Communism in India: Even Marx Would Not Approve



The 2014 Indian general election was hailed as a watershed event that heralded in a majority government for the first time in 33 years. It is the first election in Indian history in which a single non­-Congressional party won a majority. However, one aspect of the election that has barely been analyzed by pundits and political commentators is the steep decline in the fortunes of communist political parties in India2. In the 2014 election, the communist parties – the Revolutionary Socialist Party, All India Forward Bloc, Communist Party of India (Marxist), and Communist Party of India – won 11 seats out of 543, down from 24 seats in 2009 and 59 seats in 2004. Most critics have ascribed their political decline to their ineffective governance and their inability to resonate with the young and middle classes. While there is a history of Indian communism external to party politics, it largely manifests in guerilla movements rather than traditional party politics and follows a non-Marxist ideology. Marx himself likely  would have thought that these electoral communist parties in India were bound to fail. His theories regarding development of economic systems and beliefs about Indian society signify that according to his praxis, a communist movement in modern India would not be feasible in the foreseeable future.

Brief Political History of Indian Communist Parties

Communist parties were the main national opposition party during the first decade of post­-Independence India. They reached their apex on the national stage in the 2004 general elections when their alliance won 59 seats in the election. On the state level, communist parties enjoyed unprecedented success in Kerala and West Bengal. In 1957 they became the first non-­Congressional party to hold power in an Indian State by winning the assembly election in Kerala, and in 1977, they won the assembly election in West Bengal. Communist parties also held significant pockets of influence in Tripura, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh Telangana, and Tamil Nadu. They reached their apex in the 2004 general elections when their alliance won 59 seats in the election.


Since the 1990s, however, the communist political movement in India has been on a long-term decline. The parties are now only in power in two states, Kerala and Tripura. They lost power in West Bengal in 2011 and their political fortunes in the states have only deteriorated (In 2016 assembly elections they could only win 32 seats out of a total of 294 seats). Nationally, their performance has also seen a steep decline. The number of seats held by Communist Parties went from 59 in 2004 to a dismal 11 in 2014.

Marx and Indian communists

The decline of Indian communist parties has been attributed to its poor governance while in power, smug leadership, and ideology that does not connect with youth and the middle class. However, even Karl Marx would have predicted that Indian communist parties would not be very successful in post­colonial India. To understand how, a closer look at Marxist economic philosophy is required.


Marx and Engels theorized that capitalist economies would fall one day, and that change will be brought forth by its internal forces and contradictions. This change in economic systems (i.e. say from feudal economy to “bourgeois” economy/industrial economy) occurs because inner tensions within one economic system (feudalism) lead to the next (capitalism).

They noted that human society had gone through different types of modes of production, from Asiatic to ancient to feudal to bourgeois, and predicted that ultimately humans would end up with communism (with socialism as an intermediate step between capitalism and communism). Hence, Marx and Engels saw capitalism as an important step in the way for a society to get to communism. They noted that most Western European nations had transformed from feudal systems to capitalistic systems and saw signs that these industrialized nations would then turn to the most ideal mode of production, communism. Under Marxist theory, for a country to become communist, it has to first be capitalist. Renowned economist Thomas Sowell notes in his book, Marxism, that “Though [Marx] made the criticism of capitalism his life’s work, Marx also saw the ‘transitory necessity for a capitalist mode of production’”

That is perhaps the most important problem with communists in India according to Marx – that a communist movement would not be appropriate in a country where industrial development had not occurred, because they would be skipping a key step in the development of communism. India, for that matter, has not yet become a fully capitalist nation. In the 1950’s, 72 percent of total working population in India was engaged in agriculture and about 50 percent of India’s national income was generated by agriculture and allied sector. Communism is based in the uprising against capitalism, and few Indians would be able to relate to exploitation by the capitalist factory owner if few of them worked in factories. Communism can be heralded only once India becomes a predominantly industrialized country, something that has yet to happen since 53% of the Indian workforce is still in agriculture.

Marx wrote about India in the 1850’s, at the beginning of the British Crown’s rule over the country. Although Marx was against colonialism in theory and criticized the British occupation of India, he also criticized Indian society for being prone to invasion by foreigners and actually preferred that Indians be colonized by British than other powers. He believed that the British invasion would force a change upon the never-changing and outdated Indian society, that the “disruptions caused by British invasion would create a more dynamic social and political order.” His assumption was that this “dynamic social order” would make Indian society more susceptible to economic transitions like the European nations. By painting British invasion of India as a sort of a necessary evil, he was endorsing the introduction of capitalistic systems upon  traditional Indian society. If Marx considered capitalism a crucial step in progressing to Communism, it makes sense that he saw British invasion as way to bring capitalism to India.

Under Marx’s theory of economic development, every communist state has to first go through a capitalist phase. Without that crucial step, according to Marx, communism would not be viable. Therefore, if the communist parties, who claim to espouse Marxists ideology, really want to create a communist state in India, they should actually push for pro-capitalist, pro- free trade policies. The new Indian government, elected in 2014, has been one of the most pro-business and pro-free trade government in India. The most vocal opponents of the new government’s economic policy, inside and outside the parliament, have been the communist parties. But if they really believe in the economic ideas of Marx, they should be the most ardent cheerleaders of the government’s economic policies. After all it was Marx who said, “The free trade system is destructive. It breaks up old nationalities and pushes the antagonism of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie to the extreme point. In a word, the free trade system hastens the social revolution. It is in this revolutionary sense alone, gentlemen, that I vote in favor of free trade”.

Kushagra Mahaseth

Trump: Not a President for Black America


NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 16: Members of Political Action stand outside the studios of "Good Morning America" to broadcast messages of love, dignity, and equality and stand up against the hate, racism, and incitement of violence that the group says has become a hallmark of Donald Trump's presidential campaign in New York City on Wednesday, March 16, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Thos Robinson/Getty Images for Political Action)
Thos Robinson/Getty Images for Political Action

       Donald Trump is experimenting.  With record low poll numbers among African Americans and a faltering national campaign, Trump has endeavored to reach out to them. He has added a segment to his stump speeches in which he speaks directly to African Americans with the illogical message, “You have nothing else to lose, so why not?” Naturally, a man who has made minimal effort to discover how life is experienced by others will believe their lives are desolate. 

Recently, while campaigning in the predominantly white suburb of Lansing, Michigan, Trump made his pitch. It is worth noting that he denied speech requests from the NAACP, National Urban League, and National Association of Black Journalists national conventions’, all which have audiences who are politically engaged in black communities and are traditionally attended by presidential candidates. Rather than speaking directly to African Americans about their problems at these venues, he chose to hold a rally in Lansing suburb Dimondale, Michigan, where he touched on issues relating to black youth unemployment, urban poverty, and educational imbalances.

“You’re living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58% of your youth is unemployed — what the hell do you have to lose?” Trump retorted as he continued his tirade on why the African American community is troubled and no other candidate but him will fix their problems. The statistic he cited was an extrapolation and was found not to match data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Trump has also stated that the crime rate within inner-cities is reaching ‘record levels’,  which is is completely untrue. As a matter of fact, the crime rate in America has been decreasing for the last twenty years. A 2015 study completed by researchers at New York University showed national crime figures were at historic lows. The analysis reads, “The average person in a large urban area is safer walking down the street today than he or she would have been at almost any time in the past 30 years.” Nonetheless, Trump’s proposed solutions include limiting refugees to provide more access to jobs for Americans, lowering taxes on small businesses, and bolstering programs that champion school-choice. At best, these fixes would be palliative in nature.

