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ATLANTA’S NEIGHBORHOODS AFTER LOSING AMERICA’S TEAM PLUS Modern Day Segregation
Racialized tracking in American schools
Going Out, But Not Getting In Discrimination downtown
Special 2016 Election Edition
Your guide to this November
VOL. XI ¦ FALL 2016
Letter from the Editor
12 GPR Voter Guide
The Future of Renewable Energy in Georgia
14 Thanks, Obama A Presidential Reflection
From Red to Purple The Rise of the New Georgian Democrat
16 Can Gary Johnson Change American Politics?
Going Out, But Not Getting In Discrimination in Downtown Athens Home of the Braves? Atlanta's Neighborhoods After Losing America's Team
18 Taking Climate Out of the Conversation 20 The Trump Paradox How Trump's Policies Hurt His Supporters the Most
22 What's Really Causing the Rise in Healthcare Prices?
24 Russia's Baltic Jewel, NATO's Persisting Headache 26 Venezuela in Ruins The Collapse of the Chavez Legacy
28 To PC or not to PC? Its Ultimately an Identity Question 30 Racialized Tracking and Modern-Day Segregation in Schools 32 The Punchline on Race
Georgia Political Review ¦ 1
LETTER EDITOR from the
In August 2015, Bernie Sanders was still waging a formidable fight against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination. Newspapers were publishing weekly reports predicting the end of Donald Trump’s campaign. At the time, I was Managing Editor for Georgia Political Review, and the editorial board was already thinking about articles that might go into the Fall 2016 edition of the magazine. The anticipation for the election season across the nation felt both eager and electric. Such an incredible opportunity for political analysis, we believed, could only come once every four years. As I write this with two weeks left before the election, however, much of that enthusiasm has diminished. In its place are varying degrees of horror, frustration, disappointment, and resignation. Whether voters strongly support a candidate or not, many have felt shaken by the numerous unexpected turns of this election. The editorial board therefore faced a challenge when it gathered this semester to
select articles for the magazine. Most students we spoke to were already tired or wary of discussing the election, and we wondered what we could add to the conversation without sounding contrived. So we shifted our goal: where GPR has previously analyzed current events, this edition focuses on covering the things uncovered by the mainstream. Our writers wrote about climate change, a topic largely overlooked during this election season, as well as the race for Georgia’s seat in the U.S. Senate and the future of the American two-party system. For those of us who forgot about life outside the election, we investigate international developments in Venezuela and the Baltic states, as well as local stories such as discrimination in Athens and the various impacts of the Atlanta Braves leaving Turner Field. The production of a GPR magazine has always reminded me of how many stories often go untold – not just stories in the news, but also those behind the scenes. This magazine is the result of hours of writing, editing, and designing by the GPR staff. It supplements articles published daily on GPR’s website, georgiapoliticalreview.com. Meanwhile, our operations director and social media team have managed several events throughout the semester in coordination with University Union, UGA Votes, Roosevelt, College Republicans, Young
SHUCHI GOYAL Democrats, Georgia Debate Union,Union, and several Democrats, Georgia Debate and other severalorganizations. other organizations. We are especially grateful to the School of Public and International Affairs for its support, and to our readers who have followed GPR online and in print. On behalf of the staff of Georgia Political Review, it is an honor to present the 11th edition of our magazine. We hope the publication of this magazine opens the door to a new conversation.
ELEVENTH EDITORIAL BOARD OF THE GEORGIA POLITICAL REVIEW Editor-in-Chief Shuchi Goyal Managing Editor Austin McCandlish Operations Director Rory Hibler Senior Editor Kal Golde Assistant Senior Editors Priyanka Ghosh Paul Oshinski Bailey Palmer Sam Schaﬀer Business Manager Tré Brown Marketing Director Karen Meija Layout Editor Christina Lee
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FUTURE F RENEWABLE ENERGY IN GEORGIA
Swapnil Agrawal Staff Writer
eorgia is going green – at your power bill’s expense. In late July, the Public Service Commission, Georgia’s regulatory tribunal for utilities, approved Georgia Power’s plan to generate 1,600 megawatts of renewable energy by 2021. According to Energy Information Administration data, that is enough to power 264,000 homes and satisfy over 10 percent of the state’s energy. That is an ambitious goal, given that solar, biomass and hydroelectric sources make up very little of the state’s electricity generation today. The plan was hailed as a big step forward by conservationists like the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and the Georgia Climate Change Coalition. However, organizations on the right, such as Americans for Prosperity and Georgia Public Policy Foundation, have fought hard against the Commission’s decision. They claim that the regulatory agency is betraying its true mission of protecting the public interest by promoting policies that will raise energy costs for consumers. The motives of these conservative groups have been called into question by watchdog organizations. A report by the Energy and Policy Institute reveals that some of the groups are funded by a combination of utility interests, oil and gas companies, and the Koch brothers, casting doubt over the accuracy of their research. However, there is conclusive evidence from independent researchers that reveals there are, in fact, hidden costs of renewable energy policies. New installations for large-scale renewable power require massive amounts of capital and often carry external costs such as grid and systems upgrades. Utility companies often pay higher costs for solar and wind energy due to high transmission costs and disruptions from localized weather events.
Support for green energy will be determined by the governments ability to mitigate the costs households and business will face. There’s data to back this up: states that have implemented mandatory renewable requirements have seen rates increase by an average of 54.2 percent, and rising electricity costs in European countries have been tied to development of large renewable projects. Unfortunately, high costs will be a barrier that discourages further renewable development. Rising electricity prices have led to backlash against renewable energy in states such as Oklahoma, Ohio, and Kansas. Given that low electricity prices are incredibly important for economic growth across a variety of industries, support for green energy will be determined by the government’s ability to mitigate the costs households and business will face. Barring policy changes, Georgia’s turn to renewables is unlikely to last. The state’s current regulatory scheme to promote renewable energy is severely inadequate. Georgia Power has been soliciting bids for solar power plants since 2013 at a variety of rates, but no projects have been completed yet. The state’s rooftop solar program was a
failure. Despite fielding over 10,000 inquiries, only five customers have signed up. Georgia Power also has a voluntary program in which consumers can buy “blocks” of energy generated from biomass or solar panels. Consumers who want to participate pay a higher price for electricity to get 100kWh of green energy for a 12-month period. However, the higher electricity bills often deter otherwise environmentally friendly consumers from participating in the program. Other governments have had great success with policy mechanisms that promote renewable sources while keeping electricity prices low. In California, consumers who install solar panels can sell their excess energy generation during the day back to the utility companies as part of a "net-metering" policy, resulting in low utility costs. Georgia’s lack of a net-metering policy could be the reason its rooftop solar program was unsuccessful. Some European countries have taken this concept even further by introducing feed-in tariffs. These policies break the monopoly utility companies hold by paying consumers a premium rate for generating their own energy, resulting in decreased wholesale electricity prices. Carefully tailored government subsidies targeted at increasing purchases of solar panels or developing large renewable plants can also be successful at lowering investment costs. Despite historical resistance against green energy in red states, there is a unique political coalition forming that might make policies such as feed-in tariffs and renewable energy incentives possible in states like Georgia. The environmental movement is joining hands with unlikely allies in the Tea Party to promote solar power in Georgia. The Democrats like these policies because they help reduce the impact of climate change, and Tea Partiers support them to promote free markets over big government in the energy sector. Prominent activists such as Debbie Dooley, co-founder of the Atlanta Tea Party, are taking on Americans for Prosperity to refute claims that decentralized generation will raise prices. Increased renewable energy generation is inevitable as the nation pushes to limit greenhouse gas emissions. The state must determine whether it wants to get ahead of the curve with common sense legislation to promote long term green growth, or suffer the costs of high energy prices and diminished economic growth. ◼
Source: National Public Radio Georgia Political Review ¦ 3
Priyanka Ghosh Staff Writer
t would not be a stretch to claim that Richard B. Russell, Jr. is among the most famous Georgian politicians, including Jimmy Carter and Sam Nunn. Russell was a Southern Democrat – a man who believed strongly in the New Deal and Franklin Roosevelt, but battled his former protégé Lyndon Johnson on the issue of civil rights. Georgia’s senatorial history is full of conservative Democrats – Sam Nunn and Zell Miller found success electorally and in Congress by not straying far from the middle or even from the right. Eventually, Republicans took over Georgia, reaching into the governorship and the Senate when one-term Democratic senator Max Cleland lost to Saxby Chambliss in 2002, and Johnny Isakson won Miller’s seat in 2005. However, the tides seem to be shifting today as the Democratic challengers, more liberal than their predecessors, are becoming more and more competitive. The likelihood of Georgia turning purple is increasing with every election cycle.
(L to R)
Richard B. R
ussell, Jr.; H
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ge; David erman Talmad
Russell is often called the last true conservative Democrat in Georgia, a senator whose legacy is tainted by his own racist and segregationist policies. But the Democratic Party did not transition into the party of Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders overnight in Georgia. Rather, the Democrats who came after Russell kept a conservativeto-moderate stance. Sam Nunn, a Georgia Tech alumnus from Perry, created the Democratic Leadership Conference (DLC), the moderate wing of the Democratic Party, alongside former senators Lawton Chiles (D-FL) and Charles Robb (D-VA), and former representative Dick Gephardt (D-MO). While running for Senate in 1972, Nunn sought the endorsement of Alabama Governor George Wallace, who is known for his infamous declaration “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever,” in order to appeal to the conservative constituents of Georgia. When Nunn’s name came up as a possibility for president in 1988, Democrats were worried that Nunn would be “too smart, too conservative and too dull” to win. Nunn was not Richard Russell. He voted against a bill that would disallow funds from being used to award any federal contract that hired based on affirmative action. As a young lawyer in the 1960s, Nunn helped organize a biracial committee to encourage communication between African-Americans and whites in his hometown. He wasn’t a racist and he wasn’t a segregationist. But he certainly wasn’t George McGovern, the liberal Democrat presidential nominee in 1972, either. Zell Miller, a former Georgia governor and the man for whom the Georgia merit scholarship is named, won his Senate seat in 1999 after the death of Republican Senator Paul Coverdell. Despite being a member of the Democratic Party, Miller pledged to continue the conservative legacy of his predecessor, and he kept his promise. Miller co-sponsored President Bush’s 2001 tax cuts and supported the Iraq War in 2003. In 2004 he published the book “A National Party No More: The Conscience of a Conservative Democrat”, a criticism of the national Democratic Party and their lack of support for the president. The final nail in the coffin for the Democratic Party in Georgia was Miller’s 2004 keynote speech at the Republican National Convention. Miller was a conservative first and foremost. In many ways he was a Democrat in name only. By 2005, the Republican Party had officially taken over Georgia politics. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson had been the senators from Georgia for more than a decade. They represented the Republicans of the Reagan and George H. Bush era – a type of conservatism that we have come to see as the norm for the Grand Old Party. Despite the recent rise and decline of the Tea Party, a populist-conservative anti-establishment movement, Georgia has maintained this sense of Reagan-era conservatism, at least in regards to its governors and senators. However, since the 2008 reelection of Saxby Chambliss, we have seen that the Democrats are becoming more competitive – and not just the conservative Sam Nunn-type. In 2008, Chambliss won his seat with a 3 percent margin in a runoff election after neither candidate won 50 percent of the vote. It would not be far off to assume that Chambliss believed he would ler, Jr.;
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k Mattingly m Nunn; Mac
GEORGIA lose his seat in 2014, causing him to step down rather than face the possibility of being defeated. His Democratic opponent, Jim Martin, who also happened to be his fraternity brother at the University of Georgia, was not a conservative Democrat, but rather saw himself as a populist who dedicated much of his life to social services. Fast-forward to 2014, and David Perdue, the first cousin of former governor Sonny Perdue and a businessman, was in the heat of a competitive race with Michelle Nunn, the daughter of former senator Sam Nunn and former CEO of the nonprofit Points of Light. Despite Perdue ultimately winning the election by an 8 percentage point margin, Nunn was credited with making Georgia competitive and starting the process of turning the state purple. However, Martin really started the process by pulling Chambliss into a run-off election, which he only lost by a close margin. Either way, Michelle Nunn represents the new Georgian Democrat. While Nunn attempted to tout her family name, she doesn’t advocate her father’s more conservative views. She supports gay marriage, though she believes it should be decided by the states. She supports a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants. She believes in a woman’s right to choose. While Nunn would be considered more moderate than liberals like Elizabeth Warren, at the same time she doesn’t fit the mold of previous Democratic senators of Georgia. Now we stand at the 2016 election. Senator Johnny Isakson is up against Democrat opponent Jim Barksdale, philanthropist and president of Equity Investment Corporation. According to RealClearPolitics, Isakson is projected to win the Senate race and has a 12-point lead as of September. However, in August, the margin was in the single digits, a signal Isakson would win, but not easily. This is important because of the type of candidate Jim Barksdale is, and the views he holds: he is hardly a conservative Democrat. He compares himself to Bernie Sanders, condemns Wall Street and trade deals, and supports the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. Barksdale might lose, but he’s a liberal Democrat in the South who isn’t losing by 20 to 40 points. He’s anti-establishment, but 84 percent of Democrats and one-third of independents in Georgia say they would vote for him – especially young voters.
