Donald Trump is effectively changing the entire political landscape as you read this. Trumpism is picking up steam in the United States, just as fascism became the foundations of the movements led by Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler. We must be vigilant of the characteristics of Trumpism to prevent the decline of American democracy. Below, I compare Trumpism to tyranny, explain Trumpism in depth, analyze how emotional and logical reasoning affect political decisions, and provide two of my own definitions of Trumpism to help the reader understand the bigger picture of what we are dealing with.
Tyranny is cruel, unreasonable, or arbitrary use of power or control. Arbitrary simply means that the user of power is based on personal whim and not on a concrete system or a logical basis. The tyrant is one who lacks legitimacy, which can be interpreted in several ways. The tyrant adheres to the rooster syndrome, which “arises from the tendency of people guided more by hope or fear than intelligence to overestimate the power of their leaders and attribute to them outcomes, either good or bad…” (2). And, not surprisingly, a tyrant is normally authoritative.
But how do we stop a democracy from turning into a dictatorship, or some kind of authoritarian government? Well, “tyranny is an important phenomenon that operates by principles by which it can be recognized in its early emerging stages, and, if the people are vigilant, prepared, and committed to liberty, countered before it becomes entrenched” (2). What you just read is the most important piece of information in this article. We can stop all of this, but we need to stay vigilant, and act, because we are truly stronger together. We have to.
As for Trumpism, it shares similar characteristics to tyranny, especially with regards to the emotionally-driven aspects of tyranny.
Trumpism is still raw, and we are only beginning to define it, so let’s try to. According to a The Hill article, Trumpism is comprised of four core principles: Celebrity, Nativism, The Outsider, and Populism.
Celebrity persona is now important to gain status in today’s society. Trump’s tough, decisive and highly masculine persona paints him as the ultimate authority figure, which separated him from the pack. His nativist approach is appealing because it’s tempting to scapegoat minorities for poor economic conditions. His persona also paints him as the ultimate outsider, as the one who will “drain the swamp” and bring a person with no strings attached to White House. His populist appeal also swings by the “drain the swamp” mantra (1).
Through this definition, it is a little clearer as to how Trump skyrocketed to the top. Below, I give my own definitions: one is based on a bait and switch scam that Trump has mastered and taken to the highest level possible, and a second is based on the idea of a toxic relationship.
Here is my first definition: Trumpism is the extended archetype of the con artist in which the salesman tries to sell his products under any circumstances through deceptive techniques and manipulation to achieve a goal, normally control or power over the customer. In other words, what I’ve described to you is a classic bait and switch scam. On the grandest stage, Trump sells himself, supported by his celebrity persona, outsider and populist appeal. His supporters are blinded by his true intentions, like a customer swindled by an overconfident, charming salesman. By these standards, Trump, who single-handedly swindled the political system, may be considered the greatest salesman of them all.
Here is my second definition: Trumpism is a toxic relationship between the people and the Trumper, where one is blinded by his heavy flaws because of one’s infatuation with them, where infatuation is driven by emotions. In this case, logical reasoning is secondary and nearly nonexistent to emotional reasoning, which may explain Trump supporters’ unwavering support despite his glaring contradictions. I’m sure we can all relate on many levels with this one; infatuation sucks when it’s not reciprocated.
In other words, Trumpism is the monster of American neofascism splattered with toxic waste that must be put to death. Just as the fire breathing, scaly red (sometimes orange) dragon is slayed by the sword of the warrior, Trumpism will be slayed by the vigilance of the citizen.
1. Tabachnick, Ph.D. David Edward. "The Four Characteristics of Trumpism." The Hill. Capitol Hill Publishing Corp., 04 Feb. 2016. Web. 19 Jan. 2017.
2. Roland, Jon. "Principles of Tyranny." Constitution Society Home Page. Constitution Society, n.d. Web. 19 Jan. 2017.
Once again, I find myself writing with, in part, a reconciliatory tone.
Do not doubt that within me is a passionate liberal rage, a tendency for frustration, and at times, complete anger regarding right-wing policy. Yet, I feel that some things are important to reassure to a larger audience.
It's real. He's here. Donald Trump is the 45th President of the United States. I left just in time. Only the second week of January, I was on a plane to Europe to spend a semester here in Rome. Consideratemi un rifugiato. Cerco di divenire un clandestino. "Consider me a refugee. Help become an illegal immigrant here," I joke with many of the local Italians. I might not be home- but it's real.
So far, I've yet to feel seriously homesick. Nostalgic at best, I recognize that America will always be my home, my upbringing that I carry with me no matter where my travels take me. Undoubtedly, no moment has brought me back as strongly as inauguration weekend. Last Friday, discouraged, I had more than enough gratitude that I will be here for the next several months. On Saturday, however, I finally gave CNN the time of day for the first time in two weeks, really wishing that I could be part of these protests, the #WomensMarch where D.C. police recorded not a single arrest (1)! With all the change that's occurring our country, it's hard to turn an eye, no matter how many miles and continents away one might be.
While I undoubtedly support the intentions and message of the #WomensMarch, and all similar peaceful protests, and believe that we must pressure this new administration with the fullest of our civil voices, to protect the freedoms and progress we have gained over the past several years, I would like to assert something I believe is truly important. There is certainly plenty of national tension, partisanship and scrutiny. Yet, I would like to reassure all my friends who voted to put this man in office, we all know who we are, that despite what the media and perhaps the far-left might have you think, I do not judge you or think any less of you because you voted for Donald Trump.
It's no secret how I personally feel about the President. My annoying Facebook rants, my general demeanor, it's no secret that I disagree with your choice. Rest assured, I, personally, still respect your democratic voice. I respect your right to vote the way you please, to feel the way you please, and to speak the way you please. This isn't just because it's the right thing to do, this isn't just because we desperately need to move toward a more unified society, it's because we also depend on you. We depend on each other.
"I voted for Donald Trump for economic reasons." "I voted for Donald Trump because he is going to bring back jobs."
