The Key Players Of The House & Senate

The Key Players Of The House & Senate

With the start of a new administration and change in power in the Senate, we here at the Washington Walrus thought we’d take the time to recalibrate our takes on the key players of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Basically, a who’s who of the big cheeses; the ones pulling the strings, be it with their positions or influence in the media and political landscape. So without further ado.

Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, pictured (D)

The 80-year old Speaker looks like she owns a formidable hard candy collection and is known for keeping her party in check. She proved she still had it by taking on Donald Trump, upon retaking the majority in the House in 2019. Now, she is pursuing impeachment against the former President, despite initially holding out on the first one until they had a solid case with evidence. How old school of you, Nancy.

At present, she is navigating a tough transition for the Democratic Party. Despite keeping the majority last election, they lost a number of seats to Republicans. Is it because they’re perceived as moving in too liberal a direction or holding onto old cronies like her? It’s hard to say but most seem glad to have her steady-hand and salon-tempered hair at the wheel in these uncertain times.

Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Lead (R)

What if a bullfrog wished he could be transformed into human form? Now, what if that bullfrog was also kind of a dick? Well, then you’ve got Mitch McConnell. Also ancient in age, he’s proved himself to be one of the least likeable Republicans in American history, by hawkishly prioritising politics over the good of the country at almost every turn; one of the key figures responsible for the gridlock of Washington during the Obama administration. If he had a chance to redeem himself, he sure squandered it during the Trump era, again mindful of what anything but appeasement would cost him (even if he truly abhorred him).

The Senate is roughly 50-50 at present (with Kamala Harris coming in as the deciding vote) but McConnell’s influence unfortunately doesn’t look like it’s going to wane any time soon. To an extent, I suspect he’s glad to be the minority leader because he gets to still effectively oppose new legislation without feeling the burden to present any of his own (or indeed any solutions, as evidenced when both parties’ leaders were brought together in late 2008 to discuss the financial crash).

Ted Cruz, Senator (R)

The Senator’s electability apparently hasn’t suffered despite the fact he is one of the least liked members of the Senate, even in his own party. Like McConnell, he’s all about politics but he’s just that bit more weasel-like to the point he resembles some sort of rat or otter.

Cruz’ immediate test is moving beyond his association with Donald Trump, who once called him a “sleaze” who nobody liked. Cruz helped goad the Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol last month without taking any responsibility for his part. If I might liken him to a Harry Potter character, I’d have to choose Wormtail.

Chuck Schumer, Senate Majority Lead (D)

He’s a key player in that he’s the Senate majority lead but there’s not much to say about him. Decent, I guess. Where Nancy’s a bit more collected and elegant, he’s a bit more rough and ready with the odd controversial remark on Gaza or immigration. The bulldog of the Senate, why not?

“The Squad”, House Members (D)

Netflix’s casting dream consists of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortex, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, Jamaal Bowman, and Cori Bush. The former four were elected to the House in 2018 and the latter two in 2020. They’re generally painted as the progressive wing or “future” of the party to some and can’t be criticised, lest you face the wrath of Twitter. So let’s just leave it at they’re excellent and brave and speak your truth and stay true to yourself, cause they are “fire” and move on. Quite quickly.

Elizabeth Warren, Senator (D)

But you don’t have to be young and hip to be progressive, just ask 71-year old Elizabeth Warren who ran the 2nd-most progressive presidential campaign after Bernie Sanders. While undoubtedly impressive, she probably lacked the charisma necessary to ever mount a notable bid. Still, we need someone who’s economically minded like her and just doesn’t speak in platitudes or empty gestures.

Bernie Sanders, Senator (Independent)

Bernie Sanders is both no nonsense and a master of memes; something that should be paradoxical but just works. In a sense, it’s a shame he didn’t get the nomination in either of his bids but with the might of the Democratic Party at hand, it’s hard to move that last boulder. Still, the energy of America’s youth was behind him and there’s no one else who’s been so consistent in his or her values. Thankfully, he’s stayed on long enough that his ideas have become more mainstream and even though he’s not a part of Biden’s administration, it looks at least as if he’ll have some influence.

Amy Klobuchar, Senator (D)

Honestly, I kind of find her annoying. Anyone else? Well, apparently not Joe Biden or Kamala Harris, since she introduced the inaugural proceedings last month.

Lindsey Graham, Senator (R)

Joe Biden admitted his old friend’s allegiances had been something of a “personal disappointment” in an interview with Stephen Colbert. Once described as pretty amiable, even by former Democratic Senator Al Franken, Lindsey Graham’s lowered his standing by association and defence of Trump.

Mitt Romney, Senator (R)

There’s something quite likeable about Mitt Romney, although it may just be a desire to see a Republican act anything other than reprehensible. The 2012 nominee is something of a new McCain, in a sense. He’s conservative in his principles but entirely anti-Trump and willing to to go outside what one would consider regular party behaviour, marching in solidarity with BLM last summer. If there’s a way to restore some dignity to the morally compromised GOP and toe a more centrist line, perhaps Mitt Romney could be looked on as a potential future candidate (again).

Donald Trump: The Greatest Sh**s

Donald Trump: The Greatest Sh**s

With just over a week to go until the official start of a new administration, we thought it would be a good time to reflect on the accomplishments of the incumbent, as we fondly did for Barrack Obama four years ago. Now, Donald J. Trump hasn’t exactly been everyone’s cup of tea for various reason including political bribery, racism, sexism, and an innate ineptness but in the tradition of a dignified transition, it’s only fair that we give him his dues.

Of course, upon completion of the above paragraph, we immediately remembered just how terrible a president and person this man was (and still is). So in the more appropriate spirit of actually qualifying the times we live in, we thought we’d instead list the ten worst things he’s done or affected in his tenure. There’s a lot so apologies if we missed out on anything. And while these are indeed numbered, we’re not necessarily ranking them.