(L to R) Saxby Chambliss (R, 2003–2015) and Jim Martin (D); Michelle Nunn (D) and David Perdue (R, 2015–Present)
Democratic challengers, more liberal than their predecessors, are becoming more and more competitive. The likelihood of Georgia turning purple is increasing with every election.
It took the Republicans 40 years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to fully take over Georgia politics with the election of Senator Johnny Isakson in 2004. The state might not turn blue or even purple in the foreseeable future. But recent challengers and competitive elections show that a new cohort of Democrats have a real chance to move forward in Georgia. Looking outside of congressional elections, Georgia has become a contender in the presidential race, something that has not been true for a long time. According to FiveThirtyEight, Clinton has a real shot to win the state with the support of a rising African-American population and college-educated demographic, most of whom are not voting for Trump. If Clinton manages an upset despite her lack of campaigning in the state, Georgia’s status as a red state will be seriously challenged. To maintain Georgia’s status as a Republican state, Isakson must win this election with a double-digit margin. Otherwise, he may face the same fate as former senator Saxby Chambliss in the next to six to twelve years. We could be in for a coalition of liberal Democrats in the South, poised to replace a fractured Republican party. ◼
ll; M Paul Coverde
ON THE BALLOT: Jim Barksdale (D) and Johnny Isakson (R, 2005–Present)
Georgia Political Review | 5
GOING OUT, BUT NOT GETTING IN
Discrimination in Downtown Athens
pen your eyes next time you are north of Broad Street on a Thursday evening. Watch as sweaty Greeks stumble from their socials, nervous freshmen fidget with their fake IDs, and newly-minted binge drinkers hold in their vomit until the next trashcan appears. Under the watchful eyes of homeless panhandlers and hopeless preachers, UGA students are celebrating another successful night downtown, a rite-of-passage that, for better or worse, is ingrained in our university’s culture. Downtown Athens has over 120 establishments that serve alcohol, and “going out” is one of the defining features of the UGA experience. But the students at the bars are much different than the ones on campus. Although it might be difficult for the average bar-goer to pick up on, a sober observer will see that the students who go downtown are disproportionately white. When Kenny Cochran first came to UGA, older black students told him that “downtown isn’t really the place for us.” Cochran, a senior from Atlanta studying finance and marketing, saw what they meant when he and one of his black friends were turned down from Jerzees Sportsbar for violating the dress code. Cochran had a hood attached to his jacket and his friend was wearing tennis shoes. Later, Cochran saw another one of his black friends turned down by a Silver Dollar bouncer who thought his ID was fake. After Cochran’s friend had the police verify that the ID was legitimate, the bouncer followed him into the bar and forced him to leave. “The racism is real,” said former UGA student Gary McWhorter. Bouncers target black students (and black people in general) through selective enforcement of dress codes. These codes often single out clothing popular in black culture such as Nike’s Jordan brand sneakers. Bouncers also exclude black patrons by falsely claiming that bars are hosting private events and by enforcing fake ID rules more stringently for blacks. UGA’s Student Government Association (SGA) collected
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Bouncers use race and attire to gauge how much money someone will spend inside the bars. 50 anonymous testimonials last year in which students spoke freely about instances when they had been discriminated against. Most of the accounts were from black students denied entry into bars due to dress codes. Bars discriminate for a variety of reasons. Athens local Anthony Huff says that it is due to assumptions about class. Bouncers use race and attire to gauge how much money someone will spend inside the bars. This is particularly directed at black locals like Huff who are broadly categorized as “troublemakers.” But black students face similar obstacles. This is partially due to the stereotype that minorities do not drink as much as whites or tip as generously. Bars also try to cater to their target audience (usually white students) and make decisions based on who they think will fit in socially with the majority of bar patrons. UGA’s Greek Life is prominent in much of the downtown scene and, because it is historically white, bars try to be accommodating to that audience, often at the expense of minorities. Black students have responded to the alleged discrimination by largely ignoring the bar scene. Aja Muray and Jasmine Goolsby are two black students who go downtown occasionally. But they say their behavior is not common among black students at UGA. The black community more often arranges private house parties or kick-backs, where black students may feel more accepted than in downtown. Addressing bar discrimination is difficult though. For one thing, it is highly uncertain whether Title II of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which generally bans discrimination in places of public accommodation, applies to bars. It lists “restaurants” as a place of public accommodation, but limits the definition to those “principally engaged in selling food for consumption on the premises.” Several federal courts have ruled in favor of bar owners being sued for discrimination precisely because of this definition. Racial discrimination cannot be addressed at the state level either because Georgia is one of the few states without codified civil rights protections. Because of the federal and state limitations, a local ordinance would be most palatable. Acting in response to an incident at General Beauregard’s,
UGA Student Proﬁle
Rob Oldham Staff Writer
*information gathered from College Portrait
75.8% where an alcoholic beverage was named after a racial slur, the 2015-2016 SGA Cabinet recommended that the AthensClarke County Commission pass a nondiscrimination ordinance. County Attorney Bill Berryman drew up a proposal that would make violations of federal, state, and local anti-discrimination laws grounds for the suspension of a liquor license and would also require bars to post their dress codes outside and keep records of private events. Mayor Nancy Denson agreed to discuss the proposal at the Commission’s September 2016 meeting, but then removed it from the agenda due to opposition within the commission. Mayor Denson says that she does not know when, or if, the ordinance will be brought forward again. Much of the opposition to the current proposal comes from those who do not think the ordinance goes far enough. Progressives say its coverage is too narrow as it would only
When Kenny Cochran (pictured here) arrived at UGA, older black students told him downtown isn t really the place for us. He now advocates against discrimination in downtown bars. apply to businesses that make more than 50 percent of their revenue from alcohol. They also want to establish a civil rights commission that could collect data on discrimination in Athens and make recommendations on how to address it. Former SGA Senator Andrew Roberts, a leading advocate for addressing downtown discrimination, worries that the ordinance might be toothless if it only punishes violations
Caucasian of existing anti-discrimination law, because, as noted, Title II may not cover bars and Georgia law does not cover race. The ordinance also fails to protect members of the LGBT community, who are not covered by anti-discrimination law at the federal or state level. LGBT students were also included in the SGA’s collection of testimonials, with one saying he was denied at Double Barrel when the bouncer said “we don’t let fags in here.” Former SGA Director of Policy Dustin Sammons, another advocate for ending bar discrimination, says that he hopes the ordinance will “bring protections in Athens to make up for gaps in federal and state law.” Cochran has a different idea about how to address discrimination. He wants bars to change their business models to be more inclusive. He says they should hire more minorities, welcome athletes (which will draw in more black students), and begin serving food to address the belief of many bar owners that minorities do not buy alcohol. He thinks these solutions will create a natural environment for diverse groups of people to connect. In general, Cochran worries about the implications of a racially homogeneous downtown scene because there are already too few opportunities for cross-cultural interaction at UGA. His concerns fit into the larger picture of segregation in the United States. Americans are increasingly moving to areas where people look and think like them, a phenomenon known as “The Big Sort.” Colleges are supposed to hedge against this uniformity of race and thought, but they often fail to do so. Historically white fraternities and sororities are commonly criticized for promoting race and classbased segregation. California State University recently faced pushback for creating a dorm that is “black-themed,” although it encourages anyone who is interested in black culture to live there. UGA is 75 percent white, but the enrollment of minority students is increasing each year. If not addressed, racial and ethnic isolation will diminish the ability of students to interact with an increasingly diverse community and escape their cultural comfort zones. When asked whether integrating downtown Athens— better known for its debauchery than its social healing powers— is the solution to bridging the racial gap at UGA, Cochran responded: “Downtown could be a solution.” Then he started laughing. “But I definitely wouldn’t put all of my eggs in that basket.” ◼
Georgia Political Review ¦ 7
Home of the Braves? Atlanta s Neighborhoods After Losing America s Team Alex Soderstrom Staff Writer
n a Sunday afternoon, as the Braves play in Philadelphia, Atlanta’s Peoplestown neighborhood seems abandoned. The streets are quiet, and the cracked sidewalks are empty. A quaint eatery with a sign reading “Stadium Grill” sits silent, its parking lot devoid of customers’ vehicles. A vacant Turner Field dominates the view to the north, its days numbered. Soon, the Atlanta Braves will leave this neighborhood, along with the others the team has called home for 50 years. For the residents of these neighborhoods that will be left behind, the question is, “What next?” The End of an Era In November of 2013, the Braves announced they would be moving to the suburbs of Cobb County. Cementing plans to cease playing games at Turner Field, their home of 20 years, the Braves will be playing in a brand new stadium partially bankrolled by the Cobb local government. This announcement came on the heels of disagreements between the Major League Baseball organization and the City of Atlanta, which owns Turner Field, over the cost of renting the facility. On the southern end of Atlanta, the reality facing local residents is a complicated one. The three communities that surround
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Turner Field – Summerhill, Mechanicsville, and Peoplestown – are at a crossroads in the wake of the Braves’ move. The stadium brought important income, but never really led to the explosive development once predicted. In spite of the short-run economic hit these communities will face when the Braves leave, the expansion of a local university to fill this space may provide the community an opportunity to become the lively hub it was never became as a backdrop to Turner Field. To the east of Turner Field, the neighborhood of Summerhill is no more than a single square mile. Yet, this small community faces several toxic problems. City Data reports that crime rates are buoyed above the national average, while unemployment is nearly 13 percent, more than twice the national and state average of 5 percent. The median household income hovers just above $26,000, far short of the Census Bureau’s reported median income for Georgia of $49,300. In Mechanicsville and Peoplestown, to the west and south of the stadium respectively, the situation is even more dire. Over a third of residents are reportedly unemployed, while the median income sags below $20,000 in Mechanicsville and $30,000 in Peoplestown. The neighborhoods display many of the classic
GEORGIA plights of urban America, with little observable benefits of being next to the home of one of baseball’s most profitable franchises. A closer look, however, reveals what the Braves and Turner Field offered these Atlanta districts and what will be lost come the end of the season. Incomes in the area have exploded since 2000, only three years after Turner Field opened, climbing by more than 30 percent in Summerhill and over 90 percent in Peoplestown and Mechanicsville. In comparison, the median household income in Georgia has only increased 18 percent in that same amount of time. Although correlation does not amount to causation, to suggest the relative economic growth of the hamlets surrounding Turner Field can be attributed to the Braves is hardly a stretch. A 2013 study by Georgia State University determined the Braves provide a $100 million benefit to the Atlanta area between the taxes that go to local governments and fans’ dollars that go to local businesses. While it is unknown exactly how much of that $100 million finds its way to Summerhill, Mechanicsville, or Peoplestown, the communities do see 8.25 percent of the annual parking revenue, a contingency of the original deal to construct what would become Turner Field. That small slice of revenue amounts to $8 million since 1997, a sum designated to the specific neighborhoods that play host to the ball club. Along with this indirect revenue, jobs for local residents in the stadium itself are already disappearing. In November, the company that operates Turner Field’s concessions, Aramark, announced it was laying off more than 1,000 workers. The company also revealed its contract with the Braves, which stretched back to the 1960s, was over. When the Braves begin
