Wednesday, July 16, 2014

True Patriots: The Road to Iowa

Every election season, candidates seek to make an impression in Iowa, which has the distinction of being able to host the first caucus in the presidential primary season. Iowa can put an underdog in the spotlight and give a reality check to the establishment, as shown in Obama’s upset over Clinton in this state’s caucus in 2008. Ever since, every candidate who is positioned as leader has been careful to watch their back, and the 2016 races only proved this.

For the Democratic Party, it appeared that the situation in Iowa could not be farther from what they imagined only a year ago. Where Hillary Clinton took a commanding lead over any potential challengers before, the field now was without a clear leader. Gillibrand held an extremely narrow lead nationally, but Iowa had much different dynamics: Nixon and Schweitzer were more popular in Iowa as well as O’Malley and Castro less popular. Gillibrand maintained support from the strong liberals, but also had strong credibility in the eyes of more rural Iowans because of her experience representing a rural New York district during her time in the House. Nixon had a strong appeal because of his success as a Democratic executive in a state that leans Republican, the ability to appeal to rural and urban populations. He also, over the course of his time campaigning, grew to hold an enormous sway over blue collar workers. Schweitzer took a wild card spot with strong support from rural populists and party members who have become increasingly disenchanted with establishment Democrats.

These candidates campaigns only furthered the insecurities that the party was harboring. Gillibrand came out passionately for “real reform” of healthcare, education, and a guarantee of equal rights for the LGBT community and women. She also stated that she would stand up to the antics of the Tea Party in order to get this kind of reform passed, which energized the liberal base but left her open to attack from Nixon and Schweitzer, who were worried that she would be uncompromising. Nixon spoke some about policy, but kept the focus on a desire to get government running again. Schweitzer emphasized that the other candidates were merely party insiders who would keep the status quo and not bring the change to government that was sorely needed.

The one thing that the candidates could agree on was that Obama would not be on the campaign trail with them. Gillibrand called him a “president who had all of the right intentions and made most of the right actions, but had a absolutely uncooperative Congress,” while Nixon spared nobody fault (“Congress was uncompromising and the President gave up trying to work with them, giving us a completely immobilized government.”). While the president maintained his staunch allies, people on the ends of the Democratic Party did not have a favorable view of him, and neither did the general public.

The Republican Party was lucky for the partial media break it got due to the surprise of the overcrowded Democratic race. However, that did not mean that the party infighting got any better. Many of the Tea Party supporters still stuck with their mantra that the last candidate didn’t win because they were not conservative enough, and Cruz, Huckabee, and Fallin all pushed the idea of ideological purism and a strong base in Christian morality to excite the base. However, Cruz became the undisputed frontman for the Teas in his crushing and memorable debate performance in November that was reminiscent of the first televised debate between Kennedy and Nixon in 1960.

Kasich managed to put himself in the front running through an excellent and very personal campaign strategy. He traveled to many rural towns across Iowa, meeting in diners and talking with small business owners. Most of these people had only heard of his name once he became a candidate for president, and they received his message of bringing change to the government by breaking the overreach of the executive branch and getting Congress to reach across the aisle in order to prevent anything like a government shutdown from happening again. Interestingly, his message was quite similar to that of Nixons, but Kasich chastised the executive for government overreach as well as accusing the president of lacking the ability to compromise just as Congress has. Kasich did aired very few television ads, and the ones that were made were all positive. His strong grassroots campaign, combined with his very strong midwestern personality, quickly propelled him to the point where he was polling neck and neck with Cruz. However, Cruz was not afraid to criticize Kasich, calling him a “repeat of the baseless moderates the party has succumbed to nominating.”

Senator Paul, although pushed out of the top two, still found himself a growing number of supporters, and placed himself as the single candidate who truly wanted to shrink government. He was the single candidate who strongly rallied his base around the point around support of civil rights by completely eliminating any programs related to the NSA and ensuring that no violation of basic rights would come about under his administration. He was also the only Republican candidate to strongly support isolationism. He had certainly developed a strong niche, but it seemed unlikely that he could break out of it to win in Iowa.

As the caucus approached, people across the nation began to watch very closely. Some candidates in the top had taken some slightly unorthodox campaign measures, such as Gillibrand focusing on social media and Kasich focusing on grassroots and staying away from television ads. For the Democratic Party, Gillibrand managed to maintain the slightest lead over Nixon, but often within the margin of error, and Nixon would lead in the odd poll or two. The Republican Party seemed deadlocked between Kasich and Cruz, both holding leads within margins of error in most polls. Paul maintained a close third, but it might as well have been distant to him due to the constant near 2% gap there was between him and Cruz and Kasich. Generally, the more politically and ideologically motivated voters tend to show up for caucuses, but Nixon and Kasich did an excellent job of sending a straightforward and sensible message to people who had lost faith in the government.

As the first county results began to trickle in, the polling seemed to hold true to what was predicted. Gillibrand dominated urban areas while Nixon dominated rural ones, with Schweitzer winning the odd county. However, the Republican map seemed quite chaotic. Kasich and Cruz fought for rural counties, with many very conservative ones surprisingly voting for Kasich over Cruz due to his very effective grassroots campaign strategy. Paul managed to take counties here and there, remaining in that close, yet distant third place.

As the night went on, the races remained close. So close, that votes were being counted very meticulously, and sometimes being counted twice before being released. At around 9:00 PM eastern, Cruz gained a small, but significant enough boost from some western, socially conservative counties, many of whom’s inhabitants stuck with the socially conservative candidate through Kasich’s thorough campaign. Cruz lead by about 0.4% at this point, which was unfortunately a deficit that Kasich could not make up for. By 9:30 PM, Senator Cruz was projected winner of  the Iowa caucus. Kasich did not call for a recount, but congratulated Cruz and spoke on this caucus being a demonstration that everyday Americans can have an impact in politics.

The Democratic Party was not so lucky. Once all votes were counted by just past 10:00 PM, Gillibrand held a lead over Nixon that was only 856 votes, and the process of recounting votes ensued. Many people were concerned that election judges in rural counties were making mistakes due to the combination of higher turnout and less sophisticated technology to count the votes. Inconsistencies in counting ballots in 10 different rural counties turned up higher numbers of ballots in the recount, which was perceived as a boost for Nixon. By next evening, around 5:00 PM, major news networks finally projected that the winner of the Iowa caucus was Governor Nixon, by only just under 1,000 votes. Gillibrand’s more modern campaign seemed to be effective, but it just did not quite make the cut against Nixon’s more traditional campaign and pragmatic rhetoric in the still largely rural Iowa.

Iowa did not fail to bring surprise: it gave victories to the star of the Tea Party for the last few years next to somebody who was nearly unknown outside of his home state until 5 months before the caucus. However, New Hampshire was a much different ballgame. Cruz or Nixon were not even in the top two contenders according to polling, and Kasich’s midwestern style would have to be reevaluated. All they could say is that things would not get any simpler from there.

Friday, July 11, 2014

True Patriots: And So It Begins

The dog days of summer are generally a time of relaxation, but not when Iowa stands like a looming specter, only 5 months away. The dynamics of the race were already shaken once Clinton declined to run, and many Democrats were hoping to see another uniting figure in order to prevent the significant infighting the Republican field has already experienced.

The Democratic Party was cast into even further doubt once Vice President Biden, the other uniting figure, declined to run for president. In his address, he made it clear that he thinks a new generation of Democrats are needed to revitalize the party. He had enjoyed his time as a public servant, but will largely end his political career with his vice presidency. Clinton and Biden were the two figures in the Democratic Party that experienced widespread support, and without them, their side of the field was now open. Many political pundits exclaimed that Biden being an integral part of the Obama administration was too toxic for winning over moderates during the general election.

