Topical Update: Milo Yiannopoulos “a fellow traveller” of the Alt-Right Movement

By Jordan Deschenes

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Openly gay, British journalist Milo Yiannopoulos has been a notable contributor to the development of the American ultra-conservative, “alt-right” ideology. For the past few years, he has emphasized a message that challenges what he sees as an increasing suppression of controversial free speech by far-left, “politically correct” politics.

This message, which he recently described as “mainstream,” has been interpreted in many different ways by both conservatives and liberals. One of the points that is widely agreed upon is that controversial free speech is increasingly being met with hostility of a politically extreme nature.

As of today, it seems that Milo has taken on much more support - and hate than he can handle. While his core message has resonated with thousands of concerned Americans, many of Milo’s statements have been misconstrued as a result of their “triggering” effect on liberal crowds.

As a result its misinterpretation, Milo’s message has figuratively - and literally- pulled a trigger among political extremists.

Days after the presidential inauguration, a 29 year-old Trump supporter shot a 32 year-old protester outside of an event hosted by Yiannopoulos on the University of Washington campus.

Prior to the shooting, the 29-year old shooter and former student posted messages to Milo’s Facebook page expressing his disgust with the protestors, some of whom were throwing bricks and other objects at police. The shooter was noticeably angry when someone stole his red M.A.G.A. hat; he posted another message to Yiannopoulos, “Anyway for me to get a replacement signed by you?”

Milo did not respond to either message, although he did issue a statement of support for the victim. The shooter, found to be a member of the NRA, was released after telling authorities that his actions were in self-defense.

On February 1, a speech that Milo was scheduled to give at UC Berkeley was cancelled due to increasingly rowdy protesting on campus against the event. Before they were ordered to disperse by police, protesters had broken windows at the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union Center, set off fireworks, and started a large bonfire - with damage costs estimated to be over $100,000.

As he was evacuated from the event in a bulletproof vest, Yiannopoulos posted on Facebook that he saw protesters kicking a man who was wearing a M.A.G.A. hat while he was on the ground. Among other posts, Milo also shared a Tweet showing a bloodied man who was being tended to and shielded by riot police.

In a Facebook live video following his evacuation, Milo further emphasized his initial message regarding violence and free speech saying that he “expected” these types of protests would happen after Trump’s election.

“They (liberals) do it to conflate the line between ideas and action. Why? To legitimize their own violent responses,” Yiannopoulos said. “The left is absolutely terrified of free speech and will do literally anything to shut it down,” he later wrote in a post[b].

Violent protests such as these are both strong examples of the loosening in grip that alt- right representatives have had on their most extreme supporters since Trump’s election and more notably, their left-wing opponents. Although Trump never directly supported the alt-right during his campaign, the appointment of former Breitbart editor Stephen Bannon as his Chief Strategist and Advisor has been widely interpreted as an unspoken endorsement.

Before his ideas were embraced by the alt-right American community, Milo’s past journalistic career was already marked by a similar ideology that often put himself at odds with others - financially, professionally, and even personally.

After dropping out of the University of Manchester and Wolfson College, Yiannopoulos began a career as a technology reporter for The Daily Telegraph in 2007. During his tenure, Milo was noticed by some readers for his vocal opposition to protests calling for the Catholic Church to accept homosexuals.

In 2011 Yiannopoulos started his own technology magazine, The Kernel. With Milo as editor-in-chief for almost two years, employees at the publication began to realize that it was bankrupt by 2013. After failing to secure enough paid subscriptions, which resulted in numerous complaints from contributors, one former employee sued Yiannopoulos and the Kernel’s parent company for over 17,000 British pounds in unpaid wages which he later paid.

Milo cut any future ties with his employees by blackmailing several of them who had pay complaints over email. Former associate editor Margot Huysman revealed emails between herself and Yiannopoulos, where the latter accused her of “behaving like a common prostitute” on Twitter while she was employed. He also threatened to blackmail her with a compromising photograph.

Although Yiannopoulos simply meant to criticize Huysman’s unprofessional behavior while writing for the publication, his profane approach overshadowed what his actual intentions were. Explicit comments that he made in response to a user’s question on a Reddit question and answer forum only detracted further from his main point.

In 2015, Yiannopoulos made the most of a short stint criticizing what he saw as a feminist takeover of video game development in the Gamergate debate. Milo was quickly forced to keep a low profile as he faced piling online criticism for his views, as well as death threats that included a bomb threat in August of 2015 at a Society of Professional Journalism Event.

Soon after, Yiannopoulos was able to find steady work in the United States that would tolerate his politics and infamous reputation. Milo was hired at Breitbart News the same year as editor of the site’s new technology section. While he publishes technology-related pieces on a daily basis, Milo writes about more than technology in his op-eds, often criticizing other journalists and the integrity of their work, among other subjects.

With the help of fundraising by respective college Republican groups, Milo has been able to host forums around the country to spread his message about the suppression of free speech. His most popular series, the “Dangerous Faggot Tour,” helped him gain a reputation on Youtube and among conservative-minded college students for exposing contradictory arguments presented by their liberal counterparts.

Using profane and comedic language as his aides, Milo challenged liberal audience members to make factual arguments instead of dismissing certain information as immoral, taboo, or even right-wing. Some left-wing audience members resorted to protest and finger-pointing as a response.

For example, when Yiannopoulos himself is challenged by audience members for anti-Islamic comments, he makes the argument that certain Islamic countries are dictated by Sharia law, which inherently opposes homosexuality and the granting of certain rights to women. Often, he uses the latter reason to criticize what he calls third-wave “campus” feminism and the movement’s pro-Islam, pro-refugee stance.

Milo emphasized this point in a Breitbart op-ed published on January 25, 2017. He also made a similar argument about liberal homosexuals during his tour.

While effective at exposing fresh ears to left-wing hypocrisy, Yiannopoulos has exposed the hypocrisy of his own private forums through his inability to tolerate criticism geared towards himself in the form of protest or censorship.

In the eyes of those who are unfamiliar with his style, Milo’s message has been de-legitimized when audience members resort to shouting down liberal arguments with a ‘heckler’s veto’. Despite being held at public universities, Milo’s forums are essentially private functions where audience members must pay to enter and must obey a set of rules.

The subject of rules is not unfamiliar territory for Yiannopoulos; he was banned from Twitter in 2016 after posting critical tweets about the on-screen performance and appearance of Ghostbusters actress Leslie Jones. According to the website’s policy, Milo was found to be “inciting or engaging in the targeted abuse or harassment of others”.

The loss of his official Twitter “check mark” and ensuing death threats from opponents certainly legitimized Yiannopoulos’s case for free speech, but also highlighted his own inability to respect the site’s rules and terms.

In spite of his convincing case that Americans are forcibly being threatened for exercising the freedom to state their honest opinions, Milo’s private forums are a real-life example of his own Twitter ban - except he and his supporters are the ones deciding who gets banned.

This sends a mixed message to not only his more extreme supporters, but also to those who oppose him. While Milo is able to express “dangerous” free speech at his events, rules and terms do not apply to all situations in life, especially those where such expressions are answered with more than just words.

Sour Grapes for Sally Yates: A Political Game

By Cameron Erickson, Contributing Writer

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With a constitutional republic, there is always risk of administrative agencies acting like the fourth branch. This concept traces back to Nixon/Watergate. A special prosecutor was appointed by the executive branch, but given independent power to investigate the crimes. For Trump, at first glance, it sounds like he’s firing interim Attorney General Sally Yates for bad cause. She was an Obama appointee who we had never heard about until now, when she directed her Justice Department to not enforce Trump’s ban on refugees and immigrants from 7 countries. The refugee ban in-and-of-itself is not the focus of this article, but rather the issue of potential administrative overreach.

There are instances where a quasi-independent branch of an agency is valid, such as in the case of Nixon’s special prosecutor. However, only the Executive Branch has the authority to appoint such a sub-agency. In the case of Nixon, the independent prosecutor was in a sub-agency of the Department of Justice (DOJ), and their attempted strong-arming was without merit. On the other hand, Yates’ firing was entirely justifiable because the DOJ is the chief arm of the executive branch, and she did not have any authority – especially as an acting prosecutor – to be insubordinate before Jeff Sessions is confirmed. Before liberals cry foul, think about how this could cut the other way. FBI Director James Comey, for example, had his job, but had Hillary won the election he would have almost certainly been terminated for the perceived (or actual) slight to her campaign.

The Saturday Night Massacre is a term you’ve probably heard thrown around a lot, referring to President Richard Nixon’s termination of independent special prosecutor Archibald Cox after he asked for copies of taped conversations recorded in the Oval Office. After mounting pressure and charges of corruption against associates of President Nixon, Attorney General Richardson had little choice but to appoint Cox. After Cox’s investigations of Watergate led him directly to the Oval Office, Nixon at first ordered Attorney General Elliot Richardson to fire Cox. After Richardson refused and resigned in protest, Nixon ordered Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus to fire Cox. He refused, as well, and resigned in protest. In the case of the Saturday Night Massacre, it was a clear issue of administrative overreach of an independent prosecutor within an agency.

Not Above the Law by James Doyle defines a Special Prosecutor as a “quasi-constitutional element in the American system,” usually an attorney from outside the government selected by the Attorney General or Congress to investigate and possibly prosecute a federal government official for any wrongdoing in office. The idea behind appointing one is to mitigate any potential conflict of interest between the Department of Justice and officials who may have political connections within the department. Contrast this with the role of the Attorney General, or Interim Attorney General in the case of Sally Yates, who is considered to be the chief law enforcement officer of the U.S. Government, and serves at the pleasure of the president and can be removed by the president at any time.

It is important to acknowledge the nature in which Yates left the department. If this were truly in the spirit of the Saturday Night Massacre, she could have followed in the footsteps of Richardson or Ruckelshaus and easily resigned in protest, thus avoiding the termination. Instead, she opted for the optics of getting fired. She must have known that the course of action she decided to take would result in her termination. Therefore, it is important to examine the motivation behind her decision. She must have been defying President Trump not as a matter of constitutional right, but as a means to elevate her name.

There will now be loud calls for her to go further into the public spotlight. The progressive left’s donor base will certainly bankroll her campaign for public office, and she will have a prosperous career in politics. You have not seen the last of Sally Yates, and it’s only fair Donald Trump gets a percentage of royalties from her upcoming book release.

The Problem with Term Limits

By Ethan Gregory, Staff Writer

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Term limits are one of the most common proposals in any discussion of government ethics. In fact, it is a policy that is impervious to partisanship. There is broad support within the electorates of all political parties and movements, perhaps due to how simple and easy the argument is to explain. If politicians can only be elected so many times, it must be more difficult for them to become corrupt, right? That certainly is how the Trump campaign sold it as a part of the “Drain the Swamp” pitch during the 2016 election. Even Senator Cruz (R-Texas) and Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Florida) are pushing for an amendment to the Constitution to provide term limits for Congress. However, are term limits really the way to fix Congress, end corruption, and “Drain the Swamp?” I argue no. Term limits may only add problems rather than fix any.

