Delete Über? No, please.


BY SPENCER SLAGOWITZ || JANUARY 30TH, 2017

If you have been on the internet at all the last three days, you will be undoubtedly aware of the grassroots campaign (of sorts) to boycott the transportation network service, Über. Since Saturday, calls to #deleteÜber have grown in number and in fervor following the company’s ‘decision’ to not strike with the New York Taxi Workers Alliance  and a tweet sent by the company which was taken by many to be an effort to break the strike. If you’re unfamiliar with the situation, read these good overviews here and here. For those who support the boycott, “deleting Über” is a foregone conclusion, but the reality is invariably much more nuanced.

As I understand, people are angry with Über for four reasons:

  1. They believe that Über intended to break the strike or undermine the efforts of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance.
  2. Following this belief, many individuals believe that Über or at least CEO Travis Kalanick—who is on President Trump’s Strategic and Policy Forum (an advisory body for business matters) along with Elon Musk—was collaborating with the Trump administration.
  3. Furthermore, activists allege that at minimum Über intended to immorally profit off the strike.
  4. Finally, people believe that Über ought to have protested with the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, regardless of whether they intended to break the strike or take advantage of it to make money.

We’ll address each of these in turn, but ultimately I do not believe they hold up under close scrutiny.

Did Über intend to purposefully counteract strike through social media?

Many took a tweet posted by the company that stated “Surge pricing has been turned off at #JFK Airport. This may result in longer wait times. Please be patient.” to, according to Vox, “suggest that  Über was trying to break up or counteract the strike and acting in support of…[the Muslim Ban].” By this interpretation, the announcement of Über’s availability, publicly undermined the strike and thereby attempted to break it. However, the tweet was posted at 7:36pm, more than a half an hour after the strike (which lasted from 6pm to 7pm) ended. The tweet could not have been attempting to break the strike because it had already ceased. Moreover, Über immediately backtracked, explaining that the post was not meant to undermine the protest (which had, again, already ended)—though its natural to be skeptical of the company.

Is Über and Kalanick in cahoots with the Trump Administration?

Let’s first preface this part by stating unequivocally that there is no conclusive evidence whatsoever to suggest that Kalanick and/or Über coordinated with the Trump Administration to break the strike (which, for the third time, HAD ALREADY ENDED). There are only circumstantial conjectures, which many have overstated. These conjectures rest on a single shaky foundation: Kalanick is on President Trump’s Strategic and Policy Forum. Thus, detractors allege, that means he was colluding with Trump. However, the Strategic and Policy Forum works with the Administration on business matters purely on advisory grounds. Other members of the board included Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi and Tesla and SpaceX’s Elon Musk. To imply that a business leader’s membership on a business advisory board with many other business leaders means that his company is coordinating with Trump is unfounded. One does not presuppose the other.

Not only is there no good reason to believe that Über coordinated with Trump to break the strike and support the ‘Muslim Ban,’ but there are also many reasons that contradict allegations of crony-esque coordination and support the null hypothesis in this case. Über and Kalanick, in both word and deed, oppose the Muslim Ban and have made a considerable to effort to help workers affected by it.

Conceivably, detractors could respond by suggesting that Uber and Kalanick do not actually oppose the ban, but are only doing so predicated on business interests.

Well, Kalanick sent the following letter to his employees on Saturday at 1:20 PM—4 hours and 40 minutes before the New York Taxi Workers Alliance strike and 6 hours before they posted the tweet that thrust them into a gauntlet of criticism and outrage. It is a letter that reflects the company’s unvarnished point of view before the scandal. So what does it say? Does it reveal Über’s nefarious support of the muslim ban? Does it expose Kalanick’s coordination with the Trump administration or words of praise for the decision? Not in the slightest.

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In the email Kalanick promises:

  1. Assistance for those impacted by the ban through immigration@uber.com
  2. To compensate, pro-bono, Über drivers who are unable to return to the U.S to get back to work.
  3. To bring up the issue of the Muslim ban and pressure the administration using the access granted to him through membership on Trump’s economic advisory group.

Moreover, Kalanick’s focus on the ethical implications the ban has on, indeed, thousands of innocent lives suggests his opposition is based on humanitarian concerns. This is reinforced by this statement released in the blog post on Sunday which detailed exactly what Über is doing and castigated the muslim ban as unjust.

