POLITICAL REVIEW 26.1 | Winter 2017 | wupr.org
TABLE OF CONTENTS 8
WE THE PEOPLE
Engagement’s Hard. We Still Need It. Eli Scher-Zagier
No, Donald Trump Is Not a Constitutional Crisis Michael Fogarty
Power over Principle Ryan Mendelson
We the People: The Expansion of American Civil Rights
Patriotism Trumps Politics Jordan Phillips
“We the People” Can Change Luke Voyles
Our Undemocratic Democracy Isabel Torres
Trump and Obama: Elections by the Numbers
What Will Environmental Policy Look Like in 2017? Emma Waltman
Naturally, the Government is Red, White, and Blue Nicholas Kinberg
When Cops Become Robbers: Mexico’s Blurred Vigilante Justice Delmar Tarragó
EDITOR’S NOTE Editors-in-Chief Sam Klein Grace Portelance Executive Director Billie Mandelbaum Staff Editors Rachel Butler Max Handler Dan Sicorsky Sabrina Wang Digital Staff Editor Michael Fogarty Features Editor Ryan Mendelson Finance Director Lauren Berger Director of Design Zeke Saucedo Director of New Media Tomek Cebrat External Operations Director
Dear reader, Our country, like many around the world, has seen a populist revival in recent months. It's a phenomenon that many intellectuals never saw coming, and one that many rural, working-class Americans knew was on the rise. We The People—a phrase our founding fathers used to assert that the government they were about to lay out was there to serve them—is a sentiment as relevant now as when the Consitution was crafted. We are witnessing a reclaiming of government from people who feel they have not been heard, and with the latest wave of feminist and pro-immigrant protests and dmonstrations, we are also witnessing resistance from other groups who demand to be a part of the conversation. Who are "we"? How are we governed? What makes America exceptional, and how can we continue to be? In our We The People issue, WUPR contributors set out to answer these questions and more. Freshman Isabel Torres looks back to the founding of our democracy to evaluate our electoral college. Junior Luke Voyles examines the suprising volatility of the electorate and its capacity to rapidly effect change. And junior Eli Scher-Zagier calls for mutual respect, understanding, and outreach. We take no institutional positions, but we endorse public discourse. We hope you remain politically involved, because everyone reading this magazine (and everyone who is not) is an interested party in our politics. We hope that we, the people, hold our government accountable to those it serves, and we hope that you, our friends, enjoy this iteration of the Washington University Political Review.
Jack Goldberg Front Cover Cathy O'Malley Theme Spread Thomas Fruhauf Back Cover Bohao Zhang
Sam Klein Grace Portelance Editors-in-Chief
WE THE PEOPLE
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WU POLITICAL REVIEW | WE THE PEOPLE
ENGAGEMENT’S HARD. WE STILL NEED IT. Eli Scher-Zagier “
rue diversity is diversity of thought, not diversity of color. I don’t see color,” conservative political commentator Tomi Lahren
argued during an interview with Trevor Noah in December 2016. Noah, the liberal host of The Daily Show, replied that “there is nothing wrong with seeing color; it’s how you treat color that’s more important.”
This exchange underscores the vast disagreement between the left and the right on what constitutes diversity and who embodies it. For instance, the Democratic Party Platform proclaims: “Democrats are the party of inclusion... we respect differences of perspective and belief, and pledge to work together to move this country forward, even when we disagree.” Yet Republicans contend that Democrats betray this principle when they attempt to force bakers to prepare wedding cakes and government officials to officiate same-sex weddings despite their deeply held religious beliefs. This is part of a larger Republican assertion that Democrats do not believe in diversity of thought and are attempting to restrict free expression and conservatism on university campuses and across the country. Similarly, Democrats see Republicans’ attempts to exclude LGBT protections from anti-discrimination laws and their rejection of the Black Lives Matter movement as flagrant limitations on diversity. The sense on the left that the Republican Party has embraced racism and discrimination only increased after the presidential election, as Democrats—and many Republicans—believe that President Donald Trump’s inflammatory comments on women and Mexicans are anathema to any idea of inclusion. But at the same time, conservatives regard Democratic characterizations of Trump supporters as racists who belong in “the basket of deplorables,” in Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s memorable words, as hypocritically condemning an entire group for their voting decision. Despite these points of contention, both sides seem to recognize their common goals and the importance of mutual respect. In her Daily Show interview, Lahren said: “I wish that we could disagree with each other without
thinking that we are bad people or ill-intentioned folks.” A few days later, in a New York Times op-ed, Noah argued that “[w]e can be unwavering in our commitment to racial equality while still breaking bread with the same racist people who’ve oppressed us.” These talkshow hosts realize that disagreement should not preclude respect or cooperation. They are not alone. Many people have called for more listening and understanding for those with different views following Trump’s unexpected win. Journalists, pundits, and politicians, who are often far removed from rural areas and do not have a good “feel for how the average person thinks and feels about politics and everything else,” as Washington Post commentator Chris Cillizza put it, have particularly promoted this attitude. Unfortunately, it is unknown if these calls for more interparty and ideological engagement will succeed among the American people or in Washington. After all, resentment runs deep. Many Democrats are angry that Clinton won the popular vote by nearly 2.9 million votes but still lost the election to a man they view as incompetent at best and dangerous at worst. Republicans, on the other hand, are furious over perceived Democratic efforts to undermine the legitimacy of Trump’s presidency and over a media double standard which they allege applies only to Trump. Returning to the perennial example, is the baker who refuses to make a cake for a same-sex wedding ceremony an anti-gay bigot who violates the rights of gays because of who they love? Or is the baker a devout Christian whose religious liberty is violated because he believes in the traditional definition of marriage? In this scenario, who is right and who is wrong matters less than the fact that both sides passionately and sincerely believe that their views are correct and that they hold the moral high ground on diversity, same-sex marriage/ LGBT rights, and a vast array of other issues. Whatever views you hold, the only way to convince others of your position is to engage with an open mind and an eagerness to understand the opposing stance.