The former Governor of Maryland, Martin O’Malley, was the first to announce his candidacy and has ramped up his campaigning efforts after Biden’s announcement. Detachment from the federal government was many things that Republican governors preached, but O’Malley became the first Democratic one to do so on a large scale. He positioned himself as a progressive champion with executive experience that could bring “new blood” to the executive branch. The other strong liberal in the running was Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, which many considered to be the literal and symbolic successor to Clinton. She has championed a lot of issues in the Senate, like dealing with sexual assault in the military and women’s rights, that has excited the liberal base.

The other Democratic candidates were more than sufficient to shake up the race. Former Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer positioned himself as the anti-Hillary for the past few years before, which gained him many friends and enemies, and began running a very strong populist campaign to appeal to Western and rural Democrats. His brand of ideology is drastically different from most Democrats, and he would certainly bring color to the debates. The vacancy of a more moderate Democratic candidate was filled by Governor Jay Nixon of Missouri, whose campaign consisted of a call to simply “get things done” in the federal government. He also was consistent in affirming that he was in no way related to the disgraced President Nixon. He quickly gained many fans, but has few allies in the LGBT or black community. Even former San Antonio mayor and current Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julían Castro has thrown his hat in the ring, whom many criticise as having far too little experience, but he has many supporters in the Latino community which is growing to become a very large part of the Democratic base.

However, the real elephant in the room for the Democratic Party was all of the fundraising that made up Clinton’s shadow campaign. There was a lot of money, most of it not generated by Clinton, that was being gathered in preparation for what seemed to be an inevitable Clinton run for the presidency. After she no longer was considered for running, many of these groups patiently waited for her to endorse a candidate, but they were left directionless when she stated that she would refuse to endorse until the Democratic Party made its nomination. Many groups gave their fundraising vehicles to Gillibrand, who as the woman who replaced Clinton in the Senate, seemed like the perfect choice to carry on their legacy. Other groups, rather surprisingly, put their support behind Nixon who they hoped could be a unity figure.

Who do you support for the upcoming Democratic primaries?
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York - 21.3%
Governor Martin O'Malley of Maryland - 20.9%
Governor Jay Nixon of Missouri - 17.9%
Secretary of HUD Julían Castro - 13.5%
Former Governor Brian Schweitzer of Montana - 10.8%
Undecided - 15.6%

The fact that the Democratic Party was no longer the poster child of unity did not mean that the Republican Party did not maintain deep fractures between the wings of the party. Ted Cruz, the freshman Senator from Texas and star of the Tea Party movement, made a largely expected announcement that he would be running for president in early July of  2015. Governors John Kasich of Ohio and Mary Fallin of Oklahoma, who both largely remained below the national radar, made their announcements later in July. By the close of July, there was already a dropout from the race: Governor Walker, after facing scrutiny due to his continued criminal investigation, saw his numbers slip to below 2% and quietly ended his campaign.

The Republican party had its clear splits, with “moderates” Kasich and Huntsman, libertarian Paul, and conservative Cruz, Huckabee, and Fallin, while the Democratic Party was simply split and confused. Both races appeared to be truly anybody’s game, and Iowa would prove that.

Who do you support for the upcoming Republican primaries?
Senator Ted Cruz of Texas - 19.2%
Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky - 19.1%
Governor John Kasich of Ohio - 17.7%
Former Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas - 13.2%
Former Governor Jon Huntsman of Utah - 8.1%
Governor Mary Fallin of Oklahoma - 7.8%
Undecided - 14.9%

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Radioactive: Setting the Field

OCTOBER 15, 2015

In a joint announcement today, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) both affirmed that they would not be seeking the Republican nomination for President. There was significant discussion on whether or not these nationally known representatives would represent the GOP, but both stated today that there was much more work to be done in the House to “fix gridlock and help the American people.” Ryan has been in the national spotlight since he was chosen as the 2012 GOP Vice Presidential nominee, but McCarthy has been in the spotlight only recently with his ascension to Majority Leader, and possibly to a speculated speakership after the 2016 election. Representative Ryan has been frequently ranked by polling of Republican party members as the most well liked and amiable party figure across the various party wings, which would have put him in a strong running as a compromise candidate.

With McCarthy and Ryan turning down presidential campaigns, the Republican field appears practically set at this point. Cruz has kept placing Kasich as a person who would not make as significant leaps as president as he would, while attacking Paul’s statements on the NSA and marijuana. Meanwhile Kasich has been barnstorming Iowa, trying to present himself as an average American to rural Iowans, and pushing himself as the “non-extreme and electable” option. Brownback and Ayotte have been pushing to break this triopoly: their numbers have been increasing, but not quite enough to push any through. Christie and Walker remain at the back, and with both having undergone criminal investigations in the past, it is heavily unlikely that they will be able to pull any primary victory.

OCTOBER 21, 2015

Many Republican candidates have labeled the Democratic frontrunner, Vice President Joe Biden, as “gaffe-prone, out of touch, and a vestige of the failed Obama administration,” but Americans seem to have a very different perception of the candidates based on new Pew polling. One of the questions asked was about if they believed each candidate was in touch with the condition of the average American, which has become a greater benchmark for presidential candidates after comments made about Hillary Clinton’s “dead broke” statement in 2014. Out of all candidates, Biden and Gillibrand were far in front, with 74% and 75% respectively rating them “in-touch.” The next closest was Governor Kasich at 69%. When asked why, the most common responses were that they “worked hard on meaningful legislation” and “meant what they said in most or all cases.”

Time and time again, Biden has been labeled as gaffe-prone, but is this helping his believability? Many of his recent speeches in Iowa have avoided using overly legal vernacular and has had the occasional politically incorrect term or statement, but this has in fact appeared to help cement a more in touch perception. However, this does not entirely qualify as making gaffes, due to the fact that they are planned and not a slip up, and many voters are concerned he may be capable of doing something damaging in the general election season if nominated. The fact that Gillibrand is ahead, albeit within the margin of error, is somewhat worrisome for the Biden campaign, even though she maintains less than half of Biden’s level of support in polling. It appears to be a near-certainty that we will see a Biden victory in Iowa, but the GOP field remains wide open and New Hampshire tends to support different candidates than Iowa. Stay in tune for the latest updates on this building 2016 presidential race.

Vice President Joe Biden of Delaware - 52%
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York - 22%
Senator Mark Udall of Colorado - 15%
Representative Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona - 3%
Other/Undecided - 8%

Vice President Joe Biden of Delaware - 40%
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York - 34%
Senator Mark Udall of Colorado - 13%
Representative Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona - 3%
Other/Undecided - 10%

Senator Ted Cruz of Texas - 19%
Governor John Kasich of Ohio - 19%
Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky - 16%
Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire - 13%
Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas - 9%
Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey - 4%
Fmr. Governor Scott Walker - 3%
Other/Undecided - 18%

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky - 21%
Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire - 21%
Senator Ted Cruz of Texas - 15%
Governor John Kasich of Ohio - 12%
Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey - 7%
Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas - 4%
Fmr. Governor Scott Walker - 2%
Other/Undecided - 18%

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Radioactive: Presidential Kick Off


It is an understatement to say that many members of the Democratic Party were disappointed when Hillary Clinton was posed with a critical health issue earlier this year and stated that she would decline running simply because she could not “carry out the office of president at the capacity America needed and deserved.” However, it is appearing that the primaries might still not be very competitive for the Democratic Party. Current Vice President Joe Biden announced his campaign for president a month ago today, with an emphasis on the continuation of the current Obama Administration policies under the guise of a much more urgent and passionate tone. Biden has perceived as very likable figure in Democratic circles, and he has a policy base that tends to appeal to moderates without losing liberal support. In fact, in a recent Gallup poll, nearly 75% of self-described strong liberals who stated that they are disappointed with the Obama presidency believed that Biden would perform better. However, there are still a significant amount of Democratic voters who are concerned that fatigue of the Obama administration and his near lame-duck status since 2014 will push centrist voters away who are disillusioned and looking for change to get the federal government working again.

