Donald Trump

David Richardson Would Be The First Gay Congressman Ever Elected From The South. Will He Also Be Trump’s Nightmare?

What’s News With This Story: 

–Florida State Rep. David Richardson is a leading candidate for the Democratic nomination in Florida’s open 27th District Congressional race.

-The district is currently represented by retiring Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. While Ros-Lehtinen has represented the district for over 30 years, it is Democratic leaning. Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump in the district by nearly 20 points in 2016. 

-Many national Republicans are concerned that the race is a lost cause. The GOP has had a hard time finding top-tier candidates to run while Democrats have 6 candidates who have raised over $200,000. (Some of the other contenders include former federal judge Mary Barzee-Flores, former Knight Foundation official Matt Haggman, state Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez, Miami Beach City Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez and Miami Commissioner Ken Russell. 

-Richardson has raised over $1 million for his effort and is considered one of the more viable contenders in the race. 

–Elected to the Florida House in 2012, Richardson became the first openly gay person ever elected to the Florida Legislature.

–A retired forensic auditor, Richardson made a splash in Tallahassee with his efforts to reform the state jail system. He was particularly focused on the way the state treated youthful offenders.

-He has spent over 800 hours personally inspecting state prisons by using a little known law that allows state lawmakers to show up to prisons unannounced. His efforts led to the closure of Lancaster Correctional Institution in Gilchrist County. 

-In an interview with RISE NEWS, Richardson said that he would be a progressive leader in Congress. He said that he would push for increased gun control measures including an assault weapons ban, work towards making the United States have a single payer healthcare system and roll back charter schools while defending “traditional” public schools. 

-Richardson also told us that he would push to impeach President Trump in Congress. He said that his skills as a forensic auditor would come in handy during impeachment proceedings. 


 

WATCH: David Richardson on how he wants to go after President Trump in Congress. 

WATCH: David Richardson on the issues. 

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Have a news tip about this topic or something completely different? Send it on in to editor@risenews.net.

WATCH Another Story: 

Can This Millennial Lawyer Be Florida’s First Democratic Attorney General In 17 years?

Report: Trump Will Overturn Obama Cuba Thaw Reforms

A report in the Daily Caller indicates that President Donald Trump is planning a major repeal of Obama era measures designed to soften America’s hostile posture towards Cuba that has lasted for over 50 years.

From the Daily Caller:

“Two sources told TheDC that the development is due to the behind-the-scenes efforts of Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Democratic New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez and Republican Florida Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart.”

The report goes on to say that Trump plans to officially announce the changes in a June speech in Miami.

Rubio has previously spoken about his optimism that Trump would return American policy to a pre Obama posture.

He said in an interview with El Nuevo Herald, “We’ve been walking through all these issues with the president and his team, figuring out the right steps to take and when.”

NOW WATCH: This Is The Oldest Building In The Western Hemisphere. We Bet You’ve Never Heard Of It 

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Pedro Szekely/ Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Where The Fuck Is Turkey Going?

With a seemingly endless war going on in Syria, Arab states slowly coming apart, terrorist cells continuously operating and economic as well as military interests from countries like Russia and America, the Middle East has become a complicated and turbulent region.

While the role of the world’s greatest hegemonies inside the Middle East seems clear, there are regional powers whose presence is often underestimated or forgotten.

So, with a strained relationship with the Unites States and failed negotiations to form part of the European Union, what is Turkey’s international and regional role?

“Every decision Turkey makes, even the ones that affect the international sphere, are related to their domestic policies.” Agustín Berea a Middle East specialist said in an interview with RISE NEWS. “Everything Tayyip Erdoğan does is for his public and his public is the Turkish people.”

In a developing country where the society is divided between those in favor of business and liberalism and those who are much more conservative and traditionalist, Tayyip Erdoğan came in as a reformist, progressist and with strong ties with the conservative sectors of the Turkish society.

In the beginning of Erdoğan’s mandate, talks about joining the European Union were strong.

 

READ MORE: Why Turkey Should Be Removed From NATO

However, such discourses have gradually faded over time.

Historical issues, such as the occupation of Cyprus, and the recent violation of human rights, as well as the authoritarian government, have been enough to declare that Turkey does not reach the standards to form part of the union.

Although the Republic of Turkey was founded with the objective of having a legitimacy based on secularity and laicism, the Turkish society remains strongly attached to its religious basis.

