Sarah Linton ’19 – Women in Leadership
When Donald Trump declared his presidential candidacy in June 2015, mainstream media and political analysts alike failed to anticipate his success. As the possibility of Trump winning the Republican primary moves from laughable to probable and Republican voters have expressed a desire for the party to unite behind him, there has been a scramble to explain the phenomenon. Regardless of whether his appeal stems from the pervasive frustration with broken political system or his moral absolutism, Trump is positioned to remain in the media spotlight for at least the rest of the year.
Americans have tuned in to the primary debates at an unprecedented rate. The first Republican debate back in August drew twenty-four million viewers, and the subsequent have averaged fifteen million. With increasing attention to the candidates’ direct portrayal of themselves, dishonesty also becomes a chief concern. An analysis of several hours of Trump’s press conferences and speeches reveals he exaggerates reality or blatantly lies just about every five minutes. Trump is far from an anomaly in this respect. Politicians have been long criticized for misconstruing the truth to show them in a more favorable light. But this election cycle has highlighted the reality that campaigns and the daily news do not offer an accurate picture of candidates, their views, and their career histories.
Candidates and cable network taglines do not need to be taken at face value. Rather, there are alternate ways to learn accurate information about the people fighting for votes:
1.) Fact check.
With the proliferation of digital media, anything a candidate says can be picked up by every major new outlet and broadcasted loudly and repeatedly, often in incomplete form or lacking context. Add in frequent candidate dishonesty, and the result is an incredibly warped image.
But digital media has also ushered in a new era of rapid fact-checking. It is not necessary to take candidates at face value, or even spend hours doing painstaking research. News headlines can be misleading, but some media outlets have also dedicated themselves to providing detailed analysis about candidate honesty.
The New York Times fact checks specific statements from debates. The Washington Post has an entire subsection of news dedicated to rhetoric analysis. And Politifact is a fact-checking website run by staff of the Tampa Bay Times, and they sort through a wider range of candidate media—debate claims, campaign speeches, and even television advertisements. Candidate statements are ranked from True (such as Ted Cruz’s claim that he has held civil conversations with protesters at his campaign events) to Pants on Fire (such as a Trump campaign ad’s use of footage showing Mexicans “swarming over our southern border;” the footage was from Morocco).
2.) Know the political leanings of sources.
Even when journalists are dedicated to reporting the truth, many news sources have an agenda. Whether the publication’s ownership dictates its political slant or reporters are given the liberty to present their agenda as much or less fact, sometimes even “reliable” media can be less than straightforward.
Because many publications are quick to defend their own reporting accuracy, it can be difficult to tell who actually supports what and how that affects news coverage. Unless a newspaper comes out in explicit support of a candidate, like the New York Times editorial board’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton, many biases remain subtle or technically a non-issue. But selective reporting, even said articles are accurate, also contributes damagingly to a confusing and inaccurate media landscape.
A good start is to know the audiences of publications. While conservatives are more likely to mostly consume media that conforms to their views, general readership still reflects the views of the media organization. A Pew Research Center poll ranked sources by ideological placement of readership, evaluating for consistency of liberal or conservative views. Broadcast stations in general have a more moderate audience. MSNBC, despite its liberal reputation, has a viewership fairly similarly to CNN and NBC.
A more time consuming route is to evaluate the stances publications take on issues on a case-by-case basis. The space that a source will dedicate to coverage of an issue, and the nature of the coverage, provides a more complete picture than generalizations about viewership.
3.) Research candidates beyond current media coverage.
Politicians understandably find their views changing as their political careers move forward. However, there is a distinct difference between reevaluating an opinion in the light of new considerations, and shying away from old decisions to appeal to a broader base. Hillary Clinton is often criticized for flip-flipping, and Donald Trump regularly moves from one extreme opinion to the opposite.
In order to understand how a candidate would behave in the presidency, it is important to take into account not only his or her presently conveyed intentions, but also the decisions of the past. One easy comparison is to look at a candidate’s liberalism or conservatism relative to the rest of the party. The political and economic analysis site FiveThirtyEight ranked possible 2016 Republican candidates by past voting decisions in a chart, and analyses of Democratic candidates are also available, though they are not as concise. Data like this provides a roadmap of where politicians are likely to fall on certain issues.