Not all Democratic voters are fully aligned with Biden, however, and a few other elected officials have thrown their name in the ring in hopes of steering the Democratic Party in a new direction. Perhaps the most high profile announcement yet has been from Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. She was appointed in 2009 to fill the vacancy left by then Senator Clinton's promotion to Secretary of State. Aligned more with the so called Blue Dogs in the House, she became much more of a progressive star in the Senate. In her announcement, she also emphasized a new vigor, but laid out a much more liberal platform with equality in terms of gender in regards to pay, sexual orientation, and transgender rights. She also made statements about reforming the military in regards to size, veteran's care, and chronic sexual assault, which has been one of her chief issues as senator. She is very popular among the strong liberals of the party and is positioned to be Biden's main challenger from the left. Alongside Senator Gillibrand are Senator Udall and Representative Simena, who both called for a remotivation of the party. Udall set a very populist and environmentalist position, while Sinema, who surprised the party with her announcement, set a very liberal tone and made herself an advocate for equality through her personal experience in being bisexual and irreligious. Below is the polling as it currently stands: Biden stands out on top, but his lead is not without strong challengers.

Vice President Joe Biden of Delaware - 46%
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York - 21%
Senator Mark Udall of Colorado - 14%
Representative Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona - 3%
Other/Undecided - 16%

SEPTEMBER 13, 2015

This past week, the Egyptian people have yet again taken to the streets to protest their leadership. Thousands of Egyptians, most of whom were members of the Muslim Brotherhood, protested Sisi's recent policies that prevented the Brotherhood from publicly gathering as a measure to "protect Egypt from the dangers of extremism" with the recent incursions of ISIL to unite Sunni populations in Iraq and Syria that are even greater in intensity than the spike in 2014. Even though the protests began as a measure to prevent extremism, they quickly turned into a mass protest when Sisi deployed military forces to dissolve the protests after only the third day. The fourth day of protests saw secular protests join the Brotherhood ones against what Egyptians have began labeling an "autocratic dictator" due to his quick use of military to prevent protests.

In recent history, Egypt has been known to force its leaders out of office: Mubarak was ousted in 2011 during the Arab Spring, and then Morsi in 2013. The election that chose President Sisi was mired in controversy due to him winning an even greater percentage of the vote than President Assad of Syria, which held an election at the same period of time. President Sisi was popular for a time, being a very strong and secular leader, but his recent moves that forced groups like the Brotherhood to become weaker has earned him many enemies. Sisi has attempted to defend his decisions by pointing out that fundamentalist groups have slowly taken advantage of Syria and Iraq, countries wracked by sectarian violence, and he wanted to do something to send a message to stop these groups. Many leaders throughout the Middle East and the world have condemned his actions as promoting what he is trying to fight. President Obama has stated that the "constraints Sisi has placed on his people's liberties will only make the extremists more empowered." The situation in Egypt has quickly destabilized, and please remain tuned in to ANN to keep informed on the latest updates on yet another conflict that is plaguing the Middle East.

SEPTEMBER 17, 2015

Today, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas has finally put speculation to rest by declaring his presidential candidacy today. The junior senator has been a star of the Tea Party movement ever since he has been elected to office, and his presidential ambition has been endlessly speculated since he was recognized as a rising star. He made his announcement in Forth Worth, Texas, where he spoke on the idea that America’s moral capacity is degrading through an overexpansion of government, and that his mission as president would be to reassert America’s place in the world and ensure the government does not intrude on the lives of Americans. His announcement has shaken up polling significantly: Cruz holds 20% of the support, which puts him in the lead of the GOP field, albeit within the margin of error. He has been a controversial figure in the Republican Party as well as the country as a whole due to his strong conservatism and heavy anti-establishment rhetoric, but these qualities have gained him a fervent group of supporters to match.

The senator’s announcement largely rounds out the Republican field of candidates. Sitting just behind Cruz is Governor Kasich of Ohio, who represents the more moderate establishment wing of the GOP. Many people have been surprised by his quick rise to the top over household names like Rand Paul, Scott Walker, and Chris Christie, but many credit this to many GOP members outside of Ohio perceiving him as a level headed moderate with little political baggage. Senator Paul, in third place, stands to represent the libertarian wing of the GOP. Even though he has stated on numerous occasions that he stands more in line with the Tea Party than the libertarian ideas, he has more and more moved to fit that mold as the Tea Party took Cruz to be their flag bearer. Senator Ayotte and Governors Walker and Christie have all appealed to moderates by describing themselves as sensible choices that could actually win a general election whereas Governor Brownback has touted himself as the equivalent of Cruz with more experience. The Republican field of candidates is clearly more crowded than the Democratic, and much closer. Many political analysts expect the primary season to become a battle between the three major wings of the party.

Senator Ted Cruz of Texas - 20%
Governor John Kasich of Ohio - 18%
Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky - 14%
Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire - 12%
Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas - 7%
Fmr. Governor Scott Walker - 6%
Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey - 5%
Other/Undecided - 19%

Monday, June 2, 2014

Radioactive: Prolouge

Atoms have a 50% chance of decay within one of its half lives. As these half lives become more and more frequent, the atom stands less and less of a chance to remain cohesive. This natural pattern follows exponential decay, so one might expect all else to. However, man seems to fit himself outside of this paradigm: We function all too much like a sine wave. We decay but never fail to come back just as strong or stronger. How man acts remains an enigma, and this is certainly apparent in the construct we call politics...


July 4, 2076: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Address by President Liu of the United States of America

“Good evening, to those of you who stand here in front of me, and to those of you streaming this in your homes across America and the world.

We gather here this evening to celebrate a truly monumental occasion in American history: our nation's tricentennial. Few countries have survived completely intact for this long, fewer remain with the same governing document for nearly 290 years and still abide by the basic principles that Thomas Jefferson delineated in his Declaration of Independence, signed 300 years ago this day in Independence Hall that sits behind me.

I think you all know well the story of this building that lies behind me. From infancy to university, you all learned how this room contained the foundations of our country. Within its stern faded red bricks, John Hancock signed his famously gregarious signature. These windows, encased in elegant white woodwork, kept in the hot air of Constitutional Convention delegates during the famously hot Philadelphia summer so that the document’s secret would lay safe for time being. In front of this édifice, which stands tall and takes a barrage of visitors into its arms every single day to this day, has stood the test of time. It has weathered over 350 years since the first brick was laid in the fertile Pennsylvania soil in 1732.

We are a nation of resilience. This building's very being has been fundamentally altered three times: first an update in the 1830’s, restored to its 1776 roots in the 1950’s and finally saved from the wretches of time and malice in the 2030’s. The bell twice, too: first from simple use, sporting a crack in the middle, and second from an act of pure malice, which sports deep fractures. We do not pretend that these fluctuations represent merely the coincidental act of weather and time, but we do recognize that this stands as an édifice of the spirit of America. This country has weathered deep political and cultural divides, as well as foreign and domestic wars, that we have rebuilt ourselves from. From houses divided of the Democratic-Republicans and Federalists, Union and South, Democrats and Republicans, and challenges and devastation coming from America’s foreign wars, we have always rebuilt and come back as a stronger nation.

