SPRING 2020 | ISSUE 01
Brown Political Review
Issue 01, Spring 2020
Editors’ Note Over two millennia have passed since the ancient civilizations of Sumer, India, and Greece decided society should be governed collectively in a process we now would call democracy. As humanity has evolved, so too have the nature of democracy and its central mechanic: the election. Across nations and over time, elections vary in how they are run, how direct or representational they are, and who can participate. Today, countries around the world still wrestle with these fundamental questions. More than ever, increasingly partisan political climates and rising global inequality force us to consider whether modern elections still uphold the democratic values they were made to serve. It is perhaps unsurprising that a political publication at a US university would choose to focus on elections in the spring of 2020. Still, in this issue, we hope to poke our heads out of the bubble that is the US presidential primary race in order to examine the complexities surrounding all sorts of elections. At home, Dalia Bresnick digs into Seattle’s democracy voucher initiative, arguing that national implementation of such a program could be an effective means of countering the effect of big money in politics. Abroad, Allison Meakem
hones in on Die PARTEI, Germany’s premier satirical political party; Zachary Harris examines the respective electoral successes of US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; and Hyun Choi offers a critique of recent South Korean electoral reforms. In a few short months, American voters will cast their ballots to decide who will sit behind the desk in the Oval Office. Between now and November third, we urge you to consider elections both at home and abroad and what can be done to make them better. — Mari & Mary
Brown Political Review
CONTENT FEATURES Mary’s Pick “Supreme’s Pioneering Model” by Ariana Haji Chances are, you recognize the iconic red and white logo of Supreme. Originally inspired by the skaters of lower Manhattan, Supreme has established itself as a popular name in the streetwear fashion scene in the past two decades. In “Supreme’s Pioneering Model,” Ariana Haji explores Supreme’s unique business strategy that has, somewhat counterintuitively, fueled the label’s growth. To build hype around its brand, Supreme “artificially maintains scarcity of its products by creating two collections spanning two seasons every year,” often only releasing a “meager quantity of five to seven of any particular sweater or hoodie.” Give this article a read and let Ariana walk you through the impacts of such a scarcity model—from fostering the growth of secondary resale markets to soliciting imitators in the high-end fashion realm—all through the lens of a brand that “carries a rare legacy of art, sport, and fashion.”
Mari’s Pick “Who Let the Dogs Out: Trump’s Aversion to Presidential Pets” by Luke Angelillo Immanuel Kant once declared that “[w]e can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.” If this is the case, then surely Luke Angelillo is correct when he claims that “everything suggests that, a priori, presidents benefit at least marginally from an animal companion.” Still, in his article “Who Let the Dogs Out: Trump’s Aversion to Presidential Pets,” Angelillo argues that Trump’s pet avoidance is perhaps a calculated element of his public image. Check out this article for a whirlwind tour of presidential pet history, from Teddy Roosevelt’s one-legged rooster to Nixon’s Checkers speech to the infamous Beaglegate, as well as a detailed comparison between Trump and the illustrious Young Hickory.
PODCAST FEATURES Human Rights and Media Portrayals: Narratives of the Kashmiri Experience Featuring interviews with three women who testified before the Congressional Subcommittee on Human Rights in South Asia in October 2019, this episode of BPRadio seeks to understand the complex media portrayals of the human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir. Join hosts Rachel Lim ’21 and Annika Sigfstead ’22 in parsing the complicated set of facts and perspectives that surround this story.
A Look at the Providence School Takeover: Part II In the second installment of the series on the Providence School Takeover, BPRadio dives back into the Providence Public Schools to further investigate the effects of a state takeover on the parents, students, and broader community. Hosted by Morgan Awner ’21 and Rachel Lim ’21, this episode features an interview with Gara Field, former super-star principal of Pleasant View Elementary and current Director of Global Education and Social Innovation at Moses Brown. We also look into what you, the listener, can do in Providence.
Academic Freedom on Trial at Brown University In 2013, Ray Kelly was invited to speak at Brown University. As a well-known proponent of stopand-frisk, the NYPD Police Commissioner’s presence generated controversy on the university campus and ultimately resulted in Kelly being unable to speak. In the aftermath of the Kelly incident, Brown University has had the opportunity to examine academic freedom in the context of competing values. In this episode of BPRadio, we use the Kelly incident as a launching-off point to examine differing perspectives on academic freedom, concepts of justice, and approaches to free inquiry and civil disobedience in the university setting.
Issue 01, Spring 2020 EXECUTIVE BOARD
EDITORS IN CHIEF
SENIOR MANAGING WEB EDITOR
Mary Dong Marianna Scott CHIEF OF STAFF Emma Blake CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER SENIOR MANAGING WEB EDITOR
US SENIOR EDITOR
ASSOCIATE SENIOR MANAGING WEB EDITORS
CHIEF COPY EDITORS Eliza Namnoum Namsai Sethpornpong INTERVIEWS DIRECTORS Jack Doughty Glenn Yu
CO-CHIEF COPY EDITORS Eliza Namnoum Namsai Sethpornpong
ASSOCIATE SENIOR MANAGING WEB EDITORS
SENIOR MANAGING MAGAZINE EDITOR Peter Lees
COPY EDITORIAL BOARD
Kate Dario Jackson Segal
Kate Dario Jackson Segal
WORLD SECTION EDITORS
Molly Cook Carlie Houser
Brionne Frazier Tarana Sable Matthew Walsh
Siena Capone Rocket Drew Christina Ge Chaelin Jung Jack Malamud Talia Mermin Daniel Steinfeld Shane Tomaino Jack Wolfsohn Ricky Zhong
Natalie Fredman Daniel Halpert Leonardo Moraveg Morgan McCordick Meghan Murphy Maddy Noh Jack Otero Ria Panjwani Amir Tamaddon
ECONOMY SECTION EDITORS Clare Lonergan Noah Pirani
CAMPUS SECTION WRITERS
DATA DIRECTOR Emilia Ruzicka MARKETING, OPERATIONS, AND BUSINESS DIRECTOR Zander Blitzer CREATIVE DIRECTORS Jeff Katz Katie Kwak MEDIA DIRECTOR Olivia Rosenbloom PODCAST DIRECTORS Henry Peebles-Capin Emily Skahill LEAD WEB DEVELOPER
Owen Kells Mira Ortegon
STAFF WRITERS Milo Douglas Simon Giordano Ariana Haji Annabelle Hutchinson Matthew Lichtblau Max Pushkin Nicholas Sawicki Gabby Smith Andrew Steinberg Sydney Taub
SENIOR MANAGING MAGAZINE EDITOR
Executive Producer Henry Peebles-Capin Emily Skahill
Jack Doughty Glenn Yu
Henry Peebles-Capin Blaise Rebman Hannah Severyns
Alexander Fasseas Ryan Frant Rose Houglet Sam Kolitch Shinyoung Lee Elizabeth Louis Rachel Lu Zach Mazlish Neha Mukherjee Shilpa Sajja Neil Sehgal Amelia Spalter Jack Stein Zachary Stern Nicholas Whitaker
Dalia Bresnick Ashley Chen Hyun Choi Eunice Chong Xiaoyu Huang Chris Kobel Anagha Lokhande Allison Meakem Gabriel Merkel Jason Togut Maia Vasaturo-Kolonder Rachel Yan Emily Yamron
Hosts Rachel Lim Annika Sigfstead Podcast Associates Isabel Astrachan Thomas Bickel Dalia Bresnick Casey Chan Evelyn Chavez Kate Dario Sierra Fang-Horvath Eastlyn Frankel Deepak Gupta Han Nguyen Geireann Lindfeld Roberts Rachel Lim Ali Martinez Catherine Nelli Michael Seoane Annika Sigfstead Ellie Thomson Alison Swinth Auria Zhang
Annette Lee Christopher Lewis Katie McClenahan Morgan McCordick Jessa Mellea Sam Parmer Gina Sinclair Jason Tang Gabriela Tenorio Amelia Wyckoff Isabelle Yepes Claire Zeller Peter Zubiago
CREATIVE CREATIVE DIRECTORS Jeff Katz Katie Kwak
Libby Marrs JaeWon Kim
Katie Fliegel Caroline Hu Diana Kim Nadia Kossman Maegan Murphy Duairak Padungvichean Brenda Rodriguez Julie Sharpe Kira Widjaja Stephanie Wu
Madi Ko Minji Koo Daniel Navratil Vanissa Wong
Molly Kate Young
ART DIRECTORS Stephanie Wu Molly Kate Young GRAPHIC DESIGN DIRECTORS
Rachel Avram Karina Chavarria Benjamin Cunningham Bridget Griswold Eric Guo Zeke Hertz Claire Hodges Robin Hwang Chaelin Jung Elias Kaul
COPY EDITORS (CONTINUED)
Data Director Emilia Ruzicka Data Associates Erika Bussmann Kevin Du Ashley Hong George Hu William Jurayj Jack Kates Michelle Liu Nathaniel Ostrer Ryan Simpson
MEDIA BOARD Media Director Olivia Rosenbloom
MARKETING, OPERATIONS, & BUSINESS BOARD MOB Director Zander Blitzer MOB Associates Auden Barger Elliott Carmen Bebbington Regina Caggiano Mali Dandridge Alexandra Herrera Nadeen KAblawi Ethan Kuhl Karolyn Lee William Pate Akilesh Raman Richard Shen Juno Tantipipatpong Zahra Thiam
Assistant Media Director Anson Shyu Content Creators Alessandra Bianco Mary Bibbey Muskaan Garg Mina Kao John Liu Griffin McLaughlin Aila Kassandra Rodriguez Anson Shyu Annika Sigfstead Irene Sung
TECH DEVELOPMENT BOARD Lead Web Developer Raymond Cao Web Developer Nick Young Melissa Zhang
Brown Political Review
Table of Contents
Special Feature: ELECTIONS United States
M is for Medicine The future of medical MDMA by Andrew Steinberg
28 Count MENA In The case for Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) legal recognition by Zeke Hertz 12
Vouching for Vouchers How $50 could reshape campaign finance in the US by Dalia Bresnick
Shrewd Likud Prime Minister Netanyahu has dominated Israeli politics by capitalizing on ethnic divisions by Zachary Harris
Funny Business Why comedy is good for politics by Allison Meakem
Mixed Member Pandemonium How South Koreaâ€™s democratic reforms have polarized the country by Hyun Choi
Interview with Nomiki Konst by Jack Doughty
Interview with Maggie Williams by Amelia Spalter
Bundles of Joy Rethinking how maternity care is paid for in the US by Maddy Noh
Superfund Me The EPAâ€™s Superfund program is in trouble by Ashley Chen
Interview with Garett Jones by Nick Whitaker
Interview with John Delaney by Ryan Frant & Zach Stern
Issue 01, Spring 2020
The Elections Issue World
The Fragility of Progress Protecting indigenous rights in Bolivia by Henry Peebles-Capin
Small, Green, and Mighty Taiwan’s quest for energy independence by Jason Togut
44 Interview with David Morales by Rachel Lu
Defending the Land Canada’s illegal war on Wet’suwet’en rights by Xiaoyu Huang
Moonifest Destiny A new legal framework for moon colonization by Elias Kaul
51 Interview with Natasha Singer by Shilpa Sajja
SPRING 2020 | ISSUE 01
M is for Medicine The future of medical MDMA by andrew steinberg ’22 illustrator diana kim ’20
James Casey remembered the fireworks. The painted skies of his childhood filled him with wonder and joy. But everything changed when he was deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan. As a US Army Medic, James saw the horrors of war: disfigured, Cronenbergian bodies that barely resembled human form, lifeless eyes, and still hearts. When James returned, he found that his world had changed. Everywhere he went, loud noises reminded him of Kandahar. Especially fireworks. James tried traditional therapy, but his post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) remained ever-present. Eventually, he sought treatment from a non-traditional source: MDMA-assisted psychotherapy. Over a span of five weeks, James underwent three eighthour therapy sessions with assistance from MDMA. “It gave me my life back,” he recalled in an interview with the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychadelic Studies (MAPS) after receiving treatment. “I did a year and a half of therapy before MDMA, but with MDMA, it was like a year and a half of the previous therapy in one day.” By participating in this experiment, James became part of the national movement to recognize MDMA-assisted therapy as a legitimate treatment for PTSD. As trials move into
their final stage, America is on the verge of knowing whether medicinal MDMA has the opportunity to revolutionize PTSD treatment. If clinical evidence suggests that the treatment is viable, the US government must reconstruct the legal framework for MDMA to allow for the proliferation of this groundbreaking therapy. MDMA is often known as the “heart of the party.” While the substance is a key component of the street drug, “molly,” and has become tied to today’s rave culture, it was first used for medical treatment. During the ’50s and ’60s, a series of academic papers investigated MDMA’s potential to treat conditions like addiction and depression. Yet when the Drug Enforcement Administration classified the drug as Schedule I in 1985, the study of MDMA and the larger field of “psychedelic therapy” went underground. According to New York University psychiatrist Stephen Ross, the study of medical psychedelics became “so taboo” that “it was essentially erased” from the mainstream. Over the past few decades, however, organizations such as MAPS have experimented with MDMA-assisted psychotherapy. The treatment consists of two to three therapy sessions, each lasting between eight and ten hours. Before
the start of each session, patients ingest a dose of pure MDMA under the supervision of two trained psychotherapists. The drug itself is not the treatment but rather a tool to increase patients’ comfort while discussing past traumas. Because MDMA increases the release of hormones strongly associated with trust and bonding, patients are often more willing and able to revisit and discuss their memories. Furthermore, the drug may dampen activity in the amygdala, which is associated with fear and memory. These reactions allow patients to disassociate from their trauma so they can confront it without being overwhelmed. MDMA-assisted psychotherapy is a potential breakthrough in treating PTSD, which has been notoriously resistant to traditional treatment. Studies have found that for 30 to 40 percent of patients, even the most specialized therapy treatments do not help. While PTSD can affect any survivor of intense emotional or physical stress, it most commonly affects war veterans and survivors of sexual assault and abuse. The condition can severely disrupt people’s lives, too, causing anxiety, insomnia, and depression, among other ailments. Furthermore, it is shockingly common: One in 13
“‘It gave me my life back,’ he recalled... after receiving treatment ‘I did a year and a half of therapy before MDMA, but with MDMA, it was like a year and a half of the previous therapy in one day.’” THE ELECTIONS ISSUE
Americans will experience some form of PTSD during their lifetime. The initial research for PTSD-assisted psychotherapy looks promising. Just two months after Phase II clinical trials, 83 percent of participants were no longer diagnosed with PTSD. Veterans, firefighters, and police officers composed the core of these trials, demonstrating the drug’s potential to address different types of trauma. When MDMA-assisted psychotherapy transitioned to Phase III trials in 2017, it became the first psychedelic therapy to reach the last step of medical testing before public use. In 2019, the FDA approved MAPS’ request for “Expanded Access,” increasing the study’s scope and demonstrating the government’s belief in the treatment’s potential. The trials will include groups of 200 to 300 people in at least ten locations. They will also investigate safety concerns that did not come up in previous trials. But in its isolated form, MDMA presents “no serious risk” of addiction or brain impairment. Results from the investigation will be released in 2021, potentially allowing MDMA-assisted psychotherapy to become a prescriptive treatment by 2022. Ultimately, if the evidence suggests that MDMA-assisted psychotherapy helps people treat their PTSD without physical side effects,
the US government should revisit the drug’s legal status. Under the supervision of a medical professional, MDMA has the potential to liberate people from the chains of trauma and help them reclaim their lives. Furthermore, because participants only consume the drug in therapy sessions, the risk of the drug “leaking” into the rest of society is small. However, even if the FDA gives MAPS permission to practice MDMA-assisted psychotherapy on a broader scale, barriers will still exist. Because MDMA has been on the list of Schedule I drugs for over 30 years, its use has been criminalized at the national level and highly stigmatized. The classification of MDMA as a substance with no accepted medical use could also allow insurance companies to deny coverage for the treatment, effectively making it available only to the wealthy. If the status quo does not change by 2021, MDMA-assisted therapy would likely resemble the state of medical marijuana in the US—available to some, but not all, who need it. Additionally, some are concerned that pharmaceutical monopolies will limit access if the treatment becomes legalized. Although such concerns are valid, proponents of the process argue that because MDMA’s patent expired, it is less likely that the industry will become corporatized. According
to this argument, American pharmaceutical companies will be unable to monopolize the therapy’s profits. To the government’s credit, it has already begun to reexamine its decades-old view that MDMA has no medical benefit by authorizing preliminary trials. MAPS’ Phase II research suggests that MDMA-assisted psychotherapy could revolutionize treatment for a condition that has been resistant to treatment. At the very least, the government should remove MDMA from the Schedule I list. Decriminalization might also pave the way for research into other stigmatized drugs with potential medicinal uses, such as psilocybin. But unless current laws change, evidence-based medical applications of the drug will remain unrealized. If the research shows positive results, the US government must take active steps to admit the mistake of its blanket ban of MDMA. Time will tell whether thousands of patients like James Casey will be able to watch fireworks in peace. Andrew Steinberg ’22 is an International and Public Affairs concentrator and a Econ/ Finance Staff Writer for BPR.