It is not easy to engage with people whose views we find abhorrent. But we must understand that both Democrats and Republicans are rightly upset and work to grasp why. Indeed, Lahren and Noah’s civil and meaningful conversation about important issues shows that this type of engagement is possible—and valuable. Lahren and Noah are iconic firebrands on the right and left, respectively, and by appearing together, they gave many liberals and conservatives who rarely listen to views they find offensive the opportunity to hear the opposing side. It is not easy to engage with people whose views we find abhorrent. But we must understand that both Democrats and Republicans are rightly upset and work to grasp why. As Stephen Colbert said on Face the Nation, an "unquestioned belief… doesn’t serve you in any way.” Engagement allows us to question every tenet we hold dear. If we want to be confident in, strengthen, and, yes, sometimes revise our convictions—whatever they may be—then we must seek out those who will challenge them.
Eli Scher-Zagier is a junior in the College of Arts & Science. He can be reached at email@example.com.
WU POLITICAL REVIEW | ELECTION
NO, DONALD TRUMP IS NOT A CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS Michael Fogarty | Illustration by Avni Joshi
onstitutional crisis” is quite possibly one of the most overused (and misused) phrases in political commentary. Recently, pundits
predicting the end of the world as we know it have, for a broad assortment of reasons, taken to calling Donald Trump’s victory a constitution-
al crisis. These reasons include the apparent unconstitutionality of some of his policy proposals, the potential for his personal financial interests to create conflicts of interest, and the alleged existential danger that his election poses for our democratic norms and traditions. Trump may very well be uniquely unqualified to be the president, and will very likely damage our democracy and the nation’s material and foreign policy interests. But that does not imply that he is a one-man constitutional wrecking ball. Political crises are often mistakenly called constitutional crises, especially if they involve constitutional matters such as impeachments or elections. However, the branches of government are constantly in conflict with each other. In fact, the system of checks and balances was designed to accommodate this type of normal political disagreement. A true constitutional crisis occurs when the constitutional system is unable to adequately respond to political conflicts or exogenous crises, whether they are related to economic, environmental, or national security issues. Instead of abiding by this definition, pundits frequently label every political disagreement involving the Constitution a crisis. Even if it seems inevitable to some that Trump will cause a political, ethical, or economic crisis, the system of checks and balances is robust enough to prevent such a situation from devolving into a constitutional crisis. Constitutional crises are truly exceptional events with consequences that are far more severe than the garden-variety crises that Trump may or may not cause.
Still, some may believe that the Trump administration will indeed precipitate a constitutional crisis. It might help to consider a hypothetical example of what a true crisis looks like. In the most serious type of constitutional crisis, two opposing factions disagree about which course of action is constitutionally correct and seek recourse outside the established system. In this situation, Party A and Party B both believe they are correct and accuse their adversaries of violating the Constitution. However, mere disagreement over constitutional matters is not a sufficient condition for a constitutional crisis, but rather a constant feature of political life. For this disagreement to devolve into a constitutional crisis, either Party A or Party B would have to resort to unconventional and extreme measures, such as force, to prove their point. The most obvious and exceptional example of this type of situation in American history is the Civil War. A similar situation is unlikely to occur during Trump’s presidency, primarily because Congress could impeach him before he triggered a true crisis. The Civil War arose from disputes over federalism and the proper division of power between the states and the federal government, while a Trump-induced crisis would presumably arise from conflict between Trump and either Congress or the Supreme Court. This important distinction means Congress would be able to use its impeachment power to check President Trump, whereas the Union government had no legal recourse to check the secessionist states. If Trump took actions that undermined the constitutional order or even posed a serious threat of doing so, Congress would have a powerful check against him without having to resort to the threat or use of force. Even though Congress has a Republican majority, congressional leaders have made it clear that they intend to pursue their own agenda and not blindly follow President Trump’s lead.
Although impeachments are political crises of the highest magnitude, they are not necessarily constitutional crises. An impeachment can show that the system of checks and balances is, in fact, working properly. Indeed, Congress’ removal power was designed to allow the legislative branch to oust a president who damages the constitutional system. What would be a constitutional crisis would be if Trump were impeached, and then he refused to accept the results. Trump would assert that he is the legitimate president (conceivably because the Senate trial was “rigged” against him), and there would be two competing claims about who was the legitimate president. However, this situation is extremely unlikely to occur because Congress’ authority to impeach the president has so far gone unquestioned. While many pundits and commentators, especially those on the political left, have sounded warnings about the impending doom about to befall our constitutional system, these predictions are alarmist rhetoric. People tend to use the phrase “constitutional crisis” in situations that do not meet the criteria because they are afraid that the current conflict will evolve into a true crisis. The alarm sounding and accusations flying that Trump will cause a constitutional crisis are symptoms of the same phenomenon. While Trump’s presidency may well be an unmitigated political and economic disaster, that alone is not enough to make Trump a harbinger of constitutional disaster.
Michael Fogarty is a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences. He can be reached at michael. firstname.lastname@example.org.