Just like with any field, expertise comes with experience. Public policy is not immune to that saying. Politics, too, relies on our elected officials understanding how government works which comes with years of working within the federal government in Washington. Imposing term limits and creating a system of constant turnover among elected officials will remove experience that is key to passing good public policy and keeping the government running. The logic of term limits in this regard is that it will be an efficient measure to remove bad or poorly performing elected officials.

However, a system for that situation already exists: elections. When people support term limits, they are often thinking about legislators that they do not agree with and/or do not belong to their district or state. They believe that an effective way to rid Washington of lawmakers with policies that conflict with their personal ideals is to impose term limits. This perspective muddies the water, though. Elections require a plurality of voters from each district or state to approve of the work and policy of specific candidates and incumbents. By continuing to elect our congresspeople, we ultimately say that our representatives have earned our approval. So what need do term limits fulfill? If our incumbent is performing his or her job in a way that wins our support in both the primary and general elections, there is no need to place a limit on how many times he or she can perform the jobs well enough to win the support of the constituency. Additionally, if someone is performing poorly, those primary and general elections serve the purpose of facilitating their exit and replacing him or her with someone new that has won the support of the constituency.

When looking at the policy Senator Cruz and Representative DeSantis have proposed, more problems become evident. Their plan limits House members to three two-year terms and Senators to two six-year terms. Such short terms would be antithetical to getting anything accomplished in Washington because virtually every elected official would be a green newcomer in almost every Congress. Our country deserves the best representation possible as well as elected officials that fully understand the legislative process. While there might be value in newblood finding its way to D.C., there is far more value in allowing politicians to earn their stay by representing a district in a way that wins their approval instead of undermining that ability with term limits.

Another popular argument in favor of term limits is that they would reduce corruption in Washington by creating a high volatility rate among Congressmen. However, not only is that logic flawed, but a glance at history can contradict the notion that high turnover leads to less corruption.

The logic is that because Congressmen are only there for a short time, they are less vulnerable to corruption from special interests and other actors in D.C. However, due to high volatility politicians are more susceptible to corruption. Because elected officials would be limited in the amount of time they can serve and be in power, they will naturally be searching for their next move once they are prohibited from serving their office anymore. Therefore, due to the human nature of aspiration, the prospect of a promised position on a Board of Directors or other lucrative career move becomes all the more attractive to a lame duck Congressman.

However, do not only take my word for it, look at history. In the 19th Century, there was high turnover among most House members as well as widespread and rampant corruption. Dubbed the Gilded Age by Mark Twain in his book titled accordingly, this time in American history was filled with powerful political machines, buying of political seats, and scandal-ridden administrations. Voters employed the strategy of “Throw the Bums Out” and deemed all politicians as corrupt and evil. People like Mark Twain and Lincoln Steffens exposed why that logic does nothing to solve the problems that are truly at the center of the corruption. Steffens exposed that casting all politicians as the problem covered up the real issue which was the “structure” of the political system. In his book, Twain espoused the same sentiment with one of my favorite quotes, “[i]f you should rear a duck in the heart of the Sahara, no doubt it would swim if you brought it to the Nile,” meaning that no matter how wholesome the person being brought into the system is, the person will “swim” in the system once they are there.

Twain and Steffens were not making any arguments specifically for or against term limits when they engaged their readers, but rather that ad hominem stereotypes of politicians will not solve corruption issues. Term limits play into those same ad hominem fallacies, however. Term limits imply that the person is at the center of the problem. No matter how limited of a term is applied to Congressmen, the actors of D.C. will still corrupt even the Saharan duck.

Instead, we must focus our efforts on the system. Rather than imposing term limits that throw away vital experience and encourage the empowerment of lobbyists, we must transform the way that money influences our politics. The corruption in our government is not at the blame of our politicians but on the shoulders of the incredible amount of money that influences and directs our politics. Since the FEC v. Citizens United Supreme Court decision in 2012, outside groups including super PACs have contributed more than $3 billion in support or opposition to candidates across the nation all in the name of free speech. In reality, these contributions have taken advantage of free speech and instead lead to the corruption of our government while making elected officials dependent on the unlimited donations of special interest groups towards their campaigns. The influence of this money has completely transformed the loyalties of every politician across the political spectrum.

We deserve better. The people of this nation deserve experienced, well-meaning elected officials that aren’t taken hostage by special interest groups with self-serving, anti-public agendas the moment they step in the door of the Capitol. As presented above, term limits will not solve the problems, but instead, add new issues while the true problem continues to undermine the integrity of our political system.

Term limits are one of the most common proposals in any discussion of government ethics. In fact, it is a policy that is impervious to partisanship. There is broad support within the electorates of all political parties and movements, perhaps due to how simple and easy the argument is to explain. If politicians can only be elected so many times, it must be more difficult for them to become corrupt, right? That certainly is how the Trump campaign sold it as a part of the “Drain the Swamp” pitch during the 2016 election. Even Senator Cruz (R-Texas) and Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Florida) are pushing for an amendment to the Constitution to provide term limits for Congress. However, are term limits really the way to fix Congress, end corruption, and “Drain the Swamp?” I argue no. Term limits may only add problems rather than fix any.

Just like with any field, expertise comes with experience. Public policy is not immune to that saying. Politics, too, relies on our elected officials understanding how government works which comes with years of working within the federal government in Washington. Imposing term limits and creating a system of constant turnover among elected officials will remove experience that is key to passing good public policy and keeping the government running. The logic of term limits in this regard is that it will be an efficient measure to remove bad or poorly performing elected officials.

However, a system for that situation already exists: elections. When people support term limits, they are often thinking about legislators that they do not agree with and/or do not belong to their district or state. They believe that an effective way to rid Washington of lawmakers with policies that conflict with their personal ideals is to impose term limits. This perspective muddies the water, though. Elections require a plurality of voters from each district or state to approve of the work and policy of specific candidates and incumbents. By continuing to elect our congresspeople, we ultimately say that our representatives have earned our approval. So what need do term limits fulfill? If our incumbent is performing his or her job in a way that wins our support in both the primary and general elections, there is no need to place a limit on how many times he or she can perform the jobs well enough to win the support of the constituency. Additionally, if someone is performing poorly, those primary and general elections serve the purpose of facilitating their exit and replacing him or her with someone new that has won the support of the constituency.

When looking at the policy Senator Cruz and Representative DeSantis have proposed, more problems become evident. Their plan limits House members to three two-year terms and Senators to two six-year terms. Such short terms would be antithetical to getting anything accomplished in Washington because virtually every elected official would be a green newcomer in almost every Congress. Our country deserves the best representation possible as well as elected officials that fully understand the legislative process. While there might be value in newblood finding its way to D.C., there is far more value in allowing politicians to earn their stay by representing a district in a way that wins their approval instead of undermining that ability with term limits.

Another popular argument in favor of term limits is that they would reduce corruption in Washington by creating a high volatility rate among Congressmen. However, not only is that logic flawed, but a glance at history can contradict the notion that high turnover leads to less corruption.

The logic is that because Congressmen are only there for a short time, they are less vulnerable to corruption from special interests and other actors in D.C. However, due to high volatility politicians are more susceptible to corruption. Because elected officials would be limited in the amount of time they can serve and be in power, they will naturally be searching for their next move once they are prohibited from serving their office anymore. Therefore, due to the human nature of aspiration, the prospect of a promised position on a Board of Directors or other lucrative career move becomes all the more attractive to a lame duck Congressman.

However, do not only take my word for it, look at history. In the 19th Century, there was high turnover among most House members as well as widespread and rampant corruption. Dubbed the Gilded Age by Mark Twain in his book titled accordingly, this time in American history was filled with powerful political machines, buying of political seats, and scandal-ridden administrations. Voters employed the strategy of “Throw the Bums Out” and deemed all politicians as corrupt and evil. People like Mark Twain and Lincoln Steffens exposed why that logic does nothing to solve the problems that are truly at the center of the corruption. Steffens exposed that casting all politicians as the problem covered up the real issue which was the “structure” of the political system. In his book, Twain espoused the same sentiment with one of my favorite quotes, “[i]f you should rear a duck in the heart of the Sahara, no doubt it would swim if you brought it to the Nile,” meaning that no matter how wholesome the person being brought into the system is, the person will “swim” in the system once they are there.

Twain and Steffens were not making any arguments specifically for or against term limits when they engaged their readers, but rather that ad hominem stereotypes of politicians will not solve corruption issues. Term limits play into those same ad hominem fallacies, however. Term limits imply that the person is at the center of the problem. No matter how limited of a term is applied to Congressmen, the actors of D.C. will still corrupt even the Saharan duck.

Instead, we must focus our efforts on the system. Rather than imposing term limits that throw away vital experience and encourage the empowerment of lobbyists, we must transform the way that money influences our politics. The corruption in our government is not at the blame of our politicians but on the shoulders of the incredible amount of money that influences and directs our politics. Since the FEC v. Citizens United Supreme Court decision in 2012, outside groups including super PACs have contributed more than $3 billion in support or opposition to candidates across the nation all in the name of free speech. In reality, these contributions have taken advantage of free speech and instead lead to the corruption of our government while making elected officials dependent on the unlimited donations of special interest groups towards their campaigns. The influence of this money has completely transformed the loyalties of every politician across the political spectrum.

We deserve better. The people of this nation deserve experienced, well-meaning elected officials that aren’t taken hostage by special interest groups with self-serving, anti-public agendas the moment they step in the door of the Capitol. As presented above, term limits will not solve the problems, but instead, add new issues while the true problem continues to undermine the integrity of our political system.

Just like with any field, expertise comes with experience. Public policy is not immune to that saying. Politics, too, relies on our elected officials understanding how government works which comes with years of working within the federal government in Washington. Imposing term limits and creating a system of constant turnover among elected officials will remove experience that is key to passing good public policy and keeping the government running. The logic of term limits in this regard is that it will be an efficient measure to remove bad or poorly performing elected officials.

 

However, a system for that situation already exists: elections. When people support term limits, they are often thinking about legislators that they do not agree with and/or do not belong to their district or state. They believe that an effective way to rid Washington of lawmakers with policies that conflict with their personal ideals is to impose term limits. This perspective muddies the water, though. Elections require a plurality of voters from each district or state to approve of the work and policy of specific candidates and incumbents. By continuing to elect our congresspeople, we ultimately say that our representatives have earned our approval. So what need do term limits fulfill? If our incumbent is performing his or her job in a way that wins our support in both the primary and general elections, there is no need to place a limit on how many times he or she can perform the jobs well enough to win the support of the constituency. Additionally, if someone is performing poorly, those primary and general elections serve the purpose of facilitating their exit and replacing him or her with someone new that has won the support of the constituency.

When looking at the policy Senator Cruz and Representative DeSantis have proposed, more problems become evident. Their plan limits House members to three two-year terms and Senators to two six-year terms. Such short terms would be antithetical to getting anything accomplished in Washington because virtually every elected official would be a green newcomer in almost every Congress. Our country deserves the best representation possible as well as elected officials that fully understand the legislative process. While there might be value in newblood finding its way to D.C., there is far more value in allowing politicians to earn their stay by representing a district in a way that wins their approval instead of undermining that ability with term limits.

