please please accept the results, Donald.

Here at Popular Discourse, we aren’t big fans of brevity. But events over the past few weeks have called for at least some kind of response. So even though it’s Fourth Week at the University of Chicago and midterms are afoot, here comes yet another article. 


By ETHAN GELFER || October 21, 2016

“I would like to promise and pledge to all of my voters and supporters and to all of the people of the United States that I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election, if I win.”

Those were actual words that exited an actual presidential nominee’s mouth in the day following a debate that self-destructed inside half an hour. We’ve documented Donald’s scandals in what we believe is its entirety here, but in reality its not even the obscenely inhuman force of offense and criminality (see: unconstitutional Muslim bans, sexual assault, etc), but rather the threat to institution that Donald Trump and his candidacy represents that scares me the most.

Much like every other nation, and to the consternation of many, the United States government and Constitution is not infallible. The republic is a socially constructed phenomenon that relies on continuous social agreement and cohesion to function. Authority, the rule of law, and power of the state are all derived from reification as a result of such socializations. In essence, we only have a government because we say we have a government.

That’s what makes Donald’s casual affronts to the pillars of democracy so dangerous. Traditions and customs affirm our commitment to the continued social reification of abstract institutions. Why do we refer to our chief executive solely as Mr. (and soon Madam) President? Why is it that when the President stands, no one sits? I submit that these aren’t random exertions of power that have become accepted, but rather these and other small traditions are vital to the perpetuation of our social fabric.

Unfortunately, Donald drags the Republican guard down with him as he goes. John McCain has suggested that the new Congress will still refuse to consider any Supreme Court nominees. Donald suggests that his supporters could seek Second Amendment remedies if Secretary Clinton were elected. He supports and encourages foreign intervention in the American election system. He suggests that subverting federal law makes him smart. He threatens to throw his political opponent in jail. And to top everything off, he suggests that he may not concede the election if he loses.

Trump apologians have already begun spinning the story by claiming that Al Gore, a Democrat, also refused to concede an election. Yet that situation is monumentally incomparable. To entertain the subject for a minute- Gore actually had a reason to contest the result, given that he won the popular vote  (Donald has as good a chance as not to lose by double digits in the popular vote), and the margin of victory in Florida amounted to .009% of the vote in the state. Yes, there was a constitutional crisis in 2000. But when it became clear that the mechanisms of our government had not worked in his favor, Gore said the following:

“Other disputes have dragged on for weeks before reaching resolution. And each time, both the victor and the vanquished have accepted the result peacefully and in the spirit of reconciliation. So let it be with us. I know that many of my supporters are disappointed. I am, too. But our disappointment must be overcome by our love of country. And I say to our fellow members of the world community: Let no one see this contest as a sign of American weakness. The strength of American democracy is shown most clearly through the difficulties it can overcome.

Al Gore was gracious even in the face of heartbreaking, unfair defeat. He signaled faith in our political process. Donald Trump is preparing to present himself as the polar opposite. I’m reminded of a quotation from The West Wing, a show that might as well now be considered fantasy; “This country is an idea, and one that’s lit the world for two centuries and treason against that idea is not just a crime against the living! This ground holds the graves of people who died for it, who gave what Lincoln called the last full measure of devotion, of fidelity.”

Yes, we can, and we should complain and protest Donald’s monumental disrespect for ethnic, racial and gender groups. Yes, we can, and we should complain and protest Donald’s inflammation of violence and violent rhetoric. Yes, we can, and we should complain and protest Donald’s utter lack of experience, understanding, or demonstration of education on anything remotely representing governing. But in my mind if there is one issue to protest, if there is one truly disqualifying factor for this candidate, it is this flagrant disrespect for the guardrails of democracy. Our country only exists because we agree that it will. By suggesting that it doesn’t have to be that way, it won’t.

Donald, I hope I saw a human side of you at the Al Smith dinner yesterday. I hope you were as uncomfortable and embarrassed of yourself as I was of you. I hope you understand what you are doing to this country. I hope you understand that you are quite literally the greatest threat to the structure of the world’s oldest democracy at present. Because if you understand that, there’s still time to salvage some of your dignity and some of this country. Please, for the sake of our country and our future, stop challenging these pillars of our existence.

Note: normally I try to refer to people I’m writing about by their proper titles. I hope to signal the rift I pointed to once again by referring to Mr. Trump in this article solely by his first name. I firmly believe in the need to reinforce and continually reify our social structure. Mr. Trump operates outside that social structure and thus I refuse to refer to him in the manner that operates in a world he seeks to destroy. 


Ethan Gelfer is the Managing Editor of Popular Discourse. He is a first-year student at the University of Chicago. 

Scandal: Donald Trump makes the case against a Trump presidency.

We here at Popular Discourse have furiously penned self-righteous polemics and thinly veiled academic invectives at Donald Trump and the particularly noxious strain of far-right authoritarian populism that he champions. As election day approaches swiftly, we had another idea. We realized that the compelling argument against Donald Trump, comes from Donald Trump himself. Surely Donald Trump’s policies are vague, ill-defined, or non-existent (ISIL strategy, how he would revamp trade deals, foreign policy?) and those he has outlined are outright laughable (tax plan, the wall, etc.) or plainly unconstitutional. Indeed, for us, it is taken prima facie that Donald Trump is woefully unprepared for the office of the Presidency of the United States in nearly every capacity. Yet, leveling criticisms of Donald J. Trump’s policies and grasp of policy issues is rendered moot insofar as Trump fails to meet the most basic of thresholds: fundamental fitness. Please don’t take it from us, take it from the Donald’s ever-pursed lips. The following list is a non-exhaustive accounting of nearly every major scandal (the list comprises 47) that the Republican nominee for President has been implicated in, since he announced his candidacy. I would only offer this one caution to our readers: it may cause you to long for the sweet old days of Romney’s ‘binders full of women’.