Trump has been a staunch advocate for reestablishing stop-and-frisk practices which were found unconstitutional in 2013. During the first presidential debate, the candidates were asked to explain how they would heal racial divides. Trump seemingly ignored the question and  leaped straight to ominous words of ‘law and order’. He further emphasized the supposed effectiveness of stop-and-frisk.  “You do stop and frisk, which worked very well…worked very well in New York. It brought the crime rate way down”. However, stop-and-frisk is detrimental to urban communities and weakens police-community relationships. A report from the NYCLU reads “No research has ever proven the effectiveness of New York City’s stop-and-frisk regime…While violent crimes fell 29 percent in New York City from 2001 to 2010, other large cities experienced larger violent crime declines without relying on stop and frisk abuses: 59 percent in Los Angeles, 56 percent in New Orleans, 49 percent in Dallas, and 37 percent in Baltimore.” Not only is stop-and-frisk futile, but it violates the constitution. The 2nd circuit court ruled that recurrent inequitable stops of Black and Latino men, by way of stop-and-frisk, violated their 4th and 14th amendment rights and thus needed to be overhauled. Often, NYPD officers stopped and frisked individuals who exhibited no reasonable suspicious behavior. Additionally, the court ruled that simply because a certain race tended to be in police departments’ suspect data did not mean officers could liken that race for general wrongdoing in the entire city.

The problem with Trump’s words are not, perhaps, his simplistic solutions to ingrained and systemic problems; rather, what is troubling are his beliefs which indicate a profound disconnect between him and reality. He has stated at multiple rallies that all African Americans are living in poverty. Yet, just over a quarter of African Americans are actually living in poverty. In the last few weeks, Trump has consistently said that 58% of African American youth are unemployed—a statistic that has been denounced by a sundry of researchers. Trump has extolled unlawful stop-and-frisk practices, which ignores the mortification plenty of law-abiding citizens were dealt as well as the long-term psychological effects of such an egregious policy. Imagine the thoughts running through children’s minds when they see their father being roughed up and his things being rummaged through by a police officer,  who they learned to view as a protector of the world  now searching the hoodie of the man they were just leaning on for support. Police officers are suppose to go after the bad guys, not innocent fathers. It is evident that Donald Trump cannot imagine this. He opts to traffic in stereotypes and vouch for banal policies, instead of learning about what life is like for other Americans.

Trump painting African American communities as the most devastated and dreaded places in the nation will not make America ‘win’ again. The logical steps to persuade a bloc of people that you care about their problems does not begin with excoriating their very image. It does not begin with claiming to have all the answers, suggesting that the countless leaders who tirelessly work on these problems simply do not possess the deal-making skills and intelligence like him. It does, however, start with a steadfast approach in acknowledging that he, alone can never solve entrenched multi-generational issues.

Trump regularly says that Democratic policies are the cause of the problems facing the African American community; thus, they should subscribe to his policies if they desire real change. Though Trump fails to realize African Americans overwhelmingly vote for Democratic candidates for legitimate reasons—progressive policies have had a positive and palpable effect in many blacks’ lives. From landmark civil rights legislation to sweeping changes in our healthcare system—the former which fundamentally altered the way of life for millions and the latter which has opened access to preventive services for over 7 million African Americans—the African American community is not supporting the Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, because she includes a black woman in a television advertisement or parades to speak at a Black Baptist church. Clinton holds broad support among the African American community because of her actions and policies.

It is staggering that a candidate—whose idea concerning the state of Black America has little basis in facts—is weeks away from potentially securing the most powerful office in the world. It matters. A man that will have vast influence on whether civil rights and liberties are protected, modern police reforms come to fruition, and income racial disparities are ameliorated appears to be very misguided. When discussing Trump’s new outreach to African Americans, his campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, stated that he ‘deserves credit’. As if an American presidential candidate somehow deserves a cachet for considering others. Trump has a lengthy route to travel if he truly wants to court the African American vote, and it starts with actually caring about African American issues.


by: Seph Brown

Why Your Vote for Stein Counts


(Jill Stein, Gage Skidmore on Flickr, no changes made)

If Donald Trump wins this election, whose fault will it be?

For many liberals the answer is Jill Stein, this cycle’s Green Party presidential candidate, and those who give their vote to her. Democrats spend a disproportionate amount of time criticizing these Green Party voters for what they see as an irresponsible lack of tactical acumen, despite most polls putting Stein in fourth place behind Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and Gary Johnson. They believe that Clinton voters and Stein voters share similar progressive goals and that Stein is making these more difficult to achieve. Various melodramatic attempts have been made to tie Stein voters to ever more confusing motives, ranging from Vladimir Putin to sexism (against one female candidate but not the other). Stein’s liberal critics also enjoy citing the so-called “spoiler effect,” when a third-party candidate splits what would supposedly be a strong voter base for one major-party candidate and causes their opponent to win instead.  The most often-cited instance of the spoiler effect is George W. Bush’s victory in the 2000 election, attributed to Green Party candidate Ralph Nader. But this critique leaves out most of the story from that election: that not only did 12% of Florida Democrats vote for Bush, but also that Gore probably would have won had he demanded a statewide recount. These arguments, that Greens are either in some secret conspiracy to stop Hillary Clinton or are ignorant of recent electoral history, both miss the point that Stein voters are trying to make. To actually understand their motives, we have to both question the progressiveness of the two major-party tickets and consider the potential power of protest voting.

Can a vote for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump be defined as progressive?

Since President Obama took office in 2009, the U.S. government has deported more than 2.5 million people more than under any other president in American history. Hundreds of miles of walls and fences stand along the Mexican border. Donald Trump has received the overwhelming majority of media coverage on this issue for his infamous desire to expand these walls and increase the deportation program, but, the difference between Clinton and Trump on this issue is less substantial than most progressives would like. Hillary Clinton appears to support maintaining the immigration status quo, continuing Obama’s record deportation rate and keeping up the current wall. In the past Clinton has argued for the deportation of young children, and her previous record of reversing her stance on issues like these should not provide much comfort to the pro-immigrant Clinton voter.

The human rights record of the Obama administration is, like immigration, not entirely in line with a progressive stance. Since Obama became President in 2009, the American government has killed “at least 200 and as many as 1000 civilians” by drone strikes in nations where the US is not even at war. This does not include the civilians killed in Afghanistan, including forty-two people in a hospital last October, fourteen of whom were Doctors Without Borders aid workers. Any historical analysis of American involvement in the Middle East supports the argument that interventionism in general has led to less stability and greater terrorist threats; some evidence even suggests that terrorist organizations use these civilian casualties as recruiting tools. Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy appears to be significantly more hawkish than that of Obama’s, considering she has sought and received the endorsements of many of the architects of previous American wars in the Middle East. As for her Republican counterpart, Donald Trump’s foreign policy goals have been vague, occasionally making appeals for anti-interventionism but also promising to disregard international laws and kill civilians in his quest to destroy ISIS.

In these categories and in many others – including, but not limited to, climate change and energy policy, management of the economy and prevention of recession, both domestic and global antipoverty tactics, etc. – both Trump and Clinton present ideas that are extremely incompatible with a progressive agenda. To put it bluntly, progressives don’t deport children or support programs that continually bomb innocent people.

Can a protest vote ever count?

Although her electoral prospects are gloomy, Stein deserves the vote of progressives. If the Green Party wins 5% of the popular vote, it will gain public funding of $20 million from the Federal Election Commission. In the current election cycle the Stein campaign has raised less than $2 million, so FEC funding would allow them to increase their advertising tenfold and share their platform with a much larger audience. This protest vote counts; it is a tangible movement towards a broader progressive movement in the United States.

A vote for Jill Stein counts in the sense that all votes count. Voters only get one chance every four years to send a real message to the presidency. For regular citizens who stand with, say, immigrants, or civilian victims of drone strikes, or black children shot dead by police, or people whose homes will be underwater in fifty years, or anyone else who holds beliefs which are unpopular in Washington and can’t afford to start a SuperPAC, now is the last chance to make demands of the most powerful person in the world until 2020.  This kind of change is only going to come if somebody asks for it.