Another popular argument in favor of term limits is that they would reduce corruption in Washington by creating a high volatility rate among Congressmen. However, not only is that logic flawed, but a glance at history can contradict the notion that high turnover leads to less corruption.

The logic is that because Congressmen are only there for a short time, they are less vulnerable to corruption from special interests and other actors in D.C. However, due to high volatility politicians are more susceptible to corruption. Because elected officials would be limited in the amount of time they can serve and be in power, they will naturally be searching for their next move once they are prohibited from serving their office anymore. Therefore, due to the human nature of aspiration, the prospect of a promised position on a Board of Directors or other lucrative career move becomes all the more attractive to a lame duck Congressman.

However, do not only take my word for it, look at history. In the 19th Century, there was high turnover among most House members as well as widespread and rampant corruption. Dubbed the Gilded Age by Mark Twain in his book titled accordingly, this time in American history was filled with powerful political machines, buying of political seats, and scandal-ridden administrations. Voters employed the strategy of “Throw the Bums Out” and deemed all politicians as corrupt and evil. People like Mark Twain and Lincoln Steffens exposed why that logic does nothing to solve the problems that are truly at the center of the corruption. Steffens exposed that casting all politicians as the problem covered up the real issue which was the “structure” of the political system. In his book, Twain espoused the same sentiment with one of my favorite quotes, “[i]f you should rear a duck in the heart of the Sahara, no doubt it would swim if you brought it to the Nile,” meaning that no matter how wholesome the person being brought into the system is, the person will “swim” in the system once they are there.

Twain and Steffens were not making any arguments specifically for or against term limits when they engaged their readers, but rather that ad hominem stereotypes of politicians will not solve corruption issues. Term limits play into those same ad hominem fallacies, however. Term limits imply that the person is at the center of the problem. No matter how limited of a term is applied to Congressmen, the actors of D.C. will still corrupt even the Saharan duck.

Instead, we must focus our efforts on the system. Rather than imposing term limits that throw away vital experience and encourage the empowerment of lobbyists, we must transform the way that money influences our politics. The corruption in our government is not at the blame of our politicians but on the shoulders of the incredible amount of money that influences and directs our politics. Since the FEC v. Citizens United Supreme Court decision in 2012, outside groups including super PACs have contributed more than $3 billion in support or opposition to candidates across the nation all in the name of free speech. In reality, these contributions have taken advantage of free speech and instead lead to the corruption of our government while making elected officials dependent on the unlimited donations of special interest groups towards their campaigns. The influence of this money has completely transformed the loyalties of every politician across the political spectrum.

We deserve better. The people of this nation deserve experienced, well-meaning elected officials that aren’t taken hostage by special interest groups with self-serving, anti-public agendas the moment they step in the door of the Capitol. As presented above, term limits will not solve the problems, but instead, add new issues while the true problem continues to undermine the integrity of our political system.

 

 

Tom Perez for DNC Chairman

By Kevin Levy, Executive Editor

The Democratic Primary of 2016 took a huge toll on the Democratic Party. Battlelines were drawn along ideologies with the left wing of the party supporting Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and more establishment moderate and conservative Democrats supporting former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. After the surprise defeat of Hillary Clinton in the race for the White House, the election for the future Democratic National Committee chair is wide open. Two leading candidates have emerged: Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota and Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez. Both would be strong leaders of the Democratic Party, but in order to unite the Democratic Party into the new administration and into the 2018 Midterms, I’ll be supporting Secretary Tom Perez for DNC Chair.  

Since 2013, Perez has served the nation as the Secretary of Labor leading the government’s efforts to continually improve the situation of America’s workforce. With the confidence of President Obama and the largest labor organizations, Secretary Perez has instituted new rules to raise the maximum overtime wage cap for millions of workers and prevent retirement advisors from acting on their conflicts of interests by putting their clients’ interests before their own. Following an election year with an electorate focused primarily on their bottom line, choosing Secretary Perez to pursue policies that would continue to improve the economy and put workers first would be a solid path for Democrats to follow.

As Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, Secretary Perez fought for the inclusion of LGBT Americans. Secretary Perez championed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act which created a federal hate crimes penalty for committing crimes against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Americans. He was the first federally non-elected official to use that statute to prosecute people for LGBT for hate crimes. Tom Perez has been at the forefront of Democratic politics when it comes to the expansion of human rights and has been there for both moderates and progressives alike. Secretary Perez, a career civil rights attorney, took a gang of white supremacists to task when he prosecuted them for attempting to ignite a “race war.” Protecting Americans of all sexual orientations and races should not be a partisan issue, but Perez can lead the charge from the left to get these jobs done.

Secretary Perez has campaigned on a full DNC staff team that will focus on voter suppression. By overturning its Section 4, the largely conservative Supreme Court has stripped the federal government of relevancy where it comes to the Voter’s Rights Act. Promoting the voting rights of those most adversely affected by the Shelby County v. Holder decision is of the highest importance. Without the pre-clearance authority of the Department of Justice, states led by Republicans have been able to restrict voter’s rights by instituting inordinate voter identification law which specifically singles out minority voters to advantage Republicans. Tom Perez is the DNC candidate to fight against the far-right attacks against democracy.

Representative Keith Ellison, the other leading contender for DNC Chair, is a strong choice. He supported Sen. Sanders in the primary, touting his leftist economic agenda. His past associations with the racist Nation of Islam and Louis Farrakhan should be put behind him as he thoroughly disavowed his past. Ellison is not an anti-Semite, nor is he racist. However, he represents a wing of the party that is unrepresentative of the party as a whole. Ellison consistently is one of the most left-wing Members of Congress, and his ideological stances are simply out of sync with rural Democrats and many of the independent voters who supported Donald Trump in this election. Although Secretary Perez endorsed former Secretary Clinton in the Democratic Primary, he never positioned himself as a staunch ideologue. The Democrats should be lead by someone who can bring together the Sanders- and the Clinton-wings of the Party, not bring it to one end of the political spectrum.

On January 5th the potential dark horse Mayor of South Bend, Indiana’s Pete Buttigieg announced his candidacy for DNC Chair. If elected, Mayor Buttigieg, 34, would be the youngest leader of the Democratic  Party in its history. He would also be its first gay leader. Mayor Buttigieg represents new ideas and youthfulness for a national party that is beginning to resemble an old folks’ home. Representation is important, too, as millennials and LGBT Americans don’t have a national figure that can serve as a sort of role model.  However, as the two term mayor of a town of just 100,000, Mayor Buttigieg doesn’t have the national perspective required to lead the Democratic Party at the highest level. He also doesn’t have the experience to corral a fractured Democratic Party and unite it in opposition to the incoming Trump presidency. Instead of rushing to vault to national prominence, Mayor Buttigieg should first attempt to get a national perspective on dealing with the issues that affect all Americans. Mayor Buttigeg is truly an inspiring force and a rising star in the Democratic Party, but charisma won’t be enough to put the Party back on the right track towards governance.

At the end of the day, elections are won and lost by votes, not retweets, likes on a Facebook post, or attendees of a popular rally. Tom Perez has shown that he is experienced, knowledgeable, and dedicated enough to further the cause of the Democratic Party to bring it back into the majority. I believe that he will be a pragmatic progressive who puts governance ahead of ideological rigidity, hoping to meld the Democratic Party to the states.

Bringing together all wings of the Democratic Party, including the center, is the surest way to increase our odds of winning back the Congress, state legislatures, and the White House in 2018 and 2020, and Tom Perez is the best candidate for that job.

The Democrats’ Post-Mortem Autopsy Report

By, Cameron Erickson, Contributing Writer

I spent the last several months of the 2016 race working on a Democratic Congressional campaign in northeastern Wisconsin. I also worked on the Obama reelection campaign in Chicago and Iowa during the 2012 race and am a former statewide board member of College Democrats of Illinois and Young Democrats of Minnesota. I was invited to and attended Obama’s farewell address in Chicago. During my time in Wisconsin, I observed that the Clinton campaign was banking on the state. While they sent Tim Kaine to Wisconsin – twice in the district that I was working in, Secretary Clinton never once made an appearance. Donald Trump and Mike Pence visited the state half-a-dozen times, and even scheduled visits to reliably Democratic states like Minnesota and Michigan. Again, the Clinton organizers on the ground in Wisconsin were working hard, making direct voter contact and building volunteer teams around the clock, 7 days a week, but it still wasn’t enough. The last time a Republican won Wisconsin was 1984, and it could have been prevented. After our loss in November, I had a simple message for my fellow Democrats: if we have any hope of winning back the Rust Belt in 2018 and 2020, we need to develop a strong economic message like Presidents Clinton and Obama were smart enough to do. Take this as a preliminary postmortem autopsy report for further investigation. 

After the devastating loss that Mitt Romney and the Republicans endured in 2012, the Republicans conducted an autopsy of what went wrong. The reason we aren’t hearing any reports of any such effort being conducted on the Democratic side of the aisle this time around is because the party, as we know it, is in shambles. The infrastructure that many of us organizers have been relying on for support is no longer functioning, and in many respects, has failed us. The reason why there hasn’t been an autopsy, for all intents and purposes, is because Democratic leadership hasn’t conducted one yet. The Party is like a headless horseman, and it is up to us to step in and fill the void, and discuss what went wrong this year.

Along with this we have the issue of balance of power: when Trump said prior to the election that he wouldn’t necessarily accept the election results because of supposed “irregularities”, the illiberal left went crazy. However, calls from the streets of “Not My President” that reject the legitimacy of a Trump presidency are met with silence by the same talking heads in the media that questioned Mr. Trump’s rhetoric prior to the election. 

The first point that should concern everyone is the culture of successful media manipulation. What’s needed now more than ever is for more CNN viewers to watch Fox News and for more Fox News viewers to watch CNN. I question whether any of the protesters marching in the streets of Chicago, Los Angeles, or New York have a Trump supporter in their social networks. If not, I would urge them to reach out and find one to add to their respective networks and have an open, honest dialogue with them. Calls to unfriend those who disagree with us on social media only serve to reinforce the party’s perception of being ‘open minded, as long as you agree with us.’

In 2016, the Democrats’ message was all contrast and no vision. In one corner you have a rich, white guy who has said sexist, anti-immigrant, and Islamophobic things, but Clinton spent too much time defining her opponent and not enough time defining herself. Clinton had an impeccable ground game, made up with some of the brightest, hardest working people in the political business. Many of these people are my friends and colleagues that I worked with on the Obama campaign in 2012. But frankly, they deserve an explanation because ground game only helps in the margins and only helps to bolster a candidate’s message with personal interaction and engagement. When your message essentially boils down to, “I’m with her” and not enough, “I’m with you,” a lot of people will go with the other guy who presents a message that will help put food on their table, even groups that Democrats considered traditionally “in the bag.” 

But that’s exactly what happened. Working class whites – including women – voted for Trump in record margins. College-educated white women only supported Clinton by 1-percent more than Trump. Non-college-educated white women overwhelmingly supported Trump at the rate of 62 percent overall. Donald Trump won more of the Hispanic and African American votes than Mitt Romney did in 2012. The groups that Democrats banked on turning out either stayed home or took a chance by voting on Mr. Trump.  