 

Conspiracy Theory Mongering (The Greatest Hits!)

  1. Birtherism: Obama wasn’t a U.S citizen
  2. Claiming that thousands of muslins cheered in New Jersey after 9/11
  3. Ted Cruz’s father was involved in Kennedy Assassination
  4. Vince Foster: suggested several times that the Clintons were involved in his death
  5. President Obama “Complicit in Orlando Attacks”
    1. “People cannot, they cannot believe that President Obama is acting the way he acts and can’t even mention the words ‘radical Islamic terrorism.’ There’s something going on. It’s inconceivable. There’s something going on.”
  6. Obama and Clinton were “founders of ISIL”
    1. There is a legitimate claim of facetiousness on the part of Mr. Trump, however his history of conspiracy mongering casts serious doubt on that position.
  7. Scalia Was Assassinated
    1. According to Trump, “They say they found a pillow on his face, which is a pretty unusual place to find a pillow.”
  8. Vaccines Cause Autism
    1. “The child, the beautiful child, went to have the vaccine and came back and a week later got a tremendous fever. Got very, very sick. Now is autistic,”
  9. Climate Change is a hoax (created by the Chinese)
    1. Has since walked statements back, but asserted in numerous times fairly recently
  10. The Unemployment Rate is a “phony number” and “one of the biggest hoaxes in American modern politics”
  11. The Fed is political and Janet Yellen is keeping interest rates low to help Democrats
  12. Hillary part of an international banking cabal
    1. “Hillary Clinton meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty.”

 

Sexism, Sexual Assault, and The Donald’s View of Women

  1. Bragging about sexual assault: “Grab them by the P***y”
  2. Corroborating cases and accusations of attempted sexual assault
    1. Great rundown by Vox: here
  3. Sexist remarks toward Megyn Kelly “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her, wherever.”
  4. Comment to Philip Johnson “Women, you have to treat ‘em like shit.”
  5. Punishment for women who get abortions

 

Encouraging Violence and Undermining Democratic Institutions

  1. Has suggested repeatedly that the election will be rigged
  2. Assertion that the Media is dishonest, in the pocket of the Clinton’s, and rigged against him
  3. Threatened violent riots if he had lost the primary
  4. Repeatedly encouraged violence against protestors at rallies
  5. Implication that his supporters should use violence against her if Clinton appoints judges…
    1. “If she gets to pick her judges — nothing you can do, folks. Although, the Second Amendment people. Maybe there is. I don’t know.”

 

Authoritarian Don’

  1. Praise for Vladimir Putin: ‘more of a leader than Obama’
  2. Proposal to censor media outlets critical of him through altering libel laws
  3. Institution of campaign blacklist for media outlets that delivered critical reporting of Trump
  4. “I alone can fix it”: Trump’s fearmongering and authoritarianism at the RNC
  5. Implication that Trump would jail his political opponents and especially Hillary
    1. Suggested that he would appoint a special prosecutor to try Clinton, “Lock Her Up”
  6. Praise for Saddam Hussein
    1. “Saddam Hussein throws a little [chemical] gas, everyone goes crazy, ‘oh he’s using gas!’”

 

Engaging with and flirting with racism

  1. Mexico is sending “rapists”, “criminals”.
  2. History of housing discrimination against African Americans
  3. Racist comments surrounding suggestions that an Indiana born ‘Mexican’ judge’s heritage would influence his decisions and is unable to impartially adjudicate the situation
  4. To minority communities, “What do you have to lose!”
  5. Muslim Ban
  6. David Duke scandal

 

Donald Trump, Foreign Policy, The Military, and Veterans

  1. Insulting John McCain, and by extension POWs, for being captured.
  2. “The generals have been reduced to rubble,” “I know better than the generals”
  3. Insulted a gold star family—Khizr and Ghazala Khan scandal
  4. S should specifically target the innocent families of terrorists
  5. Repeated calls for use of torture, worse methods than waterboarding
  6. Disbanding NATO
  7. “‘Its not so bad for us if Japan [and Korea] have nuclear weapons”
  8. Asking an expert three times: “If we have [Nuclear Weapons], we can’t we use them?”
  9. Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

 

General Impropriety

  1. Mocking a disabled reporter
  2. Tax Returns
  3. Trump University Scandal
    1. Pam Bondi bribery scandal
  4. Trump Foundation Scandal—improper use of charitable money for personal reasons

 

As voters we are compelled to draw conclusions from the actions and public statements of candidates to piece together an idea of how they would perform as President of the United States. Any of these scandals, during a past election cycle, would completely render the presidential aspirations of a politician unrealizable. If any of the above 47 scandals cast doubt on Trump’s ability to meet the most basic requirements of public office, we urge that you take that into account when considering who to vote for.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Global Growth Trends, Right-Wing Backlash, and Political Economy: Shouting into the Ether


BY SPENCER SLAGOWITZ || SEPTEMBER 19TH, 2016

Nils Gilman, a historian at UC Berkeley, wrote a medium length piece last Monday on the ‘Economic roots of populist rage’, in the America Interest that suggested that the ‘technoglobalist’ consensus of the elites failed repeatedly failed the same segment of society, most poignantly demonstrated by the populist rage of this election cycle, thus necessitating a new socio-economic compact. What follows is my response to that argument, my proverbial rant into the ether.