“Demographically, there’s a lot more people who identify themselves with the East than with the West. Geographically, the part of Turkey located in Europe and the Mediterranean, although highly populated, represents a minority,” Berea said.

Not only that, but the agenda of Turkish president Tayyip Erdoğan does not tie with the agenda of other international actors such as Russia and the United States.

A market in Istanbul. Photo Credit: Pedro Szekely/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

“His main goal is to solve internal conflicts,” Berea said.

The inability to tie Turkish interests with those of other countries has resulted in strained relationships with the American president Donald Trump and the Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Moreover, it has also resulted in the breaking of diplomatic relations with the Iranian president Hasán Rouhani.

While Erdoğan’s ability to project his influence at an international level is questionable, with one of the world’s largest and most powerful armies, Turkey’s regional power is undeniable.

“Turkey cannot reach just any part of the world. However, its mobility and ability to effectively achieve its goals within the Middle East are higher than the one of countries like Russia or even the United States,” Berea said.

These goals include neutralizing the threat of ISIS within Turkish borders, the liberation of the city of Raqqa, and toppling the Assad regime. However, this would require more time, planning, and manpower than the one Turkey currently has in Syria.

This year, as early as February, former prohibitions considered to be secularization measures, such as the banning of the of Islamic veil and religious demonstrations, have been lifted. This has led many to believe that Turkey is no longer the champion of secularism.

“Muslim sectors are much closer to the government and it would seem like Turkey’s regional allies are projects that align with the agenda of political Islam,” Berea said.

Turkey is not the only nation of the Middle East that seems to be going back to projects and governments based on the Muslim religion.

READ MORE: Kicking Turkey Out Of NATO Would Be A Massive Mistake

“Countries in the Middle East have experienced with secular governance models and it is the opinion of many that such projects have not worked so far,” Berea explained.

Iran, Syria and Egypt are some of the countries that have experienced with these secular governance models.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The idea of going back to a caliphate comes from these failed projects of democratic nations and the people in the Middle East want to go back to a moment in which society and political structures worked better.

Could we expect Tayyip Erdoğan’s government to fail or to be toppled by a revolution in Turkey?

“The only way that there could be a successful coup against Erdoğan is if he openly spoke about religious structures within the state. This is unthinkable for the Turkish army,” Berea said.

Although political leaders have known how to handle their differences and act with moderation, the future of the Middle East is now more uncertain than ever.

With so many international actors involved in a small region, the situation seems to be bound to escalate to major proportions.

“My fear about Trump is that he may not know how to handle himself in moments of tension,” Berea said.

While conflict is possible, it doesn’t seem likely yet.

NOW WATCH: This Is The Oldest Building In The Western Hemisphere. We Bet You’ve Never Heard Of It 

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Charles Dunst/ RISE NEWS

 

This University President Just Smacked Down Trump In An Amazing Email

University administrators are often criticized for not speaking up about issues that their students care about. But that is certainly not the case at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB).

There, university president Jay A. Perman has taken a forceful stance against President Donald Trump’s anti-science agenda.

In an email to the entire university community, Perman launched into the Trump administration’s “assault on science”.

UMB is a collection of graduate degree offering institutions including a world renowned School of Medicine.

Perman wrote the email in anticipation of the March for Science that will be taking place this weekend on April 22.

“The assault on science comes not only in the form of draconian budget cuts, but in ways meant to politicize science or intimidate those who undertake it,” Perman wrote. “The administration has issued gag orders on science agencies engaging in unsanctioned speech and sent letters to agency heads ordering that they identify scientists working on climate research. As a presidential candidate, Mr. Trump endorsed theories that have no basis in science — for instance, that vaccines are linked to autism or that climate change is a hoax.”

Maggie Davis, a law and policy analyst for the Center for Health and Homeland Security at UMB is supportive of Perman’s aggressive stance. 

I think it is an appropriate critique of budget priorities of the new administration, especially considering the hostility we have seen to researchers and scientists that work for agencies like NOAA and the EPA,” Davis said. “President Perman’s statement was clearly aimed at the policies promoted by the new administration and not President Trump as an individual, which I think is the best approach to have to build stronger support for robust funding of scientific research.” 

You really should read Perman’s entire letter. It is something else.


“To the UMB Community:

I know many of you are planning to join the hundreds of thousands of people expected to march this Saturday in Washington, D.C., to celebrate — and defend — science. I thank you for lending your voice and your advocacy to this movement because, without a doubt, science needs defending these days.

