By Spencer Bradley
“We’re not gonna take it,” the popular words of Twisted Sister capture the feelings of the Greek people after Sunday’s popular referendum to decide debt payment policy. Had the Greek people voted to continue dealing with the IMF and the Eurozone, the technocrats in Germany and France would have worked towards removing the Syriza government, and implementing harsher austerity packages. The middle class and bourgeoisie, fearing collapse or systemic alterations, advocated for surrender to the IMF and the European Union. Yet, in a show of popular democracy, 61% of Greeks said “Oxi”; they said “No”. Rather than capitulating, or imposing further austerity measures that have already proven to be ineffective, the Greek people are willing to deal with rationing, destabilization of global financial markets, and a barter economy which will more than likely lead to the return of the Drachma. The Greek infrastructure will require drastic reorganization and life will be more difficult. Though this is a win for democracy, the Greek decision may prove influential to other countries “weighing their options” against the Euro.
Despite the wishes of Germany and the IMF, the Greek people have decided to stop forming policy around austerity. Austerity is the economic concept that “tightens the spending” of the government to pay off debt when it is high. Unfortunately, the economic principle fails by its own composition. While austerity is good for the individual, the actual costs of austerity are found in the way it inhibits growth. Shrinking of the economy causes growth to slow. When growth slows, countries are unable to repay their debts. As Paul Krugman notes, the shrunken economy can never repay its debt under such economic policies, perpetuating the cycle of debt and suffering. It should also be taken into account that the Greek people are footing the bill for irresponsible lenders to the Greek government. “The private lenders on one end of the public debt transaction were fully bailed out back in 2012 while the public Greek borrower remained on the hook — but now to public rather than private bodies. More than 90 percent of the bailout funds Greece has received from the troika have gone to repay lenders rather than restart the Greek economy”. The praxis of austerity has failed to reboot the Greek economy and other European powers who sit riddled with debt. The IMF, European Central Bank, and the European Commission cannot expect the Greek economy to restart, despite the bailout efforts, when a majority of their funds have been used to fulfill the obligations of creditors. We have seen time and time again that austerity only leads to more problems. For example, the Great Depression was improving until Roosevelt cut government spending by 17%, leading to a recession and further prolonging the Great Depression. As such, the Greek decision is not flying in the face of conventional wisdom, but serves as a national dictate against outside influence and self-constituted autonomy. This reveals a kernel of truth in the EU, not all states are equal, and German hegemony dictates terms to other nations.
The popular decision goes against the desires of Frankfurt, Berlin, Paris, and Wall Street. The “No” referendum carries with it the potential for a “Grexit” from the Eurozone. This would require an extreme amount of work to, “implement a new payments system, to reprogram a modern financial infrastructure, to reestablish financial links with Europe and the rest of the world, and regain access to international markets. In the meantime, food, fuel, and medicine would need to be rationed.” Though this image brings to mind old Soviet breadlines, the interesting point is that the people have spoken. The preferred option to austerity is suffering from the belly. The IMF has stated that the Greek economy would have to reach a level of growth of 4% per year while putting 15% of its GDP towards debt repayment, an unattainable goal when austerity is already shrinking the economy. The Greek people have chosen a different path outside of global financial norms. Whether or not one agrees with the decision and its subsequent implications, one must respect the democratic character of the decision. The people, not technocrats, business, or political elites either from the inside or outside, decided by a majority to cease playing by the Troikia’s demands. This precedent could lead to additional exits from the EU, as Ireland and Spain, both owing large amounts of debt, are sympathetic to the Greek plight. A Greek exit could inspire the now far-left Spanish government to seek exit as well.
Finally, the question comes to whether or not a Greek default would affect the United States. Global markets have dropped slightly, but investors in the U.S. and Asia are confident that the Central Bank will step in. This reveals an interesting power the debtor nations hold. They possess the power to fight back because the costs of letting them go are too great. President Obama has made it clear he has no interest in joining Germany and France in squeezing the Greeks, stating that we “cannot keep on squeezing countries that are in the midst of depression.” The Treasury Department has refrained from further comment and instead passed the buck to the ECB. “The [European Central Bank’s] vast array of tools, the euro area firewall, the European stability mechanism, the single supervisory mechanism, which is of particular help to the banking sector – these are all tools that could be deployed if it’s warranted by conditions in Greece,” a senior Treasury official said this week.” The U.S. will likely watch this play out in Europe, as it is a European economic issue. Tuesday saw a sympathetic Obama administration, but hardliners such as Lithuania and France will not endorse a deal that does not either punish Greece or weaken German hegemony. An acceptable deal would be one that implements a policy standard which other Eurozone members may engage in to forgive their debts.
