Tag Archives: election

After Trump’s Election, Pomona Orchestra Can Opt Out of Playing ‘Don Juan’

On Thursday, the Pomona College Orchestra informed its musicians that they could opt out of performing the song Don Juan in their upcoming concert because the piece—which centers around the libertine Don Juan character—could be insensitive to students who were upset by the election of Donald Trump.

“When I programmed Don Juan, the presidential nominees of the two major parties were known, and the smart money was on a Clinton victory…You have worked immensely hard on this piece, and it is a great musical accomplishment…I would prefer not to cancel our performances of it,” the conductor of the Pomona College Orchestra stated in an e-mail to the orchestra. “But I understand that some of you may have serious reservations, especially in the wake of Tuesday’s results, about appearing to embrace a narrative that presents women as objects to be pursued by wealthy males who can get away with it. And I need you to know that I respect those reservations…I extend to each of you the invitation to opt out of our performances of Don Juan.”

“The character of Don Juan was introduced in 1630 Spanish stage work. It was intended as a satirical morality play, the lesson being that, no matter how hedonistically one might live one’s life, sins must be atoned for at the end,” the email continues. “Don Juan is what we would charitably refer to as a ‘womanizer,’ and that with clearer vision we would identify as a sexual predator,” the e-mail states, adding that “the question of how to engage art that has a troubling backstory is always complicated.”

The e-mail added that the orchestra “will try to find guests to fill in any holes that get created…Assuming we still have enough of an orchestra to present the piece, the show will go on.”

Ultimately, no member of the orchestra chose to drop out of the performance, according to an e-mail update.  “I enjoy the music of Don Juan purely for its musical value rather than its programmatic inspiration,” stated a member of the orchestra in a message to the Independent.

The concert set featuring Don Juan will take place on Friday, November 18th and Sunday, November 20th at Pomona College’s Bridges Hall of Music. The Pomona College Orchestra consists of students and faculty of the Claremont Colleges as well as members of the community.

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Image: Flickr

After the Election: Trump, Clinton, and the Death of Dialogue

No matter which candidate wins tonight’s presidential election, the American people have already lost. This isn’t because both Secretary Clinton and Mr. Trump are poor choices; as I have written before, I think Secretary Clinton would make an excellent president. Rather, the American people are losing because we’ve lost the ability to communicate with each other

It is easier than ever today to entomb oneself in an echo chamber. Schools today are more homogeneous than ever, social media allows for the selective consumption of news, and political gerrymandering has created an environment in which likeminded individuals are lumped together in the same congressional district. In our society, there are now far fewer places in which dialogue between differently minded groups can occur and our dysfunctional schools, bottom-line-focused media, and politically drawn legislative districts exacerbate this trend. Trump supporters and Clinton supporters no longer have access to fora in which they can communicate with each other; instead Trump supporters instinctively distrust all things Clinton and Clinton supporters condescend to all things Trump, including his supporters. Have you recently had a respectful conversation with someone who supports a candidate other than your own? American politics has always been rancorous, but this death of dialogue has created a new level of polarization.

Polarization has also gridlocked our legislature—the most recently completed 113th Congress was the second-least productive in history, second only to the 112th Congress. And as our legislative branch has been crippled, the presidency has been endowed with unprecedented levels of power. The president can now effectively unilaterally declare war thanks to the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), can effectively enact treaties with a simple majority vote in the Senate rather than having to cobble together a supermajority thanks to the rise and acceptance of so-called congressional-executive agreements, and can wantonly choose which laws to enforce due to lax applications of the Constitution’s Take Care Clause.

This inflation of presidential powers has only served to further exacerbate the polarization in the country. Suddenly, a President Trump could by himself decide to send troops into Syria thanks to the AUMF or withdraw from NAFTA without congressional approval since it’s a congressional-executive agreement and not a treaty. A President Clinton could decide to cease all deportation immediately now that the Constitution’s Take Care Clause is no longer enforced. With so much power endowed to one individual, voters can no longer risk listening to and electing someone who doesn’t share their party line.

