Answers to Five Questions About Bernie Sanders

By Adrian Flynn

Bernie Sanders in Iowa City, IA, February 2, 2020 (Picture taken by the author)

During my time working with the Sanders campaign, both in Iowa and elsewhere, I have consistently been asked some version of the same five questions. In this article I offer answers to these questions, with citations hyperlinked. I welcome any questions or opinions regarding my answers and encourage dialogue.

  1. Is Bernie a socialist?
  2. What has he actually accomplished during his time in Congress?
  3. Who are the “Bernie Bros” and what is their significance?
  4. Is Bernie Sanders too old to be President? 
  5. Can Bernie Sanders actually beat Donald Trump? (Is he electable?)

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  1. Is Bernie a socialist?

People tend to blur the distinction that Bernie Sanders makes between “socialism” and “democratic socialism”. The term “democratic” is used to signify that it is an ideology that is faithful to the people and the electorate, not to autocratic goals. However, this still does not mean that Sanders wants to see all of the historic goals of classic socialism realized via democratic means. He has never spoken in favor of nationalizing major industries (existing government-provided healthcare is already nationalized) or centralized planning for markets, although he is strongly in favor of regulation and taxes which would weaken the immense power currently enjoyed by corporations in the United States. As Atlantic writer Marian Tupy argues, Sanders’ worldview aligns more with “social democracy,” in which “individuals and corporations continue to own the capital and the means of production [and] much of the wealth, in other words, is produced privately.” The Economist also concurs, concluding in a 2016 editorial that Sanders actually fits the mold of a “social democrat” for his embrace of “private companies that thrive and grow in America.” As Sanders himself said in a speech at Georgetown University in 2015, “I don’t believe government should own the means of production, but I do believe that the middle class and the working families who produce the wealth of America deserve a fair deal.” 

In fact, many of the leading voices aligned with socialism in the United States have argued that Sanders is not a socialist. These include Bhaskar Sunkara, the founder of Jacobin, and Noam Chomsky, the renowned public intellectual, as well as numerous representatives of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), Socialist Workers Party and Socialist Party USA. Many academics and policy experts have also argued that Sanders is not a socialist, including Samuel Goldman of George Washington University, Mike Konczal of the Roosevelt Institute, Paul Krugman of the City University of New York, and Lane Kentworthy of UC San Diego, who even asserted that Sanders should rather be branded as a “democratic socialist capitalist.” If we consider the manifestation of Sanders’ views abroad, many of the countries which Sanders looks to as models for the United States, such as Denmark (which is a social democracy, not a socialist state) are by some measures even more free-enterprise capitalist societies than the United States. As Mads Lundby Hansen, chief economist of Denmark’s CEPOS think tank, attests: “This high degree of economic freedom is among the reasons for Denmark’s relatively high affluence.”

The answer to the question, then, is no, Bernie Sanders is not a socialist nor is he a communist. These allegations are, as he observed in a recent debate, a “cheap shot,” intended to mislead and frighten. Bernie Sanders is a “social democrat” in the tradition of much of the current European mainstream, a “New Deal democrat in the current political system” or a “democratic socialist,” as he has self-identified. He strongly supports the American market economy, but wants to see it bring more benefits to the working class, and fewer to the very wealthy.

  1. What has he actually accomplished during his time in Congress?

Many are quick to say that Bernie Sanders has not gotten as much done in Congress as he could have. Whether he should have gotten “more” done is a matter for individual voters to determine. However, some of the ideas espoused, such as that he has “only gotten post offices named,” show a lack of understanding of how the United States Congress works and also fail to recognize that there are multiple means by which Congress enacts change. Members of Congress should be judged by their “legislative records” which encompass the total impact they have on legislation, not just how many bills they personally drafted and got passed. 

It is true that Bernie Sanders has had only three of his own unilaterally-written bills enacted into law, the same number to Hillary Clinton’s name. However, this does not fairly reflect upon either of their complete legislative records, because it is rare for a bill with a single author to pass both chambers of Congress and be signed by the President. Statistics on Congress.gov show that Bernie Sanders has either sponsored or co-sponsored 221 bills which have become law. For reference, Elizabeth Warren has 51, Amy Klobuchar has 133, and Hillary Clinton had 77

Much of the media has asserted that Sanders is the “amendment king” of Congress, which he accomplishes “on the one hand by being relentlessly active, and on the other by using his status as an Independent to form left-right coalitions.” Yet some still dismiss this as inconsequential and evidence of lack of accomplishment. On the contrary, there are many examples of highly important amendments to bills that resulted from Sanders’ work, many of which were passed under roll-call in a Republican-controlled Congress. These include but are not limited to:

Sanders has also successfully worked across the aisle. According to a New York Times article: “Counter to his reputation as a far-left gadfly, Mr. Sanders has done much of his work with Republican partners, generally people with whom he has little, but sometimes just enough, in common.” Also, he showed “his policy fluency and his ability to work with Republicans when he was chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs,” work for which unlikely admirer Ross Perot gifted him an “Excalibur” sword. Amendments and bills that have become law on which he has worked with Republicans include:

Perhaps his most important contribution via amendment was when he convinced then-Senate majority leader Harry Reid to add $11 billion in funding for community health centers, to provide care regardless of a person’s ability to pay, to the 2010 Affordable Care Act, which has likely resulted in health care for an additional 10 million mostly low-income Americans. In exchange, Sanders agreed to rally liberal Democrats to support the ACA, after they had leaned toward voting against the bill when conservative Democrats killed the public option. Reid later said that “Bernie was terrific… he in my opinion was instrumental in our finishing the job, no better example of that than what we talked about with the Affordable Care Act. That would not have been accomplished without Bernie Sanders… He didn’t get everything he wanted but he sure got something good for community health centers.” Additionally, President Obama signed a memorandum dedicating $600 million to the construction of new community health centers in December 2009, at the urging of Sanders. “I also want to thank the many members of Congress who are with us today both in the audience and up on the stage, particularly Bernie Sanders and Representative Jim Clyburn. We are grateful for all that you’ve done,” Obama remarked.

Yet some of Sanders’ most memorable and courageous moments in Congress occurred when he acted as a member of a small minority when he saw that the situation demanded it. Some of these moments include:

Of course, in terms of broader impact, his leadership as a co-founder of the Congressional Progressive Caucus has made him an inspiration to rising politicians such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Pramila Jayapal, Rashida Tlaib, Ro Khanna and Ilhan Omar, among many others.

Sanders is acutely aware of his legislative accomplishments’ relatively low profile in Congress, acknowledging “This is the problem. I work in areas that nobody knows what I’m doing.” He told The New York Times in 2015 that “Passing legislation is ‘real,’ but so is influencing opinion over the long term by speaking out early and often,” adding: “I am a voice. Everybody talks about income inequality [now]. Well, check it out. Find out who was talking about it 20 years ago.”

  1. Who are the “Bernie Bros” and what is their significance?

It is true that Bernie Sanders has some supporters who have made a niche community online built around harassment and trolling. 

Some equally relevant questions are, however, (because just about every political campaign has its own vocal but comparatively miniscule sources of toxicity and “stan culture”even the 2016 Clinton campaign): a) how much does their vitriol result directly from the actions of the Bernie Sanders campaign? And b) how representative of Sanders supporters are the reportedly young, white and male “Bernie Bros”? 

Firstly, there has been no acquiescence by Bernie Sanders or his campaign to the harassment of his political opponents or their supporters. On the contrary, in a letter to supporters just after announcing his 2020 bid, Sanders stated: “Let us do our very best to engage respectfully with our Democratic opponents, talking about the issues we are fighting for, not about personalities or past grievances… I want to be clear that I condemn bullying and harassment of any kind and in any space… Remember that our struggle is bigger than a Tweet or a Facebook comment.” After being asked about this in a February 2020 interview, Sanders made clear, “Anybody who knows me and what our campaign is about, don’t tell me that you’re supporting Bernie Sanders if you’re making ugly personal attacks on other people. We don’t want your support.” With regard to Sanders’ volunteer base, the campaign has worked to rein in supporters who cross the line, stating: “Online, aides are pushing their digital community to police itself and keep the Bros quiet. And some volunteer members of Sanders’s digital army are scrambling into action, reporting offenders and moderating bro-y posts.” Campaign volunteers active in the arts have also pushed back on this problem, including comedy director Amber Schaefer, who made a viral ad spoofing perfume ads entitled “Bérnié – The People’s Perfume. She explained her work, “The idea behind the ‘campaign’ is to complicate the white male Bernie Bro (false!) narrative and show women and people of color feeling the Bern.” She also said, “We can see statistics [disproving this narrative], but visually seeing it, I think, is really powerful. I wanted to create something that felt like the opposite of maybe what people think of as a Bernie Bro.” Sanders supporters on Reddit also posted reminders to their fellow supporters that the “goal is not to deliver the sickest burn or capture the perfect tweet… Rather, [we] want to convince people to vote for Bernie Sanders, and the movement’s online tactics need to be suited to that end.” 

The creator of the term itself, Atlantic writer Robinson Meyer, has regretted how the term has come to be used as an unsubstantiated attack on the Sanders campaign, stating that it has suffered from a “semantic drift.” In response to a slew of opinions in the media, based off the “Bernie Bro” narrative, that Sanders was garnering support only amongst white people in 2016, people of color began the trend #BernieMadeMeWhite. This is, of course, one of many online trends circulated both within and outside of the Bernie Sanders campaign sphere. According to Deen Freelon, a University of North Carolina professor who studies political expression through digital media, “Sanders’s online audience is much, much larger than Elizabeth Warren’s or Joe Biden’s by an order of several million.” Since early 2019, Facebook pages supporting Sanders, for example, have generated more than 290 million interactions, while pages for Warren and Biden have generated 20 million and 9 million, respectively, according to one analysis. “You get a larger group, there’s going to be more douchebags in it than the smaller group,” Freelon added. As Glenn Greenwald argued in 2016, “The reason pro-Clinton journalists are targeted with vile abuse online has nothing specifically to do with the Sanders campaign or its supporters. It has everything to do with the internet. There are literally no polarizing views one can advocate online… that will not subject one to a torrent of intense anger and vile abuse. It’s not remotely unique to supporting Hillary Clinton: Ask Megyn Kelly about that, or the Sanders-supporting Susan Sarandon and Cornel West, or anyone with a Twitter account or blog.” In Greenwald’s piece for The Intercept, he also showed that a few “Bernie Bros” on Twitter turned out to be fake accounts created for the purpose of sowing division.

Furthermore, reporting on the demographics of support for Bernie Sanders suggests that it does not skew white or male. Women under 45 make up more of Sanders’ support base than men in the same age group. Also, of all the 2020 candidates, Bernie Sanders has brought in the most campaign contributions from women. Lastly, according to an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll conducted from December 9 to 11, 2019, Sanders enjoyed more support from the non-white electorate than from the white electorate.

The negative impact of the “Bernie Bro” fixation is that it undermines supporters of Sanders’ campaign who are not white and male. As writer Caitlin PenzeyMoog opined on Twitter, “The ‘Bernie Bro’ narrative is endlessly galling because it erases the women who make up his base. To paint this picture of sexism is to paint over the millions of women who support Sanders.” Megan Magray, a reproductive health advocate, said to Vice: “It’s really frustrating to see that the idea of the ‘Bernie Bro’ is still so pervasive, [and] insulting to see women, women of color, and people of color being erased from his campaign because they’re really integral to it.” Mari Toro, a Puerto Rican community advocate and data entry specialist in Boston, feels less resentment than just indifference, saying “I felt the same way I feel about most internet rumors or stories that I have no connection or affinity for… I didn’t even come to resent it—I didn’t feel the epithet characterized me or my fellow supporters at all.”

  1. Is Bernie too old to be President?

Bernie Sanders is 78 years old and if elected, would be the oldest President ever inaugurated. He does not shy away from this, and has an image and demeanor which unapologetically reflects his age.

In October of 2019, Sanders had a heart attack in Las Vegas while campaigning, and he received two stents. He had no prior history of heart disease and after two and a half days in the hospital, he was released. After promising medical reports after the episode, the Sanders campaign released several letters from doctors including one from his attending physician at the US Capitol dated December 30, 2019, attesting to his being in “good health currently.” Due to his progress, Monahan also noted that Sanders had stopped taking several medications that were initially required after the heart attack. In a separate letter, Dr. Martin LeWinter, Sanders’ personal cardiologist and the attending cardiologist at the University of Vermont, noted that the Vermont Senator’s “heart function is stable and well preserved” and his “blood pressure and heart rate are in optimal ranges.” “At this point, I see no reason why he cannot continue campaigning without limitation and, should he be elected, I am confident he has the mental and physical stamina to fully undertake the rigors of the Presidency,” wrote Dr. LeWinter.