What does this mean to the U.S.? To employ realistic observation, the U.S. would benefit from a weaker Euro which would strengthen the dollar. In regards to the 2016 election, Bernie Sanders has expressed solidarity with the Greeks, citing the IMF as a contributor to the debt crisis. These feelings echo those of Americans in 2008, when the bail out saved Wall-Street and GM. Greece is an experiment in the way finance and democracy clash; what has happened here, one ought to be reminded, is very similar to our own revolution over our “financial freedom”. If taxation without representation is an American value, then we cannot show judgment on the Greeks when they are being forced to pay debts to the formerly corrupt governments and financial markets that made the loans in the first place. Greece is not entirely blameless, but the response to the crisis is purely reactive, not indicative of an abandonment of responsibility.
By Audrey Bowler ‘16 – EI Campus Communications Team
As the modern world of politics and government evolves, campaigning has become a permanent fixture in social and political culture. As potential candidates prepare for the 2016 presidential election, here’s what made headlines this past week:
1. Trump Takes the Plunge
Real estate mogul and reality TV icon Donald Trump announced his presidential campaign on Tuesday after two decades of repeatedly hinting that he would run.
“I am officially running for president of the United States, and we are going to make our country great again,” Trump said during a 45-minute speech covering economic issues from currency manipulation from China to job creation, while criticizing the president and his fellow GOP candidates.
“Sadly, the American dream is dead,” Trump said at the end of his speech. “But if I get elected president I will bring it back bigger and better and stronger than ever before.”
Trump’s announcement, held at the Trump Tower complex on New York’s Fifth Avenue, came four years after the billionaire came just steps away from launching a campaign to combat President Obama’s chances at reelection.
After 14 seasons of his reality TV series, “The Apprentice,” Trump is primarily seen as a television celebrity, and his multiple flirtations with a run for national office (in 1987, 1999, 2004, 2008, and 2011) had left many doubting that Trump’s latest declarations would result in anything concrete.
Trump has declared that he is “the most successful person ever to run for the presidency, by far,” and said that his successful career in business will help him to be “the greatest jobs president that God ever created.”
Trump has said that he plans to self-fund his presidential campaign, eliminating the influence of some powerful outside donors. Self-funding would give Trump more time in his schedule to travel and campaign instead of focusing on fundraising, which can take up almost half of a candidate’s time on the campaign trail.
2. Clinton’s Close Finish
In a Wisconsin straw poll held this weekend, Hillary Clinton took the lead among the field of Democratic contenders for the presidential nomination – but not by the margin she was hoping for.
Clinton earned the support of less than half of the 511 Wisconsin Democrats chosen to represent their party at the Wisconsin Democratic Party convention. With 252 votes, Clinton had 49% of the delegates’ support, while Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders came in a close second with 41%. Vice President Joe Biden and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (who launched his bid last month), each took 3% support.
Sanders’ campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, says that the poll is strong evidence that the Senator’s message is resonating with voters – and not just in Wisconsin. “The Wisconsin straw poll and huge turnouts at town meetings in New Hampshire and Iowa are sending a message that people care about real issues like income inequality and the collapse of the American middle class,” Weaver said in a statement.
Clinton’s slim win over Sanders is a surprising finish for the former Secretary of State, whose sizable leads in national polls have seemed to indicate that she will be the Democratic frontrunner.
But since the launch of Clinton’s campaign in April, both her policy record and personal finances have been examined and criticized on the national stage. A close win in an informal straw poll – while still a win – may be a sign that the buzz surrounding the presumed favorite of the Democratic Party may be fading.
3. Clinton-Trump Confrontation
During a radio interview on Thursday, Hillary Clinton criticized Donald Trump for comments made during his campaign launch speech, saying that his comments were offensive to Mexicans and “emblematic” of the hateful rhetoric that should be unacceptable in the wake of the Charleston church shootings.