I am easily in agreement with the premise of this piece—an economic system (or more accurately a whole regime of economic policies that comprise such a ‘system’) that repeatedly leaves the same sector of the population behind is not a socially optimal economic system. Yet, Gilman’s piece is more historical/political analysis than policy proposal—and it is Gilman’s analysis, not his conclusions nor his premise, that ultimately proves faulty.

Firstly, Gilman suggests that economic anxiety is the prime motivator for the current quasi-populist, anti-globalist backlash, in order to argue that failed economic policies have engendered serious ‘political economy’ concerns. This argument seems to suggest that through economic ends may we seek to quell the backlash of the so-called ‘Trumpenproletariat”. Gilman asserts:

In other words, the populist class-based anger we see has a basis in economic reality, and what it means politically is that the United States (and, indeed, almost all the advanced Western countries) needs a new social-political compact

Yet, there are several reasons to doubt that economic concerns are the main motivating factors behind the rise of right wing movements. A Gallup study conducted in early July by Jonathan Rothwell concluded that, “Trump’s popularity cannot be neatly linked to economic hardship. Those who do not view Trump favorably appear to have been just as exposed as others, if not more so, to competition with immigrants and foreign workers, and yet are no more likely to say they have a favorable opinion of Trump than others.” These findings are echoed by political scientist Philip Klinker’s Vox analysis of an ANES (American National Election Studies) pilot survey which observed that, “Attitudes about race, religion, and immigration trump (pun intended) economics.” In any case, as the previous examples show, a lot of recent evidence suggests a plausible disconnect between economic anxiety or loss from trade and support for Trump. This is additionally reinforced by looking to Scandinavian societies, who have enjoyed robust and equitable growth, but still experienced a similar right-wing populist backlash.

Secondarily, at the heart of Gilman’s argument is his presentation of the “empirical economic basis for populist economic-based anger” and his explanation of the roots of current economic trends.To answer the second principle, Gilman poses two questions: “First, why are the gains of the economy so poorly distributed? Second, why has productivity growth slowed so much over the past ten years?” In an effort to answer the first question, Gilman appears to rely on the second’s answer—he asserts:

There actually is a well-known (though not uncontroversial) historical explanation for why we should not be surprised that the past few years have been a period of slowing productivity growth in the old industrial core of the North Atlantic…we have entered the declining-growth stages of the current phase of global capitalism…the theory that capitalism at the technology frontier operates in higher- and lower-growth cycles was originally developed nearly a century ago by the Russian economist Nikolai Kondratiev.

Gilman proceeds to use Kondratiev’s theory of “K Waves” to justify his indictment of ‘turbocaptialism.” But to answer easily what is one of the most contentious and important questions of modern macroeconomics— what has caused current growth patterns & stagnating wages/productivity?— the article compels the reader accept the “K-Waves” hypothesis based on authority alone. This is quite troublesome given its centrality to Gilman’s analysis and the total dearth of supporting economic evidence found in the piece; indeed, instead of providing an economic argument, a large part of the article is simply an historical analysis that, instead of justifying the theory and its applicability in this case, explain how it has played throughout the preceding few decades. An interesting and dare I say, captivating intellectual exercise, but one that is far from compelling.

Thirdly, the article does not respond to or address any of the other predominant theories that concern the roots of current global growth patterns. Given how contentious the debate is and how diverse the promulgated arguments are—the failure to rebut any other theory that could possibly invalidate Gilman’s central thesis raises serious question. From Kenneth Rogoff’s argument about debt overhang, or Larry Summer’s secular stagnation theory—alternate expressions remain wholly ignored, save one exception; in an effort to respond to the most compelling counter-argument to the K-Wave hypothesis, Robert Gordon’s theory of current technological development slowdown, Gilman effectively shrugs and dismisses it as “premature.” Even after conceding that economically significant developments need to be platform technologies, (and, mind you, Gordon suggests that those sorts of technologies simply aren’t being developed), Gilman could have at least fulfilled the necessary burden of proving that the technologies he identifies—additive manufacturing, CRISPR-enabled biotechnology and precision medicine— in order to respond to Gordon, are indeed platform technologies.

Don’t get me wrong, this is a fascination exploration of an important topic and brings very interesting historical context—and I’ll eagerly second the final conclusion of the article that we cannot simply separate the disciplines of political economy and economics—the two are not only intertwined but directly impact each other. In isn’t enough to say that they are simply related, it is more so that they look at different sides and aspects of related phenomenon—that phenomenon being governance and society. To loosely paraphrase John Kenneth Galbraith, one cannot separate the discipline of economics, political economy/political science, sociology/anthropology, philosophy and psychology. But, while the article is fascinating, articulate, and poignant—as an argument, it leaves much to be desired. It gives readers a faulty impression of the relationship between U.S economic policy and the current sociopolitical trends of right-wing backlash, it misidentifies the causes of current global growth, and as a consequence, concludes by giving faulty policy prescriptions

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.

Optimism: A Strategic Mistake


By ALEC CAMHI || August 14th, 2016

Evidently, there are two different Americas. At least, that’s what an onlooker might think after watching the Republican and Democratic National Conventions. The Republicans painted a gloomy picture of America as a country with high unemployment, high crime levels, and weak national security, with those problems getting worse to boot. This left the door wide open for the Democrats to position themselves as the party of optimism and positivity, an opportunity of which they took full advantage. At their convention, Democrats spoke of an America full of hope and potential, a clear difference from the Republicans’ dark illustration of the state of the country. While it’s not inherently bad for the Democrats to position themselves as the optimistic party, they risk alienating a considerable part of the American public still disheartened by the direction of the country.

