Hillary or Bernie? The Audacity of Change

Hillary or Bernie? The Audacity of Change

Earlier this year, the popular liberal commentators The Young Turks discussed Obama’s ill defined but probable endorsement of Hilary Clinton, suggesting that he perhaps felt stung by the notion that Bernie’s campaign reflected his own one in 2008; for change. While his Presidency has been gratifying in many areas for liberals,  few would argue that it exactly reflected the rhetoric of that glorious, “hope-mongering” (as he once put it) campaign. Simply put, he did not break the political establishment of old. Bi-partisanship has entrenched the country into its greatest division in years. Wall Street still looms malevolently; its regulations tightened but its lesson unlearned or accounted for. Campaign finance, as Sanders would put it, is a “mess” and despite economic recovery, millions are still struggling with poverty. While these issues aren’t wholly the President’s fault, it is interesting to consider The Young Turks’ assertion, especially in light of the struggle between progressive and revolutionary rhetoric being exhibited between Hillary and Bernie.

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In a sense, Hillary truly does stand for progressivism; having championed women’s rights for years and led the effort for an ambitious if unsuccessful health care bill in 1993. There have been hiccups along the way (with her support for same-sex marriage sliding in at a convenient time) but evolution in thought and policy should naturally coincide with progressivism. Many of Clinton’s detractors have argued that she is part of the political elite; a chameleon who adapts to her environment as it changes. That’s true but is it necessarily a bad thing? For all her flaws and that hyena cackle, Clinton’s hardly rebounded and flopped her way to the top the way Mitt Romney has. Rather, she has allowed herself some leg room so that she may face the mercurial world she acknowledges Washington to be. As she said herself, she’s a progressive but one “who likes to get things done.” It worked for good old Bill when the GOP regained the Congress in 1994, could it not work again?

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On the other side of this struggle for the soul of the Democratic party is Sanders; a rogue independent, who wants to drive the party back to the Left it so long ago abandoned. At this point, his nomination seems highly unlikely but the people are nevertheless paying attention because his cause remains relevant. Can America continue to accept a rigged economy? Can America afford to see so many of its citizens unable to afford third level education in a competitive global market? Can America continue on this rightward path that began in 1980? Earlier this year, we here at the Walrus wrote a piece on the “return of the left.” This is very much the revolution Sanders and his supporters want. It’s certainly not politically viable on Capitol Hill, especially with the likes of today’s Republicans but it is a bold step, many would argue, is essential for a modern United States.

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Every now and again, the US will witness an election which changes everything; from the way its politics is conducted to the way it is perceived abroad. In 1860, it was with Lincoln. A hundred years later, it was with the election of John F. Kennedy. In 2008, it was with the first Black President (albeit for a small bit). Other elections are not so dramatic however. Eisenhower, for example, may have resolved the Korean War which dampened Truman’s appeal in the early 1950s but the course America took, economically and in terms of Cold War policy, remained very similar. In the late 1980s, George Bush Sr. faced a rapidly changing world with the fall of the Berlin Wall, but moved into it with care for the populist Reagan vision, whilst acting off of his own more reserved diplomacy. So with Bernie and Hillary, we see two different trajectories for the US; a revolution in rhetoric and a will for progressivism with respect for the past. As Bernie’s appeal continues to soar, we will likely see Hillary’s campaign continue to pay more credence to liberal principles but the revolutionary zeal for which the people beckoned in 2008 will remain in waiting.

Andrew Carolan

 

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A Contested Republican National Convention in 2016?

A Contested Republican National Convention in 2016?

It is often said that history repeats itself, and like so many platitudes, this is true most of the time. Yet, while fundamental historical tenets and axioms that govern the discipline rarely change, the context and players certainly do. Let’s apply this to the present situation that is currently facing the Republican Party in the United States and the distinct possibility of a contested Republican National Convention this summer.

The last contested convention took place in August of 1976 and pitted B-star Hollywood actor Ronald Reagan against the establishment curry favourer and incumbent, Gerald Ford. This was the first contested convention since the brokered Democratic National Convention of 1952 in which there were 6 hopefuls vying for the nominations. The 1976 card however had just two Republican runners.

As the convention got under way at Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Missouri, Ford had amassed a greater number of primary delegates than Reagan, coupled with a plurality in popular vote. This was not enough however to get him to the magic number of pledged delegates needed to secure the nomination. As the convention kicked off in the Show-Me State, Ford and Reagan went on the charm offensive.