“We have to have a candid national conversation about race and about discrimination, prejudice, hatred,” said Clinton. “But unfortunately the public discourse is sometimes hotter and more negative than it should be, which can, in my opinion, trigger people who are less than stable… Everybody should stand up and say that’s not acceptable. You don’t talk like that on talk radio. You don’t talk like that on the kind of political campaigns.” The former Secretary of State refused to mention Trump by name, but she referenced remarks from his recent announcement speech that criticized Mexican immigrants.
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” Trump told his audience. “They’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists, and some, I assume, are good people.”
While Clinton refused to name Trump, despite being urged to by radio hosts, she added, “I think he is emblematic. I want people to understand it’s not about him, it’s about everybody.”
4. Jindal Jumpstarts
Current Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal announced his candidacy for the GOP nomination on Wednesday, making him the 13th Republican to enter the crowded field. Jindal, who considered a run for the presidency in 2012, announced his bid over Twitter and Facebook before hosting a kickoff rally.
“I’m running for President of the United States of America. Join me,” Jindal tweeted, with a link to his website’s announcement page.
At Wednesday’s rally, Gov. Jindal promoted his reputation for bold leadership, while being somebody who both “talked the talk and walked the walk” as governor of Louisiana.
“The big government crowd – they hate what I have done,” said Jindal. “I am guilty as charged, and our state is better off for it today. We have had enough of talkers, it’s time for doers. I’m not running for president to be somebody, I’m running for president to do something.”
Jindal will have to work hard to combat low polling numbers – both as a national candidate and in his own state. He’s currently polling at the bottom of the field, registering at 1% in the latest CNN/ORC poll.
His own reputation as governor has suffered significantly over the past few years – recent polls estimate his approval at 32% – in part due to state budget troubles and deep cuts in government spending to programs like healthcare and education. Jindal faces an upward battle if he wants to keep his campaign on track.
By Maya Thomas ’17
Campaign television advertisements first emerged in the 1952 presidential election with Eisenhower’s Ike for President ad. Over the following six decades the medium has been expanded and constitutes a major recruiting and advertising opportunity for candidates. Now it seems another medium for recruiting voters has found its way into the political medium: apparel. Apparel has certainly been sold in past elections, and the wide array of campaign-related merchandise was made exceedingly popular in during the 2008 presidential election. However, in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, there has been a significant expansion of merchandise stores and their incorporation directly into candidate’s websites.
The stores show marketing preference towards key demographics the candidates hope to attain. Hillary Clinton’s store is composed of stylish apparel marketed specifically towards younger voters, a demographic she failed to attract during the 2008 primary while running against President Obama. She shows her support for the LGBTQ community as well as women voters, including a “pride” section of her store and a throw pillow stitched with “a woman’s place is in the White House.” Bernie Sanders also vends pride-themed bumper stickers, though has less expansive and sophisticated apparel than his opponent. Marco Rubio’s store features a selection of “Marco Polos,” a quirky pun on his name that seems to be marketed towards the higher-income individuals that constitute a key component of the demographic make-up of the Tea Party, which helped him gain his seat in the Senate. Ted Cruz, another Tea Party favorite, also has various polo shirts, coffee mugs, and a sleek new logo. Rand Paul has an entire section of anti-Hillary gear in his shop, as well as a “Don’t Drone me, Bro!” shirt, marketed towards younger voters (a strategy shared by his possible Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton). Paul has other “fun” apparel, including an oversized birthday card, a beer stein, and a corn hole game. Huckabee’s store is filled with “I Like Mike” gear, a nod to Eisenhower’s branding despite their ideological differences. The store of Rick Perry includes select merchandise, mainly baseball caps and a single t-shirt, with a logo reminiscent of an all-American baseball team.
However, not all candidates have immediately jumped on board. Rick Santorum does not currently have his store available, though he had one initially and has said it will reopen shortly. Scott Walker’s is currently under construction, although he has yet to make his candidacy official. Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Donald Trump, Lindsey Graham, George Pataki, Carly Fiorina, Martin O’Malley, and Lincoln Chafee do not currently have stores associated directly with their campaign webpages. However, merchandise for all presidential hopefuls can be found on various other sites, including Café Press.