Standing here, we are reminded that we are a nation not so different from those who gathered here in 1776 to write our Declaration of Independence. We have grown from sporting a flag of 13 stars to a grand one of 53, and our Founding Fathers could hardly imagine the importance and influence America has grown to have over these 300 years. However, we still fight for those basic principles that the first 10 amendments to our Constitution embody, not to mention the others that brave and active Americans have added to extend voting rights to all 16 or over and ensure the equality of the law regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or genetic makeup. We also still make sure that those countries around this green Earth still provide a basic sense of humanity and liberty to each of its citizens.

In the Preamble of our Constitution, our founding Fathers stated that a purpose of our government was to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. Posterity has deemed it imperative that not only the blessings of liberty maintain to be secured, but the blessings of others and the well being of those in this country are continually maintained. As a government, we have waivered on occasion in providing to ourselves, and those in need globally, but as a people, we have always maintained strength in our values and in goodwill towards every human being.

In our tricentennial, we celebrate our foundations and our past that we build on as propulsion into our future. We have made strides in eliminating nuclear weapons that plagued our world for the latter half of last century, and reminded us of their malicious presence over 40 years ago. We have helped aid the people of the former North Korea, the Congo, Sudan, China, and many more who faced grievous humanitarian offenses. We celebrate our strides, along with eliminating world presence of fusion energy and weapons, the discovery and widespread implementation of safe and powerful fission energy with the help of the UN and scientific colleagues around the world. Partly because of America, the world no longer acts like an atom undergoing nuclear fission, pushing its constituent components apart and spewing dangerous particles like a bomb that slowly went off. Now this world is much more akin to the fusion of molecules, with people of every nationality, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and genetic makeup colliding together to produce something far greater and brighter than fission ever could have.

I know that America will continue to persevere to reach further in space as well as further into our own minds and hearts to help people across the street and the ocean. I have seen America transition from a bloated hyperpower to a force for the global good, and I want to continue to see our country work in synchronization with our brothers in all 7 continents.

As a final lead up to our fireworks display, American musical geniuses from Honolulu to Boston have been working together since the beginning of the decade to produce a musical masterpiece that commemorates this massive tricentennial celebration: Libertas Eternum, which is being performed by some of our best musicians from symphony orchestras across the country. These artists exemplify some of the truly great aspects of this nation, and I have fallen in love with this piece just as much as I know all my fellow Americans will.

Happy 4th of July America! May America and the rest of this sacred Earth and her inhabitants remain blessed!”

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Budget on the Agenda at the Colorado State Capitol

The murals inside of the Colorado State Capitol which pay tribute to the workers who have built the state
The murals inside of the Colorado State Capitol which pay tribute to the workers who have built the state

Over the course of this week, I have been shadowing a lobbyist who lobbies the Colorado State Legislature for a number of clients. For a time, I have been interested in political science, and this venture was somewhat of a culmination of that interest. It was an invaluable experience: I gained a much better understanding of state level politics, connected with my representatives, and saw some very specific instances of needless inefficiencies that could make government much more effective.

I was in the midst of a number of important discussions. This week, the state was considering bills ranging from telecommunications reform, election reform, and most importantly the appropriations "long" bill. The first bill which I saw passed on third reading was making it harder for parents to opt out vaccinations for their children. There were passionate voices on both sides of the aisle, some stating that it is unacceptable to allow these diseases to come back, and others stating that the government should not interfere with the choice of an informed parent. In the end, 22 members out of the 65 member body voted against it, signifying a passage. This was only one of two bills that I witnessed that were not passed with a unanimous or near unanimous vote. There is a large misconception that everything is extremely deadlocked, but the only bills that really get publicized are the ones that are contentious. In fact, around 90% of votes made are not close to being contentious.

Another interesting discussion introduced me to an issue I was previously unaware of. Telecommunication rules have not kept up with technology in Colorado, as they have not been updated for 19 years, while technology with cellphones and broadband connections has changed tremendously since then. These bills would try to update rural communities to broadband, change subsidies based on settlement sizes to match new sizes, and put the state on track to move away from the use of basic copper landlines. This bill had many proponents, but the opponents were numerous and vocal. The senior lobby was greatly concerned about the cost for landlines increasing by up to 250% and losing reliable 911 services in case of emergency. They claimed not to be opposed to technology, but stated that cellphone technology was just not "there" yet to be able to replace the always reliable copper landline.

The old Supreme Court room, which is where the committee hearing on the telecommunication bills was held.
The old Supreme Court room, which is where the committee hearing on the telecommunication bills was held.

The so called Long Bill is the yearly appropriations bill, or to put it simply, the budget. The Joint Budget Committee is comprised of three Representatives and three Senators, and begins meeting in October to draft the bill that will then be proposed to the Assembly as a whole in March. It really earns its name as the long bill, being over 800 pages long: even the narrative of it is still 400 pages. It covers all topics that the state is involved with fiscally. Often, the most contentious part of the process is the amending. This year, there were nearly 50 amendments, and on average, the House stays in session until 12:00 midnight or 1:00 debating the amendments and deciding whether to approve or reject the amendments. For the period of time that I was observing, the House only passed 4 amendments to the budget within two hours.

The first thing that I was surprised by was how open the Capitol was. Any person could be in a position to lobby their representative or senator on a bill which affected an issue that was important to them. Anybody is also free to come to committee meetings to testify in support or opposition to a bill. I was really surprised by the immense amount of opportunities that a citizen and a constituent had to make an impact on lawmakers. I think most of this surprise came from the fact that few people take advantage of this, very likely because few people know about this opportunity. The most important thing is to get people engaged via voting, but if more people would interact with their state representatives on a more personal level, then I think that the state legislature could be a lot more effective in crafting legislation much more in line with the citizens interests.

Another thing which I really felt I took to heart by the end of the week was that a little civil disobedience is important, and often necessary. The House spent close to 30 minutes debating an amendment to the budget that would allocate $1 million from the trust fund for natural disasters (which is in total around $75 million) for the purposes of dealing with excessive tumbleweeds in Southeastern Colorado. Despite this being a seemingly simple topic, it quickly blew up due to an argument over semantics. A main argument against the allocation is that tumbleweeds, specifically those made from russian and Canadian thistle which plague rural Colorado, are not in some group out of Class A, B, or C noxious weeds, which technically means that those tumbleweeds are not eligible for cleanup funding. Some stated that this funding would "break the law," which is correct in the very literal sense, but in all reality is practically meaningless.

A view of the House debating the budget amendment that would allocate funds to tumbleweed cleanup
A view of the House debating the budget amendment that would allocate funds to tumbleweed cleanup

These rural communities could absolutely use any kind of help with the severe drought that they have been experiencing the past few years, and to evoke an argument over semantics on an amendment which is important to these communities greatly frustrated me. The state of Colorado has not yet been reprimanded for a significant breach of federal law with the legalization of recreational marijuana, so why is going outside a classification of noxious weeds an unacceptable instance of breaking a law? A similar issue was brought up recently in the state as well: a young girl who shaved her head in support of her friend who had cancer was not allowed to come back to school due to an outdated rule that attached shaved heads to gang symbols. I think that doing whatever is in the interest of the public good is always the best course of action, which likely means getting rid of outdated laws, rules, and regulations that are impeding meaningful progress.

Many Americans make a call for smaller government. I believe that the real call should be for simpler government. A government should not impede on our rights or our ability to act as individuals, but in modern times, a government must be able to provide services that help people without the cloud of complicated codes and loopholes.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

A Convenient Truth: 2004

On August 22, 2001, Americans woke up expecting another normal day. What they recieved was anything but.