taking the field at SunTrust Park in 2017, a new company will oversee food services, and there are no guarantees current concession employees will retain their jobs. Even if they do, many current employees may not be able to find transportation to the new stadium. As the Braves depart the heart of Atlanta, so depart the dollars that have been pumped into the surrounding neighborhoods for decades. Communities once offered a bright future in the mid90s, when Atlanta was rapidly growing and playing host to the Olympic Games, are now seemingly left in the dust as money follows the team to the suburbs. It can be said that Turner Field represented the Atlanta of the 90s, an optimistic city on the rise. It can also be said that the decision to abandon the stadium and flee to the suburbs is a rejection of that vision and an indictment of the city’s current state. A New Home Instead, the team turns its attention to Cobb County, where few of the problems that persist downtown are relevant. In the Vinings area by the new stadium, home values are floating above $400,000 and median household income is an above-average $64,000. But, by most accounts, SunTrust Park will only make things better for the community. The ballpark itself is projected to generate $6 million annually in local and state taxes, according to Atlanta real estate broker Cushman & Wakefield. Outside the stadium, fans will be able to explore a 2.4 million square foot complex known as Battery Atlanta, which will contain dining, shopping, an entertainment theatre, and an Omni Hotel. This massive commercial district is expected to create 5,200 new jobs for local residents and create
As the Braves depart the heart of Atlanta, so depart the dollars that have been pumped into the surrounding neighborhoods for decades. Georgia Political Review ¦ 9
GEORGIA untold revenue in the forms of sales tax. In addition, plans are in the works to create a bus system linking MARTA to the south and Kennesaw State University to the north, a possible solution to the parking and traffic issues that plagued Turner Field. A decreased need for parking, coupled with the more developed infrastructure of Vinings compared to southern Atlanta, also makes the ambitious plans for Battery Atlanta feasible. For the residents of the communities that supported the franchise for decades, this could feel like a slap in a face. Summerhill, Mechanicsville, and Peoplestown will all be on the outside looking in as Cobb County and the Vinings area grow more prosperous from spending sparked by their former neighborhood team. An Imperfect Relationship In reality, however, the Braves’ absence will be less of an abandonment of central-southern Atlanta and more of an opportunity for the area to become the vibrant center that Midtown and Buckhead have been for years. As they stand, the
neighborhoods surrounding Turner Field are devoid of significant development, serving primarily as the home of several apartment buildings and concrete lots. The restaurants and shops that were promised to flood the area upon the opening of Turner Field never materialized. For example, a 1993 city development plan for Summerhill, proposed in light of Atlanta’s nomination as the host city for the 1996 Olympics and revisited in 2004, pictured multi-unit housing complexes with restaurants and stores on the ground level lining Georgia Avenue where it runs into Hank Aaron Blvd. Today, that space is occupied by an empty asphalt lot and a single abandoned home covered in graffiti. Peoplestown and Mechanicsville were sold the same pitch when the then-new stadium was built in order to host the Olympics and supplant the old Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, yet the development never came. Instead, fans drive in for the games and leave immediately afterward, finding no reason to stick around the stadium. A large portion of the $100 million
% Living Below the Poverty Line
SunTrust Park, Cobb County
Median Household Income
Median Home Value
Turner Field, Atlanta
$49,342 10 ¦ Georgia Political Review
$427,000 $207,000 Sources: US Census Bureau, Georgia Department of Labor, CNBC and CityData.com
Turner Field brings to the city ends up lining the pockets of the plentiful hotels and restaurants in Midtown and Buckhead. Georgia State’s Move While the Braves’ decision to move is an economic homerun for Cobb County, it may also serve as a new beginning for this section of Atlanta’s downtrodden neighborhoods. In August, Georgia State University (GSU) finalized a deal to purchase the stadium and the land surrounding it, some 60 acres in total, from the city for $30 million. The rapidly expanding university, where enrollment has grown by more than 25 percent since 2000, intends to convert Turner Field into a football stadium for its relatively young program and build a baseball stadium next door on the former site of AtlantaFulton County Stadium. On surrounding parking lots, GSU plans to construct dorms, university facilities, and retail developments, making it a potentially rewarding deal for the residents of Summerhill, Mechanicsville, and Peoplestown. If GSU strikes this deal, jobs in the area will become abundant, and a wave of student residents will create a new market of customers. Housing and real estate values are expected to spike as businesses enter the community and as GSU looks to expand its holdings in the area. At least one local resident sees this vision as a coming reality for the neighborhoods. Suzanne Mitchell, president of the Organized Neighbors of Summerhill, an association recognized by the City of Atlanta, believes the arrival of GSU will transform her community. “The
development will come,” she said. Preserving Communities Her concern, the same concern of many living in the area, is not if development will come, but what will happen once it does. Summerhill is already experiencing the difficult process of opening up to a college atmosphere while maintaining its identity. At one area home, a GSU student is putting up Greek letters above the door, signifying a soon-to-arrive fraternity house. In addition to possible alterations to the identities of these neighborhoods as residential areas, GSU’s presence in the three communities brings a greater threat: gentrification. As the university shakes up the whole area, home values will go up, but so will rents and the incentives for landlords to sell to developers. If growth is left unchecked, the residents of Summerhill, Peoplestown, and Mechanicsville may soon find themselves unable to afford to live in their own neighborhoods. Local voices are already speaking out against such a scenario and looking to guarantee their homes are protected. On Sept. 7, members of the Turner Field Community Benefits Coalition, a group tasked with advocating for the interests of the Atlantans living in Turner Field’s shadow, gathered on Georgia State’s campus. Their mission: urge university president Mark Becker to sit down with the group and hear their concerns regarding displacement of current residents. Although Becker’s office has so far declined, saying such talks are too
far removed from any real development, residents have made clear their expectation of inclusiveness in such discussions. The GSU demonstration is likely only one battle in the war the Turner Field coalition is set to wage against gentrification. In February, the group added to its official platform a call for GSU to include a community benefits agreement as part of the expansion project. Included in the agreement is, among other things, a plan to “prevent community displacement.” Though the fight against gentrification will go on as Georgia State moves into the area, many, including Mitchell, are confident their neighborhoods can modernize and develop without selling out its residents. To her, growth comes with a caveat. “This is a community with families and seniors and kids,” she said. “We can add, but we’re not going to change.” It is too early to say if Summerhill, along with Mechanicsville and Peoplestown, can achieve a balance of expansion while retaining their cultural identity. What is certain is that change, in some form or another, is coming. And one day, while the Braves are taking the field in suburbia, the neighborhoods the team once called home will no longer see the days of empty streets and quiet weekends but will be the robust, lively communities they have deserved to be for so long. ◼
Georgia Political Review ¦ 11
here are four major candidates running for president in 2016 and the Georgia Political Review wants to help you make an informed choice. Check out our non-partisan bios of each candidate below, along with some of their key campaign issues and fun facts. We hope this helps you make a decision on voting day, November 8! - GPR Editorial Board
BIOGRAPHY Donald Trump was born on June 14, 1946 in Queens, New York. He earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Pennsylvania and is best known for his business ventures in real estate and entertainment. He owns 18 golf courses, several successful hotels and starred on the NBC show, “The Apprentice.” His 1987 book, “The Art of the Deal,” was a New York Times Bestseller. His most notable business projects include the Trump Towers located in New York City and elsewhere. Trump’s 2016 campaign is his first significant foray into politics, although he indicated interest in several previous presidential and gubernatorial elections.
RUNNING MATE: MIKE PENCE
Mike Pence is the current Governor of Indiana. He cut taxes and increased school choice as governor, and is considered a strong social conservative.
T RUM P
Trump has never drunk alcohol, smoked, or had a cup of coffee, and attended military school from age 13.
TRADE Trump promotes protectionist trade policies. He will increase tariffs on Mexican and Chinese goods, and opposes trade accords like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
KEY ISSUES GUN RIGHTS Trump will expand concealed carry permits to all states and enforce current gun laws.
HEALTHCARE Trump will repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with free market solutions augmented by Health Savings Accounts, tax free savings accounts that any member of a household can use.
Trump will cut income and corporate taxes, and will eliminate loopholes to keep the reform revenue neutral.
IMMIGRATION Trump plans to build a wall along the Mexican border, and will expand restrictions on legal immigration. He also plans to increase deportation of undocumented immigrants and supports ending birthright citizenship.
FUN FACTS Stein is a member of folk-rock band Somebody’s Sister and has two protest arrests on her record.
RUNNING MATE: AJAMU BARAKA Ajamu Baraka is a longtime human rights activist who founded and led the US Human Rights Network from 2004-2011.
G R E EN PARTY BIOGRAPHY
CLIMATE Stein promises to transition the United States to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030 and will invest in conservation measures and sustainable agriculture.
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HEALTHCARE Stein plans to introduce a singlepayer “Medicare for All” system to provide healthcare for every American.
Stein wants to provide tuitionfree public education from pre-K through university and eliminate student debt.
Jill Stein was born on May 5, 1950 in Chicago, Illinois. She received her medical degree from Harvard Medical School and went on to practice as a physician for 20 years. Inspired by her work in medicine, Stein later became an activist for the environment, healthcare, and green economies -- issues which feature at the forefront of her campaign. Stein became involved with the Green Party as a result of her activism, and is now the party’s nominee for president in 2016.
ELECTION RUNNING MATE: BILL WELD
Bill Weld served as Governor of Massachusetts from 1991-1997 who focused on balancing the budget and cutting both taxes and spending.
Gary Johnson was born on January 1, 1953 in Minot, North Dakota. A businessman and politician, Johnson earned a degree in political science from the University of New Mexico while starting a construction company that became one of the largest in the state. Later, Johnson was elected two-term governor of New Mexico and gained attention for his budget balancing and unprecedented use of veto powers to curb government spending. His platform aims to reduce the role of the federal government in a number of areas while promoting the free market and private solutions. Johnson ran for president in 2012 on the Libertarian ticket.
Johnson plans to submit a balanced budget to Congress and veto any bill which will require deficit spending.
JO H N SO N L IB E RTA R I A N
CIVIL LIBERTIES Johnson supports the legalization of marijuana and same-sex marriage, and reduced government surveillance.
FUN FACTS Johnson has climbed Mount Everest and lives in a home that he built himself.
RUNNING MATE: TIM KAINE Tim Kaine is a current U.S. senator from Virginia, and previously served as mayor of Richmond from 1998-2001 and Governor of Virginia from 2006-10. He serves on the Senate Foreign Relations committee and is considered a centrist.
Johnson aims to reform immigration policy to simplify the process of legally entering the United States.
CL I NTON
Clinton has not driven a car since 1996, once beat John McCain in a drinking contest, and won a Grammy in 1997 for “Best Spoken Word Album” for the audio recording of her book “It Takes a Village.”
DEMO CRAT BIOGRAPHY
KEY ISSUES HEALTHCARE Clinton promises to defend the Affordable Care Act and expand universal healthcare.
IMMIGRATION In her first 100 days, Clinton plans to introduce a comprehensive immigration reform bill with a pathway to citizenship.
Clinton wants to close loopholes for large companies and provide tax relief for working families.
Clinton promises to implement pollution standards and invest in clean energy.
GUNS Clinton plans to expand background checks for gun purchases and close gun sales loopholes.