Ultimately, if the evidence suggests that MDMA-assisted psychotherapy helps people treat their PTSD without physical side effects, the US government should revisit the drug’s legal status. Under the supervision of a medical professional, MDMA has the potential to liberate people from the chains of trauma and help them reclaim their lives.
SPRING 2020 | ISSUE 01
COUNT MENA IN
The case for Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) legal recognition by zeke hertz ’23 illustrator julie sharpe ’22 Sarah Shabbar grew up with an identity problem. As a child, she was constantly reminded by her community to be proud of her Jordanian heritage, but, as she told the Los Angeles Times, “none of these forms are allowing me to feel proud of it, because I’m just white, according to them.” Shabbar, like an estimated five million other Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) individuals in the United States, feels erased by the American government. “The federal government label[s] us as white, while our social status is anything but,” said David Shams, another MENA individual plagued by this problem. “It makes me feel unheard, like I’m shouting into this void, saying that we’re not white, and no one is listening.” Furthermore, because of their legal status as white, MENA groups are denied access to many legal protections enjoyed by non-white minorities, even though many MENA Americans are subject to racism and do not enjoy the social benefits of whiteness. To address these problems of identity and law, the US must create a new classification for MENA individuals. How MENA people came to be legally classified as white is a convoluted story that began in 1909 with a lawsuit. George Shishim, a native of Lebanon living in the United States, was unable to claim citizenship because until 1952, non-white individuals could not legally become naturalized citizens. Shishim, who was then legally categorized as Chinese-Mongolian, launched a legal campaign to identify himself
as white so that he could gain the practical benefits exclusive to white individuals in an era of unabashedly institutionalized racism. The Superior Court of Los Angeles ruled in Shishim’s favor, granting him the legal status of white, a status that today extends to all MENA people in the US. Times have changed, however, and what was once a legal blessing is now more often seen as a curse. Many in the MENA community today do not identify as white and recognize that American society does not see them as truly white, either. The classification of MENA-identifying Americans as white bars MENA participation in federal programs designed to help racial minorities in universities and business ownership and makes it less likely that their communities will qualify for language assistance—such as having ballots available in their native languages—under the Voting Rights Act. While an outright legal reclassification is unlikely, the most feasible first step toward rectifying the situation is census recategorization. The inclusion of a MENA census classification would enable the government to address problems like underfunded MENA-majority schools, employment and housing discrimination, and health and wealth gaps. In 2015, the Census Bureau under the Obama administration announced plans to test the introduction of a MENA category ahead of the 2020 Census. The results of the research were clear: If given the option, most people of Middle Eastern or North African descent would check off a MENA category rather than white, a categorization which 80 percent of MENA individuals have selected in the past. Furthermore, the report stated resolutely that “it is optimal to use a dedicated ‘Middle Eastern or North African’ response category.” Despite apparent progress on a MENA census category, the issue soon hit a roadblock: In 2018, the Census Bureau announced that it was receiving pushback from “a large segment” of the MENA population, who preferred
to be categorized as an ethnicity rather than a race. Since the government claimed that it did not have sufficient research to understand the effects of listing MENA as an ethnic group, the Census Bureau’s plans to add a MENA category were cancelled. Instead, the Trump administration announced that there would be an option to include one’s “origin” after indicating racial identification. Given that the announcement came just months after the Trump administration’s travel ban on multiple nations in the MENA region, some speculate the “origin” option may be an effort to undercount the MENA population by exploiting the hesitance some MENA Americans may feel to associate themselves with countries affected by the travel ban. It is clear from the research that the census needs a MENA category, but progress largely depends on support from the executive branch. Lobbying and activism will persist, but it is clearer than ever for all involved that to protect a minority group erased by its classification as white, the US must add a MENA category to the census. Zeke Hertz ’23 is a Political Science concentrator.
THE ELECTIONS ISSUE
Interview with Maggie Williams
by Amelia Spalter ’23 Illustrator Vienna Gambol ’20
Maggie Williams is a scholar and political leader who served as director of Harvard University’s Institute of Politics, director of communications for the Children’s Defense Fund, deputy press secretary of the Democratic National Committee, and congressional aid to Morris Udall. From 1993 to 1997, Williams worked as President Bill Clinton’s assistant and was then named First Lady Hillary Clinton’s Chief of Staff, becoming the first person to hold both positions concurrently. Williams went on to become the campaign manager for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign. After leaving the White House, Williams took on the role of President for Fenton Communications, becoming the highest ranked Black woman in an American public relations firm at the time. Williams is now a partner at the consulting firm Griffin Williams, a director of the Scholastic Publishing Corporation, a director of the Clinton Health Access Initiative, a trustee of the Rhode Island School of Design, and a US Commissioner for the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
amelia spalter You’ve spoken with great passion on multiple occasions about the importance of voting. What ignites that passion? maggie williams You get to determine the answers to the most important questions in the nation when you exercise your right to vote. What’s important? What is the character of our country? Who do we want to be? People who don’t vote should be put in prison. Even when you don’t like what you have to vote for, or the choices seem too narrow, it is really important that you vote. Not only that you vote, but that you get other people to vote. When you go to the movies, you don’t want to go alone; you call a couple friends and organize a group to go with you. If you can rouse that much passion and persistence to go watch Avengers, then at a bare minimum, you can do the same when tasked with selecting the next President. as What is your biggest concern about the government’s relationship to the American people? mw I don’t think people understand what the government does. I know grown, adult people who didn’t know that the government gave them their Social Security check. There is a lot of ignorance about what the government actually does, unless there’s something that you need from the government and manage to get. Otherwise, why would you know the breadth and the bandwidth that the government actually has in terms of services, or what it does in schools, what it does in this, in that, in the other thing? There needs to be clear and transparent education about what the government actually does and how it does it. We can name the three branches of the government, but can we articulate
SPRING 2020 | ISSUE 01
what they do and how doing it works? be President, Maggie? Huh?” I was speechPeople don’t realize how much of their life less, just thinking, “Oh my God, what do government touches. The FDA regulates I say to that?” But then he just started the quality of your food and monitors the laughing at me and my reaction, so I could safety and efficacy of your education. The exhale, knowing we were okay. He’s pretty FDA is the government. The DMV issues fabulous. With the election then over, it your driver’s license and determines who was a moment I could really cheer for him. is allowed to be on the road with you and as What do you think must be done to get your family. The DMV is the government. politics back on track to working for the If we started to think about it that way, people? maybe people would be more galvanized to assume civic responsibility and really mw My easy out is that everybody young takes understand how the government operates over. I’ve been trying to figure out how to and why it does it that way. expedite that. Sometimes I think we should lower the ages of participation, the age to vote, the age to run for office, if we should just bring everything down a few years. All the hope is in the next generation. This might be a bit old-fashioned, but I believe in the Constitution, and I believe in the Bible, and both say that we are all created equally. We can’t waste any more time trying to persuade those who have chosen to isolate themselves in a box and be brainwashed not to believe that, yes, really, all men are created equal. So I’m not in the business of trying to persuade anyone of that anymore. I don’t think it’s an effective use of time. The only people that we must ensure understand this concept is your generation and all the next generations. They already understand this concept more, so this is where all of my hope is put. After a certain age, it’s hard for people to make changes in how they see the world. I wish there as What was it like seeing President Obama was a school for people who can’t make for the first time after the 2008 election? changes on their own, to help them let go mw I was at an event just after Hillary had of outdated ideas, but there just isn’t. So, I become Secretary of State. I had been don’t know what we can do for the many Hillary’s campaign manager, so Barack and people of certain generations who were not I knew each other, but this was the first time taught this concept. I don’t know what we I was seeing him in person post-election. He can do, except to, as my mother would say, came over, looked me in the eye, and the first pray for them. thing he said was, “So, you didn’t want me to
If you can rouse that much passion and persistence to go watch Avengers, then at a bare minimum, you can do the same when tasked with selecting the next President.
as Are you optimistic about potential for climate action from officials within our current administration?
time as new issues arise. For example, our schools are integrated, but now we’ve got to do something about the high cost of education. What’s the point of opening your doors to all students if the students then can’t afford to walk through them?
“There is supposed to be an ongoing debate; more than that, there is supposed to be an intense argument, because we’re talking about decisions that directly impact people’s lives.”
mw Overall, some are better than others. I personally know people in this administration and can attest that there are some good people in this administration. I don’t as What is the most radical shift you’ve noticed in the political landscape since agree with them all the time ideologically, you entered it? but do I believe that there are people in this administration who work like dogs, who mw Early in my life, I worked for Mo Udall. are good at what they do, and care about What I remember most from those days the American people? Yes, I know them. I was a different political chemistry from talk to them. And part of why I know them that which we are experiencing today. The is because I worked in politics where, as I woman across the hall from me worked always say, you cannot get anything done for a Republican Congressman, and when without encountering people who hold she had to go to lunch, I could see her desk opinions that differ from yours. from where I sat, and I watched it for her until she got back. It went both ways. If as What will have to happen politically for she went to get a soda, she’d always bring received adequate attention in this you to feel as though we’ve reached the me one. Red or blue, people talked with election cycle? future? each other, people partied together, and mw The environment is pretty serious. You mw The future is now. I see it. I see people, while it was not ever lost on us that we had can have all the aspirational talk in the institutions, and laws that have begun to dramatically different views on the issues, world, but if that’s all you have, eventudo this work for us. Take, for example, the it was also never lost on us that we were in ally you won’t be able to talk anymore, fact that I can walk into any restaurant I the government of the same country. That because we won’t be able to breathe want. My niece cannot even comprehend basic understanding is something we’ve anymore, because we’ll have no clean the idea that Black people couldn’t even got to return to. air. People pooh-pooh the climate crisis walk inside of certain restaurants. It’s a in favor of a short-term focus on the foreign concept to her. But to my mother, as It sometimes seems as though the country is more politically polarized economy, saying, “The economy matters who just turned 93, it is a lived experience now than at any time in recent history. most because people need to eat every Within a single lifetime there is, on the Do you feel there is reason to be day.” I agree, people do need to eat; that’s one hand, my mother. She remembers, concerned? why I’m concerned about the environreally knows, what opportunities were ment. You can’t eat if you can’t breathe. taken from her because of her race. She mw The American people have pretty goodeyes. The environment goes back to educaknows what it means to not have choice. We’ve always had ideological differences tion for me as well, though, because it’s Then on the other hand, there’s my niece, in this country. That’s what makes it great; clear that in order to get a piece of meat a Harvard graduate and a professional that’s what makes it a democracy. Everyone in today’s economy, let alone solve the soccer player. She can do both of those can go vote about anything that affects climate crisis, you need much better than a things because she is free to make those their community. Anything from selecting seventh-grade education. In fact, you probchoices. That’s progress; that is the future; the commander in chief to whether or not ably need a college education. Sometimes that is a thing to be protected. We have to to add a basketball court to the local park. you need more than a college education, be vigilant. You didn’t get to desegregaYou can vote about anything in this country, or you need specialized training in an tion of the schools by people standing which means you have a say about anything area that allows you to be able to compete around and singing Kumbaya. You got to it in this country. But, at the end of the day, just so you can live, let alone get a job that because it was forced. We are in the United your allegiance is to the common good. effects change. We really have to think States, where we’ve got everything we Maybe I hold this perspective because about better access to all forms of educaneed to keep the country aware and alert, I worked for someone like Mo Udall. I tion. I’ve always said, we are a country but we have to diligently police it to make always saw him reaching out to his fellow of inventors. We were able to invent this the changes stick. Some of the things my representatives, because there was always whole country, so we should be able to mother experienced could easily resurge. a chance that they’d do a deal together reinvent it. Racism is mostly about people needing sooner or later. There is supposed to be to feel other people are doing worse than an ongoing debate; more than that, there they are in order for them to feel okay is supposed to be an intense argument, about themselves. because we’re talking about decisions that directly impact people’s lives. But there is as What is our most powerful tool to not supposed to be any, “I’m on this side, combat racism at present? you’re on this side, and never the two shall mw The ground floor of leveling the playing meet.” We’re on the same side. We are field is education. Without Brown v. Board shifting away from that, and it does make of Education, we’d be going nowhere. me nervous about the future. But once isn’t enough; the field must be leveled and releveled continually over as What policy issues do you feel have not
THE ELECTIONS ISSUE
BUNDLES OF JOY
Rethinking how maternity care is paid for in the US by maddy noh ’22 illustrator brenda rodriguez ’21
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Approximately one-third of births in the US are C-sections, a strikingly high proportion compared to similarly developed countries. Yet despite their frequent occurrence, and contrary to popular belief, C-sections are riskier than vaginal births: Risks of blood loss, heightened chances of infection, and other complications are all part of the fine print of the procedure. And although it’s widely understood that there are situations in which C-sections are medically necessary, experts caution that they are often performed in the US even when they aren’t needed. In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that C-sections should only account for around 10 to 15 percent of births, which is far less than the current rate of 33 percent. So why are C-sections performed so frequently? One reason may be the culture of risk aversion in US healthcare. Though C-sections are more complex than traditional births, the range of possible outcomes and complications is comparatively well-understood. Performing C-sections, then, can remove liability with regards to potential risks, such as the prolonged labor pains that are associated with a vaginal birth. Also, administrative burdens are often lower for C-sections: Studies have shown that the frequency of C-sections tends to
increase during times when physicians may be in a rush, such as around lunchtime and toward the end of the day. But perhaps the most significant factor contributing to high C-section rates is the financial incentive for healthcare providers. Since they are surgical procedures, C-sections are considered more labor- and time-intensive than standard deliveries, and as a result, physicians are paid on average 15 percent more for performing a C-section than a vaginal birth. As costs continue to rise, healthcare providers’ incentives to perform C-sections are also on the rise, even for low-risk pregnancies. The current tendency for doctors to overperform C-sections, whether for the sake of money or convenience, represents a perverse form of outcome-based medicine, in which healthcare professionals place far too little value on the well-being of mothers. It’s clear that something must be done to address this threat to maternal healthcare. To reduce the number of C-sections, then, one worthwhile step may be removing the financial incentive for performing these often unnecessary and risky procedures. Insurance companies may be able to offer a solution through bundled payments.
