No other way. Biden needs the Left to stop Trump.

Just less than a month ago, on March 17, two things were starting to get clear in the United States. The first of them was the sudden realization of the Trump administration regarding the coronavirus outbreak and its seriousness. By March 17, all 50 states had been hit with more than 100 dead and 6000 infected nationwide, as the BBC reported. Yet, it took all of this to happen for the leader of the nation to shift his rhetoric from “totally under control” to “I’ve felt that it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic”. As of today, according to the Worldometer that tracks all the coronavirus cases worldwide, the situation in the United States looks grim and terrifying. More than 300,000 cases have been confirmed, with the US becoming the world’s most affected country, heavily surpassing both Spain and Italy. And, as if that was not enough, the President warned everyone that the upcoming weeks are going to be the “toughest”, and that the worst is yet to come. biden srticle 1

Graph source: Worldometer, last updated: April 05, 2020, 10:48 GMT

All of this, undeniably, leads to a simple conclusion. The United States, and the world, is in a desperate need for steady and strong leadership. And interestingly enough, this has to do with the second event that occurred on that same March 17 Tuesday last month. It was then when it was reported that Joe Biden, who definitely had a poor start in the Democratic primary battle, will win all of the three major states(Florida, Illinois, Arizona) that were at stake that night. What is more, it turned out to be a comfortable, even “easy”, according to The New York Times, victory for the former Vice President. After that night, the math was showing that that Biden had managed to secure a total of 1,217 delegates against 914 for his major opponent Senator Bernie Sanders. And while it was, and still is true, that a majority of 1,991 pledged delegates must be won in order to secure the Democratic presidential nomination, the numbers are a good indicator to illustrate that Bernie Sanders, who unquestionably embodies the Left in America, will most probably not succeed in his march to the White House.

Source: Associated Press, last updated: 3 April 2020, 00:51:26

biden article 2

More disappointing, however, will surely be the prospect that the Left idea might not succeed. Just as it was the case in 2016, the Democratic establishment turned out to be an extremely formidable enemy. This time it showed it when practically all of the centrist, moderate candidates united behind the Biden candidacy in order to turn an election that, otherwise, they would have probably lost against the Sanders base if not united behind one candidate. Endorsement after endorsement helped Joe Biden get a desperately needed boost, especially after an abysmal showing in the first caucuses and primaries. Furthermore, openly promising to pick a woman for the VP spot and securing endorsements from people like Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a perceived Sanders ally, only solidified Biden’s lead. Not to mention the fact that Elizabeth Warren, another person who the logic dictated would endorse the most progressive candidate, Sanders, apparent refusal to do so, felt not only like a shocker, but more like a betrayal to the progressive base. All of this, combined with the increasing media pressure for Sanders to end his presidential campaign, has led the Senator’s team to “assess” his campaign and the potential path forward.

Of course, it is impossible not to spot the little irony behind this situation. Especially now, that the Sanders campaign is all focused on fighting and leading the charge against the coronavirus. And now that, as it was brilliantly put by New Yorker writer Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, it is the reality that has endorsed Sanders. In other words, saying that the Senator’s main policy proposals, such as Medicare for All, are more than critically needed in the current unprecedented crisis the US, and the whole world, is facing. And even though ideas like Medicare for All and tightening the enormous wealth inequality gap that currently exists in the US, seem more than reasonable, and despite Sanders still having mathematical chances of winning the nomination, the opposition he is facing will only get even more vicious from now on.

Here, however, arises the biggest problems for the Democratic establishment. Even if it finally manages to somehow stop Sanders, it will still, again ironically, need the full support of his base in order to accomplish its main objective – beating Trump in November. And it will not be unreasonable to express that the Sanders’ base has little to do with the Biden base when it comes to policy, main causes, and overall ideology and understanding of how politics should be done. Biden might represent the status quo, and the way that the Democratic Party currently operates and wants to operate, but it is Sanders who represents the future. And this future about much more than a single ideolog or a single election. It is a future In which everybody should have the same rights to healthcare, a living wage, affordable housing, and decent life. A future in which billions would be spent on education, healthcare and progress, and not on foreign policy blunders. A future in which politicians would represent and fight for the ordinary people, not for the corporations, the banks, and the ultrawealthy.