If Trump wins, there is little doubt that Stein voters will be blamed as Nader voters were for Bush’s victory. These insinuations – “a vote for Stein is a vote for Trump” – ought to be dismissed. Even if Clinton were to lose by one vote in some bizarre Kevin Costner movie-type scenario, the blame for a Trump victory is distributed equally across every single eligible voter in the state who didn’t vote for Clinton. When the actual mathematical blame for a loss on an individual voter is somewhere in the ballpark of one six millionth of a percent, it becomes clear that these votes must not be conceptualized individually, but in blocs. Between the conventions and the first debate, Hillary could easily have made an appeal to the Stein supporters. She could have refocused her campaign around income inequality, peace and justice for people here and in the countries we bomb, urgently transitioning toward renewable energy and avoiding large-scale climate disaster, or any number of other vital issues with broad public support. Instead, while Jill Stein was protesting the DAPL and talking about a Green New Deal, Hillary Clinton decided to court the vote of George H.W. Bush. If she loses, it won’t be the voters’ fault; it will be her own.

With just a month to go, no one is entirely sure who will win the election. Most polls show a narrow Clinton lead, but any number of factors could change this. There is little doubt that a Clinton win is better than a Trump win for the broader progressive cause. In spite of this, it would be a strategic mistake for American progressives to compromise here; to do so would be to throw away whatever political leverage they have. If they support a self-described “center-right” candidate now, they will have no other option but to continue to do so in the future. If progressive voters decide that it’s permissible for their candidate to be able to gain the vote of right-wing Republicans whom they completely oppose, then the label “progressive” loses all meaning. Voters must ask themselves whose side their candidate will take when she is inevitably forced to make a decision that will pit two sections of her incongruent support against each other.

There has never been a more apt time for a third party movement than now, amidst the most unpopular matchup in modern American history. Four years from now, a Democrat will be running against either Trump or a more organized but similarly appalling candidate who has co-opted his movement, and unless that Democrat is progressive the refrain will be the same: “This is no time for protesting! This election is too important for you to fight against war, or the destruction of the environment, or the mistreatment of immigrants and people of color!” They’re going to say that every election while trotting out candidates whose commitment to actual progressivism — or rather, actual progress — becomes continuously more symbolic and continuously less substantive. Pointing to the other guy and saying “At least I’m not him” has become the Democratic status quo – a status quo in which immigrants are still being deported, civilians are still being bombed, and the candidate is still not good enough. To vote for Hillary Clinton is to vote for all of her policies; the only way to change them is to vote for someone else.


By: Patrick Cleary

Columbus: The Myth and Truth Behind the Millennial City


(Franklinton, Stephen Wolfe on Flickr, no changes made)

A small city clings jealously to its national accolades, and residents of Columbus have had more than a few to celebrate recently. In addition to receiving a competitive $40 million “Smart Cities” pilot grant to modernize its outmoded public transit system, the growing city has been the subject of several high-profile articles on its economic “revitalization” – such outfits as NPR and National Geographic have praised its nascent tech scene and chic, well-funded arts and shopping districts, even suggesting that it could be the next millennial destination city.

At the same time, Columbus has been in the international news for a less rosy reason: the murder of a black child, Ty’re King, at the hands of city police. Even though reports of such killings have become grimly commonplace, many Columbus residents I know were stunned by the event; we expect this in Cleveland, in Cincinnati, they murmured, but not here. Never here.

However, their innocence elides a local history of institutionalized racial injustice that stretches back a century. The bitter truth is that there’s little contradiction between Columbus’s ostensible “success” and the continued dispossession of its black community from body and home. America’s “smartest city”, after all, is also one of its most segregated. The economic stability of Columbus’s professional class has long been buttressed by low taxes, a gerrymandered public school system, and a technocratic city government determined to avoid social unrest in any form.

In NPR’s profile piece on Columbus, Ohio State University professor of history David Stebenne describes its recession-proof success as the product of “a very committed group of civic leaders and a culture of working together”. It is perhaps more accurate to say its many banking, finance, and consulting firms have remained in town as the result of an implicit pact between capital and City Hall, in which business leaders have offered their patronage in exchange for the maintenance of a “comfortable” white-collar environment – that is, one free of the inconveniences of school busing, fair housing laws, and equitable taxation.

This history of acquiescence began in the 30s, when the city’s population began to grow in earnest for the first time, driven by an emerging manufacturing industry and an influx of black laborers from the South. Anticipating the mounting middle-class demand for detached, single-family homes, developers began to buy up unincorporated land on the outskirts of the city and lay down planned communities like Upper Arlington and Worthington Hills.

It should come as little surprise that these communities were white by design – the allure of the suburbs came in no small part from their exclusionary nature. Even after 1948’s Shelly V. Kramer Supreme Court ruling struck down explicit racial covenants (like those of Upper Arlington), housing discrimination continued in practice through the mandatory vetting of prospective tenants by “homeowners’ associations” and through price and size minimums on new developments. The intent behind these policies was clear, as two thirds of Columbus’s planned subdivisions had racial covenants on their books (as documented in Patricia Burgess’s Planning for the Private Interest) even after Kramer made it impossible to enforce them legally.

Whereas suburban communities in other cities soon became politically autonomous, the Columbus city government saw the tax potential of these new developments and acted quickly to annex them in the 50s. They made this move politically palatable with three incentives: low income taxes, the provision of public utilities, and the preservation of those communities’ existing housing restrictions in the city’s zoning code. These codes, exclusionary by design, became part of the new law of the city, solidifying patterns of neighborhood segregation that persist to this day.

These patterns were briefly thrown into question in the late 60s when black city leaders brought a string of school desegregation cases against the city. Prior to this era, the Columbus School Board gave Brown II‘s injunction of desegregation “with all deliberate speed” little heed. However, a small but growing number of local demonstrations and flare-ups, along with clearer timelines for integration outlined in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, made the issue impossible to ignore any longer.

During these legal struggles, Columbus officials were preoccupied by the thought of their city turning into another Detroit or Boston, where the opposition to integration was so vitriolic that it descended into riots, bomb threats, and car burnings. Columbus had long thrived on its unremarkability – social stability meant a secure tax base and a steady stream of business investment. Now, faced with the mandate to make a bold but unpopular choice for integration, city officials sought a way to fulfill the letter of the law while mitigating its actual impact.

The result was the creation of a quasi-private and politically “neutral” entity, the Metropolitan Columbus Schools Committee, to oversee the desegregation effort. MCSC ran a drawn-out and piecemeal busing campaign until its corporate and philanthropic funders withdrew the last of their funding in the late 70s. In what was becoming typical Columbus fashion, leaders managed to assuage concerns on both sides of the issue while changing very little of the city’s economic and social geography.

As Robert Duncan, the Sixth District Court judge who presided over the city’s landmark desegregation case, would later say, “The power structure in Columbus traditionally gives the black community just enough to keep it relatively happy. Whenever you push, they just sort of give up a little and they take you off guard.”

This style of politics – incrementalist in words but intransigent in deeds – can be seen in contemporary battles over the city’s public transit system. A good public transit network can be a way to stitch together neighborhoods forced apart by segregation, but the system for Columbus has long been among the worst of America’s large cities, lacking light rail or an extensive commuter bus network.

Since the creation of the Central Ohio Transit Authority in the 70s, there have been five serious legislative attempts to improve the public transit system through the addition of rail or bus rapid transit corridors. All have failed. The proximate explanation for this poor record is lack of funding: until the mid-2000s, the city passed up on millions in federal public transit funding due to its lack of a transit plan. This meant that proposed expansions would have been funded by sales tax levies, which were (and still remain) political anathema.

