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Getting Past the Rhetoric: The Real Issues in the 2016 Presidential Election

October 28, 2016

Sam Genova ’18 – Inside Politics Participant

Never before in an election cycle has it become so easy to get swept up in the frenzy of insults, accusations, and grandiose claims than in our current presidential election. The entertainment value of this election is so high that Donald Trump has gotten around $4.3 billion in free media in the past year. This puts the value of Trump’s media coverage at nearly double the value of the GDP of Belize. Meanwhile, both candidates are sporting the highest unfavorable ratings of any two presidential candidates in history. The coverage of this election has focused on attacking the character and discussing scandals of both candidates, rather than focusing on substantive policy issues. It is important we know where both candidates stand on the issues that matter so that we can make informed decisions on election day. According to the Pew Research Center, the three most important issues are:

1.) Economy

Clinton’s Position: She is looking to reform the tax system to make it more progressive. This would not change the tax rates for most Americans, but it would include a new tax bracket for those earning over $5,000,000 annually. This would add an estimated $1 trillion in revenue over the next ten years. She opposes the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and would look to provide tax incentives for companies to manufacture goods in the United States. She also proposes creating jobs in the energy sector which will come from her plan to promote renewable energy sources.

Trump’s Position: He promises to cut taxes for every American. His plan would reduce the number of tax brackets from seven to three. These tax cuts would reduce taxes across all income levels, but would benefit the wealthy disproportionally. He also opposes the TPP, and calls to renegotiate trade deals to favor the United States. He also proposes placing high tariffs on foreign imports to promote American-made goods. He also calls to increase the growth of manufacturing jobs, which has been declining.

2.) Terrorism and Foreign Policy

Clinton’s Position: She is a proponent of the Iran deal. Clinton also supports Israel with hopes to keep it as the stable military power in the region. She supports stronger sanctions in regards to China’s human rights abuse record and cyber attacks. She supports a coalition of Western and Arab countries against the Islamic State (IS), encourages increased United States airstrikes, and wants to arm the Kurds and Sunni Arab fighters in the fight against the IS. Clinton would maintain restrictions on NSA surveillance, would close Guantanamo, would ban the use of torture on terrorism suspects, and would instate a more thorough screening process for people who have traveled to countries with terrorist threats.

Trump’s Position: He opposes the Iran deal and would renegotiate it. He would support stricter economic sanctions on China for currency manipulation and unfair trade practices, create more of a deterrent against Chinese cyber attacks, and increase U.S. naval presence by the South China Sea. He would form a coalition of Western and Arab countries to combat IS, would increase the number of United States ground troops in Iraq and Syria, and increase the number of airstrikes. Trump would also increase the amount of NSA surveillance, would keep Guantanamo open, allow torture such as waterboarding to be used on terror suspects, would ban Muslims from entering the US, and would support “extreme vetting” for Syrian refugees.

3.) Healthcare

Clinton’s Position: She supports the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and would amend and expand it. She would put a cap on co-pays for prescription drugs and would create more competition in the market. This would allow for generic drugs to be more readily available to consumers. She supports and would defend Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood. She has also unveiled an extensive plan to reform the mental health care system and to raise awareness for the issue.

Trump’s Position: He would repeal the Affordable Care Act. He would increase competition in the private insurance sector and not require individuals to have a health care plan. He would also enforce laws that prevent undocumented immigrants from getting health care. He would lower prescription drug prices by increasing competition in the marketplace. Trump supports abortions but only in cases such as rape, incest, or where a woman’s health is in danger. He would only support funding Planned Parenthood if they stopped performing abortions. Trump would expand treatment programs for the mentally ill, citing the need for this expansion partially in reaction to increased mass shootings.

Whether you support Trump, Clinton, a third party, or are undecided, it is important that you stay informed on the policies of the candidates. Uninformed voting is all too common, but with a small amount of research, you can look past the rhetoric and see where candidates stand on important issues. I encourage you to get more information and exercise your right to guide this country in the direction you think it should go.