And although this is yet to happen in the future, Biden will surely need to compromise with himself now and implement some of Bernie Sanders’ policy ideas and vision. There is no other way Biden can deserve the support of the Left that he really needs to take on Trump. It is not too farfetched to think that Democrats do not want to repeat the 2016 mistakes. Then, rhetoric of the ‘unity’, ‘vote blue no matter what’ type, would not suffice. Not in today’s world of politics. Actions would have to be taken, and Biden would definitely have to do something in order to appeal to the Sanders voters. Otherwise, it will be virtually impossible for him to take on Trump and win. After all, you cannot win if you do not energize such large chunks of the electorate like the young people, the outsider voters and the voters who are anti-establishment. All of whom are Sanders supporters.

Without a doubt, a glimpse at Biden’s record through the years shows that this is very unlikely to happen. The fact of the matter is, that Biden has never been a progressive champion and has not fought on most of the same fronts that Sanders has. And thus, it is understandable that people will be sceptical about such a future prospect. However, given the extreme situation in the world now, and the need for powerful leadership more than ever, compromises will have to be made if Biden wants to win. If not trough direct policy promises, at least, as the progressive political commentators Kyle Kulinski has noted, through offering the VP spot to someone like Senator Nina Turner, a main Sanders surrogate and an honest fighter for progressive change. Someone who will appeal to the Left and will pursue the main ideals of the field.

One thing is certain. A Biden win in November heavily involves the Left. In one way or another. Otherwise, Democrats should prepare for something worse than 2016 in 2020.

Written by Zafir Zafirov 

Bibliography:

  1. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-51939392
  2. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/17/trump-dissed-coronavirus-pandemic-worry-now-claims-he-warned-about-it.html
  3. https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/
  4. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/05/coronavirus-global-cases-pass-12m-as-trump-warns-us-of-worse-to-come
  5. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/17/us/politics/march-17-democratic-primary.html
  6. https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/16/biden-debate-female-veep-131610
  7. https://medium.com/@ronaldwdixon/elizabeth-warrens-betrayal-of-the-progressive-movement-5a0b6ebfed39
  8. https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/03/sanders-drop-out-primary-coronavirus.html
  9. https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/bernie-sanders-should-suspend-his-2020-presidential-campaign-help-biden-ncna1163481
  10. https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/03/its-time-bernie-sanders-end-his-campaign/608257/
  11. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/apr/05/bernie-sanders-campaign-assessing-coronavirus
  12. https://www.wsj.com/articles/bernie-sanders-focuses-on-coronavirus-as-he-reassesses-campaign-11584796882
  13. https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/reality-has-endorsed-bernie-sanders
  14. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bbK4RoEPSzY&feature=emb_title

Why Trump isn’t talking Turkey: His Largest Foreign Policy Blunder

While the world has quite justifiably been in a manic panic about the rapid spread and global shutdown which has been caused by the Covid-19 (aka coronavirus) epidemic, and Trump’s seemingly lack-luster response to the situation, many have overlooked one of the larger blunders in his presidency. The blank cheque he has essentially given Turkish President Erdogan when it comes to the Middle East.

Last year, as part of Trump’s plan to pull-out American service members and military officials, and reduce the American presence in the Middle East, he decided to withdraw troops that were stationed in key chokepoints in Northern Syria. This came with a massive upset, particularly from the Kurdish population who have been crucial allies in the fight against the Islamic State and other terrorist organizations who have been operating in that region for the last half decade. The vacuum that was created by this preemptive withdrawal meant that Turkish Forces had the opportunity to invade Northern Syria, which they ended up doing in the latter part of 2019, resulting in massive casualties on the Syrian and Kurdish fronts.