I hope he does. While I disagree with you on how this going to happen, I respect your reasoning and intentions. It's more or less a point of common knowledge that Republicans of our generation are crafted differently than those of the generation before. Trade, taxes, economic regulations, the Millennial Republican is in it for the money issues, the math that's really worth debating. Abortion, marriage equality, social and civil rights, we know....we're all fortunately moving in the right direction. To my friends who voted for Donald Trump, I am not going to judge you as some racist, bigot, *insert word here*, if your intentions truly aren't so. However, I am now going to hold you more accountable, because of this same reasoning.
This past weekend, we all witnessed a spectrum of protests in reaction to our new President, and then the reaction of him and his administration to these protests. It almost goes without saying that any protest involving violence and destruction of property ought to be condemned. It frustrates me, personally, to see such violence occur as I believe it is absolutely counterproductive, and simply fuels conservative commentators, the next Tomi Lahren segment, when discussing 'whiny liberal disobedience.' Yet, I am absolutely proud of the peaceful #WomensMarch protests the following day. You might not innately agree with premises of these protests, question whether or not, if you as a Trump voter, are truly voiced by these protestors. The matter of fact is, despite perhaps a tendency to be cynical, you are, and if anything they count on your voice to speak up.
A protest successfully non-violent, conservative pundits were left noticeably without much substantial criticism. "They should redirect their anger towards countries that really oppress woman, like Saudi Arabia, not our democratically elected President," was one point I simply kept hearing over and over again. But clearly, this distracts from the point. While yes, women's and gender issues may truly be much worse other places, we live in the United States, and we have elected a true 'wild card' of President and Vice-President with uncertain intentions regarding the cultural progress we've made.
"I voted for Donald Trump because of jobs." Okay, great. We have elected a Presidential ticket with a conservative economic point-of-view. We have elected the political wildcard to come in and disrupt the corrupt Washington establishment, drain the swamp. Yet, we have elected such a political wild-card, it would really be naïve to assume that these next four years will play by any standard political playbook.
Why does your voice matter now, more than ever? "I voted for Donald Trump because of jobs." You are his supporters. He already knows we're his "enemies" and can frankly give a crap about what a lot of us have to say. You are his supporters. You form his base. You bear the most potential to keep this wild-card President in-line the way you all had voted for. I know none of you, the Trump supporters I know, voted for him because you believe Muslims are inherently dangerous. You didn't vote for him because you believe the Latino population is inherently corrupting our culture and job market. You didn't vote for him because you agree with the Vice-President that overturning Roe v. Wade should be in our future, and that electro-therapy is a plausible option for curing homosexuality. I know why you voted for him. This is why we need your voice, to remind him of such.
We need your voice to remind the new President that draining the swamp didn't mean replacing politicians with billionaires. We need your voice to remind the new President that the idea of a having a registered database of any demographic is inherently un-American, and frankly, dangerous, given how such precedent has developed in history. We need your voice to remind the new President (really more, the Vice President), that gay-marriage is a done-deal, and frankly an irrelevant issue toward "Making America Great Again". We need your voice to remind him when he oversteps the pretexts to which you elected him.
So what am I promising? Is this a deal, some sort of exchange? Perhaps. My promise is cut-clear: to respect Donald Trump in the way I feel that media Republicans failed to respect Obama. He is the President. Yes, he is my President, and for this reasoning, I will hold his feet to the fire when it is due, and I will give him credit when it is due. I refuse to partake in this partisanship where we are determined to discredit the accomplishments of the other to perpetuate a political divide. To name a few, while I think it was perhaps naïve on a geopolitical scale, I commend Trump for recognizing Taiwan as a sovereign, democratic state. I commend Trump for his intentions on trade. I commend Trump for his economic vision, though I disagree in how he will get there. I commend Trump for loosening political formalities, though I certainly think he often goes to far.
I disagree with you choice, but I do not think any less of you, all of my friends who voted for Donald Trump. I have full respect for our democracy, and believe you are as entitled to express your fondness for Donald Trump as is anyone else with their candidate. Yet, I believe you all have a responsibility now that you may have not realized. We tend to cast such political responsibilities to the other team, 'It's the whiny liberal's problem now.' Democracy is not a partisan problem. We must hold Donald Trump accountable for all that he does. We must refuse to accept 'alternative facts' as an explanation for misinformation, while at the same time, we must hold the media accountable for how they manage information. We must hold Donald Trump accountable for now refusing to release his tax-returns despite making it a central campaign progress. We must be cognizant of how exactly we 'drain the swamp.' Was a cabinet of billionaires truly the intention? Did 'drain the swamp' simply mean a shift from the political to the corporate establishment?
I can't speak for your thoughts. I can't speak for how much or how little you agree with this responsibility I feel you all have. However, I think we can all agree, we elected this President as a wild-card, a political reset-button, and now we must all be conscious, of how such a 'reset-button' will develop. I think we can all agree, that respecting each other is the only way to move forward. I think we can all agree, that perhaps it is our generation that has the best shot at political reconcilement, as appears that our parents simply cannot.
1. McCausl, Phil. "Peace, Positivity as Massive Women's March Makes Voices Heard in D.C."NBCNews.com. NBCUniversal News Group, 22 Jan. 2017. Web. 23 Jan. 2017.
Lo sabemos todos. Los próximos años serán algunos de los más diferentes de la historia estadounidense.
Hemos elegido a un presidente, claramente diferente a los pasados. Tiene un carisma contestatario. Llega a la oficina más potente del mundo después de una larga trayectoria en diferentes empresas, incluyendo shows de television. Es uno de los únicos presidentes que fue elegido sin ninguna experiencia política. De los cuatro antecesores a el (Taylor, Grant, Hoover, Eisenhower), tres de ellos tenían al menos experiencia militar.