However, the continued opposition to public transit in Columbus runs deeper than fiscal concerns. Local leaders in the suburban counties, who have veto power over any proposed transit plan in the metro area, often see the expansion of public transit as an unwelcome intrusion of the “urban” population into their exclusive communities. One County Commissioner from a suburban country told me he would not support any transit or housing plan that could bring “the riff-raff from Columbus”. The coded racial nature of this opposition is clear, and the structure of Columbus’s regional governance system – parochial by design – makes it nearly impossible to challenge through legislative means.

If Columbus is really a city of consensus, as Prof. Stebenne claims, it is a consensus among business and civic elites alone. In “Getting Around Brown”, his masterful history of the city’s desegregation efforts, Gregory Jacobs describes how that confluence of interests has shaped the city’s politics: “The wealth of Columbus’s elite… [has] remained uniquely and intimately tied to local investments. The local dependence of Columbus business leaders bred a sense of civic loyalty and commitment to municipal matters born of economic self-interest.”

Stability, not progress, has been Columbus’s ethos. When the city administration deigns to consider the needs of its black community, it is always in a tentative way – granting just enough ground to appear accommodating and high-minded while doing little to improve the economic fault lines that make the city one of the least socially mobile in the United States.


By: Max Mauerman

Corrections: Worthington Hills, not Worthington, was a planned community. 


The False Promise of Voting Your Conscience



Flashback to 8:00 P.M. November 7th, 2000.


Polls have just closed across Florida, and every major television news network has just presumptively declared Al Gore the next president of the United States. Then, only six and a half hours later, polling data of most of Florida’s voting districts shows George W. Bush with a sudden and unexpected lead of 100,000 votes, what seemed insurmountable. At this time Al Gore privately conceded the election and handed Bush the victory. Suddenly, in a sweeping turn of events, a final count at 4:30am showed Gore had narrowed the distance to an astonishing 2,000 votes, just a fraction of a percent difference. With victory in sight, Gore withdrew his concession and a mandatory recount was called. The end results? George Bush won the state, and secured the presidency, with a simple majority of 537 votes. Yes, 537 votes out of a total of over five million. Less than a 0.0001% victory margin.

Now, let’s look at the most popular third party that election cycle, the Green Party. At the time led by Ralph Nader, the Green Party surged in popularity in the 2000’s. The self-described eco-socialist party lines up  many left-wing ideals of social justice, anti-racism, gender equality, and LGBTQ+ rights. Due in part to this platform similarity, the Green Party of the 2000’s drew many frustrated Democrats to its flag. According to Florida’s Division of Elections archives, Nader walked away from the state’s general election with a clean 1.6% of the vote.

Here is where things get controversial. Simply put, the Green Party “stole” 42,000 votes from Gore, thereby costing him the election. According to David Khun of CBS News, “Voter News Service exit polling showed that 47 percent of Nader’s Florida supporters would have voted for Gore, and 21 percent for Mr. Bush, easily covering the margin of Gore’s loss.” While it is ridiculous to claim that this was the only reason Gore lost, it seems that Nader’s followers could have prevented the election of George Bush.

So here we are, back in the present. Mere months away from electing the 45th president of the United States. If this is your first time voting, welcome! If you’re a grizzled veteran of the chaotic seas of US politics, I applaud your resilience. Do you see any parallels between the 2000 election and today’s election? Because the voter frustration and third party popularity should seem familiar. Many voters are unhappy with their party’s official nominee, be that Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. In the midst of this displeasure, many voters have turned to the Green Party’s current presidential candidate Jill Stein or the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson. I must stress that I am neither claiming they would make bad nor good presidents. I am saying that it doesn’t matter either way – because we will never actually have the chance to find out. Our current electoral system ensures that they can never be president.

“Anybody can grow up to be president if they try hard enough!” Although this classic phrase of encouragement is appealing, it’s simply not true if the person in question is running as a third party candidate. In fact only twice have third party candidates even come in second place, Theodore Roosevelt in 1912 and John C. Breckinridge in 1860. Yes, each were over 100 years ago.

Simply put, our first-past-the-post “winner take all” system ensures the success of one of the two major parties and ensures the failure of any hopeful third party. As we’ve seen as recently as the fateful 2000 election, any moderately popular third party inevitably takes the majority of its newfound voters from one of the two major parties – and with two popular third-party candidates this cycle, the effect will be even stronger. If one day you and several thousand of your closest friends decide to vote for a third party, it is suddenly several thousand votes easier for the opposing candidate to win, the one with whom you disagree the most. It is now starkly clear that those few thousand votes really can make all the difference.

Yes, our current system is one that consistently guarantees the majority of the voting populace is at least generally unsatisfied with the victor of each presidential race, if for no other reason than the fact that two people simply cannot represent the ideals of 318 million people. This is the reality of our two-party electorate. But that is the system that we have to work with. Should we, as the voting population, demand change? Absolutely! But does voting third party affect the continuation of that system? Unfortunately, no. As the well known podcaster and YouTube personality CGP Grey eloquently put it, “the better a third party candidate does, the more it hurts its own voters by guaranteeing a loss for the party they most agree with and a win for the party they most disagree with.”

Does any of this mean you should feel obligated to vote for Hillary or Trump? Absolutely not. The beauty of our system is that your vote is just that, yours. No one can tell you how you must use it. But this in no way excuses you from doing your absolute best to affect the election in the way you believe will be most advantageous. Being part of a democratic system means that voters must take personal responsibility for their vote, do their research, and on voting day make the most informed decision possible. Is supporting a third party truly the most effective way to use your vote?

By: Sam Taglia

Florida Division of Elections (elections archive):

Foresight 2020: The Exiled Contenders After Cleveland

Republican Symbol
Republican Symbol, Gerald Cipolla, flickr Creative Commons 

Since the Republican National Convention in August, it has become apparent to Republicans and others that not only is the presidency at stake, but the future of the party. As factions jockey for influence, the last two challengers, each a head of moderate or conservative factions not in the Trump primary coalition, have begun gearing up for another race. Working on helping those down the ballot, Governor John Kasich is preoccupied with gathering favors with primary endorsements and fundraisers, cementing himself firmly,in an establishment still reeling from the electorate sentiment. Ted Cruz has returned to the Senate, subdued but picking careful conservative fights over internet privacy and foreign policy. As both networks continue to grow, the shadow of Trump and their actions during the convention provide stepping stones to a future presidency, only four more years away.

Ted Cruz: The Parochial Pariah

“Well, [based on] what we heard is tonight, he’s not going to endorse.”  Less than twelve hours before Ted Cruz went up on stage during the Republican National Convention and urged the audience to “Vote your conscience,” I received advance news with a degree of certainty beyond speculation from a couple of his delegates.  For all the articles and polls about Republicans abandoning Cruz, I was consistently told that his true supporters either did not care if he endorsed Trump or did not want him to endorse Trump.  Amid complaints that they were being bullied by the RNC and Trump into submission, one Florida alternate delegate said that while she harbors no hostility towards the GOP, she feels that there may be a need for a third party based on Christian religious values. I don’t want to typecast Cruz voters because they were some of the kindest people I met at the convention, but it is their principles that distinguish them as a bloc that will provide the moral grounds for standing against the GOP nominee.


