Carly Fiorina’s position as a conservative woman and relative outsider in the Republican presidential primary offered the GOP an enticing opportunity to combat the Democratic Party’s message on social issues. Losing Fiorina so early in the race may prove particularly hurtful in the general election against Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee. Democrats have claimed that the GOP launched a war against women — Fiorina’s presence in the race served as a counterweight to this idea and a challenge to the principle that Clinton represents the zenith of female success in politics.

Fiorina is foremost a businesswoman; her demeanor is cold and professional. In a field crowded with a reality TV star, a Bush, and numerous governors and senators with entertaining personalities, her somewhat stoic demeanor neither captured enough of America’s fascination nor harnessed enough of the anger many fierce conservatives express. Perhaps her campaign was too serious, and the media found no use for it.

She first surged after the undercard GOP debate on August 8, where known quantities Donald Trump and Jeb Bush were not present, allowing her to monopolize the airtime. When she was not included in the last February 6 debate on ABC after finishing ahead of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in Iowa (who was included), she stole the spotlight in her efforts to reveal the unfairness in media coverage. However, most of her notoriety in the media came after her attacks on Secretary Clinton — the sound bite repeatedly played on various networks after the January 14 debate on Fox Business Network. These few media blitzes had significant effects on her poll numbers. However, her attacks against Clinton didn’t afford her enough media attention or support from the Republican National Committee to save her campaign.

Fiorina has made clear that her gender is not anything to be applauded. While the moral rationale is evident, this stance potentially undermined a big advantage she may have held over the Republican field.

It is unfortunate that Fiorina failed to gain traction as a legitimate candidate, given the comparison of her profile side-by-side with the Democratic frontrunner. The antithesis to Secretary Clinton in all aspects except her womanhood, Fiorina tried to take aim at her numerous times. While Fiorina, through her gender, had the potential to offer a more nuanced position to her party’s platform and a defense against the alleged “War on Women,” she shied away from explicitly emphasizing this appeal. Fiorina has made clear that her gender is not anything to be applauded. While the moral rationale is evident, this stance potentially undermined a big advantage she may have held over the Republican field. After dropping out on Wednesday, she proclaimed, “Do not listen to anyone who says you have to vote a certain way because you’re a woman.” This stance could have helped the Republicans close the stubbornly persistent gender gap that has plagued elections since the 1980s.

As social liberalism gains support, Fiorina backed the Republican Party’s socially conservative stance. Fiorina actively called for the defunding of Planned Parenthood. The pro-life candidate served as a signal to women that the Republican Party is on their side. Her role as a woman with pro-life views could have been a strong selling point for the party, but attention in this area was stifled. Clinton’s women’s rights, pro-choice platform could have face a strong challenge from Fiorina’s female opposition.

In October, Clinton declared, “finally fathers will be able to say to their daughters, you too can grow up to be president,” assuming she were elected. Fiorina, however, argued that people will vote for her not because she is a woman, but because she is a qualified leader.

As a relative political outsider, Fiorina has been held to high levels of scrutiny and accountability. This would seem to place her on a pedestal above Secretary Clinton in the minds of conservatives, whom time and time again berate Clinton for allegedly mishandling the aftermath of the September 11, 2012 attacks in Libya. Fiorina often contrasted this with an anecdote about her monthly board meetings as CEO at Hewlett-Packard, during which her honesty was legally binding.

In all, however, the multitude of darts flung at Clinton were not enough for Fiorina to survive the tough Republican nomination fight. The suspension of her campaign opens up a block of voters for more moderate candidates such as Bush, John Kasich, and especially Marco Rubio, as they both garner support from young voters. The dispersal of the anti-establishment vote, though, could ultimately benefit Trump, seen as dead weight for the party if he secures the nomination. In the general election, this may ultimately favor the Democrats. Fiorina’s role as a clever critic of Clinton as well as her position as a strong conservative woman represented a unique commodity in the Republican race, and her campaign’s suspension could ultimately doom the GOP in November.

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It was hard to ignore CNN’s attempts to publicize the most recent Republican debate. The cable news channel released an ad nearly a month before the event featuring dramatic music, flashing graphics, and theatrical images of the candidates — a promo more suitable for announcing characters in an upcoming Marvel feature or competitors in a boxing match. When the long-awaited presidential hopefuls squared-off in Las Vegas, the star of the show remained, unsurprisingly, Donald Trump. Behind the center-stage podium reserved for the highest-polling candidate, Trump received considerable air time even when the question was not directed at him. This was due to CNN’s split-screen feature that captured the frontrunner’s inability to maintain a poker face while his competitors spoke. This comedic value came at Jeb Bush’s expense; Trump’s grimacing and poorly suppressed yawns distracted viewers from Bush’s more serious discussion of foreign policy.

The Republican primary debates are hardly Trump’s only foray into American media. In the past, however, he did not take center stage, but was merely a guest-star. Pre-presidential on-screen Trump served as a caricature of the brusque, cut-throat American businessman. He was known less for how he actually made his fortune, and more for his unmistakable physical characteristics — toupee-like blonde hair, gravelly Queens accent — and trademarked catchphrases, such as “You’ve been Trumped.” He was as much a fixture of New York’s social landscape as Trump Tower was of the skyline. Although Trump’s stage has drastically changed, his attention-grabbing demeanor public has largely remained the same and served a key purpose in the presidential election.

Television and film in the 1990s and early 2000s exemplified Trump’s cultural omnipotence. In Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992), nine-year-old Kevin McCallister, played by Macaulay Culkin, asks Trump for directions in the lobby of the Plaza Hotel, which Trump had recently purchased. Although the hotel mogul is on screen for fewer than ten seconds, his appearance helps lend credibility to the fictional plotline. He also appeared in a 1999 episode of Sex and the City called “The Man, The Myth, The Viagra.” The title refers to an older man that one of the main characters, Samantha, is dating, but it could also easily signify the man’s business colleague, played by the then- fifty-three-year-old Donald Trump. He also spiced up sitcoms, playing himself as a business investor on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air in 1994 and Days of Our Lives in 2005. As Trump has held center stage in every GOP debate, it can be easy to forget that in past TV appearances, Trump was merely a guest-star. He popped into the scenes so briefly that, in The Fresh Prince, one of the characters faints upon first spotting him and misses “The Donald’s” act completely.

Trump has hidden his political inexperience behind the mask of “The Donald.”

In recent months, Trump has become more than a passing television cameo. His reality show ran for fourteen seasons on NBC — first as The Apprentice, and then The Celebrity Apprentice — until the network fired Trump as the host in 2015 due to his inflammatory comments about Mexican immigrants, although he insists that he cut ties with NBC to focus on the presidential election. While this stance may have appeared as a thin cover-up at the time, Trump’s unwavering position among the GOP frontrunners makes many previously skeptical, now grimly nervous voters wonder: “Is Trump the Politician here to stay?” After months of the spectacle, however, the real question is whether the kind of public appeal that sustained The Apprentice can translate into enough votes to win the election.

The answer, a relieving one for the sixty percent of voters who view Trump unfavorably, is probably no. Trump has proven his ability to capture the attention of reality TV fans and dissatisfied conservatives across the country. Nevertheless, the purpose of Trump’s appearance on the political stage this past year is the same as it was in all of his various guest appearances: to capture viewers’ attention. His role on Home Alone 2 was part of the director’s effort to win the sequel as much popularity as its highly successful precursor. Now, he’s enlivening an election season when less than half of all Americans follow what is happening in public affairs “most of the time.” CNN allows Trump to share a split-screen with Jeb Bush because it is likely that the latter cannot command a TV audience’s attention on his own, with his unrecognizable voice, unremarkable glasses, and unappealing pallor.

Candidate Trump relies on the same attention-grabbing symbols as Cameo Trump: a red “Make America Great Again” baseball cap covers his blonde hair, “You’re Deported” replaces “You’re Fired”— a phrase he has barked at hundreds of contestants on The Apprentice. Many of his supporters see Trump as a kind of Jay Gatsby, a tycoon whose outward proof of wealth gives him a sense of credibility so strong that those drawn into his circle become unconcerned about the origin of his fortunes. In this way, Trump has hidden his political inexperience behind the mask of “The Donald.”

However, a successful presidential campaign necessitates that candidates demonstrate their policy expertise. The responsibilities of the Commander-in-Chief require an emotional and intellectual dexterity that endures longer than a movie scene or a twelve-week-long television season, an ability to cultivate a legacy beyond catch-phrases and sloganed hats. Even in a field where Trump, Ben Carson, and Carly Fiorina have highlighted their “outsider” status, as the primaries draw nearer, political inexperience is scrutinized. Carson fell from first to fourth place in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks as voters questioned his lack of foreign policy experience and recent outlandish claims, such as that the Pyramids of Giza were built to store grain. And it’s likely that Trump, too, will continue to fall as his inexperience surfaces even more.