At 9:15 AM eastern time, a commercial airliner crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers that towered over the New York City skyline. People across the city and the nation were shocked, and so many questions were asked without answers to correspond. There were questions if it was merely a tragic accident, or if it was a deliberate attack on the US. The NYPD and fire departments acted quickly to get the people working inside the WTC tower out based on fears that the building was becoming structurally unstable very quickly. President Gore, at 9:30 AM eastern time, addressed the nation by giving his condolences to the families of the hundreds of people who were confirmed dead and "continued viligance" towards any possible threats if what happened was in fact deliberate.

President Gore was about to wrap up his finishing statements before Secret Service rushed him to his motorcade and took him to an undisclosed location. A plane was spotted to be dropping extremely fast from a high altitude right over DC, and it was unlikely that it would land safely. The reporters began to panic as the police stated that they needed to take "nessecary precautions" and immidately evacuate the area. Word spread fast about the impending disaster and chaos ensued in DC as all kinds of people attempted to leave. Unfortunately, they did not know fast enough, and when the plane crashed into the Pentagon, destroying over half of the building, and slid into the Potomac, there was mass panic. Two minutes later in New York, a third plane was used to crash into the second WTC tower, but President Gore asked Mayor Giulani to have the NYPD to evacuate the second tower minutes before, which meant that no workers from the second tower died. This put Americans beyond a doubt that there was a planned attack on the US that day.

President Gore made yet another address later that day, this time beyond reasonable doubt that there was a planned attack. He made a statement that called all Americans to bond together to help eachother overcome this tragedy and continue to build an even grater nation. He also hinted that there will be "clear and decisive consequences" for whoever was responsible for the 8/22 attacks. President Gore's approval rating shot above 80%, and he was commended by even the most conservative of Republicans for his decisive action in saving the thousands of people who could have been killed in the second tower. It was quickly discovered from the black box of the downed flight in the Potomac that destroyed the Pentagon that some passengers tried to act against the hijackers and make the plane crash further south in Virginia as opposed to the original destination of the White House. This tragedy ensured that the Gore administration and America as a whole would never be the same.

Investigations into the perpetrators of the 8/22 attacks were viligant and widespread. They quickly detirmined that the act of terrorism was not from an internal source, as all of the suspected hijackers were not residents of the US, but residents of various Middle Eastern countries. After deeper investigations into potential places that had unstable regimes, ranging from Somalia to Myanmar, it was discovered that the hijackers were tied to the terrorist group Al-Qaeda, headed by Osama bin Laden, based in Afghanistan. The longstanding Taliban government, which enforced sharia law, harbored the group Al-Qaeda. President Gore stated that some sort of action would be nessecary against the Afghan government if they refused to root out Al-Qaeda and hand over bin Laden to the US. Many Americans supported much more forceful moves against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, but President Gore appeared to favor a more diplomatic approach at first. NATO stood behind President Gore's effort to put pressure on the Afghans to root out the terrorist organizations on their soil. Secretary of State Joe Biden and Secretary of Defense Colin Powell were major parts in this effort. The current government in Afghanistan was interested in making possible trades to ensure for the dissolution of Al-Qaeda, which included trade deals and arms trades. Biden and Gore were both clearly not interested in providing more extremists with weapons, and when they backed off from making deals, the US and NATO decided to take more decisive action.

Throughout the spring of 2002, the US supported rebels against the Taliban regime through arms and as well as humanitarian aid as well as taking covert action against Al-Qaeda operatives, specifically Osama bin Laden. Gore's plan was largely well recieved by Americans, while some Middle Eastern countries, such as Iran and Iraq, expressed extreme disapproval at what they perceived as mere meddling in their affairs. At this time, the covert operations were intended to be as secret as possible. One by one, Al-Qaeda outposts and officials were eliminated, but the mastermind remained elusive. Two nights before the midterm elections, official government sources announced that bin Laden was dead thanks to a strike in northern Afghanistan. Thanks to the massive spike in popularity for President Gore, the Democrats made major gains in both houses of Congress in the 2002 elections.

With a reinvigorated Congress and the threat of Al-Qaeda minimized, President Gore tried to make strides in domestic policy that were abruptly cut off by 8/22. Unfortunately, there was a budget deficit of about $50 million for the year of 2002 because of the conflict in Afghanistan, but the president stated that it was a nessecary roadblock that would not stop trying to reach President Clinton's goal of a debt free America by 2010. He continued investment in renewable energies, which was a big boost to the American economy, but detrimental to many Middle Eastern countries who heavily depended on oil exports. Some political scientists claim that this was the spark that would set off the Iraqi Civil War years later, while others maintain that Sadamm Hussein's leadership would have caused it regardless. Overall, President Gore's first term had its ups and downs, but overall went over well with the American people.

Because of this, the GOP knew that they faced an uphill battle looking to 2004. Senator John McCain, runner up in the 2000 primary season, positioned himself as a proponent of how Gore handled 8/22 and Afghanistan, but as a major opponent of Gore's domestic policy. This time, McCain appeared to represent the establishment wing of the party, with the more conservative elements as insurgents. The man who was the main representative of the more conservative elements of the GOP was Senator Sam Brownback of Nebraska. He was willing to criticize the president's foreign policy by claiming true stability in the Middle East can only come when Saddam Hussein is no longer in power. In the Iowa caucus, Brownback made a somewhat surprising victory, but McCain won out in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and the next few contests before Brownback came back a few times, mostly in the Deep South and Plains regions. By Super Tuesday. Brownback's chances looked slim and he decided to drop out after a fairly poor performance during Super Tuesday. In a show of party unity, McCain chose Brownback as his running mate. Both of their acceptance speeches placed an emphasis on a return to common sense and limited government.

Gore and Shaheen were both polling fairly well against McCain/Brownback facing the upcoming election. How the administration handled the events surrounding 8/22 was widely popular, but the opposition was able to make some well placed jabs at his domestic policy. They made a point of him increasing spending, not being willing to cut taxes, and increasing regulation in the economy that restricted American enterprise and economic growth. McCain showed himself to be about matched even in debated with Gore, and many analysts were surprised by how matched and respectful the debates were. The single vice presidential debate was quite a bit more interesting, as both Shaheen and Brownback were much more ideologically charged and were less afraid to throw some harsher attacks towards the other. Both were well respected candidates, but in the end, an attack on his domestic policy when the economy was going strong could not get a victory for McCain on election night. Gore improved significantly from his margin in 2000, while barely increasing on his electoral margin. He flipped the states of Nevada, Missouri, and Ohio while McCain flipped the state of Florida. Surprisingly, the closest state in this election ended up being Colorado, which McCain won by just under a percent, and Florida, which was won by around 1.5 percent. Virginia also trended significantly Democratic, while the rest of the south trended Republican, signifying a solidification of the pattern that had been occurring since Nixon implemented his Southern Strategy in 1968 and 1972.

President Gore promised to continue his current policies into his second term, and entered with a fairly high approval rating. However, he would face a number of domestic challenges, as well as have to grapple with some major issues that appear just on the horizon.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

A Convenient Truth: 2000

This is the first of a short series I will be doing, surrounding a point of departure in the form of a Gore selecting Governor Shaheen as his running mate and therefore a Gore victory in 2000.

The election between Democratic nominee Vice President Al Gore and Texas Governor George Bush ended up being an extremely close nail biter. Incumbent President Clinton was fairly popular because of how well he handled the economy, giving the federal government a rare surplus of funds and putting them on a supposed path to get rid of the federal debt over the course of the first decade of the new millennium, even though he had to deal with a media frenzied over the Lewinsky scandal that brought Clinton to have the unfortunate honor of being the second president to be impeached. This was a net boost for the Democrats, as Gore was a fairly influential part of the Clinton administration. He was influential and popular enough with party members that he easily defeated a challenge from the left in the form of former Senator Bill Bradley. Gore chose New Hampshire Governor Jeanne Shaheen as his running mate. Many political scientists consider this to be a positive decision since it excited the liberal base of the party by choosing the second woman on the VP spot for a major party and it was a regional balance between the South and Northeast.