Sanders has been asked to release his recent medical records and so far has declined to do so. Paul Waldman of The Washington Post pointed out the ambiguity of the term “medical records” by saying: “When we say a candidate should release his “medical records,” are we referring to documentation of every doctor visit and every procedure he or she has ever had? There are plenty of medical records that have no bearing on one’s performance in office, and which one ought to be able to keep private… But if we were to make such a standard, it would probably say at a minimum that we want the results of a recent physical, a history of any serious conditions the candidate has had in the past, details on any chronic conditions the candidate still has, and information on any medications the candidate is taking. Sanders can reasonably argue that he has provided much or all of that.” Nonetheless, it is a fair point that the American people deserve to know Sanders’ full health history, considering his advanced age. 

As to whether his age has had an impact on his support amongst young people, the numbers so far do not bear this out at all. Although it was four years ago, the most complete record of this comes from the 2016 primaries, in which he notably garnered more total votes from people under age 30 than both Trump and Clinton combined. This trend seems to be continuing thus far in the 2020 primaries, despite the fact that there are more candidates to split the youth vote.

  1. Can Bernie Sanders actually beat Donald Trump? (Is he electable?)

Essentially, the other four questions above lead to this question at the bottom line. The question of electability is key and includes both whether a candidate can command a majority of the electoral college as well as the popular vote.

First, with regard to polls, Bernie Sanders has beaten Donald Trump in both national polls and swing state polls dating back to his first run at the Presidency in 2016 through to the present. 

The most recent national polls conducted by pollsters rated “A+” by FiveThirtyEight, indicating nonpartisanship and a miniscule margin of error, show Sanders consistently beating Trump. These include a Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted January 20-23, 2020 showing Sanders ahead +8 percentage points, a Marist College poll conducted February 13-16, 2020, showing Sanders ahead +3 percentage points, and the most recent Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted February 14-17, 2020 showing Sanders ahead +11 percentage points (which leads the Democratic field in head-to-head match-ups against the President). Of course, these general election numbers may indicate the magnitude of popular support for Sanders but do not necessarily indicate who is in the best position to win the Electoral College. 

In the most recent swing state polls, Sanders remains strong as well. In Wisconsin, the only “A+” rated poll on FiveThirtyEight, taken from October 13-26, 2019, showed Sanders beating Trump by 1-2 percentage points. Sanders won the 2016 Wisconsin primary against Hillary Clinton by a 13.5% margin, also winning a whopping 71 of 72 counties in the state. In that primary, Sanders had more female voters than Clinton (as well as male voters), and also swept all income brackets and education levels. In Michigan, the only “A+” rated poll on FiveThirtyEight, taken from October 13-25, 2019, showed Sanders beating Trump by 2-3 percentage points. Additionally, Sanders won the 2016 Michigan primary against Hillary Clinton, albeit by a thin margin of 1.5%, but the result was still considered to be one of the “biggest upsets in modern American political history,” due to underestimates of both the youth and independent voter turnouts which strongly swayed for Sanders. Pennsylvania, the third and final state of the group which many believe decided the 2016 Presidential election, did not go for Sanders against Hillary Clinton (Clinton also beat Obama by a similar margin in the state in 2008), although according to the most recent FiveThirtyEight “A+” rated poll, conducted by Muhlenberg College from November 4-9, 2019, Sanders led Trump by 5 percentage points.

If, in addition to winning all of the states won by Clinton in 2016, Sanders also wins Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, he would have sufficient electoral votes to win the Presidency. Notably, he defeated Clinton in the primaries in 2016 by a total of 152,337 votes in Michigan and Wisconsin, while Clinton lost both to Trump in the general election by a total of 33,452 votes, so it is not outlandish to assume that had Sanders been the nominee, he might have had a better chance of winning both states. Additionally, a recent poll conducted by Florida Atlantic University from January 9-12, 2020 found that “Sanders fared best among Florida voters [as compared to other Democrats] in head-to-head matchups against U.S President Donald Trump, with a 53-to-47 percent advantage on the president.” Also, a poll rated “A” by FiveThirtyEight conducted from February 13-16, 2020 shows Sanders beating Trump by 5 percentage points in North Carolina. Lastly, a poll rated “A+” by FiveThirtyEight conducted from October 13-23, 2019 shows Sanders trailing Trump by just 1-4 percentage points in Arizona, whereas Clinton lost the state by 4 percentage points. If Sanders were able to capture any of these three states as well, he could either afford to lose another purple state (which according to the polls, is unlikely) or build on his Electoral College lead. 

Of course, electoral polls can be recycled and picked apart endlessly. There are also favorability polls which do not directly measure support in terms of numbers needed to win the presidency, but that speak to the strength and resonance of Sanders’ overall message. A USA Today/Ipsos poll of voters released on February 15, 2020 showed that “those polled consistently gave Sanders the highest marks for his values and empathy” out of both the Democratic field and compared to Trump. In the same manner, Sanders has frequently been called the most “popular active politician” in America, according to favorability polls conducted by the Harvard Center for American Political Studies, Fox News, NBC News/Wall Street Journal and CNN, all of which show Sanders having high favorability from Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike due to “honesty” and “authenticity.” Additionally, his status as an Independent has allowed him to rein in votes (as was seen in the 2016 primary) from what Gallup has found to be “the most popular party affiliation in America by far” and avoid the low current favorability of both the Democratic and Republican parties. To test the waters of throwing the term “socialist” into the mix (which is not what Sanders is, but what he has been and will continue to be called by political opponents), the progressive organization “Data for Progress” conducted a poll of random voters from January 9 to January 19, 2020 pitting Sanders against Trump in which it found that, even when the term “socialist” was used when anticipating how Trump would refer to Sanders, there was little impact on the outcome. The cue that did not mention “socialist” garnered 47% Sanders to 41% Trump, while the cue mentioning “socialist” garnered 47% to 42% in Sanders’ favor. This may be an early indicator of the limits to which Donald Trump would be able to benefit from using the term “socialist” as a scare tactic to sway voters away from Sanders. The most recent electoral test, however, for both Sanders and the rest of the Democratic field came just a few days ago in Nevada. In the 2020 Nevada caucuses, entrance polls conducted by The Washington Post show that Sanders notably won 51% of the Hispanic vote, led both among voters who said they prioritize agreeing on the issues and voters who prioritize beating President Trump, and led in all age demographics up to 65. But most importantly, he won 50% of the independent vote and tied with Joe Biden for the lead among voters who identify as “moderate or conservative,” as well as winning the “very liberal,” “somewhat liberal,” and “Democrat” groups.

In terms of ground-game, cyber-game and finances, which political strategists agree are now among the main factors for winning elections, the Sanders campaign has an extremely strong record. It says that it has had over one million campaign volunteers since six days after the 2020 campaign launch, and in the early states of Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, the Sanders campaign offices and canvassing operations have been key to their victories. Sanders is also well known for “once again asking for your financial support.” This is because popular support is the only source of funding that he has ever counted upon, and it has come through impressively. The Sanders campaign raised $6 million in the first 24 hours of the campaign, and by January 1st 2020 it had attained over 5 million individual contributions, making it the campaign with the most individual contributions ever. In January of 2020, the Sanders campaign announced it raised $25 million in that month alone — more than any other candidate had raised during any quarter of 2019. Both the magnitude and sources (individual donations averaging from $18-$27) of these sums make the Sanders campaign by far the most effective major grassroots political campaign in history.

Finally, supporters of the Trump campaign and Republican organizers alike have made it clear that they believe Sanders has a very real chance of beating them. Tony Fabrizio, the 2016 Trump campaign’s chief pollster, in response to a question about what would happen during a Sanders-Trump match-up, said that “Sanders beats Trump… I think Sanders would have had the ability to reach a lot of the less than college-educated, low-income white voters.” North Carolina congressman and strong Trump ally in the House of Representatives, Mark Meadows, stated that “Bernie Sanders poses the greatest risk because we are still in an anti-establishment era for presidential elections.” Matt Schlapp, head of the American Conservative Union, has said, “It’s a big mistake for Trump supporters to assume that if Bernie Sanders gets the nomination there’s no chance somehow he can win.” One of the most prolific voices on Fox News, Tucker Carlson, warned during a January 2020 segment that “If Sanders pledges to forgive student loans, he’ll still win many thousands of voters who went for Donald Trump last time. Debt is crushing an entire generation of Americans. Republicans need a plan to make it better, or they’ll be left behind.” He also highlighted a Pew Research poll that shows “just 31 percent of Americans say the economy is helping them and their families, and just 32 percent say they believe the current economy helps the middle class,” which shows a potential flaw in Trump’s economic argument for re-election. After Sanders received a warm reception from a Fox News town hall audience, famed Republican strategist Karl Rove wrote in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, “When only 37% of Americans in the RealClearPolitics average think the country is going in the right direction while 56.4% think it’s on the wrong track, Mr. Sanders could be perceived as an agent of change… If he is the Democratic nominee, Mr. Trump’s task will be to convince Americans that a socialist turn would be a ruinous change. Based on Monday’s town hall, that won’t be as easy as Republicans may think. Mr. Sanders is a real contender.” Finally, even the President himself has shown that he is wary of facing Sanders in a general election. Unprompted, Trump said in the Oval Office to reporters on February 11, 2020, “Frankly, I’d rather run against Bloomberg than Bernie Sanders. Because Sanders has real followers, whether you like him or not, whether you agree with him or not. I happen to think it’s terrible what he says. But he has followers.” Lastly, the attorney of Lev Parnas, a Rudy Giuliani associate, released audio of Trump that had been secretly taped, in which he said, “I think if she’d [Clinton] picked Bernie Sanders as her Vice President it would’ve been tougher… Because of trade. Because he’s a big trade guy… Had she picked Bernie Sanders, it would have been tougher. He’s the only one I didn’t want her to pick.”

Lessons from Participating in the 2020 Iowa Caucuses

Written and Photographed By Adrian Flynn

The 2020 Iowa Caucuses marked both the beginning of a tumultuous primary season and also possibly the end of the caucus system as we know it. The release of vote totals was delayed not only due to a reporting app that experienced technical problems, but also to the Iowa Democratic Party’s failure to ensure a viable system for Caucus Chairs to report their results in alternate ways. While these issues dominated  the entire caucus in the eyes of onlookers both in the United States and around the world, being on the ground for the Democrats’ first hurdle in defeating Donald Trump provided insight into other key problems with the caucus system as well as its unique attributes. 

Arriving in Iowa a few days before the caucuses to work for the Bernie Sanders campaign, I had no idea what to expect. I had done campaign work many times before, including a significant amount of canvassing, but assumed that the atmosphere of the caucus system would change the narrative of my work in some manner. I was not wrong. Iowa’s caucus system requires that in order to cast a “vote” for a candidate, one must physically travel to a designated caucus site on a designated day and stay for at least one hour (though in many cases the process goes on much longer). One justification I heard for this was that because voting takes place on a single day for a short duration, voters must dedicate less total time to the political process than if they had to wait in line to cast a ballot.

This may have been more accurate in past decades, but I was also able to see how exclusionary the system currently is. Speaking to Iowans in the days leading up to the caucus, I not only had to convince them that they should caucus for my candidate, but I also had to ensure that they had the means and the time to physically attend their caucus. With this came many obstacles, the first of which was knowing which caucus site to attend. This changes with every election cycle and, with this one, it was changed for many individuals in the period leading up to the caucus date to accommodate fluctuations in expected caucusgoers at different sites and other factors. After deducing which site to attend, any prospective caucusgoer then has to be able to arrive no later than 7 p.m. on caucus day. To ensure that people would be able to do so, I asked if they had transportation and if they did not, helped them organize with others who could give them a ride. If I noticed that they were a parent or caretaker, I informed them that, unlike in previous years, caucusgoers were allowed to bring children to their caucus site for the duration of the event. 

Helping individuals create a plan to attend their caucus was a fulfilling and rewarding experience. However, I experienced a lot of heartbreak when speaking to Iowans who told me that they would not be able to caucus due to chronic illness, disability, work, or prior commitments. These obstacles are to be expected in any democratic society. The difference between the caucuses in Iowa and the primaries in other states, though, is that the Iowa Democratic Party has not instituted any mechanism, such as absentee ballots or online caucuses, which might accommodate those with such impediments.