President Trump’s budget proposal cuts 31 percent from the Environmental Protection Agency, slashes the Department of Energy’s basic science research program, and zeros out a program that supports early-stage research into technologies that could reduce our national dependence on fossil fuels. The National Institutes of Health (NIH), which spends $32 billion a year on biomedical research — most of which goes to universities and medical schools across this country — would see a nearly 20 percent cut, bringing the agency’s budget to its lowest level in 15 years. By no means is it only science under attack: The president’s proposed budget eliminates the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The assault on science comes not only in the form of draconian budget cuts, but in ways meant to politicize science or intimidate those who undertake it. The administration has issued gag orders on science agencies engaging in unsanctioned speech and sent letters to agency heads ordering that they identify scientists working on climate research. As a presidential candidate, Mr. Trump endorsed theories that have no basis in science — for instance, that vaccines are linked to autism or that climate change is a hoax.

And so I stand with those who will march this weekend to defend science and the scientific method. It is the scientific method that teaches us how to ask questions, form hypotheses, and then — critically — test those hypotheses with rigorous and replicable experiments. It is this method that protects us against specious theories and unproved (and unprovable) “facts.”

As a physician, I know that it is because of science that diseases that were once widespread and incurable are now — within my own lifetime — eradicated or treatable. This is the science that some in Congress and in the White House want to cut, attempting to persuade the American people that the basic research undertaken in labs across this country doesn’t affect them. But it does, and powerfully. Every modern medical advancement that has saved patients in a physician’s care and relieved their loved ones of grief had its origins in the research lab.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, himself a physician, defended President Trump’s proposed $6 billion cut to the NIH budget by suggesting that these cuts would be carved out of the overhead costs that universities like ours incur in doing research — costs such as operating and maintaining the facilities in which the research is conducted. However, as any businessperson knows, this overhead isn’t frivolous. It’s exactly what enables our people to keep doing the research that builds the science that ultimately saves and enriches lives. And I propose that it is precisely these kinds of efforts that many Americans want their tax dollars to support.

UMB is educating the next generation of health care practitioners, scientists, researchers, and policy experts, the people who will one day solve the greatest challenges of human health and well-being. I take this responsibility to train tomorrow’s problem-solvers seriously, and I support all of you in your fight to preserve smart and humane science policy and investment.

The budget priorities of this administration do not reflect the America I know, an America strengthened by its science and scientists, by investments made in research that protects its people, advances its interests, and enlarges global cooperation. The shortsightedness we’ve seen over the last three months undoubtedly threatens science, but science will prevail. It always does.

Sincerely,

Jay A. Perman, MD
President”


 

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: University of Maryland, Baltimore/ Facebook

Trump’s Constant Lying Is What Autocrats Do

By Christopher F. Arndt

First there was the birther theory, which Trump continued to champion in 2011 even after President Obama’s long-form birth certificate was shown to the world.

Then we heard statements like “Nobody really knows if climate change is real;” and, more recently, “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”

These are, of course, but a few of the countless lies Trump has uttered over the years, over the course of this past election cycle and since entering the White House.

To these we can now add the claim that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower during the 2016 campaign – one that smacks all the more clearly of dishonesty now that House Intelligence Committee chair Devin Nunes has stated that he will not disclose his sources.

Our President’s unprecedented lying has many utterly baffled, as does the fact that Trump supporters often accept these lies.

For example,  74% of Republican voters think it’s at least “somewhat likely” that Donald Trump’s offices were wiretapped during the campaign.

Both the dishonesty and the continued belief by Trump supporters in “alternative facts” can be understood in the context of changes within the conservative movement that have come to the fore over the past fifteen years.

A scene from the Las Vegas skyline. Photo Credit: João Martinho/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Under normal conditions, a politician fibs to exaggerate the appeal of a program they support or to undermine an opponent’s position.

But they generally try to avoid obvious falsehoods.

Some of Trump’s lies follow this pattern, but most of his lies are different.

They are intentionally brazen.

In this way, they are a show of power, demonstrating the acquiescence of others to his will and the comparative impotence of those who stand by facts and against his word.

In short, Trump’s lies have an autocratic twist. Matt Steinglass, the current European editor for the Economist, captured this dynamic well in a 2009 piece on why Iran’s Ahmadinejad insisted on showing an implausibly large vote margin for his election victory.

