Category Archives: Feature

Bill Kristol Talks Microaggressions, the Media, and Newt Gingrich

Bill Kristol has made quite the career for himself. Twenty years ago, after stints in government, the academy, and non-profits, he co-founded the Weekly Standard, the nationally influential conservative magazine where he is editor today. Kristol is also the Chairman of the Board of Governors at Claremont McKenna’s Salvatori Center for the Study of Individual Freedom in the Modern World, which hosted his talk at the Athenaeum last Thursday. At the Ath, Kristol predicted that, like 1980, 2016 would be a foreign policy election. Unlike in past elections, among the Democrats, Hillary Clinton shall inherit the nomination, while Republicans will engage in a great intra-party debate. Whereas usually Republican candidates are older, whiter, and more staid figures as compared to a younger, more diverse Democratic field, again the roles are reversed. Clinton is approaching seventy. The Democratic field trends old, white, and traditional. But the Republicans contenders are mostly 40 or 50-somethings, diverse and dynamic. The Independent spoke with Kristol shortly after his talk. Here’s what we said (edited and condensed for space and clarity):

Bill Kristol: Do people believe, since it’s your generation, the microaggression stuff? It’s just so ludicrous, I can’t even… I don’t know whether to believe the people who are making the complaints are in fact being honest and are in fact extremely sensitive people and don’t know what the world is like. Or is it just a charade to sort of shut up other people?

Claremont Independent: They definitely take it seriously.

BK: So they really think they’re supposed to go through their life never being offended by anything?

CI: It’s kind of like a personal attack…

BK: Even if it is a personal attack on you, like, so what? You’re not guaranteed to live a life without being personally attacked. Someone might tell these kids that some time.

CI: The Independent has made significant changes in recent years to adjust to the changing media environment. It seems the Weekly Standard has as well. What do you think about the ongoing digital disruption in media?

BK: I think it’s a big deal. Most of it is ways to get your arguments out. They shouldn’t really affect the content of the arguments and I think the content is still crucial. You can be very energetic on Twitter and have very effective social media people. If you don’t have something to say, it doesn’t do you much good. So I think people sometimes overstate it in that respect. We started the magazine almost twenty years ago, and we thought we’d be putting out a weekly magazine, and, you know, it would go through the mail and people would read it and it would have its effect. [Now,] everything goes online and a lot of the content is addition online-only content, and as many people read the weekly standard online as read it in print. For us, thank god, we still sell 90-95,000 copies a week of the print magazine. And that’s good because that’s revenue, and it’s reassuring that people are willing to pay for the magazine, but so for us so far we haven’t suffered for the fact that people can read stuff online for free. And of course, it has increased our reach. If people read a post or read one of the print articles online and it gets to an extra thousand people that’s great. And so who knows where it’ll be in five or 10 years from now.

I do think generally, the magazine brand, I say this with some reluctance since I edit a magazine, the magazine brand might be slightly less important than it was twenty years ago. Of course, we still try to put out a good magazine, a variety of articles, short articles, long articles, foreign policy, domestic policy, but people don’t really read it as a magazine the way they used to. In some way the individual authors become more important, the brand of the magazine, less so. I don’t think that’s necessarily good or bad, you know. Editors probably had too much control in the old days. So I’m happy that individuals get more attention, but it probably does mean that the Weekly Standard as a brand isn’t seen to be as distinctive as 30 or 40 years ago. I still think [the magazine] has a kind of certifying or credentialing effect. The fact is, if you submit an article to the Standard and we accept it and print it, it does mean that a bunch of editors have thought it was worth printing.

People often ask, should I submit stuff to magazines, or should I just have a blog? And I’m actually for blogs, you know, I’m not a snob about this at all, but I do think if I were hiring someone, and you were 25 years old, and let’s say you have a great blog, and linked to a lot and people liked it. It would still, I would still give an edge to people who had had articles published in the Weekly Standard, Wall Street Journal, and Los Angeles Times op-ed page, maybe, because it means that different editors thought his or her stuff was good enough.

CI: Has the new age changed the nature of political talent, in terms of discovering and developing it? And what of political effects of Charles Murray’s fears of America’s Coming Apart thesis?

