By Caroline Sha
Race. Nothing has determined the lives of so many people than this construct. From slavery to affirmative action, it has been a source of fierce contention in politics since the founding of the nation. In fact, it is such a complex topic that today, even some of the most liberal politicians can still manage to fall while tiptoeing around it. Elizabeth Warren learned this the hard way when she released a DNA test which supposedly proved that she had a Native American ancestor. Warren has openly touted having an indigenous predecessor for years, attracting taunts of “Pocahontas” and accusations that she lied about her heritage on university and job applications. Though Warren has railed against the racism latent in these statements and published proof on her website that her reported Native American ancestry played no role in advancing her career, many, such as Donald Trump, have continued to mock her. As a result, Warren decided to ask Stanford scientist Carlos Bustamante to perform a genetic test which revealed that although she was largely white, her DNA, when compared to the DNA of those from places such as Peru and Mexico, did show that she did have an indigenous ancestor six to ten generations ago. Though these results may seem like a positive gain for Warren, the actual act of taking the test has garnered outrage from the very group she sought to win over.
The heavy criticism Warren faces from various tribes results from their perception that she is utilizing genetics as representation of native heritage. The Cherokee Nation decrees that "using a DNA test to lay claim to any connection to the Cherokee Nation or any tribal nation, even vaguely, is inappropriate and wrong”. By basically conflating her genetic results with undeniable proof that she is truly Native American, Warren advances the view that race is the determining factor in tribal heritage. According to many tribes, this type of thinking takes away their sovereignty in determining membership. Rather, it gives the power of deciding identity to genetics, as opposed to the Native concept of close social ties. In fact, the reason Bustamante could not use Native DNA as a reference for his test was that mistrust of racial genetic testing and their potential ramifications for tribal autonomy have stopped many from the Native community from offering up their blood. After all, the study of heredity in America has historically been used as a tool of white supremacy. For example, starting from the 1700s, the federal government enacted blood quantum laws to limit the growth of tribes. Under this system, federal employees recorded how much “Indian blood” individuals had and used those records to decide who could be considered a part of a tribe. Often, because of ignorance toward Native definitions of membership , people were falsely marked as “full blood” or non-natives based solely on appearance, not actual involvement with a certain tribe. This was problematic as white settlers basically redefined “Native American” as a race, throwing out previously established tribal standards for native identity. To many, Elizabeth Warren’s DNA test echoes this cultural imperialism, suggesting that she, a non-indigenous person, can choose her own interpretation of native heritage, and override existing indigenous benchmarks.
But will this tarnish on Warren's progressive image harm her in the context of her future political career? Though a likely hurdle for her presidential run in 2020, this misstep doesn’t seem to be completely destructive. Despite her base caring ever more about racial issues, according to a Quinnipiac University poll, 60% of Democrats still have a favorable view of her. Moreover, on the republican side, the criticism against Warren for her DNA test has been scant. Though Donald Trump recently tweeted a meme about Warren’s results, it carried the same message and intensity as the attacks he made before this controversy. While issues such as climate change, immigration, and the economy take their place as the top issues of the 2020 race, Warren’s blunder may not come back to bite her.
By Mason Krohn
For most of the FDA researchers at the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, May 3, 2017 was a somewhat uneventful day — except for those who kept their eyes peeled on the campus televisions. Alas, as a leaked email from the department reveals, the Trump administration instructed the department to lock every screen in the building on the Fox News channel. The lack of remotes and plethora of Laura Ingrahams yelling into the halls of the FDA may seem inconsequential, but, in truth, the gesture symbolizes the growing conservative tilt within health agencies under the Trump administration. As RPR contributor Injae Lee investigated, within his first year in office, Trump banned words including “evidence-based”, “fetus”, and “transgender” from CDC reports. Furthermore, in surveys conducted by the Union of Concerned Scientists, 32 percent of FDA staff and 48 percent of CDC workers reported that the consideration of political interests at the agencies hinder science-based decision making. The Trump administration has even gone so far as to terminate federal recognition of trans identities by commanding the Department of Health and Human Services to alter the definition of gender under Title IX. In all cases, it appears that the federal government is chipping away at the research and study of LGBTQ+ issues through politicized attacks. However, these curtailments of governmental science are minor when compared to the slow and silent persecution of transgender communities perpetuated by the FDA, the healthcare system, and the pharmaceutical market in the form of injectable estrogen shortages.
For trans women, high doses of injectable estrogen are necessary to achieve desired feminine characteristics such as curvy hips, breasts, thinning face and hair growth. Though medical intervention is not necessary to be considered trans, a great amount of trans people opt for hormone therapy as a life-saving tool to alleviate their gender dysphoria. Researchers note that, for many patients, sex reassignment therapy (including hormone therapy) contributes to significant reductions in anxiety, depression, interpersonal sensitivity, hostility, and overall psychoneurotic distress. Any reduction in these symptoms is vital for members of the trans community in America, which faces a suicide rate 26 times the national average as reported by the largest survey of trans Americans to date. As renowned actress of Orange is the New Black, Laverne Cox, eloquently remarked, “Healthcare for trans women is a necessity. It is not elective. It is not cosmetic. It is life saving.”
Regardless of the evident cruciality of trans medical access, the path to hormone therapy is strenuous.Trans women seeking estrogen injections must first seek out a provider to write out a prescription. It seems like a simple task, but for trans women, this procedure is laden with barriers. First of all, 31 percent of transgender Americans lack regular access to health care. Discrepancies in access stem from stigma and ignorance from healthcare professionals; in fact, 22 percent of transgender people report avoiding doctors for fear of discrimination, which is of particular concern for sexual minorities in rural areas. Under the Church Amendments passed by Congress in the 1970s, medical practitioners in the United States reserve the right to reject any patients if the service contradicts their religion. Hence, even if trans women can overcome the fear of stigma, many doctors can turn them away out of hostility or sometimes out of pure lack of experience with trans patients. After all, in a Stanford University School of Medicine report, only 40 out of 132 U.S. and Canadian medical schools included content on gender transition in their curricula. Ultimately, stigma, inexperience, and legal discrimination have driven transgender patients away from medical spaces.
After jumping through the many hoops of trans primary care, severe shortages of injectable estrogen compound the difficulties of hormone therapy. Presently, a duopoly controls the market for injectable estrogen, leaving trans women with Delestrogen (a product of Par Pharmaceuticals) or Estradiol Valerate (a generic manufactured by Perrigo). A shortage of both substances commenced in July of 2016 and endured until June 12, 2017, but the only reasoning listed by the FDA was “shortage of an inactive ingredient component” for Estradiol Valerate and “other” for Delestrogen”. When the 2016 shortages took effect, Perrigo refused requests for comment by the Chicago Tribune, the Guardian, and Vice, offering no explanation for their withdrawal from the market. Par Pharmaceuticals, on the other hand, disclosed that when their supplier of Delestrogen’s main active ingredient pulled out, they had to alter their supply chain. By August 9, 2016 (within a month of the shortage commencing), Par representatives stated that thousands of Delestrogen vials were ready for sale. Nevertheless, Par had to await FDA approval of its new supplier before distributing the new Delestrogen. Therefore, the FDA is culpable for injectable estrogen shortages for over 10 months. It is understandable for the FDA to review the manufacturer for safety concerns, however, given the nature of the shortage, the FDA’s disregard for timeliness is more of an affront to the trans community than a sign of caution. Moreover, the FDA’s long winded scrutiny is suspicious given that there are 17 estrogen medications with approval from the FDA for cisgender menopausal women. Due to partial FDA incompetence and the lack of distributors in this field, trans women were left to suffer the consequences.