1. The Muslim Ban

Trump ordered a ban on flights from seven Islamic majority nations straight away upon taking office. Having touted on the campaign trail that the Obama administration hadn’t called out “radical Islam” for what it was, he wanted to make an impression quickly on this issue. He faced backlash for this decision but handled it in good grace, firing the Attorney General Sally Yates, when she refused to uphold it on some vague, liberal human rights’ basis.

2. Withdrawal From The Paris Climate Agreement

Nobody was exactly surprised when this came to pass in June 2017 but it is worth reminding ourselves that Climate Change is still very much the most serious threat our species face. So, this wasn’t a step in the right direction.

3. Law & Order Rhetoric

Trump was endorsed by the KKK in 2016. This was something he really should have disassociated himself from but instead following Charlottesville in 2017, he remarked that there were “very fine people” on both sides. This ultimately made Joe Biden run for president, which thankfully worked out.

Trump’s rhetoric has, without a doubt, seriously enflamed the racial divide in America. Following the George Floyd protests of last year, he perhaps could have taken a stand and tried to heal a broken nation, as leaders should do. Instead, he resolved to run for re-election on a law and order basis, firmly signalling where he stood on civil rights.

4. Separation Of Migrant Children From Parents

Trump’s Great Wall agenda never took off in the way he promised, despite this being the centrepiece of his campaign in 2016. Nevertheless, keeping with his “no BS” image, he still managed to preside over the shameful separation of children from their parents at the border. The image of cages and lives permanently affected by the deluded sense of paranoia associated with immigration will remain intangible with his legacy.

5. Russia/Ukraine & General Undermining of Democracy

Although the Mueller Report didn’t result in the firework display we all hoped it would, it still proved what we knew all along; that there was a connection between the Trump campaign and Russian interference in the 2016 election. Whether he was personally aware of it or not, Trump made every effort to contain this story, belittling the dignity of the investigative process at every step, even going so far as to fire the FBI director, James Comey.

Seeking to consolidate his preposterous image, he went too far in 2019, by trying to get Ukraine in on a deal to dig up dirt on Biden. Anyways, upon that leaking, the Democrats (who took power of the House in 2018) finally had the concrete case they needed to pursue impeachment. It may not have removed Trump from office but it gave him the black mark previously only posted on two other presidents’ folders.

6. Nepotism & Other Terrible Hires

Has an administration ever had so much turnover? From Sean Spicer to Anthony Scaramucci, nobody was able to keep their job in this White House. Even Steve Bannon, one of the “brilliant” architects of his 2016 campaign was cast aside. Trump has put the blame on their own individual incompetences and loyalty but really the common denominator is the boss who appointed them.

These people were also dumped for running afoul the special counsels, that are Trump’s family members (particularly Ivanka and Jared Kushner). One of the most obvious signs your democracy’s in the toilet is when your president starts appointing family members to privileged positions.

7. The Longest Shutdown

Upon retaking the House in the midterm elections, one of the first things in order was for the Democrats and the Trump Administration to agree on a budget. What resulted was a prolonged he-said, she-said situation with both sides refusing to budge, a slurry of Trump tweets, and the longest shutdown in US history, affecting pay checks for many from December 2018 trough January 2019. Again, in light of Trump’s need to appear mighty and triumphant, others had to suffer.

8. Appointments To The Supreme Court

Trump had the privilege of appointing three separate judges to the Supreme Court and on an ironic basis too. The first was Neil Gorsuch, who came about because the Republicans felt it was unfair for Obama to appoint a new judge in an election year. The third was Amy Coney Barrett, who was quickly shoehorned in a few weeks out from election.

The second was Brett Kavanaugh, who was trialled over accusations of sexual misconduct by Christine Blasey Ford in 2018. After a (frankly) crazy testimony in which he defended himself, he was sworn in, but with no end to ridicule over his temperament. Trump’s picks have come under fire for just how extremely right-wing they are and although he will leave office, the impact of his decisions on the Supreme Court will unfortunately reside for decades to come.

9. Handling of Corona

Both George W. Bush and Barack Obama recognised the potential threat of a pandemic in their time. Obama had the framework in place to deal with one should it occur. It’s a good thing Trump kept it in place, right?

Perhaps the worst thing Trump has done in mishandling the Coronavirus is in making the restrictions a matter of political allegiance. His followers don’t wear masks and they congregate in large crowds. The other side do the opposite because they don’t respect freedom or something to that stupid effect.

In case that’s not enough to disqualify him as a medical expert however, let’s remember that he withdrew the US from the World Health Organisation, advised people to drink bleach, and got the virus, himself.

10. Inciting A Riot

It should be clear by now that Trump really isn’t all that keen on law and order but if it isn’t, just last week he decided to go out with a flare, by suggesting his minions march on the Capitol. In what amounted to the most bizarre, atrocious, and frightening moment in his presidency, the historic building and symbol of democracy in America was basically besieged, resulting in the death of four people.

Since then, he’s finally been suspended from social media, members of his cabinet have resigned, and Nancy Pelosi has called for Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment or in lieu, a second impeachment. With so little time left, I suspect neither will happen but I’d be happy to be proven wrong.

Dishonourable Mentions

It was pretty clear upon taking office that Trump would become the worst US president of all time. We have qualms with others but never has a president been so inept on so many levels, with so much disdain for democracy. These have been just a few selections of his worst moments and tendencies however. Feel free to comment your own, as we provide a few more dishonourable additions:

  • Inflaming tensions w/ Iran
  • Buddying up to Putin
  • Being “played” by Kim Jong Un
  • Various tweets
  • Going after Obamacare

Will Corona Response Be Trump’s End?