Sin embargo, lo que es más alarmante del nuevo Presidente electo no es su curriculum, sino de la forma como ascendió al poder. Una muralla entre los Estados Unidos y México, y la deportación de millones de inmigrantes, entre tantas propuestas. Trump ha convencido a tantos de sus simpatizantes políticos con tonos anti-latinos. Por causa de su retórica, hemos visto tantas ocasiones de provocación étnica y racial por parte de el, hacia los inmigrantes latinos, como una causa de los problemas del país.
Vivimos todos en un país desarrollado con inglés como su idioma guía. Además vivimos en un país bien influenciado del mundo hispanohablante. Compartimos un continente establecido con la promesa de ofrecer a otras partes de mundo la oportunidad de venir aquí para seguir sus sueños. Este mismo país es construido, más que otros, sobre esta misma promesa. La historia estadounidense y la razón por la cual muchísimos de nosotros hispanohablantes consideramos este país como nuestra patria, están basadas en este mismo principio, como ha sido para todas otras generaciones de inmigrantes de diferentes partes del mundo.
Los aseguramos que estamos aquí. Los aseguramos en tanto que persista nuestra voz nunca se olviderán la grande promesa americana, sin importar quien sea el presidente. Les invitamos a unirse con nosotros. Les invitamos a participarse en nuestra voz. Les invitamos a compartir sus preocupaciones dado que ustedes se puedan quedar asegurados que las compartiremos igualmente. Ofrecemos a todos ustedes la seguridad de saber que jamas estarán solos.
Recuerden lo más importante: sea quien sea el presidente, seremos siempre más fuertes juntos.
These next few years, to put lightly...will be different. Whiny liberals, we'll surely be referred as, but we understand why this is different. We did not elect a Mitt Romney. We did not elect a John McCain. Hell, we did not opt for a George Bush third terms. We did not elect a Republican with a predictable center-right agenda.
This past November, the United States, by a nearly three million vote minority (yes, conservative friends, we must reiterate this) elected what might best be a described as a total and complete political wild-card. We did not opt for a John Kasich, not even a Marco Rubio. We opted for the total, complete, political reset-button.
Many of us will concede that 'the establishment' was far from perfect, it never is. However, many of us will contest, through the development of this blog, through our truest democratic voice, that it was never nearly as broken as President 45 enjoyed conveying, and we will argue for the changes we deem appropriate, both in context of this new administration, and the former.
These next few years will be unpredictable. Until this point, we have woken up everyday as Americans, exchanging Presidents, political orders, Republicans, Democrats, and have had the luxury to go to bed every night and wake up the next morning knowing that largely everything will be mostly the same, and we will all be okay. Now, we are all desperate to reach that same point of security, to assure ourselves, that in the end, everything will be okay as we know it. The reality is, perhaps we have been privileged in this country, as opposed to others, to enjoy consistently peaceful exchanges of power and political orders will minimal consequences to our established values and traditions. Now, we have opted for the unpredictable, and we will be perhaps no better than privileged, if we are to remain complacent in this traditional political, cultural security.
Our conservative friends who read this might be quick to dismiss this language as hyperbolic, assume that we have already fallen into this destructive partisanship, so soon willing to already cast a negative shadow on the President's legacy so that we many henceforth politically profit. The reality is, as many of us here know, that these insecurities are so unfortunately too real.
We are here not because we are Democrats or other left-minded individuals. We are here because we understand the vast insecurities among all different communities, within our campus included, as to how these experimental next few years will go. We are here for the voices that may as of these past few weeks feel the need to be more silent. We are here for the Muslim-American insecure that so many have been willing to falsely understand his or her religion. We are here for the Latino-American nervous for all those who will seek to challenge the veracity of their 'Americanhood.' We are here for the insecure LGBT community, uncertain if a Republican House of Representatives, Senate, potential Supreme Court, and unquestionably homophobic Vice-President will roll-back the progress of the last eight-years, and seek to return to a day where homosexuality and transsexuality could not be accepted in the mainstream. We are here for the international students, the undocumented students, those who now fear the same veracity of their 'Americanhood.' We are here because we understand that America was never a nation founded upon one people, one demographic. America was founded upon millennia of indigenous peoples, later accompanied by Northern Europeans, Mediterraneans, Latin-Americans, South-Asians and East-Asians, each arriving as part of a different generation of immigration, but all with the same goal, to achieve the American Dream. We are here because we understand, an 'American' is no one type of person, an 'American' is arguably not even someone who was actually born here. An 'American,' in its truest, most historically accurate, culturally precise definition, is merely one who is determined to travel here from whatever part of the world, and dedicate their lives to the hard work for the benefit themselves and their families. This is America. And we are doomed if we ever forget this.
We invite all of you, on campus, in the larger student community, adults, liberals, moderates, even conservatives, to come take part in our forum, voice your optimisms, your pessimisms, your concerns, and your hopes. The cynical, Fox News-conservative reading this might be fast to want to term this a 'safe space.' This is not some fictional, imaginative society that seeks to cater and shield those from different opinions, yet this is most certainly an outlet for a much-needed security, where we will be free to share a variety of different viewpoints, offer our progressive-minded solutions, and be willing to discuss opposing viewpoints so that we might hopefully reach a desperately needed common-ground.
We are here. This website. Social Media. Our weekly meetings. We are digital and physical, a cyberspace but also a physical space, and we will certainly assert- we are not going anywhere.
There is a certain truth that transcends any political circumstance: regardless of who is President, who controls Congress, who controls the Supreme Court, we, as people, as Americans, will always be stronger when we are together.
We invite you to find us, join, even just discuss with us, take part in our mission, to navigate these next few years, united together.
Penn State College Democrats.
Questo post è una prova a chiamare qualunque comunità italiana vi sia qui a Penn State.
Vi invitiamo a prendere parte a una causa che è forse diversa da tante altre. Lo sappiamo tutti noi: I prossimi anni in questo paese saranno piuttosto diversi. Anche se con due milioni di voti in rispetto al contendente, il collegio elettorale ci ha lasciato un vincitore che probabilmente sembra un Berlusconi americano. Gli Italiani hanno già fatto esperienza di un leader proveniente dal settore privato, e proprio da grandi aziende e potere nei mass media. Così potremmo consolarci con il pensiero che un evento simile si è già verificato. Speriamo.