BK: On the one hand, I worry as Murray does that there is a sort of self-sorting segmentation, where you don’t get the kind of not-so-well-educated city boss of 50, 60 years ago who was a very shrewd politician and in touch with the voters, and a good, very good political leader, he just wasn’t terrifically articulate, wasn’t well-read, didn’t have great manners. And we put so much of a premium now on a sort of superficial sophistication and I think that’s unfortunate. On the other hand, I think the Internet and the general fluidity of things these days allows people to rise pretty quickly, from nowhere. I mean Obama, Rubio, Ted Cruz. These were not people who came from particularly well-off backgrounds or prominent families or anything like that. And they’re pretty important people, so that’s good, I think. I worry, though, a little, that we put a little too much weight on credentials: what college you went to and sort of how you present yourself, as opposed to what you have to say. And there’s a little too much conformism for that reason, intellectually but also socially. Either way, you want people to be idiosyncratic. I do worry that the schools are more conformist than they used to be, less rewards for idiosyncrasy.

CI: Is the new senate class more diverse than normal in terms of talents and backgrounds?

BK: Yeah I think so, and I think that’s a good thing. I mean Tom Cotton, Joni Ernst, come from their own backgrounds. A lot of them went to good schools… but yeah I’m very encouraged as a Republican, as a conservative, particularly, of the quality of the younger Republican members, which I think is very much higher than it has been for several years in both the Senate and the House. It’s also true of some of the younger governors.

CI: Does the new tech/media age weaken the importance of elected officials?

BK: Electoral politics is still very important. At the end of the day you need an elected official to carry the ball and to put an idea seriously in play. You can have all the think tanks all the magazines, floating this idea or that, but until some elected official comes along and says I’m going to make this my legislative priority or president try to get this enacted, it’s still sort of theoretical. I wouldn’t underestimate the importance of electoral politics. It’s also something about being elected in a democracy that gives you a kind of standing that you don’t have if you’re just editing a magazine or at a think tank. People think, oh it’s nice that you’re at a magazine, but there’s something about the ballot box, about people actually voting for you over someone else, that gives a kind of credibility. So I think for a political movement, you should never ignore elected officials. What really matters is the quality of candidates. I think Republicans and conservatives actually for quite a long time had very good magazines, good journalists, good think tanks, not so good elected officials. I think that’s been changing a little bit.

CI: Among conservatives on campus, there is a strong preference for libertarian politicians like Ron and Rand Paul. Does a more dovish Rand Paul-type stand a chance in 2016?

BK: I’d be very surprised if the Republican Party went with a dovish candidate. [In 2011,] there hadn’t been any obvious repercussions of what [Obama] had done. Of course he had a much more centrist foreign policy team. He had Gates. He had Petraeus. He had General Jones as National Security Advisor. And even Hillary. Now I think we’re seeing some of the consequences of Obama’s policies. And that’s why I think that this will be a foreign policy election. Rand Paul in a way would have been better off running four years ago. He’s much more presentable than his father, but his father actually ran at a time when there was really a mood in the party that was somewhat skeptical of interventionism. The consequences of noninterventionism are looking pretty grim these days, so that’s why I’m skeptical of Rand Paul.

CI: Why are Republicans having such a hard time in California?

BK: The state hasn’t changed that much. So you’d think that some Republican could occasionally win. I do tend to think that part of it is an accident of just candidates and sort of bad luck on Republicans’ part. It is frustrating. You’d think with Boxer retiring, there’d be a chance to have an attractive Republican run for that seat, maybe a different type of Republican, one who is in sync of California. In 2010 they thought that having women run would really helped, and it turned out to not help at all.

CI: Finally, many conservatives see that a lot of the negative trends our political system that Americans are concerned with today seem to be traceable to the late 60s or early 70s. Charles Murray’s Coming Apart, for instance, or Peter Thiel’s observation of a switch from “definite optimism” to “indefinite optimism,” originate in that era. What changed? Can we undo that?