Hillary Clinton was born on October 26, 1947 in Chicago, Illinois. After earning her bachelor’s in political science from Wellesley College and her doctorate of law from Yale, she went on to serve as First Lady of Arkansas, and later the United States, during the administrations of her husband, Bill Clinton. Hillary Clinton was then elected U.S. senator from New York in 2000 and became Secretary of State under President Barack Obama in 2009. As Secretary of State, Clinton most notably led the push for renewed sanctions against Iran and negotiated a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. Clinton is the first woman in U.S. history to be nominated for president by a major party.
If you are voting in the state of Georgia, here are the other items you will find on your ballot: US Senate: Jim Barksdale (D) is challenging incumbent Senator Johnny Isakson (R).
U.S. House of Representatives: Every representative seat is open for contest. Find a list of candidates running at www. ballotpedia.org
Georgia General Assembly: Be sure to check out the candidates running to be your GA representative, and whether your GA senator is up for reelection. This information is also available on Ballotpedia.
Ballot Amendments: Four constitutional amendments are listed on the ballot for consideration. They address: public education, child sex trafficking, judicial appointments, and fireworks taxes. You can check out GPR’s piece on Amendment #2 here: http:// georgiapoliticalreview.com/safe-harbor/ Georgia GeorgiaPolitical PoliticalReview Review¦ ¦13 7
Austin McCandlish Managing Editor
oliticians have long evoked fervent emotions, but few have done so as much as our current president. The year Barack Obama took office, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Concurrently, an entire movement was founded upon the principal that he is not an American citizen. Such a polarizing figure may be the natural product of the world he has inhabited. His presidency commenced with an economic collapse, witnessed the legalization of gay marriage, oversaw the end of a war, and suffered one of the longest bouts of partisan stagnation in recent history. As the Obama years come to a close, it’s worth a look back on the man who has so singularly defined American politics for the past eight years. Obama’s 2008 election campaign was profoundly historical. At the start of primary season, most Democrats were certain that Hillary Clinton would be the eventual nominee, but little-known Illinois Senator Barack Obama captured their hearts. He seized the nomination and ultimately the presidency. The “Obama coalition,” made up of black and Latino voters, women, and the college-educated, looked like a new America, one previously unseen in the
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ELECTION political sphere. For the first time in history, many voters were casting their ballots for a president who did not merely claim to represent them, but looked like them. In his November acceptance speech, Obama spoke of unity, of reform, and of hope: “So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves but each other.” When Obama took office, the world was in the midst of the largest financial crisis since the 1930’s. The “Great Recession” would define much of Obama’s first term. His first major piece of legislation was the $800 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), a concoction of tax breaks, infrastructure projects, and welfare expenditures designed to re-spark the economy. The bill was hotly contested: only three Republicans voted for the act. But Obama and Democrats in Congress did not let up. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act, the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and a second bailout of the U.S. automotive industry were all signed into law by the end of Obama’s second year. These further intensified already broadening partisan divisions. But none of Obama’s legislative initiatives would prove to be so profound or divisive as the Affordable Care Act. On March 23, 2010, the act now widely known as “Obamacare” became law. Barely surviving Congress without a single Republican vote, the Affordable Care Act had the audacious goals of both expanding health insurance coverage and reducing the cost of care. Whether the law has accomplished the latter remains a heated debate, but it has unquestionably succeeded at expanding coverage. The rate of Americans without coverage reached a record low of 11 percent in the first quarter of 2016 according to Gallup. Obama has said that his signing the law was the best day of his presidency: “I knew what it would mean for the families that I’d met who didn’t have health care.” But the nearly 2,000-page law and Democrats’ political maneuvering to get it passed infuriated Republicans and their constituents. In the 2010 Midterm elections, the Democrats lost the House in a landslide. Obama’s years of legislative abundance have since given way to political stagnation. Since Republicans took control of Congress in 2010, Obama has spent most of his political capital negotiating deals to keep the government running, passing modest tax increases, and bypassing Congress altogether through executive actions. With a government shutdown in October of 2013 and the least productive Congress on record, Obama’s second term has been
frequently defined by partisan quarrels and brinksmanship. Efforts by both Obama and former House Speaker John Boehner to get legislation off the ground have usually failed. After winning reelection in 2012, the president proposed comprehensive immigration reform to Congress. The proposal would die before the year’s end. In light of congressional inactivity, Obama signed executive orders in 2012 and 2014 deferring deportation for millions of undocumented immigrants. However, a court-ordered injunction, left in place by the Supreme Court's 4-4 impasse in United States v. Texas, currently prevents the latter from being implemented. Obama remains frustrated with the repeated failure of gun control legislation. Obama claims that signing the ACA was his best day in office. His worst, he has said, was December 14, 2012, the day
So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other.
- Barack Obama
that twenty children and six teachers were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Hours after news of the shooting broke, the president held a press conference. Speaking to reporters, a tearful Obama did what few were expecting, and brought up gun control. “We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics,” he declared. Gun control had not previously been a major issue for Obama. It was not highlighted in either of his campaigns. But the president, who has addressed 16 mass shootings throughout his time in office, decided that the issue could no longer be ignored. In his 2013 state of the union address, he implored Congress: “The families of Newtown deserve a vote.” That vote never came. The president now regards his inability to pass any gun control measures as one of his biggest disappointments, and contends that he underestimated the entrenched politics surrounding the issue. Obama has had far more liberty to assert himself in global affairs, and there have
been successes: he authorized the mission that took out Osama Bin Laden and held a leading role in the Paris Climate Accord. Furthermore, his efforts to contain ISIS have been piecemeal but effective. He has also had significant failures. Obama has said that intervening in Libya was his biggest mistake. Many disagree, and assert that it was his inaction in Syria that history will remember as his gravest error; Obama’s “red line” that wasn’t is already infamous. With ISIS and other terrorist threats, his efforts to be the voice of reason have come across too often as unconcerned and dispassionate. He has been criticized from the right for leaving a power vacuum in Iraq, and from the left for his liberal use of drone warfare. Two of his core accomplishments remain in fragile condition: The Iran nuclear deal, which is loathed by many and will appear a failure should Iran continue its hostile behavior, and the Trans Pacific Partnership, which still must be ratified by Congress and is currently opposed by both presidential nominees. Many have observed that the President Obama of 2016 seems more tempered, cautious, and qualifying than the young, earnestly hopeful senator from 2008. Perhaps, some wonder, years of partisan bickering and international crises have diminished his spirits. But in interviews he remains optimistic. This is a man who was propelled into the presidency at an uncommonly young age by a movement built largely upon reforming Washington and transcending partisanship. The political climate has often set those goals out of reach. He has not, as many hoped, transformed America’s political culture. But he has learned how to operate within it. He has learned to navigate. And he has done so in the face of countless challenges, no small number of which are due to the color of his skin. Our current president’s ultimate legacy will only fully come into view once the dust has settled. He remains, however, a highly accomplished man; one who has broken down barriers and achieved with healthcare reform what many politicians have long thought impossible. Both as a president and as a man, he continues to remind us that hope and change are indeed possible. ◼
, s k n Thbaama O Georgia GeorgiaPolitical PoliticalReview Review¦ ¦15 7
Can Gary Johnson Chan I
n an election defined by the unusual, one of the biggest surprises has been the success of Gary Johnson, former governor of New Mexico and 2016 Libertarian nominee for president. He has polled close to double digits for most of the election cycle, and while he likely will not challenge for a seat in the Oval Office, many have asked the question: does Johnson’s success signal a broader shift away from the two-party system and a permanent change in American politics, or is his run just the product of a wonky election cycle?
No, Johnson s success is a product of electoral conditions. Advait Ramanan Staff Writer
ans of the two-party system, relax. Gary Johnson’s relative success in the polls does not mean the days of two-party domination are over. Johnson’s campaign will ultimately go the way of Ross Perot’s 1992 bid for the presidency; by running on a campaign that heavily criticized Bill Clinton’s calls for free trade and George H.W. Bush’s “un-Republican” tax increases, Perot managed to gain almost 19 percent of the vote. Although he polled in the lead in June, Perot’s campaign dropped out of contention for a while, only to reemerge and finish well by the end of the race. Johnson, on the other hand, has not established libertarianism as a legitimate ideology so much as presented a reasonable alternative to Donald Trump. This appeal will not break the political dichotomy, but it will allow citizens to express frustration with the candidates of the major parties. In 1992, Ross Perot claimed 19 percent of the national vote by running on a platform that emphasized bashing the establishment and
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playing to voters disillusioned with the candidates backed by party elites. Sound familiar? For those who do not subscribe to the alternative-right school of political thought, Trump is at best an unattractive choice to lead the nation. For traditional Republican voters, this election dilemma has been exacerbated by the rhetoric between those who support Trump and Clinton. When flaws of either Trump or Clinton are raised, supporters fall back on, “But the other candidate is worse!” This has caused some voters to turn to Johnson as an alternative to Trump. In order for Johnson to change the political game, he must make libertarianism mainstream. For now, all he has done is align libertarian ideology with traditional conservatism enough to appeal to those who refuse to vote for Trump, setting the Libertarian Party up for failure in the next election. Johnson must also contend with a core support base built of fringe groups on both sides of the political spectrum, neither of which represent concrete voting blocs. Libertarians themselves represent about 11 percent of Americans — a relatively substantial number of people for a third party in the United States. This fact becomes less relevant, however, considering only four percent of this population actually votes for the Libertarian Party when polls open. Even in an election with a relevant candidate such as Johnson, most self-identified libertarians are expected to side with either Trump or Clinton. This reinforces the structural supremacy of the two-party political system in the United States. The Democratic and Republican Parties are simply too well established to be easily crippled by a third party surge. Some voters perceive a ballot cast for a third party candidate to be a wasted vote, so many who may ultimately favor a third party candidate simply choose their least-disliked major candidate instead. Lastly, Johnson relies upon a support base weakened by both age and geography. Almost a third of Johnson’s support comes from western states. This denies his campaign national appeal because he is not able to gain a national platform that can compete with Democrats, who usually dominate the West Coast, and Republicans, who dominate the Mountain West. Furthermore, his inability to reach voters on the East Coast obscures him from national media coverage that further dampens his appeal to those in this region. Johnson also has a poor track record with older voters, having earned the support of only four percent of individuals aged 65 and older. The over-65 age group is the most consistent bloc to turn out at polls and thus tends to have significant sway in the election. Lacking a reliable national base of support, it will be next to impossible for Johnson to have a large enough impact on the election to greatly change the dominance of the two-party system. ◼
nge American Politics? Yes, with a strong showing on election day. Evan Katz Staff Writer
hile Gary Johnson has received more attention during this election cycle than he might have otherwise due to its peculiarities, it would be a mistake to dismiss his abnormally high poll numbers as the product of a perfect storm. Voter sentiments, Federal Election Commission regulations, and factionalism within the Republican Party all put Johnson in a position to catalyze the breakdown of the twoparty system if he can capitalize on this unique situation. Americans are more disillusioned than ever with the twoparty system. According to the Pew Research Center, a plurality of Americans no longer identifies with either the Republican or Democratic Parties; more Americans are registered as independents now than at any other time in the last 80 years. Additionally, a 2015 Gallup poll discovered that 60 percent of Americans think a third major party is required for adequate political representation. This has become increasingly true as both major parties shift further away from the political center. While many voters may crave an alternative, few are willing to defect from either major party in standard election cycles because the transaction costs of voting for a third party or independent candidate — including possibly skewing the election to the less desirable of the two major candidates — outweigh the marginal benefits. Instead, most people engage in tactical voting by choosing the lesser of two evils. Since voters believe that third party candidates do not have a legitimate chance of winning elections, defecting would ultimately be a wasted vote. Too often, third parties are the subject of a vicious catch-22: to have a shot at winning elections, third parties must have adequate exposure, but in order to have adequate exposure, third parties must have a reasonable chance to win. In ordinary presidential elections, third party candidates do not receive enough attention to affect the race, preventing them from attracting meaningful support. However, the 2016 presidential race has been anything but ordinary. Electoral conditions have provided Johnson with enough exposure to escape the catch-22. A sizable portion of the electorate has concluded that both Clinton and Trump would make America worse off than it is today, lowering the transaction costs of defecting. Though Johnson almost certainly will not move into the White House in January, he does not have to win the election to fundamentally change the landscape of American politics.