The views and opinions expressed are the students and the organizations whom they represent and do not necessarily represent the views of The Eisenhower Institute or Gettysburg College.

EI Discussions

October 26, 2016

What is EI Discussions?

Last month the Institute hosted a campus-wide debate between the various political groups at Gettysburg College. In order to continue the discussion we have developed a weekly series called EI Discussions which will be posted here every Wednesday. EI Discussions encourages constructive dialogue between people across the political spectrum on a number of issues facing our country. All politically inclined groups at Gettysburg College are welcome to contribute to the discussion. 

Question of the Week:

With resurfacing allegations of sexual assault committed by Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, the Gettysburg College’s Students Against Sexual Assault’s “14 Days Against Sexual Assault” campaign reaffirms that this issue is pervasive in all levels of society. What role should the federal and state governments play in preventing sexual assault on college campuses? What policies would be most effective on Gettysburg’s campus?

Rebecca King ’19 – Gettysburg Anti-Capitalist Collective

We feel that students have a right to more information about sexual assault on campus, including the name of perpetrators and exact location of the assault. The vast majority of sexual assaults are perpetrated by students known to the survivor. As we are a small campus, many students know one another, making the probability of an encounter with a potential assailant alarmingly high. Students have a right to know what locations prove to be high-risk for sexual assault in order to protect ourselves. We condemn objectification, which allows for the perpetrator to feel justified in using another human being as a tool for sexual gratification, rather than considering the needs of the other party. It is our opinion that fraternities are problematic in that they create environments in which men use women as currency to enter. We believe fraternity brothers reinforce the “ratio” of attendees to increase the chances of a sexual encounter in an environment where we believe most attendees consume alcohol. It is our opinion that this increases the likelihood of a sexual encounter under the influence of alcohol, which make fraternity environments prone to sexual assault, as when either party is too intoxicated to give consent, sexual acts, by nature, become sexual assault. Any sexual act is not consensual when a party involved cannot clearly, enthusiastically demonstrate that they wish to engage in whatever sex act a party has proposed, someone involved is under duress, or a party is incapacitated.

Luke Frigon ’18 – Gettysburg College Democrats

Sexual assault is perhaps the biggest and most intimidating issue facing America’s colleges and universities today. While colleges (including our own) have taken steps to reduce the amount of sexual assaults on campus, it’s not enough. It’s time for Federal and State governments to step in and take charge, and there are easy ways to do it. First of all, politicians need to start respecting women’s’ rights to their own bodies. If a woman is going to be told what she can and can’t do with her own body, why should she trust the government to protect that body from sexual assault? The government needs to fully fund and support Planned Parenthood. They need to support women (and men) wherever possible, and it starts with giving people access to healthcare and screenings for things like testicular and breast cancer.

Sexual assault, however, is not a men’s issue or a women’s issue. It is a Human issue. There needs to be a cultural change on college campuses where men and women are equally and highly valued. There needs to be mandated sexual assault prevention and awareness training, not just for fraternities and sororities, but ALL students. Through federal programs like RealConsent, Safe Dates, and Shifting Boundaries, we have seen somewhat effective means to prevent sexual assaults, but it’s not enough. As much as it is on the shoulders of government to stop this, it is on us as students as well. We need to not be bystanders. As much as it is a federal and state issue, sexual assault prevention is OUR issue. It is affecting US, and it must not go on any longer.

For information please visit:

Alex Engelsman ’18 – Gettysburg College Independents

Those of us in College Independents are opposed to sexual violence of any kind, but that may come as no surprise. As Independents, we believe that a balance should be struck between the role of the federal and state governments in this issue. There should be national standards on college policy towards this epidemic, given sexual assault is the same in all fifty states and should not depend on where you live. But at the same time there is precedent that states are the primary creators of college policy, especially given their closer relationship with the private institutions, and administration of the public schools. The federal government should produce national standards of policy that all states must follow, but the policies and administration of those policies should be left to the states.