In the primaries of other states, individuals routinely exercise their democratic rights through extended voting periods or absentee measures. But the nature of the caucus system, requiring on-site interaction, precludes such options. According to the former Chair of the Iowa Democratic Party, Scott Brennan, the use of absentee ballots would erode “the sense of community that makes our caucuses so special.” Over the past few decades, small amendments have been made to render the caucuses more accessible, such as the establishment of satellite caucuses. But, as many Iowans told me, the increases in outside funding, political theatrics and measures to suppress the vote have made it impossible for the caucuses to serve their original and true purpose: to bring residents of a precinct together in a shared space to engage in constructive debate and adequately allocate delegates based on how individuals align themselves in support of candidates. 

My experience in Iowa illustrates this sentiment. After a few long days and nights knocking on doors and organizing events and outreach, I was assigned to a precinct at a recreational center in Iowa City as a “Deputy Ambassador” for the Bernie Sanders campaign. This meant that I was responsible, along with another Ambassador, to guide caucusgoers to the Sanders corner of the room if they were supporters and to try to persuade them to do so if they were not. We got to the site early and while we thought at first that the room was spacious enough to clearly define who supported which candidate, the caucus quickly swelled from around 15 people when the doors opened to 281 at the first alignment. 

I rushed to tape Bernie signs as high as possible on the wall so that people could see our location in the room and also made sure that everyone in our corner got an “I’m Canvassing for Bernie” sticker. Our corner was adjacent to that of the Joe Biden campaign and it quickly became apparent that our swelling number of supporters was overflowing into that campaign’s corner. After establishing the group’s “territory,” a small group of about 20 Andrew Yang supporters claimed their stake near the entrance door but mostly still mixed in with the Bernie group, distinguishing themselves only by a large “Yang 2020” sign on a stick. The Buttigieg and Warren groups were situated on the opposite corners of the rectangular room, but were so close to each other that it was hard to tell them apart. Lastly, a small Klobuchar group established itself beside Biden’s group with a homemade sign, also hard to distinguish from the Biden group. The situation was somewhat confusing, though not completely chaotic, and we were able to ensure that every caucusgoer in our group received a Presidential Preference Card (essentially a ballot). After the first alignment, we were in the lead with 95, with Warren at 74, Buttigieg at 50, Biden at 23, Yang at 21 and Klobuchar at 16, among other smaller, undecided groups. Cory Booker and Michael Bennet each received a single vote. The viability threshold in our precinct, as in most others of our size, was 15%. This made every group unviable except Buttigieg, Warren and Sanders. We were then given a mere 15 minutes to realign. 

A slide made by the Precinct Chair outlining the caucus agenda
The Precinct Chair explaining the procedure for the caucus

Our Bernie team quickly huddled and devised a plan to split up to reach out to the unviable groups. As soon as the Caucus Chair said “Begin,” the Warren, Buttigieg and Sanders caucusgoers either left the room (because their candidate was viable and they could), or else rushed to attempt to win over members of one of the unviable groups. I went to the Yang group and was able to successfully bring four of them over to the Sanders group by explaining the similarity of the two candidates’ goals and visions for the middle class in the wake of increasing corporate profits and the displacement of workers through automation. Other members of my team, including some very passionate caucusgoers, were able to convince some undecided voters and Biden supporters to join the Bernie group. Most of the Yang group left, not wishing to realign, while many of the Klobuchar and Biden caucusgoers went straight to Buttigieg. Some Klobuchar caucusgoers also went straight for Warren.

In the end, my precinct had 7 State Delegates to allocate based on its number of caucusgoers. Sanders won three of them with 105 final voters, Warren won two with 92 final voters and Buttigieg also won two with 71 final voters. In terms of “State Delegate Equivalents,” which are projected numbers of state party convention delegates that candidates will receive proportional to their precinct size, Sanders won 1.22 while Warren and Buttigieg each won 0.81. State Delegates will then go on to elect delegates to the Democratic National Convention (to be held in Milwaukee, in July) of which a majority nominate the Democratic presidential candidate. Acknowledging that these results may change with a recount stemming from alleged inaccuracies in Iowa delegate allocation, as of February 11 Pete Buttigieg won the most pledged delegates with 14, although Bernie Sanders won a plurality of votes, both in the first and final rounds, and won 12 delegates.

The Bernie Sanders campaign office in Iowa City, IA on the day of the caucuses

The organization of the caucuses themselves was only the beginning of problems in counting delegates. While I was celebrating the end of the caucuses that night with the Sanders campaign in Iowa City, it quickly became apparent that Caucus Chairs were having difficulties reporting results to the Iowa Democratic Party. We were of course disappointed that the results did not get disseminated before we all had to part ways to return home that evening. However, we never could have imagined then that it would take multiple days for the entirety of the results to be announced or that the blame would be primarily attributed to an app developed by a company named “Shadow”.

There were at least two parts to the failure of the Iowa Democratic Party to manage the caucuses. While the media focused almost entirely on the app, in reality the app was made available to Caucus Chairs to use if they wanted, but was not mandated by the state party and thus cannot be solely blamed for the ensuing fiasco. The real problem was that when it experienced glitches, party leaders failed to effectively utilize a backup system to gather the results. While the scandal over the app might have been the last straw needed to end the Iowa caucus system, it is arguably the least grave of the problems of the system. Along with the multiple ways in which the caucus system limits participation, many in the Democratic Party do not see why Iowa, a state with an over 90% white population, should unilaterally be given the importance of hosting the first test of Presidential candidates in the nation. For a Democratic Party that increasingly sees its strength in the diversity of its supporters, this view has rightfully gained significant traction.

As someone who loves the political system and seeing it in action, the caucuses were a powerful window through which to witness small-scale democracy, and I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in them. However, our focus, both as a party and as a country, should be to extend the right to vote to all without hindrance, and the caucus system undeniably works in opposition to this goal. While there are a multitude of ways to expand the caucus system such as through online caucuses and absentee measures, these would just open the process up to further complications with counting votes and allocating delegates (including possible cybersecurity threats) as well as remove the supposed original appeal of the caucus system itself. As Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois stated, “I think the Democratic caucus in Iowa is a quirky, quaint tradition which should come to an end. As we try to make voting easier for people across America, the Iowa caucus is the most painful situation we currently face for voting.” It is time to conclude that the caucus process is not suitable for democracy in the 21st century, which must be as inclusive a process as possible while simultaneously diminishing the risk of cyberthreats, miscounts and technical errors. While recognizing the initial appeal and function of the caucus process, the caucus system must now be relegated to history so that, as the Constitution proclaims, “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged.”

The Many Sides of Mr. August

By Tali Lebowitsch

Photos By Adrian Flynn

Mr. August at work in his administrative office

His name may sound familiar from the countless emails you received in your inbox at the beginning of the year. He may have been the one who saved you from taking that A.P. physics class you knew you couldn’t handle, or transferred you into the art class you have always wanted to take. Perhaps he is your beloved English teacher, trusted advisor, or close confidant. Regardless, in only two years, Ben August has become a fundamental member of the Beacon Community. Whether you have ever had personal contact with him or not, you can be assured that he has put in maximum effort to ensure that you personally have a Beacon experience that fulfills the requirements while simultaneously accommodating your personal interests. 

But who is the man behind the name? What really goes into organizing the schedules for the entire student body? How does one balance a crucial administrative task, while remaining accessible and dedicated teacher? What are the potential downsides to being so committed and passionate about a job that can be incredibly draining? These were all questions that I had in mind when I had the privilege to sit down with Ben August to discuss his new administrative role. 

Before discussing the nuts and bolts of August’s new role, I wanted to begin by getting to know a little bit about his past before he came to Beacon. August grew up in the South Eastern district of Melbourne in Australia. August said he “has always liked to think of himself as an artistic person.” He continued, “Before being a teacher I was a photographer which is how I put myself through college.” Yet, August has never felt confined to one role. He said, “I’m a person who has a lot of different sides . . . I’ve never been able to settle on something that was my ‘thing.’” However, August has always felt drawn to coding and building intricate systems, stating, “Computer coding is something I enjoy doing, pulling together pieces of information to make something novel.”

Therefore, when presented with the opportunity to become the coder for Beacon, he jumped at the chance. His official title is Chair of Programming, “which is probably the most interesting but least talked about job in a school!” When describing his job, August says, “Every school has to have someone like me who is putting the pieces together, which is really fascinating because you have to learn everything about what everybody needs and then do the huge puzzle to make sure people have what they are supposed to have. There aren’t many jobs that are more challenging that happen all at once with more real deadlines.” Despite the hard work, August finds his job “really fulfilling, because it is so obvious how meaningful and useful it is for people. I find programming really rewarding because you put in a lot of effort and do your best and then you start again and get to do better the next time.” He continued, “I guess I’m sort of just obsessed with my job!” 

Nonetheless, there have been many challenges that have arisen as a result of such a demanding job. When asked the most difficult part, August says that is has been “creating a system that makes the most sense to students and gets them really good changes really quickly.” When it comes to making schedule changes, “Communicating about those things with students is enormously challenging especially for the first year, and I just hope it gets easier and as people get used to it.”

Additionally, his new role has lead to personal sacrifices when it comes to balancing his new job with his original one, the job of an english teacher. He prefaced, “I think my seniors would tell you I dont balance it as well as I would like.” However, August maintains that his priority first and foremost is to remain accessible to his students. “I definitely try to make sure my students come first. My job is to be a teacher first, then support the school in any way I can.” He continued, “There’s a big cost to coming into a programming position, it becomes a distraction from the important things in the classroom. It’s something I struggle with, but it’s really important to me that students in my class have a good experience.” For August, when it comes to balance it means “carving out intentional time, forcing myself to make sure that I take care of the important things before the urgent things.” Yet, August emphasized the value of having administrators who also have teaching roles. He explained, “one of the best things about our school is that the administration teach,” which he emphasized as important because “it keeps our behind the scenes work connected to students and what they really care about.”

Overall, August describes his new responsibilities as one large learning experience. For August, whose first priority is that students have a “quality learning experience,” it has been about learning to operate “all these cigs and wheels that are behind the scenes that people don’t even know are there. When asked about what the most important lesson he’s learned, he answered that it has been about creating a system that makes it most convenient for all involved. He says, “Whenever possible, instead of creating work for other people, you should just abstract it away. There’s no reason for teachers and students to have to do all this superfluous paperwork that will distract them from learning if there is a system or programming that will do it for them.” He finished by saying: “it’s nice to save people from doing things that are really just a distraction!”

To conclude our interview, I wanted August to share his direct advice to students in order to ensure they have the most fulfilling learning experience available to them. For August, the most valuable action a student could take to make the scheduling process as efficient as possible is planning ahead. He states, “If you plan out your courses and maintain that plan and take responsibility for it that means when we ask for your preferences you can put it in as early as you can.” One of the most challenging parts of his job is that “Students don’t do the planning or thinking ahead that a system as complicated and dynamic as ours really requires.” He concludes, “the last thing I want to do is cut down on student choice,” and finished by saying “The more that we can cut down on the last minute attempts to change from one thing to another, the more smooth the experiences for all students will be.”

Come Together, Right Now: Finding Community in Strawberry Fields, New York

By Adrian Flynn

Photo taken by Sherry, December 8 2019

Over the past six years that I’ve lived in New York City, one of my favorite things to do has been to make a trip twice a year to Strawberry Fields to pay tribute to John Lennon. Dozens of people of all ages fill the small area in Central Park containing the Imagine mosaic every October 9th and December 8th for the anniversaries of Lennon’s birthday and date of death, respectively. Each time, a dedicated and motley group of musicians, usually with a surplus of guitarists, finds a spot to set up and spends hours playing Lennon’s songs both as a Beatle and as a solo artist, along with other Beatles hits and crowdpleasers. Depending on the weather and temperature, these gatherings can last well into the night, with many dedicated fans and musicians usually sticking it out in the autumn and winter cold.

Being a Beatles fan and a fan of rock from their era, seeing this many people outside each and every year in unity not only for the incredible music but for the ideology of peace advocated by Lennon has been a supportive buttress for my own views on an ever-more complicated world. For everyone there, there is nowhere else to be nor anything else to do, except to enjoy the music, meet people, and proudly show that we still miss John and celebrate his influence on both popular culture and our own lives.