The question then arises: how did trans women who had been injecting high doses of estrogen last almost a year without any available supply? For some, the shortage entailed turning to the black market. Vendors on Deep Web marketplaces like Hansa and Valhalla link trans women to illicit producers largely based in India and the Philippines. Participating in these markets is dangerous, because hormones found there might be diluted or laced with harmful ingredients including but not limited to chalk and boric acid. Unfortunately, the only alternatives to the black market are estrogen pills or patches. Pills are less effective than injectable estrogen vials, come in lower doses than necessary, and pose the risk of blood clots. Patches are prohibitively expensive and are just as ineffectual as pills. At the end of the day, the shortage left trans women vulnerable and cut back on the progress many of them achieved with hormonal therapy.
Even though the combined shortage of Delestrogen and Estradiol Valerate concluded last year, the supply of injectable estrogen is still broadly sporadic and inaccessible. The cheaper generic, Estradiol Valerate, has repeatedly gone out of stock; in fact, the FDA currently lists the drug as “in shortage”. Hence, trans women’s only option is the name brand version, which is often outside of their budgetary restraints. Even then, Delestrogen tends to only be available in urban areas with steady demand, including New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. For Par Pharmaceuticals, there is little incentive to keep a supply in rural pharmacies, given that the trans community is only 0.6% of the US population and many trans Americans move to urban areas. Since Par faces little competition in the field, it can single-handedly decide the fate of trans citizens seeking hormone therapy by deciding price and distribution of the product.
So long as market barriers remain steep, no trans woman can count on the ready availability of the next prescription of estrogen. Without this access, issues of gender dysphoria and outrageously high suicide rates that are already alarming will proliferate in the trans community. Put simply, a quintessential treatment has been withheld from a disadvantaged group. It ultimately prompts the question: would trans women still face this reality if, instead of Fox News clamors, it was their painful stories that reverberated through the halls of the FDA?
by Camille Shen
In the wake of Tumblr’s recent ban of all adult content site-wide, user stravinskow commented, “I can’t believe the last meme of 2018 is tumblr’s death.” Stravinskow’s lamentation is just one of many in the flood of complaints, criticism, and of course, memes against Tumblr’s latest corporate decision to censor “not-suitable-for-work” content. This modification was precipitated by the blogging site’s removal from the App Store in November due to the existence of child pornography on the website, but still came as a sudden shock to many. Now, as users ready themselves to press “f” to pay respects to Tumblr as a whole, it is likely that their beloved community is indeed in danger of an early funeral– even if the platform itself survives.
This is not the first time Apple has removed an app from its store for violating its guidelines. In 2015, it pulled the plug on a war-simulation game for portraying a real terrorist group as the enemy, and more recently, an app formed by a religious group that denounced homosexuality as sin. As a private market, Apple has every right to discern what goes on its “shelves” for consumers to buy and download– even if it means purgation of more popular apps, such as Tumblr. And without Apple’s permission to sell a product in their sanitized, wholesome environment, starting or maintaining a mobile business is nearly impossible. So from this perspective, Tumblr’s decision makes sense: if it wants to survive, at least in our pockets, it needs to stay on Apple’s good side.
But the pull from the App Store was just one deciding factor for Tumblr to prohibit all NSFW content. In fact, the ban was a long time coming: according to Vox, the company could not continue selling ad space next to the pornographic content that often appeared on its website. This decline in profits was part of a series of disastrous years after Yahoo famously bought Tumblr for over a billion dollars in 2013. Since then, Yahoo has written down the blogging site’s value to a less than half of that: a mere $482 million. Now, both Yahoo and Tumblr have become Verizon’s newest acquisitions, and the telecommunications giant plans on learning from Yahoo’s mistakes by finding a way to profit off of the huge fandoms and communities comprised of young people. And, as it seems, the only way to maximize profits is to monetize safe-for-work content and discard the rest.
But what does this mean for Tumblr users? It is no secret that Tumblr has had a problem with porn and porn bots since its early days– many users have called for their removal on multiple occasions, though never with any success. However, while 20% of people on Tumblr consume pornographic content, it is only produced by 1% of its users. The vast majority that this ban affects are regular people participating in niche communities: artists, writers, cosplayers, and other content creators. So, decidedly not child predators, but rather, users who produce NSFW content for specifically targeted audiences. While Tumblr has attempted to differentiate between sexually artistic expression (allowed, in most capacities) and sexual obscenities (prohibited), the rudimentary algorithm it hastily implemented has created a blurred line between the two and left many mistakes in between. In fact, a post that has now gone viral shows that the Tumblr staff’s post announcing the new nudity policy was flagged as inappropriate by its own algorithm. This is just one example of the countless incorrect bans of safe-for-work content, ranging from memes to cat pictures to even classical paintings of Jesus Christ. There is a fine line between nudity used in a sexual context and nudity used for educational or artistic purposes– one that Tumblr expects a few lines of simple code to walk.
But moreover, to institute a blanket ban on all adult content, including the particularly vague “female-presenting nipples”, would stifle the culture of open discussion of sexuality that Tumblr has built its success upon. A large part of the adult content that existed on Tumblr was aimed at the queer community and celebrated a sexuality that is often rejected by mainstream media. This exposure to a spectrum of normalized sexuality was especially important to marginalized LGBT+ groups, who often cannot find accessible and secure spaces to bond over sexual identity. Now that “female-presenting nipples” have been banned, many queer women find their interests and orientation vilified by yet another popular social platform, discouraging further discourse and interaction within LGBT+ communities. In addition, sex workers who appealed to queer groups once flocked to Tumblr for its low-risk, easy-to-use structure and free communication around the topic of sex. After the ban, they are left to search the Internet for an alternative, though few websites exist that are safe and suitable for their line of work. Queer and sexual communities, paired with the staggering number of fandoms, constitute the overwhelming majority of Tumblr’s user base. As they flee to other websites in wake of the purge, they take with them an undeniably vital aspect to Tumblr’s identity: uncensored self-expression. Now, what is left is a pale imitation of “positivity” marked by the fear of flagged content and banned blogs.