Throughout history, it’s often been the case that great crises produce great leaders, should they meet the challenge of their time. Lincoln prevailed in his efforts to pass the 13th Amendment during the bloodiest war in American History. Franklin D. Roosevelt saw America through both the Great Depression and World War II. Even John F. Kennedy, to a less significant extent, bolstered his legacy by navigating the Cuban Missile Crisis (although it must be said, this was a crisis he had a hand in creating). In trying times, petty squabbles are usually put aside, and people do something quite rare; they support their leaders.

That support can be inspiring albeit brief. After the 9/11 attacks, George W. Bush’s approval ratings rose to 90%. His father’s also peaked during the Gulf War, a decade before. In both cases, those numbers quickly dwindled. I would like to suspect the same will happen for Donald J. Trump, whose approval ratings have somehow risen, despite a disastrous response to Covid-19.

I would like to think that because…

The effects of his inaction and bluster are palpable. As I write (Easter Sunday), the death toll in the US resulting from Covid-19 has reached 20,000. Unfortunately, that will continue to rise and many more will continue to be incapacitated to some extent or another. Hospitals are overwhelmed and there are not enough face masks to go around. Trump’s position has shifted considerably from a month ago when he glibly downplayed the extent of the crisis; something a lot of people did, but not those with top-level intel. I’m glad he is now taking it seriously and yes, perhaps it could’ve gotten a lot worse but really, with a competent president, it could’ve been a lot better.

Before this crisis, Trump had already made a mockery of the Oval Office and committed himself to the status of being the worst US President in history. However, a lot of his legacy was also built on the fragmentation of politics and polarisation of liberals and conservatives. The latter, fervent in their beliefs, would not give an inch even if it meant ignoring treason on their leader’s part. That’s pretty despicable and we can get into it another day but what’s fundamentally different about this crisis, is that politics simply shouldn’t enter the equation. Trump’s response is not political dogma; it’s sheer incompetence. Economically and emotionally, neither liberals or conservatives will be spared. The figures speak for themselves.

Alas though, I suspect he might survive this…

His election in 2016 was a fathomless affair so who’s to say this will finally be the straw that breaks the camel’s back? He’s defied reason and become exception at every other turn. Maybe, ideological differences will continue to outweigh any other perceptions. Maybe, this will still not give credence to the importance of a comprehensive health care system. Plus…

Well, you might have heard that Bernie Sanders dropped out of the Democratic race last week. This was a surprising turn for many although even if the primaries weren’t delayed, he was unlikely to succeed (being 300 delegates behind). Effectively, this has rendered “Sleepy Joe” the Democratic nominee. Again, I would like to think he would be a shoe-in to defeat Trump but his interviews thus far have been… they’ve been disastrous. Let’s not beat around the bush. He’s clearly out of his wits; uncertain of what he’s quoting, what he’s saying, and what exactly is going on. Is this a harsh assessment? Yes. But a necessary one. Joe. Needs. To. Get. His. Shit. Together. Hillary Clinton lost to Trump after all. Joe Biden, like her, is perceived by many as an establishment centrist but he’s a) “another old white dude” and b) less smart.

Now, Bernie’s supporters should do what they can to help him get elected. Although he has an iffy track record in several departments and is a less than ideal substitute for a progressive, he is a lot better than Trump. He will be reasonable, he may even work with some of those progressives, and yes, restoring a sense of normality would be a good thing. More importantly though, there’s just too much at stake to take a risk at another four years. Joe and his cohorts are right when they say the character of America would be fundamentally changed by a second term.

I’m not a big fan of theoretic propositions or what ifs when it comes to history. That way lies some Back to the Future II madness. But what if we actually tried to learn something from this crisis. It’s a devastating and frankly depressing time and one which should not be trivialised. To that extent, I’d like to specify that I’m not referring to some vague spiritual reawakening on mankind’s part or for the celebrities involved in that “Imagine” cover to reconvene and do better. I mean, what if we learn to appreciate and prioritise what matters on a practical level: the health care system. For too long, America’s rolled the dice on this one and sorry to say, it’s coming back to bite them on the ass. Politicians have sold out their peoples’ future and now innocent, less well-off people are suffering in the masses.

This crisis couldn’t have been avoided completely but it could’ve done with a steady pair of hands and a calm, reassuring voice. Like Obama’s. Trump is no leader. He’s not a unifier. He’s not smart. He’s not willing to learn. His ego means more to him than the lives of his people. That’s a hard truth for people to accept but we’re running out of time for bullshit. Again, politics shouldn’t matter. How could they in this situation? There’s no use left in blaming all those who voted for him in 2016 but it’s time to start thinking about what it’d be like to have, if not a genius in the Oval Office, a decent individual?

What Was 2017? Some Thoughts…

What Was 2017? Some Thoughts…

It might seem like folly to try and summarize the events of a whole year in a single article, or even to surmise the prevalent themes which distinguished it. Nevertheless, we’re going to attempt to do just that because something needs to be gained from all this mayhem. (It’s also been awhile since we published anything.) So here’s a few thoughts:

Was it the residual hangover of 2016?

Yes, 2017 can in many ways be regarded as the dark sequel to its predecessor. This is the case with most inaugural years but of course, this year we had the Donald, whose presidency quickly bolstered sales of Orwell’s 1984. Everything we feared he might do came to fruition, although legislatively he was not successful. Rather he inspired fresh bouts of fear not felt since the early 1960s, from the Muslim Ban to unnecessary tensions with North Korea and everything in between. However, this is just the beginning of the hangover and it will not dissipate till at least late 2018, should the Democrats get their act together.

Was the “#metoo” movement a breakthrough?