Eventually, the laugh-producing guest star exits, the episode ends, or the TV audience becomes bored. They lose interest in a reality show that does not reflect their own lives and change the channel to something relatable, something established. Their focus turns to more mainstream candidates such as Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz — who now trails Trump by just four percentage points in the Quinnipiac Poll. If Cruz’s trajectory continues as the first primaries and caucuses begin in February, Trump’s candidacy will become just a flashy advertisement for the real presidential campaign.

Photo: Sam Chua

In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famed novel, The Great Gatsby, Nick Carraway proclaims to Jay Gatsby, “’You can’t repeat the past.” Gatsby denies this advice, replying, “’Why of course you can!” Albeit a fictional anecdote, this rhetorical obsession with the past is transcendent: today, political rhetoric is rife with the predilection to march triumphantly forward without looking back. Such is particularly salient amongst the slogans of various presidential candidates and ex-candidates: Ted Cruz’s charged “Reigniting the Promise for America”; Martin O’Malley’s promising “Rebuild the American Dream”; and Trump’s sonically succinct “Make America Great Again.” Though the motif of renewing the past, specifically renewing the actuality of the American dream, is prevalent in almost all campaigns, Republican utilization of it is peculiar. The Republican Party’s glamorization and deliberate rewriting of the past is a masked attempt to absolve the United States of its prior wrongs, to scribble over injustices with sanitized versions of false glory. In an age when amassing as many votes from diverse groups as possible is key to presidential success, the GOP risks alienating voters by selling too heavily the idea of an exclusionary and false past.

The prioritization of the past is an interesting political tactic. The idealization of what once was raises an existential threat to both the present campaigns and the past of which they speak: If progress can only be made through paradoxical regression, does that then mean that progress never occurred in the first place? The answer to this can only be found by inspecting the rhetoric of the GOP as it relates to a voter base. According to census data, the idea of a non-Hispanic white minority in America is not a question of if, but a question of when. Data from the the U.S. Census Bureau shows that there were “more than 20 million children under 5 years old living in the U.S.,” and of this number, 50.2 percent of them were minorities. The generation of the so called “minority-majority” has already been born. This fact has the implication of changing campaigns in the future—for both parties. Republicans “hold 40-49 percent lead over the Democrats in leaned party identification among whites,” but Democrats have a major advantage over Republicans in minority groups—especially amongst black and Hispanic voters. As the demographics shift, campaigns will have to focus on issues that matter to those that are encased within the “minority-majority,” and will have to appease their demands. But for now, the Republican Party faces a troubling choice: whether to cater to that Nixon-like silent majority — typically older, blue collar white people who do not take an active part in politics and who tend to lean right on the political spectrum — of today or begin to morph into a better reflection of the changing tides of demography. If the campaigns of today are any portent of the future, it seems as though the former is what will dominate, at least for the 2016 election. The Republican refusal of Syrian refugees and anti-immigrant rhetoric, Trump’s egregiously popular wall-as-a-border idea, and other scare tactics used by the GOP to put down protests for equal rights and justice across the country — these all seem commonplace in this election, but future elections with different demographics could not have a party support these messages and still expect to win.

The general arc of history tends towards increases in rights and justices. Public racial segregation, once accepted in the country, is now intolerable in political discourse — at least de jure segregation is. Because of the Hart-Celler Act, which “ended a long-standing quota system based on national origin that heavily favored Western Europeans,” immigration in America has been dramatically transformed and has led to major cultural and political shifts, especially in underrepresented groups. It is not just changing racial and ethnic demographics that Republicans dismiss when they glorify sanitized histories; other marginalized groups are left out as well. LGBTQ+ rights have advanced far from where they were 50 years ago, with 55 percent of people “favor[ing] allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally” and increased exposure in media to intersectional identities of nonbinary and trans characters. Christianity saw a decrease in number of followers, while non-Christian faiths and the unaffiliated (atheist, agnostic, and “nothing in particular) both saw increases in the population. Though the stereotypical WASP male is still the face of politics, this will not be the case for much longer.

The Republican Party’s glamorization and deliberate rewriting of the past is a masked attempt to absolve the United States of its prior wrongs, to scribble over injustices with sanitized versions of false glory.

The glorification of the past is a dangerous option. Depending on the era that Republicans are speaking of — typically the eras of Reagan or the Founding Fathers — entire swathes of the nation are lacking basic rights that they have campaigned for fervently for years, and are still fighting for equality and justice in many aspects. The rights of many marginalized identity groups have frequently relied upon the progression of the years to ware away prejudices of the past. The Democratic Party has capitalized upon this sentiment, frequently employing the idea of looking back to the past and launching triumphantly into the future, proclaiming that we are now much better than we were and can only get better. The Republican Party has not caught on to this; instead, it rhetorically relies on nostalgia of certain groups to overpower the disdain for the past that those marginalized people have. The power of this group, made up of older whites, comes at the expense of other marginalized people.

If the silent majority can look past troubled times and see those years in black in white as better than they are today, the Republican techniques have won.

To do this, Republican candidates often misconstrue history, whether they are cognizant of it or not. Candidates within the GOP have repeatedly misattributed quotations that align with their ideals to the Founding Fathers in order to create a framework of republicanism within the narrative of the past. In constructing false histories, these candidates erase actualities and directly challenge what is taught in classrooms across the country. Jody Hice, a member of the House of Representatives from Georgia, quoted on his Facebook account Thomas Jefferson as saying, “That government is best which governs the least, because its people discipline themselves.” The problem with this is that the Thomas Jefferson Foundation has stated they have “not found this particular sentiment in his writings,” and the quotation is more realistically attributed to Henry David Thoreau in his work, Civil Disobedience. Paul Ryan and Ben Carson have both been caught red-handed by the media after they put words into the mouths of Patrick Henry and Alexis de Tocqueville. These misattributions are probably mistakes; after all, politicians can’t all be historians with eidetic memories. That being said, these honest mistakes are not harmless: they feed — somewhat narcissistically — into the conservative narrative that their ideals are matched with the ideals of the Founding Fathers, that modern conservatives are the heirs to those great men of history that brought forth this nation. This ahistoricism is a dangerous tactic, especially because the vast majority of voters have very little knowledge of what the Framers believed.

The past is not just something that once existed and is now left behind; it is kept alive through remembrance of times long gone. The Republican Party’s language and party ideals hearken constantly back to a better past, but this past oftentimes is only better for some or doesn’t even exist. In a time when demographic shifts are becoming the rule rather than the exception, the GOP must make more conscious efforts to recognize the historicity of their language and confront the future without reminding many of a darker past. History is not a concrete entity; it is malleable and can be warped through careful and conscientious manipulation of the gazes towards it. A very real quotation from George Orwell, found in his book 1984, warns: “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” In order to clearly see where we’re going and how far we’ve come, it’s paramount to see where we, as an entire nation, came from.

Despite the presidential political fervor of the last few months, one thing has been surprisingly absent from the spotlight: politicians.

It’s no secret that Americans don’t love politicians. Americans are dissatisfied with the political process, fed up with dysfunction, and put off by polarization. The most recent Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that only nine percent of likely voters rate Congress as doing a good or excellent job — 63 percent rate our current Congress poorly. One might expect that such extreme distaste for the American political system would result in apathy — that disdain would translate into lack of participation. But instead, Americans are doing just the opposite.  CNN’s GOP debate drew 23.1 million viewers, making it the most-viewed program in the history of the network. It might just be the unusually dramatic tendencies of the candidates involved, but this election cycle is reinvigorating a typically disinterested Republican voting base.

Rather than simply ignoring the seemingly ceaseless onslaught of political noise, disenchanted voters are cutting through a system they have deemed ineffective by turning out in droves for candidates who are new to the political scene. It’s nothing unusual to have one or two ‘outsider’ candidates in any given political cycle, but, for the most part, even those candidates have experience in the public service arena. However, what we’re seeing emerge in the fight for the Republican nomination is something else entirely.

The three candidates in the Republican party with the most momentum and public support — Trump, Carson and Fiorina — also happen to be the only three candidates in the race who have never before served in public office, elected or otherwise. Regardless of the personal and professional merits these candidates bring to the table, their domination of seasoned, political counterparts is largely due to voters’ desire to express their discontent with the existing political system. It’s not hard to understand the appeal of an outsider candidate; their lack of experience in Washington means they also lack the political allegiances and obligations that accompany political work, freeing them from the perceptions of corruption and back-door dealing often associated with Washington insiders. But this distaste is not a new phenomenon by any means, so why has 2016 become the vortex of non-politicians?