There are also resources that detail candidate voting histories and stances on different issues. The non-partisan research organizations Vote Smart and OnTheIssues straight forwardly aggregate information about candidates’ positions and voting records. The Council on Foreign Relations has an entire section of their website dedicated to breaking down where each presidential hopeful falls on foreign policy. Many lobbying groups with specific policy area concerns will also compile information on different candidate stances.
Ultimately, there is no shortage of valuable and truthful resources to facilitate understanding about the contenders in the 2016 election. They are simply often buried under sensationalist headlines and flagrant dishonesty from approval seeking candidates.
Bradley Klustner ’18 – Inside Politics participant
Even the most casual American political enthusiast would be able to tell you that the 2016 Presidential Election has been one of the most interesting, enigmatic, and polarizing in our nation’s history. The Republican Primary, at one point containing as many as 17 candidates, has been whittled down to three. While most of the media spotlight is focused on frontrunner Donald Trump and his perpetual feuds with Ted Cruz, John Kasich has insisted on staying in the race, cementing himself in the role of the “grown-up” in the Republican Primary, refusing to participate in the common barking matches that break out during the televised debates, and carrying himself with a calm, experienced, and qualified demeanor.
At this point in the primary, many anti-Trump analysts from the Republican establishment are criticizing Kasich for not dropping out, claiming that his staying in the race is only stealing votes away from Ted Cruz who, mathematically, is the only candidate besides Trump who could win the 1,237 delegates needed to gain the GOP nomination outright. However, another strategy could prove more favorable for the GOP in order to win the general election versus Hillary Clinton, one that justifies Kasich’s insistence to keep his campaign going. According to a March 24th article in Politico, when Kasich is matched up against Clinton in a hypothetical general election, 45% of registered voters nationwide said they would pledge a vote towards Kasich, compared to 39% for Hillary. The Politico article continued to state that when Cruz and Trump went head to head with Clinton in the same scenario, they lost the general election by 5-10 percentage points, respectively.
What might explain these polling results? For one, Kasich is a candidate who has a proven track record in the state of Ohio, especially economically where he helped grow private sector jobs by 9.3%. He consistently emphasizes a bipartisan approach to policymaking, offering a more moderate alternative to the often-polarizing conservative policies promoted by Cruz and Trump. Kasich’s centrist approach is appealing to the voters who are left skeptical of Hillary Clinton but are turned off by the hijinks of the Trump campaign.
At this point, it is not mathematically possible for Kasich to secure enough delegates to win the GOP nomination outright. However, if Kasich and Cruz “steal” enough delegates from Trump by either winning or performing well in the remaining state primaries, a brokered Republican convention could be forced. If this scenario occurs and the GOP decides on Kasich as their candidate, then the numbers stated above clearly show that Kasich has a strong chance of winning the general election.
Being myself a right-leaning moderate, this might sound to the average reader like simply overly optimistic hope for a miracle, and it is true that a lot of things need to happen in order for a brokered convention to take place. However, if Kasich can build up momentum after his victory in Ohio, and Cruz continues to dominate states here and there as he did in the Utah caucus on March 22nd, the possibility still remains that Trump will not garner the minimum number of delegates to snag the nomination.
Critics on the far-right will criticize Kasich, claiming he is a RINO (Republican in name only), too bipartisan, irrelevant, and just another face from the Republican establishment in an election that has been rooted in anti-establishment attitudes on both sides from day one. However, the numbers tell us a lot, and if the GOP wants to defeat Hillary Clinton, Kasich may very likely be their best choice.
By Emma Haskell ’19 – Inside Politics participant
In the midst of one, if not most exciting and unpredictable, Presidential races in history, the race just got a bit more exciting. On March 16, 2016, Obama announced his nomination for the next Supreme Court Justice of the United States (SCOTUS): Merrick B. Garland. Garland could potentially fulfill the current vacancy on the court after the untimely passing of Justice Scalia on February 13, 2016, at the age of 79 at a resort in Texas. Born and raised in Illinois, Garland went to Harvard Law School where he would graduate summa cum laude. He has served for nineteen years on the D.C Circuit Court, which is, according to CNN, “often considered as the nation’s second most important court.” His veteran federal status and immense credentials for this position however, can not trump his evident centrist record in the eyes of the Republican-controlled Senate, which hold a check on the executive branch by having the ability to accept or reject the President’s nominee for the respected appointment. A liberal majority has not been present in the Supreme Court since the Warren Court ended in 1969 and Republicans are not happy about the potential change of this lifetime appointment. The pressing question that lingers the polarized political atmosphere is whether or not the current residing President should have the power to select the next Justice or if it should be left to the results of the unforeseeable Presidential election of 2016, arguing that the people need to decide.
