College for All or College for None?

Analyzing Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ plan to make higher education more affordable. 

Unlike most of his political peers, on both sides of the ticket, Bernie Sanders’ presidential candidacy announcement was far from ostentatious. There was no viral video, no flashy production—just a released statement quickly followed by a short press conference on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol, attended by approximately two dozen reporters and photographers.

Senator Sanders’ campaign and the issues he’s addressed have been an embodiment of this low-key announcement. He has the largest fundraising base of small donors ever seen in primary elections, and refuses donations from super PACS and large corporations. By the end of January, according to the Huffington Post, his campaign had raised over $95 million, all from 1.3 million people giving a total of 3.25 million separate contributions, and received over $6 million in individual donations in the 24 hours following his momentous win in the New Hampshire primary.

The U.S. Senator from Vermont has separated himself on many issues from Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton, speaking out against Wall Street banks and the influence of money in politics, both of which have been critical for the Clinton campaign. Senator Sanders’ has recently come out stronger, and far left, of Clinton on more issues, including a broader universal health care system and growth of the middle class. The feasibility of a Sanders nomination has grown, as more and more Americans “Feel the Bern” and Sanders climbs closer and closer to Clinton’s national lead.

One of his pinnacle campaigning points has been college affordability and the assurance of a free college education from public state institutions. Senator Sanders has assured his supporters, who have grown younger and more vocal with this policy proposal, that it could be accomplished through minor tax increases on the wealthy, increases that could bring in as much as $6.5 trillion over 10 years, according to his staff.

A debt-free college proposal, which is what Senator Sanders proposes in his College For All Act, is an issue present on all of the candidates issue sheets, yet Senator Sanders’ is by far the most liberal, and so appealing to so many college students.

As appealing and important as this issue is for both college students and those who help support them, the specific college affordability policy and the methods and practices the Sanders campaign has proposed is simply unfair and unfeasible for the President and the United States government to accomplish.

Before even beginning to address the policy itself, the feasibility of attempting to implement a bill of such a nature would be slim to none. As significant as a piece of legislation like this is, passing this program would be difficult, if not impossible, due to the current political arrangement of our legislative branch. So long as the House of Representatives remain controlled by the conservative Republicans, a bill of this precedent would not pass a vote on the floor.

The program, according to the Wall Street Journal, amounts to increasing total federal spending by about one-third – to a projected $68 trillion or so over 10 years. His proposals would increase government spending to about 30% of the gross domestic product annually in the first year, up from the roughly 20% that had become standard in the past, the Journal added.

After considering the unintended consequences Sanders’ well intended plan would yield, it seems as though it would not help college students, but hurt them.

By: Brandon Campbell ’18

The Unheard Voices from the Primaries

What happens when every vote counts, but not every vote is counted?

National elections theoretically involve every American, but in practice there is a chasm between those who can elect their leaders and those that do. The Iowa caucus is meant to be the archetype of grassroots democracy, but instead exemplifies American electoral politics’ problems with accessibility and enfranchisement. I spent January working as an Organizing Fellow with the Bernie Sanders campaign in Iowa City; recruiting volunteers, helping with workshops and events, and creating canvassing and phone-banking lists. On my way back to Iowa City from a staging location in rural Iowa, I and a few volunteers stopped by a gas station to get a protein bar and water before the big night. As we checked out, I asked the cashier if she would be caucusing, Bernie sticker above my heart.

She said, “No.”

“Why not?” I asked, ready to deliver a seasoned pitch about civic engagement peppered with romanticized notions of grassroots democracy, with notes on Iowa’s importance in the election cycle, with the guilt bomb of people who died so that we could vote (just in case the rest didn’t work).

She laughed. “I’m working.”

Of course. She was literally in front of me, scanning my protein bar. Working. But whether because of nerves or idealism, I didn’t see her.

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) is a private organization that runs the Democratic primary to select their candidate for President. Since they aren’t an arm of the government, there’s no legal ground for people prevented from voting, or caucusing, in the primaries due to work or other circumstances. They aren’t technically being denied their right to vote; just their right to participate in a private organization’s selection process for a representative.