But even after a torrent of scathing criticism from its users and speculation of imminent collapse circulating the Internet, Tumblr probably isn’t going anywhere– for the time being, at least. The reality is that there simply aren’t many better alternatives to such a uniquely structured, established blogging site: other platforms similar to Tumblr are either still in beta mode or have dwindling user populations, such as the ancient LiveJournal, the start-up PillowFort, and the new Twitter-like Mastodon. Fearing they will lose an audience and community that is often built up over several years, most users are planning to stay on Tumblr and adapt to the new policy change, whether they like it or not. In this sense, the ban may prove beneficial for Tumblr, and perhaps be the change it “needed” all along to foster growth: it will easily be able to monetize more content and generate more ad revenue than before, even if it means giving up some users in the process.
However, the ban will only ensure that the business side of Tumblr makes it out alive. It won’t meet its end here, but by destroying its hundreds of niche fandoms and communities, it certainly will lose what made it different. Tumblr was once a space for people to candidly and unashamedly express themselves, and that is what gave them the edge over hyper-sanitized, more mainstream platforms such as Instagram and YouTube. This is not to mention the pivotal role it’s played in the growth of Internet culture, absurdist gen Z humor, and of course, the modern meme. Now, the latest memes about the ban all share a similar theme: whether it is “staff” shooting “tumblr” in the head, “staff” as Oprah freely handing out bans, or “staff” as the iceberg that S.S. Tumblr is headed toward, corporate always seems to be the bad guy. And for good reason, too– because at the end of the day, it won’t be Tumblr the company that takes the fall, but Tumblr the community.
By Shiam Kannan
Recently, support for a plan which used to be a fringe idea espoused only by the leftward-most members of Congress has been gaining traction within the mainstream Democratic party. Its name? “Medicare for All.” At first glance, the idea certainly sounds compelling. After all, who wouldn’t like free, universal healthcare? However, this program, just like any other form of centralization, would be devastating to the economy (the healthcare industry in particular), and would certainly cause the national debt to skyrocket. America’s healthcare system is definitely flawed, but more government is not the answer.
To analyze the effects of the Medicare for All legislation, it is important to look at what the plan actually entails. Under this single-payer plan, tax revenue collected by the federal government would be used to pay for everyone’s healthcare. The plan would have very low, if any, copays and deductibles, and would ensure that Americans’ healthcare status is not dependent on employment. All current government-sponsored healthcare programs, such as Medicare, Medicare Advantage, Medicaid, and CHIP, would be eliminated and replaced with a single Medicare for All system. The proposed single-payer legislation would outlaw private and employee-sponsored healthcare plans which provide any of the same services the government provides. These are certainly ambitious ideas, and a lot of them are very appealing, so it is no surprise to see how quickly the Democratic Party has jumped onto the Medicare for All bandwagon. But a closer look at the effects of the plan show that it is most definitely not the right path for America to take.
Perhaps the biggest concern involving Medicare for All is its effect on federal spending. According to a study done by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, the single-payer plan would cost a whopping $32.6 trillion over the first 10 years following its enactment. The same study projects that federal healthcare spending, as a result of this plan, would total over 10 percent of the American GDP by 2022. The costliness of single-payer stems from several factors. The plan makes the federal government responsible for basically all of the healthcare spending in the United States. In addition, the plan greatly expands the number of services that federal insurance covers. Of course, this massive hike in spending leaves us to wonder how we are going to pay for Medicare for All. In short, we aren’t. Because we legitimately can’t. Even if the corporate tax rate and every personal income tax bracket were doubled, the cost for this program would still not be covered. Therefore, if enacted, Medicare for All would end up as just another monstrosity of a federal entitlement program, eating up more and more of the budget every year while driving up the debt.
However, this program would not only be harmful from a governmental perspective, but also an economic one. If we are going to conjecture the effectiveness of Medicare for All, it would do us good to look at an existing example of socialized medicine in America: the Veterans Affairs system (VA). The VA scandal in 2014 revealed the inefficiency of government healthcare for our veterans, as many were placed on waiting lists for months on end (the average wait time for all veterans was an appalling 115 days for initial care), with some of them committing suicide while waiting for healthcare. If the government cannot even properly administer healthcare to our veterans, it doesn’t take much imagination to envision how terrible government healthcare for 315 million Americans would be.
Defenders of socialized medicine frequently point to single-payer systems in Canada, the United Kingdom, and other European countries, claiming that if it works there, it should work here. But is it really working in Europe? Let’s take a closer look. Earlier this year, the NHS, Britain’s government healthcare system, cancelled over 50,000 non-urgent operations due to an overload on the system, following claims from British physicians that their patients had to endure “third world” conditions. The overload was due to a spike in winter flu, and left many patients with the disease waiting for over 12 hours to receive treatment. This scenario illustrates one of the worst aspects of government healthcare: rationing. When the government controls all the healthcare, if the system is overloaded, the government gets to decide who receives treatment and who doesn’t. If the condition of a patient is bad enough, government rationing could very easily be a matter of life or death for him or her. And even worse? Rationing is inevitable if healthcare is socialized. It’s basic economics: all resources are finite. The market will always allocate these resources more efficiently than a centralized authority. If a centralized authority is in charge of allocating healthcare resources, then it has the power, essentially, to determine who lives and who dies. I don’t know about you, but that’s not exactly a power I would feel comfortable with the government having. If I had a serious injury, I wouldn’t want to be hauled off to a hospital, only to be denied service because the government determined that someone else’s condition was more severe.
Even if we were somehow able to magically make the laws of economics disappear and eliminate the rationing problem, socialized medicine still would have negative consequences on the people it should supposedly help. Let’s go back to the United Kingdom for a moment. It is a fact that the British spend far less than the United States on healthcare. But they also receive less. The United Kingdom has fewer doctors and nurses per capita than most other developed nations, and patients have less access to technologies such as MRIs and CT scanners than in the United States. It should come as no surprise that British doctors and nurses are also paid much less than healthcare professionals in the United States. Once again, the laws of economics prevail. Human beings are driven by the profit motive. When you turn physicians into government employees and pay them a public sector salary, less people want to become doctors. Therefore, the supply of healthcare decreases, which then feeds into the rationing problem discussed earlier.
However, the havoc that single-payer would wreak on the United States does not change the fact that our current healthcare system is flawed, and in dire need of reform. But real reform, which would help all Americans get quality, affordable healthcare, has to go the other way. Reform should be driven by decentralization and deregulation, not government ownership of an entire industry. Some policies we should implement include allowing insurers to sell healthcare plans across state lines, and allowing people to import prescription medications from foreign countries, such as Canada. Such legislation would increase competition, and drive down healthcare costs. Most importantly, we must repeal Obamacare and its onerous burdens on the healthcare industry. Such regulations as the 10 Essential Health Benefits (EHB) mandate do nothing more than make health insurance plans more expensive, by forcing people to buy coverage for services they may never need. For example, maternity/newborn care is included as one of the essential health benefits that all healthcare plans must cover. Obviously, this coverage is useless for demographics such as young, single men, who biologically cannot bear children; nonetheless, due to Obamacare’s EHB mandate, they cannot buy cheaper plans which don’t cover this service. Obamacare has also driven healthcare costs up at a faster rate than if the law were not implemented, which only goes to show that government intervention in the economy, however well-intentioned, only ends up harming the people it attempts to help.