For candidates like Trump, whose name-recognition was already high, this provided him the platform to vault into the comfortably unprecedented lead that he now enjoys. Trump’s brash attitude and callous rhetoric is exactly the break from political correctness that scores of voters have been waiting for, and his unapologetic approach to campaigning has made his potential for success completely unpredictable. Carson, while less of a showman, has also been touting his outsider credentials. His medical and scientific background purport to give him credibility on matters like global climate change, vaccinations, and abortion — all of which carry great weight in the Republican Party. Fiorina, for her part, is leaning heavily on her history in business. Although Fiorina has actually dabbled in politics in the past (she ran an unsuccessful Senate campaign in 2010, losing decidedly to Barbara Boxer), she has completely erased her party establishment ties from the resume she presents to voters. Like Carson and Trump, she has realized that the ‘outsider’ label might be essential to success.  And the success is holding; all together, the three Republican frontrunners have accumulated 50.8 percent of voters’ support, with 23.2 percent going to Trump, 17.2 percent to Carson, and 10.4 percent to Fiorina.

Why is this strategy working? On surface level, it’s a strange one — there aren’t many jobs for which inexperience is a qualification. But in this context, it has many advantages.

Why is this strategy working? On surface level, it’s a strange one — there aren’t many jobs for which inexperience is a qualification. But in this context, it has many advantages. For Trump and Fiorina, it allows them to emphasize their success in business and translate that into a positive message about something at the front of many voters’ minds: the economy. All three non-politicians on the Republican side are also protected from attacks on past policy positions, while their opponents with voting records suffer attacks on their credibility. Without voting records, Carson and Fiorina are practically immune from substantive criticism of their past opinions on important legislation: Though, Fiorina hasn’t entirely escaped attacks on her rocky leadership as CEO of Hewlett-Packard. Trump, though also lacking a voting record, has had a harder time escaping the public eye on his positions about healthcare and abortion. Nonetheless, this lack of direct political experience has noticeably shifted the tone of the first two Republican debates, the most recent of which was particularly lacking in substantial discussion of policy.

It’s hard to say how long this trend will last, especially considering Trump’s continuing, prediction-defying success. Despite America’s love affair with the anti-establishment maverick, a majority of registered voters (across all parties) still say they would rather have a president with political experience than an outsider. With the exception of the 1964 pick of Goldwater to be the Republican nominee, and maybe the 1980 pick of Reagan over Bush, an establishment candidate has always won the Republican Party nomination. And since non-politicians tend to attract people who aren’t usually politically active (such as Trump), it’s difficult to maintain engagement, especially to facilitate voter registration. The passionate support that propels candidates like Trump, Fiorina and Carson to the front is built on the fiery dissatisfaction of voters who, almost by definition, lack established organization. This kind of grassroots network may be widespread, but it’s often shallow and easy to uproot.

In the next few months, voters and candidates alike will start deciding if political ability is an asset or a liability. The political maelstrom in which the candidates find themselves has created an atmosphere just polarized and volatile enough to allow an idea as outlandish as a Trump nomination — or a Carson or Fiorina nomination — to be a viable reality. The qualifications for the White House may be changing in some voters’ minds: inexperience required.

Photo: Diego Cambiaso

As the presidential primary schedule rumbles to life, Republican candidates are looking to the South to give themselves a leg up. In recent memory, the South has been taken for granted as a particularly dark shade of red, prone to being overlooked by candidates seeking juicier and more attractive states like Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada. This oversight, while lacking malice, has led to less conservative candidates receiving the GOP’s nomination as the more conservative South has less of a voice in the media and in the polls. But Georgia’s Secretary of State, Brian Kemp, has other objectives. Kemp has been making plans with Southern states to collectively move their primaries to dates before March 15, a date after which delegates are awarded in a winner-take-all fashion. In moving the greater Southern region to an early date (dubbed the “SEC Primary” after the beloved NCAA Southeastern Conference), Kemp can potentially reestablish the South as a place of importance and coerce candidates to make Southern states larger stopping points. He argues that the SEC Primary has “[…] helped put Georgia and the South on the national map, and my belief is that we are the new heartland of America and we should have a say-so in the presidential race.” But the real question to ask would be: Is this truly beneficial for the GOP? In establishing the South as a force in the primary, Kemp may exacerbate separation within the Republican Party, irreparably damaging any nominee’s chance of uniting both bases, unless some candidate can magically toe the line between Establishment and Tea Party.

Kemp’s efforts have definitely been impressive. In 2012, Super Tuesday only featured four Southern states: Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Virginia, with Alabama and Mississippi coming up a week later. In this upcoming year, 11 Southern states have scheduled their primaries within an eight-day period, and eight of them are all on Super Tuesday. This extreme display of Southern solidarity has worked to attract more presidential candidates to the South. In early August, Erick Erickson, a conservative radio host and blogger for redstate.com, hosted the RedState Gathering, a cattle call in Atlanta for all of the top Republican candidates (sans Donald Trump), which constituted the first of many visits from candidates to the South. Ted Cruz, easily the most active in the Southern states because of his belief that this primary will be a slog for delegates, had a successful “Cruz Country” tour, a 20-stop, week long road trip from South Carolina to Oklahoma. Additionally, Trump had a 30,000 large rally in Alabama, Bush has made frequent stops in Georgia, Huckabee has tried to rally his base in the South, and Rubio has stopped in the South as well. Since the start of Kemp’s efforts to create the “SEC Primary”, the South has received more attention from the nation and GOP presidential campaigns.

But at what cost? There are three paths that this new primary schedule initiative can take. First, the Southern primaries, being held in Deep Red states, could bolster struggling and more conservative candidates, like Ted Cruz, by propelling them into a more competitive light following Super Tuesday. By doing well on Super Tuesday, Cruz would garner more media presence, champion Tea Party supporters, and thereby dethrone less-experienced and Tea-Party favorites like Trump, Carson, and Fiorina. This increased attention and smaller field of candidates would forge a path for Cruz to win the nomination. But can someone like Cruz actually win the nomination? For presidential candidates, the key tactic for the general election is to forge their way to the middle, grab wavering independents, and set up a wall for their opponent. But as the hypothetical GOP nominee, Cruz would have very little sway over the middle, and his extremity could very easily cost the GOP the election.

In establishing the South as a force in the Primary, Kemp may exacerbate separation within the Republican Party, irreparably damaging any nominee’s chance of uniting both bases, unless some candidate can magically toe the line between Establishment and Tea Party.

Another option is that the SEC primary backfires and hands the nomination to the Establishment wing of the GOP, instead of someone more right-wing like Cruz. Each Southern state could give its support to a different candidate, splitting the more conservative vote, or the support could slide to a more moderate candidate like Jeb Bush by default. Without any serious Tea Party competition, Jeb Bush could cruise into a lackluster nomination. He wouldn’t engender any serious support from the more conservative Southern states, a key voting block for the GOP if they want to win the general election. With a poor showing from the South, like a low turnout or more purple states like Virginia and North Carolina swinging blue, the election and the White House could easily be handed to the Democrats.

This seems like a lose-lose for the GOP. A very conservative nominee would alienate himself or herself against the Establishment base, and an Establishment nominee would not inspire the Tea Party wing of the GOP. The only path that would yield a decent chance for success for the GOP would be for the eventual nominee to curry favor with both sides of the Party, and the only candidate capable of doing that would be Marco Rubio. Rubio was the original Tea Party candidate but gained favor and experience with the Republican elite by not being too extreme in the Senate. He has the political acumen and the intra-partisan support to pull off a win. This SEC Primary could very much boost Rubio’s profile, propelling him over the mire of Trump and lifting him in the polls and in media coverage. The only question that remains is: How could Rubio manage to pull enough support in the South? With Walker dropping out of the race, Rubio has a whole new base to draw support from, and the increased media attention on Rubio because of Walker’s withdrawal will easily have him gaining quickly in the polls, as indicated by this new CNN poll, which shows Rubio already gaining massively.

The SEC Primary has so far been held in fairly high esteem with Brian Kemp successfully trying to paint a picture of Southern unity and strength. However, if Kemp truly wants this SEC Primary to succeed, he should hope, for the sake of his own career and for that of the Republican 2016 chances, that he does not shoot his own Party in the foot by using this unity to inadvertently cement divides within the GOP. The only realistic escape for Kemp is for Rubio to unite the bases of the Republican Party in the same way Kemp is uniting the South.

Photo: Gage Skidmore

Twenty-three million people watched the primetime GOP debate in mid-September — a record for CNN as the most watched program in its history. Given the pervasive dialogue surrounding political apathy, low voter turnout, and a collective frustration with a government that has mastered the art of threatening to shut itself down for just about every kerfuffle they face, this seems odd. The theatricality may account for the whopping numbers, as the debate lent itself more to a reality show than a debate on domestic and international policy. Perhaps this was the inevitable outcome to questions that only seemed to incite ad hominem attacks.