Trump responded to this development by sending the Turkish President a letter, promising economic sanctions and crashing the Turkish economy if he wasn’t willing to negotiate a ceasefire. This request, evidently, was ignored as Turkey has continued its operations in Northern Syria and has scaled up its military presence in the region. This has further added to the chaos and disorder which has long been a part of the region during the Syrian Civil War, and it has created a myriad of other issues for all parties involved. It forced the Kurdish forces in an uneasy alliance with the Syrian Arab Army and the Assad government to push back the Turkish invasion in October, devastating American relations with one of their most trusted allies in the region. It has bolstered Russia’s influence over the region, with Ankara effectively ignoring any deals proposed by Washington in favor of Moscow. And, most devastatingly of all, it has led to the deaths of thousands of people and displaced even more Syrians and Kurds. This has led to the continued strain of the refugee crisis in the Middle East and has forced tens of thousands of people to make their way to the Greek-Turkish border, further adding strain to relations with traditional NATO allies. Erdogan openly allowed a wave of refugees and migrants to move towards Greece, with the intent of putting pressure on NATO and the EU to get their support. Suffice to say, the situation is getting to be even more chaotic, with Turkey’s scaled-up involvement, and potentially causing conflicts on two-fronts.

And Trump has remained silent… why?

Well, being an election year, and being a year which has already been wrought with disasters for the current occupants of the White House (such as their original laissez-faire response to the Covid-19 outbreak), it would be a massive disadvantage to draw attention to one of the largest blunders that the Trump administration has made with their foreign policy.

 Trump has unfortunately boxed himself into a horrendous situation; he’s tried to reduce military presence overseas, at the cost of the stability and reassurance that American forces bring to unstable parts of the world. He has seemingly been far too trusting that other powers in the region, such as Erdogan’s Turkey, will not have any greater vested interest in getting involved with the conflict, and will somehow fall in line with the NATO mission, instead of acting within their own best political and economic interests. Not even the Democrats, apart from Tulsi Gabbard, have touched on the issue, creating the atmosphere that there is no sense of responsibility coming from Washington that they have contributed to this mess with a massive lack of foresight.

Unfortunately, the situation in Syria, like so many other things in 2020, is likely to get worse before it gets better. Trump’s lack of any words or action further cements that the conflict, and the resulting effect it has on ordinary people; both in the Middle East and across the globe, is not going to subside anytime soon.

Written by Ilija Dokmanovic

The Politics Behind the Coronavirus

With 319 confirmed cases in the UK at the time of writing, it is easy to forget that this is only 0.0005% of the population of the United Kingdom, but with the domination of headlines, depleting stocks and self-isolation on the rise comes a new set of challenges for the still relatively fledgling UK government.

This is a pivotal time for the government to decide it’s course of action, up until now the response has been relatively measured compared to other European countries, with the NHS suggesting the washing of hands for forty seconds and not touching our faces. All while France bans gatherings of over 1,000 people and Ireland introduces a €3 billion aid package to combat the virus, despite only having 24 confirmed cases. But with panic rising here in the UK, should the government do more? And how will it affect the politics surrounding it?

The government’s chief medical advisor, Prof Chris Whitty, has said in a recent press conference “We are now very close to the time, probably within the next 10 to 14 days, when the modelling would imply we should move to a situation where everybody with even minor respiratory tract infections or a fever should be self-isolating for a period of seven days”. This will have major repercussions across the country and likely lead to the isolation of those unnecessarily. Economically, this will have major impacts, already we can see stocks across the world plummeting, this will only add fuel to the fire and could put a halt to basic services such as bin collection. Depending on the scale of economic impact and how much the government does to cushion the economic impact on everyday people we could see a disastrous performance for the conservatives at the upcoming local election. At current the May local elections are set to go ahead as planned, but with Prof Whitty admitting that the virus is likely to spread  “really quite fast”, it is unlikely that the turnout for the May local elections will be on par with the usual levels of turnout, raising the question of their democratic legitimacy.

While some worried of the financial implications of self-isolation, by the government announcement of statutory sick pay from day one from those self-isolating, this does not extend to those on zero hours contracts, all 883,000 people. They have been advised to claim universal credit, which takes a minimum of one calendar month since the date an application is submitted. For people living pay check to pay check this could have disastrous repercussions for them as they self-isolate without the funds to remain above the breadline, especially in light of the recent panic buying which has seen prices of basic house hold items such as toilet paper, skyrocket.