Now Republicans and Democrats are left butting head to head, which is unfortunately an often occurring issue in today’s partisan politics, as many Republican Senators remain steadfast in their attempts to strike down the president’s nominee. A shift in the Supreme Court majority means new outcomes to the widely debated topics of today such as immigration, campaign finances, abortion and so on. Therefore, consequently the Republican Senate is left checking Obama’s actions. Republicans will continue to argue that this is not a personal issue but rather it simply comes to ideology. That being said some Senators of the GOP do agree to meet with Garland despite that many steadily remain behind McConnell’s attempts to barricade this vacancy and “appropriately revisit the matter” when there is a nomination for the next president. The handful of Republicans Senators willing to meet with Garland shows an immense progress in our country’s legal system as it offers a glimpse of compromise between the red and blue. However, Democratic Senator Charles Schumer of New York forewarns the issue that “If Merrick Garland can’t get bipartisan support, no one can.”
That all being said action will have to be taken soon in the upcoming lame duck months. Republican senators continue to stand still in their opposition to Obama’s pick and will continue to do so despite some concerns that if they don’t accept this nomination now, and a Democratic candidate is to win the election, then the nominee will only lean further to the left. Regardless change is inevitably on the horizon and whomever the new appointment will be will cause foreseeable shifts in the ideology of the SCOTUS. Now only time will tell and if it is anything like the current Presidential debate, who knows what will happen next?
Kira Gabriel ’19 – Inside Politics Participant
For all his bravado and bluster, presidential candidate and possible Republican nominee Donald Trump does not actually say much. Instead of presenting any substantive ideas, policies, or reforms, Trump tends to state unsubstantiated and baseless problems. In a speech last June, Trump alleged, “Our country is in serious trouble. We don’t have victories anymore. We used to have victories, but we don’t have them.” Rather than offering facts or figures to bolster his claims, Trump has the tendency to simply restate his previous sentiments, often without even rephrasing.
The solutions to the unfounded problems he presents often are just as lacking for a basis in reality. Famously, Trump promised to build a wall on the United State’s southern border, stating, “I would build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me, and I’ll build them very inexpensively, I will build a great, great wall on our southern border. And I will have Mexico pay for that wall.” Nowhere in that statement, and indeed in many of his statements, was there any actual plan or solution.
On December 7th, Trump released a statement that called “for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” In a speech regarding his position, Trump stated, “Without looking at the various polling data, it is obvious to anybody the hatred is beyond comprehension.” He essentially said himself that this opinion was not based in any fact, rather that the fact was just “obvious”.
However, Donald Trump is not selling pragmatic reform, nor is he offering political progress- he is offering quite the opposite. Staunchly, Trump stands against politicians and the established political systems. He is even bankrolling his own campaign, a key point to his operation. Trump, during his speech announcing his candidacy, said, “Well, you need somebody, because politicians are all talk, no action. Nothing’s gonna get done… But if I get elected president I will bring it back bigger and better and stronger than ever before, and we will make America great again.”
He is the candidate who will not sell out to corporations, nor politicians; he will not bend to foreign nations, the media, or even women. It is not important that the Economist stated that his wall plan would cost “$285 billion, by one estimate—roughly $900 in new taxes for every man, woman and child”, nor is it relevant that his plan to ban all Muslims from entering the country is entirely unconstitutional. The fact that Trump’s companies declared bankruptcy four times and part of his speech was used in an ISIS video seems to be insignificant. Facts are irrelevant. The strong support for Trump is a deeply emotional reaction, where logic is trivial.
Donald Trump has managed to tap into a population of disenfranchised voters who feel left behind by recent shifts in society. The fear of terrorism and frustrations regarding unemployment, have translated into racism and xenophobia- something Trump plays right into. He also offers a strong pushback against the recent societal movement towards a more politically correct discourse, stating, “We can’t worry about being politically correct.”