So how can this polarization be overcome? The only way forward is to repair basic American institutions so that they promote dialogue between those of differing views. First, colleges should try to enroll politically diverse student bodies and actively promote civic discussion among them, not focus all of their attention onto the proliferation of safe spaces. As a liberal college student myself, I was drawn to write for this publication because of the diversity of political and social views that are professed in its articles and the dialogue it fosters on campus, despite the fact that said dialogue can get rather heated at times. The drawing of electoral districts should be delegated to independent committees. Social media should change their algorithms so that users aren’t just fed articles with which they already agree. And people should reflect on the tone of this election and think about how they could have made it just a little less nasty through proactive engagement. Once this occurs, polarization will return to previous levels, the legislature will once again become vibrant and again become a check on the executive office, which will in turn serve to further decrease polarization as presidential elections become less important and thus less nasty. We didn’t accomplish this in time for this election cycle, but hopefully the sheer vitriol of this race will serve as a wakeup call before the next one.

The Clinton Emails You Haven’t Heard About

Hillary Clinton’s emails have been a thorough topic of debate, but the information that has been made readily public is only a small part of the scandal. Many people simply assume that the only topics of interest in her emails are Benghazi and corporate interests, but the emails contain far more secrets that were hidden until Julian Assange released troves of previously submerged documents with massive implications.

First off, Morocco contributed 12 million dollars to the Clinton Foundation and her campaign. Huma Abedin in 2014 disclosed, “The King has personally committed approx $12 million both for the endowment and to support the meeting. It will break a lot of china to back out now when we had so many opportunities to do it in the past few months.” This quotation taken directly from the emails draws a clear connection between the two, but Politico later reported that while $1 million can be directly traced, the Clinton Foundation has refused to release reports on the other $11 million given for largely unknown reasons. While it is true that she was not Secretary of State at the time, and that there is no direct wording within the documents that would imply she received these donations for political favors, it does raise the question as to why Morocco would generously give such a substantial sum out of the kindness of their hearts.

Initially, governmental funding of the Clintons may not sound like much, but the problem lies in emails that were sent at the beginning of 2014, where she maps out certain ISIS endowments. Specifically, the email reads, “The Governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region.” Two days ago, Reuters confirmed that Clinton’s charity had received $1 million dollars from the government of Qatar while she was Secretary of State in exchange for a meeting with former president Bill Clinton and John Podesta. In essence, the same government that is currently funding ISIS and has been accused of countless human rights abuses has significant ties to the Clintons, starting when she was still in a major seat of power. Saudi Arabia specifically has donated between $10-25 million dollars under the proxy foundation “Friends of Saudi Arabia” since 1997. The only problem with honing these numbers down to a more specific amount is that finding the information from either the Clinton Foundation or private reports are difficult at best. The end result to take away from this is that Qatar and Saudi Arabia, two governments that directly support ISIS financially and logistically, have supplied millions to the Clintons and their foundation both during president Bill Clinton’s administration and during Hilary’s time as secretary of state. ISIS and the Clinton Foundation are being bankrolled by the same governments.

During Hillary Clinton’s time as secretary of state, not only were questionable donations made, but she approved surprising arms sales between the Unites States and Saudi Arabia. Julian Assange stated, “Under Hillary Clinton, and Clinton emails reveal a significant discussion about it, the largest ever arms deal in the world was made with Saudi Arabia. More than $80 billion dollars.” Along with the $80 billion deal with Saudi Arabia, the total dollar amount of US arms sales internationally doubled during her time as secretary of state.