The coronavirus will have major implications on the global stock market with the FTSE100 expected to fall 6.3%. Stock markets in the US and Europe are expected to see their biggest falls since the 2008 financial crisis following huge loses in the Asian market in Monday. This could have effects on both domestic politics and international relations across the world. If we do see a global recession, as many fear we will, this could see a major turn in the US general election and create similar circumstances to the 2008 US general election which saw Obama’s ascension to the white house and the democrats winning the senate. Trump is currently riding the wave of a good economy, if this is to change, we could see a want in the US for change. So much so that it could sway the democratic primaries in Bernie Sanders’ favour if the US public see a need, such as an economic downturn, to move away from the status quo. The same could be seen in the UK in the May local elections. On an international level, production could be brought into the fray as states that would not usually be able to compete but are not as effected by corona virus are suddenly able to bode a challenge to states such as China, Russia and the US. For example, Saudi Arabia have made the decision to increase their crude oil production in an attempt to drive the US and Russia out of the market. We have also seen a major drop in production on china as workers remain in isolation. This has caused a major decrease in the region’s CO2 emissions amid the economic downturn.

One of the biggest side effects of the coronavirus has been the rise in racists attacks and abuse against people of Asian heritage in the UK and across the western world. While there is not yet a national number in relation to the coronavirus, there are at least six reports of attacks to Devon and Cornwall police, with other reports in London, Birmingham and across the UK. The UK Government has given little to no response on the rise in these attacks, whilst charity Tell MAMA, which records and measures anti-Muslim incidents in the United Kingdom, steps up to bring these cases to a national level alongside Asian student groups to campaign for support and stronger police presence to protect Asian communities in the UK.

Written by Josh Trood

Pete Buttigieg: A radical Democratic candidate?

Buttigieg is a white, male, moderate democrat. So, what makes him radical? Buttigieg is the first openly gay man and first millennial with a chance of entering the oval office.

For Buttigieg, a former mayor of South Bend Indiana, getting this far in the democratic race is admirable, but the prospect of him becoming the democratic nominee, let alone the president, was unthinkable.

Since the start of the democratic race, Buttigieg seems to be squeezing the other moderates in the competition such as Joe Biden and Amy Klobuchar. This has only become more apparent in the New Hampshire Primary polls since Buttigieg had his breakout win in Iowa. Seeing Buttigieg leapfrog both Biden and Warren to second place at 18%, although a far cry from Bernie Sander’s 26%, this makes him the first choice for many moderate democrats. Making the prospect of a Buttigieg nomination a much more plausible possibility.

In terms of his practices and demeanour, Buttigieg seems to embody the traditional democratic establishment, but his policies, even during the Obama era would seem unthinkable. Healthcare policy is a tell-tale way is evaluating how ‘radical’ a candidate is due to how polarising this issue is in US politics, with the RealClear Opinion Research Group finding that healthcare is the highest-ranked issue for US voters but also the most polarising. Thus, making it a potential heavy vote looser. Buttigieg’s plan ‘Medicare for All Who Want It’ allows for the continuation of private healthcare while providing a public alternative with comprehensive coverage, not unlike the healthcare system in the UK.  While this co-habitation of public and private healthcare may seem commonplace for us in the UK and Europe as a whole, the idea of a public and taxpayer-funded plan for anyone to use in the US would be a healthcare revolution. Something Obama, who was seen as a radical left-wing democrat in 2008, did not introduce.

josh articlThe fact that Buttigieg supports a universal healthcare system when the idea only holds a 50% support rate, sets him aside from other moderate democrats like Klobuchar and Biden, who have both kept their own idea of what a public healthcare plan would look like vague.