Hillary Clinton frequently referred to this race as a referendum, and in the end, people wanted to vote for something, not against. Democrats need to accept reality and start the post-mortem autopsy, and fast. College campuses seemingly tolerate an aim to degrade uneducated white Americans. Yes, privilege may exist in some capacities but on a human level, every person has their own challenges whether they be unemployment, disease, personal tragedy, or fear of war. Does a college degree alleviate these natural anxieties? Of course not, but the illiberal left approach to level the playing field by demeaning working class white people will never earn their trust or their vote.

The white students of today want equality, but they are not their ancestors and responsible for the oppression of the past. In fact, many were also immigrants themselves with no ties to the abomination of slavery. The Irish, for example, came here primarily in the 19th century and do not have a large history of owning slaves in America. These are millennials who are being shamed and ridiculed with no remorse to vote for every policy of the left or else risk being defined as some sort of deplorable. That is the illiberal left.

Social media continues to be pervaded by the election’s losers, for lack of a better term. Does this left not realize that they are in an echo chamber? Before the election, a pro-Trump voice was not well-represented in the often liberal social media realm, but the internet is not a voting booth. Unfriending others while never having respectfully engaged them, beyond reciting polished talking points or inflammatory copy-and-paste links to out-of-touch elite comedians or celebrities, verbal abuse, and name-calling only exacerbates this problem.

Perhaps the goal is to shame, to demoralize, and harangue the opposition. I would hope that is not what we have become, because then we will truly be alone, in a race to the bottom. The left needs a real message of economic prosperity, and fast, which includes appreciating greatness rather than disparaging it. A coalition of victims is not the path to victory; in fact, it is the very definition of insanity if we continue with the failed strategy of identity politics and expect a different result. The chances of patient survival are there, but unless there are serious lifestyle changes the prognosis is not looking good.

 

I am a Moderate, a Progressive, and a Democrat

By Kevin Levy, Executive Editor

Recently, my colleague and Chairman of The American Moderate, Michael Hout, announced that he was leaving the Democratic Party, in large part because of the hostile rhetoric that is now being espoused to those who adhere to a politics that doesn’t mirror that of the far-left. He also pleaded his antipathy to Democratic acceptance of “identity politics” which he found to be an anathema to lower-case “d” democratic ideals. Instead of showing that his personal politics shifted rightward, he wrote of how the Democratic Party moved leftward. He didn’t leave the Democratic Party, per se, it left him.

 Like Hout, I identify as a moderate. While a political quiz is likely to show that I am an intense Democratic partisan, I find that my political identity rests primarily in my rhetoric. I, like many of my fellow progressives, think that the top 1% of earners in the United States hold entirely too much influence in politics, but I won’t decry the wealthy or demand a sort of wealth redistribution. I believe in peaceful protest and expressing our distress in our national government, but I don’t support flag burning that seeks to incite anger. 

I also believe, however, that what Hout incorrectly identifies as the “far-left” is, in fact, the far-campus-left of students heavily isolated on university and college campuses. Students who have yet to pay income or property taxes do not make up the largest part of the Democratic Party, but they are easily able to be heard as the loudest. They have (often literal) megaphones and are frequently featured on Fox News or Campus Reform, but they do not make up the core of the Party. In fact, even if college students statistically broke for Senator Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic Presidential Primary contest, the balanced hand of the Democratic Party that Hout and I both supported split for the more pragmatic Secretary Hillary Clinton, showing that the Democrats did not collapse to the Party’s more radical left-wing brigades of online troops. 

When I was an undergraduate at American University, I felt myself, like Hout, drift to the right. I saw radicals across campus intimidate students who did not follow their purist progressive agenda. They cared not for compromise or results, but rather focused on headlines in the campus newspaper or making splashes on social media by proving how they could out-edge each other. I began to identify as a moderate and even a conservative Democrat because I was enmeshed in the relative politics of my peers at the hyper-progressive insular private school in the nation’s capital. 

Once I returned home to blue New Jersey and began interacting with my peers at Rutgers Law School in Camden, New Jersey, however, I felt much more able to embrace the progressive identity. I believe that women’s rights, gay rights, trans rights, immigrant rights, worker rights, and so many more rights are basic human rights, and vice versa. I unabashedly support raising the minimum wage slowly, but surely. I believe that we should limit money’s influence in politics. I believe that humans have heavily contributed to climate change and that the government should take action against it . These are progressive positions, and I won’t throw them aside simply because they happen to be shared by the far left wing of my own party.

Hout went as far as saying that he was leaving the Democratic Party because of its commitment to “identity politics,” which he saw as incredibly stifling to public discourse. I could not disagree more. “Identity politics” were dismissed as secondary by Senator Sanders which led some progressives to doubt his authenticity, like myself. “Identity politics” has never been about tokenism, as Vox writer Emily Crockett notes, but rather is about the empowerment of various groups.

Before President Obama there had never been an African American President of the United States and that’s pretty significant. Representation is important, not least as it allows even the youngest of American citizens to see that they have political role models. American University Professor Jennifer Lawless has headed the research foray into this field and found that young girls are significantly less likely to desire to enter into politics than their young male counterparts since they see less representation and experience less encouragement. “Identity politics” doesn’t serve to privilege women over men, but rather to encourage women to achieve their goals in spite of the obstacles they face. I was inspired everyday by my former boss and Congressional Candidate Kathleen Matthews (MD-08) who optimistically sought to break barriers and be that role model. She believed that, “diversity of experience and diversity of background and point of view lead to better outcomes.” I find myself consistently agreeing with her. She never once shied away from her identity of being a working mom. Although she was unsuccessful in her Congressional aspirations, she inspired me. Identity politics is about banding together to push forward, not falling behind by silencing others, as Hout suggests.

 The Democratic Party fights for inclusion at all levels of government. It has its partisan failings, of course. It doesn’t recognize that it can be wrong, sometimes, and fails to criticize its national leaders when criticism is due. Hout is right that ideological purity should not be tolerated, as ironic as that statement may seem. We, as Democrats, have long termed ourselves the “Big Tent” Party, able to represent the many millions of members that we have. Democrats should find strength, not weakness, in our diversity: both ideological and demographic.

 Hout wrote that he believed that, “Trump could be just what the doctor ordered.” But Donald Trump campaigned as being one of the most ideological divisive candidates in modern history by seeking to separate the “us” from the “them.” By pitting Americans against MuslimsAmericans against Mexicans, and Americans against Women, Trump consciously attempted to regress America into an unspecified time where it was once great, most likely the 1940s or ’50s, before people of color were fairly able to engage with the American political system and before most minorities were afforded basic rights.

 Hout very incorrectly believes that a potential Democratic strategy is to eliminate white men from Democratic Party, encompassed by the supposed empowerment of more radical voices within the party. He believes that our core message is alienating, rather than all-encompassing. But I think he has only been exposed to the very limited college conversation. I don’t believe that he has met the pragmatic progressives, like myself, who feel that we can affect change from the center of our own party and move the nation forward. I hope that my message will be able to convince Americans like Hout to rejoin the Democratic Party, and encourage millennials like myself to find the compassion in their hearts not to rebut “identity politics,” but to embrace the growing diversity that is the American citizenry.

Democrats are compassionate. We care about our fellow citizens and we dismiss the myth that everyone starts on the same footing and faces the same journey. Today, some Americans need a hand of assistance but not a handout. We want to fight for the defenseless and we want to provide a voice to the voiceless.

We'll take the fight to Donald Trump and Mike Pence with their regressive agenda. We'll fight to ensure that millions of Americans will continue to have access to quality healthcare, regardless of their economic situations. We'll fight to ensure that Americans have the right to love whomever they love. We'll fight for minorities of all shapes and sizes. We'll fight to pass on that torch and amplify other voices instead of monopolizing the spotlight. We'll fight to ensure that women have the right to decide what goes on in their bodies. We'll fight to ensure that people who fled their homes can find refuge in the United States. We’ll fight to keep education costs low to enable all Americans to rise up and achieve their goals. We’ll fight to protect the little guy from corporate exploitation. We'll fight to prove that Black Lives Matter. We'll fight to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have access to them and mean to do us harm. We’ll fight to stay true to the first amendment and protect people of all religions, whether they say “Thank God” or “Allahu Akbar.”  As Democrats, we’ll continue to fight for what we believe is right, regardless of the roadblocks ahead and no matter how steep the hill.

I am a moderate. I am a progressive. And I'm a Democrat, because I believe that we can make the strongest change when we push forward.

Celebrate the Presidency, not the President

By Beth Wright, Contributing Writer

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A Republican and a Democrat set off in the same car to the inauguration in Washington, yet neither supported the man sworn into office. Why would two so different people intend to celebrate a ceremony that neither wished for? The President-elect himself had very little to do with this decision, rather it was the immensity of the moment that these drove political  opposites to spend more than six hours in a car together. As Senator Roy Blunt said during the ceremony, the inauguration is both “commonplace and miraculous” and the enormity of any peaceful transfer of power from one man, one party, one government – to an entirely refreshed one – is incredible in history. The 2016 Election brought forth intense and bitter rhetoric as well as its share of violence and dissent. President Trump has been, is, and will continue to test America’s democratic system. However, the nearly flawless execution of the transition is a testament to American devotion to democracy and the democratic process, especially for those Americans attending events in protest or those who watched in sadness. Sen. Blunt consolidated these thoughts into another quote from the ceremony, which reflected why so many people of different ideologies attended and watched the inauguration. He stated that the ceremony was, “Not a celebration of victory, but a celebration of democracy.

It was just as miraculous to see those who were so disheartened by the election results participating in this moment. We should not allow disenfranchisement to lead to an attempt to scrap the entire political structure, or to stifle the millennial generation, or any group, into inaction. The value and scope of difference was embodied in our experience at the event itself. The people around us in the 12th Street section spoke many languages, were of many races, and among them there many different reactions to the figures that appeared on the jumbotrons. They were not afraid to boo, to cheer, or to comment as the proceedings continued. But they were there, all together in the non-ticketed section with thousands of others. The great diversity in age, gender, race, and political leaning provided an incredible opportunity to watch reactions in real time. Each, in their support or protest, was participating in this system and was driven to stand with us in an understanding of the importance of the ceremony.

The protest marches and rallies in response to plans of the administration that have continued well over a week past inauguration are further proof of this devotion to the democratic system. We carry the notion that our voices are heard when they are raised, and that together we have the power to generate change.

Beneath the scopes of snipers, under the eyes of many watchful military men and women, and with law enforcement on every corner, we witnessed a peaceful transfer of power like most of the world has never known. Beneath the shroud of divisions and conflict – both military and ideological – we see growth in the American democracy and a desire to make its tenets and freedoms stronger to give voice to those who were not heard in this election. The core values of a democratic system are still and always worth fighting for, and we can fight to make our actions better reflect those goals and values. We can only grow forward into our democracy, and not away from it.