Besides the financial support of these Middle Eastern governments, some speculation on the word “logistics” used in Clinton’s emails could imply that guns sold to Saudi Arabia by the United States could have been in turn given to ISIS by Saudi Arabia. While there is admittedly no proof of this, it is curious how a state with as small of a military as Saudi Arabia could make use of $80 billion dollars of US arms on their own. While Hillary Clinton may have only been a part of all these backroom dealings that the American public has been largely kept in the dark on, it must be noted that she has played an instrumental role in the massive sales of munitions between the United States and certain Middle Eastern governments.

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Image: Flickr

Should I Vote?

When the two most popular candidates are as disliked as Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, it becomes difficult to decide whether or not to vote. Our more ardent friends tell us that voting is a constitutional obligation. They say that it stands for all the people who died for our right to vote, but neglect to say that you ought to vote for your values. Voting for one’s values has been the way that America has operated for generations. This can be seen in the election of 1912, with Woodrow Wilson, William Howard Taft, Eugene V. Debbs, and Theodore Roosevelt. The election held four parties: democratic, republican, socialist, and the progressive party, and each one adequately represented a different sector of the voting base. The democrats with Woodrow Wilson took just over 41% of the popular vote, but won by a landslide in the electoral college due to the diverse options that the American people were given. Even the most removed candidate, Eugene V. Debbs with the socialist party, received 6% of the popular vote, which is more than what Gary Johnson is currently polling nationwide.

If the candidate does not represent you, why should you vote for them? Recently, the question has changed from “Who should I vote for?” and has become “Who should I vote against?” With the assistance of party-line voters, more elections are being decided on the lesser of two evils rather than a popularly appealing candidate. This consequentialist mindset can be extremely dangerous. On one hand, it allows an individual to assess the “greatest good,” but it also reduces the possibility for change. Third party candidates are at the mercy of party-line voters, who make up such a strong majority of the voting population that the candidate on the outside has to fight against the predisposition to vote for whichever party the voter is affiliated with. Specifically, the fear that the more radical and ignoble side will win. This encourages a false dichotomy that forces the potentially interested voter to act out of fear of the opponent rather than out of an interest in improving the country because the chances of a third party candidate are almost entirely ruined by party-line voting.

The other major problem with consequentialism is that it devalues individuals’ ideals. In the 1964 election, voters overwhelmingly voted for Lyndon B. Johnson not because they particularly liked him or agreed with his values, but rather because Barry Goldwater was so extreme and bigoted that no one wanted to be associated with his name. The electoral vote was a landslide, with 486 for Johnson and 52 for Goldwater. This doctrine places the consequence of the election above what the individual actually desires. Voters may be forced to compromise their values in favor of a net beneficial effect. Further, when compromise is made, internal party reform becomes challenging. If the individual concedes on topics that may be critical to them, they will have to accept whatever outcome they receive regardless of their ideals. The consequences of these outcomes inevitably degrade the voter’s values. At some point, they may sacrifice enough of their morals that they do not even know their own values anymore. When they come to the point where their moral inconsistency is acceptable, then their good becomes indistinguishable from the opposition they find so heinous.

The conclusion of this argument implies that you should only vote to your values and disregard the consequences, but there are major problems that follow with this train of thought as well, which lie in the neglect of the consequences. This may sound odd given the problems with solely valuing the consequences, but entirely disregarding them can also be problematic. While stating that no compromises can be made does solve the problem of internal value degradation, it implies that if a candidate does not fulfill every last one of your values, then they are not worth voting for. This can lead to an outcome where extremely harmful and disadvantageous political candidates are able to win because their values resonated with the largest group of voters, even though their supporters may be a national minority. For example, if only a tenth of the population held the same set of extreme values, and the remainder of the population held differing moderate positions, then a candidate who represents the smaller portion could win if the remaining eligible voters abdicated their vote because they did not connect enough with a representative. This can lead to harmful long-term effects on the nation as a whole, as the candidate who held the values of that decile of the population now holds the power of the nation.