The Republican contest was not so easy. Two of the biggest frontrunners for the entire primary season were eventual nominee Governor George Bush and Senator John McCain of Georgia. Bush was well respected and had a network of donors because of respect for the Bush family. However, McCain was able to make many well placed and timed jabs into the Bush campaign. Bush won out in Iowa, but McCain won in New Hampshire and Delaware before Bush came back in South Carolina. McCain, who tried to position himself as the insurgent candidate that would revitalize the party, accused the Bush campaign of using too many underhanded moves campaigning against him. By Super Tuesday, they looked fairly evenly matched, but as the primary season began to conclude it was clear that McCain would stay an insurgent and not be able to clinch the nomination. He dropped out of the race on April 15, 2000. He chose Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney of Texas (Wyoming for the purposes of election intricacies) as his running mate.

The general election was further complicated by a popular Green Party presence in the form of Ralph Nader. He was polling around 2% or 3%, which was very high for a general third party candidate. Bush used some of his charm and "compassionate conservatism" in order to sway voters much like President Clinton did, but Gore's prowess in debating was clear over that of Bush. President Clinton was a critical piece in the puzzle for the Gore/Shaheen campaign, as he pushed that Gore would continue to put America on the path to eliminate the debt and that Bush would only put America back into a deficit spending pattern and greater debt with his tax cut plan. Polls consistently showed that the race would be close, and many Democrats were hoping that the increasingly popular Nader would not be a spoiler. Ohio was the first major swing state to fall, which was called at 9:30 PM for Bush and a concern for Gore as no Republican had won the White House without Ohio. However, Gore did not have to worry for long, as New Hampshire was called for him at 10:07 PM, making him President-Elect. Florida was still too close to call, and it would remain so until late the next morning, when after multiple recounts it was tentatively called for Gore, putting him just below the 300 EV mark.

President Gore's biggest early goals in his administration was to make sure that the budget surplus continued into the 2001 budget, a number of measures promoting alternative energy sources and research, and education reform. A few measures promoting investment in solar energy, nuclear energy, as well as a compromise measure in domestic offshore oil production were major legislative accomplishments early on, and President Gore was working with influential congressmen, like Senator Ted Kennedy, to make progress on education reform. Even though President Gore set the focus on domestic policy, the events that were about to occur would force him to take major action on another front.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

True Patriots: Changing the Gameplan


The Senate now stood at 49-49-2, 51-49 if caucusing independents are included, and the House at 229-206. It was unclear if, come January, the 114th Congress would become even more deadlocked than the last one due to how both houses came closer to a perfect division. After the defeat of Senator McConnell, Senator Cornyn of Texas was nearly unopposed to ascending to the position Minority Leader, except from a certain fellow Texan senator. Cruz's bid for Minority Leader received little support, not because there were not enough staunch conservatives to support him, but because it would appear very distasteful to take away the position from a senior member of the party and give it to a junior senator. The never ending world of politics expected to take a breather after the 114th Congress was inaugurated, but it was not to be, as speculation over who would become the next president fired up after a few events proved to shake up both parties.

The 114th Congress was ready to jump at change. John Boehner, representative from Ohio and Speaker of the House since the Republicans won it back in 2010, was voted to be replaced by a majority of House Republicans two days after the new Congress was sworn in. Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia would ascend to fill his spot. In the month leading up to the swearing in of the 114th, many in the conservative wing of the GOP began pushing to change Congressional leadership. Many of these people were rather young in comparison to their peers, like Ted Cruz, but the Tea Party touted many of these people anyways because they were fresh and passionate voices who they thought could be an enormous boost to their movement. Although Cruz's attempt was ultimately futile, Cantor, who was noted as a strong conservative, was able to win the Speakership because he had experience to back him up with his conservative credentials.

With a reinvigorated Congress, the Republican Party decided to do something big that was previously attempted, but failed: a repeal of the ACA. At this point, a number of moderate to conservative Democrats had grown away from supporting the bill while many of the most liberal ones had abandoned the ACA in favor of a single-payer system. Speaker Cantor put a repeal high on his legislative agenda, and even though he knew the President was going to veto it, it was intended to be a gesture that the Obama administration would have to cater to Congress in order to get anything done. The vote for repeal was very narrowly passed along with a plan to give the private healthcare system subsides to encourage a decrease of costs on the consumer level. Initially, the Senate seemed to be opposed to this initiative. The Democrats had the numbers and were confident that the bill would not pass. However, Senator Manchin of West Virginia split ranks, giving a final 50-50 vote and allowing Vice President Biden to use his tie breaking powers for the first time in order to strike down the bill. Even though the bill did not even make it to the President's desk, it thoroughly put the Obama administration and most of the Democratic Party on edge.

The cards appeared to not be in the President’s hands, but he was determined to make something positive out of his last year in office. The president made massive strides in foreign policy, something that he could do without the help of Congress. Late in 2014, after a very long process of deliberating, a nuclear agreement was reached with Iran, where the country was not allowed to produce any nuclear weapons, but it was allowed to invest in nuclear energy, while the other nuclear powers agreed to make reductions to their nuclear arsenal. The post Cold War trend had been to decrease the size of nuclear arsenals, and even though that process had slowed down through the Great Recession, President Obama was determined to speed the process back up to create a “safer world for our children” and to show the world that the US was climbing into economic growth. This move was popular in the public eye, but many conservatives were opposed to cutting down our nuclear arsenal as it supposedly demonstrated weakness and the removal of America from its current status in the world. President Obama’s successor would ultimately not continue his program of nuclear reduction, and to this day, it is still a very contentious debate as to if the biggest national security crisis since 9/11 was preempted by Obama’s deal with Iran or his successor's discontinuation of nuclear reduction.

Amidst some of these big moves, the backdrop of the 2016 presidential race was beginning to form. As the cold of winter began to thaw into spring, the first presidential candidates came out from his political hibernation: former Governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee. In his radio show and activities associated with FOX News, he hinted at a presidential campaign, and fueled speculation when he suspended those programs in 2014. Many of the early bird polling showed him in front, and there was evidence of a shadow campaign being made preparing for his entrance into the race. On April 2, 2015 (in order to avoid any April Fool’s confusion) Huckabee appeared in front of a rally in Little Rock, and gave the Republican Party a call to action to “return to its roots of Reagan and his truly American brand of conservatism.”  His speech was well received, and Huckabee continued to poll on top of his party.

On the other side of the aisle, Hillary made a few appearances on television throughout the first few months of 2015, making many people very excited about a potential run. Her so called shadow campaign was running very strong, and it appeared like many Democrats were simply ready to present her as their nominee. Polling centers, in the first few days of April, quickly pounded Hillary vs. Huckabee into the minds of American voters.

However, that was not to be. On April 11, 2015, Hillary Clinton was rushed to the hospital for extreme pains in areas in the face and head. It was quickly discovered that she suffered from an aneurism, and that even though it was severe, it was likely not threatening. Americans held their breath as the status of the Democratic Party’s standard flagbearer for 2016 hung in the balance. For days, Clinton stayed at the hospital and then at home to recuperate. Perhaps millions of get-well messages were posted across social media as Democrats hoped that her run was still inevitable. During an interview with a local New York reporter, Clinton finally stated that she felt that she was seriously considering a presidential run, but that she feels that under the light of recent health issues, she could not fully execute the office as the Democratic Party and the American People would have wished. With this, much of the shadow campaign and PACs that were raising funds for Hillary tried to find another candidate to hold onto. Would it be Vice President Biden or Governor O’Malley, who had experience and the respect of the establishment like Hillary? Perhaps, would it be somebody with passion and who excited the base like Hillary, like Senator Gillibrand of New York or Governor Hickenlooper of Colorado? Democrats hopes for 2016 quickly soured as the Republicans rebounded. In the days following Clinton’s announcement, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky and Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin announced their intentions to seek the Republican nomination for president.