On the drive back, I reflected on stories I heard while canvassing and phonebanking similar to the cashier’s. By far the most common reason people weren’t caucusing who supported Bernie was because they had to work that Monday evening. I remembered the woman who was afraid she wouldn’t be able to keep up with her duties as a precinct captain because she was taking care of a new baby. I thought about the wheelchair-bound caucus-goer that had called into our office asking if their caucus location was accessible.

“I’m sure it is, but I’ll call in and ask.”

I called the high school at which he was caucusing later that week. They informed me that, yes, there is a ramp, but it’s incredibly steep. It’s too steep even for the average person to push up a wheelchair. Instead, there is a connected building with a hallway that leads to the main building, which leads to another hallway, which leads to the elevator that could take a handicapped person to the gymnasium, the caucus site.

“OK, thank you. I’m glad I called.”

That caucuser had to face a literal steep ramp, optimistic in its presence but crushingly insurmountable. Other caucusers faced similar obstacles, from childcare, to disabilities, to work, to a reliance on public transportation that didn’t pass by their caucus site, to a language barrier that prevented us from being able to pass along information about their caucus location. All of these might theoretically have solutions. One could ask their boss to take time off. Organize a carpool. Act as a translator for their community. This addresses the symptoms while ignoring the causes. The problem with barriers to accessing rights, like participation in government, isn’t that they are difficult to overcome, but that they exist in the first place.

At the caucus site I worked, I saw hundreds of caucusers, mostly students. There were many more eligible to participate that weren’t there. These are people whose policy needs are not discussed in debates because they are unlikely demographics to vote; whose accessibility needs were not met because American society values efficiency over fairness. These are the people we don’t see at the caucus. What does it mean when the people already most disadvantaged are the least able to access government as an avenue towards change? I don’t personally believe electoral politics are the best way to achieve social change, but the results of these elections have massive material impacts. We can also look to elections as cautionary tales to see how we can make our spaces, events, and selves more accessible.

Including people who are ordinarily disenfranchised creates better advocacy. Politicians are more likely to place issues affecting these groups on the national agenda when there are votes at stake. For example, Obama energized young people to vote for him in large numbers, which was one of the ways he secured his elections. As a result, Clinton and Sanders are now both spending significant time holding rallies at colleges, campaigning with millennial celebrities, and bringing up policy proposals targeting young people specifically, on topics like student loans and childcare, in order to pander to this actively engaged demographic.

A fault in this example is that young people, as a class, face few barriers to voting besides disinterest. For a more appropriate historical example, we can look to the Voting Rights Act(VRA), passed in 1965 to prevent racial discrimination in voting laws, then amended five times to expand its protections. Section 5 made it so that states with a history of voter disenfranchisement had to have any new voting laws approved by the U.S. Attorney General or the U.S. District Court for D.C. Three researchers at the London School of Economics found that the number of cities covered by Section 5 with at least one African-American city council member increased by 82 percent between 1981 and 2001.

Then, why are efforts to disenfranchise voters continuing in the United States? Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act was rendered obsolete by the Supreme Court in June 2013, allowing states free reign to create suppressive, unapproved voting laws, with voters’ only recourse being expensive and time-consuming litigation. After North Carolina passed a voter ID law in 2013 that required a state ID (as opposed to a public employee ID, a student ID from a state university, or personal identification like a social security number) to vote, they disenfranchised over 300,000 people, disproportionately African-Americans. This enormous number is the State Board of Elections’ own count from an ID analysis report in April 2013. The gap between who can and does have a State ID is due to the time, money, and logistic information needed to attain one. Civil rights advocates lobbied and led protests for years in order to have this law changed in the summer of 2015 to include the option of signing an affidavit and presenting a social security number. However, Georgia, Wisconsin, and seven other states have retained similar State ID laws.

Pre-1965, poll taxes and literacy tests were used to bar African-Americans from voting. Although they are more enfranchised today due to the VRA, over five million people are barred from voting in U.S. elections due to state laws against felons voting. With the prison industrial complex disproportionately targeting Black people, and the low bar for earning a felony in the United States (felony examples include smoking marijuana, theft, and driving while intoxicated), these laws act as a rehashed version of old Jim Crow laws that aimed to disenfranchise Black voters, taking on Indigenous, Latino, and Arab communities as additional targets.