Trump, like all good salesmen, is selling an idea. His slogan, “Make America Great Again,” suggests that as a nation, we can return to our former glory. However, he conveniently forgets the racism, homophobia, xenophobia, and economic miseries that plagued America’s past – and may again come in November.
Abby Bull ’16 – Women in Leadership participant
If posed with two quotes, one from Donald Trump and one from Bernie Sanders, could you tell the difference? Sure, some might say, they have completely different philosophies when it comes to many social issues including gay rights and abortion. Trump says that gay marriage is not his “thing” while Sanders has supported it for many years. However, Sanders and Trump are very similar in many other respects leading to specific social, economic, and political followings by the general public. It could be said that the two politicians are practically the same entity in how they present their issues and how they discuss the future of the United States. For instance, take these two quotes, one from Sanders and one from Trump,
“I am angry and the American people are angry.”
“And I can say oh I’m not angry … I am very angry because our country is being run horribly”
Who said which? The two quotes are practically identical except for the slightly aggressive nod at the government in the bottom statement. The top quote is of Bernie Sanders in Clinton, Iowa and the bottom is Donald Trump during the Republican presidential debate on Fox Business Network on January 14th, 2016. The message in each statement is the same and it is a message that resonates soundly with the American people. Each candidate is calling for radical change in the governing of our country. They are anti-establishment to their core. The battle cries for Sanders and Trump are one in the same; the main difference is who they blame.
The main distinction between Sanders and Trump is that Sanders is angry about the social and economic state of the United States and aiming his anger at the unequal distribution of wealth that seems to plague the United States. Conversely, Trump takes the exact opposite position stating that the main problems rooted in society are due to the immigrants, refugees and citizens on welfare, many of whom want to work and gain some small semblance of decent life in our country.
From this distinction between Sanders and Trump, it is easy to understand the differences between citizens who support either candidate strongly. Many Sanders supporters have accumulated significant debt from going to university or have a fear of repeal for Obamacare. They see the government and big banks as the enemy and rally around Sanders for publically criticizing banks’ interest rates and the refusal of a democratic socialist system to pay for services such as education and healthcare. On the Republican side, many Trump supporters are blue collar and many have lost or have the risk of losing their jobs as companies move overseas. As a direct result, many of Trump’s supporters blame the individuals who have taken their jobs in Mexico or other nations for creating more obstacles in the way of reaching the American dream. Consequently, they then become angrier when other individuals are unemployed because they are using government economic assistance while seemingly taking the money out of their hands.
In the end, both Sanders and Trump have appealed to the same emotions in the American people. The feelings of anger and frustration are geared towards a system where each side visualizes a solution that the government is not working towards. But still, the problem remains in deciding which candidate is angry for the right reasons or if both candidates should be discarded for a calmer, establishment candidate that will keep the country headed in the right direction.
Nicholas Fronsaglia ’19 – Inside Politics Participant
According to Mass Shooting Tracker, in 2015 there were 372 mass shootings (a shooting where four or more people were shot and/or killed, excluding the shooter), resulting in 475 deaths and 1,870 injuries. These numbers have brought gun violence and control to the forefront of American politics. Both Republicans and Democrats are taking strong sides for and against stricter gun regulation to try and prevent these numbers from getting worse in the future. These discussions have brought the highly debated Second Amendment into hot contention. Public outcry has been pushing for strict regulations on gun ownership and purchasing, whereas groups such as the National Rifle Association have been standing strong for the protection of their right to bare arms. Each candidate has taken their own side on the issue, making it an issue that voters are paying attention to as election season heats up. Here are the views of the current Presidential candidates:
Trump takes the stance that it is not the guns that are killing people. He believes we should be worried about people who have access to guns and also have mental health issues. He believes that we should still have the freedom to own guns but agrees that mentally unstable individuals are the main issue behind mass shootings. He deflects the problems of background checks, illegal gun sales, and loopholes in the system to the fact that mass shooters are mentally unstable. Trump is also a strong believer that regulations are useless because gun violence is inevitable.