WU POLITICAL REVIEW | WE THE PEOPLE
POWER OVER PRINCIPLE Ryan Mendelson
f the founding fathers had witnessed the last
twelve months of American politics, they
would be rolling over in their graves. In the af-
termath of the most turbulent election cycle in decades, Americans seem to have forgotten the most basic founding principles of the country. When the founding fathers gathered to craft the constitution, they were driven by the pur-
suit of achieving the common goals written in the preamble through compromise: establishing justice, insuring domestic tranquility, promoting the general welfare, and others. Without compromise, our bicameral legislature, for example, would have never been implemented. Both the Democratic and Republican parties are responsible for resisting compromise today. However, while the former has expanded on (and arguably radicalized) its historical positions of higher taxes and federal government oversight, the latter has strayed from its founding principles of individual and regional freedom. In abandoning its traditional values for the sheer preservation of its power, the Republican Party is falling off the rails. The transformation of the Republican Party is due in large part to the changing opinions of the electorate. During this election cycle, support for the Republican Party has come from both true conservatives and individuals who are simply fed up with governmental gridlock and feel left behind. Even establishment Republicans are rallying behind Donald Trump, a man who strongly challenges traditional notions of conservatism, as a last-ditch effort to save their party from a potentially irreparable rift. Even Speaker Paul Ryan, the figurehead of the Republican Party, has resigned to supporting Trump, even after condemning Trump’s most polarizing comments and threats. Ryan’s endorsement symbolizes the extent to which Republicans have begun to resist truly conservative values in favor of electoral victory. The Republican party-before-values mentality is not limited to the federal level. Just weeks after Democrat Roy Cooper was narrowly elected governor of North Carolina, the Republican state
legislature voted to drastically reduce the power of the incoming governor. Some effects of this power blockade include requiring all cabinet appointments to be subjected to senate approval and reducing the number of governor-controlled state employees by over two-thirds. Professor Steven Greene of North Carolina State University claims that while he thinks it “reasonable” for a legislature to vote to limit executive power, he disapproves of the decision to execute such far-reaching policy in the context of a lost election. This action begs the question of whether or not North Carolina Republicans care about preserving free and fair elections or care only about their own party’s victory. If ensuring that propagating your point of view is the only way to preserve “freedom,” it may be time to go back to the drawing board and carefully consider the principles of compromise and collective rule that the founding fathers envisioned. This turbulence begs the question of whether it is really more important for North Carolina Republicans to win and to further their party's agenda than it is for our founding democratic principles to be upheld. Ultimately, the Republican Party must decide whether the preservation of the Republican Party is more important than the future of the Republic. By subscribing to Trump’s bigoted rhetoric, the Republican Party indirectly alienates Black Americans, Latino Americans, women, and others. Similarly, by attempting to siphon the power of the newly elected Democratic governor, North Carolina Republicans are challenging the will of the people that elected Cooper. Regardless of what Republican leaders may claim, to many Americans, by aligning with Trump and taking roundabout measures to cling to power on both the state and federal levels, the Republican Party has morphed into a party symbolizing bigotry and oppression. For a party that is supposed to emphasize individual freedoms and free market principles, how can this be? Although one could argue that supporting the nominee of one’s party is, by virtue, a way to engage with the democratic process, this
In abandoning its traditional values for the sheer preservation of its power, the Republican Party is falling off the rails. argument seems difficult to defend when it has become customary to prioritize the sheer preservation of one party’s power over its guiding ideologies. The Democratic Party undoubtedly has its fair share of issues, but the Republican Party is more clearly forgetting its roots. Even after sweeping the 2016 election, Republican leaders must return to these roots and the founding principles of the Constitution instead of challenging and abandoning them in order to establish an enduring legacy. The demise of the Republican Party will come not merely with the changing attitudes of the electorate but through the abandonment of the traditional conservative roots on which the party prides itself. It is essential to remember that the United States was founded with the principle aim of resisting tyrannical government. As such, a party that fails to acknowledge and accept the interests of the people in the face of its own thirst for power is a form of tyranny in itself. As long as the Republican Party continues along this path, it will continue to menace the credibility of the state and the well-being of the American people.
Ryan Mendelson is a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences. He can be reached at email@example.com.
WU POLITICAL REVIEW | ELECTION
WE THE PEOPLE
The Expansion of American Civil Rights JULY 4, 1776
JANUARY 1, 1863
The Declaration of Independence is ratified to signal
The Emancipation Proclamation takes effect,
an escape from British monarchy rule.
abolishing slavery in all states.
AUGUST 18, 1920 Women obtain the right to vote with the
AUGUST 6, 1965 The Voting Rights Act goes into effect, banning
MAY 17, 1954
ratification of the 19th amendment.
The landmark case Brown v. Board of Education signals the end of de jure segregation in public schools.
racial discrimination in voting.
In a 7-2 vote, the Supreme Court rules in favor
State bans on same-sex marriage are declared
of protecting a womanâ€™s right to choose to
unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in
have an abortion.
Obergefell v. Hodges.
WU POLITICAL REVIEW | WE THE PEOPLE
PATRIOTISM TRUMPS POLITICS Jordan Phillips | Illustration by MJ Brown
hear something in Hebrew. I look back, confused, at the woman behind the counter. She
switches languages and says, “Ah of course,
you are American. How will you be paying?” I hand her my credit card and she responds, “thank you. So you are American. How do you feel about
Trump?” This exchange was common during my recent trip to Israel during Winter Break. As I traveled abroad, being a foreigner in a different country made me experience a form of patriotism that I have never felt before. The discomfort of being in a country that is not America is always there – nothing feels like being in your native country – but I also felt I could be a personal ambassador for America. Everywhere I went, once people knew I was American, the same question arose: “What do you think of Trump?” This was posed to me countless times, typically with some laughter as if they knew the answer already. They never anticipated the conversation that would follow. I always asked what they were curious to know about. Most Israelis wanted to hear about Trump’s policies on Israel. They would get excited when I would mention his plans to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem but would also say they hear he lies all the time. The conversation would quickly move on to other topics. Their image of Trump never defined their image of America. I did not vote for Donald Trump. I did not vote for any of my representatives in the federal government nor in florida’s government. However, I am still prouder than ever to be an American and happy to talk about what that means with people. My fellow Americans on my trip would tell Israelis that they were ashamed to be American because of Trump. This always bothered me. America is not defined just by its leaders. It is defined by every individual and how they contribute to our country. We the people elect our representatives to lead, but their job is also to represent us and our interests. I have come across a growing amount of anti-patriotism among individuals in college and across the country since the election, and it must stop. You can love your country without loving its leaders. We hold national elections every two years and leadership will always
change. There will be many domestic and foreign policies that our government will pursue that I and many others will not support. This always happens. About half the country will disagree with the government and half will support it. We have checks and balances that theoretically lead to more centrist policies, but for the next two years (at least) this likely will not happen as often because of the complete Republican control of all parts of the federal government. While this is occurring, the half of the country that is upset by the government can still wake up each day and fight for what they care about. We can write to our representatives and explain our positions, support institutions that need our help, or begin preparing for the next election. All of this will help shape the government, but the government is just one part of what defines a nation. After talking about President Trump, many Israelis would ask about the NBA, where they should go when they visit the USA, or tell me about food they had the last time they were in America. This is a reminder that we are more than just our government. We, the American people, are what shapes our country.