Our healthcare system has many issues, not least of which are rising costs. But big government is not the solution. While the proponents of Medicare for All have good intentions, they are proposing an overly simplistic solution to a complex problem. The answer to America’s healthcare crisis is less government, not more, and the sooner members of Congress across the aisle come to realize this, the sooner we can fix this issue. But it is neither wise nor sensible to implement a $32 trillion behemoth of a government program which will only serve to accelerate our perpetual debt, while doing nothing to help, if not actively hurting, patients and consumers throughout the country.
By Erin Flaherty
Poverty, airstrikes, water insecurity, terrorism, blockades, and disease have all been components of what many have deemed “the forgotten war”. The conflict stems from the efforts of the Houthi group to overthrow the government. The Houthis, which are a group that stems from Zaidi Islam, had control of the Yemeni government until the 1962 revolutions, which led the country into the North Yemen Civil War. The war ended with the Yemen Arab Republic taking control of the nation, and since then, the level of animosity in the Houthi community towards their government has only risen.
In 2011, Many of the Houthis citizens were angry at their new leader, Saleh, for the rising unemployment and his abuse of the Yemen oil profit. Their protests continued, and in late 2011, Saleh stepped down. His Vice President, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, took his place. Hadi’s want for more liberal and constitutional reform threatened the conservative values of the Houthis. In January of 2015, the Houthis captured the presidential palace in Yemen's capital, Sana'a, and continued to take control of the entire city.
Hadi and his government moved to the city of Eden in the South, but because of their successful capturing of Sanaa, the Houthis have been able to establish themselves in most of the country’s North. Since then, the war has been between pro-government forces from Saudi Arabia that have been supported by Riyadh’s new coalition, and the Houthis who have been partially supported by Iran. Both Saudi Arabia and Iran have gotten involved by aiding opposing sides, making Yemen essentially another proxy war in the struggle for power between Sunni and Shia Muslim sects, and those who support either side.
The humanitarian crisis in the country only escalated after the start of the conflict. In response to Iran sending in weapons to aid the Houthi rebels, Saudi Arabia imposed a full-blown blockade around the entire county. In attempting to stop Iran’s efforts to aid the Houthis, they essentially cut off all access to food and medical supplies. Fuel-driven pumps transfer the majority of water in the country, especially near the cities where the conflict is occuring, so water insecurity became a massive issue for citizens of Yemen when the blockade took effect. Saudi Arabia lifted its blockade from the largest port in Yemen, Hodeidah port, but the effects of the water and food insecurity that Yemenis have faced will not be over anytime soon. The Red Cross reported that Yemen had over 1 million cases of cholera in 2017, and many of those infected still have not received medical attention due to the lack of medical centers and workers in the country.
Although this may seem like an issue that lacks connection to the US, the opposite couldn’t be more true. The US is Saudi Arabia’s top supplier of weapons, and has backed their coalition that started the blockade in the first place. Many in the United States political sphere have criticized US support for Saudi Arabia not only because of the Saudi-imposed blockade of Yemen, but also because of their inaccuracy with airstrikes intended to hit rebel groups. Several stories have come out over the course of the war about Saudi-led airstrikes hitting funerals, hospitals and schools– one of the most controversial being the Saudi airstrike that hit a Doctors Without Borders medical facility. The Trump administration has faced condemnation for continuing to supply Saudi Arabia with weapons when they recurrently hurt innocent citizens in an attempt to suppress the rebel groups.
US involvement escalated even more recently, when news came out that the Green Beret US soldiers were secretly deployed to Yemen in 2017. They were sent, supposedly, to train the Yemen troops and take down Houthi bases with them. This marked a huge step in US involvement, since beforehand the US was only involved in 'refuelling and logistics', as the Pentagon said.
Until recently, not much had been done regarding US involvement in Yemen, but on November 28th, the Senate voted to stop all US support of the Saudi-led coalition. Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, a heavy advocate for this bipartisan action, said on the 18th that “the time is now to tell Saudi Arabia that we are not committing to partner with them in this horrific crisis.”
But this bill did not pass all of a sudden; it precipitated from the death of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Khashoggi died at the hands of Saudi government agents who tortured him at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. Despite this assassination, Trump continued to support the Saudi Arabian government, angering many lawmakers. The 63-37 vote in the Senate was quite bipartisan, since many Republicans have turned against their original stance on the issue which aligned with Trump’s view. U.S. intelligence officials have confirmed that the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, was at least aware of the plan for the murder of Khashoggi. This news has been denied by several members of Trump's cabinet, but has ultimately confirmed for many that Khashoggi’s death at the Saudi consulate was no coincidence or accident.
United States Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, has condemned the Senate’s decision, saying that “degrading U.S.-Saudi ties would be a grave mistake for the national security of the U.S. and its allies.” Trump has also continued to reinforce the importance of the United State’s alliance with Saudi Arabia, even advocating for a new proposed arms deal that would supply Saudi Arabia with more weapons from the United States, saying that it would provide citizens of the United States with new jobs. Though Trump has touted that Saudi arms deals provide 500,000 additional jobs, Reuters estimates between 84,000 and 168,000.
This decision brought up a huge question that could set precedent for many issues in the future; Who has the right to pull our country out of war? Well, Senators cite the War Powers Resolution of 1973, which says that if US troops are involved in any hostile conflict abroad “without a declaration of war or specific statutory authorization, such forces shall be removed by the President if the Congress so directs by concurrent resolution.”
This means that the House would need to pass the bill, which does not seem as unlikely as it has before, since Democrats will be taking the majority in the next House due to their midterm victory. House Democrats have been advocating for an end to US involvement in Yemen for a while and would most definitely vote in accordance with the Senate. Then, only Trump would need to approve ending American assistance in the war. If he tried to reject their decision through a veto, it would still go back to Congress, which logically would still end in a vote to end United States involvement.
The Senate’s decision speaks volume about the increasing concerns among lawmakers in regards to the United State’s relationship with Saudi Arabia. The vote on the 28th may not ultimately end our questionable role in the war in Yemen, but it signifies an important step in possibly changing our country’s current role in said foreign affair.
by Raheel Abubakar
All throughout 2018, multiple sources from the Business Insider to NPR to CNN referred to Imran Khan, the new prime minister of Pakistan, as the “former cricket champ playboy turned politician”. However after Pakistan has endured decades of corruption on every political platform, his populist and inspirational view should spark hope for Pakistanis all around the world. Whether it’s my own parents cheering from the couch or the 20 million homeless people in Pakistan who just found out that they might have a future.
However, to understand their plight, it’s imperative to look back to see how Pakistan got into this state. There has always been a presence of corruption in Pakistan since its establishment in 1947, but they have reached global attention with two major events: the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and the trial of Nawaz Sharif.