One woman on the Rules Committee told me that Reince Priebus, the present chairman of the RNC, was suppressing the ‘grassroots’, a common complaint of the Cruz delegatesThis brings up the point that while Cruz may have lost support among the majority of voters, he maintained the backing of conservative activists, a growing power base. The grass roots used to be part-time volunteers or college students that would work for campaigns, like those of Eugene McCarthy or Barry Goldwater.  In an Internet Age of connection and improved organization, the grassroots have transformed into a separate group from the everyday populace. This new assembly of people is constantly involved the political world and ingrained in obscure rules and regulations.  Because of the grass roots activists, Cruz was able to dominate delegate selection and state conventions.  The disconnect between the will of the people and those who believe that they hold the will of the politically motivated was evident at the RNC.  As Cruz started talking, these people were chanting, “2020” and “God’s not done with you,” while his convention speech was met with resounding boos from the New York delegates and spread across the convention center.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) thanks delegates and guests prior to his convention speech
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) thanks delegates and guests prior to his convention speech

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) thanks delegates and guests prior to his convention speech


Cruz has a tough road ahead.  His [consolation?] speech was seen as unnecessary grandstanding, and potential

Ted Cruz campaign manager Jeff Roe
Ted Cruz campaign manager Jeff Roe

challenges to his 2018 Senate run have come up, the most prominent one which is former Governor Rick Perry; however, his challenge seems unlikely as he endorsed Cruz when he dropped out of the primaries.  Perry could be looking to boost his profile and run for president a third time as he still is seen favorably, but he struggles with groups of threes.  It will be an uphill battle for anyone hoping to challenge Cruz’s Tea Party network and Texas organization or his funding.  Campaign manager Jeff Roe said that the campaign plans to spend twenty million dollars for the Senate seat.  It is near impossible to be certain, but Cruz and Rubio both seem to have a future ahead.  Although the Tea Party got Rubio elected, he then abandoned their platform to seem more electable. On the other hand, Cruz has taken up the mantle of the Tea Party’s crusading warrior. This is evident in the repeated emails I receive from the old Free the Delegates movement with new procedures and tactics to overthrow Trump and put a true conservative as the nominee.  With the primary procedures being reviewed and reworked, Cruz’s side has already shown that changes in the RNC will be a factor when choosing a 2020 candidate.

Behind the scenes, Cruz and his activist army are working for decentralization and realignment of the central committee.  Carly Fiorina, Cruz supporter and vice presidential ‘pseudo candidate’, is actively beginning a bid for Chairman Reince Priebus’ position.  She will travel the country for candidates in state elections and meet with notorious conservative activist Morton Blackwell.  This has even prompted Priebus to reverse course, and now he is mulling over reelection.  Finally, a small but powerful group of congressmen and women in the House of Representatives, the Freedom Caucus, is battling against party leadership and donors trying to remove them. All these dynamics are setting up a 2018 midterm election that could burst into open warfare between Cruz and the Republican establishment as well as a 2020 race that will once again open up the wound that was never really closed between business conservatives and ideological purists.


John Kasich: Home Field Advantage

The ‘Free the Delegates’ call one week before the convention devolved into chaos as the leadership signed out.  Everyone was shouting out candidates’ names, as long as they weren’t Trump.  One man repeatedly shouting “Cruz Crew” proceeded to add “NeverRubio” and “NeverKasich” at

Governor John Kasich (R-Ohio) talks to state delegates in Little Italy
Governor John Kasich (R-Ohio) talks to state delegates in Little Italy

the end of a unity call for “NeverTrump.”  One woman exasperatedly asked “why NeverKasich?”, quoting that he balanced the federal budget, helped Ohio’s economy, and is the most electable. I recognized the desperate, pleading tone because it was the same one I would use over the phone at the Kasich campaign headquarters in order to get voters.  As Trump dominated the airwaves, and Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio were showered with establishment funds, Ohio Governor John Kasich floundered in the background.  With a resume that made Clinton envious and an appeal to the masses, as shown in general election matchups, Kasich should have been an ideal choice as nominee.  In a cycle focused on attacking the establishment, with so many angry voters, Kasich’s folksy, Midwest style that made him so endearing also made him boring.  During the convention, he spoke to some state delegations at a lunch, and, with his voice steeped in self-awareness, made note of the fact that the most press coverage he got came from a snowball fight with the press.



Unlike Cruz, Kasich’s favorability ratings have continued to stay high (odd for a presidential candidate) with his name and organizational capability having allowed for the statewide domination of Republicans in the perennial tossup Buckeye State.  His name recognition and, as one delegate from Maryland put it, “dignified” defiance of Trump has set him up for a 2020 run.  He appears to think so too, writing a book about his campaign and retaining chief strategist John Weaver.  Though he does not support Trump, he is traveling around to help GOP politicians in tough races, such as John McCain, Rob Portman, and New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte.  Even now, Kasich goes back to the state that boosted him, New Hampshire, to help gubernatorial candidate Chris Sununu, son of one of his biggest backers, and will use this as a chance to reunite with key supporters.

He was even flaunting a new presidential run in four years within walking distance of the convention center, right before the session started for supporters at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Following days of coverage where Trump warred with Kasich and the Ohio Republican organization, both Rob Portman and Ohio GOP chairman Matt Borges, below left and right respectively, showed up and were working the crowd of Ohio delegates and state figures.

Ohio GOP chairman Matt Borges
Ohio GOP chairman Matt Borges

At the event, a video of moments from Kasich’s campaign played and then Kasich and his wife walked out to the stage. He began to talk about what drove him to enter the race and did some light Trump bashing.  Both Cruz and he refused to mention Trump by name but while Cruz implied Trump wasn’t conservative, Kasich talked about the nominee’s hateful demeanor.  Their reactions show how both candidates will form their message around not endorsing Trump when their time comes up in 2020 and beyond.  Here, surrounded by cheering supporters and buoyed by applause, Kasich talked about never giving up, w. hereas on other occasions he had been contemplative, that day he was optimistic in all smiles and some dad dancing.” Amid all the celebration, and with Ohio supporting him throughout the whole race, his national ambitions are not lost.  As a Kasich supporter hopeful for another run, one statement at the luncheon Kasich attended soundly resonate with me.  Paraphrasing his most high profile celebrity endorsement, Kasich resoundingly expressed this phrase at the end of his speech: “To the people of New Hampshire, I’ll be back.”


By: Noah Rudnick




The Echo Chamber: How and Why the Media Stretches the Truth


“Good morning, it’s Monday and I’m here…,”
“Hello friends, it’s Monday and I’m on the floor of the Republican National Convention.”

Momentarily rattled, I checked my watch to confirm that it was still just Sunday afternoon. It seemed to be a theme that would pop up again and again: changing the narrative for convenience, both out of choice and necessity.  Even when this convention was no longer brokered, the hype surrounding Cleveland was tremendous, from rebellious delegates to violence fueled by local open carry laws.  While there were stories in each, the narrative was far off what actually happened on the ground.  As a new member of the media covering the RNC, I spent the entirety of my trip dedicated to trying to understand the difference in perspectives between the political story the media presents each day compared to the truth of experiencing it firsthand.

At times, the media experts seem to be out of touch with the general populace, and my trip to the convention showed that the media is treated far differently than their readers and other followers of the campaign process.  With press credentials swinging from my neck, I had to reconcile the contradictory air of self-importance surrounding the media professionals while they were herded through a maze of security gates and in my case, tucked away in the top rafters with the foreign press.  Admittedly, it is better than the Trump rallies, where reporters are literally put in a cage and violently handled if they try to leave.  One man in my row was asked on the phone how his seat was, and he replied, “Good, but the air’s a little thin up here.”  The distance from the details let me observe several things the news cameras could not see; it also gave me an emotional distance from the story.

Members of the press whom I interacted with were overwhelmingly cynical and focused on status, in the form of what studio or publication they worked for. However, I think such attitudes are primarily a defense mechanism.  Journalists, not anchors on television, are frequently ridiculed as an elitist and hyperactive class and assaulted when they are not consistently accurate, even though they have the education and knowledge of the issues.  Such criticisms from the public fuel the reporting that voters and people are dumb and not well informed, as if lashing out at those that critique their work. With long hours and workarounds from the subjects they are trying to cover, a lot of the political coverage is gathered while under duress and abuse.