How Trump’s Infrastructure Plan Could be Key to Finally Fixing Washington’s Metro

By Eamon Bousa, Contributing Writer

“Literally falling apart” is how then-President-Elect Donald Trump’s transition website described the nation’s infrastructure.  Surprisingly, in the wake of the election, a time of hyper-partisanship, many Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, lined up to work with President Trump to hammer out an infrastructure plan.  While the transition website claimed the administration will seek $550 billion for roads, bridges, airports, transit systems and ports, it remains to be seen how much money Congress might actually grant and in what form the funding will take should Congress even fulfill the President’s infrastructure aspirations.  

When putting this legislative package together, President Trump should consider lending a hand to the city that is his new home.  The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), commonly known as Metro, has been a national embarrassment for years now.  This past April, the Washington Post chronicled the system’s numerous difficulties, noting many issues including its lack of a dedicated source of financing and a negligent maintenance system that has led to numerous breakdowns and safety issues culminating in the tragic death of a woman last January.  Adding to the system’s woes, Metro currently has multiple long-term expansion projects in the works – such as expanding the Silver Line to the Dulles Airport that, according to Metro’s most recently proposed budget, is expected to cost $144,850,000 over the next five years.  This expansion and others outside of the District will either be delayed or detract from Metro’s commitment to maintaining its existing transportation network if additional funding cannot be secured.

Metro has commendably already put in significant work towards rebuilding its existing tracks.  Paul Wiedefeld, Metro’s newest General Manager, should be applauded for focusing on maintenance by implementing the Safetrack program which aims to complete three years of repairs in just one by reducing or shutting down service on specific portions of track for weeks at a time.  The program hasn’t gone off without a hitch – in July, a train derailed during a so-called “Safety Surge” that targeted the very portion of the track where this occurred – but the program is now over 50% complete and is scheduled to conclude in June of 2017.  Once this project is complete, WMATA plans to focus on train car safety by phasing out old cars and improving reliability in others, which they expect to cut delays on the system by 25%.

Unfortunately, it’s not clear this is enough to ensure safe and reliable operations.  As the Federal Transit Authority (FTA) recently observed, Metro is essentially playing a game of maintenance whack-a-mole due to insufficient funding. Additionally, none of Metro’s existing programs deal with the underlying structural issue of a lack of a dedicated funding source.  This shortcoming is only compounded when considering the several multimillion-dollar expansion projects Metro is keeping on its books.

Here’s where the Trump infrastructure plan comes into play.  While both President Trump’s campaign page and his transition website were scant on details regarding how exactly his administration intends to address the nation’s infrastructure, Secretary of Commerce nominee Wilbur Ross and Presidential Advisor Peter Navarro in October drafted what is now considered an acting blueprint.  Their depiction of the plan relies heavily on private investors.  Investors would receive an 82% tax credit for investing in projects that could then generate returns through tolls or other revenue generating means.  While such a plan would do little for the existing Metrorail system short of full or partial privatization due to the need for investor returns, Metro’s expansion projects offer an opportunity to involve the private sector and relieve WMATA from the additional budgetary burden.

If both the responsibility and some portion of fares resulting from these projects were turned over to private investors, many of Metro’s problems could be alleviated overnight.  First, Metro would no longer be on the hook for hundred million dollar projects and all the money needed to construct these projects could then be redirected towards the maintenance of existing track.  Second, private investors would assume the financial risk inherent in these expansions – if ridership on expansion projects fall below expectations, then investors, not Metro, would absorb the losses.  Finally, for the Silver Line especially, a successful private takeover would help ensure Virginia’s commitment to Metrorail given its fierce advocacy for the project.

It’s hard to imagine that turning these projects over to the private sector could make the existing system much worse.  Currently, even with knowledge of existing track problems, it’s not clear the current regime can ensure safety.  With regards to July’s derailment, a follow-up investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) made clear Metro knew about the problems regarding this portion of the track at least one year before the incident.  For reasons not entirely clear, these problems were not remedied.  This lack of action occurs as Metro proposes significant increases in its budget and suffers a 13 percent decline in ridership since last year.

 These continued difficulties have not escaped Congressional scrutiny.  Last month, the House Oversight and Government Committee held a joint subcommittee hearing on Metro’s reforms since implementing the Safetrack program.  During the hearing, committee members were understandably hesitant to offer additional federal funds to a transit system that pays some WMATA bus drivers over $100,000 annually and has 78% of its operating budget consumed by labor costs.  Addressing this criticism will be essential to securing federal and regional buy-in in the long-term.  

For Congress, there are two clear steps that could be taken.  First, as advocated by many of the city’s local business leaders, the WMATA board should be restructured to ensure that it is staffed with competent transportation professionals and that the collective interests of the system are prioritized.  In the 115th Congress, two local Congressmen have already stepped up and offered legislation to this effect.  Second, as convincingly argued by the NTSB, Congress should change federal law to allow the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to assume oversight of WMATA, replacing the Federal Transit Administration.  NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart underscored the arguments for this at a House hearing, noting the FRA has far broader regulatory and enforcement powers and could force WMATA to implement a wider range of necessary reforms in relatively short order. 

In the next administration, this advocacy will likely fall to Secretary of Transportation nominee Elaine Chao.   Ms. Chao will have the opportunity to become a fierce advocate for Metro if she chooses and she should forward the NTSB’s recommendation to Congress as soon as she is confirmed.  She should not be afraid of using her powers to threaten to withhold federal funds if WMATA fails to reform its State Safety Oversight Agency to ensure it conforms to mandatory federal standards.  The Department of Transportation should also target wasteful spending at all transit authorities that receive federal funds.  If applied to WMATA, this would force a reexamination of not only labor costs but also, as pointed out by former WMATA general manager Dan Tangherlini, incredibly inefficient procedures for purchasing and then maintaining Metrorail cars.  Ms. Chao should insist Metro deploy a more uniform fleet of cars with federal funding being used effectively as both a carrot and stick to reduce spending throughout the system.

 All the right cards have to fall to pull these changes off.  No player acting alone will be sufficient. Unfortunately, the customary post-election moment of bipartisanship could already be fading.  The Center for American Progress, an influential progressive think tank, has already come out condemning Mr. Trump’s infrastructure plan.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (husband of Transportation Secretary nominee Elaine Chao), for his part, has stated he is opposed to a “trillion dollar” infrastructure program – a number nearly double what Mr. Trump has actually proposed.  Political moderates from both parties should insist to our more ideological purist friends to try and find ways to fix infrastructure issues around the country and our nation’s capital. The Trump plan could be an essential starting point for national rebuilding of infrastructure. The stakes are too high to let our railways, roads, and bridges continue to deteriorate.  Hopefully with some compromise here, a little more funding there, and with plenty of luck, we can find a way to make this very broken part of the Washington swamp something the whole nation can be proud of.

 

Congressional Democrats Are Poisoning the Well Before Day One

Peter A. Finocchio, Contributing Writer

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We observe today not a victory of party but a celebration of freedom--symbolizing an end as well as a beginning--signifying renewal as well as change…

So let us begin anew--remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.

Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us.

-        President John F. Kennedy, January 20th, 1961

These words were spoken by our nation’s 35th President in his inaugural address nearly 56 years ago today. John F. Kennedy had just won a close and bitterly divisive election, but in his inaugural speech he called upon his fellow Americans to come together. He began his speech by reminding his fellow Americans that the ceremony was not about the President but about the presidency. It was a celebration of the peaceful transfer of power that has marked presidential transitions since the nation’s birth. It was a time when, whether one was a Democrat, Republican, or neither, fellow Americans could come together after a hard-fought election and their freedom to do exactly that. His remarks were as energetic as they were unifying, speaking to the heart of every American whether he had voted for him or not. To those who had voted for him, the inauguration was a moment of joy and pride to have played a part in making this historic moment a reality. But more significantly to those who had not voted for him, they were words of comfort and reassurance. President Kennedy said to those who had voted against him, “We can work together. We both love the same country. We both want the same bright future for our sons and daughters.” This is exactly the spirit that an inauguration is supposed to be about: pride, patriotism, and unity.

 

Fast forward to today. Unity does not come to mind when one thinks of the presidential inauguration just one day away. More than 60 Democratic lawmakers have declared their intention to boycott President-elect Donald J. Trump’s inauguration on Friday. Among them, both my current and my former representative in the House of Representatives. My current Representative, Don Beyer from Virginia’s 8th Congressional District declared in his statement: “[Trump’s] values and his actions are the antithesis of those I hold dear. It would be the height of hypocrisy for me to pretend to be part of this inaugural celebration.”

 

Congressman Beyer’s case, however, is built upon a false premise. Attending the inauguration doesn’t signify agreement with Trump or even celebrating the fact that he is the President. It signifies celebration of the process and a willingness to play a positive role in that transition whether one agrees with the person or not. My former Representative, Gerry Connolly from Virginia’s 11th Congressional District, said that Trump’s “behavior and harmful words during and after the campaign have left the country I love with open, bleeding wounds.  Instead of binding those wounds, he has poured salt on them. Instead of unifying us, he has reveled in driving wedges between us.” The irony in this statement is that the words of Congressman Connolly and his compatriots in protest are pouring salt on the nation’s wounds and driving wedges between fellow Americans as well. They are complaining about the President-elect’s divisiveness, but their actions are sowing the seeds of division even deeper than they already are. Congressman John Lewis went so far as to say that he does not believe Donald Trump will be a “legitimate President.” One can respect and admire Congressman Lewis’s heroic actions and conviction in the civil rights movement of the 1960s and still be critical of his words and actions present day.

 

In John Lewis’ case, this was not the first time he boycotted an inauguration or called an elected President illegitimate. He had made the same remarks about President George W. Bush and skipped his inauguration as well. Congressman John Lewis’s righteous actions in the march for civil rights do not exempt him from criticism over other actions. His words regarding both Presidents Bush and Trump and the inauguration boycott endorsed several of his fellow Democrats are irresponsible and disrespectful to the millions of Americans who voted in November’s presidential election, regardless of their favored candidate.

 

As President Kennedy reflected those many years ago, the inaugural ceremony is not a victory of party, but a celebration of freedom. It is disappointing that so many elected officials don't want to celebrate this freedom when their side has lost. It goes without saying that Democrats did lose November’s election. But despite not having majorities in Congress or controlling the White House, Democrats still have an important role to play in Washington as the opposition party. Millions are looking up to them for leadership and they have a responsibility to act responsibly. No party or person ever has a total "lock" on power in our country.

 

Governing requires cooperation and compromise and it has since the first grand compromise that birthed our Constitution. That means that Democrats can still play a significant part in the process. They must reach out to Republicans and seek common ground for the common good. Rehashing the divisive battles of the last election isn't going to help Democrats accomplish any of their priorities. Nor, more importantly, will it help our country move forward or come together. Democrats should attend the inauguration and be willing to work with President Trump to help America move forward. They won’t see eye-to-eye on everything, or probably even most things, but even the smallest gesture of sincerity can go a long way. By boycotting the inauguration, they are poisoning the well before day one.

 

Winning the War of Ideas Against Extremism

By Ibrahim Rashid, Guest Writer

In a recent piece in the American Moderate, Fairooz Adams makes an attempt to outline how we can best confront homegrown violent extremism, particularly in the Muslim community. And while his piece is thoroughly researched and makes some excellent points, his recommendation for an effective counter terrorism policy is both limited and counter-productive.