BUNDLES OF JOY
In the context of maternal healthcare, bundled payment plans are fairly straightforward: Rather than paying for each action that a healthcare provider performs, bundled payments group all episodes of care during the entire term of pregnancy under one umbrella and set a limit on the amount of money allotted for the expected course of treatment. Providers also typically receive a bonus for not exceeding outlined treatment costs. Without the financial incentive to perform C-sections—and with the added incentive of minimizing treatment costs in order to secure their bonus—doctors are encouraged to deliver better long-term maternal care. This includes watching for preemptive signs of latent medical conditions from the onset of
pregnancy and, if they appear, treating them in the first- and second-trimesters. Such practices decrease the chance of eventually running into issues that may necessitate pricier, higher-risk procedures—such as C-sections—later on. As a result, bundled care payments present an effective solution that allows physicians to have more control over the decision-making process and encourages close examination through the entire period of obstetric care, not simply at the end. Several states have already seen promising results in implementing their own rolled-out bundled payment programs. For example, in 2012, the Arkansas Health Care Payment Improvement Initiative (AHCPII) was implemented and adopted by the vast majority of
To reduce the number of C-sections, then, one worthwhile step may be removing the financial incentive for performing these often unnecessary and risky procedures. Insurance companies may be able to offer a solution through bundled payments.
Arkansas payers, including Medicaid and private insurance companies. AHCPII sets budget goals for both prenatal and postpartum care. Healthcare providers participating in the obstetric care receive incentive payments for delivering high-quality care without crossing over the threshold of intended costs. Within three years of its implementation, the program began to make progress toward its goals: It prompted a seven percent decrease in C-sections and a 3.8 percent decrease of state-wide perinatal spending. Despite its known successes, concerns that bundled payments may swing the pendulum too far in the other direction and disincentivize C-sections to a dangerous degree still exist. In order to reduce total treatment costs, it’s a real possibility that payment schemes could prompt physicians to promote vaginal births even in complex cases where C-sections may be required. Without proper caution, therefore, financial incentives could again pose a threat to maternal health. Yet programs are already finding ways to alleviate this concern. For example, bundled payment plans could allot money for treatment based on the complexity of each mothers’ case so that physicians feel comfortable spending more on expectant mothers with
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serious medical conditions. North Carolina’s Pregnancy Medical Home (PMH) program implements this idea by requiring the majority of obstetric providers to assess each Medicaid-eligible pregnant patient’s risk for premature birth. This strategy works toward bringing C-section rates below 20 percent among a specific demographic of women on Medicaid, but it still ensures that higher-risk pregnancies receive the care they need. From coast to coast, pilot programs of bundled care payments, funded through both public and private insurance ventures, have continued to yield similarly positive results. Nationally, health services organization Cigna introduced the first episode-of-care model in 2017. In this model, providers receive a bonus shared savings payment if they meet the agreed-upon cost and commit to quality standards, one of which includes reducing the rates of C-sections. On a smaller scale, a single California program spanning three hospitals yielded measurable success: It saw a 20 percent decrease in C-sections in those hospitals in less than a year and a total 33 percent decrease over six years. While results have been promising and the possibility of further expansion of such programs seems optimistic, it is clear that widespread integration of bundled care presents unique challenges, especially in the US
healthcare system. Without a national health insurance scheme, implementation of bundled payment programs has occurred in a piecemeal manner, and it will likely continue in this way. Since the efficacy of these strategies relies heavily on how well they can be accomplished through insurers’ policies, this obstetric care challenge is just one part of a larger debate over how healthcare should be paid for and by whom. Regardless of who is providing the service, however, discussions of how to manage prices prompt further questions relating to provider reimbursement criteria and costs. Overall, re-evaluating insurance-making policies at both commercial and state levels can help to re-establish the providers’ priorities as they relate to cost and quality while continuing to press for the removal of financial incentive for unnecessary C-sections. Giving birth in the United States can and should be safer and more affordable. By implementing bundled payments to promote holistic care and discourage unnecessary C-sections, the insurance industry can make that happen.
Madeline Noh ’22 is an Anthropology and Public Health concentrator and a World Staff Writer at BPR.
“Nationally, health services organization Cigna introduced the first episode-of-care model in 2017. In this model, providers receive a bonus shared savings payment if they meet the agreed-upon cost and commit to quality standards, one of which includes reducing the rates of C-sections.”
SPRING 2020 | ISSUE 01
Superfund Me The EPA’s Superfund program is in trouble
by ashley chen ’20.5 illustrator kira widjaja ’20 Silicon Valley has a secret. Beneath the comically unaffordable real estate in its home county of Santa Clara lie 23 federally designated sites of toxic waste, eight more than in any other county in the US. In the past 40 years, just one site has been decontaminated. Even here, in one of the wealthiest places in the world, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Superfund program has failed to address the problem of toxic waste. Established in 1980, the program was supposed to identify and monitor the cleanup of highly contaminated sites. The program showed promise at first, with hundreds of sites identified each year. Since then, however, its productivity has
slowed, due in large part to EPA managers’ unwillingness to add potentially costly sites to the National Priorities List. Other problems plaguing the program include a lack of funding, regulatory malaise, and the opposition of corporate “potentially responsible parties” to paying their mandated share of the cleanup bill. If Superfund is ever to effectively address the problem of lingering industrial waste, it must rehabilitate its internal inefficiencies, seek additional funding by bolstering its ability to collect damages from corporations, and invest in research infrastructure to identify sustainable cleanup methods. Tar Creek, a Superfund site in northeastern Oklahoma, is a case study in the negative effects of toxic waste contamination. Due to aggressive lead and zinc mining in the early and mid-twentieth century, the site is one of the most toxic areas in the US today. Even though mining operations ceased in 1970, Tar Creek still exhibits many of the symptoms of chemical poisoning. The banks of the area’s creeks are colored by orange water, and enormous piles of “chat,” or mine pilings, are scattered around the town. The effects on the residents of the town have been severe: One 1996 study found that 30 percent of children under the age of six living on the site had elevated levels
“For contaminated sites, Superfund’s standard for a successful cleanup— drinkable groundwater —is often functionally impossible to reach.”
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of lead in their blood, rendering them more vulnerable to learning disabilities and issues related to the development of their nervous and immune systems, among other health problems. The Tar Creek story demonstrates both the devastating effects of Superfund’s recent failures and the pressing need for reform. Although the area became a Superfund site in 1983, it wasn’t until 2006 that the EPA organized a federal buyout of the region, compensating Tar Creek residents for their toxic, unlivable property in an effort to vacate the area. So why did it take so long? One answer to this question is Superfund’s lack of funding. When the program was established, Congress created a trust fund by taxing the petroleum and chemical industries to finance Superfund activities. However, Congress opted not to renew the tax in 1990, and it expired in 1995. Since then, the program’s funding has mostly come from state taxes and congressional appropriations from general revenue; its federal funding has declined from roughly $2 billion in 1999 to $1 billion in 2013. Both independent consultants and the
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Ultimately, Superfund sites are a problem for everyone—rural and urban, rich and poor alike. They affect sustainability, socioeconomic mobility, and environmental justice.
EPA itself have suggested that a lack of funding, which has caused a shortage of full-time employees, has stalled Superfund efforts. Another problem with the Superfund program is its inefficient self-regulation. One of Superfund’s popular cleanup methods is called “pump-and-treat” (P&T), a process by which contaminated groundwater is pumped to the surface and transported to a secondary facility for treatment. This method is slow and environmentally unsustainable: It produces roughly 20,000 pounds of carbon dioxide for every five pounds of contaminants it processes. Alarmingly, this might not even be an accurate estimate. The EPA itself admitted that emission estimates are “self-reported” and not necessarily “[supported] by measurements,” which means the EPA lacks even the most basic data to make informed choices about sustainable cleanup. Furthermore, the EPA has conducted multiple studies that expose hundreds of problems with conventional P&T systems but has yet to replace these systems with more effective solutions. This inaction can be partially explained by the fact that more effective methods haven’t
been invented yet. In addition to investing in studies that expose the issues with P&T, the EPA should begin to channel funds towards developing alternate technologies. The EPA must also address the fact that its metrics of measuring progress may be flawed. For contaminated sites, Superfund’s standard for a successful cleanup—drinkable groundwater—is often functionally impossible to reach: One environmental consulting firm suggests that it will take 700 years for Silicon Valley’s Superfund sites to achieve that benchmark. The current Superfund model fails to effectively incentivize sustainable cleanup methods, as these projects are usually funded and directed by the corporations deemed responsible for the waste rather than by local stakeholders. In Tar Creek, for example, the EPA has refused to recognize the Quapaw Nation’s right to oversee cleanup of its own land. While funding and regulatory hurdles have plagued the Superfund program for years, cases of corporate irresponsibility have also recently been thrust into the spotlight. In December of 2019, the Supreme Court heard arguments for the case of ARCO v. Christian, in which
Montana landowners Christian et al. sued the oil company Atlantic Richfield Co. (ARCO) for state-law restoration damages “to restore their property to pre-pollution status.” In response, ARCO argued that the Superfund Act forbids external parties from seeking remuneration for an EPA-mandated Superfund site. According to ARCO, the EPA should have the right to determine whether hazardous waste removal is “technically impractical” or worth the cost, and landowners should not be considered “responsible parties” with the right to drive cleanup decisions. If ARCO loses, the company claims, the entire Superfund program will devolve into “chaos.” The landowners, on the other hand, have argued that because “nothing has been done” to most of the affected land, they should have the ability to pursue rehabilitation of their own property. Unfortunately, it seems that the Court is leaning toward a narrow, business-friendly ruling along partisan lines, which would deny Montana landowners the ability to seek remediation in state courts, just as the Quapaw Nation was denied this ability in the case of Tar Creek.
This example speaks to Superfund’s incompetence in two ways. First, the landowners should not have to seek additional damages—and wouldn’t even need to do so if Superfund had completed cleanup in an effective and timely manner in the first place. Second, ARCO’s ironic abuse of the Superfund Act, originally created to protect landowners from the financial burdens of toxic waste removal, to oppose Christian et al. shows just how far Superfund has strayed from its original purpose. Ultimately, Superfund sites are a problem for everyone—rural and urban, rich and poor alike. They affect sustainability, socioeconomic mobility, and environmental justice. More than one in six children under the age of five will grow up within three miles of a Superfund site; more than one in ten Americans below the poverty level live within just one mile of one. The US must pursue aggressive reform to create a functional program or risk poisoning a generation of its people.
Ashley Chen ’20.5 is a Computer Science concentrator and an Associate Editor at BPR.
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Interview with John Delaney
by Ryan Frant ’23 & Zach Stern ’22
Illustrator Vienna Gambol ’20
After an illustrious business career, John Delaney was elected to the House of Representatives, serving Mayland’s Sixth District from 2012 to 2018. In 2018, Delaney opted not to run again for the House, instead becoming the first candidate to announce a bid for the 2020 presidential race.
ryan frant You said in a campaign video jd It is misleading voters if it is never put on that, if elected president, your first 100 a scale. There has to be an aspirational days would focus on “common ground aspect of our politics in which we actually issues.” Given that even the most address the problems and injustices in the uncontroversial issues like infrastrucworld. But here is an example. Let’s say ture are currently gridlocked, how would John F. Kennedy was running for president you make common ground between left in 1960, and, as part of his campaign, he and right? called for us to go to the Moon by the end of the decade, and he was running against john delaney In my first 100 days, I would take someone who said, “I call for us to go to rf One of your more viral moments was five areas where there is meaningful biparJupiter by the end of the decade.” It would when you confronted Bernie Sanders tisan legislation in Congress. I will give be unfair to say that John F. Kennedy’s and Elizabeth Warren about Medicare you some examples. When I subscribed vision of going to the Moon by the end of for All on the debate stage. Has your to pricing carbon, I introduced that bill to the decade was not a big idea just because economic argument against Medicare Congress on a bipartisan basis. When we it was not as big as going to Jupiter. for All resonated well on the campaign put a price on carbon, we take all the reveThat is the problem in this primary. If trail, or do more moderate proposals for nues and give them back to the American you look at my plan for universal healthchange suffer for not having the same people. I also introduced a big biparcare, it is the biggest expansion of federal revolutionary character? tisan infrastructure bill. Senators [Patty] healthcare since the creation of Medicare. Murray (D-WA) and [Lamar] Alexander It is not a small idea, but because I do not jd It is always harder to talk about the (R-TN) have introduced a bill that would completely radically turn the healthcare nitty-gritty aspects of good policymaking. improve the Affordable Care Act. There industry on its head by making private Healthcare is one-fifth of the US economy are bills in the House and the Senate that insurance illegal, it is called a small idea. I —by far the largest part of our economy— are bipartisan around digital privacy, and think the notion of scale has been lost. The and a lot of people are not satisfied with it. there are bills in the House and Senate Green New Deal calls for us to get off fossil It is easy to say that we will radically transthat are bipartisan around expanding fuels by 2030, which is a mathematical form it and make it better for people. But it national service. I would pick five of those impossibility. If I were to call for a bigger, is harder to actually do that: How do we fix proposals, and my administration would greener New Deal tomorrow and say that healthcare in a way that doesn’t hurt innowork to get these five proposals passed we should get off fossil fuels by 2025, does vation or disrupt how people get healthinto law. Usually, new presidents want to that mean the Green New Deal is not a big care? I do believe I have won the argument do something big, coming up with their idea? That is a little bit of the problem here. on healthcare because when I first stepped own plan and then battling with Congress. forward, most people were afraid to take on What I am proposing is radically different. Medicare for All. It is incredibly disruptive As president, I would say: “Listen, I want in that it turns the whole healthcare part of to get stuff done. I don’t want to start from our economy on its head, and I think that scratch; there are these five bipartisan debate has moved to the point where it is ideas that Democrats and Republicans now more the minority than the majority. broadly support.” After that, we can talk about other big things we want to do, but zs Critics of Hillary’s campaign point to her wouldn’t it be amazing if in the first 100 reliance on moral appeals as distracting days, a president actually pushed for things from her own vision for the United that were already baked and developed? States. But at the same time, it would seem like a mistake to ignore Trump’s zach stern In the primary, there seems to more objectionable behavior. Do you be a type of rhetoric around big ideas as see any danger in relying too heavily a measure of each candidate’s fitness on these types of appeals? How would to be president. Do you think this is you handle this balance in a general misleading voters in any way? election?