We believe that on Gettysburg’s campus, as well as many others, how the campus handles sexual assault should be led by the faculty for fear of bias from another group. While the administration may seek to underplay or cover up and serious allegations to not risk a scandal, it could be potentially dangerous to have students be the arbiter of such serious cases, given the polarization and stigmas present in the student community. We believe that the faculty, being closely connected with both groups, can be a successful arbiter in cases, being sure to be neutral to all other factors outside the case itself.

Scott Moore ’19 – Young Americans for Freedom

Every decent person on campus at Gettysburg College would agree that we must combat sexual assault. So why, then, does the administration of the College so strongly oppose effective action? Anyone who claims that an awareness campaign or a public lecture will stop a single assault is utterly delusional. What should the College do to curb sexual assaults on campus then? Nothing. The principles that Young Americans for Freedom advocates on a national scale are the rights of the individual. These same rights are what we believe will combat sexual assaults on campus. Certainly the school is well within its rights to prohibit firearms on campus, no one would argue for the safety of letting a drunken student carry a gun. But what about other methods of self-defense? College policy prohibits any weapon or device capable of injuring or incapacitating a person, this prevents victims from fighting back in situations where contacting Public Safety is impossible. Allowing students to possess tasers, knives, or pepper spray would at least make fighting back a possibility while minimizing harm to others whereas current policy would merely create helpless victims. Permitting the injury or incapacitation of attackers would be a real solution to preventing real sexual assault; a crime which all too often has its definition diluted by false accusations. It is our opinion that regret does not equate to rape and to claim that it does trivialize the suffering of actual victims, victims who might not exist if we allowed them to defend themselves.

Christopher Condon ’19 – Young Americans for Liberty

We, as the Young Americans for Liberty, are first and foremost expressing our belief that sexual assault is a prevalent and important issue on college campuses across America, including at our very own Gettysburg College. Although we are typically a voice of lessening government influence in all areas, this scourge is one that must be confronted by the law and nothing less. Rape and sexual assault are rightfully classified as violent crimes, and therefore should be punished to the fullest extent with due process by the college, local, and state governments. We are a nation of laws and we must ensure that laws such as these are followed and enforced fully to express our absolute contempt for such behavior as a society.

In a larger sense, however, the law can only do so much. Although the law is an important facet of lessening this behavior, it is up to us as a society and as individuals to eliminate the misogyny that is so often involved in every aspect of sexual assault, from peer pressure to bystanders feeling as if they cannot speak up about what they see. As firm believers in the power of the individual, the more people who speak up about these crimes and band together in the defense of decency, the closer we will get to a society where sexual assault is exceedingly rare. What each student and the administration of Gettysburg College can do to protect those that are vulnerable to this behavior, male and female, is to continue to speak up and educate each other about this pressing issue.

The views and opinions expressed are the students and the organizations whom they represent and do not necessarily represent the views of The Eisenhower Institute or Gettysburg College.

Wise Words for Increasing the Number of Women Leaders in the Workplace

September 2, 2016

Mary Westermann ’18 – Women in Leadership

The American Association of University Women (AAUW) released a report earlier this year titled “Barriers and Bias: The Status of Women in Leadership.” In the introduction, it says “time will not solve the gender leadership gap; action will.” The report highlights statistics in different industries, which show the small proportion of women in leadership roles.   The end of the report lists initiatives and steps women can take in order to decrease the gap. While the report does not necessarily include a whole new view on the issue, it is well organized and very well done with important information for anyone to know. But, if I had not gone to the Huffington Post website and clicked on the article “Take This Test to See How Biased You Are Against Having a Woman as President,” I would have never seen the report.   The only other article easily accessible highlighting the report was on Bustle, a women’s online magazine. The Newseum in Washington D.C., had a panel discussion with women leaders, which was hosted by the AAUW and you can watch the video here. However, I only found the video after looking through a couple of pages on a major search engine.

Why wasn’t the report on major newspapers’ websites? We have discussed in our Women in Leadership program how the word, “feminism”, leads to differing reactions as many are not sure of what it means and women’s issues seem to be in the news a lot. However, a report such as this should be talked about and read by many. The report contains wise words for aspiring and current women leaders, but also for anyone in the workplace.