At the Golden Globes next week, we will see many actresses dressed in black, in a sign of solidarity. Although, sexual harassment scandals can hardly be limited to Hollywood, the cases here have drawn so much attention because of the prolific figures involved (not to justify it.) They’ve also inspired a deep and intellectual, if highly sensitized debate, across the world. Can we merely dismiss the actions of men from another generation as of their time and thus tolerable? Can we separate their art from their character? Do we need to ensure perspective with relation to whats worse (from groping to raping) more readily? Can this then be seen as an attempt to undermine change by bracketing off areas, if less heinous, as forgivable?

There’s still much to suss out and I do not enter this foray lightly, for the level of media scrutiny and social media backlash can be detrimental even to those who have not themselves done anything wrong but who, in others’ opinions, miss the point and thereby contribute to the normalization of harassment (e.g. Matt Damon.) It seems to me, nonetheless, that this has overall been a watershed moment of positive change; one which must not be limited to being labelled as a 2017 talking point or more likely, a Hollywood scandal. In the coming years, it’ll thus be important to find balance between sensible, if insensitive opinions and a zero-tolerance approach.

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Between the backlash to his remarks on the #metoo movement and his movie, The Great Wall, Matt Damon had a meh year.

Is “Fake News” just a thing now?

Has the word “lies” lost sustenance? The idea of “Fake News” grew during the 2016 election and was dismissed by most as a “stupid”. Unfortunately, like most Trump labels, it stuck and with it, an array of other baffling terms like “Alternative Facts”.

Yes, the media has been known to sensationalize the wrong things and some papers are more reputable than others but with Trump, fiction’s become redundant. You merely need to collect his quotes these days to form an article. It may be a coherent, slobbering mess but so is every Trump speech. So, in 2018, let’s stop paying into the idea of “Fake News” because you can’t hide the video footage of Sean Spicer hiding in the Rose Garden bushes, inauguration crowd sizes, or the words Trump spoke mere weeks ago. It’s out there, in the open.

Are people ready to accept the Left again?

Roy Moore was inexcusably awful but still, a Democratic Senator from Alabama is not something you hear about every day. Grouped with the #metoo movement (not exactly political, though women’s rights are generally sided with the Left), Trump’s low approval ratings, Obama topping Gallup’s most admired man poll, the Women’s March on Washington, and more however, it begins to paint a picture. In November 2018, we’ll of course see with the Mid-Terms but this time, we’ll need a United Left. Even though, we’re discussing 2017, the lesson of 2016 must not be forgotten.

Was The Last Jedi disappointing? (SPOILERS)

Yes, this is a political blog but we also love Star Wars. So did Rian Johnson deliver the goods? Ultimately yes- it was a beautiful and unusually thematic entry in the franchise. But come on! Is Snoke really just some nobody leader, dispensable to a larger purpose? He looks like a disfigured Goldmember, had a super cool throne room and guards, and obviously influenced Kylo Ren somehow. So, tell us who the Phantom Menace he is! And I don’t want to figure this out through some extended universe graphic novel bullshit or another needless stand-alone movie. He’s relevant to this trilogy! I also don’t care that we didn’t know who the Emperor was in the originals- his origin wasn’t important at that point and since Episode VII, we’ve been baited with questions. Rectify this please, J.J. Abrams. Otherwise, I enjoyed it a lot. Anyways, that’ all- have a happy new year!

snoke-lucasfilm

 

The Left’s Chance To Take America

The Left’s Chance To Take America

2016 has been a dark year. We not only lost the man behind “Purple Rain,” but we got more than we could bargain for with the man who believes orange is more than just the new black. Now, with a little more than a week to go before what could be the most decisive day of the decade, we are confronted with what I like to call that last trek of the Fellowship; the part in which Samwise grits his teeth while carrying Frodo up the slopes of Mount Doom. And just as a new age came from the ashes of that fiery climax, so too can we expect a sliver of hope on the horizon, if not a great beacon. But enough Lord of the Rings for now, let’s speak plainly; for if not only the Donald is defeated November 8 but the Republican majority is overthrown in the Senate/House of Representatives, America could begin to herald in a New Deal for the 21st Century- one led by Hillary Rodham but directed by that old favorite maverick, Bernie Sanders.

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The Gandalf of US Politics

Earlier this year, we wrote a piece on a plausible return to the left for America, in which we explored the possibility that the strength of Bernie’s rhetoric would push the Democratic party far enough to the left, that the next administration would mark the most progressive agenda since the time of Lyndon B. Johnson. Bernie’s eventual defeat was a crushing blow to many, especially among the young, who scattered their way about to Hillary, Jill Stein, and for some incredulous reason, Donald Trump. We figured at the time however that although Bernie had lost the nomination, he had dealt a significant blow to the once centrist stances of Hillary, ensuring that she would be held accountable for the promises she made on the campaign trail. In recent weeks, a lot more focus (though far from enough) has been placed on the Senate though, because of Speaker Paul Ryan’s warning to the GOP base: ‘[if] we lose.., do you know who becomes chair of the Senate Budget Committee?’ Yup!

It must be noted of course that Bernie’s ascension to this highly sought podium is not guaranteed, but it is a strong possibility and thus, a strong opportunity for liberals. The logistics of taking the Senate are not at all daunting either; there are 34 seats up for grab this year (a term in the Senate lasts six years) of which 24 are held by Republicans. (It may interest you to know John McCain, Marco Rubio, and Rand Paul will all be contesting their highly coveted seats). They need to take at least four of those away to bring the Republicans down to 50 seats and another one or two, if they want a majority (accounting for Independents). This miscalculated statement on the Speaker’s part has given rise to the #ThanksPaul emblem now spreading the Sander’s seed once again across the nation. As we all know however, a tweet or Facebook post is nice, but a vote is helpful.