“I think a lot of Democrats do not acknowledge that he won the center last time, so it seems to me that to beat him, we have to win that center back.”
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businesses because big businesses have jd I do think there is a danger. I think most teams of people that can deal with them. Americans—call it 80, 90 percent—have Things like investing in infrastructure or made up their mind on how they feel basic research are very conducive to small about the President. They are either strong businesses, and I think the government supporters, or they cannot stand the fact should be cheering on businesses that that he is our president. But I do think are growing and creating jobs. Having there is an important subset of Trump said all that, you need to balance out the supporters who might think he is indecent, profit motive that exists at the heart of but they don’t mind because they like some pretty much every business by protecting of his policies and believe the economy is workers and ensuring that they are getting doing well. To win over these voters, we a living wage and good benefits. We have need to offer a real economic vision about to pass laws that not only have things like how we will specifically improve their lives. minimum wages but also provide good Secretary Clinton, who I was a supporter earned income tax credits and paid family of, based a lot of her campaign on this leave. So in many ways, I think the genius notion that Trump is not fit to be presiof our country is that we allow the private dent—and I do not think he is. But I think economy to work its magic—to create jobs she did that at the exclusion of selling her and innovate—but we moderate those vision for a better country, which I think things with strong worker protections and she had, but I don’t think that was the a great social safety net. focus of her campaign. The data backs this up. If you look at her ads, something zs If there was one issue that you wished like 70 percent were attack ads on Trump. was talked about more during the The funny thing is—and this is something primary, what would it be and why? that is not often discussed, but I think it is incredibly important—that after the 2016 jd I wish we talked more about intergeneraelection exit polls, voters overwhelmingly tional responsibility. It seems to me that thought that Trump was more moderate one of our main jobs as public servants is than Hillary. If you go back to the campaign, to leave the world better than we found it, while his rhetoric around immigrants was but we are leaving debts that are going to terrible, most of the other stuff he talked be very hard for your generation to repay. about sounded more moderate. He talked One is the climate debt, and the other about building infrastructure. He talked is the fiscal debt of this country. I think about not screwing up Social Security both of those are big problems for your and Medicare or cutting it, like a lot of generation, and I would like to talk about Republicans often talk about. I think a lot these issues in terms of generational of Democrats do not acknowledge that he equity. There is a tremendous lack of fiscal won the center last time, so it seems to me responsibility from both Democrats and that to beat him, we have to win that center Republicans, and I think climate is talked back. about more occasionally as an end-of-theworld scenario as opposed to what I think rf In general, the Democratic party is it really is. I do not think human civilizapro-labor, while the Republican party tion is going to end because of climate is pro-business. In your candidacy, you change. We are an intelligent species, and have promoted both your pro-union we will ultimately do what we need to do history and your career as an entrepreto save the planet. The problem is that neur. How do you see labor and capital if we wait 30 or 40 years to do it, the next existing in harmony? generation has to take the full brunt of the burden, and it will destroy your generation jd I think they have to exist in harmony economically. Ultimately, we are not going because the private economy creates 90 to stand around and watch human beings percent of the jobs. If you want there to go extinct. When everyone calms down and be good jobs—in other words, if you are asks: Does anyone actually think that will pro-worker—to some extent, you have happen? The answer is: Of course not. But to be pro-business, meaning you want your generation may be confronted with businesses to thrive. All of this creates incredibly painful decisions that you have demand for workers and should translate to make because we failed to do it. That is into higher wages and better living condiintergenerationally immoral. tions. I think what makes me a different kind of Democrat is my pro-business attitude, particularly for start-up businesses. I think regulations usually hurt small businesses, and they do not really hurt big
“Your generation may be confronted with incredibly painful decisions that you have to make because we failed to do it. That is intergenerationally immoral.”
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ELECTIONS Vouching for Vouchers 24
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How $50 could reshape campaign finance in the US
by Dalia Bresnick
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by Jack Doughty
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Interview with NOMIKI KONST
Shrewd Likud How Prime Minister Netanyahu has dominated Israeli politics by capitalizing on ethnic divisions by Zachary Harris
Funny Business Why comedy is good for politics by Allison Meakem
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Interview with GARETT JONES
by Nick Whitaker
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Mixed Member Pandemonium How South Koreaâ€™s democratic reforms have polarized the country by Hyun Choi
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OUTSIDE SPENDING IN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION CYCLES FROM 2004 -2016 COMPARED TO PROJECTED* DEMOCRACY VOUCHER IMPACT
2010 Citizen’s United vs FEC ruling
(MILLIONS OF DOLLARS)
assumes same 21% use * Projection rate as Seattle’s 2017 program 1,733,000,000
How $50 could campaign 136,700,000
ELECTION CYCLE OUTSIDE SPENDING BETWEEN PRESIDENT, HOUSE, AND SENATE KEY
millions of dollars
PRESIDENTIAL HOUSE 2008
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VOUCHING for VOUCHERS reshape
How $50 could reshape campaign finance in the US
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“Democracy vouchers have the power to revolutionize the way American voters think about and interact with local and national elections.”
by Dalia Bresnick ’21 infographic Madi Ko ’21 and William Jurayj ’21
ince the landmark Citizens United decision of 2010, US elections have become less about voters’ voices and more about the bottomless wallets of the moneyed elite. Corporations, unions, and wealthy donors funnel millions of dollars into unrestricted Super PACs and outside groups, which take this unlimited cash flow and use it to support or oppose political candidates. The Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) found that 29 percent of campaign contributions in the 2014 congressional election came from the top 0.01 percent of income earners. Furthermore, in 2016, the CRP uncovered that the top 40 individual donors gave more than $1 billion combined to political groups, amounting to about a sixth of the total money raised for congressional and presidential elections for that year. The rise of big money in politics has well outpaced individual campaign contributions; a survey conducted by CNBC and Survey Monkey in July of 2019 found that only eight percent of eligible Americans had donated to any presidential candidate. Low-income and young Americans were the least likely to donate to campaigns: Roughly 75 percent of Americans with an income below $50,000 and about 80 percent of citizens between the ages of 18 and 24 said they will not donate a penny to the 2020 presidential election. Thus we must ask: Is it possible to have a robust, representative, and fair democracy if our elections are mostly funded by the One Percent? In response to the rising power of unrestricted Super PACs and outside groups, Harvard Law School professor Larry Lessig wrote an op-ed for the New York Times arguing for the implementation of national “democracy vouchers.” Under this plan, a small portion of federal taxes—say, $50 a person—would go into a rebate in the form of a voucher. Before every election, whether on a local or national stage, every voting citizen of the United States would receive a voucher in the mail that they could contribute to a political candidate of their choosing. If voters choose not to use their vouchers, the money would be donated to their registered political party. The linchpin of the voucher system is
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“PROPONENTS OF DEMOCRACY VOUCHERS DO NOT CLAIM THAT THE PROGRAM WOULD REMOVE BIG MONEY FROM POLITICS BUT THAT IT WOULD INSTEAD CHAMPION THE VALUE OF SMALL DONATIONS. MORE MONEY, ACCORDING TO THEIR ARGUMENT, BEATS BIG MONEY.” SPRING 2020 | ISSUE 01
VOUCHING FOR VOUCHERS
2017 election said, “People like me can contribute in ways that we never have before. We can participate in ways that big money always has.” The success of democracy vouchers at the local level in Seattle has spurred some political pundits to call for the implementation of the experiment on a broader scale. In fact, during his 2020 presidential campaign, former candidate Andrew Yang proposed a “democracy dollars” program, an idea which resembles democracy vouchers on a national level. According to Yang, his voucher would work to overpower the influence of big money: “The government has been overrun by corporate interests, [and] my answer is to wash the money out with people-powered money. [Democracy dollars] would wash out the lobbyists’ money by a factor of eight to one. That is the only way we will win.” Democracy vouchers have the power to revolutionize the way American voters think about and interact with local and national elections: They spur greater political engagement among disillusioned and often forgotten Americans and undermine the influence that the top 0.01 percent have on our elections. Moreover, the vouchers are part of a large-scale push to recognize the power of grassroots organizing and small donations. A look at 2020 presidential candidates like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who have condemned the influence of donations from Super PACs, demonstrates the growing power of small donors: Sanders’ campaign has over five million donors and an average donation of just $18, boasting the most donations in one fiscal quarter of any candidate in history. If these candidates want to boost the viability of such campaign finance strategies, democracy vouchers are a natural next step. Having already succeeded on a local level, a national rollout of democracy vouchers would spur even more political engagement, especially among groups with traditionally low voter turnout. Democracy vouchers’ presence in the platforms of multiple presidential campaigns demonstrates their widespread acceptance and political viability. Not only would democracy vouchers support the emergence of future grassroots campaigns, but they would also diminish the relative power of Super PACs and put power back in the hands of voters.
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Dalia Bresnick is a History concentrator and an Associate Editor and Podcast Associate at BPR.
that all political candidates who participate have to vow to only accept donations under $100 and to refuse Super PAC money. Proponents of democracy vouchers do not claim that the program would remove big money from politics but that it would instead champion the value of small donations. More money, according to their argument, beats big money. Indeed, giving every eligible American voter $50 would channel over $12 billion in additional funding into our elections. In this case, the billions of dollars coming from the 0.01 percent would be matched by billions coming from the 99.99 percent. If only half of Americans use their hypothetical $50 voucher in the 2020 election, about the same amount of money would be raised through vouchers alone as in the entire 2016 election. Not only would democracy vouchers radically change American campaign finance, but they would also have the power to revolutionize political engagement. The ability to donate to a political campaign puts power back into the hands of the average American voter. Although vouchers have not yet been instituted on a broad scale, the system has proven to be quite effective in local elections. In January of 2017, the city of Seattle implemented the country’s first democracy vouchers program for its own local elections; $43 million from a ten-year property tax were turned into $100 vouchers and sent in the mail to every Seattle voter. Although the project came with high administrative costs of over one million taxpayer dollars and had lower participation than expected, it was still overwhelmingly successful: Candidate Teresa Mosqueda raised over $300,000 from democracy vouchers and ultimately won a seat in the Seattle City Council. In addition, 84 percent of people who sent back their vouchers said they had never donated to an election before, and small donations tripled from 8,200 in 2015 to about 25,000 in 2017, when the project was launched. The vouchers were especially effective at inspiring political engagement from groups with historically low donation rates to political campaigns: The Seattle Times found that the program boosted participation from younger and low-income voters. Compare, for example, the Seattle mayoral race, which did not accept democracy vouchers, and the city council race: While only 478 people with an income of under $50,000 donated to the mayoral race, 1,292 people donated to the city council race. Furthermore, the Seattle experiment found a marked increase in citizen participation in elections at large. Many felt new agency as a result of their ability to contribute to a process otherwise governed by elites. One woman who used her voucher in the
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Interview with Nomiki Konst by Jack Doughty ’22 illustrator Vienna Gambol ’20 Nomiki Konst is a progressive activist, media presence, and political commentator. In 2016, Konst was a member of the Democratic Unity Reform Commission of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), which served to reform the party’s nomination procedures and make them more democratic. Konst was formerly a candidate for New York City Public Advocate, a contributor to The Young Turks Investigates, and now hosts her own online news program, The Nomiki Show.
geographic and political diversity. The spectrum of DNC membership stretches from union leaders all the way to consultants for the defense industry. However, those most directly involved in rule-setting are appointed, not elected. They mold a party that protects the needs and concerns of their clients. Because of this, they are the architects of inextensible elections. They’re aware their corruption is in the limelight! nk Sadly, it remains that their interest is not in expanding the party. The Unity Reform Commission was anathema to their greater intentions. The Commission was poised to do so much: to enrich the power of the people, to redirect the priorities and mission of the party, to empower new voters. These should all be seen as good things! Instead, we find ourselves still mediating between vested interests and the momentum of new political movements.
universal healthcare to canceling student debt. Why, then, is foreign policy off the table in mainstream media: Israel-Palestine, the continuing riots in India against Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, Yemen, Kashmir... What does blocking these discussions mean for the democratic process in our country? The media assumes, and in turn frames, these issues as if people don’t care. The mainstream [media] underestimates the intelligence of the American people. Even if they don’t frame it as such, foreign policy is a crucial discussion progressives are having. The electorate is shaping discourses on foreign policy that are beyond the echochamber of the elites. Media conglomerates believe they can shape narratives, and, to an extent, they can. However, we are witnessing that voters are becoming increasingly engaged, critical, and holistic, and that is reflected in the electoral results we are seeing thus far.