However, this year was particularly special for me. I will be leaving the city soon to attend college, so these would be my last trips to Strawberry Fields for a while. This wasn’t the only reason that it was special this year, though, as I also got to do what I had never dared before: join the musicians. When I arrived this December 8th on the 39th anniversary of Lennon’s passing, I spotted a friend from past gatherings in the inner circle of musicians who waved me in and gave me his guitar, allowing me to join in effortlessly. It was 3:45pm and the crowd was organized messily around us, but then with the arrival of a pianist with her own keyboard, we moved to the benches further from the mosaic, and in the course of just a few minutes, I found myself at the center of the band at a spot that felt nearly like a stage, looking out at the crowd. Playing through hits I knew the chords to like the back of my hand, I suddenly looked up and saw all eyes on me, with the flashes and lenses of all kinds of cellphones and cameras pointed in my direction. At one point, a local TV cameraman shone a bright light in my face and I later appeared fleetingly on the evening news along with my fellow performers.

Frame from CBSN New York Channel 2, December 9 2019

The beauty in the gathering is always the interpersonal and democratic community that forms both in and out of the musician’s circle. My friend, Aaron, and I must have played at least five different guitars throughout the evening, which were passed around seamlessly. People brought out songbooks and lights when we launched into songs we didn’t fully master and held them in front of us. Song recommendations came in from the crowd and we would quickly reach a consensus when opening chords were played followed by a chorus of voices ringing in the first lyrics. I was most proud of initiating “A Day in the Life”, a personal favorite, and then being immediately surrounded by everyone as the resounding voices of the crowd came in with the infamous words “I read the news today, oh boy.” Eventually, each part that each person contributes, both vocally and musically, blends in with the whole, and I like to think that we got loud enough to be heard from the apartment in the Dakota in which Lennon last lived, still inhabited by Yoko Ono, his widow. By the time, well into the night, that my fingers were too numb with cold to play another chord and my voice too drained, I left Central Park knowing not only the name of many musicians and spectators around me, but also their personal concerns and struggles. We entered into each other’s lives in Strawberry Fields as Lennon fans and left as friends with common desires and compassion for one another.

Communities can truly form anywhere, with anyone, and around any aspect of a passion or identity which links one with others. While singing together, we were not classifying ourselves as anything except as human beings who love the music and peace that Lennon espoused throughout his life. While I was lucky enough to find a small and tightly-knit community in these gatherings in Strawberry Fields, one can find and build community anywhere, on any scale. The key to this community, importantly, was the collective effort we all made to come out and physically gather together — truly the best way to intersect with other people’s lives. With social media companies, streaming services, and other technological sources of entertainment all vying for our attention and time, it is crucial whenever possible to “Come Together” and keep meeting with people in person who share our common interests. Meeting people eye-to-eye, face-to-face, is, and will always be, the best way to build a real sense of togetherness and better understand each other. 

John Lennon was born on October 9th, 1940 in Liverpool, England, and passed away on December 8th, 1980 in Manhattan, New York.

Photo taken by Adrian Flynn, December 8 2019

Keeping Democracy Intact: Honoring and Learning From the Legacy of Rep. Elijah Cummings

By Adrian Flynn

Early last Thursday morning, Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland passed away in Baltimore, aged 68. For many, Cummings represented the best of both Congress and the Democratic Party. In his later years as a Congressman, particularly during the Trump Presidency, Cummings made his mark on what he perceived to be a lack of morality and decency in government. Yet because Cummings did not attract as much publicity as many of his younger colleagues, it is plausible that many Beacon students know little of Cummings’ life and legacy. While he had four whole decades of valorous public service spanning from the Maryland House of Delegates to Committee Chairmanship in the House of Representatives, just his leadership in the tumultuous last few years shows what a tremendous loss his death is for both Congress and this country.

As Chair of the House Oversight Committee since January of this year, Cummings oversaw many contentious hearings and testimonies, with the public able to see his devotion to progressive causes and bipartisanship through how he handled his Committee in heated political times. This was particularly displayed during Michael Cohen’s hearing on February 27th. After Cohen provided damning testimony concerning his work as Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Cummings offered empathy to a man who he believed wanted to right his wrongs. Cummings said he tells his kids that “When bad things happen to you, do not ask the question: Why did it happen to me? Ask the question: Why did it happen for me?” And then to Cohen, he said “I don’t know why this is happening for you. But it is my hope that a small part of it is for our country to be better.” Cummings then cited the facts of Trump’s record amount of misleading statements and him calling Cohen a “rat” as ways in which we have deviated from normalcy, pleading for people to act and to not stand on the sidelines. He concluded by graciously thanking Cohen for his decision to come forward. 

Additionally, Cummings had a strong sense of morality that is desperately needed in government. On February 6, Cummings spoke strongly in favor of HR 1, a bill meant to protect voting rights and limit corruption in government. He cited his Mother’s last words as being “Do not let them take our votes away from us,” and recounted the history of oppression at the ballot box that has plagued and continues to plague this country and groups of oppressed minorities. He went on to forcefully say “I don’t give a damn how you look at it! There are efforts to stop people from voting, that’s not right! This is not Russia! This is the United States of America!” On July 18, Kevin McAleenan, the former acting Homeland Security Secretary, appeared before Cummings’ committee. After McAleenan said that he was doing his “level-best” of a job he could in regard to the detention of migrants at the border, Cummings strongly retorted, “What does that mean? What does that mean when a child is sitting in their own feces? Can’t take a shower? Come on man! What’s that about? None of us would have our own children in that position! They are human beings! We are the United States of America… We’re better than that!”

The episode which perhaps got him the most media coverage in the past year was the way he mediated a conflict between Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina. At the same Cohen hearing on February 27th, Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina presented Lynne Patton, a Trump Administration member and former member of the Trump organization, to rebut Cohen’s assertion that President Trump is a “racist,” because Patton is African-American. Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan took issue with this, saying “The fact that someone would actually use a prop, a black woman, in this chamber in this committee is alone racist in itself.” Meadows interrupted, asking for her comments to be erased from the record as he found them to be personally offensive. Cummings then took control of the hearing and asked Tlaib if she would like to “re-phrase that statement.” After she cleared up that she was not calling Meadows a racist, but instead saying using Patton as a “prop” was a “racist act,” Cummings said that “Mr. Meadows, you know… of all the people on this committee… I’ve said it and got in trouble for it – that you’re one of my best friends. I know that shocks a lot of people… I could see and feel your pain, I feel it. And so, and I don’t think Ms. Tlaib intended to cause you that, that kind of pain and that kind of frustration.” By these words, Cummings was able to diffuse a toxic situation, which we can all learn from in our handling of future experiences with tense political discourse.

Cummings represented the very best of government, and the only way to carry his message forward is to reach across political and ideological boundaries, fight like hell for what is right, and offer a helping hand to everyone, but especially those who need it. The example he set should not only be reflected in our actions as citizens but also by those in elected office, who are more prone to scrutiny and harsh disagreement. We will need more leaders like Elijah Cummings to maintain dignity and respect for all in this country through a present time of turbulence. To conclude, my favorite quote of the Chairman is: “When we’re dancing with the angels, the question will be asked: In 2019, what did we do to make sure we kept our democracy intact? Did we stand on the sidelines and say nothing?” Ask yourself this question truthfully, and make sure to act on it. 

A Day of Congressional Exhilaration: Jerry Nadler and Max Rose Visit Beacon

By Adrian Flynn

Photos by Adrian Flynn

We were incredibly fortunate last Wednesday to host not just one but two sitting congressmen at Beacon. Both Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-10) and Rep. Max Rose (D-11) of New York were able to answer questions from students and explain their motivations, musings, and roles.

Nadler arrived at Beacon for E band in the auditorium, and many students jumped on the opportunity to see the current Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which is responsible for overseeing the administration of justice within federal courts, agencies, and other law enforcement entities, as well as impeachments of federal officials. Nadler, 71, was first elected to Congress in 1992 and took over from Michigan representative John Conyers after his resignation in 2017 as the Ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee under Republican leadership. When Democrats won the majority of the House in the 2018 midterms, Nadler was named Chairman of the Committee. Nadler was at Beacon due to the courtesy of a parent who works in his office. When Nadler arrived, however, he had to do what History teacher Harry Feder called “the people’s work”, as Robert Mueller had begun his news conference concerning the Special Counsel’s Report at the Department of Justice. 

As students filed in and found their seats, the environment grew tense as people were confused as to what was happening. Nadler sat in the front row, holding a phone to his ear with the screen on, listening intently to Mueller’s comments. Mr. Feder, having unsuccessfully tried with junior Chance Chamblin to project a feed of Mueller’s statement onto the screen, quickly shushed everyone. The auditorium grew silent, and though everyone was glued to their seats, there was an undeniable tilt towards Nadler, who held the phone playing Mueller’s voice on speaker. When Mueller had finished speaking after around ten minutes, Nadler gave the phone to an aide, spoke to him briefly, then sat in a chair facing the audience along with Mr. Feder. There were many bottles of water on the side of the room, possibly placed to avoid what happened the week before, where Nadler appeared to faint at a hearing due to dehydration.

A short Q&A ensued where Mr. Feder relayed to Nadler a few of the top lines of questioning that his students had submitted the week before. Of course, the topic on everyone’s minds, the question of impeachment, drove the discussion. Nadler stated that he believes President Ford’s view that an impeachable offense is “whatever the majority of the House [of Representatives] says at any point in history” is “too cynical.” He went on to explain that he believes that a crime does not have to be an impeachable offense, and by the same token, an impeachable offense does not have to be a crime. Nadler set the bar higher, stating that “an impeachment is a defense of the Constitution, and defense of the Republic against a President who would… upset the separation of powers or threaten liberty… [condone] any conduct that would upset the structure and function of government.” Nadler used this logic to defend President Clinton against his impeachment proceedings, stating that Clinton’s perjury concerning a “private sexual affair” was not an impeachable offense because it did not “impact structure of government,” although it was a crime. Applying this to the current President, Nadler stated that if President Trump hypothetically “committed perjury about some real estate deal in Manhattan”, it would be a crime but not impeachable. 

However, Nadler unequivocally voiced his view that there is “ample evidence for a dozen different counts of impeachment against the President in plain sight.” To begin, he cited the fact that Article III of Impeachment against Richard Nixon was that he defied Congressional subpoenas, while “President Trump has not only defied all Congressional subpoenas and ordered all of his people to defy Congressional subpoenas, he stated ‘We’re gonna defy all Congressional subpoenas,’ he was stupid enough to say that out loud! That is most certainly impeachable.” Furthermore, Nadler noted another possible road to impeachment for the current President by stating that “The framers made clear anything you do before you’re President is not impeachable except for one thing: if you gain your office through corruption, in other words, you try to rig the election.”

“You don’t want to tear the country apart. So you shouldn’t do impeachment if the result of it is going to be that for the next thirty years, half of the country is going to accuse the other half ‘We won the election, you stole it from us.'”

– Congressman Jerry Nadler

In response to the question of why impeachment is not happening at the moment, Nadler noted that although impeachment should be a defense of the Constitution in theory, it is still a “political act, not a judicial act” and that “you must have the American people on your side.” He cited this belief as the reason for him calling in witnesses and holding hearings in the Judiciary Committee, so that the picture can become clearer not only for members of the Committee but for the American people. Nadler also warned, “You don’t want to tear the country apart. So you shouldn’t do impeachment if the result of it is going to be that for the next thirty years, half of the country is going to accuse the other half ‘We won the election, you stole it from us.’” He elaborated that this is a tough line to walk, because he believes that they would need “such evidence and such dire leads, [that] by the end of the inquiry you will be able to persuade at least some fraction of people who voted for Trump that you have to impeach.” Further diving into political ramifications of impeachment, Nadler noted that even if they make it as far as the House of Representatives voting for impeachment, it is then up to the Senate, of which two thirds must vote in favor of impeachment in order to remove the President from office. Nadler commented that “The Republicans at this point are like cultists… the head of the cult can do no wrong,” further adding that if that environment in the GOP does not change, then Nadler sees a great loss in the prospect that Trump could get impeached by the House but acquitted by the Senate, and then claim to the American people that this means he did nothing wrong, and further, then what the President Trump is doing gets “really normalized,” destroying the original intent of impeachment.