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Clearly in both word (public and private statements, that is) and deed (making a considerable effort to address those impacted by the ban even before the #deleteÜber craze, as well as promising to lobby the administration to revoke the ban), Über demonstrated a clear opposition to the ban and the Trump administration’s actions which preclude coordination and cast doubt on allegations of cronyism.

Did Über intend to profit off the strike?

If anything Über’s decision to suspend surge pricing demonstrates a willingness to avoid the appearance that they were taking advantage of the strike to make money. Under the conditions of a strike, the reduced availability of taxi cabs would boost demand for Übers and automatically set off the surge function. In this state of scarcity, Über can charge more because people are more willing to pay to travel. If Über truly meant to profit off the both the lack of taxi cabs and the influx of protestors and lawyers, it would have allowed the surge pricing function to operate as it is programmed. But Über has been continuously and rightfully criticized on this sort of practice in the past, especially in the cases of natural disasters. However, Über purposefully did not raise prices and at 7:36pm, let protesters and travelers alike know that they could travel back without having to pay exorbitant fees.

Should Über have participated in the strike in the first place? Was it a good idea?

Some might suggest that it doesn’t matter whether Über intended to take advantage of the strike, the important point is that they refused to join in the strike. So it begs the question, did Über bear a moral obligation to participate in the strike? Was the strike a good idea at all? Examining the protest critically, it appears that while incredibly well intentioned, it cannot be portrayed as a bold moral stand that Über should be punished for refusing to take part in, because it was ineffective, and ultimately counterproductive.

Firstly, striking in this manner does not put any pressure on the Trump administration or local authorities in any sort of capacity. Strikes are effective when they are leveraged against those who are impacted by them on the negotiating table. But how does a 1 hour strike disadvantage the Trump administration in the slightest?

Secondly, protest is an incredibly useful tool for its optics. Mass demonstration mobilizes the populace against the object of protest and encourages others to join in on the activism. It also continuously casts in doubt popular support for a policy and prevents a leader from claiming a popular mandate to support a policy like the muslim ban. However, the brevity of a one hour strike undermines its own symbolic value. Given the massive protests at JFK, the regional cab union strike would have been likely drowned out in the news cycle if not for the #deleteÜber scandal. Even if you believe there is a kantian moral imperative to strike in these cases: it is rule worship to follow the rule where the end is not served, like in this case.

Thirdly, this form of protest disadvantages innocent third parties completely unrelated to the “Muslim Ban”. The people who suffer as a result are those who are just trying to get home to their families after a long travel day, not the Trump administration, nor any of the parties involved or who are culpable. One cannot simply ignore the “double effect” produced by decision to strike. Given that JFK’s AirTrain shuttle had been closed by the Port Authority (until Governor Cuomo reversed the decision), if Über had joined in on the strike, travelers would have had little other option.

Lastly, most importantly, the strike is counterproductive insofar as it inconveniences those who went to the rally and makes it harder for them to find transport back home. Moreover, it disadvantages the lawyers who rushed to JFK to draft legal briefs, who ultimately were able to acquire a court order granting a stay on the ‘muslim ban’ by denying them transport too.

Ultimately, the era of Donald Trump demands disciplined and directed protest. We can no longer afford to waste protest capital on issues that do not materialize into results. Moreover, we ought not encourage protests that are both counterproductive, ineffective, and inconvenience innocent third parties. This era of progressive wilderness-wandering does not give us license to abandon our core commitments to the truth and evidence-based decision making. Über never intended to break the strike (or counteract it on social media), did not collaborate with the administration, and purposefully took measures to not profit from the strike. The #deleteÜber movement demonstrates that we cannot surrender our individual judgement to that of the crowd.

I say these things not because I am some corporate apologist nor because I am trying to equate trivial suffering of Über with the thousands of people and families who will be adversely affected by the ban—I say these things because in the age of Trump we must resist the urge to submit to the knee-jerk reaction of backlash when we have only little information on hand. Because, in the era of fake news and anti-intellectualism, we must prize evidence-driven policy making and truth, above all.