The President was able to use his executive prerogative to lure straggling delegates to his side by offering luxuries such as: exclusive flights aboard Air Force One, gourmet dinners in the White House (that were accompanied by wanton firework displays), or executive “favours,” the cornerstone of political leverage, longevity, and legacy.

Among the many bulwarks that Reagan’s managers tried to construct in an attempt to stymie Ford’s lead, was the pursuit of Rule 16-C, which stipulated that convention rules would be changed to require any presidential candidate to name his vice-presidential choice prior to mass ballot. This backfired though when Reagan shocked the nation with liberal Senator, Richard Schweiker of Pennsylvania.

Schweiker was rated 89 percent by the liberal Americans for Democratic Action, and 47 percent by the American Conservative Union, making him an unattractive choice. The risk taken by Reagan’s staff was injurious to his ambition and the vote on Rule 16-C wasn’t passed. President Ford managed to garner the necessary momentum to rubber-stamp his name on the ballot securing 1187 votes to Reagan’s 1070.

Interestingly, Reagan was viewed as an outsider to the Republican establishment, and was disparaged by many within the party elite – akin to Trump, though lacking the profound animus that Trump garners. Reagan left an indelible mark on the 1976 convention with his humble, extemporaneous closing stump speech that was a clarion call for unity within the party in preparation for the general election. It was at this moment when the charged Republican congregation witnessed the content of the former Californian Governor’s character – there was no equivocation, he would return.

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The Republican National Convention showcasing it’s pageantry in 2012

Many commentators have, in recent weeks, teased out the potential for a contested Republican convention this summer. In fact, it has become a highly popularised suggestion as a method of stopping the rogue Trump machine that seems to be getting more vitriolic and abhorrent by the day.

The last two weeks have been telling with Trump’s loyal troops marching on, propagating his language of hate and raw xenophobia. It is the results over the next few weeks which will contribute towards a degree of certitude on whether the convention will be a formality, or a tilt-a-whirl of political jockeying. This process can be obfuscating and frustrating to unravel and navigate. The confusion that perforates the aura of the process is muddied further by the semantics of the RNC Rulebook. Indeed, some of the rules referenced through the document are contradictory.

To parse the current situation: Trump has 741 delegates, Cruz has 461, and Kasich trails with 145. If Trump can sustain the momentum throughout the duration of the primaries, he may very well hit the desired 1237 delegate count. Traditionally, if this were the case, Trump would secure the Republican presidential nomination following the first count at this year’s RNC much to the party’s chagrin. Though, it is still unclear whether he can do this. The 2016 election cycle has been unprecedented for many reasons, and it seems set to continue in a carnival style of discourse.

While Donald Trump says that he is confident of securing the nomination after the first count, he has suggested that if this doesn’t happen and a contested convention takes place, there will be rioting in Cleveland – an ominous, but predictable portend from the demagogue. It appears that the establishment wing of the Republican Party, through a series of machinations, are doing all they can to downplay the electability of the billionaire bigot.

Curly Haugland, a member of the RNC Rules Committee, stated this past week in an interview with CNBC that the power is in the hands of the delegates, not the voters. He added, “The political parties choose their nominees, not the general public, contrary to popular belief.” Is this a clumsy warning shot of animosity across Trump’s golden bow? It looks that way. This bumbling anti-democratic statement is corroborated by the RNC rulebook, which whimsically states that:

“BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That the following be and hereby are adopted as The Rules of the Republican Party, composed of the rules for the election and government of the Republican National Committee until the next national convention…”

As these rules were adopted before the 2016 election cycle, technically like-minded Republican’s could possibly interpret the phrase, “until the next convention,” to suit their agenda by altering the rules to block Trump’s path to the nomination.

Looking at this from the other candidates’ perspectives, Ted Cruz remains confident that he will showcase a strong performance in the remaining primaries reiterating on Monday to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that his was the only campaign to have bested Trump on a number of occasions. Meanwhile, John Kasich remains steadfast in the face of adversity. He reinforced this stance on CNN’s State of Union exclaiming that he is confident in his electability and that he expects the delegates to act seriously and select the right man for the job when the time comes.

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Reince Priebus could be facing a very divided RNC this coming summer

Chairman of the RNC, Reince Priebus, commented that the Republicans are “preparing for the possibility” of a convention in Cleveland. Meanwhile Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House of Representatives, has downplayed the possibility of a 2016 run for the White House if a contested convention is called. That being said, he has not openly denied this media speculated, Twitter trending, notion. Ryan’s predecessor, John Boehner endorsed the current speaker for GOP nominee this past week, though he added further that his comments were off the cuff – good save!