“What about Sander’s ‘Medicare for All’?” I hear you ask. It’s important to note that Sanders historically has not been a democrat. Serving as an independent from 1981 to 2016 both in his role as Mayor of Burlington, Vermont (ousting the Democrat incumbent) and as Senator of Vermont. So while Sanders is undoubtedly radical, he traditionally is not a democrat. This doubt from other Democrats came to a boiling point forcing him to sign a “loyalty pledge” to the democratic party and that he would serve as a democrat should he become president – we will not know for sure if this is the case unless he reaches the Oval Office.

This leaves Warren as the only Democrat with a more radical plan for healthcare than Buttigieg. Placing Buttigieg on the radical side of the democratic field on one of the most polarising issues of this election.

Looking past what can be a very thick veneer of left-wing echo chambers, especially those that would consider themselves the left of the democratic party, Buttigieg is radical, at least for the US and lines up with the likes of Sanders and Warren on a number of issues. A $15 an hour minimum wage, quadrupling the earned income tax credit for single adults, “affordable, universal full-day child care and pre-K for all children from infancy to age 5”, route to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, a cap on all student loan payments as a share of income, forgiven in full after 20 years as well as a universal healthcare plan. Furthermore, Buttigieg has thrown his weight in with some major structural reform ideas such as statehood for Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, banning gerrymandering, and putting an end to the electoral college and filibustering. This would be major changes to the way that US elections are held, and could have major impacts on future results, as both Bush Jr and Trump would not have won the presidency without the electoral college.

Buttigieg may not have the same ideas as Sanders or Warren but to deny that his ideas are radical and would not have major long-term effects for the US only because he is seen to be moderate on the surface is precisely the problem. Buttigieg is a liberal able to come across as a moderate, and is it not the job of the nominee to convince those on the other side to vote for them? Only by accepting that they must convince those on the other side will the democrats be able to enact the radical policies they so desperately want.

Written by Joshua Trood

The Democrat Party in 2020: A House Divided

It has no doubt been an extraordinarily momentous start to the decade, especially in the world of American politics; Donald Trump has gone through the impeachment trial unscathed, the Democratic primary campaign season has begun to pick up steam and uncertainty once again grips the nations voters as it prepares for Presidential Election in November… well, uncertainty from one side of the political bench, at least.

So, it begs the question; how did we get here? It seemed that after the Democrat Party won a majority in the House during the 2018 Mid-Term Elections, the countless leakers and whistleblowers who have gone on to publish their accounts of the chaotic nature of Trump’s White House, and Nancy Pelosi’s filing for impeachment that the ‘red wave’ had finally reached a blue sea-wall. As it turns out, that was not the case. In fact, it was precisely the opposite. The Democrats have had all the opportunity in the world in the last four years to make major reforms in their own party so that a repeat of 2016’s mistakes would never occur again; they could’ve become the party of reform, middle-of-the-line politics that could draw in the majority of the American people regardless of their backgrounds. On the other hand,  they could’ve gone down the road of Bernie-style populism, appealing to the same anti-establishment message that was so persuading for many voters in 2016. The very same message that Trump echoed on his way to the Presidency. Either would have worked in their favor, as it would have given the Democrats a definable identity they could bank on for future elections. Unfortunately, the Democrats have been stuck in a sort of state of limbo: they have no idea who they are, neither does the voting public.