This piece is dismayingly relevant now and worth quoting at length:

“[B]ullies often find it more effective to force people to acquiesce in an obvious lie than in a plausible fiction. Check out the ludicrous charges in the Stalin show trials: children’s book writers in Leningrad confessing to being Japanese spies, and so forth. When you make people accept a plausible fiction, you’re just winning that one issue. But when you make them accept a lie which everyone knows is a lie, you’re destroying their integrity, destroying their will to describe the world as they see it, rather than as you tell them it is. It’s the bully on the playground holding the weaker kid’s arm and slapping his cheek with it, saying “Why are you hitting yourself?” Like Vaclav Havel’s grocer hanging “Workers of the world, unite!” in his shop window, once a person has acquiesced to something they do not believe, and which everyone knows they do not believe, they become complicit in their own oppression.”

In essence, Trump is making Republican leaders – who know he is lying – complicit in their own oppression.

To be clear, we’ve seen some independence on the part of Republicans like John McCain.

But not a lot.

And, most recently, it appears that Devin Nunes is simply bending to Trump’s will.

This fealty to authority over facts runs directly against the beating heart of liberal democracy.

Why, then, does Trump get away with it?

The brief answer is that the American Right has been moving in this direction for more than a decade.

The movement has coalesced around an older, “monarchical” conservatism.

This movement is best understood as a temperament and a set of tendencies opposing change rather than a set of principles.

It runs counter to the enlightenment liberalism that forms the basis of our Constitution.

In my book, The Right’s Road to Serfdom: The Danger of Conservatism Unbound From Hayek to Trump, I map out characteristics of this “conservative temperament” including:

  • Viewing a leader’s personality and its force above process, institutions and the rule of law.
  • An ease with diminishing the value of facts to support the right leader.
  • A preference for absolute certainty regarding both policy and a leader’s style. This requires black and white simplicity in the way both are presented.

Understanding conservatism as such explains the appeal of Trump on the Right and the embrace of blatant falsehoods.

So far, the firing of Michael Flynn was an exception.

On the Right, there have been no real consequences to Trump’s blatant – and disgraceful – lying or that of his inner circle.

Which brings us back to autocracy, defined by Merriam Webster as “government in which one person possesses unlimited power.”

Christopher Arndt is author of The Right’s Road to Serfdom: The Danger of Conservatism Unbound From Hayek to Trump.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Isabelle Blanchemain/ Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Why Did Putin Do It?

It is common knowledge that the Russian government attempted to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The success of that interference is, and may always be, up for debate.

The same can be said for understanding the true nature of their motivations behind these actions.

On January 6, 2017, The Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a declassified report, assessing Russian activities and intentions in the most recent U.S. presidential election.

The twenty-three page report, created in union by The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), and The National Security Agency (NSA), makes several, high confidence claims about Russia’s – and the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin’s – motivations and intentions behind their actions.

These actions, as identified by the report, include cyber espionage, the leaking of data collected by Russian Intelligence, interference in state and local electoral boards, and Russian propaganda efforts.

Getting inside the head of Vladimir Putin is impossible. Photo Credit: Lazopoulos George/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

The goals behind these actions were also laid out in the report.

“Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency,” the report reads. “We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.”

But while understanding these actions is important and necessary, maybe even more important, is to understand the motivations behind them.

“The motivation, if we can guess it, was just to disrupt, and to create doubts, and weaken the integrity of the process,” William Wohlforth, a Dartmouth professor who studies, among other areas, international relations and Russian foreign policy said in an interview with RISE NEWS.

Robert Jervis, the Adlai E. Stevenson Professor of International Politics at Columbia University, takes a similar view.

“It was a general attempt to discredit American democracy here and abroad,” Jervis said in an interview.

These attempts are not necessarily unusual – during the Cold War, the Soviet Union engaged in similar “active measures.”

In fact, the tactics used in 2016 are eerily similar to those used throughout much of the Cold War – primarily, the spreading of false information in an attempt to delegitimize or scandalize a perceived political opponent.

This horse really wanted Trump to win so Putin just went with it- probably. Ok not really. Photo Credit: Jedimentat44/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Mark Kramer recently wrote about this history on WBUR’s Cognoscenti website:

“[The KGB’s] Service A, formed in the 1950s, almost immediately set to work spreading disinformation, producing forgeries, transmitting propaganda, and disrupting U.S. and Western public diplomacy.”