The conversation then shifted into concerns raised by Beacon students about how the intensified gaze and analysis of the media impacts Nadler’s political maneuverings in regard to his work as Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Nadler noted that “Other than the occasional ‘Gee, that’s a good idea. I didn’t think of that,” you know there’s always a market for good ideas, [the media] in a general sense helps set political climate… indirectly.” Mr. Feder then connected this to how his history students have been intrigued by the question of whether legislators throughout political history should be more guided in their work by their own conscience or what their constituents want. When asked about which one should be weighed more heavily, Nadler slightly grinned and stated “Hopefully there isn’t too much divergence… and I’ve been very lucky in that my district and I have been pretty in sync for a long time.” Nadler, representing New York’s 10th district, which the Cook Partisan Voting Index rates as D+26, is in a position as a liberal Democrat where he does not have to compromise too much between his own judgments and the views of his constituents. As such, Nadler believes that the decision depends on the importance of the judgment, and that he weighs his own conscience more heavily than usual if the moral stakes of his vote are high. “Ultimately, you have to live with yourself,” he said, citing the examples of him voting against The PATRIOT Act of 2001 and for The 2015 Iran Nuclear deal. In the case of the Iran Deal, he received heavy opposition from “almost all the Jewish organizations” in his district and many other constituents, but he supported it anyway, because he believed that the Iran Deal would be able to prevent Iran getting nuclear weapons. Here, Nadler found that his conscience weighed heavily on the fact that he would not have been able to live with his vote if it increased the odds of another nuclear arsenal to form and therefore increase the odds of nuclear conflict. He also noted that after he was able to explain and justify these decisions to his constituents, he did not have to suffer electoral consequences and was easily re-elected.

Nadler had to leave early to participate in a Democrat leadership conference call regarding Mueller’s statement. To further reflect the urgency of the matter at hand, a member of his team interrupted Nadler speaking a few times to show him some information on a phone, which Nadler would read and then whisper a response, before continuing. This was truly seeing Congressional leadership at work during a turbulent time in history, and we were all privileged to bear witness to it.

Then, after school, Congressman Max Rose of Staten Island addressed students in the library. Rose was invited by Student Government and the Women in Politics club. Rose was all smiles as he was offered Beacon-branded reusable cups. While Rose and Nadler share the same side of the aisle, their respective entries into politics could hardly be more different. Rose, currently the youngest male member of the House of Representatives, was elected in the 2018 midterm elections, defeating Republican incumbent Dan Donovan. He is a decorated veteran of the US Army, with such awards as the Purple Heart and the Bronze star medal, and was wounded when his vehicle hit an IED in Afghanistan. After his active service ended in 2013, he was the Director of Public Engagement for Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth P. Thompson and then later served as Chief of Staff at Brightpoint Health, a nonprofit operator of medical clinics in Staten Island and elsewhere in New York City. He commented on his road from there to elected office, saying “it’s fascinating because a year ago, I was technically unemployed… I proposed to my wife and then quit my job… every woman’s dream!” He emphasized how all the “so-called experts” said that his race was impossible for him to win and that it was a waste of time and money. He says there has to be a distinction between a district that is “Republican-leaning or somewhere that has a legacy of bad democratic candidates at the Congressional level,” and believes that his district is the latter. Even in the year of the Blue Wave, the race wasn’t even ranked in the Top 50 competitive in the country, according to Rose. But by starting with family and friends, expanding his base from there and knocking on around 740,000 doors, he was able to win in a district that he proudly mentions Trump won by a more significant percentage margin in 2016 than he won the state of Texas.

From this historic victory, Rose emphasized to Beacon students that “the policies are gonna change, the debates are gonna change, the issues are gonna change, [so] if there’s anything you take away from this though, please do not let anyone tell you to wait your turn, especially when it comes to politics.” He struck down the notion that politics is run by key donors and political bosses, boldly stating “we have never had a more egalitarian political system in the history of this country, and it’s incumbent upon all of you to seize that opportunity.” Also, with regard to the involvement of young people in politics, he noted that his campaign did not have a position of a youth outreach organizer of anything of that sort because it’s “patronizing,” going on to say that youth voters care about the same issues that others do but have the insight to see issues within the political system itself, even in his own party. He takes issue with Democratic candidates who do not take the components of gaining trust and promoting tangible results into their races, and fail to show voters how government can make their lives better. Rose calls the lack of faith in government the “greatest crisis that we face today,” because without it, absolutely nothing will get done. 

Rose made sure to give Beacon students a view of what politics really looks like. Jokingly, he said that real politics is nothing like the show “West Wing”, and instead consists of shaking a lot of hands, going to people where they are, finding out what their concerns are and seeking to earn their trust. He completely dismisses the idea that campaigns are run on singular issues, saying “as if it was that easy… as if I could just mix up a little cocktail of healthcare, infrastructure, this and that and win an election. It doesn’t work that way and nor should it, because the political process is one gigantic trust-building exercise because we have no idea what problems we’re actually gonna face down the road.” Instead, he says the political process should be concerned with electing people on “both sides of the aisle who are going to put the country first and who are going to have the right values and morals. That’s what this is all about.” After telling a brief anecdote about meeting a bartender from Staten Island who told him she didn’t like Max Rose, clearly not recognizing him, he said something dawned on him after leaving that bar with his “ego in tatters”, that he represents that woman just as much as he represents his most ardent supporters. Through this, he realized the importance of delivering results for his constituents and stopping the constant wheel of running a campaign and smearing opponents. Indeed, he finished by saying “The American people are unbelievably united… this is a tough thing to do but for the purposes of this conversation we should, if you put immigration aside… Donald Trump co-opted a Democratic agenda, speaking about infrastructure, lowering healthcare costs, universal healthcare coverage, draining the swamp, ending our forever wars, protecting medicare and social security, that’s what Democrats talk about! In 2018 Democrats took back the House talking about exactly those seven things… The American people have been consistently for more than a decade voting for those seven things and voting for change, and they still haven’t gotten them. So really the dichotomy that we face today is between the American people and an entrenched class of folks who do not want to get things done… and that’s what your responsibility is coming up to help fix.”

On a lighter note, after a tough round of questions from students ranging from his belief in capitalism to solve issues of inequality to how to fix the current state of politics, he joked that “Okay, I am very happy to be done with you guys and on to Chris Hayes, he’ll give me less of a hard time!”

For Beacon students, having both Nadler and Rose in the same day gave a great image of the diversity of seniority and opinion in the Democratic Party. While Nadler, considerably more senior than Rose, is concerned with impeachment, which is reasonable, Rose places much more value on making government tangible for people. For many who are interested in government, Nadler and Rose represented the dichotomy of the roles of the House of Representatives in both legislation and oversight. Indeed, for the remainder of the Trump Administration and beyond, we must stay informed on how the chambers of Congress and branches of government work so that we may influence good policymaking and a government that works for the betterment of its citizens.

“We have never had a more egalitarian political system in the history of this country, and it’s incumbent upon all of you to seize that opportunity.”

– Congressman Max Rose

A Taste of the Future: Representative Hakeem Jeffries Visits Beacon

By Jude Messler & Adrian Flynn, with additional questions by Cynthia Enofe

Before March 20th, a whirlwind of loudspeaker announcements and ubiquitous posters let students know that Congressman Hakeem Jeffries was coming to Beacon. Excitement soon followed as people prepared to listen to what the Representative from New York’s 8th Congressional District had to say. The Congressmen’s budding leadership role in the Democratic caucus has catapulted him into consideration for Nancy Pelosi’s successor as a possible speaker. Three of the top five Democrats in Congress are are rapidly approaching their eighties, and with the number four Democrat, Rep. Ben Ray Luján, two years Jefferies junior, running for U.S Senate, Jefferies path to the gavel seems clear. So what exactly does the man on the precipice of becoming the third in line for the presidency and arguably the second most powerful person in the country believe?

Representative Jeffries’ speech in front of front of around 100 students was heavy on quirky colloquialisms and fluffy encouragement. He preached the story of his political career, highlighting his two Assembly race losses before he eventually won. The underlying theme of his career was crystal clear to all present, when you are knocked down you always get back up. This pervasive message was an echo from his last appearance at Beacon, but his audience and spectacle this time was much larger. However, an addition from his last talk at our school was his inclusion of a Winston Churchill quote, “success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

Twenty minutes of what an anonymous student called “a true political speech” filled with motivational quotes and Game of Thrones references was followed by a succinct dive into policy issues. Rep. Jeffries concisely broke down what he believed to be the three biggest threats to the next generation: A transition from an industrial economy to a digital economy, gun violence, and climate change. Offering solutions to the latter two, Jefferies spoke about the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, recently passed by The House of Representatives, aimed at broadening and strengthening the national background check system for gun purchases. The bill passed the House on a 240-190 partisan vote and as Jefferies noted, has almost no chance of being passed by the current Senate. Even if the bill were to pass the Senate, President Trump told reporters he would veto it. On Climate Change, Jefferies expressed enthusiasm for a clean energy economy and stressed how transitionitioning to that economy would be one of the great challenges of the next decade. However, he briefly noted his opposition to the Green New Deal in its current form.

After Jefferies’ speech, the Beacon Beat had the opportunity to speak with Jefferies, below is the transcribed conversation:

Adrian Flynn (Beacon Beat): In the wake of the Christchurch shooting New Zealand did this incredible thing, within 10 days they passed gun control legislation. A lot of their success has to do with their system of government and the influence of money in politics. Do you see any possibility for us [America] to ever be able respond that quickly to a tragedy like that?

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries: Yeah, the first major piece of legislation we passed this session was the For The People Act, H.R. 1, which is designed to help get unregulated money out of politics so that the public interest can prevail over special interests, like the NRA. The system of government in New Zealand, as you point out, is very different then what we have in this country, including the fact that we have a 2nd Amendment. That presents some challenges as it relates to how we go about promoting gun safety, but we are committed to making sure that we can pass meaningful legislation to address the gun violence epidemic that we have in the United States.  

Cynthia Enofe: Our second question is, as you probably know, in 2019 only 7 out of 895 students who were admitted to Stuyvesant High School, one of the top public schools in New York City, were black. So how should the city address this problem of inequity in the public school system?

Jude Messler (Beacon Beat): We know you work on a federal level, but your roots are in the city.

Representative Hakeem Jeffries: It is a very important question.

Cynthia Enofe: And do you think [Mayor] De Blasio is working effectively to address this issue?  

Representative Hakeem Jeffries: It seems to me that the DOE should figure out how to replicate more schools like Beacon. Which provides excellent education and draws people from a wide diversity of communities throughout the city of New York who then meld together as a community, receive a high level of education and then go out to be incredibly productive citizens. New York City is the only city that relies on a single test for admissions to certain specialized high schools. That appears to me to be an outdated model that needs to be reformed. The Mayor has about two and a half years left on his term and it seems to me to be an urgent challenge with respect to diversifying our specialized high schools that he should confront before he exits city hall.

Jude Messler (Beacon Beat): What are your thoughts on term limits in Senate and House. I know a lot of the new 2020 candidates have been pushing for it, so how do you feel?

Representative Hakeem Jeffries: Well in my view, the best thing that we can do is to reduce the influence of money in politics and the things the promote the power of incumbency rather than term limit individuals who may be doing a good job, but because you want to get rid of some of the bad actors, everybody has to go. I certainly understand the frustration that people have with the difficulties that often exist in defeating incumbents, but with the rise of social media and the ability of small donors increasingly to power grassroots campaigns, we have seen the playing field even to some degree. There is more reform work that needs to be done, but it seems to me that reform is a better approach then imposing a one size fits all solution through term limits. When you have a, sorta, batch of apples and there are a few bad apples in the batch it doesn’t make sense to dump out the whole thing. I can understand the frustration, and the need some people feel to dump the whole thing out rather then just extract the few bad apples.

Jude Messler (Beacon Beat): So [the idea of term limits] is just a gut reaction from some people?

Representative Hakeem Jeffries: Yeah, the most important thing we can do is reform our political system so that grassroots candidates who are community based have an opportunity to overcome the power of incumbency.

Adrian Flynn (Beacon Beat): [Representative] Ocasio-Cortez already showed it was possible.

Representative Hakeem Jeffries: She proved that it was possible. We have seen other instances of the times when we have to level the playing field even further and that is part of what H.R. 1 is designed to do.

Jude Messler (Beacon Beat):  What do you think about Speaker Pelosi’s statement that impeachment is “just not worth it” and would you vote for impeachment based on evidence available today?