The Democrat Primary is the perfect example of just how much the party is struggling to define their character. We’ve seen a myriad of candidates, with all sorts of positions ranging from the establishment-style Washington politics we’ve come to expect of former Vice President Joe Biden, to the fresh-faced, but forward-thinking campaigns of Andrew Yang.  Then to the radical anti-establishmentarianism that we’ve all come to know and love from Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren. Now, one might look at all the candidates that have been up for the challenge and think that it is quite good to have this wide-range of representation from the Democrats; however, it highlights just how fractured the party has become, especially in terms of generational difference. For many of the older generation Democrats, populism is seen very much as a part of the emerging problem from Washington. Many of these voters over the age of 40 are the same ones who supported Clinton during the 2016 race, whereas Bernie appealed to, and still does appeal to millennial and Gen Z voters. With the election of other Bernie-style Democrats, such as AOC and Rashida Tlaib, the Democrat Party has seen major shifts even further Left on the political spectrum. This divide shows during the debates especially, where it seems that none of the candidates can seem to agree on any consistent policies except for one: getting Trump out of the Oval Office. This is a major mistake which thte Democrats have made in the past 4 years, the same mistake that Hillary made during her 2016 campaign; instead of bringing forward any actual policies or legislation, instead of working across the political aisle in order to keep the nation turning, they have made one issue their mantra; being anti-Trump. It has blown up in their face every step of the way. From Mueller, to the confirmation of Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, to the impeachment, Trump has outmaneuvered them every step of the way. Showing that the Democrats are no longer a political party, but rather just acting as a legislative roadblock to get by in government. Remove Trump from the equation, and the Democrats aren’t particularly unified on anything else. The major shifts to far-left politics has meant that the new generation of Democrats that are rising in the ranks are moving away from operating as the party of Clinton and Pelos.  Becoming a political movement that punches further and further towards the left each year because of the shockwaves that had been sent as a result of the rise of Bernie-style populism in 2016. A wise man once said that a house divided cannot stand, and if Trump wins in 2020, the Democrats will have nothing else left to unify them. There will not be another impeachment, and there won’t be any other attempts to force Trump out of the White House, those cards have been used and squandered already. So, what else will the Democrats have? The answer in my opinion, is nothing.

Meanwhile, President Trump has won major victories in the eyes of his base voters. He has managed to maintain steady economic growth and re-energized the manufacturing industry in America’s heartland. Trump has been able to navigate his way around the unique and oftentimes challenging foreign affairs while keeping to his core value of “putting America first”, and getting many successes on the world stage, especially in regards to Iran.  Most importantly, Trump has operated in the cut-throat Washington political game, and has played his opposition like a fiddle.

Written by Ilija Dokmanovic 

High Crimes and Misdemeanors

Long derided as folly, Democrats now appear willing to use the ultimate sanction against the President. But having escaped official rebuke for numerous scandals so far, what has emboldened Nancy Pelosi to attempt to impeach Donald Trump?

It came as a bolt out of the blue, astonishing both political observers and the general public. However on September 24th the Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi announced, in marked contrast to her history of political caution and institutional restraint; that she would commence an impeachment inquiry against the 45th President of the United States. When speaking to the nation, Nancy Pelosi sought to address recent revelations of a phone call between President and Volodymyr Zelensky, the President of Ukraine, on July 25th during which Donald Trump attempted solicit the interference of the Ukraine government in the upcoming election. Specifically Trump stated that he wanted his foreign counterpart to engineer an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden (who at the time was the leading Democratic candidate) for the presumed purpose of generating a false controversy and smearing him as an electoral rival going into the 2020 elections. The Speaker highlighted the danger this posed to the strength and respectability of American institutions, and that consequently it was the duty of members of Congress to check the activities of a President who earnestly believes that “Article II says that I can do whatever I want”. However within a Presidency that is at once as equally scandal prone as it is immune from their consequences it is worth asking why the present one has compelled such drastic actions on the part of the Speaker of the House of Representatives?

In answering this question it is worth examining the broader context into which the call between President Trump and Zelensky was made. Calls between world leaders are nothing if not calculated, and much preparation, both legal and logistical, goes into their making. Firstly, since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, Ukraine has been dependent on the United States for maintaining its security against its aggressive neighbor to the east. Though such support has not always been unconditional, because both nations have an interest in containing the spread of Russian influence, the United States never seriously entertained withholding crucial military to their beleaguered partner. However on July 18th, just days prior to the call, Trump ordered his Chief of Staff to do exactly that, and in the process endangered the security of Ukraine without any apparent cause or justification. In his call with President Trump, Zelensky made the precarious of his country’s situation clear and expressed an eagerness to engage with the United States to ensure supplies of aid resumed. Thus from these initial exchanges it appears that Trump had succeeded gaining some leverage over his counterpart, and from which point Trump took his cue to ask a favour of Zelensky. 