After the the previous Prime Minister died in a plane crash, Benazir Bhutto became Prime Minister in 1988. She was the first female Prime Minister in Pakistan’s history, and she served for two non-consecutive terms from 1988-1990 and then 1993-1996. Despite her prolonged presidency, Benazir Bhutto was infamous for her embezzlement of millions of dollars from the Pakistani people, massive corruption with her husband, and allegations of being involved in the controversial murder of her brother. The Bhutto family is equally as notorious with their long line of corrupt leaders who pulled the strings on Pakistan’s government. After returning from an eight-year self-imposed exile, her homecoming rally was hit by a suicide attack which killed 136 people. Given the state of crisis, Prime Minister Musharraf declared a state of emergency, which Bhutto opposed greatly. She then threatened to take her supporters to the streets in protest of the state of emergency which got her sentenced to house arrest for nine days. Then, on December 27th, 2007, shots were fire and a bomb went off killing 27 and wounding 100. Benazir Bhutto was killed when her head hit a part of the sunroof in her vehicle. In response, protests erupted around all around Pakistan’s most populated city, Karachi, and eventually all of Pakistan’s major cities. Her supporters threw rocks at hospitals, smashed windows, and burned cars on the street. By the time the riots were over, more 100 cars were burned and the protests alone killed 11 people in Karachi.
Benazir Bhutto’s assassination became an impetus for Pakistanis to analyze their own sentiments and became one of the most divisive times in the nation’s history.
Upon her death, a culture of distrust was established. It was in this climate that Nawaz Sharif rose to power. Nawaz Sharif worked closely with Benazir Bhutto’s brother, Murtaza Bhutto, to undermine Benazir Bhutto’s government and expose her corruption. Then, when Murtaza Bhutto was killed, controversy followed and accusations went straight for Benazir Bhutto. This series of events is what lead to her downfall and self-exile in 1996. Nawaz Sharif then took his second non-consecutive term and maintained power for two years, from 1997-1999. (His first term was from 1990-1999). He is a dedicated defender of military manipulation and the autocrat protector of the aristocracy. His anti-corruption claims fell quickly and he maintained his power through military control. Nevertheless, he was re-elected for his third non-consecutive term in 2013. This four-year rule was what lead to the controversy that became the final straw for Pakistan. After not being able to show a money trail for how Sharif’s family could afford such expensive and luxurious apartments in London, the Pakistani Supreme Court found him guilty of corruption and sentenced him and his family to ten years in prison.
With prime ministers toppling each other’s regimes, and family politics becoming a dangerous game of backstabbing, mysterious shootouts, and bureaucratic betrayal it is no surprise that faith in government has diminished. 91% of Pakistanis are dissatisfied with how things are going and just 24% believe the government has a good influence on the nation.
But it’s for this very reason that Imran Khan’s victory is so crucial. In the western world, he is mostly known for his record cricket career, but in Pakistan his policy, not his bat is what’s bringing hope to the lower class. His foreign policy sets a standard that Pakistan will no longer play the role of the pawn in global affairs nor simply a nuclear fear anymore. He wants to set a mutually beneficial agreement with the United States and he is willing to try for peace with their arch-enemy, India. He has even endorsed ideas of doing talks about the Kashmir to stabilize the region’s conflict, which is a prime concern of most Indians and Pakistanis. He believes that resolving the Kashmir conflict could be the stepping stone for cooperation between Pakistan and India for food security, energy, and joint civil-nuclear activities.
As for China, Pakistan’s new best friend, Imran Khan will visit Beijing next month to discuss the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. China’s economic influence on Karachi has become a contentious issue as Pakistan becomes China’s latest project in its Belt and Road Initiative. Imran Khan’s ability to pay back the billions of dollars loaned out by China for infrastructure will be a test of his capacity to lead the country. Unfortunately, Imran Khan is quite limited in the moves he can make to repay this debt. Pakistan’s main exports, textiles and rice, currently lack the infrastructure to mass produce, which can be both beneficial but very detrimental depending on how it plays out. If Pakistan does establish this infrastructure then it would hugely benefit their economy and lower its current debts, but that is a big “if”. Incapable of paying for these large-scale projects, Pakistan has relied on Chinese construction. China is known for wanting to establish their own infrastructure in foreign countries to gain influence and gain revenue, but if China builds the groundwork for Pakistan’s textile and agriculture industry, then it would only increase their iron grip on Pakistan.
Corruption in Pakistan has also been due to the country’s volume of state-sponsored terrorism and funding to groups like the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. After United States aid was unsuccessful to combat terrorism in the region under Nawaz Sharif, the Executive Branch froze over 800 million dollars in military aid based on claims that Pakistan inadequately responded to militant groups in the region. While that is true, it should be noted that this state-sponsored terrorism happened under the Nawaz Sharif regime. Now that Pakistan is under Imran Khan’s leadership and he is fighting corruption of foreign aid, it would be opportune for the U.S. to release some of the frozen aid and place higher levels of accountability on the aid. With these provisions, the U.S. could observe how much the corruption has actually changed, adjusting our aid depending on Pakistan’s success in undermining militants. Instead of shutting the door on cooperating with Pakistan, cooperation should come first as it will steer Pakistan away from Chinese influence and on the right path. In truth, if we can regain influence in Pakistan at the beginning of the Imran Khan era, then we can forge a friendship beyond the corruption and upon a world-class cricketer.
by Mason Krohn
This year’s breakout romantic comedy, Crazy Rich Asians, depicts the upper echelons of Singapore with imagery of immense fortune and extravagance. For the most part, their portrayal of the Singaporean elite is true to the country’s density of wealth and billionaires. In fact, one in 34 people in Singapore are millionaires, making the miniscule Southeast Asian nation the sixth most millionaire-dense country in the world. Many credit this preeminence to factors that attract wealthy immigrants including Singapore’s low tax rate and well-regulated banking system. Yet, for all their luxury, 80% of Singaporeans live in public housing, a policy typically utilized to serve low-income populations in the US. From the American standpoint, it is unusual that this program exists in the land of millionaires when affordable housing is an indicator of the stark inequality in the United States. Alas, the proliferation of government-built domiciles in Singapore is a product of efficient governance, and it has become a tool by which the state engineers social policy.
The climb of public housing began directly after Singapore’s independence from British rule. In 1959, just two years after Malaysia gained freedom from the United Kingdom, only 9% of Singaporeans resided in public housing. In 1960, the state formed its Housing & Development Board (HDB), which was originally intended to house poor residents, but eventually shifted to supply homes to the masses. The Bukit Ho Swee Fire in 1961, which burned down a squatter settlement and left 16,000 homeless, was the impetus for widespread support for housing initiatives. The government responded quickly to the housing crisis by completely rehousing all of the victims within a year. By 1965, the HDB constructed more than 51,000 apartments, thereby providing housing for a fourth of the country’s population. Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s prime minister from 1959 to 1990, heralded the HDB’s initiatives and led the way for the nation’s housing expansion. The government steadily acquired an increasing amount of property to support its developments, and it now holds 90% of Singapore’s territory. Alongside gargantuan subsidies totalling S$1.19 billion in 2017, HDB lures homeowners by allowing them to pay for housing with the Central Provident Fund, which is a mandatory savings plan wherein working Singaporeans must set aside a portion of their salary for retirement, home ownership, insurance, and education costs. The planning and administrative work that allows the HDB’s programs to function epitomizes Singapore’s effective policy, but the feat of housing the majority of the population is not the only quality that sets this program apart; it is also their orchestration of deciding who lives where that makes Singapore seem like science fiction.