In Preparation for November 8th


By ETHAN GELFER || November 6. 2016

 

It’s finally almost over. Over two years of campaigning, grandstanding, arguing, scandalizing, and hating will finally resolve itself at thousands of polling places around the United States. For the sake of some semblance of sanity I’ll assume that the inevitable loser(s) of this presidential contest will concede when a winner becomes clear. As long as that holds, America will wake up on November 9th to a new president-elect. And no matter who it is, over half of the country at least will be disheartened at the result. A new cycle of partisanship and punditry and grandstanding and hating will begin.

That’s for next time. Let’s for now reserve the politicking for the transition team, the 45th President, and the 115th Congress. The reality is that what we do in the United States on a quadrennial basis is a special thing. Our system of government, for better or for worse, is pretty much unique around the world. And remarkably it works, over and over again. Our social system is preserved through the goodness, doggedness, and determination of hundreds of millions of people before us, contemporary to us, and after us.

In solemn fidelity to the rule of law and our civic democratic religion, despite our differences, despite the shouting and the hating, in spite of inevitable despair, time and time again we accept that politics is an activity that fundamentally is always our own. Our representatives in government reflect who we are, the direction we want to take, the world we want to live in, the image we present to the rest of the world.


This election is no different. In spite of our radically different views, in spite of our polarization and banal playground insult-driven campaign, even through the madness and race to the bottom politics we still live in a country that is our own. There is no procedure save that which we lay out for ourselves. Our binding, founding document may drive us but the decisions we make are fundamentally our own. Every American knows that, even if that idea may be suppressed. America is great because despite the fighting and opposition when the sun sets and the day is over we all come back in service of our nation, in dogged remembrance that our country is fundamentally an idea, a beacon that has lit the world for centuries. A project that none of us are exempt from, one that, whether for better or for worse, is an example for all to follow and measure up to.

So let us not be an example of what not to do, of whom not to follow. The election is over in just a little more than 48 hours. Until the final set of polls close, until the results are tabulated, I and the Popular Discourse board stand with Secretary Clinton. We believe she is easily the best choice for President. Our support for her and the ideas and ideals she represents will not end on Tuesday.

Yet as soon as we have a result, as soon as the day ends, we will stand behind the decision made by the American people. Because all we have left when all is said and done is each other; we have a President of all of us, not of some of us. We have a government that represents all of us, not some of us. And disagreement is certainly good, and we think that there is no world in which that disagreement will end. That disagreement, however, functions in the service of making our country better. We will not disparage the new President-Elect, we will not hate the Americans who did not see eye-to-eye with us.

For we are ruled by the same binding principles, and we are all Americans today, tomorrow, and always. This election has been grueling, exhausting, and demoralizing. It has touched people’s lives in ways we didn’t think were possible before setting out on this campaign. For me personally, this campaign has been as much of a crash course in my personal philosophy and the principles I hold fundamental as anything else. 2016 is truly a seminal year in American politics, and this ranks among the most important elections in American history. November 8th is the day the dissonance ends. On November 9th we hope that all of America can stand together to congratulate the 45th President of the United States on his or her election, and re-focus ourselves on the transition, new agendas, and preparation for the Oath of Office in three months. It is all we can do. On the eve of the election, let’s say a prayer for our country and our people, and dedicate ourselves to continued pursuit of something better, together.


Ethan Gelfer is the Managing Editor of Popular Discourse and a student in the College at the University of Chicago.

A Conversation with Dr. David Priess


By MEGHAN BODETTE || September 16, 2016

The Global Conversations project is a Popular Discourse initiative to bring together voices from various countries, backgrounds, and areas of expertise to discuss issues that matter. This week, we are fortunate enough to bring you a conversation with Dr. David Priess, a former CIA officer during the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations.  Dr. Priess is also the author of The President’s Book of Secrets: The Untold Story of Daily Intelligence Briefings to America’s Presidents from Kennedy to Obama. The book lays out the history of the President’s daily intelligence brief through interviews with former Presidents, Vice Presidents, CIA directors, national security advisers, secretaries of state and defense, and other relevant personnel.

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Dr. David Priess

Popular Discourse: Your book, The President’s Book of Secrets, tells the story of the President’s daily intelligence brief. What fact or anecdote in the book do you find most interesting?

David Priess: While some serious documentary research went into this book, the interviews with former president and vice presidents and others were most revealing.

I expected to find plenty of examples of presidents and other top officials getting real insight from their daily book of secrets–things that helped them make some of the toughest national security decisions this country has faced. And those examples showed up, for sure.