Representative Hakeem Jeffries: It seems to me that we have to wait for the Mueller report to be presented to the DOJ, Congress, and the American people (this interview was recorded before Attorney General Barr released his summary of the official Mueller report findings). Then we can all collectively decide what is the best way to proceed. The standard that Speaker Pelosi laid out is one that I agree with, which is that the case should be compelling, the evidence should be overwhelming, and public sentiment around impeachment should be bipartisan. At the end of the day, impeachment is the equivalent of a grand jury indictment. Conviction and the actual trial takes place in the Senate. The House, according to the Constitution, has the power to impeach The President. What that does is level a series of charges against The President that form the basis of a trial in the Senate. The Senate then has the responsibility to conduct the trial and can only remove The President if two-thirds of the Senate agree. Under the current situation that we find ourselves in, there are 47 Democrats and 53 Republicans which means it would take twenty Republican Senators to agree with those 47 Democrats to convict The President and remove him from office. That is why Speaker Pelosi has said, that if we decide to proceed with impeachment it needs to be bi-partisan in nature based on compelling and overwhelming evidence.

Beacon Beat: Thank you so much.

The Beacon Beat’s conversation with Rep. Jeffries gave us a new perspective on the man who would be the first black Speaker of the House. Smart, young, and not too far left it seems as though he is the establishment choice to lead the Democratic caucus. Speaking with him directly revealed the hype around him. Careful in his words, Jefferies clearly was thoughtful in crafting his answers to our questions. Like any good communicator he often referred to analogies to paint a coherent picture of his beliefs. His rhetoric was distinct in that it featured a more youthful and cosmopolitan tone than most American politicians. His approach to certain issues was non-controversial and clearly palatable to party elders. It seems to be only a matter of time before Congress is run by Speaker Hakeem Jeffries.

The Passing of Cassius Clay the Crab & the Crab Sanctuary in Room 527

By Adrian Flynn

Photos by Adrian Flynn

Larry (Pictured) was around long enough for his photo to be taken, unlike Cassius Clay

The Beacon community was rattled in April by the unfortunate and untimely passing of Cassius Clay the crab. The female blue crab, named after the prolific boxer Muhammad Ali, somehow made it out of her tank and into a sink in Mr. McKenna’s classroom. By the time she was discovered, she had passed.

Cassius Clay was purchased in Chinatown along with three other crabs by Marine Bio club co-founder and junior Leo Ku with the goal of keeping and possibly breeding them. According to Mr. McKenna, the breeding “didn’t go well. You can’t just throw ‘em together in a tank and expect some magic to happen.” Cassius Clay had no choice but to escape and secure her freedom.

The tank was not covered on the Friday night when Cassius Clay made her daring escape. After a custodian who shall remain anonymous found her hard-walled body, he decided to not interfere with the rest of the room, feeling that the room was either a crime scene or the site of some large-scale science experiment. After Mr. McKenna was notified by the custodian, he put the crab in the freezer for scientific preservation, mindfully aware of a possible dissection opportunity in the future. A few weeks later, the power to the freezer was cut off and the body failed to be further preserved, and was buried unceremoniously as refuse.

Heartbroken, Ku commented “She was my favorite crab, I was in my bag. It was sadder than Endgame, which I saw later.”

A short gathering was planned but then cancelled as another one of the crabs suddenly passed in their tank without explanation. No foul play was suspected in either of the cases, as crabs could plausibly pull off escapes if determined and can die of natural causes. The remaining two are on careful watch by the Marine Biology club.

McKenna allocated all the entailed responsibility to Ku, “they’re Leo’s crabs.”

On a lighter note, one of the remaining crabs, Larry, shocked both students and Mr. McKenna alike when he appeared in a brand new light-colored shell, with his old one molted and sitting on the side of the tank. Some initially thought that Leo had got a new crab and it had ate the old one, but this rumor was quickly disproven by scientific observation. Long live Larry, until the summer when Leo will have to think of something to do with him.

Larry’s molten exoskeleton, with former gill structures still present
Larry enjoying a meal in his new exterior

16 Beacon Students on Family Politics, Values, Social Media Activism, and the College Admissions Scandal: A Beacon Beat Roundtable

The Beacon Beat has formally decided to begin hosting “roundtable discussions” between members of both the newspaper staff and the public on specific topical issues. Below is a transcription of a conversation that occurred on March 13th. The transcription has been edited for clarity and grammar. Initially, the topic of discussion was “Family Politics vs. Family Values.”

Participants: Daniel Arturi, Camilla Bauman, Mollie Butler, Linus Coersmeier, Cynthia Enofe, Adrian Flynn, Anne Isman, Phoebe Kamber, Esme Laster, Tali Lebowitsch, Maya Levine, Jude Messler, Ariella Moses, Tali Rosen, Maxine Slater, Sophie Steinberg, Henry Wheeler-Klainberg

Sophie Steinberg (Senior): Today we are having a discussion within The Beacon Beat about family values, politics, and ethics and how they influence your own thinking, decision-making and political views. To begin, my name is Sophie. I’m a senior, and as the moderator of this discussion I will read out questions to get us started. So the first question is: What is the difference between family values and family politics? This could be different opinions or practices your family has.

Jude Messler (Senior): At least in my family, we have a moral code that’s all about honesty and less about policy. So my parents are both independents and neither of them voted for Trump in the last election. So in that sense of “who they vote for,” I don’t really know. I just know what they teach me about how to act, and how to treat people of all different backgrounds. So I think that the way they have taught me to life is basically comes from their own values.

Adrian Flynn (Junior): In the same way, my parents don’t tell me which party or person to support, but through their own values, there is a sense of what kind of morals I should support, stand for, and what I want to see represented in politics. It does lean toward certain parties, but nothing specifically.

Daniel Arturi (Freshman): I think it’s hard to separate family values and family politics because if one of your family traditions, which is apart of family values, is that you go hunting– it’s hard to separate that from family politics.

Maya Levine (Freshman): But I think that your family’s values and how they align with your politics is kind of a “practice what you preach” type of thing. If you support a certain group, and if they live in New York, they’re probably Democrats. They might just be doing that because it’s “the norm” and that’s what you’re expected to do. How your family values align with that shows how much you care about it. So if you support a candidate who is very environmentally-conscious, and then in your own home you compost or have solar panels, it goes to show that how your family aligns with their vote shows how invested they are in that policy.

Linus Coersmeier (Freshman): Both my parents are German and I feel like there’s a stigma around socialism in America in that it has “something to do with Communism” or is unamerican. I wouldn’t say that they’re straying away from the norm, but they have a different viewpoint, which is something I have had access too.

Sophie: In America we have a linear, universal idea of where our political spectrum is. But I think it changes depending on where you are. New York versus the Midwest, but especially in America versus Europe. I think that the translation and blurring of the political lines is good. While my family doesn’t explicitly say that “there are more ways to think about things,” there political differences within a certain umbrella of liberalism is hopefully impressed upon me so that I know that politics are not as polarizing.

Daniel: Diving into the second question (Do you share the same political views as your parents, and do you guys belong to the political group?), my mother is Brazilian and her parents were revolutionaries against the Brazilian military dictatorship and they were full on Communists. Obviously, Brazil is not a communist country but they fought for this ideal society and eventually they got, not a dictatorship, and I would argue that anything that’s not a dictatorship is better, and they got a capitalist society. They grudgingly accepted that, so they raised my mother with their ideals. And she is socialist, which I interpret as the next rung down, and now she’s living here in the United States, which is capitalist, and she’s not campaigning for Communism or Socialism. So I think that as live in a different environment you’re forced to adapt, and it’s easier to adapt than to fight against, you lean towards the political alignment of your surroundings.

Sophie: I even see that at Beacon. Coming into my freshman year, I didn’t know a lot about Feminism. And when I think about my views on sexism and feminism today, that is due in part to my environment, things I was taught, and the people around me. There is such a political awareness in almost every classroom.

Maya: Especially in America, where the parties are so black and white, you are very much dedicated to that. In other countries, in you are raised in a “liberal” household there is more room for differing opinions. In America, you have to be one or the other. I think that it breeds two results: either you hold heartedly believe and agree, passionately with you parents and community (which happens often in New York), or, alternatively, you stray completely from your parent’s/environment’s views because it is so impressed upon you.

Sophie: For those that don’t know, the second question was, do you share the same political views as your parents, and do you guys belong to the political group? I know that I always presume that everyone belongs to the same political group as your parents. Because I live in new York and go to a liberal school, I assume that people’s views are a product of the environment they grew up in. However, I have read stories on the news about people who live in very polarizing environments, or they’re the lone liberal in a very red community, and I think that’s something that we don’t acknowledge who are straying away. I agree with Maya that there is little to no “inbetween.” You either agree or you don’t.

Anne Isman (Senior): Well I disagree with that. Based on what Maya just said, it’s an American ideal to be either one way or the other, so by saying that there is not room for error, it’s only reinforcing that idea of a black and white political atmosphere.

Esme Laster (Junior): Going off of what Sophie said, I think so many people identify with their parents’ politics and that makes sense to me because I feel that people’s political associations often correlates to their socioeconomic status. I think that it makes sense that they align with their parents.

Tali Lebowitsch (Sophomore): To build off, I think it’s important to acknowledge that there’s also a privilege that comes with being able to choose what political party you side with because not everyone has that freedom. You might have the privilege to chose that because you have benefitted from other values in the past.

Sophie: I also think it’s really hard to disagree with your parents sometimes because you may face extreme backlash or physical consequences.

Camilla Bauman (Sophomore): Going back to the first question about values, I feel like if your family has very ingrained values that you have been around starting from when you were born, it is very hard to disagree with them.

Adrian: However, the ability to critically think is also influenced by your household. Do your parents or guardians endow you with the ability to challenge what is being said? So, even though there is the idea that you can be surrounded by like-minded people, are you the kind of person who has been raised to fall in line with that or to challenge those ideas?

Esme: I don’t really think that’s how critical thinking works. I feel that parents can impress certain values or ways of thinking about things, but I learned to think critically in school and based on the people I surround myself with, like my friends.

Adrian: But critical thinking doesn’t mean to just disagree, it means to not take everything at “face value.”

Esme: Yeah that’s what I was saying.

Cynthia Enofe (Senior): I think that actually goes against what Tali said about privilege and having the simple option to “choose” what you think, whereas some minority groups or families don’t grow up with the idea of “option.” They’re taught, “this is how things work,” and you just have to work within the system. You have to be taken out of your comfort zone and placed in this privileged environment where you have to realize, “Ok, I have a voice regardless of my status or who I am,” so I don’t think that Critical Thinking is the correct term.

Adrian: But realizing that you have a voice stems from how your parents raise you.

Sophie: But I think that Cynthia brings up a good point, some people, even if they’re raised in a “critical thinking household,” are taught to have opinions but that they might not be heard or fully come across to society. I feel like the suppression of vocalizing opinions probably does affect family politics. Maybe your family will discuss it less or value politics less because they don’t get to share their opinions.

Maya: I interpreted what Adrian said as the ability to be raised within a politically-aligned household and still be able to recognize the flaws within that party and the “good” and “bad” that comes with every political group. Like I can still be raised in a Democratic household but still be able to see the flaws within the Democratic system because my parents raised me to think critically about everyone with the lens of “What are they doing right?” and “What are they doing wrong?” I think that it’s an important aspect of our society.

Jude: I don’t think that Cynthia was criticizing Adrian’s point, I think she was saying that we have to recognize that there is a large population that doesn’t have the privilege of “thinking outside the box.” I know from my own experience that if you say something that goes against this mass mentality, the common understanding of a certain issue, you’re wrong. That’s where I’ve felt that some parents do raise you to think critically, but not critically of them.

Cynthia: Shifting back to the first question, I would say that my family and I are inherently grouped into the same political affiliation but I think that the real difference comes with age. My parents are immigrants and they have this mentality that, yes, the American Dream is still possible, whereas I know that that mentality is flawed. They always say that “if you work hard you can do this, “ but I don’t know if you guys heard about the whole college scandal, but people are essentially paying to go to college. And my parents come to me and say, “If you get good grades, you can make it, “ but I’m just like, “Dad, it’s not going to work out.”

Sophie: Quickly before we move on, by a show of hands, how many of you were NOT surprised by the college admissions scandal? I was like, I already knew that.

Anne: It’s a lot of money to pay to a school. They’re paying to get in, they’re paying the tuition it’s ridiculous.