BK: Yeah, these things are deep trends, and obviously people like Tocqueville saw that this is kind of the way that democracy is tempted to go almost 200 years ago, so it’s not even something that began in the 60’s, but the good news I think is that all these trends are and often deep rooted but they can also turn around. I think that Peter’s point on indefinite optimism is very interesting, though. To the degree that this is political, I do think that Thiel is onto something in a sense. I do think that the conservative agenda can’t just be anti-government, Hayekian, almost, though I do think that’s an important part of it. But also government is supposed to be limited and energetic, if you read the federalist papers. Lincoln certainly believed in a strong government for doing the things that government should do. And conservatives could be in favor of energy and competence, as well as limited government. I think the two go together. I think big government is bloated government, which is an ineffective government. So I think we conservatives have overdone the critique of government by itself, as opposed to critiquing government for doing things it shouldn’t be doing. But also making the case there are some core government functions we want the government to do them and to do them well.

CI: Newt Gingrich seemed the closest person in the 2012 GOP field to promote that “definite optimism,” but it seems hard for him to reach a broad swath of voters.

BK: I think it wouldn’t be so terrible to look a little bit like Newt Gingrich. I mean he has his flaws. I disagree with him on some things. But he was one of the more successful conservative leaders of modern times.

If the electorate is sort of demoralized, maybe someone with a little different background from Newt, someone military or sort of an organization that people think can get things done needs to step up and say we can get some things done. But I mean Newt ran only once for president, and he was a flawed candidate in many ways, but he did make a run of it against Mitt Romney, who had so much more money. I think there’s more of a market – and I’m glad you mentioned Newt – for a version of Gingrich’s conservatism than people think. I think the mistake of conservatives is [the perception that] we just want to save money. We don’t care about a space program. We don’t care about any major scientific achievement. We don’t care about interstate highways. We don’t care about having great universities, which include public universities.

Book Review: America in Retreat by Bret Stephens

The Claremont Colleges have hosted a series of events discussing international relations and the United States’ role in global affairs. On November 6, the Athenaeum hosted Stephen Walt, a professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, to discuss the challenges of current American foreign policy. During his lecture, Walt suggested that the United States should distance itself from intervening in global issues, claiming that it contradicted the American interests. In it, he employed the rhetoric of “nation building at home” while simultaneously claiming that American interventionism hurts the world as a whole.

America in Retreat: The New Isolationism and the Coming Global Disorder — Bret Stephens — Sentinel HC, 288 pp., $27.95

Bret Stephens suggests otherwise in America in Retreat: The New Isolationism and the Coming Global Disorder. In his first book, Stephens takes arguments for isolationism from the likes of Henry Wallace and Rand Paul, and contends that the greatest threat to global security is the absence of American influence globally. He looks into the recent decisions of the Obama Administration to withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the recent emphasis on using diplomatic methods against Iran, Russia, and China. He then predicts that this will all result in the United States losing the ground it acquired following World War II and the Cold War.

He recounts the failed track record of isolationism starting from the days of Henry Wallace and Robert Alphonso Taft, two prominent politicians active before and after World War II. Taft, a staunch Republican, opposed American intervention against Nazi Germany, arguing that there was no difference between the warmongering cries of Hitler and that of Roosevelt. Wallace, a progressive Democrat, argued that the United States should avoid exacerbating the rise of Communism by ignoring Stalin’s campaigns in Eastern Europe. These voices remain integral to the current isolationist theory that natural order would be restored if the United States left the world alone.

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Bret Stephens, winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is the foreign affairs columnist and deputy editorial page editor of The Wall Street Journal.

While Wallace argued that increased American intervention against the Soviets would curb civil liberties, the United States progressed at home, defeating Jim Crow and empowering both women and the LGBTQ community in unprecedented ways. Contrary to the nondemocratic policies of the Soviets, American power both furthered social progress and ensured freedom and democratic values by ensuring capitalism in Western Europe, keeping South Korea free from Communism, and helping Israel thrive as the only democracy in the Middle East. According to Stephens, interventionist policies preserve American values of liberalism and tolerance and it prevailed over the asinine ideals of totalitarianism and collectivism.

While arguing that American interventionism remains of paramount importance to America’s success globally and domestically, Stephens recognizes that America is prone to mistakes. He highlights that the Iraq War was just in its mission to remove the dictatorial Saddam Hussein, but took a devastatingly wrong turn when Paul Bremer disbanded the army and ousted many public figures in order to restart the Iraqi government. That transformed the American military from a liberating force into an occupying force.