As the US was gearing up for what was looking to be a very interesting election season, some of its allies internationally were having rather interesting elections of their own. Canada had just held an election where Justin Trudeau and his Liberal Party rode a fairly significant anti-Harper wave to victory. After a disastrous election for the Liberals in the 2011 election, things only could get better for them, and with the election of Trudeau to party leader, they were excited for their prospects in 2015. PM Harper, who hoped to remain Prime Minister for another term, was beginning to grow more and more unpopular with the Canadian people as his policies were not speeding up the economy as quickly as the US had rebounded. Unfortunately for the NDP, under Thomas Mulcair, with a Liberal victory came a pretty big defeat down from their biggest federal victory as a party in 2011. The Greens managed to gain another seat in the Vancouver area, while the Bloc Québecois came back pretty strong after a poor performance for them in 2011.

In the UK, PM Cameron and the Conservatives lost their government to be replaced by a shaky Labor-Liberal Democrat coalition headed by PM Ed Miliband. Cameron had a pretty positive record of economic improvement and keeping the UK united by overseeing a decisive defeat of the Scotland independence referendum shortly before the election. However, many individual Conservative MP’s were becoming unpopular, and combined with the insurgent UKIP under Nigel Farage, Labour managed to gain a plurality. However, in order to form a government, they needed partnership with the Liberal Democrats under Nick Clegg, who had served as Deputy PM under Cameron. However, the LibDems forced Labour to make a number of concessions in order to form a coalition, and many people were unhappy with how they were “blocking government” while others were pleased that they were challenging the two party rule in the UK. Miliband barely was able to form a government, and it was a shaky coalition that many in the UK were fearful was going to fall any day.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

True Patriots: The Midterms


2014 was a midterm election which both parties looked upon eagerly. The Republicans thought that they had a chance to take back the Senate and turn President Obama into a lame duck for the remainder of his term, and the Democrats thought that they could take back the House from Republican gerrymandered oblivion. Neither of these things happened, however, and it is still questionable if the circumstances surrounding 2016 would have come out at all similarly had either of these scenarios come to fruition.

2013 was a hard year for the Obama administration. He hit rock bottom in terms of approval ratings at upper 30% to lower 40% around the New Year, and over the course of the year there was significant outrage over the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, which held the popular label Obamacare. The federal distribution website faced numerous technical issues, and the deadlines for applying for healthcare had to be pushed further and further back. Also, the president had to concede some minimum requirements for healthcare plans which would have stripped a number people of their current plans, which allowed a number of people to retain their plans for a longer period of time. The legislation was decried by many as overcomplicating the healthcare process, and house Republicans tried to repeal Obamacare ad nauseum. Obamacare especially provoked many theo-conservatives as Hobby Lobby filed a lawsuit against the administration on the basis that requiring them to provide birth control (including Plan B, which they equated to abortion) Even some liberals started to become agitated with the fumbled rollout. Senator Sanders stated that he supported President Obama’s efforts to reform healthcare, but felt that the ACA ended up as a washed out piece of legislation that doesn’t do enough to make meaningful reform. With President Obama’s signature piece of legislation going from the frying pan into the fire, his entire administration was called into question.

Those who lived in poverty saw their healthcare state improve significantly over the course of the years after the ACA’s implementation, but many in the middle class saw their rates go up in the years following. Many American families were caught in a place where they had enough income to where they were not eligible for government assistance, but their premiums increased noticeably because of insurance companies trying to make up for profit lost by providing reduced cost services for the poor. In the eyes of the Obama administration, this burden would ideally have been shifted more to the upper class, but he had no control over the actions of the private market which did not tend to be the fairest of environments. Many in the middle class, whom the Obama administration wanted to help the most, ended up being hurt because of the actions insurance companies took due to the ACA. When concerns were raised, the Democratic Party was quick to point out that they were only affected by what the insurance companies did, and not the government, but many people already pointed the blame on the ACA.

Republicans hoped to capitalize on this issue in order to increase their stake in Congress by promising an upheaval of “Obamacare” and removing government interference from healthcare. In the summer of 2014, things were looking promising for the GOP. More Republican representatives were in danger than Democratic ones, but the Republicans were looking to take enormous gains in the Senate. Montana, South Dakota, and Arkansas all held Democratic incumbents who were almost assured defeat, while Alaska, West Virginia, and North Carolina were all toss ups with Democratic incumbents.

Two states which felt slightly out of place this time around were Colorado and Kentucky. State Senator Alison Grimes was an upstart Democrat which challenges unpopular incumbent and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Senator McConnell faced a significant Tea Party challenge early in the year, but he was reassured his party’s nomination with a 61% vote after the primaries were held. McConnell was clearly in a precarious situation already, without all of his party behind him, but Grimes was a fearsome competitor. She used the state Democratic Party, which still had a significant presence despite the deep red tinge of the state at the presidential level, as a jumping off point where she presented her passion and prowess for governing and debating. In Colorado, a state that was still a critical battleground state, Senator Mark Udall was leading in almost all polls against challenger Ken Buck by a margin greater than what President Obama won the state in 2012. Udall remained popular in the state even though his son was caught with cocaine early in 2014, which was a circumstance the CO GOP tried and failed to capitalize off of. Despite its swing state status, Buck’s chance of victory appeared slim. A notable point is that both of these states had a state managed ACA rollout which was significantly smoother than at the federal level. This was a big boost for Democratic Party in both of these states.

Republicans had a solid majority in the House of Representatives, one that many called an artificial one because of the massive gerrymandering that occurred in many states during 2010 redistricting. A number of Republicans in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, New York, New Jersey, Florida, and Colorado were vulnerable and the Democrats were pushing to make sure that most of those seats fell. The Republican incumbents did not have a lot of the same benefits going for them as their fellow Senate challengers, because the party organization had lot of faith in the power of incumbency in the House, as well as the fact that they put a lot more money into trying to win back the Senate and decided that a few possible casualties in the House was worth it.

As election night approached, both parties became more and more nervous. Hagan, Begich, Landrieu, Grimes, and Chambliss' seat all maintained toss up status, which meant that the Republicans had a chance to take back the Senate. Meanwhile, the polls showed a net Democratic gain in the House, but likely no majority. There was a fear from the Democratic Party that the president could be forced into becoming a lame duck for the remainder of his term and be detrimental to their chances in 2016, even with Hillary still being their flag bearer. When Election Night concluded, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Georgia still remained too close to call. By 5:00 AM the next morning, Kentucky was called for Grimes, which was a massive victory for the Democrats, and a bright spot in a night that had otherwise been poor for the party. Hours later, Georgia would be called for Gingrey and North Carolina for Hagan, with Hagan winning by the closest margin out of anybody else in her class.