But what about the wheelchair ramp that was built with good intentions, but too steep? Caucus sites inaccessible by public transportation? The DNC not having the legal authority to allow employees to take a day off? The barriers to voting in 2016 often seem more accidental than malicious.

Regardless of intent or improvement relative to the past, more needs to be done to take into account the barriers to access that people face in organizing for change, electoral or otherwise. Out of all the workshops and rallies I attended in January, only the Bernie Sanders rally at the University of Iowa had an ASL interpreter. I’ve seen interpreters in very few other activist spaces, and meetings and lectures are often held in places like private universities that aren’t easily accessible by public transportation. Inclusion isn’t something that can happen passively, organizers need to actively reach out to people they are not including in their work. Our office in Iowa created carpool lists to organize trips to the caucus sites. Volunteers with Spanish skills were given phonebanking lists of other Spanish speakers to maximize the caucusers we were able to reach. A list was kept of people who needed childcare, which we regretfully did not end up organizing successfully. That could have made all the difference in a race that was decided by .3% of the vote. Only by looking at past organizing mistakes like this can we build more inclusive, more effective movements in the future.

By: Jake Villarreal ’16 

Black History Month, as Told by the Superbowl

A student offers a personal view on the significance of Black History Month, in addition to an analysis on Beyonce’s Super Bowl performance in relation to black culture.

Imagine having a beautiful story to tell, but having no control of how your narrative is received. Imagine having to bounce back from such cycles of negativity, in addition to having to, despite everything, practice being okay with this reality. Now imagine having to explain to a sea of your peers why and how injustice lives, thrives and procreates within the social, political and economic systems already in place. Then imagine trying to fit that into 800 to 1200 words. It’s not exactly easy. 

Black History Month, a month designated by the United States, Canada and United Kingdom, has historically informed youth enrolled in public schools of the contributions by Blacks within both American and international spheres. The intent of Black History Month was to put Blacks into the normative narrative even if it is only for a short period of time. Therefore, let’s be clear: Black History Month was never for Black people in the ways we like to assume. There is never a time when Black people are not black or not actively unfolding the history of those who have come before them, having toiled for Blacks to have better days.

Today, Black History Month is a solid attempt to remind the general public that Black culture is about a lot more than slavery and rap music. It is the time when people who believe they understand the capacity of Black culture to learn something greater. The essence of Black History Month can easily be said to be illustrated in the Super Bowl 50 halftime show that featured Coldplay, Beyonce and Bruno Mars.

How? Because an American platform, essentially an American holiday, was used to bring up American history and American issues.

Black History Month in its educational nature is a means of recap in the hybrid form of a tutorial and a game of “Where’s Waldo?,” pointing out all the places Blacks have turned the other cheek only to watch that too be smacked. The frequency at which Black and Brown men, women and children that were killed by the hands of the police has been shifted past an issue within small Black communities here and there, to an issue of national concern.

So when Beyonce steals the stage in black leather, with an army of natural haired black women, during the 50th anniversary of the Black Panther Party, at the game in which the Carolina Panthers were playing with the Black starting quarterback Cam Newton seemed like no big deal, it was.

Beyonce experienced a coming out of sorts that many Blacks are experiencing for the very first time. For many youth of this generation, this is the very first time we have had to collectively work toward anything. This is the first time our generation’s lives may depend on the work done, or rather the work which remains undone. Seemingly apolitical Beyonce, throwing her hat in the ring of a political fight directly affecting Black lives is certainly a symbol of the times, and we ought not overlook it.

Although chastised for the lyrics to her single “Formation,” it is important to pay attention to what it is Beyonce aimed to do regardless of whether you believe that she could have done more, been louder or that she was too loud altogether. Beyonce gained the platform of the general public to celebrate a culture that cannot be killed or wiped away; even despite what seems to be a very strategic effort to do just that, by means of senseless acts of violence that has painted Black communities red with bloodshed.

When you look at art, from any time or any culture, you see what mattered to a person. You come to see what people understood to be either beautiful or problematic. When looking at political art, especially in the context of Black history, pay attention to three things: where it was placed, what was said and what was omitted. The platform being Super Bowl 50, what was said was a blatant celebration of life and culture, and what was omitted was that her celebration was not to come at the cost of the appreciation of other cultures. Black pride does not equate to white hate.