Some of the misinformation spread by the KGB includes rumors that FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was a “gay transvestite” and that Martin Luther King Jr. and President Lyndon B. Johnson were colluding to continue black suppression.

During the Cold War- now seen as a more conventional battle between capitalism and communism, all behaviors stemmed from a fairly defined ideological starting point.

But in a post-Cold War era, these ideologies have become less defined, leaving the motivations behind these active measures more mysterious.

“Now, all bets are off, they don’t need to be particularly consistent with any political ideology,” Wohlforth said. “As long as it has the potential to weaken the cohesiveness of the block of states that they perceive to be against them.”

One of the more popular speculations is that Putin saw interference in the U.S. election as payback.

Russian President Vladimir Putin believes that the United States was secretly active in orchestrating the Color Revolutions of the early 2000s – a set of revolutions and protests in former Soviet republics.

Putin believes that the U.S. interfered so as to create a new geopolitical order.

Putin may also view his active measures as payback for his belief that the U.S. – and Secretary Clinton – was behind the massive protests in Moscow over his election in December 2011.

In 2014, Putin likened protests in his own country to the Color Revolutions.

“In the modern world, extremism is being used as a geopolitical instrument and for remaking spheres of influence,” Putin said in 2014. “We see what tragic consequences the wave of so-called color revolutions led to.”

“I really love this boat. Also, I like interfering with American elections.” Photo Credit: Jedimentat44/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

By interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Putin attempted to ruin the chances of victory for his perceived nemesis, Secretary Clinton, while also attempting to avoid any chance that he may have to interact with her as President of the U.S.

Also a popular speculation about Russia’s motivation is that Putin was actively hoping to change the outcome of the election – although there is little to no evidence to support this claim.

“I suspect that by some time in the fall that was one of the objectives,” Jervis said. “But the evidence for that is much weaker.”

When polls began to show Clinton as weaker than conventionally believed, Moscow may have seen an opportunity to test the ability of their active measures.

What is interesting about this possible motivation is that there is little evidence to suggest that any time Soviet/Russian active measures favored a candidate, the candidate ended up favoring the Kremlin.

In 1968, the Soviet Union was worried that if Richard Nixon won the presidential election, Soviet-U.S. relations would suffer even more than if the Democratic candidate Hubert Humphrey won.

Instead, Nixon acted somewhat favorably towards the Soviet state after being elected.

Even in painting form, Putin looks unhappy. Photo Credit: Nikolay Volnov/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

“The candidate that they often seek to undermine may not be so bad for Russian relations,” Wohlforth said.

The opposite can be said as well – it may have been easier for Secretary Clinton to act more favorably towards Russia than President Trump, who has received a mass of scrutiny for even just speaking favorably about Putin or Russia.

The true motivations behind Russia’s most recent active measures may never be known – needless to say, it is impossible to get inside the head of Putin.

Russia’s current posture towards the United States is not new – and the medium through which they acted is – and in truth, this behavior is not limited to Russia.

These actions are unlikely to stop anytime soon.

America is under siege.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: michael kooiman/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Could Oprah Be Elected President?

I’d like to say celebrate it with a HUGE, YES!

Oprah is one of the most successful moguls of our time.

A self made billionaire who did it all without her daddy’s money.

She’s an icon who has great sway over millions of people across the country, especially in areas where Democrats performed poorly in 2016.

Some even say she’s the reason why Barack Obama became President.

A ubiquitous celebrity with a successful business record?

Sounds like the perfect person to take down Donald Trump in 2020.

But while it sounds like a good idea, there are reasons why it probably will never happen.

We are the same society who lets a rapist off with a slap on the wrist because he also swam on the Stanford swim team.

Then there’s the President.

President Trump had 20+ allegations of sexual assault come out while he was running to be president.

Many people in this country did not care.

America voted for a man with dozens of allegations of sexual misconduct because Hillary Clinton had a private email server.

It is just harder to do it as a woman in this country.

Oprah is everything Trump lied about being, but it still wouldn’t be enough. Photo Credit: aphrodite-in-nyc/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

So the American people spoke and chose the person who has the characteristics and personality traits of a racist, misogynist, xenophobe, homophobe, etc.

So when I’m asked if I think Oprah could ever be president I unfortunately have to think that we as a country have a problem with women in powerful positions.

Not to mention black women in positions of power.

Remember how long it took to confirm Loretta Lynch to be Attorney General?

The United States is not ready to be blessed by Oprah.