When any minor party’s presidential candidate garners 5 percent or more of the national popular vote, that party receives guaranteed public funds to use on campaigning and a national convention in the next election cycle. FEC regulations dictate that once a candidate crosses that 5 percent threshold, their party gains access to millions of dollars, which is a gold mine for a minor party that often cannot compete with the coffers of the Republicans and Democrats. Assuming Johnson hits that threshold this year — and as of the end of October, FiveThirtyEight’s models predict that Johnson will win approximately 6 percent of the popular vote — the Libertarian Party would be able to spend those public funds in 2020 to generate exposure and media attention for its nominee. This exposure could propel the nominee onto the presidential debate stage and therefore open the possibility of a legitimate run for the presidency. Though America may not be experiencing a “libertarian moment,” a weakened and divided Republican Party could give the Libertarian Party the staying power necessary to remain a player in American politics. Alt-right populism will not die with Trump: the billionaire has engendered distrust of elites within the conservative base, while shifting the focus of the Republican Party from small government to cultural conservatism and racial grievances. If the Libertarian Party offers a pragmatic, viable alternative, many center-right voters may switch allegiance. Johnson’s fate, and the future of the two-party system, rests in the hands of poll-goers this November. If Johnson can cross the 5 percent threshold, he may give the Libertarian Party the boost it needs to break the RepublicanDemocratic duopoly. ◼
Georgia Political Review ¦ 17
Taking Climate Out of the Conversation Rory Hibler Operations Director
n the homepage of NASA’s climate change website, a graph displaying exponentially rising carbon dioxide atmospheric concentrations fills the page. Underneath, a grave warning reads: “Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal.” Some, in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence, continue to believe climate change is an exaggeration or myth. This evidence, however, cannot be denied: sea levels have risen 6.7 inches over the past century, global temperatures are on the rise, oceans have warmed 0.36 degrees Fahrenheit in the past 30 years, ice sheets are degrading, the list goes on. These are facts. There is no opinion in the reading of a thermometer. As part of an international effort to address this issue, 195 countries, most notably the United States and China, signed on to the 2015 Paris Climate Deal, a promise to reduce carbon emissions. President Barack Obama referred to the deal as “pivotal.” Yet if climate change is considered such a big deal in the scientific and global communities, why are politicians and the media so quiet about it during the 2016 U.S. presidential election cycle? While this issue frequently goes unaddressed by the ideological right, even Democrats have been noticeably silent this election. The one candidate not remaining silent, for obvious reasons, is Jill Stein of the Green Party. She considers climate change to be “the greatest threat to humanity in our history.” Her platform is built on the concept of a Green New Deal, a plan that involves a WWII-esque labor mobilization to transition the United States to 100 percent green energy. However, Stein is currently fighting an
uphill battle to even be allowed a spot in debates and her campaign has raised less than $3 million. The other underdog of the presidential race, Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, has acknowledged the importance of environmentalism. On his webpage, Johnson claims that the climate is “probably” changing and that mankind is “probably” responsible for it. However, he endorses the free market to handle energy sources and discourages political meddling in the economy, even for environmental reasons. Johnson makes it clear that his priorities lie with jobs and the economy over climate change by encouraging the government to avoid regulations that might “[cost] American jobs and freedom.” Donald Trump, the Republican Party’s candidate, does not mention climate change in his official platform in any way. The Grand Old Party has proposed limited policy regarding environmentalism or green initiatives. Most of the party is skeptical of anthropogenic climate change and has lambasted Obama for at times prioritizing it over national security. This may change in the future, as the majority of moderate Republicans are now acknowledging global climate change as an important issue. Trump, however, argues the change is purely “weather,” and has criticized Obama’s environmental policies. His official stance is, “We have bigger problems.” He once tweeted that climate change is made up by the Chinese. If he becomes president, he will actually be the only world leader to deny the science – putting him even behind Kim Jong-un in that regard. The true mystery lies in the Democratic Party’s restrained response to climate change. In her official platform, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton proposes to cut energy waste and oil consumption. Yet, in primary debates, journalists denounced Clinton for merely scraping
Some, in the face of overwhelming scientiﬁc evidence, continue to believe climate change is an exaggeration or myth. 18 ¦ Georgia Political Review
ELECTION the surface of such a comprehensive problem, and she hasn’t made much effort to push it to the top of the political agenda. Greenpeace has also been wary as their activists criticize Clinton for taking fossil fuel donation money and for supporting fracking as Secretary of State. Looking at debates, Clinton may not be at fault for her reticence. Moderators in only half of the Democrat primary debates brought the subject up, despite large differences between Clinton’s platform and that proposed by Bernie Sanders. This had nothing to do with voter demands: Democrat primary voters listed climate change as more important in their voting decisions than immigration, abortion and social security. The party chose not to prioritize this issue. However, Clinton does not have an excuse for not bringing up the subject in her own speeches. In her speech accepting the presidential nomination at the Democratic National Convention, she dedicated a single line to the topic, acknowledging that it is real and a quick promise for “millions” of clean energy jobs. In comparison, she used over 11 minutes to discuss her plans to reboot the economy. If climate change is an issue that most Democrats agree is pressing, why the relative silence from the left? One possible explanation is that most of Clinton’s bundling contributions are tied to the fossil fuel industry. Two lobbyists from Chevron alone have donated almost $60,000 to Clinton’s campaign. These sizable contributions could easily nudge the campaign to avoid the topic of fossil fuels. Historically, campaigning on climate change does not win elections. Stump speeches regarding topics like rebuilding the economy or promising
Voters do not vote for the candidate who promises that their grandchildren will be better oﬀ. They vote for the candidate who promises to improve their quality of life now. free tuition win elections because they promise immediate benefits to the voters: more money in their pockets right now. Talking about climate change means talking about more taxes, more sacrifices, and fewer immediate benefits for the voter. Voters do not vote for the candidate who promises that their grandchildren will be better off. They vote for the candidate who promises to improve their quality of life now. Elections are not an institution designed for delayed gratification. Elections may not encourage the discussion, but citizens are beginning to demand action. For example, the Sioux tribe in North Dakota has protested the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline that would cut through reservation territory and potentially cause drastic environmental detriment. After relatively peaceful but potentially dangerous protests, on September 6, a federal judge temporarily stopped the construction in response to the tribe’s outcries. But are these protests enough to call on future politicians to bring up an issue that could lead to electoral suicide? The climate is not about to repair itself, especially if American leadership continues to ignore it. The United States will continue to see disasters like the Louisiana floods, or even the total disappearance of New Orleans. Heat waves in California will worsen. Ailments such as Lyme disease will spread. The worst has yet to come, whether Trump denies it or Clinton brushes it aside. As dangerous as it may be for a politician’s career to focus on climate change, it is even more dangerous for humanity to ignore it. ◼
Georgia GeorgiaPolitical PoliticalReview Review¦ ¦19 7
THE TRUMP PAR DOX
HOW TRUMP S POLICIES HURT HIS SUPPORTERS THE MOST Alex Estroff Staff Writer
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n a scene that has become ubiquitous in the 2016 election cycle, Donald Trump rumbles his way through an unabashed stump speech in front of thousands of adherents to the Trump gospel. As Trump hits his most popular points—the deportation of all undocumented Hispanic immigrants and the restoration of “Americanism,” not “globalism”— the crowd erupts into cheers. Chants of “Build That Wall” and “Make America Great Again” provide the soundtrack for Trump’s rallies. However, the people chanting—many of whom reside in the South and the Midwest—will likely end up bearing the brunt of Trump’s proposed actions against undocumented immigrants and foreign trade. A hallmark of Trump’s unprecedented campaign trail is his insistence on the construction of a wall that covers the length of the southern border and the deportation of all 11 million undocumented immigrants currently residing in America. The central defense Trump wields for these plans is that undocumented immigrants are taking jobs away from legal U.S. residents. This is particularly applicable to the agriculture industry, in which half of the workforce lacks proper work authorization, according the U.S. Department of Labor. Why, Trump asks, should we allow millions of illegal immigrants to work our farms when there are capable American workers who could easily fill their places? There is a simple answer: Americans simply do not want these jobs. Both the federal and state governments have recently passed laws that seek to crack down on illegal immigration. Arizona’s stringent law, which enables state law enforcement to stop anyone reasonably suspected of being an illegal alien, became the inspiration for similar bills that passed the Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina legislatures. After implementation, such laws have been successful in decreasing the number of undocumented residents in these states. In Georgia, for example, thousands of illegal Hispanic immigrants left the state in the months following the passage of House Bill 87 in 2011. As an unintended consequence, the next year a University of Georgia study found that the state incurred a $140 million agricultural loss due to a lack of labor. Without undocumented workers to harvest them, Georgia crops literally rotted in the fields, leading to huge economic setbacks for the Peach State. With much of the agricultural workforce fleeing the state’s rigid laws that put them in imminent danger of deportation, Georgia saw a dramatic decline in its staple industry, which contributes approximately $74 billion to the state’s economy. According to the UGA study commissioned by the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, in the year after HB 87 was implemented, Georgia farmers were about 40 percent short of the labor needed to harvest the previous year’s crops. Georgia is not unique in this diminished agricultural production. A study prepared by the Partnership for a New American Economy and the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform concluded that the entire country’s agricultural output dropped $1.4 billion in 2012— the year after many of these laws targeting illegal immigration were passed. If President Trump indeed follows through with shipping off all undocumented migrants living in America, he will deprive what the U.S. Department of Agriculture has assessed to be an $835 billion industry of much of its workforce. While the toll of this action would be felt by the whole nation, the states that rely most heavily on agriculture for their economies will be disproportionately harmed. Ironically, five out of the top ten agricultural states in America (Iowa, Texas, Nebraska, Kansas, and Indiana) are firmly leaning toward Trump, and one (North Carolina) is considered a battleground state. Demographically speaking, white rural voters in particular are the ones both most likely to rely on agriculture for income and most inclined to vote for Trump. While Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric may appeal to this demographic, if these people vote for him they could be risking the evisceration of one of their most important industries. Another one of Trump’s greatest hits is his pronounced distrust of other countries with regard to trade. Trump’s campaign is bent on restoring a rendition of “Americanism” that is fundamentally inconsistent with
foreign trade. Whether it be China, South Korea, or Mexico, Trump’s penchant to claim that the United States is being cheated by other nations has roused many within the working class. However, more international companies are bringing business to America than ever before, and it’s paying off. Foreign direct investment in the U.S. has been steadily rising over the past two decades, and the Bureau of Economic Analysis reports that investment has increased every year since 2008. Foreign entities invest close to $3 trillion in the U.S. each year, and over 10 million jobs
Without undocumented workers to harvest them, Georgia crops literally rotted in the ﬁelds, leading to huge economic setbacks for the Peach State. in the United States are tied to foreign trade. Both figures only appear to be rising. If Trump’s proposed trade isolationism comes to fruition, this economic growth would be stalled, and it would be Southern white working class Americans—some of Trump’s staunchest supporters— that would be hurt the most. In the 1970s and 80s, states across the South decided to shift the focus of their economies away from home-grown manufacturing jobs. While these jobs still serve as the core of the Rust Belt’s economy, the South decided to instead rely on free trade for economic growth and sought out foreign investment in their economies. Since then, Southern states have led the rest of the country in attracting foreign businesses to create new jobs for the middle class. Today, they make up seven out of the top ten states that receive the most foreign investment (Tennessee, Texas, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida, and Alabama) and have reaped significant benefits. Within these states, it is the white working class that is most dependent on these internationally-tied jobs. Yet, it is precisely these people that are leaning most heavily towards Trump. In 2014 alone, Georgia received $1.1 billion in foreign investment— third most in the country—and created 6,348 new jobs as a result, according to the Georgia Department of Economic Development. In recent years Governor Nathan Deal and the Georgia General Assembly have worked hard to create a business-friendly environment that has attracted international companies such as Kia, Mercedes-Benz, and Caesarstone. But economic retrograde for these states seems likely under Trump. And while Trump places blame on “disastrous” trade deals such as the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) for shipping American jobs overseas, such agreements have allowed the U.S. to become one of the most dominant economic forces in the world. Trump’s supporters see merit in his straight-talk style, antiestablishment sentiment, and ostensible business savvy. However, many of these qualities have nothing to do with Trump’s policies, and putting his policies under scrutiny reveals that their consequences would jeopardize the economic welfare of the people likely to vote for him. Ridding the nation of undocumented immigrants would leave farmers with a severe labor shortage. Closing ports to foreign investment would wipe out 35 years’ worth of economic progress. Both of these policies would have tangible effects detrimental to many of Trump’s most loyal supporters. So when Southerners and Midwesterners hit the polls this November, they ought not think about the abstract messages to which they subscribe, but instead contemplate the actual impact of their votes on their wallets. ◼
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What’s Really Causing the Rise in Healthcare Prices? Megan Kriss Staff Writer
ealthcare costs in the United States are growing faster than inflation. While 2015’s 3.2 percent rise in the cost of care is the lowest increase since 1996, the continued increase in cost is incredibly concerning for consumers. Some commentators have proposed that health care may be “the most decisive question” of the 2016 presidential election. While candidates and pundits often reduce the rise in healthcare prices to a few hot button topics (with the blame always on the opposing party, of course), the reality is that healthcare costs are affected by a complex variety of issues including government policy, industry practices, and population health. Conservatives often point to the Affordable Care Act as a source of rising healthcare costs, while the Obama Administration has taken credit for slowing down price increases. The evidence pointing to who’s right is mixed. A 2014 study conducted by researchers from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services found that the effect of the ACA on slowing rising costs is only “minimal,” but a report published by the Blue Cross, Blue Shield Association in March of 2016 notes that there was an increase in the rates of certain diseases among newly enrolled customers after the ACA took effect. This may suggest that pressure from the government is leading insurance companies to take on riskier customers, which in turn prompts them to raise prices. To further complicate things, a February 2016 report from the Commonwealth Fund suggests that the ACA has contributed to a slowdown in the rise of healthcare prices by providing incentives to healthcare providers to reduce costs and by lowering payment rates for Medicare users. Ultimately, it’s probably still too early to determine the effect of the ACA, if it’s had a significant effect at all. Others have accused the pharmaceutical and insurance industries of raising prices as a form of corporate profiteering. With the overwhelming
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outrage directed at Mylan for dramatically hiking the price of EpiPens and the public vendetta against the then CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, Martin Shkreli, who publicly admitted that he raised the price of a potentially lifesaving drug by over 5000 percent purely to maximize profits, this argument has appeal across party lines. Unfortunately, these cases are not isolated incidents. Traditionally the high costs of pharmaceuticals have been attributed to the cost of research and development, which can cost anywhere from several hundred million to more than 2.6 billion dollars, but in the past few years there has been a trend of companies, such as Turing, Valeant, and Questcor, acquiring a drug, then dramatically raising the price, despite not having invested into the drug’s development.