However, though no one outlined a viable foreign policy strategy — or really any viable policy strategy of any nature — the way in which the candidates responded to Jake Tapper’s question about the Iran nuclear deal offers significant insights into their worldviews and perspectives on the kind of role the United States should play in the world. The most revealing answers appear to be the contrasting responses of Senator Ted Cruz and Governor John Kasich on the Iranian deal. Coincidentally, the greatest divergence in their politics lies within their views of international affairs.

From what both men have revealed prior to the debate, they disagree on military expansion. Cruz intends to scale the military and seems to respond to any questions concerning current international conflicts with a call for bombing our enemies or arming their opposition. Needless to say, diplomacy hasn’t played an integral part in Ted Cruz’s agenda.

Conversely, Kasich hasn’t supported hawkish military endeavors or expansionary measures. In fact, he’s been more outspoken about waste than his peers. However, his platform emphasizes supporting the troops at home and preventing adventurism abroad while exuding strength through leadership about other facets of foreign policy. Jake Tapper’s question read in its entirety: “The next president, no matter who he or she may be, will inherit President Obama’s Iran deal. Senator Cruz, Governor Kasich says that anyone who is promising to rip up the Iran deal on day one, as you have promised to do, is, quote, ‘inexperienced,’ and quote, ‘playing to a crowd.’ Respond to Governor Kasich, please.”

Senator Cruz was first to present his case against the Iranian deal, calling it “catastrophic” and vowing to “rip it to shreds” on his first day in office — the typical hawkish rhetoric we might expect from the Tea Party darling. He even framed the estimated $100 billion added to the Iranian economy through the sanctions relief as a charitable donation from the pocket of the United States, suggesting the deal “will send over $100 billion to the Ayatollah Khamenei, making the Obama administration the world’s leading financier of radical Islamic terrorism.” However, the most revealing aspect of his answer came next.What President Obama wants to do is he’s run to the United Nations, and he wants to use the United Nations to bind the United States and take away our sovereignty,” trumpeted Cruz. The senator went on to boast of his record as Solicitor General of Texas and the “historic” victory of Medellin v. Texas, which to Cruz affirmed that “World Court and the UN, has no power to bind the United States and no President of the United States, Republican or Democrat, has the authority to give away our sovereignty.” In his response, Senator Cruz heavily obfuscates the consequences of Medellin v. Texas, treating it as a judicial stamp of approval to defy international treaties and peace accords at whim. The case concerned whether Texas had to comply with an article in the Vienna Convention that requires nation-states to inform foreign nationals arrested in the United States of their right “to request assistance from the consul of his own state,” which Texas chose to disregard when sentencing a Mexican national to death. The decision to execute Humberto Leal Garcia, the central figure of the case, provoked international outrage — from the Obama administration to diplomats to foreign governments. The clause giving foreign nationals the right to contact their consulates for legal council has been upheld by nation-states as uncooperative as North Korea and Iran. For imprisoned American journalist Euna Lee, this was the “lifeline to secure her release.” Medellin v. Texas concluded that only Congress — not the President — could ensure the state comply with the treaty.

Though we may not have walked away from the Donald Trump three-hour extravaganza with a clear idea of Cruz’s or Kasich’s respective foreign policy agendas, their replies to the question concerning the Iranian deal revealed a great deal about their contrasting vision of international politics.

The case that Ted Cruz calls his proudest achievement represents a departure from the standards of international politics. As Ted Cruz interprets it, the decision implies no state has to comply with any international treaty, accord, or otherwise unless explicitly ordered by Congress — an interpretation that would bear real catastrophic consequences for the United States in its attempts to protect citizens abroad or secure its foreign policy interests in future negotiations. It undermines the cooperation that makes diplomacy and cooperation possible. In particular cases, unilateralism may allow the United States to act in ways that will secure our short-term interests, but will undoubtedly hinder our long-term position in the international order.

“How would Ted Cruz’s extremist view of sovereignty translate into a foreign policy agenda?” you may ask yourself. Simply, it would not. Offering up pieces of sovereignty in a specified and strategic realm like war, for instance, in exchange for the safety of citizenry and the advancement of foreign interest lies at the very foundation of foreign policy. Nation-states forfeit sovereignty in agreeing to refrain from chemical warfare, for example. A mutual respect for the rules of war is the only leverage countries have aside from military and economic tactics in ensuring their military men and women are safeguarded from those kinds of weapons. We cannot realistically maintain a system in which specific cantons in France decide not to abide by these rules until Parliament compels them to do so. However, that is the very consequence of the world in which Cruz lives.

A world in which military clout is omnipotent contrasts vividly with the more cooperative system Governor Kasich revealed in his rebuttal: “A lot of our problems in the world today is that we don’t have the relationship with our allies. If we want to go everywhere alone, we will not have the strength as if we could rebuild with our allies.”

His response, although void of any real foreign strategy, offered a more practical, reasonable, and seasoned approach to a complicated arrangement with a pariah country we are just now beginning to re-engage. His answer suggests a far more collaborative approach to international politics than his peer, likely stemming from his 18 years on the House Armed Services Committee. Furthermore, it displays a deeper understanding of the international landscape: Foreign affairs aren’t unilateral. Just as random cantons of France cannot choose to wage chemical warfare, the United States cannot simply do as it pleases because it has the military backing to defend any of its actions. In fact, Kasich implies that we must deeply embed ourselves within the international community through cooperation if we seek to address the most prevalent challenges.

In regards to the deal itself, Kasich suggested snapback sanctions — sanctions that are put back in place after noncompliance. The governor proposed that, in the case of the United States uncovering Iranian collaboration with Hamas or Hezbollah, it should renew previous sanctions. Additionally, given any indication that Iran seeks to develop a nuclear weapon, the United States should explore its military options. Kasich concluded, “We are stronger when we work with the Western civilization, our friends in Europe, and just doing it on our own, I don’t think is the right policy.” In this way, the governor’s reply was not only a reaction to the Iran deal, but also a testament to his overarching approach to foreign policy. In fact, we may infer that a Kasich administration may continue the work of the current White House in repairing the relationships severed by the hawkish actions of the Bush years.

Though we may not have walked away from the Donald Trump three-hour extravaganza with a clear idea of Cruz’s or Kasich’s respective foreign policy agendas, their replies to the question concerning the Iranian deal revealed a great deal about their contrasting vision of international politics. No matter the strategy of either candidate, we know that a Cruz administration would be led with the assumption that the United States sits at the helm of the international order, and with its military supremacy, can conduct its affairs unilaterally and unfettered by international norms and agreements. Kasich’s answer offered a more cooperative vision of the international system, in which the United States will find strength in collaboration and strong alliances — perhaps his vision may even lend itself to scaling back on military initiatives to seek more diplomatic channels. Clearly, these are mere calculations based on the candidates’ respective narratives during the last debate. We will have to wait and see if either can produce a cohesive foreign policy strategy for crucial conflicts with Iran, ISIS, China, or Russia.

Photo: Marc Nozell

The Democratic Party has monopolized the black vote for decades. Since 1976 the Democrats have received more than 80 percent of the black vote, and at least 90 percent during both the 2012 and 2008 presidential elections. Yet, Bernie Sanders, the Independent and democratic socialist Senator from Vermont challenging Hilary in the Democratic primaries, has had to surrender his microphone to Black Lives Matter activists twice in only a month. When met with jeers from the crowd at Sanders’ rally, protestor Marissa Janae Johnson demanded immediate silence if viewers wanted to hear Sanders speak at all. But, even after a four-and-a-half minute moment of silence in honor of Michael Brown, the protestors did not yield the microphone, and Sanders was forced to end his event.

The Black Lives Matter movement largely consists of protests, mostly peaceful but occasionally violent, against police brutality and other effects of institutionalized racism. Unexpectedly, the Democratic Party is bearing the brunt of the movement’s fury, creating a potential issue area where the Republican Party may have something to gain.

Black Lives Matter activists cite frustration with “white progressives” as one of their primary motivations for interrupting the speeches of Democratic leaders. Many white liberal campaigns across-the-boards reform to benefit the poor, such as increasing taxes on the wealthy and increasing funding for Medicaid, are not targeted enough to appease the leaders of the movement. Instead, Black Lives Matter activists feel that their specific and unique needs as African Americans are being ignored. Some of these specific issues include increasingly disturbing instances of police brutality against people of color and the hugely disproportionate incarceration of black men.

Sanders isn’t the first or only Democrat to experience these protests. Earlier this year, President Obama gave a speech in Selma, Alabama on the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, a day on which many civil rights activists were attacked by police officers during a peaceful march for equal voting rights. During the speech, which recognized that the “march” towards social justice “is not yet finished,” Black Lives Matter protestors beat drums and shouted, calling for change. The president did not acknowledge their chants. Hillary Clinton, arguably the most popular current Democratic candidate, has not yet experienced such a disruption, maybe due to the fact that her events are less open than Sanders’. Just this month, a group of similar activists attempted to protest a Clinton event but were denied access by Secret Service.