jack doughty In the wake of the Nevada jd You speak often of the exclusionary caucuses, which I think have been the nature of superdelegates and of them most telling primary challenge that we’ve being a roadblock to the reinvigoration of had so far, what do you sense is at stake the party. Something reinvigorating the for our electoral process? Are voters jd Emerging media has a not necessarily country nowadays is the emerging media invigorated, and does the DNC recognize partisan but ideological tilt. Is this movement, of which you’re a part, espethis? polarizing media environment necescially on the left. Would you argue that sary at this moment to restore our publicly funded media and a politically nomiki konst Honestly, at this point, it’s democratic process? Is it possible that engaged population are entangled? Is the impossible to deny that independents are ideologically-bent media serves as a emerging independent media mobilizing entering the political process, more so than crucial, unfiltered artery of democratic new voters? Democrats or Republicans. Many generadeliberation? How does polarization tions, millennials in particular, have been force politicians to define their views nk It’s very apparent that these new platconditioned to exercise a natural skeptistrategically, inherently stratifying forms are not beholden to behemoth cism and mistrust of our political proceedvoters? telecommunications monopolies. When ings. These groups are now expressing you’re enmeshed with these conglomtheir desire for change at the ballot box. nk I think polarization is a social construct. If erates like cable news is, their influence During my time as a member of the you believe in the Second Amendment, you isn’t subtle. Right now, ideas and discusDemocratic Unity Reform Commission, must also then believe this, and this, and sions aren’t arising from groupthink; one of our mandates was to expand the so on… This frame of mind pits working they’re being commanded from up top. electorate. We’ve learned that to do so, we people against each other. The media has I think what’s refreshing about online need to be running candidates that inspire, architected a culture of polarization for media, and crowdsourced media in particnot just in the general [election], but all profit. The emergent media on the left, ular, is that we have the freedom to have year! These primary challenges show us we by focusing on universally recognizable larger conversations about often grim need to build and harness energy, not only economic questions, is fostering unity. conditions in our country. We, unlike to elect presidential candidates but to fight In reality, we are tied together by larger, cable news, don’t prioritize being provocagainst measures antithetical to our values. collective struggles: real estate, drug prices, ative and incendiary for the sake of ratings. We must, and the DNC must, be mobilizaeconomic inequity. When politicians prioriAmazingly, people are hungry for real tion-minded at all times, constantly seeking tize solution-making for regular people and conversations right now. My show, since it to welcome new supporters. making life more livable, we can truly begin launched a month ago, has gained 20,000 to identify obstacles in the way of equality. subscriptions. This is simply because jd What would you say, then, is the role of In 2016, the media made its strategic people want to learn about superdelegates, the Democratic National Convention in obsession white suburban women who about the functions of the DNC, and about this political moment? How do its leaders voted for Trump, causing Hillary to lose. inequality. Consultants and analysts in the understand the scope of their influence? This is a false narrative, and it only forged mainstream aren’t neutral arbiters who Also, what are the priorities of the DNC, greater animosity. The quintessential want to teach and discuss. By being genuand are these priorities susceptible to discussion that we avoided having was inely informative and engaging, this new change? Hillary’s devastating performance among media is shaping a voter determined to working people. If we want to win, we must nk That’s a big but important question. The enact change. abandon strategic political calculations, DNC is on one hand a collection of over speak to the issues, and get working people 427 members, of whom some are elected jd We are having so many novel political out to vote. conversations nowadays, from discussing and others appointed. The DNC represents 28 SPRING 2020 | ISSUE 01
Shrewd Likud How Prime Minister Netanyahu has dominated Israeli politics by capitalizing on ethnic divisions
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by Zachary Harris ’22
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illustrator Stephanie Wu ’21
ven after 11 years in office and three indictments for corruption, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu can’t be stopped at the polls. By mid-March, Israel will have had three elections in one year, a tumultuous state of affairs arising from the failures of both Netanyahu’s center-right Likud party and rival Benny Gantz’s center-left Blue and White party to secure a parliamentary majority following elections in April and September 2019. Netanyahu, like US President Donald Trump, has stunned pundits with his apparent immunity to legal and political consequences. However, his grip on power may be rooted in little more than basic demography. A recent study by the Adva Center, a progressive Israeli think tank, combined electoral results from the April and September elections with socioeconomic data to measure the class divide between Likud and Blue and White’s constituencies. The study’s socioeconomic component is drawn from Israel’s official geographic socioeconomic ranking system, which ranks each of the country’s 1,183 municipalities on a scale from poorest to wealthiest. Importantly, the data captures only those municipalities whose residents are eligible to vote in Israeli elections; illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank are counted, while Palestinian citizens in the West Bank, subject to varying degrees of Israeli civil and military control, are not.
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Adva’s analysis may not perfectly capture all the nuances of Israeli voting patterns, but it nevertheless outlines the general picture: The upper echelon of Israeli society votes for Blue and White, the middle class supports Likud, and the lower class, mostly ultra-orthodox Jews and Palestinian citizens of Israel, vote for their respective minority parties, the United Torah Judaism and the Joint List. At first glance, middle-class support for Netanyahu appears misguided. While 11 years of neoliberal Likud economic policy has driven strong overall economic growth, it has plagued the Israeli middle class, which now wrestles with some of the highest levels of income inequality and costs of living among developed nations. However, Netanyahu’s enduring popularity fits logically within the historical and contemporary context of intra-Jewish ethnic politics in Israel. Specifically, Netanyahu’s middle-class support is derived from a tradition of Mizrahi allegiance to Likud and his direct appeals to their tenuous position through anti-elitist and ethno-nationalist rhetoric. To understand Netanyahu’s success, one first needs to understand Israel’s ethno-political history. On the eve of Israel’s founding, its governing elite consisted mostly of Ashkenazi Jews from Eastern and Central Europe who were aligned with the secular-socialist Mapai party. In the ensuing decade, hundreds of thousands of Middle Eastern and North African Jews,
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collectively known as Mizrahim, immigrated to Israel. Seeking to fortify the border of the nascent state, the ruling Mapai party forcibly transferred Mizrahi families to newly established “development towns” along the state’s geographic periphery. This settlement strategy produced the geographic-economic divide in Adva’s data: Upper-class communities are mostly historically Ashkenazi-dominated towns in Israel’s center, while the middle class constituencies live in the same development towns into which Mizrahim were forcibly resettled in the 1950s. The electoral power of these middle-class Mizrahi development towns became apparent with the rise of Menachem Begin’s Likud party. Likud’s ideological origins lie in Revisionist Zionism, which emphasizes hardline militarism and free-market capitalism. Begin, an Ashkenazi Holocaust survivor, extended the party’s appeal to marginalized Mizrahi voters in Israel’s development towns by attacking Mapai for its humiliating treatment of Mizrahi immigrants and promoting himself as a defender of traditional Mizrahi religious values that opposed Mapai’s strong tradition of socialist-secularism. Mizrahi support drove Begin to his first electoral victory in 1977, and middle-income Mizrahi towns have consistently voted Likud ever since. While Netanyahu certainly gains substantial political capital by virtue of being Begin’s ideological heir, history alone cannot explain his continued support amongst Israel’s middle class.
“Similar to Trump’s ‘America First’ rhetoric, this desire for strong Jewish ethnonationalism manifests as a host of racist policies and actions.” 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 in Israeli society—namely, Palestinian citizens of Israel. Similar to Trump’s “America First” rhetoric, this desire for strong Jewish ethnonationalism manifests as a host of racist policies and actions. For example, he accuses Palestinian political parties represented in Parliament of seeking to destroy Israel and warns Israelis that Arabs are voting “in droves.” In July 2019, he organized the passage of the controversial “nation-state law,” which explicitly codified the right to national self-determination in Israel as “unique to the Jewish people” and downgraded Arabic from being an official language to one of “special status.” Netanyahu’s anti-democratic demagoguery and ultranationalism are troubling. Disdain for him and his policies, however, must not blind observers to the very real structural inequalities that drive middle-class voters to support him. A historical affinity for Likud based on past marginalization by the Ashkenazi leftist elite coupled with their current tenuous position within Israeli society gives middle-class Mizrahi voters logical reasons to support Netanyahu. If nothing else, Israeli politics demands that greater attention be paid to supporters of right-wing populism.
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Zachary Harris is a Political Science Concentrator.
A more complete theory would consider the manner in which Netanyahu appeals to the unique socioeconomic position of his Mizrahi development town base. While Mizrahim want to displace the country’s economic elite, this unique social group also realizes its position as a wedge in Israeli society and consequently seeks to avoid falling to the level of the ultraorthodox and Palestinian citizens of Israel, the country’s most economically and politically marginalized groups. Accordingly, Netanyahu espouses a political program that deftly serves both interests. Following a long tradition of right-wing populism, he attacks the media and justice apparatuses as proxies for the elite while marginalizing Israel’s non-Jewish minorities. To understand Netanyahu’s political strategy, one must also consider how he deals with one of his most serious political threats: He has been under state investigation for bribery, fraud, and breach of trust. He was formally indicted in November and will likely face trial in the coming months. Much as Trump has labeled his impeachment a “witch hunt,” Netanyahu has similarly derided his proceedings as an “attempted government coup.” He alleges that the state prosecutor and media are colluding with Blue and White’s Gantz and the center-left bloc to topple his democratically elected government. For Netanyahu’s supporters, the supposed alliance among the prosecutor, media, and Gantz is emblematic of the Ashkenazi elite inhibiting their upward mobility. Accordingly, Netanyahu appeals to the middle class by portraying himself both as a victim of leftist elitism and as a defender of true Israeli democracy. Just as Netanyahu tacitly promotes middle-class advancement by attacking an amorphous “elite,” so too does he seek to prevent the erosion of the middle class by marginalizing non-Jewish minorities. Since Netanyahu’s Mizrahi middle-class base lacks the social and economic power of the Ashkenazi elite, they seek to fortify their position against those lower than them
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Die PARTEI’s campaign website is headed by the curt slogan:
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“IF POLITICIANS ARE GOING TO KEEP DOING SATIRE, WE SATIRISTS ARE JUST GOING TO HAVE TO DO POLITICS.”
FUNNY BUSINESS Why comedy is good for politics
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illustrator Nadia Kossman ’22
capable and innovative legislators, particularly in times of crisis and upheaval. While it may seem, well, silly to advocate for the proliferation of comedy in government, satirical parties and politicians offer powerful new vantage points and can productively disrupt mainstream politics; satire forces people to identify bizarreries within the status quo and then work to amend them. Particularly in parliamentary systems, where coalitions inherently require compromise and moderation, satirical parties challenge existing discourse without threatening political expediency. Take the case of Iceland. In 2010, Icelanders, hurting from the Great Recession and dealing with a massive inflation crisis, unexpectedly elected Jón Gnarr mayor of Reykjavik. A comedian, friend of singer Björk, and founder of the satirical “Best Party,” Gnarr had launched his candidacy for little more than laughs, claiming that his was a “surprise party, not a political party.” Yet, after winning the election, Gnarr
by Allison Meakem ’20
ong before he became ensnared in Trump’s infamous quid pro quo, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was already considered a joke. The famous comedian and TV star’s ascent from onscreen president to actually holding Ukraine’s top job last April stunned the political establishment and rival Petro Poroshenko, who had previously dismissed Zelensky’s election was, in effect, analagous to a Julia Louis-Dreyfus presidency in the United States: Worthy of fantasy? Sure. Able to cope with Russian aggression? Not so much. Zelensky is far from the only candy wrapper dotting the normally drab halls of government. In fact, satirical parties and candidates can be found all over the world. And behind all the self-deprecating memes and hyperbolic commentary, comedians have proven to be remarkably
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“While it may seem, well, silly to advocate for the proliferation of comedy in government, satirical parties and politicians offer powerful new vantage points and can productively disrupt mainstream politics.”
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demonstrated surprisingly effective leader36 ship, working to advance the Icelandic LGBTQ+ 37 movement and opening Iceland’s first mosque. Perhaps most critically, he saved the Icelandic 38 banking sector from total collapse. No stranger to media skepticism, Gnarr 39 is quick to clarify that humor does not equal 40 ineptitude: “Just because I’m funny doesn’t 41 mean I can’t be serious,” he chided in an interview with Britain’s Independent, adding that he fashions himself as far less of a clown—and far more of a diligent leader—than the likes of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Stateside, it was not long ago that former Minnesota Senator Al Franken (since resigned due to allegations of sexual misconduct) legislated with a similar buoyant gravitas. Franken, who began his career as a writer on NBC’s Saturday Night Live before entering Congress in 2008, was a particularly astute questioner, famously walloping Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos during her 2017 confirmation hearing.
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Celebrated for blessing Mitch McConnell with the occasional eye roll, Franken has somewhat ironically reflected that the most difficult skill to learn in his transition to politics was acting. Franken’s comedic instincts had primed him to be blunt and uncensored in responses to his constituents and Republican colleagues. Mainstream politics, on the other hand, demanded that he shroud government’s inner workings in crafty jargon and become adept at “pivoting”—avoiding questions and masking his true intentions. It’s no secret that this trend has become the source of much popular disaffection with the political establishment. Across the Atlantic in the European Parliament (EP), an entire party, rather than a single candidate, has capitalized on this dichotomy and voters’ accompanying frustration. Between factions of the established European People’s Party and Free Alliance sits Die PARTEI, a German satirical party. Die PARTEI, literally “the party,” is an acronym for an impossibly far-ranging and all-encompassing platform of “labor, rule of law, animal protection,
promotion of elites, and grassroots democracy.” Its name also pokes fun at the Orwellian East German politburo, a system in which “the party” was a deified, all-knowing black box. Die PARTEI’s campaign website is headed by the curt slogan: “If politicians are going to keep doing satire, we satirists are just going to have to do politics.” Although Die PARTEI has as many card-carrying members as the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), you’ve likely never heard of them. That’s because Die PARTEI doesn’t stand a chance in domestic German politics, where parties must earn at least five percent of the vote to enter parliament. The EP, however, is a different story: Without electoral thresholds, the body enables a wide and unlimited range of parties from across the European Union to be represented. Here, Die PARTEI, which earned 0.6 percent and 2.4 percent of the German vote in the 2014 and 2019 European Parliamentary Elections, respectively, is able to flourish. Admittedly, Die PARTEI’s presence in Strasbourg is miniscule: As two out of 751
Members of the European Parliament, they will never be able to usher in the outlandish policy proposals espoused on their website, which range from outlawing online chatbots to instituting “MILF Money,” a financial incentive for women of childbearing age. Yet these schemes’ sheer infeasibility might just shine light upon the idiosyncrasies of our existing political system by, for example, turning conversation towards under-discussed issues, such as childcare policies. Indeed, Business Insider has named Die PARTEI’s MEPs “the most famous MEPs in Germany,” an accolade that captures the significance of their influence while simultaneously serving as a condemnation of more established parties’ failure to resonate with the European electorate. Moreover, Die PARTEI has been able to master the supple duality of comedic ridicule and moral imperative: While advocating for a cap on the number of “xenophobic scaredy-cats” allowed in Germany (as opposed to refugees), the party utilized the bulk of its advertising budget to draw attention to the epidemic of migrant deaths in the Mediterranean—a tragedy in which most established European politicians are complicit, and one they consequently shy away from addressing. Despite its undisputed success and constructive dialogue after only half a decade in Strasbourg, the future of Die PARTEI in European politics appears murky. Regrettably, satirical parties’ entrance into most parliamentary systems is nearly
always stifled by electoral thresholds, which privilege established parties and curtail productive debate. While Germany and many other EU states do not currently apply thresholds to their European Parliamentary elections, the European Council has mandated that all of the bloc’s countries must impose a minimum threshold between two and five percent prior to the next elections in 2024. Advocates of electoral thresholds claim they prevent the emergence of fringe groups in government. Yet fringe groups are a necessary countervailing force against meek, uninspiring governing coalitions. They don’t have the power to rupture the stability of governing parties, but they can problematize and provoke them. By proposing the preposterous, fringe groups shift the Overton window of palatable politics, acting as crucial push-pull forces on a malleable centrism. Productive parliamentary debate is based on the representation of a democracy’s full range of opinion. Satire is no less a mode of political expression than rote stump speeches and false promises made in business casual attire. In fact, satirical political parties might actually be more genuine than many traditional ones—and they are just as deserving of a seat at the table. Preemptive exclusion may ultimately backfire: If governments are afraid of being laughed at, maybe they shouldn’t be governing at all.