The performance was astute in its intentional symbolism, and in its timeliness during a time of crisis in Black and brown communities. It demonstrated an urgency to engage in the dialogue of cultural issues that, up until recently, have seemed entirely voluntary. For years both those living within these communities experiencing these acts of terror, and those outside of it have decided whether or not to get involved. Now it seems like not getting involved is a clear act of forfeiture and a submission to the powers that deem such terror legal. The art produced for the halftime show, and the history celebrated during the month of February, reminded me that in the year of 2016, there is still no perfect time to bring these issues up. These issues will seem awkward for as long as there is a demonstrated need to discuss them. Therefore, the time to make statements which protect lives and livelihoods is, without question, right now.

By: Zaniyyah AshBey ’16

Rethinking Federal Educational Policy

Brandon Campbell ’18 evaluates whether or not the educational policies of No Child Left Behind positively influenced the American school system.

On Saturday, Oct. 24, President Barack Obama released a video that asked for a renewed discussion on one of the United States’ mostly hotly contested education reforms: The No Child Left Behind law. President Obama called for Congress to look at how disagreeable the legislation can be and how unfortunately influential it has become.

The No Child Left Behind law, which was signed by President George W. Bush in 2002, was intended to close achievement gaps between the academic success of minority and low income students and their more prosperous peers.  Additionally, it aimed to both mandate standardized testing for all students from third to eighth grade, thus ensuring proficiency in reading and math. 

In a video posted to Facebook, President Obama stated that “learning is about so much more than just filling in the right bubble,” and therefore him and his administration are going to “work with states, school districts, teachers and parents to make sure that we’re not obsessing about testing.

While these efforts to ensure that all children are on equal-education footing with one another are well meaning, they have left thousands of school districts in disrepair for failing to keep up with overzealous requirements and have created even stronger disparity between those districts that have kept pace and those that have been left behind.

Beginning in 2012, the Obama administration began a waiver system that would grant certain states relief from penalties of The No Child Left Behind Law. Currently 41 states and the District of Columbia are approved and awarded the flexibility that comes from these waivers. Washington was among those 41 states however in April of last year, the education department revoked the waiver after state lawmakers did not make standardized test scores a component of teacher evaluations, one of the fundamental requirements of the federal bill.  

Washington was the first state in the country to lose its No Child Left Behind waiver, and has since had to declare that about 92 percent of schools were considered “failing” in the eyes of the federal government. As a result, the federal government regained control of about $40 million given to the state, and forced schools to offer students bussing to non-failing schools or pay for private tutoring, according to the Seattle Times.

Legislation that began with overwhelming bipartisan support, sponsored by former House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass, has since dissolved in a highly partisan and disagreeable issue. The numerous unintended consequences of the No Child Left Behind law have reinforced the wrong behaviors and attitudes towards education reform in school districts across the nation. Rather than recognizing growth and progress, the law has created a system where school districts look for ways to protect themselves from aggressive requirements and ensure that their district is not one of the many across the nation that are being left behind.

 

Standing Face-to-Face with Gender Pay Gap

Mandi Paine ’18 examines the gender pay inequalities that continue to plague the world of sports.

This past summer, a midfielder on the U.S. women’s national soccer team struck the ball just beyond the halfway line and sent it over the Japanese goalkeeper’s head. The goal was Carli Lloyd’s third of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Final game, putting the U.S. ahead of Japan 5-2 and claiming the World Cup trophy for the next four years.

The team was awarded two million dollars along with their trophy for winning the quadrennial tournament, according to the Huffington Post. A large sum in and of itself, it sits in sharp contrast to the nearly thirty-five million dollars the German men’s national soccer team received after winning the men’s tournament only a year before, and is in even greater disparity when compared to the total sums awarded to all teams. Notably, $576 million was awarded to the 32 teams that competed in the 2014 Men’s World Cup while only $15 million was awarded to the 24 women’s teams in 2015.

The gender pay gap is not exclusive to athletics. Numerous reports have found that, on average, full-time working women earn just 78 cents for every dollar a man earns. The U.S. legislative branch has tried numerous times to pass bills that would help reduce this gap, but to no avail, with the trend continuing this past summer as a resolution was proposed, and rejected, to alleviate the unequal payment of the soccer teams.