Because I was on the rightmost side of the stage, I could not see the full screen or even the face of the speaker; however, I could see in plain view the rolling text of the Teleprompter.  Such a view gave me a different perspective and separated me from the subjects I was observing.  I was devoid of feelings as people and motivations were reduced to politicians reading off a fancy script.  The one person who did not use the teleprompter was the businessman Tom Barrack, who introduced Ivanka and Donald Trump.  Everyone else, while they may have seemed intense and straightforward on screen, seemed wooden and rehearsed in real life.  This juxtaposition gave me a cynical edge to the whole convention and its proceedings. Over time, I could see how reporters on the trail grow disdainful of politicians and the optics surrounding them very quickly.


As the convention flowed under a tight ship steered by the RNC and the Trump campaign, the media began to take a lot of its cues from the actions of the delegates on the floor, who were under the watchful eye of those wanting a smooth sailing four days.  It started with the floor whips, men in suits and neon yellow and orange baseball caps scattered in an organized pattern on the floor.  These men worked directly for Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman.  Some reports state that they bullied NeverTrump delegates and shut down the roll call vote by targeting states that had enough signatures.  They also worked in tandem (you could see text messages sent out to everyone at once) and started cheers.  With the exceptions of a few spontaneous outbursts during Lt. General Michael Flynn’s speech, and for the non-major speakers like Ted Cruz and the Trump children, the “U-S-A,” and “Lock Her Up” chants were not organic. They were started by these whips and played only to boost the optics of the speakers.  Some news sites and delegates claim these whips knew about Cruz’s speech and intentionally spurred the booing.  One Cruz alternate delegate I spoke to referred to these enforcers as taking orders from George Soros, the liberal billionaire who is a constant target of right wing aggression, such as the rumor spread before the Michigan primary that Soros had donated to John Kasich’s campaign.


Outside of the convention center, the media had a free run of the place, teeming with reporters who had limited access to the Quicken Loans Arena. Many roamed around with bulky cameras trying to get a shot of protests or people walking in and out of the security gates, desperate for sound bites and groveling for action. There were at least three news cameras in the face of anyone blatantly wearing a Texas flag shirt and cowboy hat or a minority displaying a “Make America Great Again” t-shirt.  To me, it seemed the worst part of the spectacle, as the sky-high expectations of violence and riots were disappointed by reality.  However, the lack of action on the ground did not stop the news cycle from trying to stir up trouble, using buzzwords like “chaos” and asking leading questions on a story about poisoned stickers.  On the first day, I could hear a bullhorn in the distance and saw a mass of people moving.  The police tensed up a bit, but I noticed something odd about the first wave of protestors.  They were sort of stumbling along, and as I saw them looking down at their high tech cameras, I realized that they were mostly members of the press.  In fact, while there were only a couple dozen actual protesters present to air their problems with the RNC, they were flanked on all sides by media, making the protests seem much larger.

The media has a lot to reflect on after this cycle.  A Harvard study showed that Trump’s rise owes a lot to free and positive media coverage, playing a far more important role than leadership endorsements.  While the press loved to see itself as the reason Trump became the nominee and yet simultaneously profess apologies for this being entirely their fault, such duality follows the same flaunting and self-deprecating nature that the media culture fosters. In an era enhanced by instantaneous gratification, the desperate search for ratings with outrageous stories and conflict has spurred the public’s distrust for media. Wendy Day, Cruz’s campaign director in Michigan, told me that Fox News and the Drudge Report, right-wing news sources  she used to follow, have lost her as a viewer and reader because they had been “in the tank” for Trump completely.  That followed with a “media blackout” after Cruz won five states in early April following the Wisconsin primary; all that the media covered that week was Trump in New York.  Even Cruz railed the media, saying that it portrayed him as a “theocrat” and that right wing news sources and the bigger general cable and old media must reevaluate its role in politics.

With such a prominent influence in controlling the narrative, especially in this election cycle when compared to historical indicators like party elite endorsements, media coverage and favorability biases must be reexamined. Most of the time, however, the onus falls on the reader.  We must remember that while the members of the media strive to bring us factual and up-to-date news, they face occupational stresses such as the need for ratings and uncooperative subjects. Beyond the somewhat hyperbolic coverage in the media, neither the world nor our politics are as scary or as chaotic as it may first appear.


By: Noah Rudnick

(Image Courtesy: Noah Rudnick at the RNC)

So Happy Together: The Strained Partnership Between Trump and His Party

0719161951RNC Chairman Reince Priebus (middle) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) (right) comb over the rules after a delegate counting challenge from Alaska.

“If I should call you up, invest a dime
And you say you belong to me and ease my mind
Imagine how the world could be, so very fine
So happy together.” -The Turtles

On the first night of the convention, The Turtles hit ‘60s song “Happy Together” played out over the loudspeakers (albeit without the band’s approval), pushing the message of unity against Clinton and the need to put a Republican in the White House.  Under the surface, however, there was intense jockeying for a superior positioning among the three main players of the GOP: the party establishment, the Trump infrastructure, and the conservative grassroots campaign led by former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.  Each in its own way, the three schemed to control not only the optics of the convention, but also the position of the party going forward and defining of the conflicts in the future.  While the split within the party may seem ideological, it is more of a power struggle; the aligning of views is to provide a direction for the next contest, an ideas blueprint.

It appears as if the Trump campaign, relying on the party structure for all of its organizational needs, have closely integrated with RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and the centralized committee, who had previously sent signs of disapproval to Donald Trump during the primary season.  Watching this cycle, I have been shocked at how many esteemed party leaders have acquiesced to Trump even as he insults them and their achievements. This sort of surrender only seems to hurt the leaders themselves, as they are viewed as unprincipled flip-floppers who sacrifice their dignity for the sake of getting Trump voters in the fall.  Looking back, the only party politicians who have seen their profiles raised significantly on the national stage are, in my opinion, Ted Cruz and John Kasich, who have yet to endorse the nominee.  At the same time, some party leaders have also worked to distance themselves from Trump in order to provide cover to their own state and local officials in tight general election races, while risking a fragile alliance to the man who built his political brand on tearing it all down.

Ken Cuccinelli arrived in Cleveland with a plan.  As the Free the Delegates movement received more media coverage, the former Cruz delegate coordinator wanted to pass a rules package that would help a grassroots candidate in the 2020 primaries, such as giving a bonus to closed caucuses and primaries, preventing lobbyists from becoming RNC members, and other small tweaks.  There were backroom agreements to adopt these changes during the Rules Committee meeting on July 14th, but talks fell apart as Trump sympathizers and longtime party members shoved through vote after vote on centralizing measures that shut down all of the reform proposals.  The conservatives were furious, vowing to team up with the unbound delegates to cause a commotion during the convention.  The goal: show that elements of the party are opposed to the real estate mogul nominee.

The Republicans moved fast, whether it was Trump surrogates harassing delegates or Trump’s senior campaign adviser creating a whip team of around 150 people to make sure everyone stayed in line.  From the vantage point of my seating spot in the arena, which someone next to me described as, “Good, though the air’s a lot thinner up here,” you could see the floor helpers in yellow neon hats rushing to Cruz-sympathetic state delegations and making sure that everything stayed on time.  Dissent was shouted down by chants of “U-S-A!” While they appeared organic on TV, the shouts were spurred by the same floor whips.

After getting shut down on a full roll call vote, Cuccinelli threw his credentials on the ground and stormed out. The Virginia delegation was not present to nominate Trump on Tuesday night during the roll call and alternates had to fill their place.  Depending on Cruz’s speech Wednesday night, the conservative activists could decide to break with the party and Trump and come back in four years with a vengeance.  The irony that the party is so dedicated to Trump after fighting him for almost a year is not lost on the convention floor.  A Maryland delegate I talked to said he was fine with Trump but voted for the roll call because he felt that delegates deserved to speak their preference.  Because anti-Trump sentiments seemed to be so prevalent, I had expected a floor fight or at least a struggle. However, it seems that the rebellious movement have been overhyped heading into the convention. They were much weaker in resolve and numbers.