These constant protests suggest that the Democratic Party may be losing African American’s unwavering support. And although African-American support for Democrats is the status quo today, this hasn’t always held true. A hundred years ago, most African Americans were Republicans. After all, the Republican Party was that of the Great Emancipator, Abraham Lincoln. As recently as 1960, only two-thirds of African Americans were Democrats, compared with 90 percent today. This large shift seems to have been the result of the introduction of the Civil Rights Act by Democratic president Lyndon B. Johnson, which the majority of the GOP at the time did not support. As the history of the African American vote shows, voting bloc behaviors can, and do, change. So, if African Americans feel that Democrats are no longer suiting their needs, a mass migration of voters away from the party would not be at all unprecedented.

Alongside widespread social unrest comes the opportunity for political groups to capitalize on the feelings of discontent and unease. Surprisingly, Democrats do not seem to be using the Black Lives Matter campaign to attract new voters. Instead they are leaving the influence of the movement on the 2016 presidential election wildly uncertain. But the Democrats should not expect that the GOP won’t jump at the opportunity to shave votes off of a key Democratic bloc. Republican candidate Rand Paul, for example, recently appealed to Black Lives Matter activists who are growing increasingly dissatisfied with the Democratic Party. His support from 29 percent of African Americans in his home state of Kentucky (up from 13 percent during his 2010 Senate race) shows that his visits to historically black colleges and meetings with prominent African American leaders are paying off. In a November op-ed, Paul showed support for black Americans, writing, “In the African-American community, folks rightly ask why are our sons disproportionately incarcerated, killed, and maimed?”

Paul has also visited Ferguson, Missouri, the site of the Michael Brown shooting, to speak to its community members. Furthermore, his proposed policies address some key issues for African American voters. Paul advocates for fair sentencing laws that promise to end the disproportionate imprisonment of black Americans, and he also supports restored voting rights for non-violent ex-criminals, many of whom are African American. Paul has even gone so far as to speak out against the police shooting of a black man named Walter Scott. In doing so,

Paul is the sole Republican candidate to substantively address the issues the Black Lives Matter movement focuses on.

The candidate with the next best reputation among African American voters seems to be Jeb Bush. In 1998, he set a state record during his run for governor in Florida, earning the votes of 14 percent of African Americans. Still, that is likely not to be enough to matter in this election, as Bush has failed to respond positively to Black Lives Matter activists. Furthermore, at a recent rally in Nevada, Bush cut his speech short after protestors from the movement began chanting in protest. When asked about minority issues, he cited his record of improved test scores among minority students in Florida. However, this information was not enough to appease opponents.

More likely than not, Bush will not woo the movement, leaving Paul as the only Republican candidate with the chance of attracting African-American voters. And after his poor performance at the first GOP presidential debate and struggle to raise funds, Paul’s support from the Republican Party is incredibly low.

Paul’s struggle to gain in the polls is indicative of the main challenge to a shift towards a more race conscious Republican Party: the primary elections. As the party base leans further right, more traditional and heavily socially conservative candidates are gaining popularity. Currently topping the GOP polls is businessman-turned-politician Donald Trump, notorious for offensive and blatantly racist remarks. Unsurprisingly, most voters who turn up to Republican primaries will be registered members of the Republican Party, which includes only a miniscule percentage of black voters. So, in order for a Republican candidate to even have the chance to gain the support of the majority of African Americans, they must win the primary first, where black voters are almost nonexistent.

While Paul’s policies may not end up earning him the presidency, they will undoubtedly influence other candidates. Black Lives Matter activists will continue to protest Democratic candidates’ events, and presidential hopefuls will be forced to respond. With a Republican candidate aiming policies at black advancement, Sanders, Clinton and Martin O’Malley would deviate further from the expectations of a race-conscious Democratic Party by not doing the same. The three candidates have only recently begun tackling the issues called for by their interrupters and have not yet received a positive reaction. Whichever candidate can most effectively address the issues and win the support of the activists will have a huge advantage in primaries and the general election. As for the Republican Party, it may not be quite ready to welcome a large influx of minority voters. Still, the simple fact that a Republican candidate made the effort to speak about race is a sign that the party is evolving. If Jeb Bush can defeat Donald Trump in the Republican primary, former Paul supporters could pressure him to show the same commitment to addressing minority issues. Black voters’ frustration with even the most progressive members of the Democratic Party may be the catalyst for a slow but steady change in the reputations and demographics of both parties.

Despite their competing egos and ideologies, the candidates had time to mention God 19 times in the first GOP presidential debate of the 2016 cycle. This number is nearly four times higher than its counterpart from the first GOP presidential debate of the 2012 race, in which God featured into the conversation only five times. In fact, God had the last word in the early August debate debate when moderator Megyn Kelly asked on behalf of a Facebook user, “I want to know if any of them have received a word from God on what they should do and take care of first.”

The candidates jumped at the opportunity to out-God each other at Kelly’s behest. Many candidates did so, at least, except for Donald Trump. In fact, Kelly conspicuously skipped over Trump when soliciting answers to this question. This could have been an act of mercy towards Trump. A few weeks earlier, he had ruffled the feathers of many religious Americans by calling the Eucharist wafer (representing the transubstantiated body of Christ) his “little cracker.” In the same conversation, Trump said that he did not “think” he had ever asked God for forgiveness: an answer that would leave the heads of most religious Americans shaking in disapproval. Kelly’s decision not to ask the party’s frontrunner the last question of the night was a significant one, as it seemed to reflect the perception that Trump was not the Republicans’ religious darling-candidate. Despite his recent statement that the Bible is his favorite book — above even his beloved The Art of the Deal — Trump does not immediately come to mind as the religious candidate in a field crowded with the likes of Rick Santorum, Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee

This is not a failure on Trump’s part, however. Instead, it represents an incredible success. Despite the Donald’s meteoric rise and subsequent domination of the media, one of his most notable political feats has gone unremarked. Trump has co-opted the culture wars, long led by the GOP’s coalition of conservative Christians brought together by the Moral Majority and Jerry Falwell, by talking about social issues in non-religious terms. In other words, Trump has taken up the spirit behind the religious right’s battles —American exceptionalism, the family, nativism — and secularized its rhetoric.

Over 22 percent of self-identifying white evangelical Republican voters rank Trump as their top choice: five points higher than the next most popular candidate, Jeb Bush. This particular demographic, brought to the Republican Party by the efforts of Jerry Falwell in the ‘80s, has come to represent the nexus of the religious right for the GOP. As a result, since the Reagan Revolution, Republican candidates have had to prove their religious chops if they want to win this voting bloc. In early voting states like Iowa and South Carolina, the religious right has played an outsize role in setting the agenda of Republican presidential candidates. According to a Pew Research Center poll, nearly 57 percent of Republicans who vote in the Iowa caucuses identify as evangelical Christians. Just four years ago, it would have been unfathomable for the leading GOP candidate to openly flaunt his poor understanding of a sacrament essential to the practice of millions of Christians. It may have even been blasphemous. But Trump has fired God, and the GOP is celebrating.

Trump’s appeal to white evangelicals can be found in his approach to immigration. Attitudes regarding the issue are changing within the white evangelical bloc: a fact on which Trump is capitalizing. For a long while, conservative Christians aligned with the majority of the Republican Party in opposing serious immigration reform. Only recently has this changed. Like the rest of the country, certain evangelicals have realized that nativist attitudes offend Hispanics who might otherwise fill their pews. Since then, some evangelical leaders like Ralph Reed have actually been pushing Republican leaders and other white evangelicals to change their attitude towards immigration. This has left evangelicals — a bloc used to defining issues in terms of right and wrong — divided over immigration. In a 2013 Pew poll, six in ten white evangelicals said that undocumented immigrants should be able to stay legally in the United States. The rest had mixed views.

Unlike marriage equality and abortion, which remain steadfast issues for the religious right, immigration has divided the bloc between those who still see it in black and white terms and those who are beginning to see it in shades of gray. In previous elections, Republicans spoke about immigration in stark terms, easily counting on the support of most evangelicals when it came to immigration policy. In 2012, for example, the Tea Party made immigration one of its chief rallying cries and enjoyed large swaths of support from white evangelical voters with whom rhetoric about small government and the travails of federally-sanctioned liberalism resonated. However, most of the Republican Party has come to terms with the fact that it can no longer speak about immigration in absolutes if it hopes to compete for an increasingly important Hispanic vote. This election cycle, many GOP candidates hoping to remain competitive with Hispanics are speaking about immigration in much more nuanced terms: a move that threatens their standing with those remaining holdouts in the evangelical bloc who still view the issue in absolutes.

Cue Donald Trump.