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infographic Minji Koo ’20 and Ashley Hong ’22 THE ELECTIONS ISSUE
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Allison Meakem is an International Relations concentrator and an Associate Editor at BPR.
“ ‘JUST BECAUSE I’M FUNNY DOESN’T MEAN I CAN’T BE SERIOUS,’ [GNARR] CHIDED IN AN INTERVIEW WITH BRITAIN’S INDEPENDENT, ADDING THAT HE FASHIONS HIMSELF FAR LESS OF A CLOWN—AND FAR MORE OF A DILIGENT LEADER—THAN THE LIKES OF PRIME MINISTER BORIS JOHNSON.”
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Interview with Garett Jones
by Nick Whitaker ’20 Illustrator Vienna Gambol ’20
Garett Jones is an economist at George Mason University and author of two books, 10% Less Democracy: Why You Should Trust the Elites a Little More and the Masses a Little Less, published in 2020, and Hive Mind: How Your Nation’s IQ Matters So Much More Than Your Own, published in 2015.
the risks. But, at our current state of knowledge, we have to go based on the averages. This is a little bit like thinking, “Since I know someone who took an antibiotic and got better in two days, let’s find a way to make sure this antibiotic that normally works in seven could work in two.” That’s the kind of thing that’s beyond, I think, our typical scope of knowledge in the realm of the social sciences. So I tend to think we should focus on the average outcomes, the common outcomes, the modal outcomes. Maybe ten or 20 more years of artisanal, well-crafted research can yield better policy reforms. But my job is to state the rules, not the exceptions to the rules.
nick whitaker Of the political reforms that gj A core reason comes from William you explore in your book, which do you Easterly’s research in the area, where he think would be the most promising in shows that countries in the top 25 percent the US? of democracy essentially never kill their own citizens. Once one drops from the nw How does your work in this book connect garett jones I think that longer terms for top quartile to the second quartile, the with your work in your previous book, the House of Representatives is somepercentage of people who get killed by Hive Mind? thing that has been a hardy perennial in their own government shoots up. So I see US politics. And it’s something you could gj Hive Mind got me thinking about the this as sort of a metaphor more broadly always imagine getting through as a constiimportance of cognitively skilled citiwhere, when we’re looking for good tutional amendment. Two-year terms zens in creating good governance. That outcomes, the good and excellent things are just about the shortest in the world. influences one chapter of this book. But I we get from democracy (fewer famines, Very few countries go that short. It seems think the core overlap is that both books less killing of citizens, perhaps a lower like you can get a fairly broad consensus emphasize that governments are created likelihood of war), these are things where if it just became a thing people talked by people. People differ in their traits, and a little bit of democracy goes a long way. I about for a year. You could imagine a lot people differ in their incentives. Those want to make sure that whatever reforms of states passing constitutional amenddifferences matter for good governance. I propose, they don’t make a country feel ments to lengthen those terms. That’s one. I spoke to someone recently, a truly undemocratic. When I talk about I think another one could be somephilosopher, who pointed this out, that my reforms with others, people often tell thing like the council of US Treasury this is an overall theme in my work. A me, “Oh, these things you’re talking about: bondholders, as I suggest in chapter lot of modern political speak is built longer terms, more power for the Fed, even six. It would involve having some kind around this tacit assumption of absolute listening to bondholders, that wouldn’t of formal mechanism to listen to people equality on every issue, that all people make a country less democratic as long who have skin in the game, who have are equally skilled on the supply side. as we’re having elections every couple of invested in the United States govern That might have been a useful years. That’s what democracy is all about.” ment, who have a long-run time horizon, working assumption, but I think the statisSo, whatever reforms I propose, I want and who want to get repaid. I think that tical evidence of the last few decades gives them to be ones that will still make the some kind of formal representation for a strong reason to think that differences nation feel and be a democracy. I want to the bondholders, having the US Treasury between people are big enough to matter remind people democracy is a continuum, listen to them in a formal way—say twice for shaping government outcomes. That not an either/or situation. a year—through nonbinding resolutions, may be the difference between more is something that really could happen. nw Should we think of ending up on good educated voters and less educated voters. Maybe it won’t happen. It won’t outcomes and bad outcomes from And that may be the difference between happen in the US this year or next year. But institutional reform as a matter of luck, people who think a lot about the short run I think as aging democracies face fiscal or is it a matter of pursuing the right versus people who think a lot about the crises every five or ten years, eventually it’ll set of institutional reforms with the long run. But regardless, these differences become an idea that will make it onto the right leadership? Can the outcome be matter for governance. Economists think menu. controlled more than rolling the dice? about this routinely in political economy research. Part of my goal in this book is to nw You make some convincing arguments gj It’s possible that further research could bring these ideas from political economy for undemocratic reforms in your book. find a perfect way of threading the needle, research out into the broader public debate Why do you end up with only ten percent of running the slalom course, to get just over the nature of good governance. less democracy? the good outcomes from democracy reducing reforms without running many of
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illustrator Katie Fliegel ’21
Mixed Member Pandemonium
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by Hyun Choi ’21
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Hyun Choi is a Computer Science and Public Policy concentrator and an Associate Editor at BPR.
How South Korea’s democratic reforms have polarized the country
olitical insults in South Korea make American politics look tame. Liberals call conservatives “authoritarian pro-Japanese traitors,” while conservatives call the current liberal government a “pro-North Korean communist dictatorship.” But politics in South Korea are not simply two-sided; there have always been small third parties in the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea. These parties usually gain relevance by aligning themselves with one of the two main parties: the center-left Democratic Party or the right-wing party formerly known as the Liberty Korea Party (LKP). After a series of party mergers and secessions in early 2020, there are, at the time of this article’s publication, ten parties in the National Assembly, including a merger of the LKP and two smaller conservative parties to form the Unified Future Party (UFP). Ostensibly to empower smaller parties and their voters, a coalition of the Democratic Party and four smaller parties (which excluded the LKP) came together in the final days of 2019 to pass an electoral reform law that would change how representatives are allotted in the National Assembly. The law aimed to increase minority party representation and more accurately reflect the support of smaller parties. At first, it seemed like these reforms should have been popular; 73.4 percent of voters said in December of 2018 that the original “mixed member majoritarian” (MMM) system does not accurately represent the will of the people. Currently, under MMM, votes for a candidate or a party not popular within a district are typically seen as “dead votes.” In some Democratic Party strongholds, conservatives sometimes don’t even have a candidate in legislative elections, and vice versa. Because elections of representatives are mostly on a first-past-the-post basis, any voter who favors a candidate or party that is unpopular in the area is effectively disenfranchised. To prevent these “dead votes,” a “mixed member proportional” (MMP) system which would up the number of “proportional representatives,” seats awarded to parties weak in individual districts that have a larger percent of national support, was proposed by lawmakers as early as 2012.
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While political discourse in South Korea initially favored the MMP system, two factors led to its political demise. The first of these factors was partisan tension. Opposition from the Democratic Party and the LKP, who would lose seats under the system, complicated the issue. The LKP called the reform a “declaration of war” and a plan to institute a “leftist dictatorship.” Eventually, the electoral reform coalition compromised on a “quasi mixed member proportional system” (Quasi MMP), which hybridizes South Korea’s previous MMM and proposed MMP systems. Under the compromise, only half of the number of proportional representatives that would be allotted to a party under the proposed MMP system are actually given to the party. As a “trial run” for this reform, the number of Quasi MMP representatives is limited to 30 out of the existing 47 proportional representatives. The remaining 17 will be allotted based on the original MMM calculation system—but just for the upcoming April 2020 election. Initially, smaller parties enthusiastically supported this system, since they would theoretically gain more power in the assembly. In reality, after near-constant news coverage of the reform’s potential to create change, the half-baked compromise achieved nothing of substance. The second factor that doomed electoral reform is the profound lack of trust in Korea’s legislature. The main source of this distrust is the privileges and constitutional protections afforded to members of the Korean National Assembly that many Koreans perceive as unfair. These privileges include a comparatively high salary and constitutional protections from arrest, despite rampant corruption in the legislative body. The popular perception is that assembly members receive exorbitant pay to do nothing. A 2019 survey showed that only 2.4 percent of people trust the legislature, and a 2018 survey showed 79 percent of people are opposed to increasing the number of assembly members, even in the context of electoral reform. This distrust in the legislature is consistent across gender, age, and political affiliation. In order for electoral reform to enhance Korean democracy, it must address the factors that make the Korean people distrust its legislative branch. The Quasi MMP law did not do that. Because of the “trial run” element of the Quasi MMP law, conservatives have called it a “bizarre” law that was created “only
22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 for the benefit of specific political groups.” The UFP views the law as an existential threat, and some of its members are already skirting the rules to their advantage: In early February, UFP members created the Future Korea Party (FKP), whose sole purpose is to urge voters to vote for the UFP candidate on the geographic ballot and for the FKP on the proportional ballot. After the election in which the FKP gains proportional representatives, it would merge again with the UFP in order to secure more seats in the assembly. Liberals view the FKP as a sneaky attempt to subvert the system, further eroding trust in the legislature, while conservatives view this as a necessary measure to prevent control of the government from falling into the hands of “pro-North Korean leftists.” In response, liberals have created the Open Democratic Party in order to effectively compete against the FKP for proportional representatives. As a result of such distrust in politicians, many Koreans do not believe that this process will be any more democratic than the original system. The proportional representatives themselves are still chosen in a highly undemocratic manner by the party elite, who are the very politicians that Koreans most distrust. What’s more, Quasi MMP maintains the system in which 47 of 300 legislators are not directly elected by the people but rather in a closed room of party members.
“In order for electoral reform to enhance Korean democracy, it must address the factors that make the Korean people distrust its legislative branch. The Quasi MMP law did not do that.”
To make matters worse, the Democratic Party agreed to this electoral reform partly in order to pass another unrelated, controversial bill. The bill would institute a separate agency to investigate and prosecute crimes of top government officials, whose staff would be appointed by the current Democratic president. Unsurprisingly, conservatives have called this a scheme to get as many liberals in positions of power as possible and condemned this trade of support for bills as “defrauding the Korean people.” It’s no wonder the people distrust the legislature when the parties treat the legislative process as a series of political transactions. Altogether, it’s unlikely that the new Quasi MMP system does anything to address fears of an undemocratic system. When public trust in the legislature is nearly nonexistent, any reforms to the system intended to make it more democratic must directly confront the causes of public distrust. What’s the point of trying to build a more representative legislature if the people hate and distrust the legislators? Rather than being an actual plan to create a more democratic election process, this bill has become a shining representation of why South Koreans are wary of politicians. Even after the April elections, electoral reform will likely be the subject of partisan bickering for years to come.
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THE FRAGILITY OF PROGRESS Protecting Indigenous rights in Bolivia
by henry peebles-capin ’21 illustrator maegan murphy ’20
2019 was a year of unrest across South America. Protests erupted in Ecuador, Chile, Colombia, Brazil, and Peru as citizens became increasingly frustrated with their governments, and riot police confronted protesters with unnecessary brutality. While these conflicts have a broad array of causes, much of this political turmoil arose from Indigenous peoples’ frustration with a wave of politicians who have risen to power in part through the use of anti-Indigenous rhetoric. This pattern is clearly exemplified in Bolivia, where a political shift in November 2019 carried worrisome implications for Indigenous rights. On November 15, a largely Indigenous group of people peacefully gathered in Sacaba, Bolivia to protest the government of interim president Jeanine Áñez. Protesters waved a multicolored flag, representing the union of 36 different groups indigenous to the Andes, chanting “She must quit!” The scene became violent when protesters attempted to cross a military checkpoint, provoking an aggressive reaction from Bolivian armed forces. According to witnesses, police began to fire into the crowd, leaving nine dead and many others injured. Though military responses to protests are not uncommon in Bolivia, the most recent
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turbulence is rooted in Bolivia’s long history of denying its many Indigenous peoples political self-determination. In the wake of new and heightened political threats, the international community must defend the political rights of Indigenous people in South America and work to ensure that the new Bolivian government gives Indigenous communities opportunities to participate meaningfully in the political system. When Evo Morales became the first Indigenous president of Bolivia in 2006, he pledged to bring sweeping changes to an impoverished country with a long history of colonial and economic exploitation. As president, Morales fulfilled many of these promises, bringing greater prosperity and relieving the economic burden of millions of Bolivians. Morales’ 2009 alteration of the Constitution that redefined Bolivia as a “plurinational state” also legally enshrined the recently-expanded territorial rights of Indigenous groups, who make up around 40 percent of the nation’s population. On October 20, 2019, Morales won the presidency by securing the necessary ten-point margin over his opponent, Carlos Mesa. But when an audit of the election conducted by the Organization of American States found irregularities in the computer system used to tally
the results, Morales’s opponents demanded his resignation and called for new elections to be held. After the military High Command urged Morales to step down, protests became increasingly violent. On November 10, Morales resigned, pleading for an end to the fighting but vowing to make a return to Bolivian politics. In the wake of Morales’s resignation, Jeanine Áñez, a religious conservative who served as the second vice president of the Bolivian Senate, assumed the presidency on an interim basis. Although she has been endorsed by the military and police, supporters of Morales have inculpated Áñez’s party for taking power by inciting violence rather than through peaceful political participation. In an unsettling echo of the political movements that elected South American populists Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil and Iván Duque Márquez of Colombia, Áñez’s rapid and unexpected rise has been fueled largely by her use of rhetoric that demonizes Indigenous people. Recently, journalists unearthed a number of Áñez’s old tweets vilifying Bolivia’s Indigenous population. These included a racist depiction of Morales accompanied by a threat that Indigenous people were clinging to their “last days” of power in Bolivia. Another of Áñez’s deleted
THE FRAGILITY OF PROGRESS
tweets criticized the “satanic” New Year’s celebrations of the Indigenous Aymara people. Although Morales’s alleged anti-democratic conduct largely fueled the protests that led to his resignation, the behavior of the Áñez government hardly indicates that she is interested in promoting fair democracy. On
Bolivians have good reason to doubt that this transition will lead to greater democratic fairness, and Indigenous people are right to fear that Morales’ ouster will be a setback for their inclusion in the political process. According to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, Indig-
“Because Áñez came to power by accusing Morales of betraying democracy, it is paramount for the international community to recognize her presidency for what it is: an illegitimate transfer of power.” November 14, the new government threatened to prosecute journalists who had reported on government forces tear-gassing protesters. In December, four of Morales’s former staffers were charged with misuse of public funds and sedition but were denied due process. Morales, who has continued to communicate with his supporters from exile, has announced his intentions to run in future elections but has been threatened by Áñez with prosecution for political crimes. Although Áñez initially pledged not to run in upcoming elections, she recently reneged, announcing in January her plans to compete electorally. Because Áñez came to power by accusing Morales of betraying democracy, it is paramount for the international community to recognize her presidency for what it is: an illegitimate transfer of power.