Admittedly, Democrats should be feeling pretty confident about their optimistic messaging right now. After all, the Republicans set a pretty low bar to surpass. The pessimism of Donald Trump’s convention speech was astonishing. Just in the span of a few minutes, he told viewers that “our president … has made America a more dangerous environment”, that “this administration has … failed [inner cities] on jobs”, and that “the damage and devastation that can be inflicted by Islamic radicals has been proven over and over,” setting a somewhat apocalyptic tone.1 On the Democratic side, the message was a sharp contrast. Not only did they repeat numerous times that “America is already great” – a not-so-subtle rebuke of Trump’s “Make America great again” slogan – but the tone of the speeches differed notably from that of Trump’s speech.2 First Lady Michelle Obama noted that every day, her African American family wakes up “in a house built by slaves” centuries ago, highlighting the progress that America has made on racial issues.3 Senator Cory Booker argued, “We are called to be a nation of love,” not just of “tolerance.”4 President Obama celebrated “all that we’ve achieved together” during his presidency, citing the economic recovery, the killing of Osama bin Laden, the Iran nuclear deal, the Paris climate agreement, and the Affordable Care Act, among other things.5 Democratic Nominee Hillary Clinton praised the “the strengths we bring as Americans” in the face of the country’s challenges.6 The poll numbers make it appear that this strategy – drawing a contrast with the cynical tone of the Republicans – paid off. In the wake of her convention, Clinton has enjoyed a nice bounce: since July 25th, the first day of her convention, her RealClearPolitics polling average has surged from a 1-point deficit to an 8-point lead in national head-to-head matchups against Trump as of August 10th.7 She is also ahead in key swing states; her campaign is so confident in her leads in the usually-close states of Colorado and Virginia that they aren’t even spending on television ads there.8

Correlation does not equal causality, however. Much of Clinton’s bounce in the polls is also attributable to recent mistakes that Trump has made on the campaign trail. First, Trump made headlines by attacking Muslim gold star mother Ghazala Khan, wife of Khizr Khan, the Muslim gold star father who spoke at the Democratic National Convention. In an interview with George Stephanopoulos, Trump said that Mrs. Khan “maybe … wasn’t allowed to have anything to say” alongside her husband because of her religion.9 (In an interview before Trump made those comments, it was clear that the reason Mrs. Khan didn’t speak was that she was too grief-stricken.)10 Trump also stated in a press conference that Russia should try to hack Clinton’s deleted e-mails, a move that the New York Times called “essentially urging a foreign adversary to conduct cyberespionage.”11 If that wasn’t enough to cause his poll numbers to plummet, Trump then gaffed again in the Stephanopoulos interview and said that Vladimir Putin “is not going into Ukraine,” despite the fact that Russia already has military forces there.12 He then tried to walk this statement back to little avail, stating that he meant that he would be able to deter Putin from Ukraine if he were president. This, coming after statements suggesting that he would consider withdrawing from NATO (which would enable Putin to pursue serious expansion into former Soviet states),13 cast serious doubt in voter’s minds regarding Trump’s knowledge of foreign policy, further contributing to his declining poll numbers.

Thus, Democrats must be cognizant of Trump’s mistakes and how they could be influencing the polling numbers before they become overconfident in their highly optimistic tone. While it may be hard to see right now, not everything is going right for Democrats in this election. Take the economy, for instance. In 1992, James Carville, a campaign strategist for Bill Clinton at the time, hung a sign in the campaign’s headquarters to explaining the campaign’s core message. The second of three bullet points read, “The economy, stupid,” and since then, “It’s the economy, stupid,” has become an exceedingly popular phrase among political junkies when discussing the most important issue in deciding elections.14 Essentially, when the economy is strong, the incumbent party has an easier time retaining power, and when the economy is weak, the opposite is true. And in America’s current economic situation – one of recovery, but sluggish recovery – Democrats risk being viewed as out-of-touch with the plight of struggling Americans for whom the economy is still not at full strength. This spells trouble for them. Indeed, a poll conducted by NBC and the Wall Street Journal from July 31st to August 3rd, which showed Clinton up by nine points over Trump nationally, still showed that voters preferred Trump on the economy by a four-point margin. Although Clinton has closed the gap on that issue since June (when the same poll showed her trailing by 10 on the economy), this nonetheless indicates that voters may be looking for an alternative to the status quo. The poll isn’t particularly kind to Clinton in that regard, either: Trump has a whopping 22-point advantage over Clinton in the category of “changing business as usual in Washington.”15 On top of that, the RealClearPolitics polling average as of August 10th shows that about 65 percent of voters believe the country is on the “wrong track,” while only 29 percent believe that the country is going in the “right direction.”16 This is another liability for Clinton. While she preaches a message of such optimism, the polls seem to show that Americans aren’t particularly optimistic about the direction of the nation.

Does this mean that Democrats should completely abandon their messaging? Of course not. But dialing it back wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world, either. Yes, the polling looks awfully good for Clinton right now, but the election is still three months out, and current economic conditions don’t necessarily spell great news for the incumbent party. Many Americans are still struggling to reap the benefits of the economic recovery, so Democrats need to be careful how rosy a picture they paint in order to stay in touch with the concerns of struggling Americans. With Trump digging himself such a deep hole and not showing any signs of “getting on message” like establishment Republicans so desperately want him to, Democrats don’t need to roll the dice with a risky message. As long as they manage not to seriously alienate any groups between now and November, Clinton should coast to victory just fine.