Not only does having a store allow supporters to become walking advertisements for their candidate, due to FEC regulations it also allows candidates to extract valuable data. Purchases are treated as donations since candidates are not allowed to make personal profits off of their campaigns. Because individuals are now making donations instead of purchases, the FEC requires additional information including the submission of an employer and occupation. In addition, those that make more than one purchase are alerted to a campaign as a potential volunteer. Furthermore, the choice of retail informs candidates of who their main supporters are. At this point, any intelligence campaigns can obtain is valuable. The more elaborate and sophisticated the selection of merchandise, the more that can be extrapolated from the sales data. Stores owned by Sanders and Perry have limited options besides the traditional stickers and t-shirts, which will not lend itself as particularly helpful in tracking demographics. If the efforts thus far are any indication, it seems that this election cycle will see an increase of products sold, especially as other candidates realize the value in opening their own stores.
By Maja Thomas ’17
Last August, the California state government decided to institute a ban on the Confederate flag in the state. The bill, Assembly Bill No. 2444, was passed with a 71-1 vote. Tim Donnelly (R-Twin Peaks) was the only Assembly member to vote against the bill, citing being a “strict Constitutionalist” and believing the “bill is antithetical to the First Amendment, which was designed to protect controversial forms of speech.”
However, the bill solely applies to state actions and dictates that, “the state of California may not sell or display the Battle Flag of the Confederacy, also referred to as the Stars and Bars, or any similar image, or tangible personal property, inscribed with such an image.” The law does include an exemption for books, digital media, or state museums that serve an educational or historical purpose. Since the law pertains solely to government speech, it cannot be ruled unconstitutional. Personal free speech remains fully intact. The law does not limit persons from purchasing Confederate flags or Confederate flag-inscribed materials and displaying them. It also does not apply to people protesting or entering government property. Still, the bill has received significant backlash from some members of the public, who believe that any restrictions on government speech would eventually influence restrictions on personal speech.
Isadore Hall, the primary sponsor of the bill, commended that it would “send a strong message that California and its taxpayers will not be in the business of promoting racism, exclusion, oppression, or violence towards others.” The flag, which proponents argue serves as an important symbol of “states’ rights” or Southern heritage, is also reflective of modern-day discrimination (the flag is widely used by white supremacist groups) and injustices stemming from a proposed nation, the Confederate States of America, which fought to retain slavery as an economic institution.
Through various Supreme Court rulings, it has been made clear that free speech protections do not pertain to government actions. Nevertheless, it is not always clear what is public (government) speech versus private (personal) speech. Such is the disagreement stemming in the ongoing case, Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Inc. The non-profit aiming to “preserve the history and legacy” of Confederate soldiers applied for a novelty license plate design and was refused by the state of Texas. The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles Board voted unanimously to reject the license plate because of the common association between the flag and “organizations advocating expressions of hate directed toward people or groups that is demeaning to those people or groups.” The Board believed that because a license plate is government issued, it had the right to restrict speech under the government-speech doctrine “if the design might be offensive to any member of the public.” However, the respondents questioned whether the messages on state-issued vanity plates qualify as government speech. Furthermore, they questioned whether the state engaged in ‘viewpoint discrimination’ when rejecting the Sons of Confederate Veterans plate.
The type of speech that constitutes specialty plates certainly sits within a grey area between public and private. It is the private choice of individuals to purchase vanity plates and the display them on their cars, which would lend it to be part of the driver’s First Amendment rights. However, the State of Texas funds the construction of specialty plates, with the proceeds of the additional cost usually going to the specified organization. Thus, if the State is funding the creation of these plates, it can also be seen as the government speaking for itself in the same light as California’s vending of Confederate flag-inscribed materials. Therefore, using the same logic, it would be up to the discretion of the Board to approve or reject designs. If it is indeed public speech, the state is able to disassociate with ideals, messages, or images it does not wish to promote.