enous peoples “have the right to participate in decision-making in matters which would affect their rights.” A week after Morales’s resignation, when the death toll had risen to 17 protesters (and it would eventually rise further), U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet expressed concern over the repressive actions taken by Bolivian authorities. The actions of the U.N., however, have amounted to nothing more than hollow statements. The U.N. and geopolitically influential countries need to work together to ensure a fair transition of power in Bolivia that affirms the rights of all to participate. Instead, nations around the world have largely praised the transition from Morales to Áñez as a victory for democracy. For example, American Secretary of State Mike Pompeo applauded Áñez for
bringing her nation through “this democratic transition.” Áñez’s administration has also received the support of the United Kingdom, as well as Colombia, Brazil, and other conservative Latin American governments. Countries like Spain and Mexico are among the few who have been at odds with the Bolivian government; Áñez expelled two Spanish diplomats after they visited the Mexican embassy, where Mexican diplomats were working to help former members of the Morales government flee Bolivia. Thus far, the Áñez government has not given international observers good reason to believe that she will be a champion of democracy and will fight for legitimate elections. Those who face the greatest risk from the potential abuse of power by the new Bolivian government are the Indigenous people whose hard-fought gains of the last 14 years seem increasingly fragile. If the U.N. and the international community care about protecting the rights of Indigenous people in their own countries rather than simply paying lip service, they need to exert diplomatic pressure on the Bolivian government to ensure fairness in future elections and to affirm and protect Indigenous peoples’ rights.
Henry Peebles-Capin ’21 is a History and Computer Science concentrator and a Managing Editor and Co-Executive Podcast Producer at BPR.
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SMALL, GREEN, AND MIGHTY Taiwan’s quest for energy independence by jason togut ’20 infographic by minji koo ’20 and nathaniel ostrer ’21
“In 2016, domestic energy made up only two percent of Taiwan’s total energy consumption.”
Taiwan is running on empty, and importing fuel won’t fix the root problem: The island is in desperate need of its own energy supply. In 2016, domestic energy made up only two percent of Taiwan’s total energy consumption. Ninety-eight percent of the energy supply is imported, and most of it comes from fossil fuels, with 48 percent of its energy coming from coal, 29 percent from oil, and a mere 13 percent from natural gas. And while Taiwan has been shifting toward natural gas by transitioning its
coastal factories to run on liquid natural gas (LNG) instead of coal, LNG is nothing more than a transition fuel; it’s a band-aid remedy for a rapidly worsening energy crisis evidenced by island-wide power outages. Moreover, the gap between power supply and power demand in Taiwan is growing at a time when the coastline is rapidly disappearing, particularly where its existing power stations are located. As a small island nation, Taiwan is poised to face devastating climate consequences in the next few
Taiwan Energy Production by Source (1980-2018)
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SMALL, GREEN, AND MIGHTY
years, and it needs to turn its focus toward more sustainable options. Energy is a national security issue in Taiwan. Two of Taiwan’s largest LNG suppliers, Malaysia and Indonesia, are located in the increasingly militarized South China Sea, where rising political tensions jeopardize LNG shipping lanes. China will do whatever it takes to limit Taiwan’s international relationships, including intimidating Taiwan’s trading partners and potentially staging an attack on Taiwan’s electrical grid. Given this, Taiwan must focus on developing domestic solutions to mitigate its overreliance on foreign energy sources. Furthermore, the Tsai Ing-Wen administration has pledged to phase out nuclear power, heretofore Taiwan’s main domestic energy source, and reach 20 percent renewable energy usage by 2025. But this leap is only possible with increased foreign investment in Taiwan’s most environmentally-friendly resources, wind and geothermal energy. Taiwan should utilize its trade relations with Southeast Asia and its unique ability to innovate as a means of fueling its search for suitable economic partners. Taiwan’s government has slowly begun the process of renewable investment, particularly in wind energy. This year, the first ever wind farm in Taiwan opened up six kilometers off the northwest coast. Known as Formosa 1, this
“demonstration wind farm,” a joint venture between Danish, Japanese, Australian, and Taiwanese companies, provides eight megawatts of electricity per year, which is enough to power 128,000 Taiwanese households per year and reduce carbon emissions by 245,000 tons. The first of its kind in Asia, Formosa 1 stands as a symbol of growth and possibility in domestic energy production, so much so that funding has already been secured for a Formosa 2. Wind investment is definitely a great place to start, but Taiwan may need to look below the surface to reach the 20 percent renewable energy target by 2025. To capitalize fully on its natural resources, Taiwan should invest in further exploration and development of geothermal energy systems. Sitting on the Pacific Ring of Fire, Taiwan has access to huge stores of underground energy. Explorations were made in the northeast corner of the island beginning as early as the 1960s, yet because the government failed to enact geothermal development policies, research was halted in favor of other energy sources. The Taiwan Geothermal Association has identified 18 areas around the island ripe for geothermal energy extraction and is actively looking for investors to fund large-scale projects. While geothermal energy can initially be expensive to develop, it is very environmentally friendly
and can be implemented on a household level, making it much less prone to Chinese interference. Taking lead from other nations in the region that have already developed geothermal systems, such as the Philippines and Indonesia, Taiwan can prioritize a sustainable future over economic expediency by building geothermal extraction infrastructure. Although LNG may be cleaner and more efficient than fossil fuels or nuclear energy, it is not a viable long-term substitute. There is a large body of research which shows that drilling for natural gas is harmful to local environments, and burning it still releases pollutants such as methane into the atmosphere. For geopolitical and environmental reasons, Taiwan should focus on developing its own energy infrastructure in the most promising sectors to mitigate the effects of future energy shortages and prepare itself for the devastating effects of climate change, which are already disproportionately affecting small island nations. Harnessing the power of the wind and earth will set this Asian democracy well on its way to energy stability and self-reliance.
Jason Togut ’20 is an International Relations and East Asian Studies concentrator and an Associate Editor at BPR.
Taiwan’s Sources of Energy Production
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Interview with David Morales David Morales is a Democratic candidate for State Representative of Rhode Island District 7, which encompasses the Elmhurst and Mount Pleasant communities of Providence. Morales graduated from Brown University’s Master of Public Affairs (MPA) program in 2019 at the age of 20.
rachel lu Can you tell me about your background? david morales I grew up impoverished in central rural California in the Salinas Valley with a single mother. My mom instilled in me and my sister [that] the struggle is worth it. There were times growing up where she worked multiple jobs at a time— from working at a supermarket to picking grapes in the fields. I’m from a small rural town, so it was a very tight-knit community, predominantly Latino. And there weren’t many opportunities growing up. While I was in high school, I got involved with speech and debate, which civically engaged me. I began thinking critically about the world around me and the inequalities in it. I began taking college courses while I was in high school. By the time I graduated high school in 2016—I entered the University of California, Irvine for undergrad—I was already a junior. I majored in Urban Studies, which presented new opportunities for me, [as] I grew up in a rural environment and hadn’t had much exposure to urban environments. I worked on several political campaigns, the most memorable one [being] an affordable housing campaign. After I completed my undergrad in about a year and a half, I made the transition to Brown to pursue the Masters in Public Affairs program, [concentrating] on social and advocacy policy. And I immediately fell in love with the Providence community. I realized how accessible everything [is] because of the fact that everything is just closer together. It’s a smaller state, which facilitates relationships in a much more organic way. I immediately plugged into the local politics going on and
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by Rachel Lu ’23 Illustrator Vienna Gambol ’20
volunteered with a now-state representative. I’ve continued to be involved with organizations such as the Sunrise Movement, Democratic Socialists of America, and Never Again Rhode Island.
wealthy developers receiving tax breaks [while] our small businesses are not being prioritized. More often than not, the Black and brown populations are struggling most with small businesses when it comes to their rent and when it comes to having a living wage.
rl What led you to stay in Providence and run for office, representing the Mount Pleasant community? rl Can you tell me a bit about what a grassroots movement looks like to you? What dm I believe there’s a lot of potential for are some benefits and drawbacks you’ve Rhode Island [as] an environment where seen thus far through your campaign? everyone—especially working people— can thrive. We have a lot of diversity dm Grassroots organizing is how you excite among the different neighborhoods that people to be engaged with their governexist. And for me, what’s most exciting ment. And that’s been something lacking is that because [Rhode Island is] so in the District Seven community for years. small, there aren’t the same bureaucratic So this is a fresh and exciting opportuand administrative barriers as in other nity for people to realize they now have states. The motivation to run for office an option—not just in terms of electoral was to make sure we have young, diverse decisions, but more so in the fact that representation at the State House and they can be further engaged with [the] that we actually have a seat at the table community and the political process. when it comes to decision-making. Currently, we have raised over There is a lot of corruption that goes $12,000 from over 200 individuals, which on in the state and state government is something I’m extremely proud of. I’m and, I wonder how we can begin to change more proud that we have over 200 indithat culture, especially in a working vidual unique donors, given that we’ve community like Mount Pleasant, where we only been on the campaign trail for two have a representative who never engages months. However, that includes spending with community and simply falls in line more campaign time on fundraising. I’ve with the existing legislative leadership spent long, coffee-filled nights making that fails to prioritize working value I don’t phone calls to friends, family, colleagues, understand why Rhode Island cannot be asking the question of, “Can I count on the most forward-thinking state in the your support through a contribution?” country. I think we have the potential to do It’s difficult asking working people to that. And I would like for us to be the first contribute. However, it makes it that state, regardless of what happens at the much more special. I remember immefederal level, to achieve universal healthdiately after I announced my campaign, I care and [other] ambitious ideas, like a met with a neighbor for coffee. And she’s Green New Deal. actually retired, so the only income that she receives is from Social Security. She rl What do you see as the biggest chalenjoyed our conversation so much and lenges currently facing District Seven? felt that I was doing this for the right reasons—the fact that I was not taking dm I would say poverty and affording rent. any corporate money. Now she’s sending Housing is definitely a big one. Rents me $10 every single month via check. continue to escalate every single year. Beyond the fundraising, beyond these We’re starting to have management conversations, is also how we are going to companies buy out property from landgovern. We make it clear to everyone that lords, which makes it increasingly difficult when we start governing, it’s going to be to stabilize rent because management based on the same model of grassroots companies are solely focused on profit. I organizing, where I want the community think we’re seeing our small businesses to help develop some of the legislation that struggle because of the fact that they’re not we create. receiving support from the government. They’re being taxed out. And at the same time, we have luxury development and
DEFENDING THE LAND
Defending the Land Canada’s illegal war on Wet’suwet’en rights
by xiaoyu huang ’21 illustrator duairak padungvichean ’20 Before dawn on February 6, Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in the western Canadian province of British Columbia (BC) raided the territory of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation and arrested at least six land defenders. The Wet’suwet’en had been protesting the construction of the Coastal GasLink Pipeline Project by blocking access to checkpoints along the construction route in northern BC. They opposed the construction of this 670-kilometer natural gas pipeline, which would cut through their traditional territory, over environmental concerns and what they see as the provincial government’s dismissal of Indigenous land rights. Though the RCMP claims that they were simply enforcing an expanded injunction granted by the BC Supreme Court in December, which allowed Coastal GasLink to continue construction of the pipeline and remove anyone in its way, the Wet’suwet’en protestors claim that continued construction on traditional territory without their consent is unlawful. By mid-February, the Wet’suwet’en had taken up more extreme measures of protest, such as blocking major roads in
the densely populated Greater Vancouver area and organizing rallies in key cities across the country. The ongoing conflict between the Wet’suwet’en First Nation and proponents of the Coastal GasLink pipeline in BC shows that the Canadian government is ready to enroach upon Indigenous land rights when economically convenient. This is problematic because Aboriginal title is protected under both the Constitution of Canada and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). The approval of the Coastal GasLink pipeline was a bait-and-switch by an administration that at first appeared to be friendly to Indigenous interests but soon revealed itself to be even friendlier to corporate interests. In another example from 2018, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau decided to nationalize the struggling Trans Mountain project, a multi-billion dollar triple pipeline that spans Canada’s west coast at taxpayer expense. Although the Trans Mountain project expansion was expected to increase Canada’s crude exports, it has since been mired in numerous legal challenges related to environmental concerns and Indigenous legal rights. In the case of Coastal GasLink, announced in the fall of 2018, the pipeline would be an indispensable component of a $30 billion natural gas project that Trudeau has called the largest private investment in Canada’s history. Trudeau’s continued support for pipeline development since taking office is part of a calculated effort to grow the economy and gain political support from voters in the oil-rich provinces. However, policy decisions like the approval of the Coastal GasLink should be condemned
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because they disregard Indigenous land rights. The attempted construction of pipelines poses at least three legal problems: the dismissal of long-standing Indigenous law in favor of instruments of common law, the neglect of precedents set by the Canadian Supreme Court’s marquee decisions, and the violation of international norms. The injunction granted by the BC Supreme Court flouts Indigenous legal systems that have operated since well before common law customs were established in Canada. Coastal GasLink claims to enjoy the support of leaders from all 20 First Nations whose territories would be crossed by the pipeline, including a majority of Wet’suwet’en band council leaders. However, many commentators have misunderstood Wet’suwet’en councilmen’s approval of the pipeline on the basis of potential job creation and local economic growth to mean that the protestors represent a minority view. These councilmen derive their consultative
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power from the 1876 Indian Act, which created band councils to “gradually restore” Aboriginal agency and presence in public governance. Elected by members of First Nations, band council members are accountable to a federal agency—the Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada—and not to their nations. The Indian Act undermines Indigenous governing systems and pushes Indigenous law, which does not use European-style electoral systems, completely aside. Under Indigenous law, decision-making power on behalf of the Wet’suwet’en nation resides not with band council leaders but with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, who are unanimous in their disapproval of the pipelines. From a historical perspective, Coastal GasLink’s consultative process was clearly designed to sidestep hereditary chiefs, who derive their legitimacy from Indigenous law that precedes the common law origins of the Indian Act and who assert authority over
the 22,000 square kilometers of territory in question. Secondly, allowing Coastal GasLink to continue construction over the dissent of the Wet’suwet’en runs counter to guidance from the Canadian Supreme Court. The relevant case is Delgamuukw v. British Columbia (1997), a landmark decision in defining the scope of Aboriginal title, a common law doctrine protecting ownership of traditional lands. In 1984, Earl Muldoe (Delgamuukw) and more than 20 Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en communities appealed to the Supreme Court to be granted “fee simple,” or outright ownership, over a combined 58,000 square kilometers of land. The Court ultimately delivered an unprompted and comprehensive Constitutional defense of the right of First Nations to own land fee simple. In his legal interpretation of the sentence “the existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed” found in Sec. 35 of the
DEFENDING THE LAND
“Under Indigenous law, decisionmaking power on behalf of the Wet’suwet’en nation resides not with band council leaders but with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, who are unanimous in their disapproval of the pipelines.”