Presidential Nominee Donald Trump addresses crowd while introducing his wife Melania to applause and enthusiasm.

The heavy-handed convention tactics could be mere spectacle, as other actions behind the scenes show that Republican party insiders are playing a double game: using Trump forces to keep power while backing away from him behind closed doors.  For all the wishful show of unity, the RNC has sent out several warning signs, such as when House and Senate leaders Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell publicly rebuked Trump’s mainstay policies like the immigration wall and Muslim ban.  They also worry about vulnerable Republican senators all over the country.  But there is a rumored nuclear option, where all is admitted lost and the GOP overtly runs the need to create an opposition Republican Senate to a President Clinton.  As prominent business donors that support free trade and worry about Trump’s rhetoric on trade deals and Chinese tariffs back away, the Republicans and their wide fundraising network look to protect their down-ballot candidates by redirecting funds from Trump to themselves. They look to utilizing the joint fundraising account to give the majority of the money raised to their own internal structural costs, rather than letting the Trump campaign use it.

There are definitely fissures within the Republican Party, but the problem will be solved not by continuing to back one faction over the other but by finding a compromise.  There needs to be reconciliation, not just between populists and free trade advocates, or social conservatives and moderate gay rights advocates in the platform, but also between the entrenched hierarchy and the rising activist class, focused on issue purity and intent on decentralization. The party establishment should ensure that the anger and frustration of the voters are used for internal and structural change, and such change does not come by nominating the person who can channel the most hate and spread it as wide as possible.  It will become necessary for the aforementioned three groups to coexist, or we could see the dissolution and splintering of our party, starting with Trump and following one divisive candidate after another.


By: Noah Rudnick

(Image Courtesy: Noah Rudnick at the RNC)

And Then There Was Trump


From July 18-21, the Republican National Convention will take place in three of the most politically important states: the state of Ohio, the state of fear, and the state of denial.  As no Republican candidate has ever gone to the White House without the Buckeye State, the GOP had hoped that a unifying convention in Cleveland would be the final step in securing the three branches of government, complete with a man in the White House and a conservative-leaning Supreme Court bench.  What it has instead is a larger-than-life, brash businessman, who rails against political correctness and utilizes crass racial politics to win more populist sections of the primary electorate but is isolating the nation as a whole.  Recent strings of race-related violence and riots at Trump’s rallies have provoked qualms about the need for heightened security and the possibility for this gathering of harmony to bitterly erupt into violence like the 1968 Democratic Convention.  That is, from party figures that even to bother to show up.  More and more, long-time party figures walk a fine line of distancing themselves from Trump, while coming to terms with the fact that they need the same people to vote Republican in the fall in their own state races.  In the background, the delegates intend to assert what they believe is their right to vote with their conscience, even if their personal decision goes against the will of the people.  Now it all converges on the Quicken Loans Arena, a party and convention disorganized and torn apart by the seams.

Following on the heels of the 2008 election, it seemed that we as a country were veering left.  As the Republican Party licked its wounds, the Democrats pushed through the Affordable Care Act and other liberal policies while political analysts discussed demographics and the ”blue wall” of the Electoral College. The party seemed to be finished and talks flared up of an overhaul.  It was in the 2010 midterm elections that grassroots conservatives took their revenge. Supported by those angry with the Obama administration and resolved to take down Pelosi, and backed by libertarian-leaning wealthy business owners, the Tea Party reclaimed the House, and four years later, would do the same with the Senate.

And yet, during the presidential year of 2012, when having to appeal to a broader electorate, Romney came up short.  He was portrayed as too moderate by those who valued ideological purity and too conservative by an early assault by the Obama campaign.  Following the blowout loss of what was considered to be a winnable election, the party released a document that, in my opinion, led to the rise of Trump and Cruz: The Growth and Opportunity Project.  The report detailed demographics, such as single women and Hispanics, that the party needed to reach out to through more accepting views of immigration reform and same-sex marriage.  Blue-collar workers and the conservative wing went berserk over these assertions, arguing that they were appealing to the moderate wing that led to the electoral victory in the midterms. They were unsatisfied being paid lip service as social issues continued to move to the left and fast-tracking led Obama to unilaterally land a trade deal.  It appeared that Republican politicians were taking their votes for granted, and this time they wanted to show the D.C. establishment that it was their voices and their concerns that should be prioritized.  Ted Cruz was fond of pointing to Reagan, Nixon, and Bush as those who ran as conservatives and won, while moderates like Ford, McCain, and Romney were shut down time and time again. It would have to be a real right-winger to garner enthusiasm in the general election.

As people predicted a Bush vs. Clinton matchup at the outset of the election cycle, I waged on a Rubio nomination. I thought he was the most acceptable, even if he seemed to be everyone’s second choice.  Looking at Clinton’s unfavorable numbers, especially among independents, I remarked, “Republicans could stuff a mannequin in a suit and put on a giant flag pin, and it would beat Clinton.”  However, voters chose to make Donald Trump the divisive, presumptive nominee and left the party officials more disconnected than ever.  This is evidenced in the fact that no past Republican presidential nominee will visit the convention this year, along with a flurry of elected officials. Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) claimed that he has to mow his lawn during the convention.  The most notable exception is Governor John Kasich, who will not step foot in the arena despite being the home state governor and one of the most popular Republicans in the nation.  But one by one, the leaders appear to be falling in line; Scott Walker, Chris Christie, and Ted Cruz will all speak at the convention, although Cruz has withheld his endorsement and has begun planning a 2020 run predicated on a Trump loss.

The most talked about movement going into the convention is the Free the Delegates movement, which seeks to disrupt the image of unity through possible delegate walkouts and public displays of defiance to a national viewing audience.  Both Trump’s flip-flopping political policies and his personal conduct have inspired them to look for a more acceptable nominee within the party.  However, for a candidate who ridicules a ground game, Trump immediately put into place a whip operation of over 150 staffers intended to keep delegates in line, run by Paul Manafort, Trump’s second-in-command and a veteran of the contested 1976 Republican Convention.  In response, the RNC, which hopes to ease tensions, is speaking with anti-Trump delegates and conservative activists and appear willing to make concessions for the sake of unity.  Recent comments about the Mexican heritage of a judge and an anti-Semitic tweet have many delegates uneasy, but the only thing that makes them even more nervous is retaliation from Trump and the primary voters.  Randy Evans, a National Committeeman who is backing Trump, says that his private whip count has about 900 pro-Trump delegates and around 600 anti-Trump delegates, though Ted Cruz’s decision to speak weakened the opposition.  The Dump Trump movement also is not giving up, banking about $3 million and having the support of Bill Kristol, a prominent conservative editor of The Weekly Standard.  They have set up a physical office for their own whip operation but face stiff resistance from the official party structure.

While the majority of the anti-Trump movements are conservatives, they have yet to decide what would happen if the convention goes through more than one ballot of voting.  While the weekly Free the Delegates strategy calls emphasized that there is no white knight and that they are focused on a united front, the tensions bubble underneath the surface.  Last Sunday, after the leaders had signed off of a large group call, one could distinguish mentions of Kasich or Rubio in the crescendo of voices, and one man chanted “Cruz Crew” over and over again.  It seems like every name floated about, such as Walker or Cruz, while the party moved to intercept it, offer speaking slots, and call for unity.  A CNN report claims that both the Trump campaign and the Republican National Convention are actively lobbying Kasich to come on board with threats or promises to open donor floodgates in future elections.  Rendering these lobbies meaningless, the Kasich team has flirted with Free the Delegates, saying delegates should use their conscience to vote, and emailing out recently commissioned polls that show Kasich with a wide lead over Clinton, indicating an electoral landslide.