 

 

Citations:

  1. http://www.mercurynews.com/elections/ci_30155961/transcript-donald-trumps-acceptance-speech
  2. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jul/28/obama-hillary-clinton-convention-speech-trump
  3. http://time.com/4421538/democratic-convention-michelle-obama-transcript/
  4. http://time.com/4421756/democratic-convention-cory-booker-transcript-speech/
  5. http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-obama-2016-convention-speech-transcript-20160727-snap-story.html
  6. http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-hillary-clinton-convention-speech-transcript-20160728-snap-htmlstory.html
  7. http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2016/president/us/general_election_trump_vs_clinton-5491.html
  8. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2016/08/04/showing-growing-confidence-clinton-campaign-and-super-pac-pause-ads-in-colorado-and-virginia/
  9. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/07/30/donald-trump-responds-to-the-khan-family-maybe-she-wasnt-allowed-to-have-anything-to-say/
  10. http://www.cnn.com/2016/08/02/politics/who-is-khizr-khan-trnd/
  11. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/28/us/politics/donald-trump-russia-clinton-emails.html?ref=topics
  12. http://time.com/4432282/donald-trump-vladimir-putin-ukraine/
  13. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-07-21/trump-says-u-s-may-not-defend-nato-allies-against-russia-attack-iqvw8gki
  14. http://www.nytimes.com/1992/10/31/us/1992-campaign-democrats-clinton-bush-compete-be-champion-change-democrat-fights.html
  15. http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/first-read/nbc-wsj-poll-clinton-jumps-nine-point-lead-over-trump-n623131
  16. http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/other/direction_of_country-902.html

The Bold War—Donald Trump’s connections to Russia prove undeniably worrisome


By MEGHAN BODETTE || August 4th, 2016

The Cold War has been over for nearly twenty-five years. Anyone watching the headlines of the past two weeks could be forgiven for thinking otherwise. Fear of a potential Russian threat to the United States has returned to the news as Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has been questioned about his ties to the Russian government– with implications not considered by many Americans since the height of superpower rivalry.

These questions began to arise after a series of staff hires, events, and policy statements that, taken together, may not appear coincidental. Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager, was once employed by former Ukrainian prime minister Viktor Yanukovych, a pro-Russian leader. Retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, who has advised Trump on foreign policy, has appeared multiple times on RT, a Russian state-funded news network. The presence of Manafort and Flynn, with all the personal connections to the Russian government that they bring, add a layer of suspicion to Trump’s positions on Ukraine and NATO– issues where Russia has a strong interest. The official Republican platform softened its position on the defense of Ukraine, removing language advocating ‘lethal’ aid to Ukrainian rebels. When asked about the change, Trump offered not a nuanced defense of the position— which is possible—but a refutation of any involvement and a bizarre assertion that “He [Vladimir Putin] is not going into Ukraine, okay?…he’s not gonna go into Ukraine.”  Trump’s NATO policy has scarcely changed since his earlier pronouncement that the alliance was “obsolete”. He disregards Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, replacing “an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all” with a threat of conditional protection based on economic calculation.

Such a pattern of staff hires and policy statements, connecting to a state whose interests often conflict with American interests, warrants serious attention in and of itself. The recently publicized hack of Democratic National Committee servers makes further investigation of a potential Russian intervention in the Trump campaign essential.

The release of about 20,000 unflattering emails showing the Committee’s undemocratic inner workings, timed to hit just before the Democratic National Convention, comes across as an attempt to hurt Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and thereby benefit Trump. The origins of the attack make that goal more than a mere partisan statement. US officials agree that the DNC attack originated from Russia, and that it had at least tacit state approval there. Some experts argue that it was explicitly sponsored by the Russian government, pointing to Trump’s ties to Manafort and Flynn and his attitude toward NATO security guarantees as reasons why they would go to such lengths to support his candidacy.

 

If these allegations are true— and it is possible that they could be— we have just seen direct foreign intervention in the outcome of an American election. Some observers will feel as though 20th-century panic over Russian subterfuge is finally justified.  But how exactly does Russian support of Trump relate and compare to the Cold War tradition of election interference by both superpowers— and to more subtle post-Cold War attempts at destabilization?

Since 1945, the Soviet Union and the United States interfered in the democratic processes of weaker states both within and outside of their respective spheres of influences, to keep these states from from allying with or moving too ideologically close to the other superpower. According to political scientist Dov Levin, this interference has occurred 117 times between 1945 and 2001— one out of every 9 elections. Military, economic, and political pressures have all been used, overtly and covertly, depending on the situation and the interests of the intervening state at the given time.

Classic examples of Soviet interference began with the sponsorship of Communist parties in Eastern European states close to Soviet borders, and the elimination of opposition figures to ensure that these states would come under Communist, and inevitably Soviet, control. Military forces were sent into these satellite states when leaders came about who advocated even slight breaks with Soviet policy, as in Hungary in 1956. The United States behaved similarly, working covertly to support anti-Communist parties and even sponsoring coups against governments perceived to be too leftist or too hostile to American interests. Often, this behavior has had a measurable effect— in the case of overt interventions, equivalent to an additional 3% of the total vote for the party or individual in favor of which the United States or the Soviet Union has intervened.