Arkansas: Tom Cotton (R) defeats Mark Pryor (D) - R Gain
South Dakota: Mike Rounds (R) defeats Rick Weiland (D) - R Gain
West Virginia: Shelley Moore Capito (R) defeats Natalie Tennant (D) - R Gain
Montana: Steve Daines (R) defeats John Walsh (D) - R Gain
Alaska: Mead Treadwell (R) defeats Mark Begich (D) - R Gain
Georgia: Phil Gingrey defeats Michelle Nunn (D) - R Hold
Kentucky: Alison Grimes (D) defeats Mitch McConnell (R) - D Gain
North Carolina: Kay Hagan (D) defeats Bill Flynn (R) - D Hold
Louisiana: Mary Landrieu (D) defeats Bill Cassidy (R) - D Hold
Iowa: Bruce Braley (D) defeats Joni Ernst (R) - D Hold

The Senate now stood at 49-49-2, 51-49 if caucusing independents are included, and the House at 229-206. It was unclear if, come January, the 114th Congress would become even more deadlocked than the last one due to how both houses came closer to a perfect division. Senator Cornyn of Texas was nearly unopposed to ascending to the position Minority Leader, except from a certain fellow Texan senator. Cruz's bid for Minority Leader received little support, not because there were not enough staunch conservatives to support him, but because it would appear very distasteful to take away the position from a senior member of the party and give it to a junior senator. The never ending world of politics expected to take a breather after the 114th Congress was inaugurated, but it was not to be, as speculation over who would become the next president fired up after a few events proved to shake up both parties.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

True Patriots: the Rise and Fall American Conservatism Teaser

Here is a sneak peak of my upcoming timeline, a project that I have been planning for a while. Do not, worry, I am not finished with A House Divided, but it is on indefinite hiatus while I will be in the thick of this TL. Expect it to be one of the most insane roller coasters of a 2016 election in any of the multiverses!

true patriots the rise and fall of conservatism in america

Stage lights are bright, hot, and generally unpleasant. They are even more unpleasant when the lights of the entire nation shine, revealing the greatest depths of one's abilities and flaws.

Under these lights, former Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas felt the heat the greatest.

The moderator swallowed and spoke. "Governor Huckabee, how do you respond to accusations that you are not fit to be this party's nominee, and that you are past your prime?"

The moderator's question had caught him off guard. He was sweating profusely, and his stomach felt like a bowling ball that was ready to roll straight into the gutter. He swallowed hard before taking a breath, while carefully forming his response. "I think that I am perfectly capable, and the best man to be this party's nominee. I... I have the best conservative record, and I have stuck to what I believe in and to what will get this party back into the White House."

"Any rebuttals?" The moderator eyed each of the candidates carefully.

"I have to disagree Governor, my conservative credentials are stronger, and I think I have best what it takes to put us into the White House." Senator Ted Cruz of Texas stood like a lion, ready to pounce on Huckabees every word. "What this party needs is somebody who has stood firm in what they believe and what is best for America, not somebody who has been tried and failed. Don't get me wrong, I fully respect what Governor Huckabee did and his strong faith in God, but he tends to alienate many Christians who are not Southern Baptist. If we want to win and make sure that America remains steadfast to the Judeo-Christian values which we have built our foundation upon, then we need a man who will bring Catholics, Protestants, and Eastern Orthodox together to fight for these values. The American people and this party have seen me fight against the tyranny and the bureaucratic, lumbering, and overreaching government the Obama administration has created. I call for a return to what we were made of! A time when taxes fit on a page and when people were free to live and economy free to grow without interference from an overreach of government!"

The senator elicited some cheers from the crowd, even though any manner of applause from the audience was forbidden.

"Well, what is wrong with appealing to Southern Baptists? You have to have the heart of religion in America behind you if you want to win." Huckabee clearly appeared stressed at this point while Cruz was indefatigable and continued to refute him and the other Republican candidates.

The Republican presidential debate, held on November 11, 2015, left a largely indelible mark on the minds of many Republicans, in Iowa and across the nation. Cruz appeared to be by far the most collected of the candidates while still displaying passion and vigor that excited the conservative base. The only other candidate who really showed themselves that night was Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who made some passionate points for abolishing the NSA and repealing the Patriot Act, which none of the other candidates stood behind a hundred percent.

Some criticized Cruz for being far too harsh, and for not giving a lot of respect to the other candidates. He stated that he needed to let the Republican Party know where the right direction is, and that they cannot win by nominating a weak moderate who panders to too many people and has no true values to stand for in the general. It was clear that he was not in this to merely give conservatives a voice, but he was here to create a climax to the conservative revolution started by Goldwater and championed by President Reagan.

Who do you support for the upcoming Republican primaries?

Senator Ted Cruz of Texas - 20.2%
Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky - 20.1%
Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin - 18.7%
Former Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas - 15.6%
Governor John Kasich of Ohio - 13.5%
Undecided - 11.4%

Monday, February 17, 2014

Thinking About Historic Preservation

Recently, I have been thinking quite a bit about the importance of history in our daily lives. As alternate historians, many of us enjoy toying with history to make different outcomes and to see just how different our world could have been. Although this is fun to do, it makes one think about just how important it is. Changing one little thing from a century ago could have made today significantly different than it is, for better or worse. It is important that everybody has a solid understanding of history so that they understand the lessons that it teaches us and so that we may not repeat the same mistakes our ancestors made.

I have been a long time attendee of the Colorado Preserve America Youth Summit, which is a program where middle and high school students go to different places across the state of Colorado in order to learn about local histories and give our insight as youth to local people invested in historic preservation of that area. Being in this program is what kindled my interest in history, and by an extension alternate history.

A historic farmhouse, located between Lyons and Boulder, which was severely affected by the flood
A historic farmhouse, located between Lyons and Boulder, which was severely affected by the flood

As a part of this program, I toured historic sites that were damaged by the massive floods that struck Boulder County last September. One story that was fascinating was about a small farmhouse, initially built in the late 1800's, that was reflective of Colorado's origin from small family farms along the Front Range. An addition was added in the 1930's turning it into an inn, which was reflective of the massive economic pressure the Great Depression put on people across the US to stay afloat. The most recent addition came courtesy of mother nature: the St.Vrain overflowed its banks, and the torrents of water carved out massive ravines around the farm, displacing it from its initial site. Now the farmhouse sits, still intact, but broken and isolated in the middle of one of these ravines. These floods have had a tremendous impact on Colorado, and the flood can teach us many lessons about how to not face the mistakes of our ancestors again. I know that I only truly understood the awesome power of the flood waters once I saw how radically it transformed the landscape.

However, there are plans in place to fill back part of the ravine so that land can be rented to a farmer for his cattle to graze upon. I think that this situation poses some important questions, and ones that cannot be ignored. Is the ravine as much of this place's history as the farmhouse? Does it convey the full impact that the floods had if only a small portion of what they did is left to see? Is this the way to balance progress with preservation? I know that I want to preserve history because it makes people understand what their ancestors did, and it makes us better able to make better decisions if we learn from our past good and bad alike.

A panoramic photo showing the changes in the city of Boulder over the course of the past 100 years
A panoramic photo showing the changes in the city of Boulder over the course of the past 100 years

In history, we must not glorify our past. Surely, our past has had many good things that were instrumental in allowing us to make great achievements, and history should be preserved in order to get people to appreciate how we got to be here today, but there are elements of our history which may be sad or unsavory, but those are just as important too. History teaches us important lessons that allow us to become better, and that is why those stories must be held in equal importance to the others. Time and time again, those who choose to ignore the lessons of history make the same brutal mistakes: Napoleon lost everything after he made the decision to invade with a war weary army into the heart of the brutal Russian winter, and over 100 years later Nazi Germany made the same decision to invade the USSR which was the ultimate turning point that lead to its downfall.

Many people feel a disconnect with history, claiming it to be merely the past and having no bearing on what we can do, but without our past we would not have a future. Without understanding the American Revolution, the circumstances surrounding the creation and ratification of the Constitution, or the circumstances that caused the World Wars, we have no basis for which to create a better future for mankind. I have taken my experiences as somewhat of a rallying call for my generation.

The breathtaking view of the Flatirons from the historic Chataqua trails in Boulder, Colorado
The breathtaking view of the Flatirons from the historic Chataqua trails in Boulder, Colorado