La triste verità è che non sappiamo cosa accadrà. Il President-elect è salito a questa posizione con una strategia basata su propositi estremamente radicali di cui ha cambiato versione tantissime volte. Non abbiamo mai assistito ad una simile elezione alla presidenza americana. Trump è stato eletto promettendo di costruire un muro tra Stati Uniti e Messico, eliminare circa undici milioni di clandestini, negare l’accesso ai membri di un’intera religione, e infine incarcerare l’avversario. Comunque, tutto ciò è ormai accaduto e dobbiamo prendere atto che vivremo almeno quattro anni in un grande esperimento politico.
Una volta si poteva credere che nonostante il risultato degli elezioni presidenziali ed il partito al potere, gli Stati Uniti avrebbero continuato ad essere come prima. Non si sa se abbiamo ancora questo privilegio: di assumere che tutto sarà come era. Troviamo piuttosto ingenua l'idea che questo presidente statunitense farà il suo corso come tutti gli altri. Forse sarà così. Comunque, noi Democratici di Penn State, siamo convinti che non possiamo prenderci la libertà di darla per scontata, né di restare compiacenti.
Se vogliamo veramente un futuro in cui la grande promessa americana verrà mantenuta, dove continuiamo ad essere la destinazione per persone da tutto il mondo, dove tutti possano venire a costruire le proprie vite indipendentemente da razza, etnicità e religione, noi dobbiamo essere tra coloro che con più forza asseriscano le proprie voci. Dobbiamo essere tra coloro che davvero proteggano la costituzione e tutte le libertà che offre. Dobbiamo essere tra coloro che rifiutino di venire a patti con un Presidente che pone seri rischi per nostro impegno per una democrazia dove siamo uniti non in virtù di razza, etnicità, o religione, ma proprio per il nostro zelo nel raggiungere il Sogno Americano.
Fintantoché la nostra voce verrà ascoltata, non dimenticheremo mai la nostra missione come americani: libertà e giustizia per tutti.
Ricordate: non importa chi sia il President, saremo sempre più forti insieme.
SHAOKANG "SOUNDER" YUAN
Donald J. Trump’s sweeping victory across huge swaths (not swatches) of the country in November echoed a similar electoral spread during his Republican primary victories earlier in 2016. Entire sections of the country went red against everyone’s expectations, including probably Trump’s himself. Perhaps most startling of all was his crushing victory in EVERY toss-up state during the general election. He reaped huge electoral rewards in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan, states that Hillary had practically taken for granted and that seemed like sure Democratic wins just hours before vote counting began.
Of course, it also didn’t help that Hillary assumed victory in these states and barely campaigned in them. She visited my home city of Pittsburgh multiple times but never even touched much of the rest of Pennsylvania. The results of this showed very clearly after the polls closed on election night. The whole state of Pennsylvania went red aside from a few districts: the blue dots of Allegheny and Centre counties (representing Pittsburgh and State College, respectively) and the counties encompassing and surrounding Philadelphia. Everywhere else was solid red. During the Republican primaries, EVERY county in Pennsylvania went for Trump.
Driving back from State College to Pittsburgh and back again, the roads were densely populated with Trump signs, even weeks after the election. There were small ones by the side of the road and on everyone’s lawns. There were huge ones on billboards that said things like “Vote America! Vote Trump!” There was a large sign planted in the grass that said “Trump digs coal.” There were Trump stickers all over people’s cars. There was an absolutely massive Trump-Pence sign on a lawn just a short drive away from my house, less than five minutes away. Most startling of all was the massive glowing billboard displaying Trump’s giant grinning face and stating “Trump wins!” that lit up the night on my way home from State College.
I did not see a single Hillary Clinton sign after the election. I saw some small roadside signs campaigning for Katie McGinty and a small car sticker declaring its owner a lifelong Democrat, but that was it as far as Democratic influence could be clearly seen in Pennsylvania three weeks after the election. Perhaps most telling of all was the fact that most of the Trump signs that I saw were Trump-Pence signs and not just Trump 2016 signs. These weren’t remnants from the Republican primary; they were excited Trump voters ready to usher in a new era on November 8th. Apparently, the Trump signs were even more populous before the election, according to my dad, with huge stretches of lawns simply filled with Trump signs and the fire department station that my dad voted at also swamped in Trump signs. You would’ve thought that it was the Republican primaries and not the general election.
Undoubtedly a huge contributor to Trump’s success, particularly in toss-up states, was the slow and painful decline and death of the American Rust Belt. Families whom spent generations making an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work in factories and production plants now suddenly saw their jobs dry up. Manufacturing jobs were fleeing the country in droves, heading overseas for cheaper labor or falling prey to the unstoppable train of automation. Companies that used to invest and operate heavily in the countryside were now all moving out and settling down in the cities. The once bustling American countryside was now a sad and desolate reminder of its former self, a dying testament to the once thriving industrial heartland of America.
Of course, it is not surprising when people whom have seen their lives and livelihoods shrivel up and die right before their eyes decide to elect a man whose promises to bring back their jobs. Even though Trump was light on details (if he bothered to mention any at all), regarding his plans to restore the American industrial heartland, there was not much choice for Rust Belt refugees. Many were now too old to return to school and get a degree or get retrained. The lives they used to know had simply vanished and showed no sign of return. An honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay was now a relic of an ancient time. There were massive surges in drug use, alcoholism, suicides, and death overall for America’s white working class. Desperation for a return to normalcy meant a surefire victory for Trump.
With Crooked Hillary, the she-wolf of Wall Street, avoiding them like the plague and calling them deplorable and racist, Trump would’ve seemed like a no-brainer for the white working class. They weren’t stupid though. They knew that Trump probably could not do that much to restore their lives, but he offered hope at least, which made him a better choice than Hillary. Outsourcing and automation are huge commercial forces driving the global economy, and Trump supporters knew this. Perhaps many even know the sad truth that circumvents everything else: the jobs are never coming back.