The final option between values and consequences lies in compromise. Someone can understand that consequences are important but also take into account that they need to consider their values. The difficulty here is finding the proper balance between these ideals. From voter to voter they will be different, and perhaps they will even be indescribable, but as long as people understand that a proper vote requires consideration of both of these things, then perhaps we could have a viable election that balances the ideals of the people. When answering the question, “should I vote?” only the voter can decide by weighing their values against the dangers of the opposition.

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Image: Flickr

The Only Part of Last Night’s Debate You Need to See

Yesterday’s debate featured exactly the Trumpian performance we’ve come to expect: the Donald’s signature one-two punch of incoherence and lies, paired with enough bizarre non sequiturs—“I have a son who’s 10, he’s so good with computers,” anyone?—so as to border on the surreal.

With such a ‘bigly’ amount of sheer ineptitude, however, genuinely important debate moments are being forgotten. It’s easy to miss the insanity buried amidst the absurd, the moments such as when Trump accused Clinton of fighting for her entire 68 years of life against an organization started in 2004. But one of Trump’s less provocative monologues contains the most substantive policy revelation of the debate. It is a microcosm of the debate as a whole; if you don’t have the time to watch the full debate, all you need to do to understand Round One of Trump v. Clinton is to read this three-paragraph transcript of the Republican nominee’s response to the following question from moderator Lester Holt: “On nuclear weapons, President Obama reportedly considered changing the nation’s longstanding policy on first use. Do you support the current policy?”

The first paragraph seems innocuous at first: “Well, I have to say that, you know, for what Secretary Clinton was saying about nuclear with Russia, she’s very cavalier in the way she talks about various countries. But Russia has been expanding their—they have a much newer capability than we do. We have not been updating from the new standpoint. I looked the other night. I was seeing B-52s, they’re old enough that your father, your grandfather could be flying them. We are not—we are not keeping up with other countries. I would like everybody to end it, just get rid of it. But I would certainly not do first strike.”

Did you catch it? After Trump’s vague comments on Secretary Clinton, after Trump’s incorrect statement on Russia’s military capabilities, after Trump’s rambling anecdote about B-52s? The part where Trump says he was in favor of a policy that the U.S. has not endorsed throughout the over 70 years in which nuclear weapons have been existent?  Yes, right there at the end, Donald Trump states that he would never use nuclear weapons unless another country had already done so–a policy change that President Obama recently declined to enact, could signal American weakness, and of which Mr. Trump had previously spoken negatively. But in the next section, surely Mr. Trump must explain the rationale for his about face!

Nope.

“I think that once the nuclear alternative happens, it’s over. At the same time, we have to be prepared. I can’t take anything off the table. Because you look at some of these countries, you look at North Korea, we’re doing nothing there. China should solve that problem for us. China should go into North Korea. China is totally powerful as it relates to North Korea.”

Trump tries to explain his reasoning, but what he says is so vague as to defy interpretation. What exactly is this “nuclear alternative” of which he speaks? When he says he “can’t take anything off the table,” is he referring to the nuclear first strike policy he renounced seconds earlier?

What’s frightening about these two passages is what’s frightening about Trump and is emblematic of his performance in this debate. Trump tends to take fringe policy positions, and then indemnify himself from risk by making vague or contradictory statements so that he can change his narrative to fit the political mood du jour. This way, if his answer here is brought up in a critical way, he’ll use the hemming and hawing that immediately followed his answer to justify whatever flip-flop he deems to be politically expedient. Or alternatively, Trump just gave the first answer that came to mind and then equivocated to fill his time because he didn’t actually understand the question asked of him.

Oh, I almost forgot the third paragraph I mentioned; that’s actually just the sentence that immediately follows from where we left Mr. Trump. “And by the way, another one powerful is the worst deal I think I’ve ever seen negotiated that you started is the Iran deal.”

This passage is the scariest for hardcore Trump supporters. With their anti-immigrant sentiments, one can but wonder how they could ever bring themselves to vote for a candidate who can’t speak English.

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Image: Flickr