Early in Singapore’s existence as an independent nation, racial tension was at its peak. Under the colonial system, communities were largely segregated by ethnicity, leading to many clashes between the Chinese majority and Malay minority. On July 21, 1964, a racial dispute devolved into rioting when a procession of 20,000 Malay Muslims gathered to celebrate the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday. Chinese agitators interrupted the celebration, causing widespread violence. Post-independence Singapore sought to reframe their societal structures by prioritizing multiculturalism, thereby dissuading racial conflict. S. Rajartnam, Minister for Culture from 1959 to 1965 stated that “we start with the irrefutable proposition that the alternative to multi-racialism… is genocide in varying degrees.” The HDB was the frontrunner in designing and enforcing this proposed multiculturalism with its Ethnic Integration Policy. Simply put, Singapore categorizes its ethnic makeup into four primary groups: Chinese, Malay, Indian, and Others. Within public housing units, the HDB attempts to model the racial makeup of the entire country by establishing quotas for the amount of each ethnic group for every neighborhood. Consequently, every community is a racial microcosm of the country as a whole, eliminating what Singapore’s government sees as potentially harmful ethnic enclaves. Singaporeans still have a choice in the level of quality of their abodes, since they apply for different classes of housing. However, they must apply for housing through the HDB, submitting to their racial sorting. The question becomes: does the HDB overstep its boundaries by controlling this aspect of Singaporeans lives? They justify that “a culture is formed not through piecemeal incidents, but through regular encounters and interactions.” Yet, what remains of the cultures of communities with common ethnicities?
City planners and sociologists have long debated the preservation or dissolution of racial enclaves, but a variance in research has resulted in opposing conclusions. There are two frameworks to evaluate the effectiveness of racial distributions: economic success of communities and social flourishment. In regards to economic achievement, New York’s Chinatown serves as an example in favor of enclaves. The neighborhood benefits from an interconnected economy in which money circulates and multiplies, attributing to reinvestment patterns that lower unemployment. Nevertheless, the enclave of Mexican Americans in Los Angeles presents lower wages for immigrants than those who leave the city, pointing to competition in common laboral fields. In regards to social cohesion, Singapore credits the reduction of racial violence to forced integration that maximizes interaction, but their claim is difficult to substantiate. On the other hand, enclaves have produced some of the most profound cultural blossomings in history; take, for example, the Harlem Renaissance. In the end, social policy is predominantly guesswork, but the HDB remains steadfast in its belief that Singapore’s public housing structure is the future for the developed world.
Born out of widespread violence and disastrous shortages, Singapore’s public housing now proves to be one of the most astounding metropolitan projects in the world. It remains unclear whether or not other nations can replicate this infrastructure and its associated racial quotas or even should try for these policies. However, the world is watching as the HDB builds into the sky, and Singapore crafts a crazy rich, multicultural, and harmonious society.
by Jonathan Nemetz
The nation of Poland is no stranger to authoritarianism. Whether under the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, Nazi German occupation, or a Soviet puppet regime, Poland knows the taste of authoritarianism. Which is why so many were shocked when a nationalist, right-wing government swept into power.
In May of 2015, Andrzej Duda of Poland’s ‘Law and Justice Party’ (PIS) was elected to the presidency. The PIS party was founded in 2001 on the ideas of economic intervention, socially conservative values, and strong Euroscepticism. His election was a sharp contrast from the centrist, pro-European ‘Civic Platform’ that had led the nation for the prior eight years. Then, in October of 2015, the PIS Party won 37.6% of the votes in a parliamentary election, giving them control over the legislative and executive branch.
After taking strong control of the government, PIS wasted no time in attempting to assert their power over the judiciary and the people of the country. Following the election of Duda to the presidency, PIS began a politically charged and largely unfounded investigation of the ‘Civic Platform’ Party on a myriad of charges, including corruption, collusion with foreign governments, and intentional actions against the Polish people. In the summer of 2017, PIS leaders introduced several pieces of legislation with the aim of making Poland’s judicial branch of government (The ‘Constitutional Tribunal’) subservient to its president and parliament. One of the bills would effectively push out all of the judges that were not nominated by PIS. Another would give parliament the direct ability to decide who can even be considered for a spot on the court.
While the streets of Warsaw and Krakow were flooded with protest against this descent into authoritarianism, 700 miles away, Brussels held its breath. The European Parliament gave repeated warnings that, were such legislation to pass in Poland, the country would no longer fall under the European Union’s criteria defining a democracy. Despite the objections of the Polish people and the EU, the bills passed. In a letter of condemnation to Poland’s PM, EU President, Antonio Tajani, said that Poland’s actions against their judiciary were “...against the fundamental principles of the EU treaties”.
In December of 2017, the EU gave Poland an ultimatum. Poland would have to restore the independence of their judiciary by March 20th of 2018, or face up against Article 7 of the European Union’s constitution. Article 7, although so far never invoked, is how the European Union can revoke the voting rights of member states that do not comply with standards of human rights and democratic values. March 20th came and went but no change was made, and the European Union began proceedings to remove Poland from the European Union. That was until Hungary stepped into the picture.
Back in 2010, Hungary had gone through their own wave of right-wing populism. In that year’s elections, Hungarians broke with the progressive presidents that they had consistently elected since the founding of the modern Hungarian Republic in 1989. The national conservative ‘Fidesz’ party had been around for years, but never received as much support as it did in 2010, being elected both to the presidency, as well as to a supermajority in parliament. The party’s leader proudly proclaims his intention to create an “illiberal democracy” aimed at rooting out ‘anti-Christian values’. The Eurosceptic party had used fears over immigration and cultural debates to rise to power, making them and the Polish PIS party natural allies. This natural alliance became their stated policies when, after the EU’s ultimatum, the prime minister of Poland, Mateusz Morawiecki (The new leader of PIS), and Hungary’s prime minister announced that they would stand together against Brussels, vetoing any action against either country.
And when the time came to test this alliance, it held. Article 7 requires unanimous support to strip voting rights, impose fines, or take other punitive actions against member states. When all three were proposed against Poland, Hungary vetoed the resolution.
Now the European Union is stuck between two terrible options. To join the European Union, a nation must show that they a have free markets, respect for human rights, and an impartial and effective judiciary. But now, Poland’s membership is threatening these democratic traditions. They can’t kick Poland out, but keeping Poland in the union legitimizes a regime that is openly hostile towards accepted standards of government ethicacy. But as Poland continues to close the borders kept open by EU law, and openly disregard the founding principles of the EU, Brussels is struggling to determine what they can do. And unfortunately, it isn’t much.