Towards the end of his piece he writes that:

Legal discrimination and a culture of exclusion will exacerbate problems and absolutely must be discouraged, and yet people must not be fearful of being labelled as bigots for taking extra caution… Indeed, while not everyone that looks like me [Fairooz] will engage in this violence, too many people that look like me do. There exists a fundamental difference between being able to recognize this fact and harboring actual hatred and malice towards certain racial minority groups. Ultimately, this comes down to a philosophical question. How many people is it worth offending for the sake of stopping the miniscule possibility of losing lives? I would say the number is incalculable.

 

Adams is right to highlight the tension between being labeled an Islamophobe and taking genuine precaution to safeguard our communities. All communities must practice vigilance, and Muslims are of no exception to this rule. However, he is wrong to suggest that the antidote to confront extremist ideology relies solely on individuals being unafraid of being accused of bigotry. The problem with Adams’ analysis is that his approach focuses solely on deterring extremism through community policing rather than preventing it from taking root in the first place. The problem is not that we American Muslims are at risk for extremist ideology simply by virtue of our faith, but rather, we are at risk because Jihadist propaganda specifically targets and exploits the fractures within our community in hopes of swaying individuals to their violent cause.

American Muslims who have gone abroad to fight in Syria and Iraq have come from the margins of society. In their lives, they experienced all sorts of alienation, failure, and hardship and saw in ISIL’s perceived message one of hope, opportunity, meaning, and adventure. So the greatest challenge that Muslims currently face is this: How do we weaken the fractures in our communities and empower moderate voices who can delegitimize extremist messages?

The reality is that for the past few years, particularly since the end of the 2016 presidential election, hate crimes against Muslims have risen, our places of worship have been vandalized, our women have been harassed, and our ‘Americanness’ and patriotism have been questioned.

This has made achieving the aforementioned objectives all the more difficult given that the culture of Islamophobia that we find ourselves in today have widened the fractures in our communities and have pushed many of us, particularly new immigrants and their children, towards the margins where they feel isolated and unwelcome. And when that happens, the messages of extremists can resonate and take root.

So to fight this, our counter terrorism strategy has got to be all-encompassing with the focus set on reducing the appeal of extremism in the first place at the local level. And the only way that we can do that is by empowering the American Muslim community and treating them with dignity and respect, rather than viewing them with suspicion and scorn.

For example, we can do this by:

  1. Strengthening our ties with the Muslim community. Faith groups can host a joint Shabbat-Iftar dinners during the month of Ramadan; Churches can invite Muslims to participate in their services and vice versa; universities can host community events discussing the historical ties between Hinduism and Islam; and so on. There’s a lot of ground that can be covered through interfaith work and as a Bostonian myself, I was very encouraged by the interest expressed in the Out of Many, One event hosted at the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center where 700 people of all faiths, along with Mayor Walsh and Senator Warren, came together for a call for dignity and solidarity in the wake of the election.

  2. We need to empower the voices of moderate Islam. That means that as private individuals, we should give space to figures such as Qasim Rashid, Reza Aslan, Ilhan Omar and Wajahat Ali. We can follow them on Twitter and Facebook, share their content, and talk about them. There are pages out there like the Secret Life of Muslims or My Muslim Friends that seeks to break misconceptions and stereotypes about Islam through storytelling. There are even comic books, like Ms. Marvel, an incredibly popular series about Kamala Khan, a Pakistani-American, that has become one of Marvels most popular characters and breaks stereotypes by portraying the (very average) lives of American Muslims.   

  3. Actually listen to what Muslims are saying. When us Muslim activists complain about excessive surveillance in our mosques, aggressive policing in our communities, or the discriminatory nature of the No Fly List, take us seriously and have a conversation with us. On a case by case basis, some of these claims might be unfounded and be the product of a lack of communication, but we don’t solve any of these problems without dialogue and sustained engagement.

Extremism can develop in any community and that there can’t be an overarching governmental policy that can prevent extremism from developing in every community without putting a strain on law enforcement resources and curbing civil liberties through omnipresent government surveillance.  And if we’re being honest, the number of people who die by extremist violence annually is so small that establishing such a vast law enforcement apparatus is not worth the cost or resources. As a result, the responsibility needs to shift towards the private citizen.

Within the American Muslim community, the voices that say that “We will not let prejudice and discrimination prevent us from participating in the betterment of this society” need to be amplified against the voices of victimhood, alienation, and despair. Ultimately, by empowering moderate Muslims, we can reduce the fractures in our community that are being exploited by the extremists, delegitimize their message, and strengthen trust between communities, law enforcement, and government officials.

Addressing Adam’s earlier points, effective community policing can only work when there is trust and strong relationships between all members of a society. Without that trust and sustained engagement, we put ourselves at risk of letting our biases and prejudices cloud our judgement, resulting in individuals being accused of terrorism simply for practicing a different faith or speaking a foreign language.

Not only does this waste valuable law enforcement resources to investigate such baseless claims, but it alienates the Muslim community, giving way for extremism to develop and making it difficult for law enforcement cooperation. If someone feels that they will be treated differently by the law simply because of the color of their skin, they might think twice before confronting law enforcement when there is a problem.

Adams is right to say that we shouldn’t let political correctness prevent us from practicing vigilance in our communities. But if we want to minimize the instances of false reports and actually fight the extremist narrative, we need to work with the American Muslim community, rather than against them. Failure to do so will only give the extremists a monopoly on the narrative that puts us all at risk.

 

There Is No Justice in the Death Penalty

By Amelia Benich, Associate Editor

This is justice? As it was recently announced that Dylann Roof, the mass murderer of the Charleston Church Shooting would be facing the death penalty, there remains an uncomfortable question mark at the end of that sentence.

In 2015, the United States along with Iraq, Iran, China, and Saudi Arabia executed more people than all other nations on earth combined. Meanwhile, for every 10 criminals executed in this country, one person on death row has been exonerated and released. A “conservative estimate” from a study out of the University of Michigan and the University of Pennsylvania places the percentage of death row inmates that are innocent at 4.1%. It doesn’t take a binge watch of Making A Murderer to see that our criminal justice system makes mistakes and is severely flawed. The permanence of the death penalty is simply not appropriate for a system so prone to errors and deliberate meddling.

But Roof is guilty. Undoubtedly. A man such as Dylann Roof seems to be the perfect candidate for capital punishment: a remorseless mass murderer who lives by the tenets of white supremacy seems like exactly the type of criminal who should receive the death penalty. He has become a symbol of the monster of white supremacy in America.

In reality, executing Dylann Roof would be completely counterproductive. Simply put, the death penalty doesn’t deter crime. As shown on this graph below provided by the Death Penalty Information Center, the murder rate in states with the death penalty is consistently higher than the murder rate in non-death penalty states.

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The death penalty is also far more expensive than life without parole. It is true, we shouldn’t spend a large portion of taxpayer funds on someone like Dylann Roof, yet an “exhaustive study” in California found each execution cost $308 million of taxpayer dollars to carry out.

In the specific case of Roof, though, there’s an additional aspect that must be pointed out. If the state executes a white supremacist male in a nation where white male supremacy has bared its teeth, he becomes a martyr. In a country where the next president is advised by someone regarded as a leader in white nationalist communities, executing Roof fuels their fire.

So again, this is justice? When the families of the victims prefer life without parole and prefer to avoid more years of legal appeals, and prefer mercy, we have to ask ourselves the most basic question: Is this justice?

Let Justice Be Swift

By JJ Seah, Contributing Writer

Dylann S. Roof has been indicted, convicted, and sentenced to death. His crimes are the murder of six women and three men on the evening of June 17, 2015, in Charleston, S.C. Per the law of the state of South Carolina, he will face either lethal injection, or the electric chair. From the moment he murdered nine fellow Americans in cold blood, right to the instant of his verdict and sentencing, Roof has been unyielding in his unrepentance, and has shown no remorse.

The facts of the case are not up for debate. Roof admitted his own guilt, and will face justice. Rather, I will defend the concept of capital punishment as a tool of the state to punish those who would commit heinous crimes against others. Even before the trial, opinion pieces were published in the New York Times and the Washington Post arguing against the death penalty for its systemic bias towards certain racial groups and profiles. They also argued that capital punishment itself is a violation of human rights and contradictory to the freedoms and rights that Americans hold dear. Further, there are even more arguments that the death penalty costs too much to the state in terms of legal fees due to appeal and retrial costs and that it constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. I will address these arguments later in this piece.

Before we get any further, allow me to explain my understanding of punishment. Punishment has four aims. It is a penalty for the actions of the wrongdoer who has caused harm to others by their own actions. It is a correction mechanism for wrongdoing so that, if possible, the wrongdoer become reformed and do no further harm. It is a protection for greater society, that those who would harm society are not able to do so if removed from society. And finally, it is a deterrence: a warning to all those who would seek to live beyond the law by showing that sanctions await them should they overstep the boundaries. This, in essence, is what punishment is meant to achieve.

In Roof’s case, at least three of these principles are valid. He murdered nine defenseless churchgoers in cold blood. The moment he raised a hand against his fellow man, with no reason beyond hate, his life was forfeit. Had there been police waiting for him as he stepped out of the church, he would have died in a hail of bullets, as he intended to. Is it possible that he might reform himself? Sadly, it doesn’t seem likely. Roof has been unrepentant and unwavering and wrote in his prison journal that, "I would like to make it crystal clear. I do not regret what I did… I am not sorry. I have not shed a tear for the innocent people I killed."

Barring some miraculous conversion while imprisoned and awaiting his final hours, he will go to his grave impenitent. Will this protect society? Undoubtedly. Americans will sleep easier at night knowing that a violent murderer is safe behind bars, six feet under, or scattered to the winds. And will this serve as a deterrent? Again, yes. Roof is the first criminal who will face the death penalty for federal hate crimes. This sentences sets a precedent: a signal to all those who would seek to divide their country in hate and bigotry that such acts of brutality will not be tolerated and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Some might argue that the death penalty is not an effective deterrent in this case, as Roof had indicated that he might want the death penalty himself.  his desire to “die by police” to one of his victims. However, what’s important is the legal precedent where those who commit such acts in the future will not be able to point to his case and expect clemency.

America has a complicated relationship with the death penalty. It is true that there is a legacy of systemic racism in the way the sentence has been handed down and evidence, both historical and contemporary, of disproportionate sentencing against people of color. I deplore any biased and unjust sentencing and would be among the first to demand that if new evidence is found exonerating any accused of such crimes, they must be cleared. That is their right as citizens of a just system. That is why such sentences cannot be handed down lightly, for there must be not a shred of doubt as to the guilt of the accused. If the criminal justice system is unable to provide incontrovertible proof of guilt, then the death penalty is unwarranted and must not be granted. If it is applied anyway, then the system is unjust, and undoubtedly needs to be reformed and honed. But this is not the case for Dylann Roof. He is a murderer, and unabashedly so.