It is likely that any impact the DNC hack might have will be on a far smaller scale than that of these events. Trump is historically unpopular— even a 3% increase in his share of the vote might not propel him to victory. Russia is no longer a superpower, and the United States holds a greater share of relative world power than it does, lessening Russian ability to credibly influence American politics. However, this part of history is still important to keep in mind when considering both states’ actions today. The Cold War patterns of behavior detailed above establish election-related interference as a tactic used by both states to push their own interests. Because each state knows that the other has used this tactic, it knows that it might do so again, and that the tactic can be effective.

This suspicion has not ended with the breakdown of the bipolar order. Rather, it has evolved to fit shifting interests and a new technological landscape. Neither Russia nor the United States is likely to interfere with or overthrow an elected government because that government has moved too close to capitalist or communist ideology; neither is as likely to invest as much time and resources in altering the electoral outcome of a state far from its region as it might have during the Cold War. The growing power and prevalence of the Internet has opened cyberspace as a far wider field for competition and subterfuge— a field that many states have taken advantage of, from Chinese economic espionage against American companies to American use of the Stuxnet virus on computers in an Iranian nuclear facility. A state that sees an opportunity to use an old tactic for a new purpose, or against a new type of target, may benefit from that innovation— and if it believes that the benefit is credible, it is likely to pursue the opportunity.

It would be very reasonable for the Russian government to to evaluate a Trump presidency as a definite benefit, both for his pro-Russian foreign policy proposals and the disorder he would cause both within the United States and beyond it. This analysis, coupled with a sense of revenge for perceived American influence in pro-democratic “color revolutions” near its borders, could easily lead Russia to attempt to intervene, or condone intervention, in the 2016 election in favor of Trump. Whether he and his campaign are aware of it is, in a way, beside the point. Generalized instability exploited in favor of foreign interests can be as dangerous as targeted instability caused by foreign interests. In a world where any foreign intervention can have a tangible effect on democratic elections, and where the past 70 years have seen a marked pattern of such intervention, it is wise to be wary of both.

 

Donald Trump and The Unitary Presidency


By SPENCER SLAGOWITZ || August 2nd, 2016

The nature of U.S foreign policy institutions make a populist quasi-authoritarian leader like Trump, who promises to do much when it comes to foreign policy, particularly dangerous. That is an alarming notion and ought to frighten you.

The vision of the unitary presidency, most robustly articulated under George W. Bush’s administration, enshrined the role of the presidency as the sole organ of American foreign policy. It dismissed the role of congress in exercising foreign policy responsibilities and maintained that only the executive branch has the dynamism required to deal with international affairs.  As a consequence, today, the vast majority of authority when it comes to foreign policy decision making rests with the president. Congress has even struggled, to give an example, to draft a new AUMF (authorization for the use of military force) to empower the president to combat ISIL (Da’ash) and furthermore to define the scale and scope of our offensive operations. To this date, the Obama administration relies on the hilariously outdated 2001 AUMF  to justify airstrikes in Iraq and the kill & capture operations conducted by the ~250 commandos located there. Given the immense authority enjoyed by the presidency and the lack of robust checks on that authority, a populist demagogue like Trump would be especially dangerous whilst in office.

Before we can go on to discuss the implications of the legal structure that places immense authority in the presidency, it is important to discuss its source, what Harold Koh has defined as the ‘National Security Constitution.” The National Security Constitution is a quasi-constitutional “normative vision of the foreign policy process” which “lurks within the constitutional system…[It] creates…institutions…defines fundamental power relationships and places limitation upon the powers of each branch.” The National Security Constitution consists of three hierarchal levels of law, of which the first is the text of the Constitution itself. Concerning foreign policy, the Constitution itself is ambiguous and even contradictory, however it importantly establishes a guiding principle of shared institutional participation. At the second hierarchical level, more specific rules governing the legal rights and duties of the three branches can be found in framework statutes, legislation that “reinforces and elaborates the constitutional foundation of power sharing by constructing a statutory super structure.” At the final, and lowest, level is non-binding historical precedent or in the words of Harold Koh, “quasi-constitutional custom.” These three hierarchal levels of law work in tandem to describe a legal structure that governs the foreign policy process. So, to recap, constitutional law is kind of confusing when it comes to foreign policy—but importantly the framers were very clear on the idea of shared institutional participation, the idea that Congress and the executive branch were joint partners when it comes to foreign policy.


That idea of joint institutional participation was completely thrown out by the Hughes Court in the 1936 Curtiss-Wright decision which effectively consolidated presidential authority in foreign affairs and asserted, albeit through some questionable logic, that foreign policy authority passed directly from Great Britain to the executive branch. Since then each subsequent presidency has, for the most part, expanded executive authority little by little. Indeed, as Professor Christopher Kelly explains, “ The current…administration has simply formalized a process…that has been building over the last several decades.”

This sort of unlimited executive control of foreign policy, that is currently enjoyed by the presidency, encourages and enables costly war making. The way the executive branch has developed loosened constraints in a manner that allowed for flexibility in war making but made it easier to conduct military hostilities abroad. However, through vesting war-making power in Congress, the framers of the constitution endeavored to create a system that will “not hurry us into war; it is calculated to guard against it.”

This reasoning is underpinned by the idea that a decision as costly as declaring war should be a product of consensus building and considerable debate. Yet, the power to conduct military action abroad has shifted hands, from Congress to the executive branch. The executive branch has near-total dominance over war making; for example, it has historically ignored the War Powers Act, a framework statute that constrains the ability of the president to, you guessed it,  make war.