Immigration has allowed Trump to capture the attention of the evangelical bloc, despite his lack of appeal on the religious front. In early August, CNN visited a gathering of evangelicals in Nashville called the Send North America Conference to discuss Donald Trump. One organizer of the event told CNN that some evangelicals take issue with Trump’s comments about Mexican immigrants, saying “Mexican immigrants are more likely to be Bible-believing Christians than criminals.” But others, like the conservative Christian journalist David Brody, however, believe that Trump appeals to the white evangelical voter’s mindset. Brody, who wrote on the reason for Trump’s popularity within the white evangelical voting bloc, said: “Think of conservative evangelicals. In their quest to champion biblical values, their mindset is much the same. It is a world of absolutes.” Whether the evangelical community is completely united in their view on Trump’s immigration policy is beyond the point. Trump appeals to those the rest of the GOP may be leaving behind who do not see immigration as a multifaceted issue.

Trump has hit a nerve in the culture wars in secularized terms — one that laments, among other issues, a brown America — and white evangelicals are paying attention. Trump’s position resonates with those who remain opposed to the changing tides. In demonizing Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and “criminals,” Trump has blown the dog whistle that was once in the hands of those culture warriors who found themselves in a pulpit and in front of a Tea Party political rally on the same day. The difference, of course, is that Trump can skip the pulpit without consequence. This, at least, is the image he has presented to the Republican voter. Mike Huckabee, once the poster boy for the fusion of Tea Party populism and white evangelical fervor, has said regarding Trump, “I say some things very differently. I say every night, I get on my knees and thank God I’m in a country people are trying to break into, rather than one they’re trying to break out of.”

The image that Huckabee paints, in many ways, is the one irking those who fail to understand how Trump, a man who seems to stand on shaky ground apropos of abortion and gay marriage, is finding so much success with the white evangelical voter. What Huckabee and his ilk have not figured out is that, as David Brody implied above, Trump has found an incredibly weak spot in the evangelical coalition — where they stand divided on immigration — and exploited it. By returning to the black and white rhetoric that has long appealed to the ethos of the evangelical bloc, Trump has outperformed even the likes of Mike Huckabee. It is here where Trump has forced the former darlings of the evangelical movement to come to terms with an increasingly urgent political problem. Evangelical politicians have complicated an issue with great political import – immigration – and Trump is there to remind them of the immense political costs. God, Trump has decided, need not enter the picture.

President Barack Obama recently unveiled his nearly $4 trillion budget, and it immediately made waves. As the unabashedly liberal wish list it is, Obama knows it will never be passed by the newly elected, GOP-controlled Congress. Nevertheless, some of the proposals are sly and pragmatic, serving as valuable political messages if nothing else. One such proposal – to shift the costs of building stadiums away from federal taxpayers – has caught the eye of many in the sports world. Generally, politicians support the construction of large stadiums in their cities and states out of fear that team owners will move their teams elsewhere. The team owners, adept at leveraging their importance, often force state and local governments to fund stadiums with additional support from federal taxpayer dollars. The Obama Administration aims to alleviate this burden on taxpayers by forcing stadium construction solely into the hands of local governments and private investors. Here, at least, Obama’s budget is eliciting a Republican reaction other than a resounding “no”; The GOP is divided between supporting the proposal because it would lower taxes and rejecting it because it hurts big business and other job creators. While Obama does not expect his fiscal plan to pass, it does provide an opportunity to exploit this fuzzy partisan line, highlighting an unusual split in GOP thinking – just in time for 2016.

Obama’s main stadium-related budget proposal focuses on tax-exempt bonds issued by state and local governments. Cities and states, in addition to receiving revenue from local taxes, can raise funds by issuing bonds to private investors at below market interest rates. Investors buy these bonds because the interest they ultimately receive is exempted from federal income tax, which creates a subsidy from the federal government. The cost of this subsidy to the federal government – by way of lost tax revenue – is much greater than the amount that local governments save by paying a lower interest rate. Moreover, investors are able to make money off of these bonds, since the income tax for wealthy investors is higher than the percentage that the interest rate is lowered by. Currently, unless more than 10% of the debt service is paid by a private business and more than 10% of the use of the facility is attributed to a private interest, big sports facilities can be built using tax-exempt bonds. Unfortunately, the first requirement is relatively easy to stay within while the second one is not, which makes tax-exempt governmental bond financing viable. So, the Obama Administration wishes to eliminate the first requirement, as the second requirement alone, would almost always preclude the bond’s tax-exempt status, making it a useless tool for stadium funding. This policy would shift the burden of the stadium’s expense more onto private investors instead of the taxpayers. Still, local taxpayers would potentially see an increase in their contribution to these stadiums, but it would be a negligible amount. Private investors, as well as local taxpayers, would have to take on the additional costs, or cities would be forced to build less expensive stadiums. From 1909 to 2012, local governments have coughed up over $32 billion for stadiums, while private investors have only contributed about $21 billion. In recognition of such large costs to the public, the Obama Administration, in its dream budget, would ideally shift the stadium financing away from federal taxpayers and on to others.

The interplay between these two factions of the GOP will certainly be tough for a 2016 Presidential nominee to balance, so highlighting these differences to separate the two sides is a clever political move by the Obama Administration.

Publicly funded sports venues are certainly contentious, as new stadium deals in Minnesota and Georgia have recently engendered forceful criticism, as well as strong support. Proponents argue that new stadiums create jobs and opportunities for the surrounding communities, an argument that has time and time again been debunked. Instead, these communities are deceived by extra costs and ambiguous budgets, which are designed to make politicians look good by enticing teams to stay in the area and appeasing team owners. By inserting this proposal into his budget, Obama forces Republicans to answer the question: Which is more important – decreasing taxes for citizens or decreasing costs for private investors and local governments?

Of course, this policy will never be realized – the Republican-controlled Congress is going to tear the President’s budget apart. Yet Obama might still succeed in another way, by sparking a conversation about this issue to exacerbate already growing rifts in the Republican Party. Playing on this small issue, Obama can try to further split the GOP between its establishment wing and libertarian wing. The interplay between these two factions of the GOP will certainly be tough for a 2016 Presidential nominee to balance, so highlighting these differences to separate the two sides is a clever political move by the Obama Administration.

Moreover, this is a shrewd course of action for Obama to take on behalf of his party. In helping splinter the Republicans, he helps the Democrats in 2016. For example, Scott Walker is currently trying to reach a new stadium deal for the Milwaukee Bucks, which will have to consider moving if the state does not raise the cash for a new stadium. Walker will have to balance the competing Republican ideologies of low debt, low taxes, protecting job creators and supporting big business, all while avoiding too much heat when he inevitably chooses a side. Given that Walker is also considering a presidential run, he will be under intense media scrutiny as he tries to cater to all factions. Of course, Walker is not the only elected official who has been under fire: stadium payments can create a backlash on both sides of the aisle. Stadium deals have sparked discontent from liberals in San Francisco and Tea Party activists in Atlanta. While the issue is doubtlessly more divisive for small-government types, liberals also seem to have qualms with a public-private partnership designed to benefit big business.

Obama’s budget politics illustrate a resurgent willingness to help his party, an atypical move for Obama and lame duck presidents in general. The proposed change in stadium financing at the public’s expense is illustrative of this change, and its inclusion in the budget serves to expose the fissures among pro-business and anti-tax Republicans. As 2016 looms, modest issues like taxpayer-funded sports venues could exacerbate the divide in an already fractured GOP presidential lineup, and if they work, Obama’s Democratic successors will likely appreciate the help.

Joe Scarborough is a former lawyer and the current host of the popular political commentary news program Morning Joe on MSNBC. He was a Republican congressman for Florida from 1995 to 2001.  

Brown Political Review: What do you think was the largest factor that led to the GOP wave this year?

Joe Scarborough: Part of it was structural, particularly in the House. The way the districts are gerrymandered gives the Republicans a built in home advantage. Obviously, the President’s approval ratings being low didn’t help. There was a general unease over what was seen as a weak response to ISIS and the botched handling of the Ebola crisis at the beginning. People didn’t vote on the Ebola issue, but voted more generally on an unease with the Administration’s failure to lead. Whether it was that or other failures, Barack Obama was not a positive for a lot of Democrats, especially a year in which Republicans were competing in red states. Six years in, the political party out of power wins, and they usually win big. The fact that it took Republicans so long to close the sale shows me that they really didn’t have a compelling message that united the public. It was at the end of the day a negative vote against Barack Obama and the Democrats instead of being an affirming vote for anything Republicans claimed they stood for.

BPR: What policies do you expect to come out of this GOP-controlled Congress and states under GOP control?