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‘What Have I Done…’

Generally speaking, the Republicans have been better at marshaling their cohorts out to vote for mid-term elections and on other less exciting occasions (e.g. for town mayors). The result has been a systematic rightward shift for the country on a national, statewide, and local level, making it particularly difficult for the Democrats to gain any legislative ground, even with a majority. This changing dynamic can be traced back throughout America’s entire history but in 1980, the ball really got rolling with the GOP’s courtship of the Evangelical vote. Reagan’s revolution was not only one against the Soviets and the Carter administration, it was one built on Supply-Side (or ‘Trickle-Down’) economics and a distrust of Big government. The deficit grew but the brainwashing worked- people kept going out to vote Republican. When in 1994, after a particularly heartbreaking mid-term election, the Democratic President Bill Clinton, declared the ‘era’ of such government to be over, an unfortunate belief was ground into the American psyche, that some level of conservatism would always be needed. Obama’s rise then should have dispelled this notion, building on the promise of the Affordable Care Act the so-called audacity of ‘hope.’ He was abandoned in a significant respect however, by those who championed his cause in 2008, but felt deterred and disinterested by the nitty gritty bits of the legislative process- the public. So, three election terms later, will America’s liberals and moderates finally learn the imperative lesson? It’s not enough to solely elect a president, you need to elect his/her network on all levels. A slab of paint may make a wall look nice, but beyond that wall, you’ve still got Mordor.

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Trump Tower

As it stands, the Senate is split between 54 Republicans, 44 Democrats, and 2 Independents. Polls are currently indicating a strong chance for a Democratic take over, though baffingly Marco Rubio is still leading in Florida, despite losing to Trump, criticizing him, then supporting him. With the House of Representatives then (in which all seats are contested every two years), there are presently 247 Republicans, 186 Democrats, and 3 vacant seats. A Democratic coup here is far less likely, though recent polls suggest they could take an extra 20 seats. President Johnson once said the difference between a Senator and Congressman was the difference between ‘chicken salad and chicken shit.’ It’s a darn good quote but as asserted earlier, every little difference matters. So come November 8, when the world wakes up to a new dawn or a poorly devised Hobbit trilogy, remember that the power to change the United States does not solely belong in one office.

Both As Bad: A False Equivalency

Both As Bad: A False Equivalency

In less than three weeks, the year-and-a-half stench of the 2016 election will begin to fade. With poll numbers increasingly conveying the dominance of the Clinton camp, it seems unlikely that we will see an orange face in the White House come January. But unlikely is just not good enough. Polls can be misleading for a variety of reasons. Voters can be swayed too, depending on their feelings; and whilst we would like to think every eligible voter will bother to get of their beds November 8th, the dismal reality on such occasions has always proven otherwise. Too many people,  disenfranchised with the so-called broken system, often espouse notions of how voting won’t make a difference. There’s something dodgy going on with both Trump and Clinton after all, right? It’s a wash- either’s going to be terrible for the country! It’s easy to say such things but it’s also lazy and irresponsible- because like it or not, Trump and Clinton are not as equally bad and indifference or disgust in the election cycle will not grant you immunity from its consequences.

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SNL’s interpretation of the 2nd debate

False equivalencies have always speckled their way across political discourse. We believe balance is important because it mitigates bias. That’s why we try to give Republicans and Democrats equal opportunities for speaking when it comes to the issues. On certain occasions however, balance for balance’s sake becomes inconvenient, if not, regressive. For example, in a debate on Global Warming, does an Archbishop really deserve the time of day a qualified scientist receives? Should politicians with ties to the fossil fuel industry really influence environmental progress, where their expertise (if any) lies elsewhere? You might argue that these agents of chaos are only there to reflect the beliefs of a wider population. Does the percentage of climate change deniers then still reflect such a ridiculously humoured viewpoint? Almost every issue has at least two sides to it but they do not always balance on the basis of argument, scientific proof, and popularity. That’s why most schools in enlightened parts of the world teach evolution but not creationism.

With this election, it seems absurd then that false equivalencies are being thrown around so casually. We have Trump, who without fail,has  committed to at least five gaffes every debate without answering a single question coherently, as sentences meander off into the upside-down, perhaps to be rediscovered in the next season of Stranger Things. He has for years navigated his personal and business life with the candour of a silver-back gorilla on cocaine. He has questioned the legitimacy not only of Obama’s presidency but of his citizenship. He has mocked the disabled. He has dimissed sexually aggressive banter as “locker room talk”. He even used the word “bigly.”

Then we have Clinton, who just feels dangerous. Granted, there are plenty of issues to be raised with this woman but in comparison to Trump’s resume, they are minute and rather petty (except for her Iraq vote- that was bad). From the vitriol of her adversaries’ testimonies however, you’d swear she had sold nuclear missiles to North Korea and covered this up with laundered money from several years of work on behalf of the Clinton Global Initiative.  Really, she hasn’t done all that much wrong. She was cleared of Whitewater and Benghazi. The e-mail scandal, whilst irksome and professionally unacceptable, has hardly warranted the level of discussion it’s been given. The truth of the matter is that Clinton’s legacy has been dogged for so long now by conservatives that scandals seem to arise out of thin air. As John Oliver wittily pointed out, before it’s proven that there’s no basis for them (or in fact, that they are just made up), they have already simmered into the subconscious of America’s vague but general distrust of this power-hungry, condescending woman. We know she’s dangerous, we just don’t exactly understand how.