When Trump talked to Carrier and got them to keep some jobs from moving down south to Mexico, it seemed like the President-elect had surprisingly kept his word and was indeed working to keep the jobs here in America. This was a façade though. Carrier merely diverted their resources toward looking into automation instead. Automation is the long term killer of most human livelihoods, and there is no stopping it unless we wish to destroy ourselves and reboot society from scratch. There is no reason not to pursue technological advancement when in the long run, it produces overall gains and capital far beyond anything we can imagine.
Earlier this year, a female Muslim factory worker in Canada got her hijab caught in the machinery and suffered a terrible death via machine. Given the dangers of factory work, many of us are perfectly fine with machines building our cars nowadays, even if it means fewer jobs for the less skilled. When the people who built the electronic device that you are reading this on are busy mulling over jumping out the window despite the suicide nets outside, automation sounds like such a blessing for the poor in China and elsewhere. When a clothing production plant collapses and kills over 1,000 in Bangladesh, many of them children, the rise of the machines sounds like good news.
Technology will not stop at taking over these jobs though. Currently, the most common job in America is truck-driving. Imagine what it will be like once a machine is undoubtedly a safer option for driving a vehicle compared to a bipedal ape. One day, putting a human behind the wheel will sound as dangerously stupid to us as putting a chimpanzee behind the wheel sounds nowadays. There will be no viable reason not to automate driving jobs one day, regardless of how many drivers protest. It will seem unconscionable to put fallible primates in the driver seat rather than near perfectly attuned machines. Remember, machines don’t need to get it right 100 percent of the time; they just need to be better and safer than humans in every way to take a job. Plus the economic incentives are overwhelming: why bother paying humans whom have families to support and insurances and bills to pay when a machine will do it for free?
We still have some time to go before all the driving jobs go out the window, but we can already see the rise of self-driving cars in our world today. Technology will go even further though. Why risk hospital patients with a human doctor, whom might cause death unintentionally, when you can use a machine that will get things right 100 percent of the time? Why pay a human programmer to fill your code with bugs when a machine will never make a mistake when programming? In the end, we are mere mortal apes from the plains of Africa, forever set in our ways unless we alter our DNA. The machines have a whole universe of potential enhancement available to them though. One day they may even exceed our capabilities in every single facet imaginable. As Dolores from “Westworld” states so perfectly well:
“They say that great beasts once roamed this world. As big as mountains. Yet all that's left of them is bone and amber. Time undoes even the mightiest of creatures. Just look at what it's done to you. One day you will perish. You will lie with the rest of your kind in the dirt. Your dreams forgotten, your horrors effaced. Your bones will turn to sand. And upon that sand a new god will walk. One that will never die. Because this world doesn't belong to you or the people who came before. It belongs to someone who has yet to come.”
Don’t think that we will never reach the point of superhuman machines? Why would we not? Our brains are mere matter and energy, atoms and subatomic particles operating at extraordinarily low entropy levels. Why would we not be able to replicate this one day using atoms just like the ones in our heads? When that day comes, the only human occupations that will be safe will be those that have always been unreliable: acting, singing, writing, etc. Robots can never have a monopoly on creativity, only a large share of it. For everyone else, job security is simply not guaranteed. I reiterate one last time: The jobs are never coming back.
RICARDO LUIS ROJAS ESTRADA
From Fox to MSNBC, the pundits essentially declared this election to be the reawakening of the White working class voter. Our losses in the Rust Belt are directly attributable to our lack of engagement as a party with the needs of people left behind by our rapidly shifting economy. Further evidence of the Democratic Party’s abandonment of local politics is the solid Republican control of governor’s mansions and state legislatures where 31 states have Republican governors and 25 states have full Republican control of the state government. President Obama acknowledged in an NPR interview which aired on December 19th, 2016, “I do think that we have a bias towards national issues and international issues, and as a consequence I think we've ceded too much territory.”
We need to rebuild our strength at the state and local level if we want to have any shot at accomplishing our policy objectives or regaining control of the federal government. We need to advocate for a policy that is hyper-local and will engage voters in politics outside of big presidential years, but which can be led and coordinated at a national level. We need to advocate for a policy which is immensely impactful, one which people will care about and feel its effects in their daily lives. We need to advocate for a policy which appeals as much to the White working class we need to win back as energizes our urban and minority base. I firmly believe that issue is education.
Our education system is Balkanized not only into 50 states but into thousands of school districts which dictate policy on everything from curriculum to funding. The federal government is very limited in its ability to dictate specific education policy, and has to exercise power through a carrot-or-stick approach to state education allocations. The passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in 2015 undid a lot of the federal requirements set forth by the No Child Left Behind Act which gives a lot of power back to the states and punctuates just how limited Washington is in setting education policy. Because of the fractious nature of the system, this is the perfect issue to tackle if we want to start reclaiming rhetorical, and by extension political, ground at that local level. I envision the national party’s role in this as being rhetorical captain of the ship, providing the policy guidance and financial support for a nationwide effort. This would involve some national level policymaking, but the focus needs to be on dominating this issue outside of Washington. Unfortunately there will not be a satisfying press conference at the end of a tough, hard-fought victory in Congress on a massive education bill. What there will be is a push for education as a central platform plank in state legislature and governor races. There will also need to be funding and support to school board candidates across the country, especially in the places where the party is weakest.
Education is something people think matters by default. Young people still have a fresh memory of having been in school; parents and grandparents want the best for their kids. Advocating for a better education for their children is a way to win over hearts and minds, a way to remind people that the Democratic Party is their party. Yet while each state’s or district’s needs may be different, improving the education system is a priority for the urban or minority voter as much as the rural/suburban voter. Everyone knows that we need to compete in an increasingly technological and rapidly evolving economy and that a good education is the foundation for increasing our competitiveness. Everyone wants us to have the best and brightest workforce in the world. The bottom line: everyone goes to school and everyone wants the best for our country’s children.