Martin Shkreli, former CEO of Turing Pharmaceudicals, testifies at a House Oversight and Government Reform hearing on Capitol Hill on Feb. 4, 2016.
N AT I O N A L High markups are not unique to pharmaceutical companies though. Uninsured hospital patients often pay several times the amount that insured patients do, because prices are set far above the actual value of the procedure with the understanding that insurance representatives will negotiate a lower rate. Uninsured patients don’t have the luxury of negotiation. Baby Boomers, the generation born between 1946 and 1964, have also received blame for increased costs because of their age. 41 million Americans were 65 or older in 2011, but that number will increase by 73 percent, to 71 million, by the time the last of the Baby Boomers hit retirement age in 2029 according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This indicates that this generation’s impact on healthcare costs will only grow. Furthermore, despite a longer life expectancy, Baby Boomers are more likely than previous generations to suffer from chronic health problems like hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity. Baby Boomers will contribute to overall medical spending by putting more pressure on Medicare, but may also contribute to per capita spending in other ways. For one, any aging generation simply needs more healthcare,
Despite high spending, the quality of American care isn t signiﬁcantly higher than that of other developed countries...
and the health issues of this generation in particular only amplify that. Furthermore, only 1 in 5 pre-retirement Baby Boomers has financially prepared for their retirement health expenses according to an Ameriprise survey, meaning the generation’s health issues may lead to an increase in insurance prices for other recipients to cover the added expenses. Baby Boomers aren’t the only group that’s less healthy than past generations. Rates of chronic diseases like diabetes, asthma, and heart disease are increasing in the United States. Almost half of adults, and eight percent of children, have chronic disease. Chronic disease sufferers are the most frequent users of healthcare infrastructure and, at $6,032 per year, patients with chronic conditions pay five times as much those without such conditions. On a global perspective, the U.S. spends more on healthcare than any other country. In 2011 the United States spent $9,403 per capita on healthcare, while Japan spent $3,703, the United Kingdom spent $3,487, and Germany spent $5,411. Despite high spending, the quality of American care isn’t significantly higher than that of other developed countries and Americans have far more health problems, lower life
expectancy, and higher infant mortality, so looking to our international peers for possible solutions may allow us to find a solution for our healthcare problems. On a personal level, Americans can keep their own health costs lower, and contribute to an overall decrease in per capita healthcare costs, by making investments in their health. Chronic diseases are the leading cause of death and disability in the United States. Risk factors for chronic disease include high blood pressure, tobacco use or secondhand smoke exposure, high body mass index, physical inactivity, excessive alcohol use, diets low in fruit and vegetables, and diets high in sodium and saturation. These risk factors are preventable for many people, but most American adults have at least one of these risk factors, according to the CDC, and U.S. preventive care resources are used at only half the recommended rate. However, many Americans face serious barriers to adequate healthcare. 21 percent of Americans delay healthcare for financial reasons, but while almost as many do so because they are unable to fit doctor’s visits into their schedule due to work or other commitments. Just over eight percent of Americans find themselves unable to get an appointment soon enough, while just over four percent have difficulty traveling to an office or clinic. Another four percent cannot access a healthcare provider who accepts their insurance. Inadequate health education, food deserts, and a lack of adequate food storage also prevent the economically disadvantaged from engaging in preventative steps, both at home and via preventative healthcare. Roughly 67 percent of those who face a financial barrier also face a non-financial barrier, and ethnic minorities and women are disproportionately likely to face barriers to healthcare. Healthcare costs will almost certainly continue to rise in the future. Even if policy intervention does occur, the United States still faces a population that is increasingly unhealthy, and the only thing that can reverse this is time and greater use of preventative care. The best things consumers can do to protect themselves at this point are to try to save for medical emergencies and retirement, take preventative measures, and make sure they have insurance. Unfortunately, a happy ending doesn’t appear to be coming any time soon. ◼
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RUSSIA S BALTIC JEWEL NATO S PERSISTING HEADACHE Valtteri Tamminen Staff Writer
aliningrad, once the old German city of Königsberg, fell into Soviet hands during the final months of World War II. In 1946, it was renamed Kaliningrad after the Soviet revolutionary Mikhail Kalinin. When the Soviet Union collapsed, the territory became a part of Russia itself, rather than a part of its satellite states, Poland or Lithuania. Since then, the territory has become the key to Russia’s control of the Baltic Sea Region (BSR), and Russia has armed its bases there to the teeth. Russia sees the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) as part of its former empire, during the Soviet Union and before, and thus as within its sphere of influence. However, if Russia were to invade, it would trigger Article 5 of the charter of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and all the alliance members, including the United States, would be obligated to come to the aid of the Baltic states. NATO is currently ill-equipped to deal with a Russian invasion, but there are actions it can take to solve potential dilemma. Strategically located, Kaliningrad is sandwiched between Poland and the Baltic states and is the only Russian naval base in the Baltic Sea that does not ice over in the winter. The Russian military has particularly focused on Anti-Access and
Area Denial (A2/AD) systems, designed to deny adversaries free movement through surrounding territory. This is important because armies are most vulnerable when they are on the move, since they are not as well defended and are concentrated into small areas. Anti-aircraft weapons such as S-400 missiles, which have a reach of about 400 kilometers around Kaliningrad, also make flying reinforcements into the area much harder and costlier for hostiles. Furthermore, Kaliningrad is equipped with Tochka-U tactical nuclear weapons, which can launch nuclear missiles deep into NATO territory and could even reach Berlin if upgraded. In the past few years, Russia has launched numerous military exercises in the BSR, with Kaliningrad being a main base for the practice assaults. Most notably, practice invasions of the Finnish Åland Islands, the Swedish island of Gotland, and the Danish island of Bornholm. Were these operations to be carried out successfully in real life, along with an invasion of the Baltic, they would severely impede NATO’s ability to provide military reinforcements to the Baltic states. Moreover, the troops would be too late to be used for defense and would instead have to counterattack the Russians. The Russian Baltic Fleet, though not large enough to
The Baltic States are the weakest link in the NATO defense system, as they are eﬀectively a peninsula cut oﬀ from the west and north by sea.