Cruz takes the far-right view summarizing that Obama is coming for our guns and if we do not stand by our Second Amendment Rights, then all firearms will be lost. Cruz believes that the Second Amendment is the greatest protection from government tyranny. In April of 2013, Cruz voted against banning of high capacity magazines, or magazines that can hold more than 10 bullets at a time.
Clinton has a long history of pro-gun regulation. She is seen as an ally for the pro-gun regulation advocates. One of her major points is that the gun manufactures should be held responsible for what their products are capable of. She also believes that strict regulations will help keep children safer. Clinton attempts to appease both sides by stating there is an explicit difference between simply halting all gun use and keeping guns away from the people who wish to do harm with them. Finally, she also wants to allow states to have the ability to make their own gun laws.
Similar to Clinton, Sanders also wishes that gun manufacturer immunity be reversed. He wants there to be instant background checks upon purchase that would not allow the sale of guns to those with criminal records or those who are deemed unstable to own a gun. One of Sanders biggest issues with the sale of guns is the gun show loophole which allows those who might not have been able to get their gun from a retailer to acquire it in the form of a private sale. Sanders is also a very strong supporter in banning semiautomatic guns. Sanders is considered an “F” voter by the NRA meaning he has a pro-gun control voting record.
With constant gun violence across the country, gun control is something all voters are looking at as election day quickly approaches. Each candidate has taken their side and only the voters will be able to choose which candidate has the best plan to stop the current rate of mass shootings.
Maranda Moyer ’19 – Women in Leadership Participant
Take a moment and pause. Picture in your head a lawyer speaking in front of a court room. What did you see? Do you see a judge, a legal pad, a freshly ironed suit, and a strong confident lawyer? Now focus in on the lawyer, is it a man or a woman? Throughout United States history, many professional careers are still seen as roles needed to be filled by men. These careers are commonly ones in politics, business, sports, media, science, and law. Gender equality in the work force is slowly evolving as women are achieving careers in various fields, but have yet to reach a point where women can be content.
Law is the complex and intricate backbone to the United States, requiring inputs from both men and women. The American Bar Association is dedicated to improving the law profession, eliminating bias and enhancing diversity, and advancing the rule of law. Each year the American Bar Association collects information regarding the demographics of licensed lawyers. The 2015 National Lawyer Population Survey discovered that 52.2% of students enrolled in law school are men and 47.8% are women. This statistic is empowering due to the fact that women are perusing advanced education, fairly equally, in order to obtain professional careers. Despite this great advance, the American Bar Association also found in the same 2015 study that 67% of practicing lawyers are men, and 33% are women. This is a 34% gap, as men make up a majority of lawyers in the United States. As an aspiring lawyer, this is disheartening as it brings up questions as to why these qualified women are being cut short of acquiring jobs as lawyers. Sadly, the answer goes back to the opinion that men are more suited for these types of professional careers. The solution to this problem is to increase exposure of women in law to society.
One program dedicated to providing college boys and girls with experience in the courtroom, is the American Mock Trial Association. AMTA creates a case each year and creates affidavits and evidence that will have to be deciphered in order to prove an innocent or guilty sentence. Colleges then form teams assigning witness and lawyer roles. The college teams then compete against each other at competitions in different regions of the United States. AMTA is beneficial for all students planning on attending law school, and desire a career as an attorney. This includes women and allows them to gain experience in a courtroom and compete with men. AMTA also allows men and women to gain public speaking skills and increase their confidence. I was fortunate enough to compete and represent Gettysburg College in the 2016 AMTA regional competition in Baltimore, Maryland on February 26th and 27th. I was exposed to court etiquette and real life interactions between a judge and a lawyer. Programs like AMTA provide women with the chance to exhibit that they obtain the same skills as men, and can successfully compete in a typical “male” environment.
In order for women to be hired in these professional settings, their abilities need to be exposed as equal to that of man’s. Women experience gender inequality in many work fields, law being one. These inequalities only motivate women to break down these barbaric ideas and to prove themselves to society. We are not okay with a 34% gap. However, a change requires women gaining skills and confidence through programs like the American Mock Trial Association. Women will continue to advance and dissolve societal barriers, in order to achieve true gender equality. In the words of Hillary Clinton “Although we weren’t able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you [women], it’s got about 18 million cracks in it.”