But you asked for the most interesting anecdotes, and most of those had to do with less serious moments. Two stand out.

First, when George H.W. Bush was president. You have to remember–he’d been CIA director, he’d been vice president for eight years … so he was no stranger to intelligence. Maybe that’s why he was so comfortable with his daily intelligence briefers, willing to have not only no-kidding serious conversation with them about the highly classified information in the PDB but also some fun moments. Like the time his CIA briefer conveyed the analysts’ assessment that the incumbent would win an election in Nicaragua. President Bush added it up differently, and he offered a wager to the CIA briefer that the analysis was wrong. It was–the challenger won, as Bush predicted–and the briefer brought an ice cream cone to the Oval Office to pay up.

Second, when Bill Clinton was president. He was surprised on his 50th birthday to open up his PDB and start reading about crisis after crisis around the world, all caused by things that he had said and done in the preceding days and weeks. It took him a few articles in the book before he realized they were pulling his leg, having a little fun with him.

I like those examples because they show that this very serious business of providing classified intelligence analysis to the president remains a very personal process, with real personalities and real human moments.

PD: How has the intelligence community adapted to technological and political changes since the administrations in which you served? Has it adapted well?

DP: Much has been written elsewhere about the expanded flow of information to analysts, especially in the realm of social media. I’ll focus instead on a narrower topic: the delivery of daily intelligence analysis to top customers.

Between administrations, and within each one, the intelligence community adapts to the needs of its customers and to the personality of its First Customer, the president of the United States. These adjustments have traditionally succeeded when built on a foundation of solid communication between intelligence officers and the recipients of their products. Absent a robust relationship, those changes become guesswork.

The biggest change with the President’s Daily Brief itself involves the medium of delivery. For decades–since the CIA started producing it for Lyndon Johnson in 1964–the PDB has been page after page of Top Secret intelligence assessments printed in a book. The format of that book has changed, but it’s been ink on paper.

But not anymore. President Obama gets his PDB, now from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, on an iPad. The PDB still contains analysis of various international issues based on all-source intelligence, but the new format allows for variations like embedded multimedia presentations that can enhance impact.

PD: What, in your analysis, is the best way of delivering daily intelligence to the president and other top policymakers?

DP: There may not be one best way. We have to remember–no one gets to the presidency or another top-level office without figuring out what learning style works best for him or her. And these folks have no shortage of advisers to help them get the most out of their time. The preferences of each president or other senior officer should drive how he or she receives daily intelligence analysis.

That said, even as an avid reader myself, I find it hard to see how the full benefit of daily intelligence can be captured without in-person briefings. A president or other senior official forgoing such briefings increases the chances that a senior adviser who is not intimately familiar with the nuances of intelligence will skew the information–deliberately or inadvertently–or otherwise prevent an objective assessment of the facts on the ground from reaching that official. Any risks arising from the direct contact between intelligence officers and senior customers can be mitigated.

An in-person briefing has a huge upside. It allows the customer to discuss with a trained intelligence officer issues regarding the sources behind the daily assessments, alternative points of view, and implications of the judgments on the printed page. A deeper understanding results. Plus, it gives the intelligence community a much better sense of the customer’s needs and challenges, which helps in the development of future products.

 


Special thanks to Dr. Priess, who was open to providing meaningful commentary to a new, growing media journalism project run by young college students. We are indebted to the time he devoted to helping us out. 

Hillary Rodham Clinton for President of the United States of America


By THE EDITORIAL BOARD || September 13, 2016

2016 has been a paradigm-shifting campaign season. Decades of growing partisanship and polarization have culminated in starkly different choices for the presidency. Nominally, Americans are presented with a choice of two candidates from the two major parties, one advanced by Democratic primary voters and the D.N.C and the other by Republicans and the R.N.C. Yet the true choice American voters will make in November has very little to do with the party the candidates are affiliated with. Instead, American politics seems to have split along new lines, between the establishment and the grass-roots, between anti-intellectualism and an acceptance of facts, between truth and post-truth politics. Soaring unfavorables for both Hillary Rodham Clinton and Donald J. Trump indicate vast displeasure with either candidacy. Both are widely seen as unfit for the presidency. The spoiler effect has returned to American politics, with almost a fifth of the electorate indicating at least nominal support for a third party candidate, either Governor Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party or Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party. Even within their respective parties, both Secretary Clinton and Mr. Trump face the potential of revolt have overwhelmingly characterized the election can easily dominate the choice for whom to vote for. However, there are also policy disagreements that are worth examining.