Our generation did not live with the Cold War. Rather, we lived with a War on Terror that was well intentioned but improperly managed. Because we have been exposed to that as our reality, we fail to acknowledge how the history of appeasement and isolationism allowed malicious actors to go unchecked. It makes it easier for us to oppose interventionist policies because we kept seeing it in a negative light rather than realize how significant it was in maintaining global order. We are further disillusioned when we hear idealistic calls to make peace and build up ourselves to acknowledge the harsh realities that our world faces.

With Vladimir Putin’s annexation Crimea, Chinese strong-arming control of various seas and islands, and Iran pursuing the development of nuclear weapons, Stephens argues that United States cannot continue its path of retreat when it has historically upheld order. As both a military and economic superpower, the United States has the capability to create powerful influences and ensure that global disorder does not ensue. However, Obama’s decision to cut back military power, American influence, and involvement in places like Syria and Crimea has resulted in a world without American foreign assistance to rely on. This is especially true of Saudi Arabia and Israel, which heavily rely on the America’s support against unstable neighbors.

What makes Stephens’ assertion particularly relevant is how the United States is losing credibility in the global sphere. Our perceived weakness further incentivizes historical adversaries to march toward a path that will spiral out of control. We have seen how Islamic State has ravaged through the failed states of Iraq and Syria, which could have been avoided if we had acted. Most importantly, our focus on “nation building at home” makes us less relevant in the global sphere. In my view, this line of thinking not only endangers our national security, but it also endangers the free world’s capabilities of creating spheres of influence in places where human rights violations are ignored and, in the worst cases, tolerated.

The moral of America in Retreat is that the United States cannot entirely retreat from its position as a beacon of order in a chaotic, unstable world. Stephens argues that presence of disorder will result in a snowball effect that leads to more chaos. If the United States starts policing the world in a manner that does not require prolonged military presence in other countries, but also gets the job done, then military intervention is something that the United States should pursue to maintain order. The United States is a strong economic and military power and it has the ability to ensure that the world does not fall to totalitarianism, extremism, and non-Western ideals. Therefore, the United States should revitalize its interventionist policies to keep chaos at bay.

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Image Sources: Bret Stephens, Department of Defense/Flickr

Featured Organization: Liberty in North Korea (LiNK)

10805217_4780597808301_1082591793_nLiberty in North Korea (LiNK) at the Claremont Colleges is an organization that seeks to bring awareness to the issues faced by people living under the rule of the North Korean regime. It is part of a larger international non-profit of the same name that has focused on rescuing North Korean refugees from Northeast China,many of whom live in hiding and risk repatriation at the hands of the Chinese authorities. Another major goal of LiNK is to change the dominant narratives that are disseminated in the mainstream media on North Korea and its people. It was this dimension of LiNK’s mission that inspired Julie Kim CMC ’17 to start a Claremont chapter of the organization. “I think there is a tendency in the media to focus too much on politics,” says Kim regarding coverage of North Korea. “There should be more emphasis on how we can empower the North Korean people.”

While many students in Claremont may have been taught to see the North Korean problem through the lenses of international politics or nuclear nonproliferation, Kim sees it primarily as a human rights issue. She also believes that it is important for the international community to view North Koreans not as powerless, oppressed people, but as agents of bottom-up change in their country.

Keighley Overbay HMC ’17 expressed similar sentiments when talking about her motivation for joining LiNK at the Claremont Colleges. She describes how, instead of merely pitying the people of North Korea, LiNK brought a refreshing perspective to the scene by appreciating their strength.

“I think LiNK really embodies that attitude by focusing on the citizens and their stories, which are really important to understand and help the people from that country,” said Overbay.

However, even as organizations like LiNK seek to empower North Koreans at the grassroots, the situation for the North Korean people remains undeniably harsh. Currently, the Kim regime punishes three generations of a dissident’s family members for “political crimes” committed against the state. Korean refugee outflow has fallen since the rise of Kim Jong Un, indicating a crackdown on defectors in the last few years. Those who do manage to escape to neighboring China often become victims of sex trafficking or deportation. Once beyond North Korean borders, the typical refugee faces a 2,500km journey along a modern underground railroad to Southeast Asia where their resettlement either South Korea or the U.S. is arranged. Due to the highly secretive nature of their work, LiNK Field Coordinators, who are responsible for refugee rescue, do not have their names or photos listed on the LiNK website. As a result of the logistical challenges of arranging such a rescue, it currently costs LiNK an estimated $3,000 USD to rescue a single refugee.