There are several dangers involved in vesting this power solely with the executive branch. Most of these dangers result from the executive branch’s inherent faults as Professor Alexander Bickel posits, “The errors of the executive branch are active ones: it can rush hastily into war, and it can mistake silence for consensus…the sins of the executive branch are those of commission.” As a result, as the executive branch has claimed unilateral war making powers, the United States has entered into an increased number of ‘presidential wars’ or conflicts without congressional authorization: the Korean War, the Second Indochina War (Vietnam), Bay of Pigs invasion, the invasion of Cambodia, the Persian Gulf War, the Iraq War, the invasion of Grenada, the War in Afghanistan, the Kosovo War, and the military intervention in Syria.  Simply put, it is not hard to imagine Donald Trump rushing into conflicts in the name of restoring American leadership and strength that would result in disaster, especially and given the Donald’s lack of expertise when it comes to Foreign Policy and the strange heterodox coterie of so-called experts that advise him.

Furthemore, Law professor Amos Guiora, in his article Human Rights and Counterterrorism, sets out a theory concerning sweeping executive power, which asserts that, “unrestrained executive power during times of crisis, not subject to the checks and balances inherent in the theory of shared institutional participation, facilitates decision making that violates individual rights.”Facing international terrorism and hostile non-state actors, the second Bush and Obama administrations have claimed extraordinary powers that can (and some argue already do) threaten fundamental human rights. The Obama administration, for example, has received considerable criticism for the use of drones to conduct extra-judicial killings. Professor Afsheen John Radsan explains how “The executive branch can unilaterally designate an individual as an armed enemy combatant and then without any due process or retroactive judicial review, kill said individual.”. The expansion of such presidential powers has always been implicitly justified by the idea that the executive branch will reasonably and appropriately use them.  But, without an impartial adjudicator to constrain the exercise of such a power, the prospect of a Trump presidency makes me worry if he will prudently exercise the authority vested in the office of the president. A president that has legitimately proposed to ban an entire religion from entering the United States, and has supported the use of torture and waterboarding, cannot be expected to, for one, not do those things and two, exercise his authority in a ‘reasonable’ manner. However, those who would oppose the imagined blatant violation of civil rights that would occur under a Trump presidency, have little recourse anymore. That is deeply troubling to me and hopefully to you, as well, and it pretty powerfully suggests as well that we ought to articulate a new vision of foreign policy power sharing in which there are legitimate congressional checks on presidential authority.

US-Cuban Relations: Historical Significance and the Paradox Behind It

 


By JOSHUA CHANG || July 27, 2016

In the spring of 2016, President Obama traveled to Cuba to meet with Raúl Castro, its president. In a historic summit a new connection was laid between both countries after decades of Cold-War era hostilities drove an indomitable rift between them. The thawing of hostilities has been accompanied by more economic liberalization on Cuba’s part, as it increasingly shifts away from the socialist command economy promoted under the ancien regime under Fidel Castro, Raúl’s brother. Driven by stronger economic ties and the statesmanship of both leaders, the United States and Cuba are entering a new era of reconciliation. The US has begun to lift the trade embargo it placed on Cuba in 1962, flights from the mainland to the island country are now permitted, and exchange in both communications and commerce is flourishing.

Yet progress has not been smooth. Fidel Castro, although no longer officially in charge of the Cuban government, continues to condemn US policy and exhibits an unshakeable mistrust of the United States. Despite progress in US-Cuban relations, he still perceives the Colossus of the North as an imperialist power hell-bent on exploiting Cuba’s economy. But if Cuba’s economy expects to make gains for itself in this new era, and animosities are being cast aside, why does Fidel Castro continue to obstinately refuse to completely trust the United States? What significance does this revival in relations have in relation to the overall historical pathway that has characterized the contemporary Cuban experience?

Although the benefits of newly improved relations between the two countries are evident, this reversal in the trend of the foreign relations between the US and Cuba comprises an ironic paradox that challenges the very foundations that the Cuban Revolution was built upon. Boundaries between past and present are blurred, and one must consider how the future of Cuba will be affected by these recent developments.

 

Revolutionary Tradition

 

To understand the nature of Cuba’s evolution from former Spanish colony to a sovereign Caribbean island nation reestablishing ties with a former archenemy, one must examine the nature of Cuban history from the mid 19th century to the present day. Historians often interpret Cuban history as a series of revolutionary movements that sought to both fend off foreign oppression while simultaneously placing the cornerstones for a new society devoid of inequality and injustice.

Cuba initiated two uprisings against its former colonial master, Spain, from 1868-1878, and 1895-1898. By the second uprising near the turn of the 20th century, the Cuban revolutionaries were on the brink of attaining victory and ousting the Spaniards. This they did, albeit, at a cost.

As most Americans familiar with the Spanish-American war know, the United States intervened in the conflict on behalf of the Cubans, defeating Spain. However, under the Platt Amendment, Cuba became nominally independent, but was subjected to protectorate status under the supervision of the United States.

US businessmen had strong commercial ties with Cuba, especially in the sugar industry. Throughout the 20th century, Cuba retained its status as a single-crop export economy heavily dependent upon the market forces surrounding the popularity of sugar as a commodity. Although the Cuban economy languished, these US businessmen were solely interested in reaping profits, and not further developing the infrastructure of the country or diversifying its economy. Cubans were infuriated not only by the economic doldrums brought on by their dependence on sugar exports, but also by the fact that the United States also manipulated the country’s elections to ensure that local politicians allegiant to US interests remained in power.