Shortly after Lloyd and her teammates took home the trophy in July, U.S. Representatives Jackie Speier and Linda Sanchez of California, along with 33 of their colleagues, introduced a resolution that called for FIFA to provide equal pay for the women’s soccer teams. While it did not get passed, it raised the issues of pay inequality in athletics to a national stage.

Abby Wambach, a recently-retired forward from the U.S. women’s national team, left a legacy as a legend among other soccer players. Having scored 184 goals in 252 international matches, she is currently the leading all-time international scorer among both women and men. Yet she was paid only $190,000 a year, compared to the $6.7 million a year men’s national team captain Clint Dempsey received.

Many people argue that it would be impossible for women’s soccer teams in the U.S. to receive as much support as the men’s teams because of a simple fact: the sports industry has invested a large amount of capital in men’s soccer for decades and left women’s teams on the sidelines. The root of the problem with pay inequity stems from sexism existing in industries that publicize women’s sports like ESPN’s SportsCenter, which spends a measly two percent of airtime covering women’s sports highlights.

FIFA itself is not exempt from the sexism and gender pay gap discourses that exist in the United States. During this past Summer’s women’s world cup, the teams were forced to play on turf fields, which can be a danger to the players in the Summer heat and can more easily cause injury than grass fields. Opposing teams were also forced to stay in the same hotel. Both of these issues are not things that male soccer players have to deal with. Sepp Blatter, the president of FIFA, also remarked that “women’s sports would be more popular if they wore tighter uniforms”, which is simply a sexist comment in any context.

The final game of the World Cup in July shattered TV viewing records by having the largest audience out of any soccer match in the United States, men or women’s. The viewer ratings also surpassed that of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final as well as the NCAA Men’s basketball Championship, making the USWNT renowned heroes nationwide. With the growing support for professional women’s soccer in the U.S., one can only hope that the fight to close the gender pay gap will continue and female soccer  players will prevail by shattering the glass ceiling.

Should Planned Parenthood be Defunded?

Brian Cieplicki ’19 investigates this controversial organization and asses the potential effects of defunding it.

On July 14 of this year, an anti-abortion organization known as “The Center for Medical Progress” released a controversial video exposing Planned Parenthood’s practice of selling fetal tissue obtained from abortions. Immediately, pro-life Republicans across the country took their chance to strike at Planned Parenthood, resulting in an attack to cut federal funding from the organization. This effort has remained a prominent topic in the ensuing GOP primary race and, one by one, the Republican candidates have discussed how essential it is that Planned Parenthood, a criminal and inhumane organization, be defunded.

Do they have a point?

To answer this question, it is important to understand exactly what Planned Parenthood is. Many Americans associate Planned Parenthood with abortions, as it is the largest abortion provider in the country. According to a recent article published by NPR, in 2014 abortions accounted for only 3% of the services provided by Planned Parenthood. That same article shows that the vast majority of Planned Parenthood’s services are providing contraception, various treatments, and screenings for STDs and STIs. Other services provided by Planned Parenthood include cancer screenings, as well as a myriad of general women’s health services.

It is also important to note that Planned Parenthood barely uses its money from the government to pay for abortions. A common argument against Planned Parenthood is that it is not right to spend taxpayer dollars to fund abortions. The reality is, the money provided by the federal government is only used to fund abortions under circumstances such as rape, incest, or to save the mother’s life.

But what about the practice of profiting from fetal body parts preserved from abortions? How can the government support such an inhumane, illegal practice? An article published by the Annenberg Public Policy Center states that Planned Parenthood only donates fetal tissue if they are granted permission from the mother. The article also states that Planned Parenthood does not profit financially in any way from this practice and operates fully within the law; furthermore, they provide fetal tissue recovered from these abortions, which is extremely useful in research that contributes to curing a number of medical conditions.
So what would defunding Planned Parenthood really do? This would potentially lead to a decrease in the accessibility of Planned Parenthood’s services for low-income families. However, it is important to note that this action would only cut federal funding and States would maintain the ability to spend money to help people use Planned Parenthood’s services. Having said that, according to an article published by NPR,  these services would likely become more expensive as a result of cutting federal funding. Defunding Planned Parenthood would do nothing but hurt an organization that is providing invaluable services for millions of Americans each year.