Regardless of whether the plates are considered public or private speech, Texas did seem to engage in viewpoint discrimination when it chose to reject the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ plate. It is worth noting that government speech does not require viewpoint neutrality, thus if it is found to be public speech viewpoint discrimination would not apply. Nevertheless, as noted above, the Board bases its decisions to reject a specialty design if it may offend a member of the public. The decision of whether a plate is possibly offensive is up to the Board and remains potentially biased. How does the Board decide what could be offensive? The Board has approved potentially contentious plates, such as “Choose Life,” “Boy Scouts of America,” or “God Bless Texas.” Could those plates be considered offensive to someone who has had an abortion, who was barred or discriminated against from the Boy Scouts due to sexuality or gender identity, or who was atheist? Certainly the image of the Confederate flag carries more controversy and weight than these plates, but how would you designate a line between what someone could find offensive? If the plates are seen as government speech and their content could be considered a State promotion, some member of the public might find each plate offensive. The decision of what could constitute offensive, if going by their criteria of “any member,” is too broad to be effective. Texas needs to further define a coherent criterion of what might be considered offensive.
It is also worth noting Texas seems to have contradictory stances on the use of the Confederate flag. Unlike California, the state has not proposed a ban on the flag, and continues to sell them in gift shops and celebrate Confederate Heroes Day. If Texas wishes to ban the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ plate, they need to keep a consistent viewpoint and decide if they want to eliminate the flag from government promotions entirely or allow it to be present. Texas’ inconsistent stance on whether to allow the display of the Confederate flag has significantly weakened its case. A final ruling is expected later this month.
There still exists significant debate between the preservation of free speech and the promotion of unjust or offensive materials. The deep history of the Civil War and aspirations of the former Confederate States remain contentious even in contemporary society. Certainly displays of the Confederacy and the Confederate flag are unpopular speech, but differing views are exactly what the free speech clause intends to safeguard. While private speech is protected to allow a free society in which members can express their views, public speech is designed to be restricted. Yet it is not always clear where the line between the two is drawn. As we continue to determine what is public versus private, it will be interesting to see where this border is defined.
Audrey Bowler ‘16 – EI Campus Communications Team
As the modern world of politics and government evolves, campaigning has become a permanent fixture in social and political culture. As potential candidates prepare for the 2016 presidential election, here’s what made headlines this week:
4. Jindal Jumps In
This week, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal announced that he would form a presidential exploratory committee in preparation for the 2016 Republican primary.
This step, as well as Jindal’s recent stops in several swing states, indicate that he is taking major steps toward a run for the nomination. According to the governor, he will not announce a final decision until after June 11, when the state’s legislative session ends.
“For some time now, my wife Supriya and I have been thinking and praying about whether to run for the presidency of our great nation,” said Jindal. “If I run, my candidacy will be based on the idea that the American people are ready to try a dramatically different direction. Not a course correction, but a dramatically different path.”
Jindal, a staunch social conservative, has faced low approval numbers in his home state, and would face plenty of competition for the GOP bid in a field already crowded with icons of social conservatism – including former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Perry, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, and tea party darling Ted Cruz.
The governor has taken a particularly strong stance on the issue of gay marriage, stating his support for a proposed constitutional amendment that would prevent the Supreme Court from eliminating state bans. Jindal has been openly critical of the Obama administration, even signing on to the controversial letter sent by Republican senators to Iranian leadership discouraging the makings of a nuclear deal with the U.S.
While Jindal will have to fight not to be overshadowed by those already in the race, the governor is working to set himself apart from his fellow Republican presidential hopefuls.
“While other Republican leaders are talking about change,” Jindal said, “I’ve published detailed plans to repeal and replace Obamacare, rebuild America’s defenses, make America energy independent, and reform education for our nation’s children.”
Jindal’s exploratory committee launched their website on Monday to enlist volunteers and donations.
3. Plans in Motion for Graham
On Monday, Senator Lindsey Graham said that he would announce his plans for 2016 in his home state on June 1. While Graham has not yet made a formal declaration, it’s no secret that he plans to run for the GOP nomination.
“You’re all invited to come — spend money when you do — and I will tell you what I’m going to do about running for president,” said Graham, hinted at the June 1 announcement on CBS’s “This Morning.”
The South Carolina Senator has made little effort to conceal his interest in running for the 2016 nomination, and has spent time in several early primary states during the last few months, hoping to gauge interest among voters.