To be an American is a privilege and to represent America is an honor. The values of our country come from many different places and our leadership does not decide what they are. We do. I knew every time I spoke to an Israeli I became their image of what all Americans are like. It is not our politics that defines us a nation. America is a nation of immigrants, all with different stories, who come from different places and backgrounds. I cannot represent all of America, but America can represent all of us. Americans may not realize that the important values of domestic tranquility, promoting general welfare, and securing liberty do not just come from the preamble to our constitution. They are the values that come from the people. They are the values we each hold and care about. America has its problems—every nation does—but we are a country of great individuals that has accomplished and will continue to accomplish amazing things because of the principles that guide us as individuals. Never be ashamed to be American. Be proud and continue to care about not just our politics, but our core values. Jordan Phillips is a freshman in the College of Arts & Sciences. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WU POLITICAL REVIEW | ELECTION
“WE THE PEOPLE” CAN CHANGE Luke Voyles
n 1932, 102,221 citizens of a certain nation vot-
ed for the Communist Party in their country’s presidential debate. In 1948, two governors of
the same country’s administrative municipalities ran on a ticket of oppression and apartheid for the nation’s racial minority. They gained all of the electoral votes of four of their nation’s main
divisions. Twenty years later, five of the main divisions went for another party arguing for the same concepts as the 1948 organization. The nation was the United States. The Communist Party under William Z. Foster and James Ford, the States’ Rights Party under Governor Strom Thurmond of South Carolina and Governor Fielding Wright of Mississippi, and the American Independent Party under Governor George Wallace and General Curtis LeMay all received ample support from certain segments of the American people. Some politicians argued for a totalitarian, though racially egalitarian, state while others sought the preservation of racial segregation in the United States. Both movements achieved limited, though considerable, success in presidential elections within the past century. As for the presidential candidates with widely considered controversial beliefs that did achieve major success in U.S. presidential elections, most readers would immediately point to President Donald Trump. Trump mocked a reporter with a disability, argued for the execution of the families of terrorists, and showed disregard for the Supreme Court ruling in Texas v Johnson that explicitly legalized flag burnings. Critics from both the right and from the left did not take such actions lightly, and they were right to air their grievances. Nevertheless, the vast majority of the tens of millions of Americans who did vote for Trump probably did not vote for him because of his controversial statements and actions. Rather, many conservatives probably voted for Trump in spite of his frequent foibles. There was unemployment or some other economic or social issue, such as abortion, that they did not want a Democrat handling for four years as the head of the executive branch. Democrats can organize and respond in kind with a different candidate and a refined message with the next presidential election.
Besides Trump’s vulnerability at the next presidential election, America’s history reveals that the people of the United States change the candidate that they support on a surprisingly consistent basis. The last election wherein a president from one party succeeded a president from the same party was in 1988, when President George H.W. Bush succeeded President Ronald Reagan. Additionally, the 1988 election was the only case of its kind since the 1952 election that ended 20 straight year of Democratic rule in the White House. Such dominance was unheard of since the days of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe in the first three decades of the 19th century. Many Americans change their minds, occasionally in less than a four-year span. In 1964, Democrat Lyndon Johnson rode a wave of sympathy over John Kennedy’s assassination and over civil rights and welfare legislation to reelection with over 61 percent of the vote, the highest since 1820. In 1968, Johnson announced his refusal to seek another term after his popularity plummeted after his support for the controversial Vietnam War, and the American people elected Republican Richard Nixon during the same year. In 1972, President Richard Nixon won reelection to the presidency with 520 electoral votes and 49 of the 50 states at his side. Two years later, Nixon resigned from his position under the specter of impeachment rulings from the House of Representatives and from the Senate. 1976 marked the election of Democrat Jimmy Carter to the White House, showing a second change of heart in the American electorate in eight years. All of the aforementioned elections and dates reinforce fact that certain events can radically change the views of various American voters. In 2017, Jessica Taylor reported that “22 counties that had once voted for Obama switched to Trump.” The report brought up the unemployment levels that probably influenced the change in voting behavior. Hillary Clinton probably failed because of unemployment in swing states and because of the issue of four possible Supreme Court nominations until 2020. Conservatives would not want somebody from the left to hold the right to nominate justices to those seats,
Besides Trump’s vulnerability at the next presidential election, America’s history reveals that the people of the United States change the candidate that they support on a surprisingly consistent basis. and so simply voted for the conservative candidate mostly likely to win after Trump’s nomination: Trump himself. Fortunately for President Trump’s critics, the reverse is also true. If Trump does not fulfill his promises to fill the Supreme Court with conservatives, commits major domestic and foreign policy blunders that obviously result from corruption and sheer incompetence, or does not give aid to the unemployed by creating jobs, his job might be the one in jeopardy during November of 2020.
Luke Voyles is a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences. He can be reached at email@example.com.