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When you sincerely think this is a tough choice…

With Trump, we know we’d have a disastrous presidency. With Clinton, we suspect we won’t be given the revolution Bernie promised last year. Those are both disappointing outcomes of a desperate election, but they are not equally disappointing. This logic is simple but the Bernie supporters now backing Trump or even the idiot Gary Johnson don’t seem to have grasped it. I am reminded of a quote from the movie Argo in which Bryan Cranston’s CIA operative informs representatives of the Carter administration about the option they have chosen to rescue six hostages from Iran; “there are only bad options. This is the best bad option we have.” So, even if Clinton’s not your choice of spice, isn’t she a whole lot better than putting a piece of human shit onto your chicken?

 

 

The Plight of the 3rd Party

The Plight of the 3rd Party

In recent weeks, Green Party candidate Jill Stein and Libertarian, Gary Johnson, have been making the rounds in the media, hoping to draw up the support of the loose stragglers of the Bernie camp, among other disenfranchised souls weary of the Donald and HRC. Chasing that elusive 15% (required to enter the national debates) has so far proved a challenge however, with current polling placing Johnson just under the 10% bracket and Stein at a mere 3%.  Is it that these candidates are lackluster? Do they simply lack the magnitude bestowed upon others by the mainstream media? Or is it that old adage at play that affirms a vote cast for an independent is a vote thrown in the garbage? As always, it’s a bit of everything but history, once again, speaks loudest.

Despite the occasional disruption, America, for the most part of its recent history (20th Century), has championed a two-party system. This has developed as a result of natural inclination and artificial structures placed on its political thresholds. With regards to the former point, these two parties have essentially been afforded the right to prosper, owing to conditional and enterprise funding over the years as well as historical gravitas. The party of FDR, for instance, is an institution in itself and tradition, while valued, is often upheld merely for the sake of its own legacy. With the moral decay of the GOP and its hopeful actual decay in the future, one would think a third-party  could possibly build itself on the crumbling mounds of another, but a three- or four-way battle is rarely as marketable for the media and public. In America, commercial tendencies encroach on all avenues of life.

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See? Even the RNC had its own ridiculous ad!

In relation to these artificial constructs then, we must remind ourselves of the unfortunate nature of America’s election cycle and government. They do not facilitate a parliamentary-like system, the way ourselves or the UK do. With most of their votes, plurality laws eliminate the point of acknowledging where the minority votes lie- even if that is a very slight minority. Basically, winner-takes-all. This, of course, simplifies the already tedious process of the election cycle but it also obfuscates the diverse range of public opinion. Even with many of the latter Republican primaries for example, this applied so that Donald Trump, though opponent-less later on, would be the unrelenting winner. (Surpassing 50% isn’t even mandatory for this reasoning.) This hardly seems necessary for establishing the preferred candidate, when everything is only officially tallied up at the conventions. Math is not the GOP’s forte however. With single-district representation and plurality at play, the scientific study of Duverger’s law has found that such countries will thus be more likely to develop a two-party system.

Theoretically speaking then, a third-party candidate’s ascension to the White House is not impossible. The climb however is steeper than the one even Bernie had to climb (he was after all, an independent who adopted the Democratic Party to his advantage.) Huge wads of cash won’t do it alone; even with his popular inclusion in the televised debates, Ross Perot wasn’t able to budge a single electoral vote in either the 1992 or 1996 elections. Framing yourself as a genuine alternative may prove appealing to some but as Ralph Nader’s candidacy proved in 2000, without enough steam, you can cause significant damage by taking votes that would have been cast for another candidate. (This humorously led to Bill Maher and Michael Moore begging him not to run in 2004.) In fact, the last actual candidate of a third-party persuasion to make any notable stride was George Wallace in 1968, who took 46/538 electoral votes. And who was the most successful third-party candidate of all time? Well, they fared a great deal better in the 1800s when the two-party system was still in development but the answer is Theodore Roosevelt from 1912, who for obvious reasons, was an exception.

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Maher and Moore- liberal mavericks

With Trump and Clinton being the two least popular candidates in decades however, is it not plausible that 2016 could do another flip and present the so-called impossible alternative? Logically speaking, this is a sound theory but as aforementioned, the 15% is still out of reach and the first debate is coming up at the end of this month. After that point, if not already so, most people will have decided if they’re wearing blue or red this November. If a third color is to succeed in breaking this fashion trend (which I do not mean literally, I intend to wear an array of clothes), then it will be because of a strong mass organisation which eschews the notion that a third-party vote is a wasted one. Any other kind of philosophy will continue to hold back the prospect of a third-party president ever existing.

 

Clint Eastwood and the PC Police

Clint Eastwood and the PC Police

Last week, Hollywood legend and sharp-jowled libertarian, Clint Eastwood sparked outrage for his professed support of Trump over Clinton, amongst other seemingly outdated notions. To keep it brief, he opined that just because Trump’s speeches caused offence, did not mean he was racist; rather that reaction reflected the values of a “pussy” generation, one built on overtly sensitised political correctness. This kind of “talk” (from Trump’s ever flabbergasted face) was not considered “racist” when Eastwood was young. So what has changed? The very discourse and face of civil rights, replied a host of people on Twitter and Facebook.  Not a bad point at all, I must admit, but this particular confrontation interested me for the subject matter involved. Let’s face it, Trump could be (could) right on one thing; maybe we do have a big problem with political correctness. Let’s examine this, in light of this controversy.

When the Donald delivered his rousing question mark of a speech announcing his candidacy over a year ago, the internet went abuzz with rage over his remarks regarding Mexicans. Were they stupid? Undoubtedly, Trump displayed (and has since) a poor and dangerous attitude towards immigration; an attitude which, if given credence, could not only sever international relations but also disenfranchise the millions of people who still see America as that beacon upon a hill. Were they racist? There’s a lot of evidence to suggest Trump may be a class-A bigot and indeed his banning policy is a prime Hitlaresque example of discrimination but for the sake of discussion here; not inherently so. It is racist to condemn a race of people because of what they look like and for merely being different. It isn’t necessarily when you criticise their country’s policy or culture, among other facets, given ample reason. Caution, of course, must be advised because no nation of people should ever be identified with a single brush stroke, but when issues such as immigration can’t even be tackled for fear of backlash, a problem arises. For one, you limit the intellectual scope of debate. And for another, you hamper free speech.