The report discusses leadership, biases, and strategies. In the first few pages, leadership is defined and the report says “the power of a leader emanates from the willingness of a group of people to follow” (p. 5). If someone is not guiding people to a common goal, they cannot be considered a leader. One of the problems with women trying to become leaders is that they do not have the foundation of followers. For more women to gain leadership roles, society has to be more open to supporting women holding those positions and help them attain them. However, women can also take action to put themselves in a better spot to become a leader.

The first step for individuals in the report to close the gender leadership gap is to “become a student of leadership.” Women are in control and can take steps to help themselves progress in their field. The blurb says, “we recommend that women immerse themselves in the leadership literature most relevant to their own career paths.” Many studies have been done on leadership and so it is fairly easy to find articles on what you are specifically interested in. Reflecting on the past few months, the Women in Leadership program mentors we have met have stressed taking action and standing up for your beliefs. While Gettysburg stresses leadership, the Women in Leadership program emphasizes this notion even more.

The report also mentions steps employers can take and one of those is “offer flexible schedules.” Some organizations are switching over to a heavier telecommunicating office atmosphere. While this is not realistic for all types of businesses, having flexibility will make a difference for many women, as well as men, who are involved with having a family or community or volunteer organizations.

Action is the most important takeaway to remember because if everyone sits back and conforms to the current situation, it will stay that way for years to come. The Women in Leadership program helps teach you to challenge your beliefs and what think critically about which current issue you would fight for. To learn more about the current problem of disparity in leadership across gender, read the AAUW report and reflect on how the situation is in your current workplace.

Closing the Gender Wage Gap

August 20, 2016

Claire Quinn ’18 – Inside Politics Participant

The day has finally come. Equal Pay Day is now a national holiday in the United States. For American women it just another day in the nearly two hundred and fifty year fight for equality of the sexes. While women may have gained the right to vote by the 19th Amendment and are seen as full citizens under the law, they are not realistically treated as such. According to the American Association of University Women, Women with Advanced degrees still make just 74% of the wages as men with similar qualifications (Sawhill 2016). This trend is common at every level of education and amongst different racial minorities. Since the founding of this country, white males have held economic dominance in the workplace and in the market economy. Not only do women earn 74% less than men but, “the average American woman still earns $10,000 less than the average male each year, or almost half a million dollars less over the course of their careers. That also translates into lower Social Security and pension benefits and greater retirement insecurity” (Duckworth et al 2016). When women receive unequal pay compared to their male counterparts, they loose extra money that could be going to their families. They also risk becoming a disenfranchised group of workers as they have less value than the opposite sex. Unequal pay prevents women from achieving their full market potential in America.

In order to mend the gender pay gap, there must be solidified legislative goals that help to further the equality of the sexes by supporting women within the workplace. According to Isabel Sawhill, Senior Economics Fellow at the Brookings institute, “if we want to eliminate the pay gap… the primary focus must be on women’s continuing difficulties in balancing work and family life… But the biggest source of the problem is not employer discrimination; it is women’s continued double burden” (Sawhill 2016). The gendered pay gap is an issue that is rooted in the sexist foundations of America, and has continued to cause other issues in this nation that need to be solved by legislative policies.

Trump: Could This Be the End of the Republican Party as We Know it?

April 24, 2016

Katherine McPartlan ’18 – Inside Politics Participant

The 2016 election has been anything but typical. We have witnessed a successful entrepreneur take the polls by storm, an inexperienced state senator trailing behind, and the most qualified candidate be put to silence. For many young voters, this is the first election that they have paid attention to, and they have nothing to compare the madness of this election too. Typically, after a Democratic officer has been the President for two terms, it is likely that a Republican nominee will take over the seat. However, the 2016 election may harvest different results.

Donald Trump, in particular, has proven to be the most popular candidate among the primaries and caucuses. For a candidate who can change his stance on abortion five times within one week, he has defied the norm of who will be successful in politics. Not to mention the fact that he is not actually a politician. Trump’s success in business has allowed voters who are struggling financially to support his message and believe that they can be helped by any laws that he would propose in the future.