WU POLITICAL REVIEW | WE THE PEOPLE
OUR UNDEMOCRATIC DEMOCRACY Isabel Torres
s a junior in high school, I wrote an entire research paper on why the Electoral College was good for the American sys-
tem of government. Back then, I believed that the Founding Fathers’ end goal of keeping a
demagogue from gaining power in the U.S was a noble one, even if the distrust in democracy that also played a role in the creation of the Electoral College was not. After the 2016 election, I have realized that as noble a goal as keeping a demagogue out of power is, the Electoral College as it exists today is clearly not successful in accomplishing this goal. Instead of keeping a demagogue out of power, it enabled one to attain it without the support of the popular vote. I then wondered: Why was that? How has the Electoral College managed to stray so far from its purpose. What other system might be put in place to remedy the ills present in the current system? Looking back at the history of the Electoral College is an excellent way of answering those questions. According to Federalist Paper 68, Alexander Hamilton and other federalists imagined a system in which electors chosen by party elites would feel free to choose the candidate they thought was best. This system was viewed as elitist and, essentially, undemocratic by those who felt deprived of a voice in government. Under pressure to make the system more democratic, the Electoral College has changed so that the electors for each state are awarded to candidates based on the popular vote of that state. Currently, 30 states have fines in place to prevent electors from diverging from the popular vote of their states. However, since electors are chosen by party elites, the vestiges of elitism still remain. The way the delegates are chosen for the national conventions that elect the candidates for each major party was reformed in the late 1960s after riots during the Democratic National Convention caused those in charge to make it more democratic and less elitist. The process of choosing electors never went through this reform. This means that the Electoral College as it exists currently is a strange mix of current democratic notions and old elitist traditions that lead to very strange results.
The question remains as to how the Electoral College ended up putting a demagogue in power despite him losing the popular vote. The answer is that the way the system is currently set up, residents of less populous, more rural states states and swing states have more power than residents of densely populated states and states that are solidly red or solidly blue. Research from the U.S Department of Agriculture has shown that people in rural areas tend to have less formal education than people in urban areas. It was these less educated voters that inspired the creation of the Electoral College, but it is these less educated voters who also made Trump’s Electoral College victory possible. So, the Electoral College has actually given more power to those with less education, and so it is neither as elitist as the fouding fathers would have wished nor as democratic as most people today would wish. Although the goal of keeping a demagogue from taking power was noble, the Electoral College as it exists today hasn’t succeeded in accomplishing that goal. It also discourages voter turnout in solidly red and blue states, which is harmful to our democracy. Without it providing the one benefit an elitist system might afford, these ends no longer justify their means. What would I suggest to remedy this
flawed system? Considering how chaotic a reliance on the national popular vote might be, I wouldn’t suggest that. Instead, I think more states should follow the proportional allocation of votes that Maine and Nebraska have already put into practice. That way, more people will feel like they have a voice in our democratic republic. Every state would be a swing state of sorts and less people would be discouraged from voting. Overall, it would be a more beneficial system for everyone, instead of being the strange, contradictory, system it is today that has failed at its original purpose. It is strange that we have a system that is attempting to be more democratic, yet still keeps the people’s voice from being heard. According to FactCheck.org, two of the last five elections have resulted in the winner of the popular vote not winning the election. Previously, there were only three elections out of forty-two in which that occurred. Now, in the most recent election, a demagogue has exposed flaws in the system by winning the Electoral College but not the popular vote. Clearly, this is no longer an anomaly but a serious flaw we must address going forward.
Isabel Torres is a freshman in the College of Arts & Sciences. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WU POLITICAL REVIEW | ELECTION
TRUMP AND OBAMA: ELECTIONS BY THE NUMBERS 2008
365 173 OBAMA
66,882,230 58,343,671 VOTES
232 306 CLINTON
65,844,954 62,979,879 VOTES
Entry Favorability Ratings OBAMA (2009)
FAVORABLE UNFAVORABLE NO OPINON
GW BUSH (2001)
18% 26% 36% 55%
National WU POLITICAL REVIEW | NATIONAL
WHAT WILL ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY LOOK LIKE IN 2017? Emma Waltman | Illustration by Maddy Angstreich
n 2016, the effects of global climate change we have seen for decades became even more conspicuous. NASA has reported that 2016
was the warmest year on satellite record and that ice now covers 40% less area in the Arctic
Sea than it did in the late 1970s. It follows that the World Wildlife Fund reported that about a fourth of all coral reefs worldwide are damaged beyond repair. Of the remaining reefs, twothirds are severely threatened by ocean acidification, a result of the excessive amount of greenhouse gasses (GHG) in the atmosphere. Today, millions of people are at risk of starvation, illness, and homelessness for reasons that can be easily traced to climate change. In brief, the threats of climate change caused great tragedy around the globe in 2016, and scientists believe that these effects will only become more detrimental in the upcoming year. Fortunately, a majority of world leaders have accepted the evidence linking GHG emissions to the public health tragedies and biodiversity losses that seem to only increase. As a result, politicians like President Barack Obama, Chancellor Angela Merkel, and President Xi Jinping of China have made great strides in implementing environmental policy that promotes sustainability in 2016. Back in 2015, a number of ambitious countries announced a goal of switching to 100% renewable energy, and many of these have met or come incredibly close to this goal in 2016. Bonaire, a small Caribbean island, has been able to provide 100% renewable electricity, and Costa Rica spent two months using 100% renewable energy as well. Sweden, Scotland, Germany, Ireland, and Uruguay have also continued to lead in the field of renewable energy. As a whole, the
international community recognized the importance of combating climate change when it ratified the Paris Agreement, which entered into force in November 2016. Three days after it did, the UNFCCC hosted its 23rd Conference of the Parties in Marrakech, Morocco. In accordance with the Paris Agreement, 117 member parties of the UNFCCC, including the United States, have now submitted their first official Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), detailing what specific actions they will take to meet the Paris Agreement’s main goal of limiting global temperature increase this century to “well below 2°C”. These submissions include emission targets for 2020 and 2025, and each country’s commitment is publicly available on the UNFCCC’s website. Domestically, we saw a gallant push for reform by President Obama in 2016. Most notably, the executive branch created the Clean Power Plan(CPP), citing the 1964 Clean Air Act to justify its creation. The CPP is regulated by the EPA and was implemented to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants powered by oil, coal, and natural gas by 32% by 2030 from 2005 levels. Under the plan, each state must meet goals based on the number of power plants present within their borders. It didn’t take long for congressional Republicans (almost all of whom receive great sums of money from the fossil fuel industry) to mobilize an army to oppose the so-called "war on coal." Red states and agencies argued that Obama’s plan is unconstitutional, and eventually, their appeal made its way to the Supreme Court. In a 5-4 vote, the Court voted a stay, delaying further EPA action until the court has fully reviewed the plan and determined its constitutionality.