In response to a question on the amount of foreign policy experience possessed by the rest of the Republican field, Graham seemed to have his mind made up.
“I’m running,” he said, “because I think the world is falling apart. I’ve been more right than wrong on foreign policy.”
While the pool of GOP candidates seems to be ever-expanding, Graham pointed to his last reelection during which he he fought off six challengers in the primary. As for accusations from other Republicans that he “works with Democrats too much,” the Senator said that he would continue to pursue bipartisanship if elected.
“In my view, Democrats and Republicans work together too little, and I would try to change that if I got to be president.”
Graham’s announcement will be held in South Carolina on June 1.
2. Hesitancy for Hillary
Although Hillary Clinton officially entered the 2016 presidential race on April 12, her formal campaign debut has been indefinitely postponed. While the unveiling of a YouTube video and a series of roundtable meetings with voters in Iowa have cemented Clinton’s place in the race, the traditional inspirational speech and kickoff rally promised by Clinton’s aides hasn’t yet been announced.
Originally planned for May, the campaign’s official roll-out has been pushed back, with a large-scale event tentatively scheduled for June. The reason? Give Clinton more time to fundraise and settle on policy positions.
“If they had their druthers, they would basically get off the front pages, let the Republicans eat themselves alive, and let her do what she needs to do: raise the money and not have to be part of the debate right now,” said one Clinton donor who’s familiar with the inner workings of the campaign. “She has 100 percent name recognition and is in a good place vis-a-vis the primary. Why put your foot on the accelerator?”
For now, the former Secretary of State is taking a whirlwind tour of the early primary states – she’ll spend this week in New Hampshire and Iowa, and will stop by South Carolina next week. As a finale, Clinton will head to Florida for a series of fundraisers.
Clinton’s campaign operatives have compared the candidate’s early events as a kind of “exploratory phase,” and seem to be comfortable experimenting with low-stakes voter outreach events.
Money appears to be the main factor driving the delay. Concern over the strength of Clinton’s fundraising strategy emerged in the face of Jeb Bush’s powerful campaign entrance. Clinton’s team hopes that taking additional time to target donors and attend fundraising events will benefit the campaign in the long-term.
The slower pace of the campaign hasn’t necessarily damaged voters’ impressions of Clinton, Iowa activists said. “This has been a very slow emergence … but I have not felt that we, as Iowans, don’t know who this person is,” said Kurt Meyer, chair of the Iowa Tri-County Democrats. “We have a full file folder on Hillary Clinton. This is not like we walk into class, and there’s a blank whiteboard.”
1. Positive GOP Perceptions
New polling shows that Republicans are more positive about the variety of GOP candidates vying for the presidential nomination than they were at the same time two years ago.
The poll, conducted by the Pew Research Center, revealed that 57% of Republican-leaning voters reported that they have a “good” or “excellent” perception of their party’s potential nominees.
In 2007, only 50% of Republican voters viewed the range of GOP contenders in a positive light. Voter approval from the same group fell to 44% in 2011.
In contrast, Democrats aren’t as pleased – data shows that they’re less positive about their potential presidential candidates than they were in 2007.
The difference may be due to diversity. While Democrats currently have only two announced candidates to choose between – Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – nearly a dozen Republicans have declared or are expected to declare that they will run in 2016.
According to the poll, Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and Mike Huckabee are the potential candidates viewed most favorably by Republicans. Scott Walker and Ted Cruz follow with an approval rating of just over 45%.
By Spencer Bradley ’16
During the past few weeks, the Senate has been debating the House-approved bill: The USA Freedom Act. The bill is a reaction to the actions of the Obama administration and a revision to the much maligned USA Patriot Act, extending some provisions of the Patriot Act while limiting the power of the NSA to gather bulk-data. What does it mean to gather bulk data? This unpopular practice is the mass collection of communication, searches and any data on citizens without a warrant. While not used on every citizen, it essentially means that Americans have a “file” of sorts being collected en masse. The USA Freedom Act seeks to end the mass collection of data by the government, turning the task over to the phone companies and requiring actual evidence as to whether or not the suspect in question has probable cause as to necessitate government seizure of the data. In short, it requires a glorified warrant. In doing so, it forces the intelligence community to become more transparent about its methodology and its scope in collecting data.