The media may be to blame for Trump’s success thus far. Though we all know that Trump wants to “build a wall,” and “make the Mexicans pay for it,” we have no idea how he will execute this plan, or why certain people are supporting it. Most people agree that Trump is a fear monger and that he is relatable because he has proposed a source of safety regarding immigration and the refugee crisis that is currently occurring in Syria and throughout parts of Europe. Despite his irrationality, Trump’s campaign has resonated with the American population because he has been outspoken regarding the issues that people are worried about. His slogan, “Make America Great Again” has proven to be the most powerful phrase in this election and has swayed voters to be on his side.

The fact that many voters have pledged their support to Trump, rather than his more worthy opponents, reveals to us that the Republican Party is in jeopardy. What is going to happen if he secures the Republican nomination? Even more terrifying, what happens if he is elected President of the United States? Only time will tell. Regardless, it is evident that the Republican Party is going to have to make some serious changes in future election years. Perhaps they will need to place regulations on who can run based on the candidates’ qualifications.

With Donald Trump in the lead, Ted Cruz behind him, and John Kasich way behind, this election has revealed to us that the Republican Party, in particular, has many flaws within the system. Trump’s continuous victories thus far over Cruz and Kasich have had no intervention from the Republican Party. There has been speculation that this election may be heading towards a brokered convention, where the party may choose to nominate someone other than Trump to be the Republican candidate. To this, Trump has threatened that there will be “riots in the streets.” Overall, we wonder if Trump’s presence within the Republican Party could be the supreme destroyer of the party. I suppose that we will find out in the next coming months, and look forward to seeing if the party can put itself back together or will crumble under the weight that is Donald Trump.

Abortion: The Everlasting Debate

April 14, 2016

Alaina Keller ‘19 – Inside Politics Participant


On March 2, 2016, protestors rallied outside the Supreme Court Building to express their views on the Texas law regarding abortion clinics that was being presented before the justices.  The demonstration proved somewhat sudden in the eyes of the general public, for as political arguments in the past few months have become increasingly centered upon the 2016 presidential election, it seemed as if the fervor surrounding the issue of abortion waned in favor of discussions on Trump’s latest declaration.  It was only on July 14, 2015, however, that the abortion issue hit a recent climax when the Center for Medical Progress released its first of three critical videos that condemned Planned Parenthood for the possibly illegal sale of fetal tissue.  After a period of investigation, the grand jury on the case instead indicted the creators of the videos, David R. Daleiden and Sandra S. Merritt, and found that the many investigations into the videos revealed no concrete illegalities committed by Planned Parenthood.  Yet, the House of Representatives and the states themselves have continued to take action, focusing on legislation that attempts to limit abortion services as well as defund the organization.

Today, this issue proves to be relevant as the Supreme Court debates the Texas government’s 2013 law necessitating abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital in addition to requiring that abortion clinics meet the standards of “ambulatory surgical centers.” According to the New York Times article on the issue, more than half of the abortion clinics in the state have already closed down, prompting the justices to raise two related questions: whether Texas has legitimate reasoning behind the law and whether it violates the 1992 Planned Parenthood vs. Casey case that forbids states from placing “undue burdens on the constitutional right to an abortion before the fetus was viable.”  These burdens would include “unnecessary” health regulations that might inhibit the woman’s opportunity to receive an abortion.  Since the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt case was argued before the Supreme Court on March 2, four justices have deemed the Texas law unconstitutional while three more conservative justices took the opposing view; ultimately, Justice Anthony Kennedy will act as the deciding factor with his vote, perhaps creating a tie due to the recent loss of Justice Antonin Scalia.  The decision will most likely be released in June of this year.