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It’s genuinely hard to get a good photo of Donald Trump.

 

Years ago, many hoped the internet and social media thereafter would break down social barriers and allow people of all creeds, colours, and religion to speak their mind, unburdened by censorship. These barriers have undoubtedly weakened but in their place, liberal constructs have sprung from those so sensitised to controversial opinions. We see this on a moronic level now. Last week, Eastwood wasn’t the only one grabbing headlines. An online petition too, was making the rounds, for the proposed closure of Rotten Tomatoes; a film review aggregate which collected an array of unfavourable opinions on David Ayer’s Suicide Squad. If people can’t even withstand a negative review of a film (and believe me it isn’t great), then what hope have we when it comes to topics which matter and should be discussed in an open forum; rape, religion, and emigration? As Mick Hume stated in his polemic Trigger Warnings, “[words] can hurt but they are not a physical weapon… Free speech is more important than hurt feelings.”

Now back to Trump. Do I agree with anything he’s said? Only perhaps with political correctness being a problem and that America’s infrastructure is crumbling. (The latter I can’t comment on in great detail however.) Overall, I think most people can succinctly point out though, without further reading, that Trump speaks with emotion and not logic, which undermines any gravity his claims may otherwise hold. The controversial subjects he brings to the table should be allowed to remain there however for the sake of free speech. If we disagree and find his comments repulsive, then why not point this out in an intellectually engaging manner? Like a debate, for example. Knee-jerk outrage only serves to energise his uruk-hai like supporters, which brings us neatly back to the generational divide old man Eastwood felt last week.

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A Trump supporter at last month’s RNC.

 

Culturally, America is being pulled in two directions. The liberals, I believe, are beginning to win this tug of war, even if it’s not politically evident. In recent years, social media and television shows such as Glee have been a great platform for the likes of the LGBT community. Where the race issue was once believed to be a shadow of its former pre-eminent self too, it is now at the top of our newsfeed, because of increased pressure from a generation with a growing voice. Most of us would likely agree that this is a good change of direction. On the other hand, many people in America feel betrayed by the direction their country is heading in. They’re tired of not being able to say what they want to and how they want to with regards to the hot issues, mentioned overhead. Is it not reasonable to say in this PC climate, that many feel suffocated? It’s not only with self-identified conservatives either.

Comedians like Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Maher have criticised this aspect of modern culture. The former, amongst others such as Jeff Ross, no longer frequents colleges because students often come across as too uptight. Bill Maher felt the backlash more forthrightly in late 2014, when students of Berkeley protested his address, due to his outspoken criticism of the Islamic religion. In another era, you would have thought Saddam Hussein was coming to flog his best moments’ memoir. Even opposing Katie Hopkins’ visit in this vein is pathetic (though that may simply have been for the quality of guest). Again it is worth repeating, if you have a genuine difference of thought it is worth taking that person head on with questions. If people had done that more calmly with Trump, then maybe he wouldn’t have been able to use increased media frenzy to push his way up the polls. Sensationalism sells, but it’s not always a dignified trade.

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From the “Modern Day Seinfeld” Twitter page. A good one to follow.

 

It is now 67 years since George Orwell’s classic 1984 was released and the Thought Police are becoming an all too eerie reality. In colleges, the very places which should stand as bastions of free speech and open mind, offensive opinions are being rejected without reflection. Whereas we have become a more inclusive society, we have also become one in some respects, that is tolerant of absolutely everything but intolerance. As Mick Hume asks, “[once} you make free speech a privilege and not a right, who are you going to trust to make the decision about where draw that line through free speech?” Eastwood may have the wrong idea about Trump but he’s got a reasonable measure of where American society’s headed, if only having lived so long. Political correctness, for all its good intentions therein, is not always the correct way to tackle the seemingly racist, bigoted, or plain mean.

Why Bernie Didn’t Sell Out

Why Bernie Didn’t Sell Out

Last week marked the unofficial end of the rivalry between Hillary Rodham Clinton and that ever cantankerous Senator Sanders. In a speech delivered before the people of New Hampshire, who voted in his favour, he addressed the question of his movement’s future and where his loyalty lay. I watched this as it streamed live on Facebook, torn between the body language of the two figures at the podium and the incoming flood of knee-jerk reactions from half-wits and the odd informed. Many complimented this change in tone; it had after all been a long and arduous primary season. Others lamented however Bernie’s decision to stand by the Devil and surrender everything he had ever stood for. And that’s where we stop because (and I’ll put this plainly), Bernie didn’t sell out. Here’s why:

  1. He won on the issues- if you listened to Clinton’s speech, which directly followed Sanders’ endorsement, you will have noticed how clever SNL were with their skit on Clinton becoming more and more Sanders’ like (to the point where Kate McKinnon ended up with a bald cap). At first, I gave her the benefit of the doubt on the assumption that she just isn’t as conservative as the uber-liberals have suggested. When it came to Wall Street however and her bargaining plea to overturn Citizen’s United, it became clear that she was taking note of the issues that prevailed in the debates, brought about because of Sanders’ longstanding rhetoric. She delved into college fees and global warming too, which made for a nice combination, leading me to believe that she has moved far more to the left than even the most hawkish of critics could have guessed.
  2. It’s not just about the Presidency- Sanders’ movement and the rise of the Left cannot solely rely on an office tampered with more than ever. It needs to endure beyond one or two terms into a progressive model by which the future of the Democratic Party can be shaped. Yes, Hillary has, in many senses, won the battle but the future could be Sanders, so long as the issues on which he based his candidacy, continue to resonate. As mentioned above, I think they already have to the point that Hillary can’t afford to ignore them. As well as that however, he can also serve as a highly influential figure outside of the White House. Who, for example, had more of an effect on American culture in the 1960s than Martin Luther King? Has Jimmy Carter not accomplished some of his best work out of office? The presidency is a convenient altar, through which many channels, from foreign aid to educational reform, can be distributed but as Bill Clinton himself has noted, it’s also prey to circumstances beyond a president’s control (e.g. 9/11).
  3. Trump must be defeated- I’ll admit that this is not my favourite argument as I do not believe elections should be contested on the basis of fighting against, rather than for something. It is an important one though and whether it depresses you or not, voting for the lesser of two so-called evils is still worthwhile. Bernie’s candidacy, has gone as far it needs to, in my opinion. With the Democratic National Convention coming up, it has become clear that his issues and supporters will not simply be sidelined but incorporated into the party’s agenda for the coming years. For now, he needs to ensure, if his own visions are to be realised though, that this party does as well as it can come November. Otherwise, the country will head in the exact opposite direction with Trump.
  4. Listen to the speech again- Sanders didn’t have to necessarily endorse Clinton but it was the responsible thing to do; what purpose would their rivalry have served after all? Not enough to sway you? Listen to the speech again then and tell me where exactly he abandons the principles on which he built his campaign? Still not enough? Take a trip through his YouTube interviews and go back to a year ago when he expressed his admiration for Hillary Clinton whilst acknowledging their differences of opinions. Granted, the race heated up and nostrils flared during the primary season but the gulf in rhetoric that existed between their camps, was never as deep as many of Sanders’ less reasonable supporters suggested. He fought a good battle and we can only admire him for what he did but that battle is over now and at some point, you have to concede and look to the positives.

It’s undoubtedly sad to see Bernie leave the race; he shook things up and set the country’s vision towards a better tomorrow, in a manner we just couldn’t have expected over a year ago with the “inevitable” Clinton candidacy. His role however in this race will at least go down in the history books and his role to come will remain that of an inspiring spokesman for a disenfranchised generation.

The Divided Right

The Divided Right

The piñata that is the Republican Party has been burst open and every day, new morsels are being discovered by the media. Last Friday, we heard that Mayor Danny Jones of Charleston, West Virginia, had changed his political party status to “unaffiliated” in a growing list of disillusioned conservative officials. That same week, several major companies including Apple pulled their sponsorship from the Republican National Convention. And to cap it all off? The man, the Republican loyalists stood behind (if reluctantly), has lost his momentum.

For a year now, the accepted narrative has been that Trump stands no chance against Clinton. Despite mass coverage and the GOP nomination, many remained undeterred. It seems their faith has been rewarded however as his latest hurdle has resulted in a parting of ways with his campaign manager, Emperor Palpatine… I mean, Corey Lewandowski. The poll numbers are no longer looking so good for the man who once promised “so much winning” for America and in the wake of this great cataclysm of popularity, lies the remains of the fractured right-wing. So what happened? Why? And what’s next?

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Trump and Lewandowski (left) kicking up a storm.

 

Since the shining light of Reagan descended upon America, the GOP has adopted an increasingly conservative and radical stance in the political system. This culminated most recently in the refusal to work with the Obama administration on almost every initiative, leading to a Government shutdown on Obamacare. With the culture wars wagging their tails every now and again, the great beliefs of the usually strongly united right became that America was losing its identity. Even the vaguest idea of making it “great” again was so appealing that a man like Trump, strange though he may seem, at least had to be considered. And in their desperation for this fabled era of prosperity, the fractures which set a part fiscal conservatives, social conservatives, tea-party members and cowboys, widened so much so that the GOP abandoned whatever shred of dignity they still held.

Since securing the nomination, a tenuous effort has been made to cobble this mess back together and create something sufficient, lest the Wicked Witch of New York, gain power. The problem is however that it all seems so forced. Even Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, a man who should really have a pivotal role to play in this, has a hard time vocalising just what he wants. He think Trump is a racist and bigot and should not be encouraged by any means. He also believes Hillary is not the “answer” and therefore Trump must win. His role however, he asserts, is not to tell delegates what to do. It’s the kind of stuff you could imagine seeing on Saturday Night Live but alas, Ryan is presently a tortured soul. It therefore seems the pieces will have to be picked up by Trump himself, who will undoubtedly face the least reserved GOP convention in history next month.

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Paul Ryan’s the kind of guy who holds up the drive through with his indecisiveness.

 

It’s hard to imagine exactly where this party will go next. They could simply reform if Trump loses, pretend as if 2016 never happened and go after Hillary, the way they have done with Obama. After all, remembering things accurately has never been a top priority (remember, Reagan raising taxes, anyone?). They could also have a long look in the mirror, smash it, and treat the likes of Trump as icons of a prevailing radical right, in stark contrast to the rising Left. Lastly, they could not smash the mirror and realise their party can only redeem itself by returning to the principles which once held it in high esteem. Fiscal conservatism, a lower-taxed market, and small government are not necessarily bad ideas if executed with a degree of rationale.  They just need to be checked with compromise where compromise is needed and common sense where alternatives yield better results. Richard Nixon understood this when he proposed an ambitious health care plan, alienating himself from many members of his party. George H.W. Bush, too, understood this when he abandoned his pledge and raised taxes to help stimulate the economy. Perhaps, 2016 can mark the beginning of the end for modern conservative practises and a return to form.

Andrew Carolan