She’s a humanitarian who actually gives a great deal to charity unlike our current President who just pretends to.

The country has spoken on how qualified one must be to be President and Oprah certainly fits the new qualifications.

Of course anyone does as long as they were on a middling reality show and are willing to “grab it”.

Many people spoke up and made it very clear they did not like President Barack Obama, of course what specifically they didn’t like about him was never made clear.

The moment President Trump was inaugurated it was clear that President Obama’s blackness was the problem greatly affecting our nation.

The moment he was sworn in “we took our country back” and America became great again.

In their eyes, Obama could never be truly American due to his blackness.

Even for those who don’t take it that far, the idea that Trump and Obama have been treated equally is laughable.

The Trump administration has what is an alarming amount of ties to Russia- not a conspiracy but a fact.

“Fired up and ready to O?” Ok, on second thought, that probably won’t work as a slogan. Photo Credit: aphrodite-in-nyc/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Had this been President Obama he would have been impeached already, and have had 20 different investigations on his involvement with Russia.

So it doesn’t take much stretching to say that Hillary Clinton lost because she was not the right gender for the job, and President Obama’s so called horrific job was due to him being a black man.

So unfortunately, America is not ready for an African-American female president- not even one who was forged in the same 1980s daytime television/ tabloid milieu as the current White House occupant.

The double standard has proven itself true too many times in the past few years for us to ignore it.

Someday, hopefully in our lifetime we are able to see that diversity siting in the oval office.

But it won’t be in 2020.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Alan Light/ Flickr (CC By 2.00

Don’t Expect A Realignment Of Politics. Expect Something Much More Dramatic

As everyone can see, the world has undoubtedly changed in the past year or so.

From the Trump victory to Brexit to the resilience of right-wing parties in Europe, there remains a certain level of chaos in the world order.

There seems to be an aura of the past which we will never regain, for better or worse.

A space in time so close in a textbook but eons away from the society we inhabit today.

These sweeping changes to the status quo leave many of us asking, what’s next?

Lying ahead there must be some fundamental shift away from the political alignment of years past; a transformation that will reset our society after the obliteration of previous norms.

I’m not going to pretend that I know what type of realignment we can expect, nor am I advocating for any or all of those below.

Nonetheless, here are a few which I see, at least partially, as possible.

The first is the battle between big government and small government.

After a fiery American election cycle and two hotly contested primary challenges, the Democratic and Republican parties have taken a beating.

With civil strife bludgeoning both establishments we may see a revolt against the major parties and a new system of simple ideological differences emerging- not the traditional party labels being the great divide.

The new reality could be a more principled approach to worldviews instead of the patchwork we see in the main parties today.

A poll conducted in May of 2016 shows that only 13%  Americans surveyed believe the two party system works, and 38% say it is “seriously broken”.

One would imagine a rise in those who consider themselves Independents would be in order if that many seem fed up with the current system.

On the contrary, according to Gallup poll results which accumulated over the course of 2016, registration among Independents is at a six-year low.

To further complicate this entanglement between and within both parties, Republicans and Democrats see this divide in vastly different ways, according to Matt Grossmann and David A. Hopkins who describe their investigation into this question in their book Asymmetric Politics: Ideology Republicans and Group Interest Democrats.

They wrote about their theory in the Washington Post: 

“…the Republican Party defines itself in ideological terms as the vehicle of symbolic conservatism. The Democratic Party, in contrast, is organized as a social group coalition”.

However, their research finds that even Republican voters who consider themselves as having strong conservative principles depart from such “orthodoxy” on specific policy questions.

A more obvious example of this is in their support for then-candidate Donald Trump, someone who strays from ideological consistency much of the time.

For me, I see no clear direction for the conventional two-party system except to continue on in the confusing and muddied path it’s on now.

To suggest that an ideological realignment is likely to occur here, at least in American politics, would be inappropriate at this time.

The next is the continuation of the divide between the elites and everyone else.

In Europe and in America, disenchantment and the desire to throw out those in power are moving full speed ahead.

Concerns over immigration, political correctness, cultural ambiguity, and long-term economic prosperity are major factors in this anti-establishment wave the western world is currently riding.

People, on a large scale, no longer believe those in charge are inherently better at their jobs than people from completely outside of that system.

Photo Credit: Beshef/flickr (CC BY 2.0).

In comes the torch to burn it all down: voting.

This would be a different conversation if the United Kingdom had remained in the European Union and both candidacies of Senator Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump had inevitably failed.