Camilla: With Lori Loughlin and her daughter, Olivia Jade, I assumed that there was some sort of discrepancy going on there, but I didn’t realize that she had paid the proctor to change the daughter’s SAT scores.

Jude: For me, the whole idea of people bribing a someone to get into college was not surprising. For me, what was most surprising, was the video of Olivia Jade talking about how she didn’t even want to go to college. That’s what I found most disgusting because she couldn’t appreciate the level of privilege that she had where she could buy her way into one of the top schools in the country.

Esme: Going off of what Cynthia said about the American Dream, this is not that similar, but I think that your family’s conception of “American Democracy” also affects how you identify politically. I know that some families think about democracy as “playing the system” as opposed to voting for your own beliefs or what’s best for American society, so I think that really influences who we believe in and how we make decisions.

Daniel: Beyond the rejection of people thinking critically or plain disagreeing with people around them, in a community, if I see someone with a “Make America Great Again” hat, I am not going to say, “This is just another member of our community.” I am going to say something. I was once in a Dunkin’ Donuts and my friends and I saw someone in a MAGA hat, and one of my friends was like, “I don’t like your hat,” and this full-grown man starts fully yelling in our face. He even called the cops on us for just saying that we didn’t like his hat and arguing with him. This is not a person that I view as “another member of the country.” And I know that this is a flaw in myself and I have this prejudice against this person, but I have it because I wish to reject him from my community.

Adrian: To get back to your point, Cynthia, that’s a great example of how you were raised with the ability to make your own judgments which is essentially what I’m saying, that you don’t always see things for as they are.

Phoebe Kamber (Junior): I just wanted to say that there are extremes at either end. Living in NYC, most people are very liberal but you can still have conversations where there are disagreements, but I think in certain areas, that’s not the case. I think this goes back to why people have the same political affiliations as their parents because whether or not they live in households where it’s ok to question what’s happening, when you get older, you have the opportunity to form your own opinions, especially in college. My grandparents are Republican and my Mom grew up with similar understandings of politics, but when she grew up and left for college she started getting more exposure to other, new ideas.

Tali L: In response to Daniel’s example, and how we respond to opposite views, I would just like to say that while of course we should be respectful, I think that if someone is a Trump supporter, there are certain assumptions you can make about them, and you should be allowed to judge them based on that. I think that’s okay because if you support what he stands for, there are certain judgements you can make.

Sophie: I also feel that the MAGA hat, in general, is a very polarizing thing. I think that the person who wears that hat knows that they will illicit some sort of reaction, polite or not. I think they know “something’s coming,” and I’m not trying to say that that individual was asking for an argument, but there are certain preconditions that come will political apparel. People can see their views and immediately disagree.

Jude: I also want to address what Daniel said. For me, it’s harder because I come from two very different families. My dad’s family is a very liberal, East Coast, Jewish family and my mom comes from an extended family of Hispanic immigrants from Nicaragua who are heavily Catholic and heavily conservative and so it’s hard for me to make the distinction. I know there are people out there who support policies that are racist and sexist, but at the same time, are helping my grandmother have a home and a place to live. So I have trouble with those conflicting personal and political views when it comes to how to feel about someone. That has influenced me to believe that with Trump supporters, I don’t like their policies and I probably don’t like them either but I’m just not going to attack them.

Tali Rosen (Sophomore): But we do see the hat, and we can infer the policies that they believe in and at Beacon, from my own experience, I know that if I ask a question that doesn’t necessarily fall in line with the all liberal, all-left views all the time, and you just ask the question, then people assume your political beliefs and put you in a certain category. It makes it hard to figure out your political identity and your own political views when you have to chose your words so carefully so that you don’t seem like you’re doing anything wrong.

Maya: Just going back to Jude’s comment about religious experiences shaping politics, I feel that it’s really difficult because you can’t deny someone their personal experiences, but you can disagree with their politics. For example, my grandmother, her mother and her family were in the Holocaust and she had family that died. So whenever she travels, she will go to the Jewish memorial or museum there. And because of that, she harbors some very anti-Palestinian and therefore, anti-Muslim sentiments because she feels so strongly that it’s the Jewish people’s right to have a state. I can’t deny her personal experience or everything that went wrong in the Holocaust, which are awful things, but at the same time she will make racist comments when we are in public regarding the Muslim people around us, and I can’t handle that. You can’t deny people their experiences but at the same time, you’re allowed to disagree.

Cynthia: Going off of that and the experiences people are sharing about coming into contact with the opposing party, I feel that we should also take into account the large and increasing population of individuals who chose to not participate in politics at all. They just don’t vote anymore because they’re too afraid to associate with one political party and to be “this or that” because they don’t want that identity.

Henry Wheeler-Klainbe (Freshman): I wanted to go back to question 2 and the story of Daniel’s grandparents in Brazil and their adapting views, because I think it’s interesting how views pass down through generations. On the Jewish side of the family, my grandmother was a counselor at the sleepaway I currently go to, and my mom went to my camp, and the camp is very socialist. We learn about socialism and obviously the camp has impacted my life and my political views and it’s generational.

Linus: Because my parents are German, and all my family is pretty much German, I feel like I have this privilege and ignorance of not knowing what it’s really like to be living in a government or society that’s awful and is doing awful things and is broken, and you can argue that it’s like that here in America, but obviously not like the extent of the Holocaust in Germany. For that reason, when I’m having a discussion with my parents or a debate, a lot of the times I reach the conclusion that I don’t want to argue for the sake of arguing. At the same time, having parents whose relatives were in a society that did such horrible things, it does matter that you have your own voice and are involved in politics, even if I feel that I can’t change anything, or that nothing bad is going to happen, but it does and it has happened and it can happen again.

Sophie: About the arguing for the sake of arguing, whenever I call out my mom about certain micro-aggressive things, because she may be ignorant to certain things due to her age or where she grew up, she will listen to a certain extent and maybe say, “Ok, I get it, whatever,” but I know she doesn’t fully understand what I’m saying or where I’m coming from. It’s something I have to work on when it comes to following up with “No, you don’t understand” or “You should care about this” but it’s hard because they’re your parents and you don’t want to piss them off. At the same time, I think your parents often assume that you’re all on the same page and get annoyed about any discrepancies.

Cynthia: This makes me wonder about when we’re older and when we have kids like, how would you react or would you be open to the fact that your kid has different political views? What if your kid came out saying, “I’m a Trump supporter” or “I’m a Hillary supporter,” how would you react? I feel like we would all have a burning rage towards that.

Henry: Adding onto Sophie, sometimes, if I don’t agree with something my mom says, she will be dismissive because I’m a child, and she thinks that I don’t understand as much as she does and I might not, but obviously I understand some things that she doesn’t.

Maxine Slater (Senior): Adding on, I think that there’s also a huge generational distinction in the sense that the trauma that my parents have witnessed, not their own trauma, but the trauma of others has affected their political thinking. I have older parents and they grew up going to segregated schools, and so racism was a much more blatant thing than it is today, so they can’t understand concepts like micro-aggressions or more covert forms of oppression. So I think that trying to connect those traumas, and relate those experiences to them, is something that I’ve had to do and tried to do in most conversations about politics.

Anne: In terms of the political conversations I have with my parents, I respect my parents and I know that both of them are smarter than I am because they’re more well-read about these things. When I was younger and had opinions, I always had to back it up with evidence, it was never an empty statement and in a way, it’s nice to have someone challenge you even if they agree with you. The practice of supporting an argument with something meaningful and true has helped me know when to speak up about my views or when to refrain and wait for others to speak before talking.

Jude: In my relationship with my parents, there’s more of a generational divide. They still have some respect or faith in the system or the American institution and if things are wrong, they believe it will be fixed.

Tali R: My dad, especially after I started going to Beacon, has been coming to me with the other side, even if he disagrees with it, because he feels that it’s important. Even the fact that we have to read the New York Times every night, says something. He also used to work in journalism so he encourages me to pay attention to how it’s covered and knowing when to ask questions has been helpful.

Daniel: I also think that it’s important to acknowledge that while all of these discussions our important, within our communities or our families, at least with my family, there are points where you just let it go and it’s a conversation without deep questions and moral dilemmas. If you think like that all the time it’s tiring. We can’t have round table discussions all the time.

Anne: At the end of the day, people’s political views and opinions are really no one else’s business. I mean, you can say “Oh I love Hillary” or “I think Climate Change is important” but it doesn’t really matter unless you act on it. By saying your opinion all the time, and especially at Beacon, shoving it down people’s throat, it doesn’t matter unless there’s action.

Maxine: I somewhat disagree with that. Again, the ability to be apolitical is also a privilege by virtue of gender, race, or location. Sometimes their very being is a political matter and it isn’t a choice.

Anne: I agree with that as well.

Esme: I was just going to comment on what Anne was saying, because I feel like the publicization of people’s opinions on social media or the idea that our political opinions are our own business has really changed.

Sophie: I think that posting about politics on social media is really tricky. I am someone who does post about my views, but sometimes I face criticism online as a result. One good example is that yesterday, in reference to the college admissions scandal, I posted something about how privileged people use their privilege to push mediocracy forward. One example is Jared Kushner. He went Harvard but was only admitted after his Dad made a $2.5 million dollar donation and a lot of reports claim that his high school grades were not that great or “Harvard worthy.” And so I reposted a tweet about how many poor people and POC will work extra hard, most of the time, not getting the results they want because of their financial decisions. And on Instagram I captioned this with “@ people who ED.” Then someone swiped up and said, “Yes I agree, but you can’t get mad at people for doing Early Decision. If they have that privilege, they should use it.” And my argument to that would be that the whole system is messed up and Early Decision’s very existence is classist and undermines the process by excluding the poor. However, I ended up taking it down, even if I didn’t really want to, because I questioned whether or not I should even be posting this in the first place, which is something I have to think about. If I can’t handle people disagreeing with me, should I even be posting at all? Or should I respect people’s wishes?

Ariella Moses (Sophomore): I think it’s also interesting to take into account how a singular post can only contain a  certain amount of information, and whatever that information is, can be biased or geared towards one lens, and posting it influences the notion that to share your views on social media is action enough, and that’s the downside to it.

Sophie: I agree, it’s totally not enough.

Maxine: I think social media can give a false sense of gratification. People can use a hashtag to promote a political message and then they think they’re apart of a movement.

Sophie: It’s an interesting dichotomy. You get so much information from your phone but sharing your views on social media, it’s fake. It’s not something you would say in real life. In real life, it has little to no impact most times.

Jude: I also feel like a lot of people who march in the Women’s March or Climate March, they’re great, but like what do these people do after? After it’s over, how many people go home and take action? The percentage is probably very low.

Camilla: Going back to the social media thing, I feel like a lot of people use it to give the impression that they’re woke or whatever but after that it’s like, what are you doing? Posting about it is not doing anything. I mean, it’s good that you went but what are you actually doing to enact change?

Cynthia: I agree with that. I feel like a lot of people, especially at Beacon, well it’s not your fault. But we live in a capitalist society so naturally we do things for the college resume. We want to get involved in these things like the Women’s March to look impressive on paper. But it’s like, people are making real differences, it’s about the gratification and feeling like you’re contributing to change.

Ariella: To add on, it gets even more problematic when people engage in the idea that they’re doing something for their own status as if it will make people view them in a certain way which further feeds into the values that the people who DO care are trying to counteract with action. It takes the action and the activism further back. It contributes to a negative cycle.

Maxine: That’s actually often referred to as “Slacktivism,” which is really interesting and there was recently an article about it.

Mollie Butler (Senior): I agree in the sense that we are just doing these marches and nothing is really happening after the fact and I think that we live in an extremely liberal bubble. But if we are just discussing it or going to the movement, nothing is going to happen. We have learned within in our society that change is really hard and not always possible. A lot of the times, especially with extended family, they will discourage me or my cousins from doing anything because we’re “younger and don’t know anything.” I think growing up with that kind of mentality has suppressed certain values because my family impresses the idea that I don’t know anything about the world and I haven’t been “out there.”

Daniel: Personally, I think that we are all in the same place on the “ladder of political influence,” and I would say that it’s a pretty low rung. We all have little to no influence on how laws are voted on, but what we do have influence on is social media presence (although everyone loves to say that it does nothing and is probably not super effective) and marching. And it’s not like “if 50,000 people come out to march today, then the law will be change,” but it’s all we can do and I don’t think it’s fair to say that marching and protesting in the streets is useless. It’s unfair to all the people that have marched in American history and around the world. It does make a difference and it does help and honestly, it’s all we can do. We can write articles about it or start groups but those are the limits we have as the youth and as normal citizens who don’t have any political power.

