in uniting and leading the country.”

This is a dark time for Iowa and the nation, but be assured that journalists will not bow to the unconstitutional, anti-press aggressions of the Branstad-approved president-elect. The Fourth Estate is needed more now than ever, perhaps, in recent American history, and it will help the country’s better sensibilities to eventually prevail, God willing.

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Gavin Aronsen is an editor and reporter for and founding member of the Iowa Informer. He previously worked as a city reporter for the Ames Tribune, research assistant to investigative journalist Wayne Barrett at the Village Voice, and in various roles at Mother Jones, where his work contributed to a National Magazine Award nomination for the magazine's digital media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Email: garonsen [at] iowainformer [dot] com.