Still, Claremont Colleges LiNK Chapter President Julie Kim remains confident that the Claremont community can make important contributions to the North Korean cause. Already, the organization has hosted a speaking event as part of LiNK’s Jamadang Tour aiming to educate the public about North Korean millennials who have begun subverting the North Korean regime through their use of the black market. With further fundraising, the Claremont chapter of LiNK plans to organize future events, and possibly even fund a refugee rescue. As Kim points out, the cumulative effect of individual contributions can make a significant impact.

“LiNK recently started a campaign to rescue 200 refugees,” says Kim. “It is only through individuals like us that this kind of change is made possible.”

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Liberty in North Korea at the Claremont Colleges meets every Monday at 9pm at International Place. For more information, contact Julie Kim at jkim17@cmc.edu.

Image Sources: NASA, LiNK

 

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LiNK event this Sunday:

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2014 Inland Empire Economic Forecast Conference Recap

What’s the current state of the Inland Empire recovery, and where does the region go from here? These were two of the main questions answered by Manfred Keil, associate professor of economics at the Robert Day School of Economics and Finance at Claremont McKenna College, at the fifth annual Inland Empire Economic Forecast Conference.

"Manfred Keil, associate professor of economics, Claremont McKenna College, gives the Inland Empire forecast during the 5th annual Economic Forecast Conference at the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, Ca., Wednesday, October 29, 2014. (Jennifer Cappuccio Maher/Inland Valley Daily Bulletin)"
Manfred Keil, associate professor of economics, Claremont McKenna College, gives the Inland Empire forecast during the 5th annual Economic Forecast Conference at the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, Ca., Wednesday, October 29, 2014. (Jennifer Cappuccio Maher/Inland Valley Daily Bulletin)

With regards to the current state of the recovery, Keil had good news to tell the audience of 650 at the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, CA. The headline for his presentation was the fact that the number of jobs in the Inland Empire has finally recovered, if one takes into account individuals who live in the Inland Empire but commute to neighboring counties to work. Keil also told the conference that the current projected unemployment rate of 8.7% in the Inland Empire would fall to 5.5% by December 2016. However, Keil underlined the fact that the job recovery might not be as good of news as one might initially think. Keil stated that, while “growth in employment has been going well,” “the kinds of jobs that have been generated now are not of the highest quality.” Specifically, he said that “we have replaced jobs in construction and manufacturing in particular with jobs in leisure and hospitality and, to an even larger extent, in education and health, and those are not as high-paying as the ones before.” Therefore, moving forward, the challenge is how one might bring higher paying jobs into the Inland Empire.

Both Keil and Edward Leamer, economics professor at UCLA and director of the UCLA Anderson Forecast, underlined the need for a more educated workforce in the Inland Empire. Currently, according John Husing, chief economist for the Inland Empire Economic Partnership, only 20.1% of people in the Inland Empire have an bachelor’s degree or higher. This statistic is stark in contrast with figures of 30.1% for Los Angeles County and 37.1% for Orange County. Keil stated that “we have to make the area attractive to businesses to come here, and I think the only way to do this is to have a better educated labor force that will be highly productive.” Leamer agreed, stating that “we don’t have a workforce that is suited to the post-industrial age. Now, the problem with workforce development is it takes a couple of decades to get a kid ready for a high-quality job, but we as a nation need to recognize that investment in our kids in the No.1 job of our parents and grandparents.”

In addition to a better-educated workforce, Keil offered a few recommendations to policymakers in the Inland Empire to bring back manufacturing jobs that were lost during the Great Recession. Among his recommendations were tax credits and special economic zones that would create incentives for manufacturers to return to the region. Keil stated that he believes that policymakers need to “give the manufacturer some incentive to locate here initially. There’s always the talk about loosening environmental regulations, and I’m never quite sure of what to make of it. I’m sure regulation here is heavy, but that did not deter people in the past from coming here. There are so many reasons why people want to come to Southern California.” On a side note, Keil also recommended that policymakers stay away from raising the minimum wage in the region, as “increasing the minimum wage would have a detrimental effect on the continuing growth of the leisure and hospitality sector.”