As for the cost, I am aware that in the United States it costs more to prosecute for capital punishment in trials, appeals, and retrials, rather than a defendant to life in prison without the possibility of parole. I concede that argument. I would add that if there is reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the accused then they must be given every opportunity to be exonerated, and no expense must be spared to prove either guilt or innocence. Again, if there is a case for innocence, then the accused must have the right to appeals and retrials. However, I feel that in the case of Roof, and similar cases, it would be far more just to bear the costs of delivering death sentences rather than to keep him in the penitentiary.

Does the death penalty violate human rights and does it constitute cruel and unusual punishment? Not if due process is followed. According to the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, life, liberty, or property cannot be deprived without due process of the law. In this case, due process has been followed. Therefore, no rights were violated in this regard. The Supreme Court has also ruled that lethal injection (the preferred method of execution in South Carolina) is not cruel and unusual punishment. Roof is not a juvenile, and was declared fit to stand trial, thus he is ineligible for a reprieve due to mental health reasons, or reasons of age. Again, no rights have been violated. Roof is a convicted murderer who raised his weapon against the innocent. It doesn’t matter if his victims were in a church or a brothel; they were innocent. He did it of his own free will, and thus freely accepted the moral responsibilities and legal consequences that such acts would entail.

Some family members of the victims spoke at Roof’s trial, saying they had forgiven him, and would pray for him. There, then, is the human spirit, capable of forgiveness and grace despite the terrible circumstances. And there is a chance, no matter how small, that Roof might experience an awakening, and repent of his sins. But he must still pay the price for his actions, for that is justice. Lady Justice is almost always depicted blindfolded, holding aloft scales, and armed with a sword, symbolic of impartiality, balance and punishment. This triumvirate is what ensures justice for all. Remove or chain the sword, and it would only serve to render justice ineffective. Let justice be done, lest the world perish.

 

Safety or Political Correctness

By Fairooz Adams, Outreach Director

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Outrage proliferated social media when a YouTube celebrity was allegedly booted from a flight for speaking Arabic on his phone to his mother. If it is determined that the incident is what the social media celebrity claims it is, then the airliner’s unceremonious ejection of the passenger was an overreaction. One must be cautious, nevertheless, as the alleged victim has a reputation of being a hoaxer. Incidents like this beg the question: what is the proper line between due caution and avoiding offense? I speak personally to the experience of being wrongfully accused due to my appearance. In middle school, I was called into the Vice Principal’s office because students had joked I that I would blow up the school. After multiple meetings and calling my parents, the school rightly determined that I was not, in fact, plotting to blow up the school. In hindsight, taking children’s crude racist jokes seriously (I have a Persian name and South Asian complexion) was a gross overreaction. As embarrassing as the incident was, I came to realize that the administration took the proper course of action.

I was reminded of this during the outrage in light of an Irving, Texas school’s overreaction not far from my hometown where the “clock boy” was arrested for bringing a homemade clock to school that appeared to some to look like a bomb. On it’s face, this appears silly. In the United States, terrorist attacks from ultra-right-wing groups are by far considered to be the largest threat, even as terrorists and terrorism victims worldwide come overwhelmingly from Muslim majority countries.

Then again, there was the case of the Boston Marathon bombers, the San Bernardino attackers, and recently Abdul Artan at the Ohio State University. In all cases, the assailants, who were described by some others as normal, harbored a fanatical hatred. Which leaves us wondering: how did we miss the signs?

I am not suggesting widespread discrimination is needed or justified, which would in fact  be counterproductive. Though I have no religion, as someone with a Persian name and South Asian complexion, I have a strong incentive to discourage discrimination against those who look as though they may be Muslim. Unlike European states, America does a far better job of assimilating its immigrants. As a result, the United States produced far fewer ISIS fighters. As British Muslim activist Maajid Nawaz has claimed, alienation and segregation are the pathways to radicalization. Embracing Americans of all faiths into the nation’s fabric is the best way to thwart jihadism.

So often the most dispassionately rational course of action also risks causing emotional harms. We must bring into balance two aims that seemingly cannot be reconciled. How do we create a nation that respects all Americans and treats them equally regardless of appearance and beliefs while at times precautions? I propose the following: we ought never encourage legal discrimination. In our culture, we must ensure all Americans feel included as Americans, but there must come to be an understanding at a cultural level that taking extra precautions, when it comes to any demographic, are perfectly fine. This is not confined to those who look like me or have names that sound like mine, either. In fact, we are already encouraged to be on the lookout for children that may engage in school shootings. No, people who look like me are not especially fragile. If other groups of people that are statistically predisposed to certain crimes can be profiled, then people that look like me can handle that as well.

Legal discrimination and a culture of exclusion will exacerbate problems and absolutely must be discouraged, and yet people must not be fearful of being labelled as bigots for taking extra caution. This sounds like a contradictory aim, and perhaps that is true to a certain level. But there is, in fact, a fine line. There is a difference between being able to include all Americans amongst one’s friends and  being willing to take extra precautions in general. Indeed, while not everyone that looks like me will engage in this violence, too many people that look like me do. There exists a fundamental difference between being able to recognize this fact and harboring actual hatred and malice towards certain racial minority groups. Ultimately, this comes down to a philosophical question. How many people is it worth offending for the sake of stopping the miniscule possibility of losing lives? I would say the number is incalculable. Instead of focusing the ire on those that overreact and have taken excessive precautions, the focus must always be on the extremists who makes everyone else’s lives harder.

Buttigieg: Democratic Savior?

By Reily Connaughton, Policy Director

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Last June, at the end of a primary battle between sixty-eight-year-old Hillary Clinton and seventy-four-year-old Bernie Sanders, the New York Times published a much needed list of fourteen young leaders in the Democratic Party. After the destruction of the “blue wall” in the electoral college and the election of Donald Trump, the Party needs that list now more than ever. A recent Public Policy Polling (PPP) poll shows that members of the Democratic Party want “new blood” in leadership headed into the elections in 2018 and 2020. However, since the fallout of the election, old faces and old ideas have surfaced in the race for Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chair. Keith Ellison, a congressman from Minnesota, represents the old, populist left of Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren that failed to connect with a majority of Democrats during the primaries. Tom Perez, the current Labor Secretary, represents the Obama coalition that fell apart across the Midwest because of the focus on turning out certain segments of voters instead of speaking to the national interest. Ray Buckley of New Hampshire and Jamie Harrison of South Carolina both have strong ties to the Democratic establishment that fell apart, especially on the statewide level, this past election season. On January 5th, Mayor of South Bend, Indiana Pete Buttigieg (one of the party’s rising stars) jumped into the race for Chair of the DNC. In doing so, he created a new path of youth and innovation, free of the 2015-2016 proxy battles. The Democrats should take that path and back Buttigieg for DNC Chair.

The thirty-four-year-old Mayor has the dream resumé for downtrodden liberals in 2017. Born and raised in South Bend, he has deep roots in the part of the country most prominent in the minds of Democrats. He rose from a middle class family to attend Harvard, where he wrote an award winning essay on political courage and eventually became a Rhodes Scholar. In 2011, he became one of the youngest mayors in history at 29 when he won his election with over 70% of the vote. Three years later, he left city hall to serve in Afghanistan as a Naval Intelligence Officer for almost eight months. The year after his return, Indiana adopted the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and Mayor Buttigieg came out as a gay man. His impressive record gained him national attention and The New York Times even ran the headline “The First Gay President?”. The Party should not solely embrace his identity, however, but his values and vision of the future.

Before he entered the race, Mayor Buttigieg penned an exploratory essay explaining the strategy he believes the party should adopt to reintroduce itself. His vision is a modern liberal opposition to the Trump ideology based on “protecting freedom, fairness, families and the future.” Moving forward, the Buttigieg agenda represents a movement where “salvation begins with the local.” In 2018, one of the major tests of the party will not only be the federal congress and opposition to President Trump, but also the state-level repair. Democrats are at historically low levels of influence in state governments, and the coming gubernatorial races will be a central test of whether the party has been resuscitated. Many of these governorships are in states with either incumbent Republican governors or state legislatures. This means that the DNC needs someone at the top who understands that “Democrats need to absorb the fact that winning the popular vote is not enough, see that the future trends of the electoral map alone will not save us”. Mayor Buttigieg is a leader who has a history of reaching out to voters inside and outside the traditional Democratic voter base.

This ideology and roadmap is rooted in the day-to-day practicality of seeing policy implemented through city government. The mayor would help shift the focus from appealing to different groups of voters in an attempt to bind them together to defining Democratic values and their direct impact on all people’s lives. South Bend is home to both large minority populations and blue collar, white working class voters - two groups that took center stage in the 2017 election. The city is a microcosm of America, and the mayor has implemented a winning strategy that won him huge majorities twice. Buttigieg understands that the party of Franklin Roosevelt is at its best when it innovates, not when it stubbornly sticks to stringent political beliefs.

    South Bend was a city in need of a visionary, “a company town that lost its company.” In the mid-1960’s, the last Studebaker rolled off the line and tens of thousands of people were suddenly out of work. The auto assembly plant closing down in the city of less than 100,000 created the conditions for economic distress. The plant was torn down and any empty field was left in its place. Factories that supplied the plant were left without a purpose. Working class people were forced to flee the city and look for opportunities in the suburbs. This narrative is familiar across the entire Rust Belt region of the country. Unlike others in the DNC race, he can authentically say he understands the plight that the Rust Belt has felt and knows the way forward.

His first act as mayor was to begin a program that would knock down or renovate over 1,000 homes in his first 1,000 days. The administration also capitalized on the fiberoptic cable that runs through the city and its centrality to the 21st century internet economy. The empty field was turned into Ignition Park which has seen data companies flock to the area. The old auto plant was reimagined “into a mix of office, commercial, residential and storage space”. It was  clear that the new administration’s primary purpose was going to focus on refashioning the image of the city while transforming its economy. And for the first time in nearly fifty years, the population of South Bend has grown instead of shrunk.

Critics of a Buttigieg DNC might point to the strong showing of President-elect Trump in the regions where the mayor comes from. But on the federal level, the vision  and South Bend example could not only provide a clear contrast to the Trump agenda, but also help liberals win back some of the working class that have left the big tent. Many of the voters that broke for Trump were swayed, in part, by his message on trade. While Hillary Clinton and the Democrats didn’t put up as clear of a message on the central issue, the Republican nominee hammered home his protectionist plan. He harped on bad trade deals and boasted about being able to bring back the jobs that had been lost. There couldn’t be a more perfect messenger to present the opposing view than Mayor Buttigieg. As someone whose entire career has focused on revitalizing post-industrial areas, he explains that “there are a lot of people who think they lost their jobs because of globalization when they actually lost their jobs because of technology.” He rejects the fictional notion that “if we just turn back the clock and get rid of trade, everybody can get their manufacturing jobs back.” As he has demonstrated in northern Indiana, “isolationism, protectionism and nostalgia” don’t fix post-industrial regions. “[N]ew skills and a next generation of products and services” do. More importantly, the Democrats would have a leader with a practical plan for these suffering areas that would stand in stark contrast to the false hope of the Trump administration.