That would have put a scare into the old order but their influence would have braved the storm.

But they didn’t.

The anti-establishment movement has gained real power.

It could fail miserably, or it could provide the footing for this anger to wipe out every remaining piece of the old system for the near future.

Insert the electoral chances of right-wing parties in France, Germany, and the Netherlands — to name a few — and Europe then makes the Trump revolution look like a dress rehearsal.

Now, elections could forever be won by who we think hates the elite most, not policy differences.

We may, as many of us already do, watch press briefings and tally not the legislation being announced but the number of coded messages sent to the holders of power in Washington, New York, Brussels, and Paris.

A candidate’s success may be determined by how many CEOs, seasoned politicians, TV anchors, and university professors are forced to face those who feel forgotten on bended knee. Those isolated and cold from globalization in the Bible Belt, Rust Belt, and Stoke-on-Trent.

Recent events have shown us just how disconnected these people are.

They all told us none of these political movements would get off the ground, and we have seen very few self-reflections once they all realized they had been fooled by the very people they were supposed to understand.

As a 21-year old, this was the first time I saw this strong of a vilification of the politics-as-usual attitude.

These exchanges could be typical every few years as elections and referendums come around.

But for me, I can’t imagine these frustrations going away.

The battle lines may have forever been redrawn.

The final is the chasm between multiculturalism and assimilation.

This is the most politically charged of the realignments I see possible.

Multiculturalism is the existence and preservation of distinct cultures within a community or society-at-large.

Assimilation, on the other hand, is the adaptation and conforming of different groups into a unified culture in a given community.

As different groups have become scrambled together in the modern world, people are trying to decide which of these they believe is best for society.

An interesting phenomenon I noticed through the election cycle was the proud flying of other nation’s flags on the streets of America.

If you were to watch a nominal protest of then-candidate Donald Trump you would have seen Mexican flags next to Cuban flags slightly behind Palestinian flags, all whose holders desire a more multicultural society.

The interior of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. It features great works of literature and art from all around the world, symbolizing America’s welcoming spirit. Photo Credit: m01229/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Many view this as a beautiful sign of toleration.

However, many others view this as one more stratification of American society.

Instead of coalescing under one banner, we all have different ones that make us take yet another step away from our neighbors.

The situation in Europe is slightly different than the one in America.

As a steady flow of migrants and asylum seekers from terror-stricken, war-torn areas of Africa and the Middle East have continued throughout 2016, this question revolves around the rapid changes to European culture and identity.

As the majority of refugees flee Muslim-majority nations, some European governments have welcomed them.

However, many Europeans are pessimistic about these changes.

Pew Research can help us understand this.

In a survey of 9 out of 10 European nations, at least half of individuals believe that Muslims want to maintain a “distinct” culture and not integrate into the customs of their new European communities.

A separate report shows that a majority of Europeans surveyed believe refugees increase the likelihood of terrorism, and no more than 4 out of 10 citizens in any EU country feel an increase in diversity is good for their country, compared to 58% of Americans who think diversity makes the U.S. a better place to live.

In Greece and Italy, a majority of citizens feel more diversity makes their country worse off.

Issues such as gender equality, acceptance of homosexuality, and secularism are a few instances where the two cultures just do not see eye to eye.

Right-wing European parties have become the vehicle for these frustrations.

Marine Le Pen, the head of the French National Front Party, is leading in the polls (as of the time of my writing this) to win the first round of the French Presidential race.

She also has more support from those aged 18-34 than any other candidate in France, which may come as a surprise to many.

The central issues which run through these populist, right-wing parties are immigration and a distaste for international agreements that reduce national sovereignty.

Many are calling for a total shutdown of Muslim immigration, something that an average of 55% of Europeans surveyed agree with, and making a Brexit-like move from the EU or other foreign obligations.

The multicultural attitude Europe is known for is being challenged strongly on many fronts.

As popular movements are seemingly rejecting the openness the continent has historically praised, the concept of assimilation seems to be a dire turn many are hoping to see.

As hordes of people around the globe chant for multiculturalism, for the elimination of border walls and even, in some cases, for the abolition of sovereign states completely, there is a powerful camp that believes different cultural groups living together is an ideal scenario.

On the other hand, there are millions of individuals who see a lack of a unified culture as a ticking-time bomb for social strife. People who feel the palpable modifications to their culture too large of a pill to swallow.