At the moment, Poland is the EU’s largest receiver of funds from the organization. And although, compared to many former Soviet-bloc countries, Poland’s economy is strong, the money that they receive from the European Union is extremely important. Between 2007 and 2013, Poland received just over €64 Billion Euros directly from the European Union. These funds helped to increase the stable development of Poland, by assisting projects that rapidly modernized education and sanitation in the country. If the EU could reduce this aid, it would be a powerful deterrent against Polish authoritarianism, as Morawiecki’s regime would no longer receive direct funds for development, nor vital EU subsidies, such as those for agriculture. Without this international assistance, rural populations that keep the PIS party in power would be hurt the most, and see first hand the effects of rejecting Brussels’ requests. However, premature funding changes require a unanimous vote and thus are subject to Hungary’s veto ability. It won’t be until 2021 that EU funding will be open for debate again, and Poland’s funding can be punitavely reduced without unanimous approval.
But in the nearly three years until that happens, the EU may need to focus less on the defiance they have right now, and more on the potential defiance that may arise. If countries can openly refuse anything from environmental regulations to democratic ideals, without consequences, as Poland has, other nations may begin to wonder why they are still listening to the EU if it won’t take punitive actions. If the European Union is unable to enforce its founding principles, what real power does it even have?
As the Syrian Refugee Crisis and slow economic growth continues to plague Europe, the European Union can’t recede into the shadows. There is certainly no lack of issues for Brussels to address, but as countries drift towards nationalism and populism, if they can’t tackle the issues that they were created to stop, the Union’s very purpose may begin to fall into question.
By Aadhavaarasan Raviarasan
In September of 2018 President Donald Trump nominated Nellie Liang - a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute, longtime Federal Reserve staff member who is an expert on financial regulation, and holder of a Phd in economics from the University of Maryland - to the Federal Reserve Board. To grasp the impact of this nomination, one must first understand primary function of the Federal Reserve: the raising or lower of interest rates.
Every quarter (three months), the Federal Reserve (the Fed) decides whether to raise or lower interest rates. When the Fed raises interest rates, it decreases the amount of money in the economy, making each dollar more valuable, which increases the prices of goods across the economy. The Fed employs this strategy during times of prosperity to prevent runaway inflation, which occurs when there is an abundance of supply (too many investments are being made) that diminishes the worth of each dollar, generating massive price increases across the market. Runaway inflation is especially harmful when price growth outpaces wage growth. When the Fed decreases interest rates, it increases the amount of money in the economy, making each dollar less valuable, generally increasing prices in the economy. This is done in times of economic downturn in order to revive the economy, since this provides extra monetary resources to invest and jump start the economy out of rock bottom.
The nomination of Ms. Liang into the board grants her the power to decide the direction of monetary policy - determining if interest rates are raised or lowered and by how much - giving her plenty of power on the direction of our economy.
Insofar as she about to gain a massive amount of power, it is probably important to identify exactly who Ms. Liang is and what she specifically intends to do with her power. Liang’s first position of prominence was as the premiere head of a new division created after the 2008 financial crisis research financial stability issues. Ms. Liang’s position on monetary policy is one geared towards harsh restriction. Indeed, she advocates against the dropping of interest rates in order to recover the economy - believing that the markets ought to recover themselves with no help - and the raising of interest rates in order to curb excesses in the market. Indeed, her ideology on the economy has 2 key central tenants, (1) the establishment of a strong regulatory framework, and (2) early and decisive action to any market shifts.
Moreover, she also believes that, based on our current track, a “recession which will be severe” is bound to occur. In order to deal with this, Liang has supported raising interest rates in order to act as more ammo to drop interest rates by massive amounts upon the onset of the crisis. However, while these may be her set positions towards monetary policy as of right now, Liang is known for having a strong appetite towards risky policies, willing to deal with uncertainty when new problems pop up.
Her position is consistent with the current track of the Federal Reserve, which has been dramatically surging interest rates in this current time of economic prosperity. Her reinforcement of this policy has two possible implications. The first possible implication hinges on the Federal Reserve’s predictions being correct; if it is right that the economy is seeing strong growth and and unemployment reduction, it will continue taking the appropriate stance of raising rates, keeping the economy stable. In this scenario, the nomination of Ms. Liang proves beneficial in that it maintains current policy.
The second possible implication will occur if the Fed’s predictions are inaccurate. If the economy is not as strong as they think it is, then the raising of interest rates will only reduce the necessary supply of money to maintain job growth. The logic is simple: if a business is not doing super well, then reducing the amount of money it has decreases its resources to hire or invest. This can send a struggling or even stagnating business past the brink of survival, causing a chain reaction of bankruptcy and corporate collapse that could potentially end in recession. In this scenario, the nomination of Nellie Liang proves to be a disastrous choice, locking in a policy that will only end with the collapse of the American economy.
Which scenario is correct? Well, no one knows. The Fed itself struggles with uncertainty in determining the optimal time to raise interest rates and how far the economy can go without devastating inflation. It can only estimate, predict, and hope, which is why raising interest rates always hurts someone. All things considered, including her experience and credentials, Ms. Liang is a good pick for the reserve: if we have to choose someone to make predictions, we should choose an expert.
By Jed Boyle
TRUMP. The only thing the media knows what to talk about anymore. This year, however, there are elections for offices that affect the lives of everyday Americans more directly. Why doesn’t the media talk about this? Trump is important, but this is too. Thankfully, here is an overview of (in no order) seven interesting gubernatorial races this year.
Incumbent: Rick Scott (R) Term Limited
Democrat Andrew Gillum vs. Republican Ron DeSantis
Florida, Florida, Florida. It isn’t election night in Florida without a big close race. We’ll see what happens this year, but this is already a very polarizing race. The hard-right Trump-backed U.S. Representative Ron DeSantis scored a major victory over the establishment candidate Adam Putnam in the Republican primary. He has already caused controversy by telling Floridians not to “monkey this thing up” by electing his African-American opponent, Andrew Gillum -- something many people considered a racist dog whistle. Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, would be the first black governor in the state’s history if he wins. In August, the Sanders-backed progressive insurgent instantly became a national figure when he scored an upset victory over the centrist frontrunner Gwen Graham in the primary. Gillum has led in every poll since then, but an FBI investigation that has descended over Tallahassee) could make things interesting. The Mayor has ties to lobbyists that are being investigated by the FBI over corruption. Gillum has not been implicated in any wrongdoing whatsover, but if DeSantis really begins focusing on the corruption, Gillum relatively narrow lead could evaporate. Thankfully for Gillum, DeSantis seems to be running out of time to change the tone of the race less than 3 weeks before Florida votes.