Governor Johnson of the Libertarian Party presents a stunning lack of knowledge of foreign policy and even a disdain for current events, recently characterized by his failure to recognize the identity or importance of the city of Aleppo in Syria, the epicenter of the Syrian Civil War. While his apology and acknowledgement of a lack of knowledge is commendable—whereas a Donald Trump would have deflected from the issue or later deny that the episode ever occurred— the fact that the governor appears to be uninterested in the role of the United States around the world is a troubling characteristic in a president. Even giving the governor the benefit of the doubt—indeed, we all make mistakes—the episode then brings up several questions about his advisers and campaign. We expect that presidents and presidential candidates have extensive political and policy advisors that ensure not only that candidates are prepared for such issues and anticipate such questions, but also brief presidential candidates quite often on issues of relevant policy, foreign and domestic. The very fact that Johnson’s advisers and campaign failed in those two responsibilities raises important questions about the types of individuals that would be in a Johnson/Weld White House or Cabinet.  In domestic policy, the governor advocates for a staunchly libertarian view of the role of government, which characterizes everything from drug schedules to motor vehicle licenses as federal overreach. While the role and scope of government is grounds for legitimate debate, the radical approach that the governor takes is unacceptable for domestic policy and would lead to serious negative consequences.

Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party is more knowledgeable on foreign policy, and a plank in her platform is to advocate for the idea of no more foreign intervention and complete isolationism. Such a position on American foreign policy is simply untenable in today’s interconnected and interdependent world. It is certainly legitimate to question the extent to which the U.S should be involved in other countries militarily or diplomatically, and to question the benefits of globalization. But to retreat entirely is not a policy that is sustainable, either in the long or short term, and would lead to serious negative consequences both at home and abroad. The reality remains that the United States commands the largest armed forces in the world as well as the largest foreign presence, and while there is room to scale back, a complete retreat is unadvisable. But Dr. Stein’s platform is more troubling on the domestic policy side. She displays a lack of economic knowledge in calling for a quantitative easing program for student debt. She buys into hard-left conspiracy theories about genetically modified foods, microwaves, Wi-Fi signals, and vaccinations, among other scientifically proven technologies. It would be a mistake to vote for someone who believes, or at minimum legitimates the belief, that the F.D.A is part of a conspiracy to contaminate the public with poor vaccines.

Voting for a third party candidate or refusing to vote at all, carries with it unacceptable risk. As Spencer Slagowitz has pointed out, ‘the consequences of voting for a third party candidate in our current political climate are undeniable. Inaction or voting for a third candidate, empowers those who do act and certainly weakens the candidate whom you could have voted for. It is equally difficult to contend, as some have, that a Trump presidency would strengthen the progressive movement. Sacrificing the well-being of American citizens for the spurious chance of a later progressive victory, that itself would have an even more questionable potential of reversing the full impact of a Trump presidency is an unconvincing option, to say the least.’

Finally, Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president, is completely and utterly unqualified for the presidency of the United States. His identity politics has become inseparable from his policy positions—between decrying ethnic and racial groups as “rapists and murderers” and suggesting a religious test and ban for immigrants entering the country, from displaying a stunning lack of knowledge of basic tenets of the American government ranging from the articles enumerated in the Constitution to basic nuclear policy, between feuding with the family of a fallen veteran of the U.S Armed Forces to mocking the disability of a New York Times reporter, from denouncing nearly everyone in the current administration including the Joint Chiefs of Staff to displaying violence and hatred towards political opponents and those who would exercise their First Amendment right to free expression. Remarkable numbers of government officials and policy experts, both Democrat and Republican, have come out against his candidacy.  The utter lack of respect and disdain in which Mr. Trump holds the office of the Presidency is astounding. And on top of the temperamental disqualifications, legislative objections abound. As Josh Zakharov has written, even if you disagree with Clinton’s policies, Donald Trump effectively has none. And the precious few policies Mr. Trump has advocated for are woefully inadequate, boneheaded, utterly contradictory, and plainly unconstitutional. They evince, per Ethan Gelfer, “ a remarkably myopic and narrow view of the multinational, multiethnic, multifaith, globalized world we live in today.”  Between building a wall and banning Muslims from entering the United States, between advocating for the deportation of 11 million residents of the United States to openly advocating for a foreign intervention in the American political process, between threatening to use nuclear weapons and indicating a willingness to turn the full faith and credit of the United States into a bargaining chip on the world stage, Mr. Trump has proven himself again and again to be a menace to the American presidency, to the democratic process, indeed, to the very idea of America that has lit the world for over two centuries. Mr. Trump’s very candidacy, and the R.N.C’s support of his candidacy, is offensive to the very fabric of our nation. Put simply, Mr. Trump cannot be President of the United States.