Obama is no longer in office, and so he will not see the end of this court battle. So where do we go from here? What will environmental policy look like in 2017 under Trump? Realistically speaking, the CPP is doomed. Shortly after the 5-4 ruling, Justice Scalia passed, leaving a vacant seat in the Supreme Court that will indefinitely turn red. It will likely take a least a year for the seat to be filled and for the new Supreme Court to rule on the legality of the CPP. Still, it matters little when the court will make a ruling, since Trump has promised to put an end to the plan entirely. He is not the only one with this goal: Scott Pruitt, the new EPA head, has spent the previous year leading Republicans in their case against the Clean Power Plan. Yes, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency will be in the middle of a lawsuit against his very agency when he takes office. If this sounds troubling, it’s because it is. However, the goals of the CPP are by no means moot. During his talk at Stanford University, Hal Harvey explained that states still have the power to set environmental standards as they deem fit under the 1964 Clean Air Act. Many states have already begun to move forward on their own accord with the CPP. This fact provides a beacon of hope for 2017 environmental policy, since states have the power to establish energy efficient programs, pass carbon taxes, and set building codes. Additionally, two of the top four GHG emitters, California and Illinois, openly supported the executive branch’s Clean Air Act. California has made great strides in environmental policy, and other blue states will be following its lead this year. Even states that are involved in the lawsuit against the Clean Power Plan, like Kentucky, are on track to reach emission targets
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(though they are incentivized to do so because of the increasing costs of coal). Although the fossil fuel industry appears to have a strong monetary hold on the country, experts agree that the world and our nation are moving towards renewable energy. This movement, they say, can be slowed, but it cannot be stopped. What about the Paris Agreement? Trump has said he wants out and has the ability to pull us from the agreement. Fortunately, this, along with 70% of what he says as reported by Politifact, is based in deceit. When we ratified the Paris Agreement this fall, we committed to it for four years. Trump could potentially pull us out of the UNFCCC altogether only a year after its ratification, but this would have dire consequences. In addition to the shame we would face from the international community, we would lose valuable intelligence about what other parties are working towards. It is very probable that other countries would place burdens on the United States if we were to withdraw from the UNFCCC, including the placement of tariffs on trade items and fees on American airlines landing in their airports. Not only would backing out of the Paris Agreement have environmental consequences, but economic ones, too. Trump, a businessman at heart, must understand what is at stake for the reputation of United States. In summary, it would be incredibly unlikely for the United States to officially pull out of the Paris Agreement. It would not be worth the economic repercussions and loss of international intelligence to do so. What may likely, however, is for the US to simply not keep the promises made in our NDC, for the United Nations has no ability to enforce policy, only make suggestions. Trump and Congressional Republicans have shown no interest in pursuing the renewable energy policies detailed in our nation’s NDC. But remember: the document is easily viewable online. Other parties, including the EU, China, and India, know what we have promised and will be monitoring us in the years to come. We will face incredible international pressure if and when we back out of our promises. Trump’s international advisors are aware of this and will advise him to follow through on our energy duties to the international community—if not for the environment, then for our reputation.
Of course, Trump has voiced his disregard for what other countries think of us. However, many political scientists believe that there is one thing that may motivate Trump to abide by the Paris Agreement more than anything else: our on-going competitiveness with China. If the United States was to drop its commitment to the UNFCCC, China could see an opportunity to emerge as the world leader in renewable energy. The country has made significant strides in lowering GHG emissions and moving towards sustainable development. For example, in November 2014, China announced two major goals in environmental policy: to peak GHG emissions by the year 2030, and to increase the amount of energy provided by renewable resources to 20 percent of total energy consumption by 2030. Theses goals were elaborated upon in the nation’s submitted NDC. It is probable that Trump will view this possibility as a threat, and that this will provide incentive for the president-elect to move forward with the Paris Agreement. Domestically, it is likely that the process of converting to renewable energy will be slowed in 2017 as Trump takes office and as the majority in Congress remains Republican. The Clean Power Plan will likely be cut, and Trump’s fossil fuel-funded cabinet will be doing what they can to continue the United States’ reliance on coal and oil. However, California and other states will
be counteracting this federal push with effective state-level energy policies and investment in wind, solar, and other forms of renewable energy. The fight is in no way lost, but environmentalists will have to push harder. I suggest writing to Senator Roy Blunt and congressmen and congresswomen from your home districts about the importance of investing in renewable energy. Internationally, countries around the world will continue to make incredible strides towards renewable resources. And if the US doesn’t move forward with them, we will lose our standing as a superpower when we get left behind.
Emma Waltman is a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences and the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts. She can be reached at email@example.com
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NATURALLY, THE GOVERNMENT IS RED, WHITE, AND BLUE Nicholas Kinberg | Illustration by Neema Samawi
he 2016 election is over, and Donald Trump has emerged victorious. It was a crazy ride, with most of the pundits pro-
jecting a modest Clinton victory. Now that that
is behind us, we can safely say that the federal government is going to be Republican for at least the next two years—possibly four, considering that Democrats have a lot of seats to defend in the Senate in 2018. That, however, doesn’t mean that the government is Republican by design. In regards to the presidency, House, and Senate, each institution seems to take on its own bent: Democratic, Republican, and neutral, respectively.