There are many protests scheduled throughout the convention period for both fans and opponents of Trump.  While several liberal and minority groups such as Stand Together Against Trump and local Black Lives Matter groups promote more love and peace, they also protest against the GOP policies in general, arguing that they alienate the same people the party was trying to reach out to.  White nationalists that were involved in the violent altercations in California are also planning to speak out in favor of the presumptive nominee.  The riots and viciousness surrounding the Trump rallies have shown the need for Cleveland to bolster security and even take out a $50 million insurance policy.  Depending on where I walk around the convention site, it may be just as dangerous to stroll through an area wearing my “Kasich 4 Us” hat as a “Make America Great Again” baseball cap.  Many have suggested wearing a helmet for protection, but it may be safest to just follow the lead of the GOP establishment by sticking my head in the sand.


By: Noah Rudnick

(Image Courtesy: Gage Skidmore on Flickr; “Unafraid and Unashamed” by Julian Raven)

How to Best Acquire an Apple: The Problem with Facts and Logic


A presumption that has become commonplace is that, those who dissent do so because they are poorly educated, and that if presented with facts and logic, they would see the error in their ways and step out of plato’s cave into the light of truth. This mentality invites conflict in instances where two or more opposing sides of an argument believe their versions of the facts and logic to be the truth. These conflicts become exacerbated further when claims towards specific terminology – like truth – is jeopardized by connotative dissonance. How can any resolution to a conflict be fully reached when the motivations for the disagreement, a stride towards an absolute fact or logic, is rooted in misunderstood language, with words so molested from their intended meaning that they no longer resemble the original definition and now are host to their own mess of disagreements?

Logic, a step-by-step path of using a means to reach a specific end, is often confused with rationality. Yet unlike logic, rationality weighs contextual factors and information to determine which logical path is best in terms of individual  and societal payoffs, consequences, and preferences. This may be a small distinction, but a slight confusion in this regard can bear severe consequences in the process of serious decision-making. For instance, there are an almost infinite number of paths available to achieve a certain end. Take acquiring an apple as an example. To complete this task, one could walk across the street to their neighborhood grocery store and purchase an apple; one could walk to their neighbor’s house, punch him in the face, and take the apples from his home; one could buy an apple tree sapling, plant it in my back yard, and wait twenty years to get all of the apples I could possibly want. All of these propositions are perfectly logical; they follow a specific step-by-step plan, making sense from one step to the next to ultimately realize my goal of obtaining an apple.

That which differentiates rationality from logic is that rational paths weigh in external factors such as payoff, consequences, and preferences. So while there may be an almost infinite number of paths to obtaining an apple, a fraction of that number would be logical paths, and only a handful of those logical paths are rational. Assaulting a neighbor and stealing his apples or planting a sapling and waiting twenty years would both prove too great a task for the small reward; they are, therefore, irrational yet logical paths (unless you have received information that you will be very hungry for apples in 20 years’ time). A problem often occurs when trying to differentiate the two because logic overlaps with rationality: specifically, all rational routes are logical, but not all logical routes are rational.

Facts comprise another area of discrepancy that are usually considered as one thing but mean something entirely different. With the nature of science as it is today, one can often find ‘facts’ to back up almost any argument. If one wanted to claim that coffee can lead to negative health consequences, there are plenty of facts suggesting that higher intake of coffee contributes to the growth of cancer cells. Conversely, one could argue that coffee offers great health benefits and would discover an equal abundance of facts suggesting that an increase in coffee consumption helps to prevent the growth of cancer cells. From a quick Google search of “coffee causes cancer,” an individual will be bombarded with possibilities of health benefits or consequences of consuming coffee. This outpouring is particularly an issue since people often choose to tout ‘facts’ as if they were ‘truths’. Facts can be subjective. Facts are derived from scientific studies which produce theories, and new evidence or reproducibility makes a theory stronger or weaker. But science is always open to be proven false, and facts – based on falsifiable science – are not objective due to their possibility to change. Truths, by definition, are objective and absolute. That is, they are unchanging and are not subject to human bias or imperfection. There are very few universal truths, the most common of which is arithmetic –  2 + 2 = 4, no matter what interjections are made against this statement, in an abstract sense, 2 + 2 will always equal 4, even if the human understanding of the symbols 2, + and 4 vary over time.

Often in the human experience we use facts to back up logic, but the subjectivity behind both facts and logic makes one realize that these do not settle an argument any closer to a truth. In many ways, so-called facts and logic can impede humankind’s attempt to grasp any genuine source of absolute reality.

This would leave one with the conclusion that they should strive towards rationality and truths. However, by nature, rationality and truths have a complicated relationship. Even if one’s logical path is rational, and even if one’s facts are truths, individuals have no definitive way of testing the ‘trueness’ of these paths and therefore go down a dangerous course of unfounded self-assurance. It is my opinion that the only thing worse than being wrong, is being wrong and believing that you’re right. One cannot fully trust their own reasoning, as it is inherently skewed by their personal worldview, as is their selection of facts. Humility can act as a counter to this otherwise disappointing conclusion by allowing for doubt, doubting yourself first and foremost. Self-doubt grants individuals the unique ability to welcome new and numerous perspectives that may be closer to an absolute truth than the individual’s former perspective, unlike blind self-assurance which promotes stubborn immobility in viewpoint and therefore hinders one’s ability to process alternative realities. Furthermore, self-doubt becomes ever more important, as rationality may be just another invented concept that is totally unachievable in the world of human behavior, such as those virtues of justice or altruism.

Misusing facts as truth, and logic as rationality bears heavy consequences, particularly in the midst of a presidential campaign that is full of falsehoods and misstatements. A PolitiFact analysis, testing the statements of presidential primary candidates in 2015 for their degree of falsehood, revealed that every one of the candidates told the public some degree of untruth, with several major front-runners having more than 50% of their checked statements being at least partially false (some up to 75% of all statements checked). Nevertheless, the public remains unwavering in their support of their candidates simply because most of the American population believes their (and their candidate’s) version of facts and logic to be representative of reality, leading to an antagonistic view of not only the opposing side of an issues, but even of unbiased third parties. In short, despite the bipartisan intentions of the PolitiFact report, supporters on both sides were displeased with their candidates being accused of lying. Instead of getting upset about their candidate lying to them, which would challenge their own underlying set of beliefs about the order of the world, these members of the American public chose instead to take issue with the research institute conducting such analysis. If the candidate you support says that the 2016 federal omnibus spending bill “funds illegal immigrants coming in and through [the border], right through Phoenix,” and an independent fact-checking group finds that the bill in fact funds the opposite, the reaction of many people has been in this election cycle that the source must be biased against their candidate. When, on the other hand, what we should strive for is asking, “Why would my candidate lie to me?” This phenomenon, facts taking the place of truth, creates a prime space where humility could consequently lead to political good. Even if one doesn’t agree with someone else’s point of view, at least that voice is heard and the point is considered.

The political repercussions of facts and logic become particularly troubling when coupled with unwavering self-assurance. When humility is essentially thrown away and one believes their version of facts and logic to be the reality, we can see the beginnings of what defined the major riff that is so present in this year’s election.  Political gridlock is widespread, at least in part to blame for the current state of American political polarity. Voting behavior is subject to the consequences of the misunderstandings of facts and logic, leaving voters to be prime specimens for manipulation at the hands of any claims towards ‘truth.’ Worst of all, swaying public opinion by this misguided way creates a cumulative schism away from achieving a public acceptance of the truth. Even if one side were representing the absolute truth behind their logical path, the other side is alienated further away from that state of reality. This division therefore deepens the political cleavage that so divides Americans today.


By: Tyler MacDonald

(Image Courtesy: Dean Sebourn on Flickr. No changes made.)