Despite there being three anti-establishment, resentful, angry presidential candidates in the 2016 race, there is one candidate and one party that represents a beacon of unity and progress. While a main strike against her in the eyes of many, Secretary Clinton’s membership in the “establishment” of American politics has made her into the most qualified candidate in history. Presenting a formidable resume, from being an advocate at the Children’s Defense Fund to First Lady of the United States, from Senator for the state of New York to Secretary of State of the United States, Hillary Clinton offers the experience and leadership necessary to stitch Washington together after decades of growing resentment, as well as the capability to lead our nation through the uncertain times ahead. Offering clear-eyed, level headed policy proposals that reflect a willingness to listen to and compromise with those who are willing to sit down at the negotiating table, Secretary Clinton’s Democratic Party platform is a remarkable document that reflects the best wisdom of this country’s brightest minds and strongest movements. Her candidacy brings people together, from the fifty million disabled Americans she fights for to the African Americans and Latino Americans who are given a voice, the Democratic Party embraces its value of inclusion and truly offers the best future for all those who are willing to play along. Secretary Clinton’s most valuable trait is her ability to listen, and while that makes her a poor campaigner and rhetorician, it will allow her presidency to be marked with cooperation and cross-partisanship that for too long has been missing from Capitol Hill and the White House.

Having been involved on the national stage for a quarter century, Secretary Clinton has certainly picked up some political baggage. She has a reputation for being a foreign policy hawk, for too often changing her views based on what seems to be political exploitation, she has displayed a level of impropriety with government business and communications that reveal a level of disdain to which she holds the American press, she is secluded on the campaign trail and rarely appears in an unscripted way to the American public or to the press, and she seems to have no hard and fast views. Yet she is a candidate that in today’s political climate that is the best choice to sit at the Resolute Desk on January 20, 2017.

As we’ve written in the past—“The fact that Hillary Clinton is the most recognizable name in politics of this decade is not only a testament to her resilience and intelligence, but her extensive experience as a legislator, policymaker, and stateswoman.” So let us not ignore Clinton’s leadership abilities and her experience with facilitating the administrative responsibilities of an organization—one of the most important responsibilities of the presidency. Clinton is an extraordinary administrator. Love him or hate him, Henry Kissinger asserted that “she ran the State Department in the most effective way that I’ve ever seen.” Our failure to raise questions about how a president sets priorities, how a president executes laws, and the advisors with whom presidents surround themselves is incredibly troubling in a world in which those factors have become increasingly important and one in which her opponent has assembled advisors of questionable repute and experience.

Whether one agrees with her policies or not, Secretary Clinton is simply the only candidate who has enough respect for the intellect and independence of America and its citizens to hold its highest office. We should ask for more from our candidates. We should seek to expose their flaws and hold them to a higher standard. Yes, that does mean holding Secretary Clinton to her words and chastising her for when things go wrong. That does not mean that she is not worth your vote.

If fidelity to democracy is the code of our civic religion then surely respect for that process should lead us not to cast a ballot in favor of someone who disregards and even hates that process, or someone who builds a reputation and a case for a vote based on a hatred of the system in which we conduct our political process, but to vote for the one who will best embody the American ideal. Let us preserve the sanctity of the highest office of our nation, and vote for the next President of the United States with confidence and candor, and place a leader into the Oval Office who can be trusted with steering this nation in the right direction for the years to come.