One possible change that would better reflect our democratic principles would be to adopt the popular vote system to elect our president. Trump won the presidency despite losing the popular vote by almost three million votes. Had 22,000 votes been switched in Wisconsin, Clinton would’ve secured that state’s ten electoral votes. Had 11,000 been switched in Michigan, she would’ve gotten another sixteen. And had 55,000 ballots gone the other way in Pennsylvania, she would’ve won there too. This means that Donald Trump won the election through the Electoral College by 88,000— 0.0006 percent of ballots cast. If the President runs again in 2020 and wins the popular vote,
the Republicans will have won the popular vote for the first time in sixteen years. President Bush was the last Republican candidate to win the popular vote, earning a plurality of three million in 2004. To make matters worse for GOP prospects, Clinton’s plurality was larger than the margins of victory seen in 2000, 1976, 1968, 1960, and 1948. The presidency—or, at least, the popular vote—tends to be blue. The state of the Senate shares some similarities with the presidency. Though it is important to note that this year’s cycle witnessed Democratic vote totals increased by the California and New York Senate races (California’s Senate race was between two Democrats), even if one were to subtract the vote totals of the losing candidate in the California Senate race, the Democrats still would’ve won the popular vote for this chamber by six million. The Democrats even won during midterms in 2006, something they had not accomplished since 1990. But as with the presidency, the popular vote for Senate elections means nothing. All popular vote totals show is that the country is much more Democratic during presidential elections, yet since 1981, power has switched in the upper chamber five times. Currently the Senate is undertaking a slight Republican bent, as pundits and betting markets have projected that Republicans will hold onto their slim majority until at least 2021. This is because the Democratic Party will be defending 23 seats. To make matters even worse for liberals, ten of those seats are from states that went to Mr. Trump just three months ago. The House, however, should remain Republican until, at the very least, the end of the decade. Since 2010, there has been a deficiency in close House elections, to the point where even if Republicans didn’t get enough votes to take those close seats, they would still have a majority. If Republicans do well in the 2018 gubernatorial elections, they will control state legislatures right before the 2020 census. Should this
happen, they will have control over the redistricting that takes place subsequently after. And that means gerrymandering—a lot of gerrymandering—and another decade of Republican control of the House. Moreover, House elections have been considerably more Republican than their Senate counterparts. The last time Democrats had a clear majority in these elections was 2008. Even during elections that have taken place simultaneously with presidential elections, Democrats have done poorly. Despite Clinton having won the popular vote by three million just two months ago, the Republicans still won the House elections with a plurality of 1.5 million.
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Despite Clinton having won the popular vote by three million, the Republican still won the House elections with a plurality.
Republicans do even better during midterms, owing to low turnout and alleged voter suppression via voter-ID laws, gerrymandering, and other ordinances found in individual states (North Carolinaâ€™s lawmakers were accused by a judge of suppressing the minority vote with "surgical precision"). Their margins have climbed as high as six million in 2010. Beyond this, conservatives simply vote more than liberals, the former having become more and more Republican, according to a Pew Research Center study published in July 2014. This is the current state of the federal government. For the House, the last few decades have seen Republican control, a trend that seems unlikely to change. As for the Senate and the
presidency, it takes time for trends to change. Maybe Republicans have just been running bad presidential candidates and having bad campaigns for their Senate races. If they choose to run someone like Marco Rubio or Eric Greitens in 2024 and beyond, they could start seeing winning margins. If their coattails are effective and the Republicans have a good ground-game, they could hold the Senate for lengths of time not seen since pre-Reagan.
Nicholas Kinberg is a freshman in the College of Arts & Sciences. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
International WU POLITICAL REVIEW | INTERNATIONAL
WHEN COPS BECOME ROBBERS: MEXICO’S BLURRED VIGILANTE JUSTICE Delmar Tarragó
t seems that the Tierra Caliente (Hot Land) region of southern Mexico has no plans of simmering down. Conveniently located along
an important and highly contested drug trafficking route, Mexico’s Hot Land has a long history of smuggling and violence. The mountains and valleys within the state of Michoacán host meth labs and marijuana plantations important to cartel organizations, while the state’s port city, Lazaro Cardenas, serves as an entry point for US-bound drugs. Its important geographic location, coupled with government neglect of the area, has resulted in a lawless state where cartel violence reigns.
This past December marked the ten-year anniversary of the Mexican war on drugs. The drug war in Mexico began in earnest in December of 2006 with the election of Felipe Calderon as President. The Michoacán native wasted no time in taking action against Mexico’s drug trafficking problem, sending 6,500 soldiers to Mexico’s Hot Land to take on the drug cartels in his first month in office. The large-scale operation marked a major shift from the blind eye that the government had historically turned towards the country’s rampant cartel activity. Calderon continued his attack on drug cartels throughout his six-year presidency, making his attempt to stop organized crime in Mexico one of his major legacies. Mexico’s war on drugs has been violent. While in the past decade many in the US have focused on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, south of the border a major conflict was occurring much closer to home. Between 2007 and 2014, some of the drug war’s most violent years, there were more than 164,000 reported homicides in Mexico, over 60,000 more than
the civilian deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq combined. According to Reuters, between 2007 and 2012, at the height of the Mexican war on drugs, total murders rose by 112 percent. While not every homicide during this period was directly related to cartel violence, the drug war’s effect on these statistics is undeniable. And there is an explanation for this. The Mexican drug war is a catch-22 of sorts. The more the government combats the cartels, even making progress against them, the more violence it reaps. In 2006, Calderon vowed to take down Mexico’s drug cartels; needless to say, a noble undertaking. But what happened? As the newly elected Mexican president turned to the country’s armed forces to take on the cartels, Calderon only escalated the violence. By deploying the military, Calderon destabilized Mexico’s illegal drug trafficking industry. While this might sound great, the effects are more varied. With delicate alliances completely shattered, drug routes disrupted, and important cartel leadership captured, mayhem ensued. For the drug cartels, violence was the answer: violence within cartels and between cartels to take advantage of internal power vacuums, violence to establish dominance over drug routes, violence to get back at enemies, violence, violence, violence. And it wasn’t just that the violence was widespread. It was the utter brutality and lengths to which those involved went to make their point. Public executions, tortured bodies, and beheadings became a certain type of norm in disputed areas of Mexico, with the aftermath displayed publically for all to see. This head-on collision between the state and Mexico’s drug cartels had another major effect: it transformed the drug trade into an industry
and a network dealing with much more than drugs. With government efforts to crack down on drug trafficking, cartels found their work becoming much harder and more expensive. As a result, Mexican cartels began to diversify their streams of income, adding extortion, human trafficking, piracy, and oil theft to their repertoire. This diversification alongside the escalation of armed conflicts with the Mexican military created highly organized and powerful crime groups--a new force to be reckoned with.