After having continued for nearly half a century, Fidel Castro’s Cuban Revolution in the 1950s was meant to overturn the status-quo of the country and uphold the ideals and goals espoused by previous Cuban revolutionaries throughout the decades in their struggles against oppression. Castro even saw himself as an extension of the legacy of Cuban revolutionism in his specific intent to reform Cuban society. Castro’s Revolution allowed him to usurp control, end cycles of political corruption, and consolidate control over US businesses and facilities on the country.

As we know, this resulted in the Bay of Pigs Invasion and numerous attempts by the US to overthrow Castro, as well as the subsequent Cuban movement to the Soviet sphere of influence.

 

The Goals

 

Although traditionalist and revisionist historians have continually debated on the direction that Castro wanted Cuba to move forward, they cannot deny that regardless of the economic issues that arose out of his policies of Cuban dependency on the USSR, the Cuban leader himself wanted to ensure that the United States be excluded from the sphere of Cuban affairs forever. Castro used the threat of US invasion and antagonisms to justify his policies and use of power. The Bay of Pigs Invasion and the Embargo were enough to keep him in power, and Castro furthered ties with the United States’ Cold War rival, the USSR, to ensure that never again would Cuba be trapped in dependency on the Colossus of the North.

Even as the Cuban economy faltered in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, Castro considered his revolution to be a victory so long as the United States was kept at bay.

 

The Present

 

As the United States mends its relations with Cuba, the general fear is that Cuba will revert back to another period of dependency on its larger neighbor through a capitalist system with terms dictated by the US. Castro himself may regard this to be a betrayal of his sacred revolution, and an unraveling of all that was achieved through it. However, to those skeptical of renewed relations between the United States and Cuba, the circumstances are quite different. For one, the United States no longer possesses any monopolies over any industries in Cuba, which means that there will be no unfair economic imbalance when the two start out.

Whereas Cuban suspicion lingered heavily during the Cold War, this is no longer the case as Cubans actively seek foreign investment from other countries to reinvigorate a previously stagnant economy. Tourism from the United States as well as remittances are doing much to lay the groundwork for this revival in the Cuban economy.

Could Cuba be experiencing a post-Castro revolution, albeit one in which it fully integrates itself with the global economic network? One can only hope that the past can be put behind the country for good.

Cease and Desist: A Farewell to Debbie Wasserman Schultz

It’s important to take up issues that are important to you with your representative, and what my Grandma did one bright sunny day in Aventura, Florida took courage and zeal.

At Bagel Cove deli, while my Grandma was sitting down at lunch probably eating a scooped out tuna bagel, in walks Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the former DNC Chairwoman and congressional representative of Miami-Dade County. She was met with pleasant greetings and by the many that knew her and ignored by the many that knew her and despised her. Unfortunately for Mrs. Schultz, my Grandma was a bit more outspoken than many of the disgruntled patrons. So as she passed by my Grandma’s table, my Grandma said,

“Hello, Debbie.”

And what came next continues to shock me to this day. My Grandma asked her where she had been for the people of Israel, alluding to the fact that Debbie was absent for a recent meeting on Israeli security in light of the discovery of tunnels being dug between Israel and the Gaza Strip.

Mrs. Schultz responded quickly and nervously, noting that she had written an Op-Ed in the Sun Sentinel, a South Florida publication, on the issue. My Grandma replied that she reads the Sentinel and the Miami Herald every week, and had seen nothing written by the congresswoman. Needless to say, Mrs. Schultz left the restaurant. Score 1 for Grandma.

It’s easy to have a bone to pick about something with Mrs. Schultz when you’re a staunch liberal.  Salon posits, “She’s against pot decriminalization, against an “open” Internet, against Edward Snowden, against refusing donations from corporate lobbyists, and skeptical (at the least) of President Obama’s recent nuclear agreement with Iran.” In fact, in 2011, President Obama had her in his office, ready to give her the boot, but her effectiveness as a fundraiser saved her and she continued to hold the position.

This is no longer the case. Recently hacked private emails of Mrs. Wasserman Schultz and her constituency reveals bias in her department when it came to a debate with former candidate Bernie Sanders. She questioned his religious beliefs on a private email server, and a top DNC official even called for someone to corner Sanders on his religious leanings. She tried tipping the primary in favor of Clinton in an unjust way. I guess that didn’t resonate well with the American people after Russian hackers dug up and published the emails on Wikileaks. And now, after being heckled and booed off stage in Philadelphia for her irresponsibility, she has just announced her resignation as the DNC chairwoman.

This scandal is government corruption at its finest, and will undoubtedly have a large impact on the DNC itself. Democratic Nominee Hillary Clinton, who has had her fair share of public shaming, accusations, and federal inquiries into her supposed corrupt use of a private email server, is trying to distance herself from the incident. In statements to reporters on Sunday, Mrs. Clinton didn’t say why the DNC chairwoman had resigned or what exactly was contained within the email, but she did try to cut Mrs. Schultz some slack by allowing her to continue to help with the campaign, which could mean trouble for the presidential hopeful if she doesn’t address the issue tonight at the DNC.

My advice for Mrs. Schultz is to simply apologize to the American people. She will be shamed, and this could mean the end of her life in politics, but the only way to minimize the damage of this scandal would be to be as transparent as possible from this point forward. And to Hillary Clinton: Please talk about this scandal tonight at the DNC, leaving this scandal unaddressed makes you look as though you condone it. Be authentic and real with the American people, and simply state that it will never happen again. This is not representative of the Democratic Party, and hopefully, the next DNC chair will meet corruption with swift and merciless justice.