As this case reaches a conclusion near the end of state primaries for the 2016 election, this issue of abortion has the potential to continue playing a significant role in this election cycle.  Although the wide candidate pool has shrunk considerably, the stances on abortion of the remaining candidates still vary greatly.  On the Democratic side of the race, Hillary Clinton provides a clearly pro-choice view in her claims to oppose Republican attempts to defund Planned Parenthood and in her support of the Affordable Care Act, a measure that provides preventive options and prohibits insurance discrimination against women.  She emphasizes the “ability and right of every woman in this country to make her own health decisions.”  Contrastingly, Bernie Sanders offers an even more progressive approach in his plan to expand Planned Parenthood as it offers “vital healthcare service for millions of women.”  He also emphasizes the right for women to control their own bodies, and he claims that he will only nominate Supreme Court justices who fully accept and understand Roe v. Wade as law.  This latter promise, along with the assertion that he will not allow employers to deny contraceptives or any sort of procedure even on “moral” grounds, directly addresses the presence of abortion and contraception cases that have recently come before the Supreme Court, such as Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc..

On the Republican side of the race, John Kasich has a distinctively pro-life view on the abortion issue, declaring his defense of the “sanctity of human life” in his past actions against abortion funding on the federal level and his success in prohibiting late term abortions and elective abortion in hospitals in his own state.  As governor of Ohio, he also actively worked to defund Planned Parenthood and reroute the taxpayer money towards other family planning organizations, a process which would be echoed in his anti-abortion policies should he become president.  Ted Cruz, on his platform, boldly claims that his presidency would immediately begin with an investigation of Planned Parenthood by his Attorney General, a promise which adequately reflects his deeply religious opposition towards the abortion issue.  In his defense of the “God-given right” to life, he combated taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood as well voted towards laws that restrict certain abortions; as with Kasich, Cruz plans on maintain this trend from the White House.

Though running as a Republican, Donald Trump diverges from the traditional party platform and refuses to focus on the abortion issue.  A historical list of his views from 1999 show that he has changed from being pro-choice to pro-life over the years, with a recent interview having him state that he would defund Planned Parenthood as long as they continue to provide abortions.  He does acknowledge the other services that the organization has for women, unlike the other candidates, yet his lack of political background does little to confirm his exact stance on the issue.

Regardless of who wins the 2016 presidential election, the issue of women’s rights will remain a debated issue in politics, with cases like Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt continuing to be brought before the courts as both federal and state governments struggle with the question of contraception and abortion.  Should a woman have complete control over her own body, or does the fetus within her have the inalienable right to life?

A Downward Spiral: From School to Prison

April 14, 2016

Olivia Lanctot ’19 – Inside Politics Participant


Thousands of students are entering into the criminal justice system each year on charges such as disorderly conduct, assault, and resisting arrest. Many of these offenses consist of small misdemeanors such as kicking a trashcan, being out past curfew, and the use of foul language. A majority of the students affected by these school discipline policies are disproportionately minority students and students with disabilities. This creates what is commonly referred to as the “school to prison pipeline.”

Students, who are repeatedly referred to school police or placed into the criminal justice system, often become disengaged from school. When students are placed into correctional facilities or suspended from school, students are more likely to participate in more destructive behavior, ultimately increasing the likelihood that those students will end up in jail. And once in the system, there is data that states they will remain in the system. How can these students be expected to achieve academic success when they are unable to attend school or are consistently disengaged from class due to poor disciplinary policies?

In the past few decades, state and local correctional spending nearly doubled compared to elementary and secondary education spending. Fortunately, many states have responded to this problem by taking measures to decrease the amount of students being caught up in this downward spiral.  For example, the United States Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, has urged states to shift this local and state spending on correctional spending on nonaggressive offenders to teachers, particularly at high-poverty schools. In Virginia, where the average referral of students to law enforcement is three times higher compared to the national average, measures have been taken to retrain educators and school police statewide. This retraining will help better equip educators to handle disruptive students and therefore is aimed to stop racial profiling. Additionally, the state is looking to place specific limitations on police intervention in order to decrease the amount of out-of-school suspensions.

Ultimately, the United States has one of the highest incarceration rates and something needs to be done about it. To change this, action on a local level must be taken. Offering school-based alternatives (such as extracurricular activities) can help keep students out of trouble and therefore decrease their chances of one day ending up in jail. All in all, a major reform of the juvenile justice system must be addressed in order to avoid this “school to prison” trend.