In particular, Trump wanted President Zelensky to conduct an investigation into the firing of the country’s former Prosecutor-General, Victor Shokin, under the previous government. Trump asserts that this was done at the behest of the then Vice President Joe Biden in order to prevent charges of money laundering being brought against the Ukrainian gas company Burisma Holdings, on whose board Biden’s son Hunter was a salaried member. While these assertions by themselves may raise suspicion, they are in reality highly spurious and their origins convoluted. Shokin’s dismissal was eagerly desired by almost all of Ukraine’s western partners with an interest in overhauling Ukraine’s notoriously inefficient and corrupt judicial system because of his very reluctance to prosecute firms such as Burisma. Indeed Zelensky ran on a platform that was entirely unsympathetic to the policies of the government of which Mr Shokin had been a member. But while Zelensky made clear to President Trump the importance of prosecuting firms involved in corrupt activities, he demurred on Trump’s claims against the Bidens, no doubt conscious of the danger of wading into foreign political disputes. Given the political storm that has since erupted as a result of this call it seems Zelensky’s caution was well advised.

Apologists for the President may see little malice or novelty in the request, likening his actions to similar requests made in full view of the public that foreign nations should investigate his political rivals. Indeed Trump’s prior frankness in this regard has convinced many Republican lawmakers, such as Florida Senator Marco Rubio, have said that the request was not meant earnestly and should be taken as a jest to infuriate his political adversaries. But this does not stand up to scrutiny as how could the President be taunting his political opponents when his staff initially classified the transcript of the conversation. Other Republicans have been more equivocal, suggesting that the decision to withhold aid to Ukraine and the request to investigate the Biden’s are two disconnected events, thereby implying that there was no quid pro quo nature to Trump’s request. Such arguments however ignore the intimation within Trump’s language and his general tendency to view all international relations as transactional. 

Democrats by contrast have looked less kindly on the matter, but many had long since concluded that among the Republican base Trump was seemingly immune to scandal, and that as such it would be more astute to see the President rebuked at the polls rather than by Congress, a line to which the Speaker herself previously adhered. Hence the surprise many expressed when Nancy Pelosi officially announced the beginning of the inquiry. Many had in fact been publicly rebuked by the Speaker during the 2018 midterms for promising to support the beginning of impeachment proceedings, and instead were urged to emphasise bread and butter issues of more immediate concern to independent and swing voters. Polls suggest however that the audacity of Pelosi’s announcement has had an effect on voters minds, and indeed a Fox News poll even suggested that a plurality of voters not only supported the President’s impeachment but also his full removal from office.

However it should not be assumed that Pelosi has been deaf to the urgency with which legislators have insisted that Trump be prevented from further degrading both his office and many of the political norms essential for maintaining democratic government. Indeed since many of the earliest and most vocal advocates of impeachment have come from the party’s left it has been in Pelosi’s interest to guard the path to impeachment until a broader consensus emerged, lest Republicans brand any such attempt as a partisan endeavour. Even so, when in recent weeks an increasing majority of House Democrats came out in favour of an impeachment inquiry Pelosi began to shift accordingly. Nonetheless, merely having the political will to impeach a President without a credible inciting incident would be insufficient, as it would be likely to be ridiculed both in the Press and more importantly within the Senate, in whose hands the President’s fate would ultimately lie. Additionally there is the concern that were an impeachment process to prematurely begin and quickly fail, that the President would take his acquittal as a validation of his previous actions and would encourage both himself and his successors to act more brazenly in future. 

The subsequent commencement of not one but six House Committee impeachment investigations shows the seriousness with which the House Speaker intends to tread on this perilous ground. No doubt mindful of the electoral backlash the Republicans endured after their rushed and almost single minded impeachment inquiry against Bill Clinton in 1998, Nancy Pelosi intends to be methodical in her approach to unearthing the extent of Trump’s solicitation of foreign backing. In this effort House Democrats will hindered by the White House, which has sought to prevent members of the administration from testifying before any House Committees involved in investigating the President. Mr Gulianni, the personal lawyer of President Trump (and himself a person of interest in the unfolding scandal), has gone to the extent of openly defying House subpoenas mandating his presence before members of the House. This poses an acute problem going forward as though the House possess the means to compel witnesses to appear before its members (by leveling fines for example) they risk escalating the drama of American politics to a fever pitch. However this strategy of non-cooperation does not seem to be uniformly successful as President Trump’s at times temperamental relationship with members of his staff inspires little loyalty, which when combined with the high turnover of Cabinet secretaries leaves a significant number of potential sources which members of the House Committees may wish to interview.