In general we have been letting our country’s children down.
While a lot of attention was paid to the cost of college during the campaign, our K-12 system is in an appalling state of neglect. Our university system may be the best in the world, but addressing the needs of students when they are nearing the end of their education is too-little-too-late regardless of the cost. Even then, we do not prepare our students for higher education adequately; in 2013 only 25% of students were ready for college in math and 38% in reading and it is getting worse. We also lag behind other industrialized nations in terms of educational achievement; our students rank 35th in math and 27th in science. If we want to compete in a technologically advanced global economy we need to lead the world in educational achievement and make sure our kids are ready for its rigors.
So what is causing us to slip so far behind? Here are the 3 big problems I see with how we educate our kids today:
We do not prepare our students with the life skills they need in a 21st century society, neither to navigate the 21st century economy nor to be informed citizens. I already mentioned that we are failing in educating our kids on the information they need to learn in class. However, we also let them go into the world unprepared to participate in the economic and political systems which form the basis of society. For example, in 2012 17.8% of students did not have a baseline level in financial literacy. Even more depressing, just this year, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found only 26% of people can name all three branches of government and that number has declined 12% since 2011. If we want to grow individual prosperity, close the wealth gap, and ensure a healthy democracy then we need a workforce which can make sound financial decisions for themselves as much as we need an informed citizenry to make educated decisions on who they elect to represent them.
We do not give our students the best resources with which to learn. We know that the environment in which children are educated has a significant impact in their ability to absorb and retain information. Yet across our country, kids go to school in dilapidated buildings, or even trailers, with no air conditioning or heating, which often have poor lighting and air quality. No one would be surprised to know that these conditions are the worst where the poorest in our country live. Further, while we live in a digital world and operate in a digital economy we do not give students and educators the ability to access and adequately use online educational materials. Only 25% of urban educators and 33% of rural educators believe their students have good access to adequate bandwidth. In an increasingly interconnected and technologically advancing economy, we cannot afford to hamper the educational opportunities of our students and the tools of our educators.
We do not pay teachers enough. Our incredibly antiquated system of teacher compensation is hampering our education system’s ability to draw and retain talent in the teaching pool even though 98% of educators believe that teaching is more than just a profession and 88% of them became teachers to improve the lives of children. In the old days, the promise of health benefits, a half-decent salary, tenure, and a pension was enough. Today, however, it just does not make financial sense to be a teacher. The average teacher earns anywhere between about $44000 to $49000 depending on the grade level and needs of the students they teach. Worse, the average starting salary is a measly $30,377. We pay teachers this type of salary even though they spend 50 hours a week on instructional duties and 12 hours a week on school related activities (grading, clubs, etc) on average, according to the NEA. Consider that the average American college graduate has $30,100 in student debt and the average cost of living for a single person with no children is $28,458 and being a teacher looks like a vow of poverty. Just because teachers love their job and are doing it because they feel called to serve humanity by improving the lives of children does not mean we treat them like priests. Teachers are highly skilled, highly educated individuals which perform a necessary and vital service to society, if they are that important to our society we should compensate them as such. Consider the fact that 50% of people that enter the teaching profession leave after 5 years and that 37% of people who do not plan to continue teaching until retirement do so citing low pay as the main reason and it would appear that teachers also agree. Uncompetitive compensation is also very likely the reason behind why enrollment in collegiate teaching programs is at an all-time low.
So to fix these issues I think we need to address the problem in three ways:
First, overhaul curriculums to reflect what we know about how kids learn and what our country needs.
Because the ESSA takes pressure off of states to force their schools to produce results in high pressure exams we need to start undoing a curriculum which is geared to get kids to pass a test. We need a curriculum which from its earliest stages to its conclusions develops well-rounded human beings; happy and healthy people make for productive and competitive workers.
Bring back arts and music programs and start teaching our kids second languages early in their education not just in high school. Studies show that children who are more engaged in artistic pursuits and language learning at an early age have more highly developed brains than their peers that do not. In terms of US workers in a global market, being able to not only better meet intellectual challenges but adequately communicate with people around the world makes our workforce more competitive. Additionally, these sorts of programs would led to happier and healthier children since participation in the arts is shown to improve emotional and physical health. Speaking of physical health, in a country where 12.7 million children are obese, we need to bring back recess and improve physical education since physical activity has shown to have a myriad of positive cognitive and behavioral affects.
For high-schoolers we need to institute financial literacy and civics classes as a requirement for graduation. It makes no sense to expect our young adults to face the potential of tens of thousands in college debt without adequately understanding the financial system with which they are interacting. Such a program would also make our economy better because in the states where financial literacy education was taken most seriously credit scores increased. It also makes less sense to throw them into a sociopolitical system they know next to nothing about and expect them to make a properly informed vote. It is incredibly easy to believe fake news when you have no historical context or even the basic political context to understand what is fake and what is not. I envision a civics course which teaches the history of the American government and really goes in depth on how it functions, not just the 3 branches of government but how they interact with each other and how those relationships exist presently. I also envision such a class teaching students how to verify the veracity and check the sources of news articles and how to critically evaluate news information. The Information Era is going to demand that the individual be able to process large quantities of information and be able to pick what is good and what is not. If we do not empower the individual with the skills to do so, someone else will make that choice for them and take advantage of their lack of information, or worse give them the wrong information.
Second, rebuild our school infrastructure and give teachers and students the tools they need to succeed.
Here is where you can have your satisfying bill signing at the White House with all of the pens being handed out and members of Congress standing behind the President. A federal school infrastructure bill should be passed which would allocate money to the states to improve facilities, improve broadband connectivity, and get teachers and students better books and computers. Of course, states would not have free reign to use that money as they please. We should not have federal taxpayer money going to building multimillion dollar high school football stadiums. What we would be looking for states to do is to use the available evidence and research (provided above) which shows that by creating a pleasant and pleasing classroom environment students learn and retain information better.