GUIDE: Meet the Candidates

Overwhelmed by all the politicians vying for that sacred seat in the Oval Office? Don’t be – we’ve got your guide to the most popular candidates in both parties, according to national polls from CNN, Fox News and CBS. 

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By: Sofia Safran ’18

EDITORIAL: Defying Stereotypes

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Editor-in-Chief: Alicia Abbaspour ’18

Being Christian and liberal in today’s political landscape.

“You mean, like those Republicans we always make fun of?” my dad worriedly asked, the first time I told him that I considered myself to be a Christian. Unlike most people, my faith was not a tradition passed down to me. My parents held their own beliefs and gave my sisters and me the freedom to do the same. About a year ago, I officially decided to take on the label of “Christian,” and all of the baggage that comes along with it.

If my dad’s reaction to my newly found faith is any indication, being a Christian, in the context of the U.S., extends well beyond religious doctrine. My dad wondered if loving Jesus went hand-in-hand with denouncing immigrants, denying proper birth control to women and advocating for the death penalty. In my mind, those things could not be more opposite. But to my father, and to many Americans, Christianity seems rooted in Republicanism.

In the U.S., religion and politics are two close cousins. Two uncomfortably close cousins. That’s not to say that religion has no place in politics – to separate the two would be to deny the all-encompassing influence that faith has on a believer’s opinions. Rather, what is uncomfortable is the way certain political agendas have been championed under the name of religion.

While I am in no position to delegitimize another’s religious beliefs, I feel inclined to challenge the fervent insistences of conservatives in the GOP Party: that theirs is the side of Jesus Christ.

The Religious Right, or the Christian Right, has taken upon itself to paint Christianity in one terrifyingly broad stroke as conservative Republicanism. But why has Christianity been assigned to a political party?

My father’s assumption that becoming a Christian also meant becoming a Republican spoke volumes to the interconnectedness of Christianity and Republicanism in the U.S. However, a closer look at the numbers reveals that that intersectionality, at least to some degree, has been crafted.

According to a Gallup poll conducted in 2014, about 49 percent of Americans who considered themselves “very religious,” also categorized themselves as Republicans. The rest of the “very religious” was divided, with 36 percent identifying as Democrats and 11 percent as Independents.

Notably, a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center found that, in 2014, 71 percent of Americans identified themselves as Christian. Now, consider this: with 47 percent of Americans identifying with the Democratic Party and 41 percent with the Republican Party, one should expect a great variety of political opinions within the Christian majority.

Yet, when you try to find a religiously-minded, but politically-opposed side to the Religious Right, you end up with nowhere to go. Scouring the web, I stumbled upon homemade sites for the “Christian Left” and “Religious Left,” leading me to realize the lack of representation and organization for Christian liberals. While Republicans overemphasize their moral and religious beliefs, injecting “Jesus” and “God” wherever they can, it is increasingly more important to understand that an entire faith cannot be squeezed into a political agenda.

Though I will not deny Ted Cruz the validity of his faith, I also will not tolerate him as the face of what it means to be a political Christian in the U.S. As a liberal Democrat, my love for that bearded, sandal-wearing guy who gave His life on the cross some 2,000 years ago is in no way contentious to my advocacy for stricter gun control laws, a better welfare state or a universal healthcare system. In fact, my Christian beliefs reaffirm my political stances.

When I think of my religion, I consider the example Christ set for humanity. In John 13:35, Jesus tells His disciples that it is their love that will make them identifiable as Christians. Something my fellow Christians on the right seem to have trouble remembering is that being Christian is meant to open your mind and heart. It is meant to be a label that resists the very definition of “label,” because being Christian is about being inclusive, rather than exclusive. When I realize that I am a child of God, it is followed by the realization that everyone is a child of God, and for that reason alone, they deserve your love and respect.