Earlier this week, Senator Rand Paul, the Republican/Libertarian senator of Kentucky, engaged in a filibuster against the bill and its renewal of numerous Patriot Act provisions, such as roving wire-taps and the ability to monitor “lone wolf” terrorists. Paul advocated an expiration of the Patriot Act and an ending to all data monitoring by the government, including any data monitoring permitted by the Freedom Act. While Paul’s position currently enjoys 27% approval over the position of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a fellow Republican who advocates for retaining the original model of the Patriot Act (a position that polls at a mere 12% support), Paul’s position is the minority. An overwhelming amount of Americans support modifying surveillance, but many also support extending surveillance. As Wilson reports, “Forty-two percent of registered voters said they favor extending the programs with some modifications, including 50 percent of self-identified Republican men, 41 percent of Tea Party backers and 40 percent of those between18-29”. This indicates that there may be a divide between Republicans and their libertarian counterparts. Regardless, Senator Paul’s filibuster allowed Patriot Act provisions to expire, effectively killing the current bill, forcing it to be reworked and voted on again.
However, what has the White House said to all of this? President Obama has voiced his support for the Patriot Act, citing bi-partisan support, the opinions of national security experts and his own war on terror to legitimize the bill. He has criticized Senator Paul’s filibustering in a not-so-subtle barb, calling out “certain senators.”
Neglecting debate over whether the Freedom Act is superior to the now defunct Patriot Act, and discussion of whether new amendments to the bill will be passed, realpolitik tells us it will be passed in some shape or form. Whether or not the Freedom Act becomes as strong as the Patriot Act, and whether or not the amendments will influence this, are irrelevant topics so long as data collection remains on the table at all. Despite claims from the FBI and other sources, there is not evidence that the mass harvesting of data has benefitted citizens at all. Ergo, the question remains: Why is data collection vital to the United States intelligence service and national security?
The Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures and requires any warrant to be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause. Probable cause here is the important distinction, as it requires a reason for intrusion. There is no reason for this intrustion. While the White House offers the FBI’s testimony as support, one must question whether this support is objective, considering the FBI’s use of these tools gives incentive to keeping them whether or not they pass ethical stress tests or political condemnation. While the White House further speaks of Al-Qaeda and ISIL as reasons for intrustion, one must question how many terrorists are caught and how much damage is prevented by the mass collection of communication.
Thoughout world history, it has been shown that unchecked surveillance usually leads to abuses of power. This abuse of power, rather than limiting and damaging the efforts of actual “threats,” limit and damage the livelihood of everyday people. Why did we condemn and reject McCarthy era surveillance, yet we accept this? The old adage of having nothing to hide is not sufficient here. Having nothing to hide, is the same as condemning freedom of speech as one has nothing to say. Further, presidential candidate Lindsay Graham has stated, “If I’m president of the United States and you’re thinking about joining Al Qaeda or ISIL, I’m not going to call a judge. I’m going to call a drone, and we will kill you.” Hilariously inane; yet, it becomes perfectly plausible if data collection is normalized and encouraged. Stalinist politics wherein the citizen is considered a threat for thinking outside of the dogma is inherently undemocratic and dangerous to a pluralistic society.
Senator Paul may be wrong about many things, but the reailty that government maintains access to every aspect of its citizens’ private lives – even if it merely outsources the data to corporations – is not a policy change.
Audrey Bowler ‘16 – EI Campus Communications Team
As the modern world of politics and government evolves, campaigning has become a permanent fixture in social and political culture. As potential candidates prepare for the 2016 presidential election, here’s what made headlines this week:
5.) Christie Not Going Down Without a Fight
After surviving a year haunted by Bridgegate, his state’s poor financial performance, and declining poll numbers, Chris Christie is barreling ahead with plans for a 2016 presidential run. Last week, Christie spent several days in New Hampshire, hoping that a stellar performance in the swing state will give him a chance to get back in the game.
The New Jersey governor faced daunting odds – he has been trailing behind seven other GOP candidates in New Hampshire-focused polls.