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dominate the BSR, is large enough to harass any NATO reinforcements moving into the region, should a conflict break out. Russia has a history of aggressive actions in the BSR. In March 2013, Russia simulated an attack on Sweden, with six planes “attacking” and only turning away when they were 20 miles from Swedish territorial waters. Eston Kohver, a member of the Estonian Internal Security Service, was abducted in a raid of an Estonian border post in September 2014 and taken back to Russia, where he was convicted of espionage and sentenced to 15 years in prison. Sweden launched a submarine hunt after a possible submarine was spotted in its territorial waters in October 2014. An emergency signal on a frequency used frequently by Russia was picked up by Swedish intelligence but no submarine or wreckage was ever found. Russia has also been involved in hundreds of air incidents over Europe over the past couple of years, with NATO scrambling aircrafts against Russian counterparts over 400 times in 2014 alone. Following this series of worrying developments and the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, NATO and the Baltic states have been on higher alert. Geographically and historically, the Baltic states are in a very similar position to Ukraine. Both were Soviet Republics during the Cold War and both have large Russian speaking minorities left over from Soviet Russification policies. This is especially concerning since Russia has invested a lot of political capital into the idea that it can go anywhere to defend Russian-speaking peoples; they used this argument during both the Russo-Georgian War in 2009 and the annexation of Crimea in 2014. Unrest in the minority Russian-speaking population could become a challenge for Baltic states, especially since there have been problems integrating them into the rest of the populace. Russians account for 25.6 percent of Estonia’s population, 28.8 percent of Latvia’s, and 6.4 percent of Lithuania’s. More alarming is that a large portion of minorities, 13 percent in Estonia and 18 percent in Latvia, do not hold citizenship of any country . If these minorities feel left out of society in their respective countries, Russia could exploit social unrest . As Ants Laaneots, former Chief of the Estonian Defense Forces, described it, the Baltic states are the weakest link in the NATO defense system, as they are effectively a peninsula cut off from the West and the North by sea. This is backed up by the Rand Corporation study, which found that Russia could take the Baltic states in less than 60 hours. Surprisingly, NATO lacks a reliable plan against a Russian attack from Kaliningrad. The best NATO response would be to move forces closer to the Baltic states, if not directly into them. Currently, the fastest responding armored unit would probably be the U.S. combined arms battalion, whose equipment is in
Grafenwoehr, Germany; however, the troops would have to be flown in from the United States. Moving all of their equipment would likely take at least a week. Having troops prepositioned in Poland or the Baltic states may be more effective. By running military simulations of a Baltic invasion by Russia, the same Rand Corporation study found that adding six or seven battalions into the Baltic states, including three armored ones, would be enough to hold back the Russians. Given a week’s notice, NATO can move several units into the Baltic states, but not enough to stop the Russians. Moving reinforcements into the Baltic states is also probably something that Russia has foreseen in its own contingency plans. Especially with airpower, NATO is struggling in the Baltic states. None of the Baltic states have combat air forces, meaning they have no fighters to protect the skies and no bombers to bomb the enemy. To this end, they rely completely on NATO’s Baltic Air Policing to protect them. This program cycles fighter planes from other member countries to defend Baltic airspace. In response to the Crimean crisis, the number of planes only rose from four to around eight at any time, an insufficient increase to really counter the Russians. Adding to this problem, the Baltic states are too thin a strip of land to effectively host fighters and bombers, as the bases they have fall under the Russian antiaircraft missile bubble. NATO reinforcements could come from Poland, but they would either have to fly straight through the A2/AD of Kaliningrad or go hundreds of kilometers out of their way to fly around it. This is why NATO wants Finland and Sweden to join the alliance. Both countries could host enough airpower to adequately contest the skies over the Baltic states. Planes hosted in Finland and Sweden would not have to fly through Kaliningrad’s A2/AD bubble and they would have forces they could send to help as reinforcements. Without Finland and Sweden in NATO, the LithuanianPolish border becomes a crucial chokepoint, as it is sandwiched between Kaliningrad and Belarus, a nominal Russian ally. Even if NATO could rapidly mobilize reinforcements, it would have to fight its way through the 50-kilometer-wide border, called the Suwalki Gap. If that were not enough, the area is marshy, and its few roads are all well within reach of Russian artillery. Russia’s emergency fund used to boost government spending when oil prices are low is set to run out of money next year. The country then must decide to either play ball with the West or increase its military aggression, as it usually does as a distraction when it has economic problems. When the fund dries up, the status quo will change somewhere, one way or another. NATO should be prepared. ◼ Georgia GeorgiaPolitical PoliticalReview Review¦ ¦25 7
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VENEZUELA IN RUINS
The Collapse of the Chavez Legacy Sam Schaffer Assistant Senior Editor
hile the world’s sights have been set on conflict zones like Syria and spectacles like the Olympics, Venezuela has plummeted into disarray since 2013 with little global attention. In early September 2016, Venezuelans, at the mercy of strict price controls and an even stricter government, launched the country’s largest protests in its history, lashing out against President Nicolas Maduro’s stronghold over the starved country. Skyhigh inflation rates, severe food shortages, and a weakening oil industry have crippled the Andean nation. Hundreds of thousands of “Venezolanos” have streamed into neighboring Colombia to find basic necessities such as toilet paper, milk, and medical supplies. On a continent accustomed to populist dictators and military coups, Venezuela is one in a line of Latin American states to fall into the grips of poor governance. Neighboring states, including the U.S., are left questioning – should we intervene, and if so, how do we do it? President Maduro has ruled Venezuela since Hugo Chavez’s death in 2013. Despite an opposition-led legislature in power since December 2015, Maduro himself has led the country often by decree with a vice-like grip, single-handedly instituting economic policies that have left the country’s stores bereft of many items—electronics and food included. A staunch opponent to capitalism, Maduro may be the face of modern socialism on a governing streak reminiscent of his predecessor, who instigated and governed Venezuela’s socialist revolution for 14 years. Although opposition parties have tried to coalesce and stymie his power, Maduro has extended various states of economic emergency since 2013, which have allowed him to override the power of the legislature and govern autonomously on items such as the national budget and other economic policy. The Maduro administration has essentially run the Venezuelan economy into the ground. Strict currency controls in the country have crippled foreign business operations and many multinationals have pulled out due to difficulties repatriating any earnings from within the country. A complex financial system— relying on four different exchange rates—has encouraged Venezuelans to dump the weakened national currency, the bolivar, which has spurred the creation of
a rampant black market. In fact, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has predicted that Venezuela’s consumer-price inflation will peak at 1,640 percent in 2017. Despite being home to the world’s largest proven oil reserves, Venezuela is floundering as oil prices continue to decline, as crude oil comprises almost 96 percent of national exports. Rolling blackouts, severe drought, a peaking crime rate (looting, in particular), and citizen unrest highlight the inability of the government to provide stability. Maduro, for his part, blames both his opposition and the capitalists at home and to the north (in other words, the United States) for the economic woes befalling the state. The Venezuelan populace is suffering most. Because of extremely low inventory, locals have been forced to abandon price-regulated government-run stores and instead turn to the expensive black market for everyday goods. Some reports have found that the black market charges 17 times more on average than official stores—yet bolivars are worth so little and items are so difficult to find that people are forced to pay whatever price necessary to purchase essentials like baby formula, rice, and milk. In early September, protests in the capital city Caracas swelled to almost 1 million strong, as residents mostly from the middle class took to the streets demanding a recall referendum on Maduro’s presidency. If the referendum is granted and enough votes are cast, Maduro will be ousted from office before the end of the year and new elections will be held. However, if Maduro is voted out after New Year’s Day in 2017, his vice president will serve out the rest of his term until 2019. Caraqueños (those who live in the capital, Caracas), peasants, and even indigenous peoples turned out in droves despite government roadblocks and the memory of severe violence befalling protesters in the past. Neighboring states have watched Venezuela capsize and most have issued weakly-worded statements in support of democratic change. In a nutshell, U.S.Venezuelan relations are tenuous, at best. In 2002, the Bush Administration indirectly supported a coup attempt on then-leader Hugo Chavez, which has sewed a lasting distrust between the two nations. With on-and-off-again
Hugo Chavez elected president of Venezuela with a socialist political ideology
Military coup with suspected U.S. involvement fails to overthrow Chavez
Vice President Nicolás Maduro assumes presidency after death of Hugo Chavez
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diplomatic relations with Venezuela since 2008, the Obama administration has not hesitated to impose economic sanctions for Venezuela’s welldocumented human rights abuses against anti-Maduro protesters. Just this year, the Organization of American States (OAS), an organization of 35 states across North and South America which includes the United States, slammed the country for violence against protesters and called for a national restoration of democracy. To the East, China, Venezuela’s largest creditor, has been forced to extend many loan repayment schedules as the Venezuelan economy has soured; if the country were to default, China’s $65 billion in loans since 2005 would be left in an uncertain limbo. Latin America is no stranger to heavy-handed politics. After decades of rightwing authoritarian rule in countries such as Chile, Brazil, and Argentina, many countries saw a “pink wave” (a weaker surge of liberal, or red government) wash away the vestiges of conservative politics. Left-leaning Presidents Morales (Bolivia), Ortega (Nicaragua), and Correa (Ecuador) have followed Hugo Chavez’s footsteps in a departure from democracy by consolidating executive power. However, considering that the Venezuelan government’s popular support is at a measly 23 percent, even the Chavistas—Venezuelans fiercely loyal to the late Hugo Chavez and his socialist revolution—seem depressed by the country’s trajectory. The populism of the past is falling apart dangerously: Venezuelans
The Maduro administration has essentially run the Venezuelan economy into the ground. demand change while their country falls to ruins around them. But if the recall referendum fails to solidify any change, what will happen next? The United States has encouraged the OAS and South American governments to exert pressure on Venezuela to reform the political system to salvage what remains of the economic sector. Often blamed (and rightly so) for tinkering in the political affairs of Latin America, the United States must be careful to not feed Maduro’s musings that it has once again stepped on the toes of its southern neighbors. Despite targeted sanctioning, the United States has continued commercial relations with the country and must navigate rocky waters as Venezuela sorts out the political mess it has been dealt. However, most agree that more than just economic restructuring is needed to repair the damaged state; a new political system that values and upholds democratic process may be the key to a positive shift for the people of Venezuela. ◼
U.S. imposes sanctions against Venezuelan government for violent and oppressive actions
Obama declares Venezuela a threat to U.S. national security and implements more sanctions
Massive protests in Caracas demanding referendum vote on Maduro s presidency
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n his keynote speech at the Republican National Convention, Donald Trump stated that he “will present the facts plainly and honestly. We cannot afford to be so politically correct anymore.” His vendetta against political correctness has become a centerpiece of his campaign, whether argued overtly as in this speech or, more often, implied through his willingness to call Mexicans “rapists,” Muslims “terrorists,” and President Obama the “founder of ISIS.” The defiant tone of these assertions indicates the belief that his right to free speech supersedes the tenets of common decency, honesty, and integrity, which are supposedly being policed under a regime of political correctness. Thanks in part to his campaign and recent controversial events at universities, political correctness has become a national debate. But what does political correctness even mean? According to Trump, political correctness is the left’s tool of tone policing and their perceived unwillingness to speak the hard “truths” that he is gleefully willing to expose. To author George Saunders (and most left-leaning people), however, political correctness has a different connotation. In a recent New Yorker piece profiling
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Trump supporters, Saunders noted, “Trump supporters are ‘not politically correct,’… they have a particular aversion to that psychological moment when, having thought something, you decide that it is not a good thought, and might pointlessly hurt someone’s feelings, and therefore decline to say it.” Yet another definition of the phrase comes from arguments over safe spaces on college campuses, in which political correctness is understood to be the weapon of coddled college students waging war on the sphere of academic freedom because they cannot bear to face an opinion different than their own. How can political correctness possibly mean all of this? Somehow one phrase has come to indicate an oversensitivity that borders upon unreality, an inclination to be considerate to others, and a tool of censorship all at the same time. The definition an individual chooses as the correct one ends up defining them. This selectivity of the multitude of uses of “political correctness” strips the phrase of constructive meaning across different groups of people.
The definition of political correctness has been in flux ever since its inception in U.S. politics in the mid-1900s. In the beginning, the term was used primarily by Marxist/Leninists to deride those who thought simply using inclusive language would be enough to achieve their political ideals. Around the 1990s, it entered the world of mainstream politics, and conservatives began to use it to criticize censorship in the name of tolerance. Today, the phrase is deployed in diverse situations and most do not stop to consider the reasons why it is used, the contextual definition, and how definitions may differ among people engaged in debate. The issue is complicated by the fact that these definitions do not hold true within the groups themselves. Trump and his supporters champion their right to be non“PC” and use language that generalizes entire religions, races, and genders. However, when Hillary Clinton said in a recent speech at a fundraiser that “you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables…the racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic ,” the Trump campaign blasted Clinton for not “respecting” his supporters by “insulting” them. On the surface, this is obviously hypocritical, as there are far too many instances of Trump blatantly disrespecting people to fit into this article’s word limit. It also reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the right to freedom of speech. Yes, Donald Trump and his supporters can say whatever they would like without backlash from the
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Emily Maloney Staff Writer government, but they are not exempt from social commentary as a reaction to their viewpoints. Their definition of political correctness has less to do with maintaining an atmosphere of free speech and more to do with upholding a rhetoric of hate that purposefully silences minorities. Liberals are not exempt from the hypocrisy either. While claiming to uphold political correctness because they view themselves as more open-minded and tolerant, liberals are often quick to disparage the political opinions of rural, poor whites without critical assessment of why they may feel that way. Circling back to Clinton’s speech, she labeled a group of Americans by their worst quality without attempting to comprehend the forces driving them to hold discriminatory views. By not acknowledging the struggles of this group of people — many of whom live in areas where death rates from drug overdose exceed those for death from natural causes, in places where educational attainment is decreasing, and in communities that essentially have no upward mobility — Clinton committed a similar “lumping” and demonization of people for which Democrats criticize Trump. Most liberals are content to selectively apply the ideals of political correctness in a way that aligns with their greater ideology. Once again, the use of political correctness does not hold completely to the groups’ purported stance – to be kind, respectful, and advocate for the rights of minorities. Instead, sometimes it feels like a way to pat oneself on the back for being “smarter” or more moral than those dismissed as “close-minded.”