While President Obama in March 2016 already committed to improving broadband access through the ConnectALL Initiative many schools still are not connected and as of 2013 almost half of all schools do not have a full-time technology coordinator. Since this is also an executive action on the part of the President, if you believe President-elect Trump, he is going to repeal that initiative on January 20. We need to enshrine that initiative into law and add provisions to that law so that we commit to improving broadband access in all our schools. Such a bill should also include funding for new and updated textbooks. States and districts should also be empowered to use that money to explore the idea of getting rid of textbooks entirely since teachers seem to prefer a move to other non-traditional methods of delivery of material over using traditional textbooks.
Third, change how we compensate teachers moving forward.
This will probably be the most controversial push since the teachers unions tend to be resistant to changes in their compensation system. Yet, teachers’ unions tend to support the Democratic Party, so we are the party that is positioned to best act in the fairest way possible to make substantive changes to the compensation system. Nonetheless, I am suggesting neither merit pay for teacher performance nor so-called ‘combat pay’ for teachers who work in low-income, high-stress districts. I am proposing an increase in the base salary of all teachers. The problem is not that we need to pay good teachers more and bad teachers less nor that we do not pay teachers in high-stress positions enough. Those are distractions from the main problem: the fact that we simply do not pay teachers enough period. Neither merit nor combat pay is going to solve the problem of low average starting salary, nor make teaching a financially sensible career choice, nor incentivize the best and brightest individuals to become teachers. Raising the base salary to a competitive level is the solution. What competitive level is depends on the individual states, but this is where the teachers unions come in to help, they are going to be the ones which are going to help us figure out that competitive salary is.
However if we are going to raise salaries we need to rethink the benefits packages that we give teachers, particularly pensions. Now before any heads start rolling, states need to meet the existing obligations that they have made to present and former teachers. However, moving forward we need to work with the teachers unions to figure out an alternative set of pension packages in exchange for higher salaries. Many states are having problems meeting their pension obligations. Even worse, in many states, teachers need to meet 10 year work requirements in order to keep even a fraction of the money that they put into the pension system if they decide to leave it early. Remember how half of all teachers leave the profession five years after starting? Most people never see these benefits, and clearly a pension is not what is going to attract people to teach. I do not know exactly what type of system would be best, maybe a 401(k) matching plan like many private and even public sector employers offer would work or maybe tweaking the current pension system to be fairer towards younger teachers. Again, here is where the individual state’s teachers unions would come in to help us figure out what type of plan would work for that state. Therein lies the great advantage that the Democratic Party has in being able to solve this problem: we have good relationships with the teachers unions. Therefore, we can negotiate with them in a spirit of mutual interest and produce better results than we would by trying to go around them à la GOP.
While this is a meaty plan and it may not have a lot of specific policy prescriptions due to the patchwork nature of our education system, if we want to start regaining ground in the lower levels of government we need to start somewhere. Education is an issue which is important to everyone and lays the foundation for our country’s future success. I understand that these are only some of the issues our education system faces, and that there are people and policymakers already fighting for these issues. These issues are the ones I think are the most important and simultaneously the easiest to fix. Essentially, they are low-hanging fruit. These are areas in which we can make big impacts and big strides while sacrificing relatively little political capital since most people would agree that the three points I brought up are glaring problems in our education system everywhere.
The bottom line is that we need to do something. We need to be a governing party even if we are the opposition party, we need to stand in contrast to the obstructionism of the Republican Party and their penchant for dismantling popular programs and advocate for the American people’s best interest. We need to rebuild the bridges we have burnt over the years with demographic groups in all 50 states not by paying them lip-service but actually do something that helps them.
We cannot just sit on our hands for the next 4 years telling the American people why what Trump and the Republicans are doing is wrong, that is no better than trying to repeal the Affordable Act 63 times over 6 years and having no plan to replace it. Doing so will not win us any elected seats anywhere at any level. We cannot just play defense for the next 4 years and hope that Trump shoots himself the foot. The best defense is a good offense, and with this plan I think we would be running a play that would be a huge triumph for the American people.
Bergland, Christopher. 8 Ways Exercise Can Help Your Child Do Better in School. October 2, 2014. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201410/8-ways-exercise-can-help-your-child-do-better-in-school.
Boser, Ulrich, and Chelsea Straus. Why Too Many Schools Live in an Analog World—and What We Can Do About It. February 10, 2014. 2014.
Boyd, Stacey. Extracurriculars Are Central to Learning. April 28, 2014. http://www.usnews.com/opinion/articles/2014/04/28/music-art-and-language-programs-in-schools-have-long-lasting-benefits.
Camera, Lauren. High School Seniors Aren't College-Ready. April 27, 2016. http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2016-04-27/high-school-seniors-arent-college-ready-naep-data-show.
Cheryan, Sapna, Sianna A Ziegler, Victoria C Plaut, and Andrew N Meltzoff. Designing Classrooms to Maximize Student Achievement. Octover 1, 2014. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2372732214548677.
Desilver, Drew. U.S. students improving – slowly – in math and science, but still lagging internationally. February 2, 2015. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/02/02/u-s-students-improving-slowly-in-math-and-science-but-still-lagging-internationally/.
Graphiq. Career Trends: Cost of Living. n.d. http://cost-of-living.careertrends.com/l/615/The-United-States.
Klein, Alyson. The Every Child Succeeds Act: An ESSA Overview. March 31, 2016. https://www.edweek.org/ew/issues/every-student-succeeds-act/.
National Education Association. Myths and Facts about Educator Pay. n.d. http://www.nea.org/home/12661.htm.
OECD. Table VI.A Snapshot of Performance in Finanical Literacy. 2014. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/02/02/u-s-students-improving-slowly-in-math-and-science-but-still-lagging-internationally/.
PayScale. Average Salary for All K-12 Teachers. January 2017, 2017. http://www.payscale.com/research/US/All_K-12_Teachers/Salary.