This possible realignment would be ugly, it would be a knock-down drag-out brawl of the most nativist sort, but it is undoubtedly an element that drove many to the polls in recent history.

In the end, no one really knows what will arise from this grinder the western political system has been thrown in.

Anyone that suggests they know for a certainty should be viewed with some degree of skepticism.

The possibilities I have just laid out are merely avenues our society may take as we move forward.

And only one thing is certain, whether we like it or not- we will experience this together.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Lorie Shaull/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

 

RFK Jr And Donald Trump Might Team Up To Undermine Vaccinations

By William B. Miller, Jr, M.D.

Only a few weeks into a new administration and with it comes unwelcome medical news.

The age-old debate about the safety and appropriateness of vaccination has been renewed and a vocal stage has been delivered to a small group of anti-vaccination zealots.

Reports have circulated that Robert F. Kennedy, Jr, a highly visible critic of vaccination, has been invited to chair a commission on vaccination safety by the new administration.

If it comes to pass, one result can be accurately predicted.

It will become a confused platform of ideological rhetoric that will diminish trust in those scientific bodies charged with making sound judgments for the public welfare.

This inevitable outcome is particularly unfortunate since there has never been any advance in medical history that has had a more positive impact on our lives than vaccination.

Humanity has been in eternal conflict with infectious disease throughout history.

Perhaps no disease better illustrates the vast range of impacts of epidemic disease than smallpox, which resulted in the deaths of more than 7 million people.

Similar horrific mortality was experienced with smallpox.

In 18th Century Europe, at least 400,000 people died annually from smallpox.

One-third of the survivors went blind.

Mortality rates were as high as 60% in some communities.

Infant mortality was even more frightening, approaching 80%.

The ultimate success of smallpox vaccination is credited to Sir Edward Jenner in England.

In 1796, he successfully introduced the technique of cowpox vaccination demonstrating its subsequent protective effect against smallpox.

Today, due to the effectiveness of worldwide smallpox vaccination programs, that disease has been effectively eradicated from the planet.

However, this is not the case for other consequential infectious diseases.

Two years ago, a whooping cough epidemic swept through California where vaccination rates are steadily lagging.

Contrary to any ordinary expectation, it is often the most affluent parents who are shunning immunization.

Some of these anti-vaccine proponents are highly educated people being misled by social media.

The trend appears to have originated with a fraudulent report in a British medical journal linking vaccination with autism.

This report was subsequently revealed to have been based on fraudulent research and was retracted by that scientific journal.

Similar rumors that vaccine stabilizers, such as thimerosol, contribute to autism have also been refuted.

Nonetheless, damage has been done by ill-informed repetition.

There is no doubt that those parents that refuse to vaccinate their children are well meaning.

However, their actions are ill advised on two levels.

The first is that refusing to appropriately vaccinate themselves or their child exposes both of them to the risks of deadly infections that can be entirely avoided.

Yet, although vaccination is safe and highly effective it does have its limits.

This links to the other critical factor that makes universal vaccination so crucial.

No vaccination ever devised provides 100% protection and some individuals in any population cannot be vaccinated.

This includes very young infants whose immune systems are not yet mature enough for vaccination and members of our community that are immunosuppressed due to diseases that weaken their immune system from a variety of illnesses including cancer.

Their protection is through our actions.

When there are high levels of vaccination within any community, the infectious agent is unable to find enough hosts to reproduce and sustain itself within that population.

This level of community-wide protection is termed herd immunity.

It is our joint responsibility, all of us together, to be part of the process of achieving this level of immunity both in our own interests and for the protection of the other members of our community.

The next outbreak of a preventable infectious disease with its incumbent tragedies is always lurking.

A political committee to examine the evidence based on ideological biases is not needed.

Instead, our policies should rely on the expertise of already existing scientific organizations such as the Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety (GACVS), an independent expert clinical and scientific advisory body, as well as our own Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health.

The critical ingredient to the success of vaccination programs is education.

Therefore, there needs to be a concerted program to recover our eroded memories of the consequences of now distant epidemic diseases that have been conquered or reduced through vaccination.

The success of vaccination programs depends on being familiar with the bitter lessons of our continuous struggle with epidemic disease. Such an educational process must be ever ongoing.

Dr. Bill Miller has been a physician in academic and private practice for over 30 years. For more information on him you can visit, www.themicrocosmwithin.com.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Johnny Silvercloud/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

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