To learn more about Claremont McKenna College’s Inland Empire Center, visit inlandempirecenter.org.

12 Best Photos From Friday’s ROTC Drill

On Friday, November 14th, Claremont’s Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) cadets took part in a Rehearsal of Concept (ROC) drill alongside cadets from Cal Poly Pomona and Azusa Pacific University in preparation for next weekend’s Leadership Training Exercises (LTX) at Camp Pendleton.

The cadets went over their plans for the LTX and then ran through four different missions, or “lanes” (with two squads separately running through each lane). Cadets practiced their critical thinking, ethical decision-making, and communications skills, among others, as they spent the afternoon going through these exercises.

The Claremont Independent was the only publication that covered Friday’s ROC drill. Here are twelve of the best photos from the ROC drill.

View the entire album on our Facebook page.

Cadet Benjamin Waldman CMC ’15 (left) is the Executive Officer (senior-most cadet) of the Golden Lions Battalion.
Even the shooting range has its own detailed floor map. Safety is a major concern for next weekend. It’ll be the first FTX for the first-year cadets and many cadets’ first exposure to weapons.
Claremont ROTC Cadets pick up their “rubber duckies,” dummy rifles.
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Claremont, Cal Poly Pomona, and Azusa Pacific University ROTC cadets at attention, now carrying their “rubber duckies.”
Cadets are taught to respect the villagers’ culture so long as it does not unduly risk their safety. For instance, the cadets are taught to allow villagers to invade their personal space since many non-Western cultures have different concepts of personal space.
The village elder’s son appears out of the house. Is he a threat?
As the cadets approach the house, "Boom" an IED explodes, killing Cadet Ashburn. Everything change
As the cadets approach the house, “Boom” an IED explodes, killing Cadet Ashburn. Everything changes.
The cadets wrestle the village elder to the ground. Everyone is yelling. The elder's son raises his weapon and shouts at the cadets.
The cadets wrestle the village elder to the ground. Everyone is yelling. The elder’s son raises his weapon and shouts at the cadets.
The cadets hesitate to shoot. For what feels like an eternity, the cadets aim their dummy rifles at the elder’s son while he threatens to kill them and holds up his rifle. They yell back and forth with him until Cadet Schmidt takes the shot. “Bang.” It’s over.
The commanding officer for the second squad going through the second mission simulation is female. In order to respect village customs, she requires not only an interpreter but also a male interlocutor. It causes confusion, making communication and successful completion of the mission all the more difficult.
The elder is in a state of duress. The two men with guns outside his home are holding him and his family hostage. The HVT is located inside the elder’s home, which again is guarded by these two men.
Cadets enter the village elder’s home, in search of the High Value Target (HVT) inside.

 

Senate Watch

For most Americans, the mid-term elections are a non-event. Without the fanfare and national messaging of a presidential race, voters are generally less engaged and turn out at a rate about 20 percentage points lower than on a presidential election year. However, this election year is an important one. With no presidential race, the important elections are for the Senate, which could turn Republican for the first time since 2008. The Democrats are especially vulnerable in this cycle, not only because of President Obama’s approval ratings, which are in the low 40s, but also because they have more seats in play than the GOP, at 21 to 15. In addition, of the 15 GOP seats, 12 are considered “safe” by political handicappers. By comparison, only 7 of the Democrats’ 21 are considered “safe,” while another one of their seats, in Montana, is actually considered safe for Republicans. Currently, 8 Democratic seats are involved in competitive races, half of which are currently tilted towards a GOP victory.