Even on college campuses, the debate over PC culture is far more complex and contradictory than most news articles suggest. In a letter to incoming freshman, University of Chicago Dean
of Students Dr. John Ellison wrote, “Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called ‘trigger warnings,’ we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.” Ironically, this statement meant to protect academic freedom is simultaneously a speech code that infringes on the rights of students to protest against events they feel to be discriminatory and to form groups of their own volition, as well as of teachers to issue trigger warnings if they would like to. In fact, an informal survey done by NPR found that about half of the surveyed instructors at colleges and universities around the United States had used trigger warnings – and most had done so of their own choice, not because a student requested they do so. The root of the political correctness argument on campuses is the ambiguity of words like “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces”; oftentimes media assumes the worst of these precautions and understands them as censorship instead of infrastructure to promote constructive, safe discussion. The letter sent from Dr. Ellison was facially about instituting a culture of academic freedom, but once the language is parsed and the internal contradictions are exposed, it becomes
apparent that the purpose of the letter is actually to send a message about the identity of the university. That’s really the essence of the entire political correctness debate – promoting an identity. Because the phrase has lost a concrete definition, it can no longer serve as a useful tool for productive dialogue. Instead, the term has been co-opted by each of these competing interests to serve as an indicator of in-group status. With the loss of meaning, the term has become a way to assert power and dismiss those who think differently than oneself without having to critically assess their point of view. Americans are increasingly speaking past each other, and it’s dangerous to our democracy. Without a common language to communicate with, a constructive national consensus will be near impossible to reach. ◼
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MODERN MODERN DAY DAY SEGREGATION SEGREGATION Racialized Tracking in American Schools Sam Cleare Staff Writer
chool is an integral aspect of a child’s daily life in the United States. Students discover themselves through their experiences in school, molding their identities. The impact of academic achievement gaps and restrictive social patterns engendered by systemic issues relate to academic status. These aspects, coupled with the psychological implications of discriminatory learning environments, rarely take precedence as pressing matters within education policy rhetoric. Despite this lack of recognition, these systemic problems undoubtedly hinder modern efforts to promote equality in this country and to ensure a more ethical future. Sixty years after Brown v. Board of Education, the U.S. Department of Education continues to authorize practices that interrupt integration efforts within schools. Although the color of your skin no longer explicitly determines where you go to school, it may impact your academic placement within your school. Public schools in the United States still segregate from classroom to classroom, justifying this discrimination upon academic achievement. These grade-based decisions are common among public elementary schools and are made as early as kindergarten. These decisions steer children into certain social groups and determine the kinds of academic opportunities they will receive at an alarmingly young age. Scholars draw a highly significant correlation between race and academic tracking. “Separate but equal,” a common saying during legal segregation in American schools, continues to appear in responses to criticisms that students of color remain underrepresented in honors and advanced placement classes. Instead of analyzing the institutional roots behind these statistics, students, politicians, and even educators often blame the cultures associated with minority races for disproportionate representation. For example, the “acting white” slur serves as a common explanation for the race rifts in academic success. This slur endorses the argument that enrolling in advanced placement and other upper level courses is unique to white culture. The implicit assumption is that students coming from minority cultures do not value education as much as white students.
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Only in the past ten years or so has the “acting white” slur been publicly criticized. President Obama addressed the pejorative at the 2004 Democratic Convention, and Americans have begun to shift focus towards systemic issues rather than scapegoating students. In her novel “Integration Interrupted,” Karolyn Tyson conducts ten years of ethnographic research to disprove the “acting white” myth. Tyson’s findings compare to psychological theories of the self. Children define themselves based off the way others evaluate them. Thus, separating students into different academic tracks early on signals to students in the lower tracks that they are “not smart,” or that school is not a place where they can excel. The idea that children should be labeled by their cognitive abilities in elementary school fosters the misconception that individuals cannot succeed through hard work alone. Students placed in the less academically-oriented groups may forever perceive themselves as “bad students.” Students can petition to attend upper-level classes in high school against teacher and counselor recommendations; however, even with a laissez-faire academic tracking system after elementary school, students often do not capitalize upon the opportunity to change their classes. Students of color statistically don’t attempt to ascend the academic ladder, even when it is deserved, due to the institutionalized conception that they cannot do so. Even still, some students of color take upper-level courses against the odds. Why do these students of color succeed academically, even with the social barriers involved? Tyson’s study in “Integration Interrupted” also found that when students understand an end goal, such as attending college, they prevail through these obstacles. According to Tyson, the “acting white” slur does not deter students of color from succeeding academically as well. Students of all races and social classes receive ridicule when it comes to academic success. Conversely, Tyson did find that students of color would change their style of dress and engage themselves in more non-school related activities in order to counteract peer resistance.
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Although educational inequity and racialized tracking are occasionally considered in policymaking, policies revolving around either victim blaming or victimization take center stage. In order to end segregation in American schools, we must emphasize the inequity within the classrooms. Poverty rates affect the education achievement gap. Resources including tutoring services and free time for parents to go over schoolwork with their children are important factors. The annual data of the National Assessment of Educational Progress imply that average early reading performance for a school tends to decrease as the proportion of students eligible for free/ reduced lunch increases. Yet, the “culture of poverty,” which implies that students in lowincome households do not wish to succeed, relies on social stigmas surrounding socio-economic statuses. This assumption negatively affects education policies as a lack of resources is interpreted as the absence of effort in school. Even without considering financial and geographical information, stereotypes regarding race and academic achievement continue to exist. The “acting white” slur asserts the fact that students of color, even those who come from financially privileged backgrounds, enter the classroom without the desire to succeed. In contrast, students learn to associate race with academic success at school. They look around their classrooms, separated by race early on. They see the implications of classroom segregation at social events as students divide themselves by race at pep rallies, football games, and more. They even continue to feel the effects of racialized tracking into adulthood as colleges remain segregated as well.
In regards to both economic implications and race, it is important to take into account how individuals of color are statistically less likely to receive the same resources as white students. Students who come from financially privileged backgrounds statistically walk into Kindergarten with at least hundreds of hours of reading experience. When English is not the first language of the families, students go to school with even more of a disadvantage. With federally funded Pre-K programs, all students could walk into kindergarten with similar resources and preparation. Therefore, when teachers consider students for upper level courses, all students can be on more level playing field. Again, issues concerning racial stigmas do not completely rely on economic inequality and its relation to race. In Tyson’s study, she also found that in schools with a majority of students of color, the “acting white” slur did not hold the same value in comparison to racially diverse schools. Teachers punish students of color more severely as well, which may also indicate how they view these children academically. While institutional policies can reduce racial stigmas in schools, conversations must be had as well. Studies have shown that when teachers lead discussions about LGBTQ+ issues in school, the rate of anti-LGBTQ+ slurs decreases. Similar programs addressing and dismantling racial stigmas surrounding academic success could be successful. Although the Brown ruling integrated schools in the United States, it could not shift the cultural resistance within the country. Therefore, policy makers cannot simply execute these changes and wait for American perceptions on race to catch up. It is up to everyone, politicians and the public alike, to acknowledge and examine education inequity in the United States. ◼
Students of color statistically don t attempt to ascend the academic ladder, even when it is deserved, due to the institutionalized conception that they cannot do so.
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PUNCHLINE ON RACE
Shuchi Goyal Editor-In-Chief
n the weeks leading up to the 2016 Academy Awards, the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite trended across the internet, criticizing the lack of minority representation among nominees. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hoped that African-American show host and comedian, Chris Rock, would alleviate some tension. Instead, resentment deepened when Rock introduced three unsmiling, non-speaking East Asian and Jewish children on stage as accountants supporting the ceremony, playing to the stereotype that people of these ethnicities are money-obsessed. Rock and the Academy were immediately criticized for offensive jokes that showcased “a tone-deaf approach to [the] portrayal of Asians.” Others, however, saw it as harmless jab that followed a long trend of incorporating race into comedy. The line between good-humored entertainment and blasé offensiveness is tricky and shifts with culture. The stony reception to Rock’s joke at the Academy Awards indicates that stand-up comedy in the United States is struggling to keep pace with ever-changing perceptions of race. Just 10 years ago, the country may have reacted differently to Rock’s performance. In 2007, well-known comedian Jeff Dunham introduced a new character to his cast of ventriloquist puppets: Achmed the Dead Terrorist was an immediate crowd-favorite. Within two years, over 200 million YouTube viewers had discovered Achmed, his devotion to Islam, penchant for suicide bombings, and doleful catchphrase, “Silence! I kill you!” Around the same time, Indo-Canadian comedian Russell Peters gained popularity among minority audiences. With a knack for imitating stereotypical East Asian and South Asian accents, Peters enumerated cultural gaps of growing up in Asian homes versus white homes. Some of his most famous jokes concern the differences in how Asian and white parents discipline their children. Many of Peters’ biggest fans were second-generation members of the race groups he teased. At the time, these audiences related to Peters’ anecdotes, which described minority experiences different from those of white families. Retrospectively, however, many of Peters’ performances feel cringeworthy. His exaggerated accents, which mock clueless Asian parents scolding their high-achieving but exasperated children, reinforce the model minority myth; in
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Russell’s routines, Asian Americans are academically accomplished but ultimately severe, cheap, and humorless. It is difficult to imagine Dunham and Peters receiving the same positive reception today as they did at the peaks of their fame. Yet it is also difficult to imagine that until the 1950s, blackface and other physical caricatures of colored people were popular features of mainstream American stand-up. Clearly, the interweaving of race and humor in the United States has a long and tangled history. The messy knots often only become apparent in retrospect. Does this mean that jokes about race have lost their place in comedy entirely? Maybe not. For every comedian who has built a career off of “othering” minority groups, there are others who have effectively wielded the mic for minority empowerment. In the 1980s and ‘90s, Dave Chappelle, Eddie Murphy, and even Chris Rock himself began their standup careers recounting their absurd experiences with antiblack prejudice in America. At the time, this approach, with its bold display of uncomfortable truths, seemed novel and captured audience attention. Thirty years later, other comedians have followed in these footsteps to achieve similar recognition for their work. Although they address similar themes of casual racism and ignorance, prejudice is a subject that gets more ridiculous the longer it exists. As a result, jokes on the topic age well, and audiences are laughing harder than ever. There are too many comedians to list who have brought attention to race, class, and gender relations in the United States, but several names are iconic. Margaret Cho, for example, launched her career talking about being a Korean-American in 1970s and ‘80s California. In the late ‘90s, George Lopez and Gabriel Iglesias gained fame while focusing on their experiences as Chicanos in America. More recently, comedians Hari Kondabolu and W. Kamau Bell teamed up in podcasts and stand-up performances to highlight the impact of internalized racism in minority ethnic communities. Much of Kondabolu’s material has been in response to reports of police brutality against black Americans. To those who accuse Kondabolu of creating racial tension through his comedic focus, he responds: “Saying that I'm obsessed with race and racism in America is like saying that I'm obsessed with swimming while I'm drowning.”
Saying that I m obsessed with race and racism in America is like saying that I m obsessed with swimming while I m drowning.
- Hari Kondabolu
Many of these comedians refuse to fake accents. Instead, they flip the narrative. While previous comedy focused on laughing at the “strangeness” of minority Americans, the new punchlines on race redirect attention to the ludicrousness of 21st century racism. Through satire, stand-up comedians have reached new audiences and promoted discussions about the country’s social and political climate. It would be a mistake, however, to assign these performers the monumental task of leading society toward greater cultural acceptance; that responsibility should belong to our politicians and policy makers. But while the United States has recently been rattled by evidence of disturbing racial dynamics, partisan stalemates stall actual government action. Until political leaders are ready to combat racial prejudice head-on, maybe the best we can do is laugh about it. ◼
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Published on Nov 8, 2016
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