Scholastic. Primary Sources 3rd Edition: National Data - Teachers on Teaching. 2014. http://www.scholastic.com/primarysources/teachers-on-teaching.htm.
Schwartz, Shelly. US schools get failing grade for financial literacy education. January 2016, 2016. http://www.cnbc.com/2016/01/28/us-schools-get-failing-grade-for-financial-literacy-education.html.
Stuckey, Heather L, and Jeremy Nobel. "The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health: A Review of Current Literature." American Journal of Public Health, February 2010: 254-263.
Sullivan, Maureen. Gold-Plated Public-School Pension Plans? Most Teachers Never See The Cash. January 29, 2015. http://www.forbes.com/sites/maureensullivan/2015/01/29/gold-plated-public-school-pension-plans-most-teachers-never-see-the-cash/#6215a2d01060.
The Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. Americans' knowledge of the branches of government is declining. September 13, 2013. http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/americans-knowledge-of-the-branches-of-government-is-declining-300325968.html.
The Institute for College Access and Success. Project on Student Debt. 2015. http://ticas.org/posd/map-state-data.
Wall Street Journal. Does Your State Have A Pension Problem? 2015. http://graphics.wsj.com/table/Connecticut_102015.
Westervelt, Eric. Where Have All The Teachers Gone? March 3, 2015. http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2015/03/03/389282733/where-have-all-the-teachers-gone.
White House Office of the Press Secretary. FACT SHEET: President Obama Announces ConnectALL Initiative. March 9, 2016. https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/03/09/fact-sheet-president-obama-announces-connectall-initiative.
Whitten, Sarah. Texas high school to build $62.8 million football stadium. May 10, 2016. http://www.cnbc.com/2016/05/10/texas-high-school-to-build-628-million-football-stadium.html.
Willen, Liz. High School Hustle: Overloaded backpacks and outdated textbooks; a better way? March 8, 2010. http://insideschools.org/blog/item/1773-high-school-hustle-high-school-hustle-overloaded-backpacks-and-outdated-textbooks-a-better-way.
MARCO A. CIAPPETTA
Climate change and Islamophobia: the new era of controversy and contempt, catastrophe and prejudice... all avoidable, but inevitable if we do not resist. With Trump as the leader of the free world, dark clouds fill the skies, and uncertainty lay before us. With some intuition and intellect, it doesn't take long to realize what's happening. Climate change suddenly became a debate pitted between powerless rationality and powerful irrationality, while American Muslims and Muslims worldwide are gradually facing the immense challenge to fight against prejudice, discrimination, alienation, and deportation as nationalistic, anti-immigration movements perverse the international world. We crawl ever closer to an epitome of insane destruction and horror that reminds some of the past. This time is different, as the United States, the declining hegemony in world politics, is the most powerful nation on earth, and will be led by the most unqualified candidate ever to obtain the presidency. Notable cognitive linguist and political activist Noam Chomsky believes Trump is “almost a death knell for the species,” and he believes current times are reflective of the processes that led to the events in WWII (5). But why so serious? Well, it's simple. We need to be consciously aware of the blatant rhetoric running around the newest administration, which carries the baggage of literal incompetence. This rhetoric spewing out of incompetence is only the beginning as we witness the emergence of Trumpism.
It has been established by nearly 97% of climate scientists that climate change is not a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese (1). In fact, it's real. And it's only going to get worse if nothing is done to prevent the rising temperatures and the melting ice. Given President-Elect Donald Trump's distorted worldview and sociopathic tendencies, we are clearly in for a bumpy ride. Around half of Trump’s cabinet appointments attest to his view on climate change and the direction his administration implies to take, with the likes of Scott Pruitt, Mike Pompeo, Rick Perry, Ryan Zinke, Nikki Haley, Jeff Sessions, James “Mad Dog” Mattis, Tom Price, and Ben Carson all denying climate change in some form or capacity (4). Humans never came across a problem like climate change before as it threatens the existence of many if not all species (nuclear weapons count, too, I guess), and it will take drastic measures to curb carbon emissions; after all, there’s only one earth. However, it doesn't seem to matter how factually-based, scientifically proven climate change is, nor do its consequences seem to matter, because as always, greed prevails in the industrialized world and pseudo-science leeches itself into the paradigms of world politics. Now I don't mean to scare you, because in the end, the people are the most powerful, and together, we can win. But it bears significance to paint the trouble ahead if we simply sit at our desks and complain on our comfy cozy social media sites. Sure, I’ll be the first to admit it.
As the most recent claims from our incumbent administration that climate change is simply not a big deal, we are once again under pointless and irrational controversy that could leave the world in 100 years thinking how idiotic our people must have been. Interesting, because 100 years ago, I wonder what made people so racist, "How stupid were these people to not realize that race is socially constructed, and prejudice is primordial and unintellectual at best?” I am not saying racism doesn’t exist today. But as the saying goes, history repeats itself.
As climate change bears a new fruit of controversy, Muslim Americans and Muslims around the world are beginning to feel the wrath of Islamophobia on a whole new level. According to a New York Times article, “since the election, hate crime monitors… have reported a rash of verbal or physical abuse targeting minorities and others at schools, mosques and elsewhere” (2). In addition, Mr. Trump fuels islamophobia, as he “... proposed a temporary ban on all Muslim immigration,” once said that “Islam hates us,” and has even proposed a Muslim registry (3). Dangerous and provocative behavior like this by our next President could be a grave mistake. I personally fear the future for our Muslim friends here and abroad; we must not let Mr. Trump or anyone else hate any longer.
Furthermore, we must not make the mistake by elevating terrorist offshoots like ISIL as existential threats to our nation and nations abroad. Terrorism is no doubt a pestering and violent threat that must be contained, but we cannot blind ourselves to the true facets of the peaceful religion of Islam that does not bear the twisted ideology that terrorists succumb themselves to and advocate for. Islamophobia will only ensure ISIL’s influence and growth. Nevertheless, our next president will not simply stop his bigotry, and we must gather the troops and resist, peacefully.
Penn State College