Ultimately, Republicans will need a net gain of 6 seats or more to retake the Senate. In addition to Montana, the GOP will probably take a Democratic seat in West Virginia, where Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito was leading Secretary of State Natalie Tennant by 17 points. The GOP is also slated to pick up a seat in South Dakota, where Mike Rounds, a former Governor leads Independent Larry Pressler a former GOP Senator, and Democrat Rick Weiland, a businessman, by 15 and 10 points, respectively. In addition to those three, Republicans will need to pick up at least 3 of 6 competitive Democratic seats. The best opportunity for the GOP is in Arkansas where Tom Cotton, a congressman and decorated veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, faces incumbent Mark Pryor. Cotton’s advantage comes from both Arkansas’ political inclination and President Obama’s unpopularity, especially with regards to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This pattern is consistent for most vulnerable Democrats, who are attempting to distance themselves from the unpopular ACA and president and trying to make the campaign about social issues, such as abortion and same-sex marriage, which the GOP has struggled with in the past. In addition to the ACA, vulnerable Democrats have been trying to distance themselves from the President’s energy agenda, as 3 very competitive races are in energy producing states, including Mary Landrieu in Louisiana, Mark Begich in Alaska, and Mark Udall in Colorado. For these three incumbents, winning depends on their ability to move the narrative away from the White House and Washington, and onto local issues. Iowa, another competitive race, is an unique case in the sense that it is competitive because the Democratic candidate, Congressman Bruce Braley, has been caught in a series of gaffes, including one where he was caught on video disparaging sitting Senator Chuck Grassley as “a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school”. This sort of gaffe, has made what was supposed to be an easy race for Democrats has become one of the most competitive in the country. The final competitive Democratic seat is Kay Hagan’s in North Carolina, where she faces state Speaker of the House Thom Tillis. Tillis has attacked Hagan in a similar fashion to other Republicans, mainly based on her connection to Obama and other national Democrats. Hagan has responded by criticizing Tillis over controversial actions taken by the state legislature, including voter ID and abortion laws. Hagan currently has a small lead in the polls, leading Tillis by approximately 2 points.

In addition to picking up 6 seats, the GOP will need to defend 3 vulnerable seats. The most vulnerable is Pat Roberts in Kansas, who after a difficult primary, expected to have an easier general election campaign, as Independent Greg Orman and Democrat Chad Taylor were expected to split the Democratic vote. However, Taylor dropped out of the race in favor of Orman, who is now running level with Roberts. The other vulnerable Senator is Mitch McConnell, in Kentucky. While McConnell is predicted to win his race, his opponent, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes has poured a substantial amount of money into unseating the Minority Leader. National Republicans have responded by spending even more money to protect McConnell and attack Grimes. As a result, Kentucky has become one of the most expensive races this cycle, with both sides spending at least a combined $40 million thus far. Finally, the GOP needs to defend Saxby Chambliss’ open seat in Georgia. The race features political newcomers from both parties, with a businessman, David Perdue, on the ticket for the GOP, and the CEO of a non-profit, Michelle Nunn, representing the Democrats. Perdue has a small lead in the polls, by about 3 points, but is ultimately expected to defeat Nunn in this Southern red state.

At this point, the GOP stands a fair chance of regaining control of the Senate, but changes in the national political scene in coming weeks could lead to them falling short, with Democrats maintaining a smaller majority, or even getting a rare 50-50 split, where Vice President Biden would then be frequently called upon to break ties. There are only a few weeks left before the nation finds out which it will be.

Featured Organization: Young Americans for Freedom

As a conservative in an overwhelmingly liberal college environment, it can often be difficult to engage in intellectual discourse with like-minded individuals. Two CMC students, Cameron Ridley ’15 and Kelsey Heflin ’16, recognized this problem, as well as the conservative movement’s inability to “provide an easily graspable alternative to the strong rhetoric of the Left.” Together they established the CMC chapter of Young Americans for Freedom, a non-profit group devoted to advancing conservative ideas.

Young Americans for FredomThe Young Americans for Freedom, or YAF, sponsors conferences and connects its members with educational and career opportunities within the conservative community. According to Ridley, YAF “touts itself as a think tank that develops the ideas which politicians may then use to bolster their positions.” The CMC chapter of YAF plans to organize activities including movie showings, debates, and participation in political campaigns.

“Members also will receive the chance to attend funded YAF conferences, which provides good networking opportunities since it is affiliated with the larger national Young Americans Foundation. At the conferences, students will learn from top professors and leaders in the Conservative Movement and discover ways to champion conservative principles,” Heflin said.

By attending conferences and other educational events, YAF members will be able to enhance the level of discourse within CMC classrooms as well as the wider 5C community. Although YAF is currently listed as an official CMC club, it welcomes members from all the Claremont Colleges.