JS: I want policies that I expect that they won’t touch, unfortunately. There is right now an entitlement crisis and debt crisis that is going to cripple future generations. Neither Republicans nor Democrats are talking about reforming entitlements in a meaningful way that will save future generations from having to make terrible decisions about the future of their programs. I would love for Republicans to show a bit of the populist strain that they have had in the past. [We need to] reverse the trend of income inequality that has skyrocketed over the past 15 years. I think that a lot of Americans would be impressed by a party that follows what Warren Buffet has said, which is that billionaires and millionaires should never pay less than 30 percent in taxes. Even Alan Greenspan says income inequality is one of the greatest threats to American capitalism. I think we need to reinvest in infrastructure, education, research and development, and in areas that China and our political rivals are doubling down on. I don’t think we should cut and slash all spending simply because we have an entitlement system that’s exploding and growing at unsustainable rates, but that’s exactly what is happening right now. We are robbing Peter to pay Paul, and unfortunately, slashing investments that will grow this economy in the future to sustain a pension system that can’t be sustained at current rates.

BPR: Are those policies in line with what might be considered conservatism?

JS: That depends on what brand of conservatism you are talking about. If you are talking about John Boehner and Mitch McConnell conservatism, probably not. If you are talking about Reagan style conservatism, that supported tax cuts for middle class Americans and small business owners, and created the earned income tax credit, I think that is in line with it. I don’t think that slashing and burning future investments is conservative, I think it’s foolhardy and it’s political nihilism.

BPR: Each party still faces significant structural and policy flaws going toward 2016. Can you lay out what those are and how party leadership should overcome them?

JS: I think two areas where Democrats are on the wrong side of history are one, energy, and the other, education. We will be the #1 producer of oil by 2020, and there is a natural gas boom. This will put the United States in a position to maintain its place as the top economy in the world. The energy revolution will help working and middle class Americans by lowering energy bills, help businesses hire new employees, and allow manufacturing to return to the United States. The fact that President Obama is talking about vetoing the Keystone pipeline, which most Americans support, shows that the Democrats are more interested in environmental symbolism than environmental and economic realities.

On education, teachers unions have been a millstone around Democrats’ necks. We spend more money per pupil on K-12 education than any nation in the world, yet we are not getting the results. I have no problem doubling down, tripling down on our education investment to make our K-12 schools the best on the planet, but we are going to have to reform our system so we are not throwing the money down the rat hole. Unfortunately, too many Democrats have just followed the teachers’ unions lines over the past 20-30 years, and have put themselves in a terrible position. I hope the unions get on the forefront of education reform, or if not, they will simply fade away.

On the Republican side, they self corrected for the most part in these midterms. They stopped nominating crazy people for Senate races, who had to go out and remind voters in 30 second ads that they are not a witch, or who tried to redefine what rape is. As the comedians say, it is pretty bad when your party has to say “how did the rape guy do?” and the response is “which one?” I think the Republicans have hopefully learned from those mistakes. I’m sure there will be a lot of extremists who rush out and say some stupid things to try to get to a certain segment of voter in the Iowa caucus. I think it will fail, because people are getting wise of that.

The second crisis that the Republican party faces is the feeling that this is a party that is out of touch with working class Americans. Sam Brownback almost lost his governors race in Kansas, and he probably would have had there not been a huge Republican wave this year. He mindlessly cut taxes for corporations and upper income residents, created a fiscal crisis in his state, and had to slash education and other valuable programs. I hope the days of Republicans just blindly cutting taxes for corporations and the wealthiest Americans is coming to an end, and that Republicans find a way to push for targeted tax cuts that will actually help small businesses and the working class. I would hope that the Republican party would try to reverse the trend since 1973 of average wages declining. That is really the structural crisis facing this country.

BPR: But can Republicans really cast a big tent while maintaining restrictive positions on social issues?

JS: [This year] we still saw some extreme primary candidates, but the same voters who nominated them in 2010 and 2012 rejected them this year. I’m hoping that those voters have become more pragmatic, and if they pick candidates in Presidential elections who know how to build coalitions and attract more youth and women voters, they will be in good shape. The Republican party actually did pretty well this year with youth and women voters. If the party leads with social issues, they will be painted into a corner. That’s what happened to Mark Udall in Colorado, who obsessed so much over abortion that his own voters were yelling from the audience to move on, and the Denver Post endorsed Cory Gardner. It is a warning for both Republicans and Democrats that Americans don’t want extremists on social issues.

BPR: You were a member of Congress during a period that many Americans believed was the height of partisanship. Can you compare partisanship then and now, and offer a vision of how to break gridlock?

JS: Bill Clinton could not stand the Republican Congress, and they could not stand him, and it ended in an impeachment showdown. Despite all of that, we passed a balanced budget for the first time in a generation, we passed welfare reform, regulatory reform, tax cuts, and extended the life of Medicare. We fought tooth and nail, we scratched and we clawed. And yet, when Bill Clinton is on my show now, we sit back and you would think we were in the same party. We reminisce and think about all the things we got done together. That was, as he said, because we had politicians who put their country ahead of their own party.

Bill Clinton has said that being President requires that you have a short memory. The suggestion is that Barack Obama does not have a short memory, and does not know how to make Washington work. I think that has been a real problem. Obama, McConnell, and Boehner over the past years have not wanted to get things done for various reasons. Obama’s own people have told me “the guy thinks he’s right.” He picks a position, and then keeps talking and talking until people come to him, or they don’t. Boehner and McConnell are two dealmakers who were scared to make deals, because they thought Tea Party members would throw them overboard. I’m hoping that with two years left on Barack Obama’s watch that he will be compelled to cut deals with Republicans, and I hope that Boehner and McConnell understand, and I think they do, that if Republicans just fight everything that Obama wants to do, they will lose in a big way in 2016 and Hillary Clinton will be running the country for eight years.

BPR: Why are both parties lacking depth in Presidential candidates?

JS: There is something really depressing about the prospect of having another showdown between the Clintons and the Bushes. I think it has to do with the fact that it costs billions of dollars to run for President, and you have people on Wall Street who are much more comfortable with someone like Hillary Clinton than Elizabeth Warren, or someone like Jeb Bush over Rand Paul. The Clinton and Bushes may be safe money for Wall Street and monied interests, and for people who don’t want real change in Washington.

BPR: Can you compare and contrast being a member of congress to being a news pundit. How do you feel you serve the American people now compared to then?

JS: I have a lot more influence now than I did in Congress. That’s because there are 535 members of the House and Senate, and only and handful of people on in the morning that are shaping the news of the day. Fortunately, our audience is made up of a lot of influencers who shape the debate in Washington every day. I’ve felt the responsibility to go out and say things that other people won’t say, whether its taking on the Republican party before other people feel comfortable doing it, because as a Republican, I know their tricks a bit better than the other side, or whether it’s calling out President Obama and the Democrats when others in the media may not be comfortable doing so.

BPR: What would you like to say directly to college students?

JS: You are being screwed. There is a massive income redistribution from young Americans to old Americans. We have an entitlement system that is going to cause this generation to pass a trillion dollars of debt onto the next generation of leaders. Washington is afraid to stand up and do anything about it because senior citizens vote in much higher numbers than young people. They feel the wrath of the AARP more than they fear an economic meltdown 10 years from now. I hope that young voters get more engaged, vote more, and have their voices heard more. Students who are reading this are not going to be able to pay 85% tax rates to keep Social Security solvent. If you want to destroy Social Security and Medicare, the best thing to do is absolutely nothing.

I think a sort of sclerosis has set in in Washington, and I hope that there will be a major disruption in the political process that will be started by younger voters in 2016.

 

 

Since the Common Core’s creation in 2009, forty-five states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Common Core as a set of educational standards to teach in schools. Despite being recommended by the federal government, these standards are increasingly facing scrutiny and disapproval from the American public and politicians across the aisle. Now that the midterm election cycle has come to a close and the presidential cycle has in many senses just begun, candidates have seized on growing public disapproval of the standards to garner votes and support. The issue is unique in the fact that Democrats have joined Republican candidates in bashing the Core and completely opposing the standards.

The Common Core was first developed during Janet Napolitano’s tenure as Governor of Arizona and chair of the National Governor’s Association as an initiative aimed at improving math and science education in public schools. Eventually, a task force composed of teachers, school administrators, state representatives, parents and experts created the building blocks for the Common Core State Standards. The standards currently focus on English and math but could soon include science. Linking topics across grades, it aims to encourage greater concentration on fewer topics and an emphasis on understanding complex texts. The creation of a unifying, nation-wide curriculum was meant to help students do better on exams and consequently boost school performance grades.

Now, as more states have adopted the standards and the Obama administration has shown more support for the Common Core, it has become an interestingly complex political issue, as both Democrats and Republicans seem to be distancing themselves from it despite demonstrable success in some states.

In Tennessee, adoption of the Common Core has led to vastly improved academic performance. Yet, despite the connection between higher standards and higher performance, both Republican Governor Bill Haslam and US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan are quick to praise the performance but reluctant to credit the Common Core for the improvement. Haslam credits public “misconceptions” about the standards as the reason for their reluctance to use the term, which is reasonable given current public opinion.