Party’s Over – Why Party Affiliation Should be Left Aside This Election (and others)

 


By JOSHUA ZAKHAROV || August 10, 2016

Pundits and analysts like to classify the patterns of voters under four main categories – ideologues, nature-of-the-times voters, party ID voters, and character voters. The first votes based on a candidate’s policies and platform, without regard to things like character or affiliations. The second votes based on what a candidate has done for them lately – if they’ve lost their job, if they feel their taxpayer dollars are misspent, then the incumbent has to go. The third usually casts a straight ballot for all the candidates of their party, voting almost solely on partisanship. The fourth votes based on how a candidate looks, acts, interacts with others – “because s/he seems ‘presidential,’ they get my vote.”

Guess the most popular voting pattern in the United States, governing the behavior of nearly 40% of the hundred-plus million Americans voting each year. It’s not the ideologue pattern (naïve guess – that’s only about 10%); it’s not nature-of-the-times; and it’s not character. It’s party-ID. Though it might seem reasonable at first glance, this is likely the most damaging ideology behind casting a ballot, and could be what tips the election in the favor of a megalomaniac this year.

Let me say first that this isn’t meant to be a pointless hot take, and certainly not an attack on people who back their party’s candidate without a second thought. Provided that the platform established at a party’s convention is one that’s in line with your principles, and that candidates are reasonable, pragmatic people that seek to effect that platform, voting for your party rather than your candidate is a solid choice.

But not every candidate fits the mold of their party, and that’s why casting a ballot for a candidate before their party is an important consideration. Most of the time, voting for your party is safe. Candidates are, more often than not, people that live up to the principles of their party, have a record of defending them, and focus on practicality and compromise in office. In times of political turmoil, such as those before critical elections, however, party ideology and principles become less important than choosing a candidate above political affiliation that can deal with a country’s issues.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1932 win over Hoover, for example, moved Democrats much further left than they had ever gone with New Deal social welfare reforms, even while the Democratic party continued to represent white Southerners above all else. In doing so, Roosevelt was able to build up a new Democratic voting coalition that would reelect him three times; his shaking up of traditional party politics proved effective during the Great Depression and spurred millions of voters to cast party aside to vote for the functional candidate over Hoover, who presided over the start of the Great Depression.

Ronald Reagan’s critical election and reelection in 1980 and 1984, to bring up a Republican example, were also able to shuffle traditional voting patterns. After demonstrating strong leadership during the Cold War and convincing Americans that Reaganomics could work, Reagan was able to win 49 (49!) states in his reelection, changing nearly every blue state but his opponent (Walter Mondale’s) home state to a red one.

As Hillary Clinton put it in her acceptance speech, we face a moment of reckoning this November. The economic success of our current president is undeniable, with his center-left economics from the stimulus package to infrastructure funding having made our economy rebound since the Great Recession in 2008. Unemployment is lower now than it was under Reagan, relations with Cuba and Iran have been normalized, and dozens of progressive goals have been realized by our Supreme Court. Clinton promises to build even higher on Obama’s goals, spending more on infrastructure, reshaping a Supreme Court to deal with the corruption of campaign finance regulations and the now-banal reality of gun violence.

Even if these are goals you disagree with, they are still real, clear-cut, nuanced, and understandable policy positions. Donald Trump has none. After refusing to disavow the endorsement of the Ku Klux Klan, after demonizing Muslims, Mexicans, black youth, America’s disabled, after accusing a Gold Star mother stricken with grief of not speaking because her Muslim faith prevented her from doing so, after claiming the Constitution had 12 articles and people had “no right” to say things he disagreed with, after spurning free trade deals that passed with bipartisan support, after exporting jobs from the US for his own gain, after claiming police deaths have gone up 50% from last year when there’s been one fewer death, it is clear that not only does Trump lack a basic understanding of the state of our nation, but that he lacks a basic understanding of the principles of his party.

This is no longer the party of John McCain, a man who, in his 2008 election, pointed out that Obama is a God-loving Christian and a family man, and disagreed with him only politically. This is no longer the party of Mitt Romney, who championed his party’s platform to the letter, and this is certainly no longer the party of Ronald Reagan.

This is a party being led astray from its original principles of keeping government small, not tyrannical against minorities, of protecting individual liberties rather than stripping them away, of abiding by the Constitution rather than never having read it.

If you’re a Republican, and you’re voting for whomever your party has selected for this general election, make sure you think twice – you might not even be voting for a Republican at all.

Josh Zakharov is a graduate of the Bronx High School of Science and an incoming freshman at the University of Chicago.

Ethan Gelfer contributed editing.