During his speech to TEDx at Notre Dame, the Mayor described a pocketwatch company that thrived in South Bend during the early years of the twentieth century. The discovery of the “trench watch,” created for the new age of soldiers on their way to Europe, utilized a wristband to ensure easier and faster access. The wristwatch overtook the pocketwatch, and by the late 1930’s, the old industry, its employees, and the city itself was confronted with a crisis of technological advancement that displaced thousands of workers.

Buttigieg has focused his efforts on rebranding the city for a new innovative economy that thrives on the future, not on trying to bring back the past. The mayor understands the lessons of South Bend Watch Co. and what it takes to rebuild what has fallen apart. With the clock ticking towards the Trump era, he should be given the opportunity to do the same for the Democratic Party.

CPR on a Cadaver

By Alex Mollohan, Operations Director

On Wednesday, December 28th, Secretary of State John Kerry delivered a speech outlining what he saw as the necessary steps to be taken to ensure a lasting a durable peace between Israel and their Arab neighbors. This speech outlines the decision of the United States to abstain from the December 23rd United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements; a serious break from the established US policy of protecting Israel from the UN. This action has ignited a firestorm on the highest levels of diplomacy, infuriating the Israeli government (to the point where they have broken off relations with many of the countries that voted for the resolution) and sparking an intense debate about the future of Israel-Palestine. It is worth examining Secretary Kerry’s six points, and weighing them against the reality of the situation on the ground.

1) A two state-solution based on 1967 borders

This has been the standard position of the United States government since Israel captured the Palestinian territories in the Six Day War. It has been the basis of the ossified peace process started in Oslo a generation ago. Thus, reaffirming this was to be expected from an American administration. This is not a bad idea in theory but in practice it would leave tens of thousands of Jews in Palestine. These Jews would need to be evacuated, a grim prospect for a nation that still remembers the pain of the Gaza disengagement a little over a decade ago. I worry that an evacuation of this magnitude would lead to major civil strife in Israeli society: a frightening prospect for all those who care about Israel.


2) Mutual recognition, and rights for all citizens of both nations

Nice in theory, will never happen in practice. While Israel gives full rights to its Arab citizens, it is difficult to imagine the Jews who stay in the future Palestine either respecting their new Palestinian rulers or having their rights respected in return. There is simply too much mutual animosity between the settlers and their Palestinian neighbors. The fact that Palestinians have stated that their nation must be judenrein as a precondition for statehood only reinforces the emptiness of calls for mutual respect. While I do not like to admit this, the Palestinian demand to remove all the settlers isn’t particularly unreasonable. But, the settlers of Judea and Samaria barely listen to the IDF, and would represent an existentially dangerous fifth column to a demilitarized Palestinian state.

3) A realistic solution for Palestinian refugees

This is a tricky issue. Israelis will never accept the demand for a full right of return, as that would spell the end for Israel, and render the Jews a minority in their homeland. Reparations are also a tricky subject as most Israelis are likely unwilling to admit wrongdoing on their part (a position I happen to share, but that's another article in and of itself). A full right of return to Palestine will probably be the best solution here, but that is contingent on the Palestinian leadership swallowing their pride, something which they have had difficulty doing in the past.

4) Jerusalem as the capital city for both states

A symbolic issue, but one I take a hard line on. Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish people, one which cannot be divided or lost again. The entire Jewish faith is centered around Jerusalem and the connection between the Jewish people and Jerusalem is one of the most intense on Earth. Beyond this personal motive, divided cities are always a recipe for disaster, and the divided Jerusalem would certainly be a flashpoint for future conflict. On a practical level, Israel already allows total freedom of worship in Jerusalem, and it is difficult to imagine the Palestinians (who riot at the idea of Jews approaching the Temple Mount) keeping any promises on freedom of worship. The simplest solution here would be a referendum on the status of East Jerusalem, where the inhabitants vote on whether they wish to remain a part of Israel or become the capital of Palestine.

5) End the occupation in a manner which meets Israeli security needs

Difficult, considering that whenever Israel withdraws from occupied territory, they are rewarded with rockets. Herein rests the biggest issue on the ground, the simple fact that the Palestinians cannot be trusted as good faith actors regarding Israel’s security. So long they glorify martyrdom and name their streets after suicide bombers, it is hard to imagine the security concerns of Israel being respected. How can Israelis sleep comfortably knowing that a potentially genocidal foe controls the West Bank’s strategic highlands, capable of raining rockets on any part of their nation at a moment's notice?

6) End territorial claims and normalize relations with all sides

This issue undergirds all of the above problems. As long as the entirety of Israel is viewed as occupied territory by the Palestinians, peace will be impossible. The territorial claims on Israel provide Palestinian militant groups the motivation to attack Israel, which in turns strengthens the Israeli conviction that military occupation is necessary. Relinquishing claims to Israel-proper and ensuring that this change is reflected in Palestinian society is the most important step in the peace process. I am extremely pessimistic about the odds of this happening. Palestine was born in opposition to Israel, and the only thing which really holds the notoriously fractious Palestinians together is a mutual hatred of Israel (and even then, it’s no silver bullet).

Had Hillary Clinton won in November, we would not be having this debate as Clinton would almost certainly stay the course on Israel policy, something Trump simply cannot be trusted to do. With his appointment of David Friedman, a man who would not be out of place in the Israeli Jewish Home Party (a pro-settlement party to the right of Netanyahu), it is clear that the Trump administration plans to cast its lot with the Israeli hard-right. While meant to save the moribund peace process, the Obama administration’s move falls right into the hands of this same hard-right fringe. The resolution amplifies the sense of siege and proves to some that the world is indeed against Israel. In the wake of this announcement, Naftali Bennett, leader of the Jewish Home, announced plans to bring a bill annexing large settlement blocs to the floor of the Knesset.

 

With essentially carte blanche from the Trump administration and the eyes of the world focused on the broader conflagration in the Middle East, it is hard to see the Obama administration's actions in the U.N. Security Council as anything more than a desperate, symbolic effort to save a peace process that died long ago. It is a move that constrains Israel as it fights to survive in the most dangerous region on Earth against enemies who would wipe it out were they to gain the upper hand. Knowingly or not, the Obama administration has aided and abetted the death of the Oslo accords, ushering in an uncertain chapter in the ever-fraught diplomacy of Israel-Palestine.

Give Diplomacy A Chance

By Kevin M. Levy, Senior Editor

With less than thirty days left in tenure on Pennsylvania Avenue, President Obama’s Administration broke from the President’s own record to allow a resolution at the United Nations Security Council condemning Israeli settlements to pass. Quick to pass judgment, Israel advocacy groups here in the United States, coupled with large Jewish organizations, largely condemned this move, equating the American abstention from the vote to a betrayal of the US-Israeli relationship. Meanwhile, JStreet, the self-described Pro-Israel, Pro-Palestine advocacy group, praised the resolution, claiming that the resolution would lead to a brokered peace in accordance with international law.

On December 28th, Secretary of State John Kerry delivered a speech outlining the American position on Israeli settlements in the West Bank and categorized six points that will likely become known as the Kerry Parameters for dealing with the future of Israeli-Palestinian relations.

First, the Kerry plan would provide for secure borders between Israel and a contiguous Palestine, with a basis in the 1967 borders, with mutually agreed-upon land-swaps.  The West Bank would become the heartland of a future Palestinian State, and it would be connected, by land, to Gaza, the current sea-based enclave. However, without the cessation of the Israeli south, including major cities such as Eilat and Beersheva, largely Jewish-majority cities, such a connection would not be possible. This point seems impossible, as any contiguous Palestine without the annexation of those two desert cities would result in a non-contiguous Israel.

Second, Secretary Kerry proposed a long-standing internationally accepted norm: Two states for two peoples. He said in a rather cliche (but awfully true) manner, that “Israel can either be Jewish or Democratic, it cannot be both” if it were to adopt a one-state solution. And he’s absolutely correct. Demographic trends are against the slowly growing Jewish population in Israel versus the quickly growing Arab population in the West Bank. The founding objective of the State of Israel was to provide a safe haven for Jews across the world as the only Jewish-Majority country. If it absorbed the entire Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza, it would become another Arab-majority state in the region within a matter of decades. The most important point that Secretary Kerry had here, however, was that both nations would respect the rights of their citizens. The total purge of settlements in the West Bank would result in a Jew-less Palestine, marking ethnic cleansing in the West Bank. If Israel were to recognize Palestinian sovereignty, which it eventually must to ensure its own long-term survival, a future Palestine must concurrently recognize the right of religious Jews to live in its own territory, such as the Jewish holy city of Hebron.

Third, Kerry would provide an adequate solution to the issue of Palestinian refugees. Palestinian refugees are the only global population that has the inheritable status of “refugee,” as the United Nations has preferred to continue ‘refugeehood’ for Palestinians rather than resettlement. Secretary Kerry is absolutely right here: the world must come together to find an adequate, fair, and just solution to the question of Palestinian refugees, whether than means resettlement in Jordan, Lebanon, the future State of Palestine, or even a limited amount in Israel.

Fourth, the holy city of Jerusalem would become a binational capital for both Israel and Palestine. It is difficult to imagine a future where Jerusalem, the holiest city for Jews and the third holiest city for Muslims, is divided as it once was from 1948 until 1967. Tourists of all faiths flock to the city as do religious pilgrims. The city is too important to arbitrarily divide along sectarian lines. Jewish-majority West Jerusalem could easily become the capital of Israel, while incorporating sections of the Old City, notably including the Western Wall plaza. At the same time, Arab majority East Jerusalem could become the capital of Palestine, sharing its prominence with the de facto capital of Ramallah. Jews and Arabs would find some way to share the city, marking it as a place of peace as opposed to one of eternal religious conflict.

Fifth, the Kerry plan would end the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and provide for the security of Israel.  In 2016, it seems almost nonsensical that a sovereign nation would have to militarily occupy the territory of another to provide for its own security.  The Israeli occupation that disrupts the daily lives of Palestinian civilians who strive for their own self-determination must come to an end. At the same time, Israelis must find a way to live in peace without fear of terrorism at its borders. This balance can only be achieved through the empowerment of Palestinian security forces and further cooperation between the two nations-to-be.

Finally, all outstanding claims between Israel and its surrounding states must be resolved, allowing for normalization. Excepting the precarious situation surrounding the Syrian-claimed/Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, this point must be insisted upon. A modern Israel cannot exist without its neighbors recognizing its existence, especially with the rising threat from nearby nuclear-intentioned Iran.

I studied in Israel during the Summer 2014 conflict with Hamas and experienced the threat of Hamas and Iranian-funded terrorism in the south of Israel, reaching as far north as Tel Aviv, and even Jerusalem on one occasion.  I am a pro-Israel Jewish Democrat. And I am concerned about the future existence of the Jewish State.

After nearly 70 years of strong existence, if Israel is to survive to its 100th, or even later, it must acquiesce to negotiations. I will tentatively support the general framework of the Kerry Parameters, and I’ll hope that Israeli and Palestinian leaders will as well. Secretary Kerry noted that “friends must be able to tell each other hard truths,” and he is correct. Peace in the Middle East is in America’s interest. It’s in Palestine’s interest and it is in Israel’s interest. Finding common ground in the Kerry Parameters might give way to lasting peace between Israel and Palestine.