“If there is anyone on the primary ballot for whom New Hampshire means everything, it’s Chris Christie,” said Jamie Burnett, a Republican strategist who worked on Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign. “It’s too early and the race is too fluid to write anyone off this early, but Chris Christie has his work cut out for him. He’s no longer in the position he was in a year ago where everyone thought he’d be the heavyweight in the race.”
Last Wednesday, Christie held two town halls in New Hampshire – the first of many, according to his staff. The governor plans to host similar events in the state on a monthly basis.
During the town halls, Christie portrayed himself as a straight-talking, policy-savvy candidate who will not shy away from telling voters the truth.
“Strong, decisive, honest leadership matters for America,” Christie said. “I will not pander, I will not flip-flop, and I’ll tell you the truth whether you like it or not.”
4.) Graham Faces Conflicted Constituents
This week, South Carolina Senator addressed rumors that he’ll be entering the 2016 race, saying that he’s “91% sure” that he’ll run for president.
“I think I got a good message, I think I’ve been more right than wrong on foreign policy … I’ve been a problem-solver in Washington. And I think I’ve got something to offer the party and the nation,” said Graham on “Fox News Sunday” this weekend.
Only one question remains: Can he afford it?
“I’ll make that decision in May. If I can raise the money I’ll do it” Graham said on Fox. Lately, the senator has been traveling across the country meeting with supporters to gauge interest in a possible presidential bid. Donors have already created a super PAC to back his bid. Graham has demonstrated fundraising might in the past – in 2014, he raised $11.1 million for his reelection campaign.
The senator may face a steeper uphill battle than he anticipates. Several polls focusing on the South Carolina Republican primary race show Graham trailing his would-be challengers. One poll stated that 55% of respondents wouldn’t vote for him in the GOP primary.
Graham’s more moderate views on issues like immigration reform and climate change may be turning South Carolina conservatives towards more hard-line candidates. However, the senator remains confident that his home state will support his likely presidential bid.
3.) Carson on Cruise Control
Neurosurgeon Ben Carson will announce whether he will seek the Republican presidential nomination on May 4th. According to the communications director of Carson’s presidential exploratory committee, Carson will make the announcement in his hometown of Detroit.
While Carson may be a long-shot contender for the nomination, his team believes his personal story of overcoming childhood poverty and attaining an Ivy League education will resonate with many voters. However, Carson’s ultra-conservative views may seem out of touch in Detroit, which is primarily Democratic, as well as other liberal urban areas.
Carson’s exploratory committee has been at work for almost a month, and his final decision will remain under wraps until his contract with the Washington Speakers Bureau is over in May.
2.) Clinton Cashes In
According to materials released by her campaign team, Hillary Clinton will kick off a fundraising tour in New York and Washington this week after spending time courting voters in various swing states.
The fundraisers, scheduled for April 28 and 30, will target “Hillstarters,” a campaign term used to refer to donors who have found at least ten other contributors to give $2,700 to the Clinton campaign. Prospective donors were also invited to take part in a “behind the scenes” conference call with top Clinton donors, which will be held on a weekly basis.
The efforts to engage new donors aim to make them feel like they are directly involved in the campaign. Aides are hoping to harness the extensive list of donors and contacts that the Clinton family have amassed over the last three decades.
For now, the Clinton campaign is focusing on raising money for the Democratic primary, which the team hopes will show that they are expecting to face challenges from other candidates. For now, Clinton hopes to raise $100 million for the primary – but the actual results are likely to be much higher.
1.) Rubio Comes Out Swinging
New polls released by Quinnipiac reveal that Sen. Marco Rubio is leading all Republican presidential hopefuls just two weeks after he announced his presidential campaign.
Polling shows the Senator from Florida collecting support from 15% of the Republicans polled, giving him a narrow edge over former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Bush garnered 13% of the results.
Other recently conducted polls show Rubio performing more successfully than all other potential GOP candidates in hypothetical matchups against Hillary Clinton. In these polls, Rubio trails Clinton by only 2%.
Rubio’s supporters have taken these results as a sign that the Senator could make a strong run for the Republican nomination.
“This is the kind of survey that shoots adrenaline into a campaign,” said Tim Malloy, the assistant director of the poll. “Marco Rubio gets strong enough numbers and favorability ratings to look like a legit threat to Hillary Clinton.”