“We want to foster an environment where conservative-minded students can join and share ideas. We hope to promote conservative principles on campus and provide a place for free discussion and activism to occur among college students,” Ridley said.

Anyone interested in learning more about YAF or joining the CMC chapter can access the “CMC Young Americans for Freedom” Facebook page for meeting information and other opportunities.

Contact:
Cameron Ridley, Chairman: cridley15@cmc.edu
Kelsey Heflin, Vice-Chairman: kheflin16@cmc.edu

Upcoming Meetings (5:45-6:25 pm in Kravis Center room 109):
– Thursday, October 23, 2014
– Thursday, October 30, 2014
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Out of the Jungle (Primary): Strickland vs. Knight

Steve Knight (R)
Steve Knight (R)

Thirty miles north of Claremont lies California’s 25th District, where two Republicans are running to replace Howard “Buck” McKeon in Congress. Four Republicans, two Democrats, one Libertarian, and one independent ran in the June primary, but due to California’s “Top Two” primary system, only the top two vote-getters, Steve Knight and Tony Strickland, secured spots on the November ballot. In exclusive interviews with the Claremont Independent, both candidates shared their opinions on the effectiveness of the top-two system.

Tony Strickland (R)
Tony Strickland (R)

California voters adopted the top-two primary via Proposition 14 in 2010. Proponents of Prop 14 wanted to get more moderate candidates on the ballot. By allowing voters and candidates to approach elections without regard to political parties, advocates argued, candidates would be elected based on ideology and issues, rather than partisanship.

When asked if the system had been successful in achieving its goal, both Knight and Strickland responded with a resounding “no.” Knight commented, “I don’t think you’re getting more moderate candidates on the ballot. Just in this district alone, you have two conservative Republicans running in a district that is almost 50/50 when it comes to registration of Republicans and Democrats.”

CA25March2014
In California’s new “jungle” primary system, the top two vote-getters move on to November

In CA-25, Republicans slightly outnumber Democrats, 37.61 percent to 36.51 percent. One out of every four voters is registered with a third party or with no party preference. Strickland and Knight finished the primary with 29.6 percent and 28.4 percent of the vote, respectively. Democrat Lee Rogers finished third with 22.2 percent. If Rogers won the 9.5 percent share of the vote garnered by the other Democratic candidate, Evan Thomas, Rogers would have gone on to run in the general election against Strickland or Knight. Even though the GOP vote was diluted between four candidates, enough vote-splitting occurred among Democrats and independents that it allowed two conservative Republicans to advance to the general election.

Strickland also pointed out problems the system has caused for voter turnout rates and political diversity. He said, “The system was designed to force candidates to appeal to both sides of the aisle, but in reality you end up with fewer ​voters. In this case, fewer Democrats will vote because their party’s​ candidate is not on the ballot. The top two system also denies a voice to minor party candidates who could normally use general elections to expose the electorate to new ideas.” After losing the primary, Democrat Lee Rogers endorsed Knight, displaying what seemed like a sign of success for the top-two system. However, he withdrew his endorsement in September and joined other Democratic leaders in abstaining from voting in the general election. In districts with same-party races, partisan politicians and voters who do not feel adequately represented have expressed that they will abstain from voting this Election Day.

California's 25th and 27th Congressional Districts
California’s 25th Congressional District is located just north of the 27th, Claremont’s district

Still, Knight and Strickland must try to gain as much support as possible from Democrats and independents to win the general election. Some have argued that, in this respect, the top-two system will work by forcing candidates to appeal to more moderate voters. However, while both candidates acknowledged the importance of reaching out to Democrats and independents, neither candidate said that their outreach strategy was largely affected by running against another Republican. Knight said, “One of the many ways that Tony and I are different is that Tony does not live in the district. He ran for Congress in his home district last term and lost, and then he went shopping for a new district. He hasn’t lived in this district for many, many years. I think voters would say that they want someone from their community, regardless of their party.” He also highlighted that he is a former U.S. Army soldier and that Strickland has never served in the military. Strickland has reached out to Democrats and independents by meeting with members of different political parties and listening to their concerns, but said he would employ the same strategy with or without the top-two system.