It is these fundamentals of my Christian faith that make me advocate for us to open our prosperous and resourceful arms to the 2 million refugees thrown out of their homes. My faith compels me to want to right the wrongs of the “war on drugs,” the mass incarceration of my brothers and sisters who have been unjustly targeted. My Christian faith is what grounds me in the belief that every life choice is different and to be respected. The government cannot deny women those life choices, especially not by defunding organizations who help women facing the toughest of choices, in often the poorest of conditions. Jesus opened His arms to the underprivileged in society, and as such, we should, too.

Several weeks ago, I stood in a sea of over 15,000 people in the Boston Convention and Exhibit Center. From college students to elderly couples, all adorning the same “Feel the Bern” stickers and pins, we cheered on as a old white man, fearless in his passion, spoke about how our families deserve paid family leave, how our prison-complex system should focus more on rehabilitation than on punishment and how negotiations must be tried and tried again before every resorting to war.

If you ask me, were Jesus to still be walking around in his sandaled feet today, he would have been right there, cheering alongside me.

By: Alicia Abbaspour ’18

EDITORIAL: The Importance of Being Earnest

Or, rather, the importance of being Bernie Sanders.

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Editor-in-Chief: Emily Dowden ’18

In any election cycle, most informed voters focus on a candidate’s position on the issues when deciding for whom to cast their vote. Are they in favor of more social spending? Do they support smaller government? Deficit reduction? Or building up the military?

Certainly, asking such questions is critical when selecting a prospective president. But does a hyper-focus on the issues leave the voter with an incomplete picture? I suggest there is an equally important focus when evaluating a candidate’s worth, and that focus is an evaluation of their character.

Public figures appear fond of taking responsibility for mistakes for which they are indeed responsible. But what does taking responsibility actually entail? Based on the lack of consequences, apparently very little.

Clearly, there is a dearth of resignations from politicians who have accepted responsibility. For instance, has anyone been held to account for misstating the cause of the attack on our consulate, its ambassador and workers in Benghazi? Certainly, a film maker has been jailed, as some suspect, for producing an obscure video; yet in light of recent happenings, it’s unlikely that the video in question was the precipitating event.

Words, as they say, are cheap, and without a commensurate consequence, ring hollow. Indeed, an act as nebulous as taking responsibility, sans penance, is simply whitewash. How refreshing would it be to hear a candidate withdraw from a race to atone for their particular transgression? Ironically, that’s a candidate I could get behind.

Elections have also become poll-centric. There are a multitude of voter opinion polls released each week, revealing variously the attitudes of the democrats or the republicans, the independent voter, the registered voter, or the likely voter, on any number of issues. These polls are conducted by the media, colleges and universities, and by the candidates themselves or their campaigns. And what is the purpose and effect of gathering this information?

It’s simply to provide the candidate a position on the issues as a means to be elected. In other words, a political position based on poll data doesn’t provide a view into the beliefs, attitudes and souls of the candidates, but rather creates a reflective surface in which the voters see themselves and are thereby fooled into believing that the candidates represent their values, positions and aspirations.

Lip service is not passion and will never be the bedrock upon which a successful presidential platform is built. Achieving worthwhile change is often a titanic struggle against staunch opposition.

Though imperfect, the Affordable Care Act was passed by the barest of margins and without bipartisan support. That landmark legislation was not the work of the indifferent, but rather the product of elected officials who had a deep-rooted belief in the wisdom and rightness of providing healthcare to all. A halfhearted effort borne of lukewarm enthusiasm would never have succeeded.

Which brings me to the Vermont Senator and current presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders. Whether you like his brand of Democratic Socialism or consider him a public enemy, you must admire his character. Sanders is not persuaded by polls. Simply look back at any position speech he has ever given.

He has never veered from his message that the government has an obligation to do more and to provide for those who lack, whether it’s food, shelter, healthcare, or education. Sanders says what he means and means what he says, and there’s no doubt that, if you vote for him, you know exactly what you’ll get. Such honesty and passion beget accountability and produce results.

Whether you support a larger or smaller government, a greater social safety net or a revitalized military, you would do well to to examine your candidate’s character. Does he share your passion for the issues? Will she put service above self to achieve those goals? Despite opinions which prioritize other characteristics, it is of paramount importance that your candidate be an earnest one.

After all, isn’t it critical to know that your vote is being cast for the change you believe in?

By: Emily Dowden ’18

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