One thing is for sure, the phantasmagoria that is this 2016 Republican primary race is set to get even more nebulous as the convention approaches. It has become apparent that the protectorate of the GOP kernel has realised that Ted Cruz, a man who is not entirely representative of their values, is the lesser of two evils when stacked against Trump. Frankly, the marshaling of ‘establishment’ politicians, Mitt Romney, and now Jeb Bush, may have come too late.

Just like Ford in 1976, the importance of a united front is desiderata in order to mount a successful campaign against either Hilary Clinton or Bernie Sanders in the autumn. Should Trump be denied the glory in Cleveland, expect rapture. The Republican loyalists have only themselves to blame.

Matthew O’Brien

Why Won’t Obama Do Bill Maher…

Why Won’t Obama Do Bill Maher…

For many connoisseurs of US political commentary, Real Time With Bill Maher has remained a constant source of liberal principles. While its host has not always agreed with the President and his base, he has been a loyal disciple of sorts, lambasting the opposition whilst upholding the general rhetoric of the Obama administration. So why won’t Obama acknowledge this and make a guest appearance?

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“Eh… I don’t feel like it.”

To elucidate, I will first give a brief context: for Bill’s 60th birthday in January, he requested Obama appear on the show while in office, on the basis that he and his audience support the President and that he has appeared on virtually every other show (from the Colbert Report right through to Between Two Ferns). Bill Maher, during his tenure with Politically Incorrect and Real Time, has interviewed former President Carter and dabbled with stand up in the White House for Bill Clinton, but he has never bagged a sit-down chat with an in-term Commander-in-Chief.

Of course, as is the case with what seems to be every minute plea these days, a petition was set up online and over 100,000 quickly signed their names down for Obama to give a response, which arrived a week ago in the form of a vague gesture of consideration whilst expressing open admiration for the show. Although disappointed, Bill largely shrugged it off but the question nevertheless lingers as to why Obama won’t do this one show, when he’s put his name to so many others. Here are just a few, quick interlinking theories:

  • The Controversial Element: Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert were known for making critiques on their own platforms but they always kept it light hearted. Bill Maher doesn’t feel the need to do so. For example, he unreservedly warns about the threat of radical Islam and what he perceives as the innate flaws of that religion, often without pause for a snappy closer. In short, he’s not afraid to put his opinion on the line, even if it upsets some of his politically correct audience or the general public. Obama, as President, naturally has to avoid potential hazards with such divisiveness. Bad press is created for him on an hourly basis before he’s even brushed his teeth. Would it really serve him to make an appearance on a show where witty jabs at large chunks of American society are commonplace?
  • The Partisanship Element: Bill Maher has absolutely no problem with criticising the Democratic base but it’s clear nonetheless that he sides with them over the GOP. While Obama is a Democrat, presidents should overcome partisanship. Like it or not, Obama has to work for all Americans and not just the ones who support him. By appearing on this show and grating Donald Trump’s hyenas, he would, in many people’s opinions, not be acting presidential-like.
  • He’s Not Well Equipped Enough: On Jimmy Fallon, if you forget what your child’s name is, you could probably get away with it by playing a quick game of Box of Lies. This same flippancy applies elsewhere but on Real Time, you have to know what you’re talking about. That’s why so few celebrities join the panel discussion; it’s just a different ball game altogether. Now, I am by no means insinuating Obama is not clever enough to join Salmon Rushdie or Sam Harris. The problem is that he just wouldn’t be able to express his opinions fully for fear of political backlash on topics such as Marijuana legalisation (something Maher is devotedly in favour of). As with the partisanship element, he has to be sensitive to security issues, the opposition, his own party, international relations, and the people. On Bill Maher, of course, you expect the unfiltered, real guest who appears. Sidestepping issues and avoiding controversial subjects just wouldn’t work (which begs to question why certain politicians even bother). Perhaps, once he leaves office he can speak freely but for now, Obama’s own true opinions have to be kept, tucked away in a corner.
  • He’s Afraid?: I think this is unlikely but it is plausible that Obama doesn’t have satisfactory answers to some burning questions, which again could be brushed off on other shows, but would be pursued on this one: Why’d it take so long to act on Guantanomo? Hillary or Bernie?, etc. There’s an element of vulnerability on this show, lacking from the press junkets, which would make for a stressful day; not that Bill would even go after Obama.

In these regards and in my own opinion, it seems the better question to ask would be: why would Obama think to appear on this show? Personally, as a fan, I would love to see it but for now, we’re going to have make due with the odd senators and representatives Bill does get. Hillary certainly won’t be appearing.

Andrew Carolan