Moreover, the current inquiry should not be thought of as a repeat of the Mueller investigation, which though it uncovered significant criminal dealings on the part of Trump’s subordinates declined to state whether the President himself took part in their attempts to solicit foreign interference. However, two things distinguish the scandal over Russia from the present one over Ukraine. Firstly the transcript produced by the White House places the President himself as the main person of interest in the inquiry, limiting Trump’s capacity place blame on the actions individual subordinates. Secondly, as the incumbent President the question naturally arises as to whether Trump sought to use his authority as the nation’s chief diplomat as a vehicle to secure his reelection. While the President’s often informal and abrasive manner with foreign leaders and diplomats might suggest that he was not acting on behalf of the US government but as a private citizen, the fact of the matter is that he would not have had the means to contact Mr Zelensky was he not the President.

And yet while it may seem that the rationale for impeachment is well founded, and the likelihood of impeachment grows by the day. However it is probable that this process will not result in the removal of Donald Trump from office much to the disappointment of many Democrats. As alluded to earlier, though the House of Representatives has the power to impeach the President, the decision of whether to convict him lies with the Senate, wherein the Republicans hold fifty-four of one hundred seats. Not only that but two-thirds of the Senators must vote to convict the President to remove him from office, and thus a sizable number of defections would be required to see this process through. Given the size of this hurdle one may ask why Speaker Pelosi began an impeachment inquiry at all. It is for the same reason that muscles if not exercised; atrophy. True impeachment is not a tool that should be used lightly, however it is not an unconstitutional power grab that as the President likes to claim but rather a necessary restraint to the violation of constitutional norms. The founding fathers provide lawmakers with a spacious definition of impeachable offences, but if the President’s actions thus far do not constitute a high crime or misdemeanor, then what does?

Written by Thomas Webster

Sources

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/sep/20/trump-ukraine-biden-election-help-hillary-clinton-claims

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/sep/25/trumps-phone-call-with-ukraines-president-read-the-full-transcript

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/sep/18/trump-foreign-leader-promise-whistleblower

https://www.economist.com/united-states/2019/09/23/how-close-does-the-ukraine-scandal-bring-donald-trump-to-impeachment

https://www.economist.com/briefing/2019/10/12/from-paul-manafort-to-donald-trumps-fateful-phonecall

https://www.economist.com/democracy-in-america/2019/10/18/undermining-donald-trumps-ukraine-defence

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/21/us/politics/trump-inquiry-foreign-meddling.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/13/opinion/impeachment-clinton.html?searchResultPosition=2

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/12/us/politics/fact-check-impeachment.html?searchResultPosition=4

The US Exception: A Policy of Deny and Ignore-How the US has managed to turn a blind eye to blatant human rights abuses

US-Saudi article

By Sophie Minter

For years the US-Saudi relationship has been an irritating itch, one that is not understandable and blatantly one sided, but what the recent assassination of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi shows is that this relationship will endure reflecting one of those cringey bromance scenes where it is obvious that one of the two clearly loves the other more, and the other knows and openly exploits this one-sided relationship.

 

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Lessons from the Iroquois

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By Malick Nythern Doucoure

At a time of relative electoral and democratic controversy surrounding President Donald J. Trump – (who won the US Presidency without a popular majority) – a quick and simple review of Native American traditions could in fact pave the way to not only restoring the guiding principle of bipartisanship, but also to restoring the concept of American democracy to its former international greatness.

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US Special Forces: Threefold Increase in Central and South American Operations

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By Jennifer Amspacher

Though the United States has been noted as gradually decreasing military aid and involvement in Latin American countries, there has been an increase of Special Operations Forces missions in the South American continent since 2010. These missions have increased threefold.

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