Constitution Act (1982), Chief Justice Joseph Lamer wrote that “aboriginal… rights [include the] exclusive right to the use and occupation of the land, i.e. to the exclusion of both non-aboriginals and members of other aboriginal nations” (para. 185). Lamer C.J.’s position in Delgamuukw, although based on a textualist reading of the Constitution, is nevertheless legally innovative. By confirming Aboriginal ownership of land, he affirmed that access to any First Nation’s territory is dependent solely on the discretion of that Nation’s own decision-making body. This ruling repudiates Coastal GasLink’s claim that the consent of councilmen from the Wet’suwet’en implies consent of the Wet’suwet’en Nation. Lastly, allowing GasLink to continue to build on Indigenous lands and forcibly remove Wet’suwet’en protestors is a violation of international legal norms. In 2016, Canada adopted the 2007 UNDRIP, a resolution of the UN General Assembly that recognizes broad
Aboriginal rights and directs states to give legal recognition of Aboriginal ownership to traditional lands, territories, and resources. Article 29 of the Declaration reads, “Indigenous peoples have the right to the conservation and protection of the environment of their lands…States shall take effective measures to ensure that no storage or disposal of hazardous materials shall take place in the lands or territories of indigenous peoples without their free, prior and informed consent.” UN resolutions are not legally binding for member states, but they nevertheless create international norms and standards that states are fully expected to implement. Resolutions can even become legally binding under certain circumstances, such as when the BC Legislative Assembly formally implemented the UNDRIP in November 2019. This means that recognition of Aboriginal title is not just customary but enshrined in provincial law, a fact that has been disregarded by the BC Supreme Court and the RCMP. Adding to the challenge of resisting development on traditional lands is the fact that many First Nations are unable to take on the legal and communications costs of entering into negotiations with the Crown to formalize their land ownership (as in the high-profile case of Nisga’a Nation’s negotiations and subsequent treatymaking throughout the 1990s), instead relying on the exclusion doctrine outlined in Delgamuukw to assert de facto land possession. This possession is easily compromised by the RCMP’s use of tactical vehicles, helicopters, and special forces. The removal of journalists from the premises, supposedly for their own safety, is a further point of concern. The BC Supreme Court appears to have given in to historical amnesia and economic expediency. In the face of relentless economic competition and formerly-bullish projections for the 2020 natural gas market, the BC provincial government has chosen to ignore Aboriginal, domestic, and international legal instruments for potential economic gain. Should legal representation become available, the Wet’suwet’en could litigate for more concrete protections, possibly from the Canadian Supreme Court, against Canada’s brazen violation of domestic and international law.
Xiaoyu Huang ’21 is a Public Policy, English, and Music concentrator and an Associate Editor at BPR.
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Moonifest Destiny by elias kaul ’22
A new legal framework for Moon colonization
illustrator caroline hu ’20 “Moon colonies” or “Moon bases” are dismissed by many as the stuff of science fiction, only possible in the distant future. These people are sorely mistaken: Humanity is tantalizingly close to establishing a permanent settlement on our beloved Moon. A multitude of entities have plans to travel to the Moon and form a colony, some even within the next ten years. NASA, for example, estimates that a “sustained presence” could be developed by 2028 with a $1.6 billion budget increase. NASA scientists claim that a Moon colony could be funded with $10 billion, a fairly low number, considering the magnitude of the task. Russia has also made plans to colonize the Moon by 2030, and Japan and China have expressed interest in establishing bases in the near future. Even private entities are looking to settle our lunar satellite: Jeff Bezos’ company Blue Origin plans to complete a manned mission to the Moon in the early 2020s, hoping to pave the way for its goal of establishing a colony. Why would anybody be interested in going to the Moon in the first place? Other than the obvious “cool” factor, there are quite a few practical reasons. For starters, the Moon contains an abundance of resources that are relatively scarce on Earth, such as titanium and helium-3. The latter could prove to be very useful in resolving humanity’s energy crisis, given its potential applications in nuclear fusion. Furthermore, knowledge gained from colonizing the Moon could be used in other extraterrestrial colonization efforts important to humanity’s future. Colonies on the Moon would also be cheaper launchpads for spacecraft, as gravity is far weaker on the Moon than on Earth. The Moon may also have the potential for tourism, though most ideas now are just for fly-bys, and anything more would likely not materialize until well into the future once initial bases are established. Lastly, who wouldn’t want the pride, glory, and sense of
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...knowledge gained in colonizing the moon could be used in other extraterrestrial colonization efforts important to humanity’s future.
accomplishment of constructing a habitable Moon base? Although the Moon presents many exciting opportunities, it would be irresponsible to overlook the potential for conflict. Issues of sovereignty, mineral rights, and legal jurisdiction will inevitably arise as human presence on the Moon becomes increasingly feasible. Therefore, new international legislation must be proposed in order to preserve the moon and other celestial bodies as the heritage of all of humanity, prevent monopoly by any single country or entity, and ensure order and justice. There are two existing legislative treaties that may begin to offer guidance on the matter. The first of these, the Outer Space Treaty
of 1967, is fairly weak. While it does expressly forbid ownership of celestial bodies, it also allows any entity free access to all of space. Its main—and perhaps only—function is preventing the militarization of space with weapons of mass destruction, given the Cold War backdrop against which it was signed. Ostensibly, a state has free reign as long as it does not claim to “own” the Moon and does not use it for the placement of weapons of mass destruction. Private entities are entitled to the same privileges if they obtain authorization and submit to limited supervision. The treaty is thus grossly insufficient in addressing the majority of the political problems that will become unavoidable, should Moon settlement become a reality. The second treaty, the Moon Treaty, first signed in 1979, is stronger than its predecessor. It addresses activities such as extraterrestrial mining and, crucially, labels outer space as the “common heritage of all mankind,” thus subjecting all celestial bodies to international law. However, unlike the Outer Space Treaty, the Moon Treaty is effectively powerless, as it has only been signed by a few countries, none of which have spacefaring capabilities. And even if it were widely ratified, it was not designed with any consideration for the possibility of human settlement on the Moon. It also falls short, then, in addressing many of the problems that will come with an extensive human presence on the Moon. Both treaties will therefore be ineffective in the event of the commercialization and politicization of the Moon. To solve this problem, humanity should draw inspiration from our South Pole. Antarctica was once an unexplored frontier, much like the Moon is now, for which the international community created legal norms. Though some nations still maintain claims to slices of the continent, they have all agreed that Antarctica is a scientific preserve, protected from military activity and resource exploitation. A similar policy should be instituted for the Moon.
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“ONE POSSIBLE SOLUTION TO THIS WOULD BE THE CREATION OF AN OUTER SPACE COUNCIL, WHICH WOULD OVERSEE AND DETERMINE THE LEGALITY OF ALL ACTIVITY IN SPACE ”
Despite similarities with Antarctica, legislating for the Moon and other celestial bodies is a decidedly more complex task. The Moon’s economic potential is vast, and for many, outer space is a symbol of humanity’s future. At the very least, addressing these problems will require new legislation with backing from powerful countries like the US, Russia, and China. Such legislation will not be easy to negotiate, since it requires these countries to give up some degree of control over their activities in outer space. One possible solution to this would be the creation of an Outer Space Council, which would oversee and determine the legality of all activity in space. Much like the United Nations Security Council, it would consist of rotating member nations, with spacefaring countries in permanent member positions. This would give other countries a say in outer space affairs while at the same time still lending the most control to countries that will be conducting activities in space. Unfortunately, most current discourse only concerns how to reach extraterrestrial bodies, not the laws that will guide and preside over their potential residents. This has to change, as current outer space treaties will prove woefully inadequate in mediating future conflicts. Moon colonization may occur within our lifetime and
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raises questions for the future that are better answered proactively than reactively. We must decide whether space settlement will be a just process determined by laws and guidelines or a free-for-all. Colonization of the Moon has long been a dream of humanity. While we are closer than ever to making this dream a reality, we must be careful not to let the Moon become another stage of colonial injustice, nor to allow it to become simply an extension of the most powerful countries. After all, the Moon, like all extraterrestrial bodies, is the shared heritage of humanity. We should treat it as such.
Elias Kaul ’22 is a Political Science and Biology concentrator.
Interview with Natasha Singer
by Shilpa Sajja ’23
privacy of politics if we are able to get all ways of targeting people, micro-targeting Natasha Singer is a Brown alumna and this information? It may be a good thing, it them, with issues that they respond to. It’s reporter at the New York Times who writes about data privacy and tech may be a bad thing. It depends on who you not like campaigns haven’t done this for industry accountability. “You for Sale,” are. I’m interested in how it changes what a long time. Campaigns have for decades her series of articles about consumer we do and how it changes our concepts of profiled voters and gone door to door, but data, led to several congressional and privacy. the ability to slice these fine subsets of federal investigations, and her work in people and pick just the issue that is either accountability journalism also prompted ss What would you say some of the biggest going to agitate them or jibe with them is changes in our concepts of privacy have the creation of a student data privacy law new. been, specifically in relation to privacy in California. She recently returned to within politics? ss Are there ways we can get more control Brown University, where she gave a talk over our own information? about responsible computing. ns The Russian election interference on
shilpa sajja Can you talk about your current work researching tech companies and why that is an area of interest for you? natasha singer I’ve been a tech reporter at the Times for six or seven years now, and, particularly, I cover privacy and tech industry accountability. Accountability journalism is this idea that you explain to readers how large institutions work and hold them accountable. Some of our biggest institutions now are tech companies, and they have more power than many countries, so it’s an interesting sphere to ask questions about because they have the power to change society and humanity at such a large scale. One of the things I was talking about is that there are all these new voting apps. The idea is to get out and vote. Basically, you download these apps, you upload all your contacts, and then it will send you back a list of which of your friends and family voted in the last two elections and whether they are a registered Democrat or Republican or haven’t registered. Then you can send them different pre-written messages, like, “Hey, I see you haven’t voted in three election cycles” or, “Hey, do you know where your polling place is?” All this is publicly available information. You can get voter registration and voting records from states, but a normal consumer would not go to every state and get all the voter rolls and look up everyone they know, so how does it change the
Facebook and Twitter and other platforms ns I think we are in a situation where if you was a game-changer because, particularly participate in modern life, there are tools with Facebook, you have a self-service you want to use, and if you use those tools, advertising system that is designed to let then you’re going to be subject to having an advertiser target specific groups. Some your data used. If you want to go live in the Russian agents set up fake accounts like woods in a cabin and not have WiFi or a “Black is Beautiful” and all these great, affirphone, if you totally want to get off the grid, mative posts and then, on the day of the you are able to control your information. election, they targeted specific groups, like But otherwise, it is really hard because no “people who like Malcolm X” or “people one understands how much information who have been to the MLK museum,” and is being collected about them or generated they promoted messages to them saying about them because the tech companies “neither Hillary nor Trump represent you. score you; you get a customer evaluation Don’t go vote.” The notion that you can be score or a likely-to-vote score or an antiindividually micro-targeted with a voter Trump score. If you don’t understand how suppression campaign is a level of privacy much information is being collected, what invasion that we haven’t seen at a scale like information is being generated about you, that before. I don’t think people underand what it’s being used to do, it’s hard to stood that if they liked Malcolm X, they control it. could be targeted with a voter suppression ss Leading up to the 2020 election, do act. you think the role of technology will be ss Could you expand on one of the voting different from the 2016 election, or do apps and give an example of how their you see the trends moving in a similar intentions do not align with their way? outcomes? ns You just saw what happened in Iowa with ns What’s interesting is the apps I was telling this voting app. The intent was to streamyou about are, in general, trying to be line things, and it turned out to undermine non-partisan. They have Democratic, things. I think we will try to introduce all former-Obama staff, and they have kinds of new technologies to make [the Democratic funding, so they are leaning political system] better. Some of them that way, but they just want more people will make it better, and some of them will to vote. Then there are specific campaign make it worse. The big tech companies apps like the Trump app. You can also are trying to do a lot more to prepare, but I upload your contacts to those. So, for also think that just like technology changes example, I think it was the Trump app, it faster than regulations can keep up with, would look at your contacts and examine countries like China and Russia that want them and compare them against commerto interfere with elections are not going cial profiles of people, and then it would to use the same techniques they used last say to you, “Send your grandma in Idaho time. I think we’re going to see a lot of new a pro-Trump ad about immigration,” and things and a lot of new issues. It’s going to “Send your cousin in Texas a pro-Trump ad be interesting to see, but it might be horrithat is anti-gun control.” These are new fying to watch.
THE ELECTIONS ISSUE
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