The more the government combats the cartels, the more violence it reaps. In Mexico’s Hot Land this shift has been particularly evident. Once controlled by the powerful Familia Michoacana cartel, in 2011 the region began being terrorized by the Knights Templar. A splinter group of the Familia Michoacana, the Knights Templar continued and expanded the widespread violence and extortion introduced by La Familia. No one was immune. From avocado growers to taxi drivers, every facet of the local economy was controlled. A 2013 Washington Post article even reports a restaurant owner complaining about the cartel taking a cut of the coins from his jukebox. The extortion was out of control and missed payments had a heavy price tag. Those who couldn’t pay were killed, and wives and children were often kidnapped. Yet the government did nothing. With a strong influence over local officials,
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the actions of the Knights Templar went largely unchecked. Or at least they did until community members decided to take matters into their own hands. Fed up with the widespread extortion, kidnappings and violence, thousands joined the cause, banding together to protect their communities. Piled in pickup trucks and heavily armed, ragtag vigilante groups appeared throughout Michoacán, hoping to put an end to the reign of the Knights Templar. They set up roadblocks and checkpoints, patrolled the community and even made arrests with court trials and subsequent sentences. They wanted change. In the
Piled in pickup trucks and heavily armed, ragtag vigilante groups appeared throughout Michoacán. Michoacán towns of La Ruana, Tepalcatepec, and Buena Vista, self-defense groups took over police stations and confronted, sometimes violently, municipal police and even federal soldiers. It was the people’s movement. The people were rising up against their government’s neglect in the face of unprecedented violence and insecurity. If the government couldn’t provide them safety, they would do it themselves. And to a certain extent they did. The region’s community self-defense groups, known as “autodefensas,” wrestled back control of municipalities and cities that were longtime cartel strongholds in the area. The vigilante groups reclaimed farmland taken by the Knights Templar and properties and businesses that had fallen to cartel lawyers and cartel intimidation. For many, the autodefensas were a dream come true. However, the ragtag community justice groups
walked a delicate line. Before long, rumors of cartel influence within the self-defense groups spread. Others complained about looting and ransacking for personal gain or vengeance. In other instances, self-defense groups were fighting other self-defense groups. Who was policing the vigilante police? In late 2015 Mexico’s National Commission on Human Rights released a report urging Mexican officials to investigate the Hot Land’s self-defense groups, stating the possible infiltration of the autodefensas by criminal groups and the possibility that the vigilante groups were engaging in criminal activities. Earlier that fall, the governor of Michoacán declared that the self-defense groups would no longer be tolerated. The autodefensa movement was coming under fire. And, one might say, with good reason. The famed Familia Michoacana cartel is said to have started as a vigilante group, running out the violent Zeta cartel from much of Mexico’s Hot Land. But this same so-called regional community defense group would go on to make its entrance onto the national stage by bowling 5 decapitated human heads on a nightclub dance floor, calling for “divine justice.” Any good deeds it may have done were short-lived. It is reported that La Familia Michoacana went on to extort an estimated 85% of licit business in Michoacán, crippling the state’s economy and the livelihood of its people. The Knights Templar, the very cartel that the Hot Land’s vigilante groups were trying to drive out, had similar beginnings. They too began by casting themselves as a self-defense movement on behalf of the region’s people. Using religious imagery and spreading propaganda about their fight against “materialism, injustice and tyranny” the Knights Templar began taking over the region, eventually becoming the violent and repressive drug trafficking cartel that the region’s people would rise against. The irony here is strong, but the chaos and confusion in what is a seemingly lawless state in
Mexico’s Hot Land is real. There are no clearcut heroes or leaders as those involved walk a blurred line between what is right and wrong. This is Mexico’s drug war and the country’s vigilante justice shows how fragile a country’s institutions and control can be. It shows how an area so neglected by its government can become a catalyst for both cartel and vigilante movements vying for control. Mexico’s war on drugs has raged on for 10 years now. December marked a decade of violence and uncertainty as the government’s efforts have done little to reduce crime or bloodshed in its troubled regions. After two years of falling homicide rates, the number of murder victims is again on the rise, in some places reaching or exceeding the levels seen at the peak of cartel violence 5 years ago. With no clear solutions on hand and a continued American demand for narcotics, Mexico’s struggle with violent organized crime doesn’t appear to have a foreseeable end. In Mexico’s Hot Land, this is especially true. In September, gunmen reportedly linked to the Knights Templar shot down a government helicopter, showing not only the power of criminal organizations in the area, but also their brash willingness for conflict. This past year, 2016, also saw the re-emergence of vigilante groups within the region, as autodefensas have begun to re-arm themselves in response to increasing violence. Mexico’s Hot Land remains a hotbed for conflict, one that appears to have no plans for cooling down. The region’s people are paying the price for international and domestic decisions and movements completely out of their control. The transnational drug trade, fueled by our enormous appetite for illegal drugs and Mexico’s inability to effectively provide for the region’s people, has created years of violence and uncertainty. We can only hope 2017 brings a better year. Delmar Tarragó is a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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