Incumbent: Rick Snyder (R) Term Limited
Democrat Gretchen Whitmer vs. Republican Bill Schuette
Former Michigan House Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer is trying to take the seat from the Republicans. Her opponent is Trump-backed Bill Schuette, the Attorney General of the state. At the center of this election is the Flint Water Crisis, which Rick Snyder and the Republican Party have faced a lot of anger from the people of Michigan over. Many have accused the governor of being extremely, even criminally, slow to react to the problems of the city of Flint. Expert say that Flint’s drinking water still is not clean enough to drink. Whitmer has also run a strong campaign, talking about the Flint Water Crisis and attacking Bill Schuette for not prosecuting the members of the Snyder Administration. She pledges to clean up drinking water by replacing lead service pipes, making sure the Great Lakes are clean, enter Michigan into the U.S. climate alliance, and to rely on science. Whitmer has led in every poll this year, mostly by double digits. Schuette has tied himself to Trump, who, despite narrowly carrying the state in 2016, has found his approval rating in the 30s. Many Republican are bucking him to endorse Whiter. Schuette has held a number of positions in Michigan since he was first elected a U.S. Representative in 1985, is seen as someone whose days in politics are largely over. Schuette is running out of time to close the gap, and besides Illinois (see below) may be the best opportunity for a Democratic pickup this year.
Incumbent: Jeff Colyer (R) Ran for election, defeated in primary
Democrat Laura Kelly vs Republican Kris Kobach
Sam Brownback, a Republican, was the incumbent until he resigned last January. Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer took his seat and was already running for the election. Shockingly, in the Republican Primary, Kansas Secretary of State and national figure Kris Kobach upset him in the primary by just over 100 votes. Kansas is a deep red state that voted for Trump by over 20 points. However, polls show Kobach ahead within the margin of error. Kobach has alienated many moderate republicans with his policy positions. He is known for being outspoken on hot button issues on immigration. He was the vice chair of a Trump-formed “voter fraud” comission that faced a number of lawsuits for allegedly atttempting to take minority voters off the voting rolls and was disbanded in January Also, an independent 2014 Senate candidate named Greg Orman is getting a substantial portion of the vote. He is running as a moderate, attempting to attract Republicans opposing Kobach, and Democrats worry he will attract potential Democatic voters. However, two former Republican Governors are endorsing Kelly, and independents tend to drop in the polls the closer to election day it gets. If Laura Kelly wins, she would be the third woman elected governor in Kansas.
Incumbent: Bruce Rauner (R) Running
Democrat JB Pritzker vs Republican Bruce Rauner
In 2014, businessman Bruce Rauner shocked the politics of deep blue Illinois by ousting incumbent embattled Democratic Governor Pat Quinn. Instead of appearing bipartisan, however, Rauner has managed to alienate liberals, moderates, and conservatives. He is pro-choice and is in favor of gay rights, causing a Republican State Senator to form the Illinois Conservative Party and challenge Rauner. Both houses of the Illinois Legislature are held by the Democratic Party, and Illinois State House Speaker Mike Madigan is not known for cooperating with Rauner. Relations between Rauner and the State House are so bad, that from July 1 2015 to August 31 2017, Illinois had NO STATE BUDGET WHATSOEVER. The budget impasse That level of mismanagement has left the blame falling on Governor Rauner. Businessman JB Pritzker is the Democratic nominee. Both in 2014 and this year, Rauner has dumped millions of his vast personal fortune into his campaign. However, Pritzker is rich and is dumping his money into this race too. Rauner’s approval ratings are so dismal that he only won renomination by 3 points over a little-known challenger. He is down over 20 points in many polls, and Illinois is the best opportunity for a Democratic pickup.
Incumbent: Nathan Deal (R) Term Limited
Democrat Stacey Abrams vs Republican Brian Kemp
This race, much like Florida’s, is very polarizing. Stacey Abrams was the minority leader of the Georgia House of Representatives. If elected, she would be the first black female governor of any state. Secretary of State Brian Kemp is a Trump-backed hard right Republican who, oddly enough, had something called a “deportation bus” for rounding up illegal immigrants, and beat Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle by almost 40 points in the primary after being endorsed by Trump. For years, Democrats have tried to win statewide election by nominating moderate candidates who try to appeal to the coalition that elected Bill Clinton in 1992. However, Georgia has a rapidly expanding black population, a demographic that tends to often vote over 90% Democratic. Abrams believes the right approach is to energize them and other progressives throughout the state. Her policies are indeed very progressive in every category. Kemp is the exact opposite, far-right in every category. In mid-October, it came out that for the past eight years, Kemp (being the state’s chief election officer) removed hundreds of thousands of voters from the voter rolls, often in Democratic areas. The amount of voters removed total is likely greater than the margin of victory for the Republican candidate in the 2014 Georgia Gubernatorial Elections. The race is basically tied two weeks out. There’s also another complication - if no candidate gets 50% of the vote, it goes to a runoff in December.
Incumbent: Scott Walker (R) Running
Democrat Tony Evers vs Republican Scott Walker
Wisconsin has historically been a very progressive state that was a mostly Democratic bastion. However, in the Tea Party Wave of 2010, conservative Republican Scott Walker was elected and almost immediately began implementing very conservative policies. He survived a recall election in 2012 and was reelected in 2014. He was, for a time, a Republican frontrunner in 2016 before being overtaken by Donald Trump. Walker is popular among conservatives, but his overall approval rating is dismal. His Democartic opponent Tony Evers has a had a small but comfortable lead for most of the race. 2010 and 2014 were Republican years and Walker has had the benefit of large spending on behalf of his donors. This year, the Democratic base is energized and ready to take out Walker. The other major race is a senate race, where the Democrat is leading by double digits. That could help turnout Democratic voters as well. The state economy overall has done well and jobs have been created, but as usual, these gains have drastically benefited the wealthy and the jobs do not pay as well as the workers would like them too. Walker has curbed the power of unions in the state, and while that has boosted his profile among conservatives, many people say that he is due for a reckoning. Tony Evers is the Superintendent of Public Instruction in Wisconsin. Democrats have had good signs already, they’ve won back 2 state Senate seats in special elections and 1 state Supreme Court seat. This will be one of the most interesting races of the year.
Incumbent: Bill Walker (I) Running
Independent Bill Walker vs Republican Mike Dunleavy vs Democrat Mark Begich
2014 was a three-way race until Independent candidate Bill Walker formed a unity ticket with the Democrats and ousted the incumbent Republican governor. For a while, it looked like Walker would win a second term over Mike Dunleavy, the former state senator. However, former U.S. Senator Mark Begich jumped into the race right before the filing deadline. It became a three way race as Walker had been preparing to run as a Democrat in the primary. The Republican looked assured for victory. Walker’s hopes for reelection were complicated when his Lieutanent Governor Byron Mallot dropped out as allegations of unspecified inappropriate comments came out. Three days later, Walker dropped out of the race. Now Begich, due to attacks by Walker damaging him, is behind the Republican in the polls. However, the deficit is within the margin of error, and Walker has now endorsed Begich, which will give him a boost. The race is tight and the winner of the election is anyone’s guess.