Even the liberal Brookings Institution is disillusioned with the Core, claiming that national standards will not fix gaps in performance between states.

A recent Gallup poll of public school parents found that the public is divided over the Common Core with 33 percent approving and 35 percent disapproving. Public schoolteachers, an especially important demographic, are also split on the issue, with a very slight increase in disapproval as of late. However, within the GOP, views are changing rapidly. Republican parents overwhelmingly disapprove of the standards, with 58 percent viewing them negatively, a drastic 16-point increase in disapproval since April. In contrast, the views of Democratic parents have remained largely unchanged since spring. The growing disapproval, especially from Republicans, seems to be directly correlated to increased awareness, as the media has only recently begun covering the Core.

Jumping on the bandwagon of disapproval, numerous GOP candidates have come out against the Core recently with the hope of bolstering support for their current or potential campaigns. Louisiana’s Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu has been attacked endlessly about her support for the Common Core by her Republican opponents. While she defends it as a state sponsored initiative, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and other opponents have painted the Common Core as one of Obama’s signature policies forcing big government on local and state institutions, similar to the Affordable Care Act. Similarly, Republican Senator David Vitter of Louisiana has also begun to back away from support of the Common Core, perhaps in the hopes to bolster his potential gubernatorial campaign in 2015. Although he maintains some support for the standards, he is criticizing the Eureka Math aspect of the Core, denouncing it as too difficult and complicated for schools to teach and for students to understand. Still, his moderate support for the Common Core is increasingly being criticized from the right, with opponents like Louisiana state Rep. Brett Geymann claiming that fixing Eureka Math will only cure “one of the symptoms, while not addressing the disease.”

While it makes perfect sense for Republicans to use the unpopular Common Core to garner votes and support, it seems odd that Democratic current and potential candidates are backing away from the standards too, especially since Democratic voters do not overwhelmingly disapprove of the Core.

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A political cartoon exemplifying some of the criticism of the Common Core.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is a prime example of this. Although he was consistently ahead in the polls and won his governor’s race handily, he has recently backtracked on his once strong support following his opponent’s attacks on his support. Cuomo’s shift in opinion is drastic, even claiming he had “nothing to do with the Common Core.” A few months ago, he was defending the change that came with implementation of the Core, citing that change can be hard, “even when it’s right.”

Supporters of the Common Core are now facing criticism from the left as well as the right. Barbara Byrd-Bennett, head of Chicago public schools, recently came out against standardized testing integral to the Common Core, even though state officials claim that it is simply impossible to keep implementing the Common Core and do away with the standardized testing that it requires. Even the liberal Brookings Institution is disillusioned with the Core, claiming that national standards will not fix gaps in performance between states.

It seems as though Republicans have been able to seize upon potentially damaging and powerful rhetoric aimed at furthering the notion that Democrats, specifically President Obama, are further asserting federal influence on everyday life and decreasing any level of autonomy once held by state and local governments. Conservative political commentators, like Glenn Beck, are even asserting that the Common Core really just amounts to liberal indoctrination, a theme routinely used against the President’s agenda and a potentially powerful one.

Democrats, like Cuomo, are wary of Republicans making the Common Core an issue for them, and are seeking to distance themselves from the standards to avoid this. Prior to the Common Core, public opinion unanimously agreed that American public education was in need of an overhaul. But the overhaul might not be even seriously attempted if conservatives gain traction on this issue and paint it as another one of Obama’s intrusions into state or local affairs. Cuomo will not be alone in backing away from his controversial support, and the Core could eventually be abandoned. If Democrats want to preserve the Core and let it run its course in order to examine its results, they must come up with a strategy to defend and support it, rather than just give up.

An unlikely friendship is brewing in the Republican Party between John Kasich, Republican Governor of Ohio, and Chris Christie, Republican Governor of New Jersey. Kasich was first elected in 2010 after serving in the United States House of Representatives for nine consecutive terms. He served as Chairman of the House Budget Committee and was a major contributor to the 1997 Balanced Budget Act, which led to the budget surplus. After leaving Congress in 2000, Kasich was a frequent contributor on Fox News and worked for Lehman Brothers Bank before the company went bankrupt. Christie, on the other hand, was first elected in 2009 and reelected in 2013. For the first half of his career he was a practicing lawyer who ran for various county positions, mostly unsuccessfully. He transitioned into politics by becoming a state level lobbyist and being former President George W. Bush’s campaign lawyer in New Jersey during the 2000 election. Christie was nominated for the US Attorney for the District of New Jersey by George W. Bush and was the subject of much controversy and speculation. Regardless, his work in that position was widely respected and became the basis for his gubernatorial election.

Christie and Kasich have fairly different political backgrounds, but developed a friendship in 2010, when Christie visited Ohio to campaign with Kasich. New Jersey’s gubernatorial elections are in the off year between Congressional elections (2009 and 2013), which enables Christie to court the usual Republican fundraisers and sitting Republican politicians. While Ohio was not the only state Christie visited, his campaign contribution quickly blossomed into a very public friendship. Kasich told reporters that Christie was “the most popular governor in America” and later that day asked crowds, “Ain’t he a great American leader?”

After Kasich won the gubernatorial race in Ohio, the relationship cooled off — until Christie’s 2013 reelection campaign. Kasich again turned to the media to express his enthusiastic affection for Christie. Sound bites from the two governors sound more like quotes from a Seth Rogen-James Franco bromance film than statements from two Republican governors potentially running for president. “Chris and I are friends. He texts me, we laugh, we bust each other’s chops.” Kasich has even called Christie “a big teddy bear.” Not to be outdone, Christie announced, “I love John Kasich.” (Maybe it was a Love Actually reference?) The affection between the two goes beyond the norms of political alliance and campaign friendship.

Aside from the two governors’ strangely entertaining Facebook status-esque public relations campaign, Kasich and Christie’s friendship has serious relevance in the 2014 election cycle. When Christie was named the chairman of the Republican Governor’s Association, Kasich told reporters “Christie is going to do great out there. Are you kidding? Christie, he is like a force now. People want to be around him.”  Christie returned the favor by discussing Kasich’s upcoming reelection campaign and pledging his support by saying “I’ll come to Ohio for John as frequently as he wants me to, and as frequently as I can.” Christie has followed through on that promise and campaigned for Kasich throughout his 2014 race. Looking beyond the 2014 Ohio Gubernatorial race, the Christie-Kasich alliance may prove surprisingly consequential for the Republican Party in the 2016 Presidential election.

In April of 2014, both governors attended a fundraising weekend in Las Vegas. Joined by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, the group was responsible for securing major funding for the GOP from Sheldon Adelson, a usual Republican donor who made his billions in the casino industry. It’s an interesting group to represent the Republican Party, made even more interesting with the Christie-Kasich friendship taken into account. The gathering was essentially a who’s who of potential 2016 presidential candidates. Both Christie and Kasich could reasonably enter the Republican presidential primary, as nobody has the nomination locked down. Christie is potentially weak due to Bridgegate and other controversies during his tenures as US Attorney and Governor. Kasich is less well known and would still need to win reelection in November to be strongly considered. The question then becomes: How does their friendship impact both of their potential presidential campaigns?

A Christie-Kasich ticket is unlikely considering their similarities. Both of them are governors from the Northeast — that alone should serve as a significant geographical barrier to winning votes. Additionally, Christie himself has said that the two “get along very well because we have very similar approaches to governing.” As the final nail in their ticket’s coffin, neither has significant foreign policy experience. With the unlikely prospect of a joint White House run seemingly self-evident, the rationale behind this aggressive and blatant friendship appears odd.

It seems as though the pair is adopting  Regan’s infamous adage, “Never speak ill of fellow Republicans.” Instead of infighting and creating fragmentation in their own party, Christie and Kasich might be doing their best to unify the various groups under the umbrella of the Republican Party. The names being thrown around right now for the 2016 nomination are New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Ohio Governor John Kasich, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. If two of the five have agreed to run positive campaigns that focus on their particular attributes, instead of buying into the campaign norm of the past 10 years and viciously attacking competing Republican candidates, then the GOP’s 2016 prospects could drastically change. The Republican Party cannot endure another 2012 blood bath. The constant negative campaigning purposefully designed to discredit party leadership drastically decreased the party’s legitimacy. Another Michelle Bachman-Rick Perry-Herman Cain-New Gingrich-Jon Hunstman-Rick Santorum-Ron Paul-Mitt Romney mess will further hurt an already crippled party. Kasich and Christie’s friendship could strengthen the Republican Party from the inside, unify the factions, give new life to a staggering institution and perhaps make their 2016 aspirations a reality. In other words, the bizarre twenty-first century bromance brewing between the two governors may be the Republican Party’s best shot at a comeback.