Sophie: I agree with you Daniel and while I will say that I have been at marches and movements where there is a lot of inaction, and I do believe that there is such a thing as ineffective marching, but we cannot discredit the success that it has had. The mere presence of a march or of a strike can have so much impact on a school or people who hear about. We are lucky that our school supports us when we walk out, but a lot of the time that is all we can do. Personally, I try and write about things and “practice what I preach” but it is also hard to go beyond that. I can’t take off from school to lobby and there are sometimes when marches and posting are ineffective or not the best method of activism, but they’re often the only things we can do.

Cynthia: Personally, I’m not trying to disagree with you guys. To a certain degree, I do believe that marches are somewhat effective in achieving your goals. But I do feel that if you want real change, and you really truly want real change, it comes with sacrifice. And if you’re not willing to sacrifice your school, your education, miss a test, go out in a rain, march everyday, miss a week of day. Real change comes with sacrifice. Maybe it means sacrificing your privilege or whatever that means. It’s doing more than doing a couple of marches, walking out one day, or writing about it online to feel better about your white guilt, but actually doing and sacrificing something.

Daniel: Have you ever gone for a week in the rain marching?

Cynthia: I’m just saying that if you truly care about change in our society you will make those sacrifices. I’m not trying to discredit you.

Ariella: Similar to the point that was just made, I’m remembering last year, before the walkout, there were people in my Biology class that were frustrated that the teacher wasn’t excusing them from missing the test. But that in itself made me upset because the whole point of a walkout is that you are sacrificing something, and if you can’t realize that the only way to work against our society and its flaws, you have to go against the institution that you are told to succumb to.

Jude: I agree with what Cynthia was saying. I think that two hours on a Friday marching from Columbus Circle to Central Park South doesn’t mean anything unless you stick with it. I think you can stick with it by continuing to march, but it needs to be a continuous thing, not a one time thing. It’s not just once a year. How many people at those marches do you think participate in some form of activism every week?

Tali R: I’m not sexist but I think that the Women’s March is flawed in the way that they run things, even in the way that their website is set up. If you look at what they stand for and their goals, there are too many things. It’s trying to end all suffering ever and that is a goal, but it’s not one that is necessarily solved by one Women’s March once a year. They shouldn’t try and label themselves as the solution. There’s also anti-semitism going on inside the group and as a Jewish person, that is something I deal with, but it’s not a solution for change. It’s a statement that garners attention and people, but doesn’t do anything.

Esme: I was just going to say that marching occasionally doesn’t make much change, but the idea of organizing and having a goal for change is really empowering and should motivate more change than it does, but I think those ideas are really important.

Linus: I think that marching does something. Politicians can see what’s happening and what the people care about, and if they’re not corrupt which a lot are or too many are, then they will care because it is a democracy and they will want to help and make legislation according to the people. I don’t think that you shouldn’t make sacrifices and if you have the opportunity to march, you should. Essentially, the most power an average American has is voting, where you go to a voting station and if there’s a long line that sucks but it’s one day. It’s not like you have to cut off your arm to vote. We live in a flawed society, but we don’t live in an anarchy so I don’t think we should degrade the good things that people are doing.

Jude: Again, I know that this a democracy, but people marching doesn’t affect the decisions or the outlooks of Donald Trump or Mitch McConnell and at the end of the day, while voting is important, it doesn’t always have the power to change everything.

Logic Enters New Artistic Territory with “Supermarket”

By Adrian Flynn

Bobby Hall, aka Logic, released his long-awaited debut novel, Supermarket, on Tuesday. Logic has already enjoyed an illustrious career in hip hop spanning nearly a decade, but with this new literary venture, he has expanded his horizons beyond just music. 

I pre-ordered the novel so that I would receive it on its release date. The buzz online was already popping up on my feed, so I put my phone down to isolate myself from knee-jerk reactions, and read the book from beginning to end on my fire escape that afternoon. The novel, split into two parts, is woven between different storylines and jumps back and forth in time. As Logic has explained on his Daily Show interview, his mental state shines through each of the two parts as he began in a turbulent state and then finished it out after being able to face some of his mental health struggles.

Supermarket is about the struggles of a young adult, Flynn, who has to battle an unforeseen foe when his life takes a sudden turn away from his attempt at writing a novel himself, all while holding down a job at a supermarket. The novel, while sometimes difficult to follow along its twists and turns, still threads an invigorating and out-of-the-box narrative. Logic also scattered many references to his own artistry and philosophies throughout, such as homages to his musical influences and mentions of his “do what you love” mantra. This has obviously struck a chord with his fans, who made the book Amazon’s #1 best seller within a day of its release. 

Additionally, he surprise-released a soundtrack album to accompany the novel, featuring collaboration with Mac DeMarco on a few songs. Through the album, Logic clearly departs from his normal musical habits, leaving hip hop in the background and instead crafting a centerpiece of indie rock and love ballads to illustrate the setting and characters of Supermarket as he sees them. With the novel and soundtrack together, Logic has taken a bold step into an artistic gray zone (especially for rappers) that some have strongly criticized

As his fans know, Logic has had an interesting relationship with his critics. He garnered attention in 2015 for his “I don’t f*** with nobody” interview in which he explained that he prefers to go in any musical direction he wants and then after get to “see the faces and shake the hands of these people who truly appreciate my music, not the haters… who wish they worked at Rolling Stone on Twitter because everybody’s a critic nowadays.” This mentality explains why Logic is daring enough to go in new directions: because he is not consumed by general reactions and critical responses, and feels confident in his fanbase and making art for people who will enjoy it. As he said in the same interview: “I’m just gonna chill and I’m just gonna do what I’ve always done because that’s who I make music for… there’s always gonna be somebody who’s gonna hate… so no matter what I do people will love me or hate me.” An artist who is not bogged down by what is expected of them is allowed to truly creatively flourish and explore, and Logic has fortunately been able to do just that with Supermarket.

A Call to Caution

By Adrian Flynn

In the past few months, many Beacon students have freely shared their opinions on two major political incidents: the Covington confrontation and the Jussie Smollett episode. Similar sentiments of outrage were expressed by many liberals across the nation in response to these two events. As we have now learned, both of these incidents were much more complex and nuanced than anyone could have realized at first glance, or at first post. As a consequence, a multitude of the opinions shared by people both at Beacon and around the country now seem to be contradicted by the facts of each case. Even more significantly, the immediate outpour of public reaction uncovers a wider issue: rushes to judgment in our polarized political landscape.

Both the Covington and Smollett incidents gained traction as they circulated on social media. No matter what angle of the political commentary, a narrative was always meant to be illustrated in sharing the video. The short clip of Nick Sandmann and Covington Catholic students in an apparent confrontation with Native American activist and veteran Nathan Phillips was initially circulated on the left for the primary purpose of provoking outrage from people who were susceptible to seeing Sandmann and his classmates as the sole wrongdoers. This was a notion widely held by Beacon students who rushed to post their opinions on the matter. Even the Covington Diocese rushed to criticise the actions of the students. Without defending any incendiary actions by the Covington students (who seemed to move their arms to mimic a tomahawk chop to the beat of Mr. Phillips’ drumming and chanting), further investigation revealed that the initial confrontation was largely caused by a group known as the Hebrew Israelites at the scene. A fuller picture of the incident came to fruition with the full (hour and a half long) version of the originally circulated clip and more videos taken from different angles. Indeed, a recent investigation found that the students “did not instigate” the confrontation, a conclusion which lines up with Sandmann’s comments on the Today Show. Still, the presence of the MAGA hats worn by the Covington students undeniably added another layer of complexity to the incident because of its implications and symbolism, though it likely doesn’t help in assessing exactly what happened in the incident itself. Simply put, the incident as we now understand it does not support a simple conclusion, yet conclusions were drawn from the incident for the purpose of justifying convenient political statements.

Similarly, the Jussie Smollett story has struck a raw nerve with Americans on all sides of the political spectrum. This expression was evident amongst Beacon students who both shared their thoughts on social media and in person at school. Smollett claimed that he was attacked by two men wearing MAGA hats and yelling racial and homophobic slurs, as well as citing their support for President Trump. Of course, at the first break of the story, there was no real way to tell that Smollett had possibly staged the incident. However, in the following days, many media outlets began to report the inconsistencies in Smollett’s report with evidence that he orchestrated the attack, and the story began to unravel from there. Chicago police chief Eddie Johnson then confirmed the staging in a press conference on February 21st. Still, Beacon students and many other people who shared the narrative seem to have not reconciled the fact that they had possibly used false information to justify their political beliefs. Of course, the unique quality of Smollett’s position as an LGBTQ African-American also adds a layer to the incident because of his effort to capitalize on the intense polarization around the stances on people of color and those in the LGBTQ community held by the Trump Administration. It would be unfair to say that this was intentional on their part, but this gets at the main point: we have an issue with rushing to judgment.

It is extremely tempting to share a story relating to a trending topic if it confirms or validates your beliefs. But, as we have seen, if we do not know the facts of the incident at hand in and out, then we cannot speak to it through a political lens. Information flows at lighting speed in the digital age, and instead of digesting the true essence of these two stories, many people used the small amount of information available to support their preconceived beliefs rather than to challenge them. Instantaneous information seems to demand instantaneous conclusions. However, trying to use developing stories and incomplete narratives to support your political views actually undermines them as the facts and information are not always sound. On the contrary, using pieces of news and information to challenge your beliefs actually strengthens them because it forces you to refine them in the wake of new or previously unknown developments.

How do we determine what information is reliable and objective as opposed to news and social media posts that are fraught with bias and factual inconsistencies? In our current political climate, the unbiased truth struggles to shine through because it does not always push a political agenda and seems unappealing to one’s personal conclusion. In order to become more responsible citizens, voters, and consumers of media, we must question how we get our information and challenge the sources on which we rely. While this is a high bar to set in current times, it is one that we must uphold if we are to preserve an informed democracy and a population capable of critical thinking. Rushing to judgment does not serve the purpose of engaging in a serious political discourse nor does it serve as a means to find the truth. In the future, social media activists and Beacon students alike should consider taking a breath when the inevitable next big story hits our feeds, and take time to reflect on all angles before we presume to form our own narrow conclusions.

Gotta Get Down to It: Neil Young Gets Political Again

By Adrian Flynn

Singer-songwriter Neil Young recently broke his prolonged political silence by releasing a new live version of his song “Ohio” to advocate for gun control. He rose to fame in the 1960s and 70s as a member of the bands Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, and also enjoyed a remarkable solo career. These days, aside from his annual FarmAid concerts to benefit family farmers and the occasional Veteran’s benefit, Young notably does not contribute to many political causes.

The five and a half minute video starts with a monologue from Young about his initial inspiration for recording “Ohio,” a protest song written in response to the 1970 Kent State shootings. On May 4, 1970, unarmed Kent State college students were protesting the United States Cambodia Campaign military exercises when the Ohio National Guard fired into the crowd, killing four and injuring nine. Young, then with Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, rush-released the song, recording it 17 days after the massacre and releasing it the next month. It was a hit, rising to number 1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 charts and leaving a monumental mark on American counterculture in the wake of the Vietnam War.

The live video released on Wednesday featured Young playing the song solo interspersed with images from school shootings and the March for Our Lives. On Young’s website, a message accompanying the video states: “Today we see what we have become. With no real laws protecting us from guns, and with politicians supporting the NRA because the NRA supports them, we are not well represented.” He further expresses admiration for student protesters: “Today’s students are brave, demanding change in violent times. We stand with them. They are us. We are them. This has been going on for far too long… Give us common sense gun laws that protect our people, in schools, in places of worship, in the workplace and on the streets. VOTE.”

But that was before the midterms. After losing his Malibu home in the recent California wildfires, Young published an essay on his archival site criticizing President Trump for his misplaced blame and climate change denial, stating that “California is vulnerable – not because of poor forest management as DT (our so-called president) would have us think… We are vulnerable because of Climate Change; the extreme weather events and our extended drought is part of it… It really is time for a reckoning with this unfit leader.” With these powerful statements, Young evokes a past era of protest and brings the same counterculture attitude to current times. By mentioning the importance of science, representation in government, and common sense gun reform, he is molding a movement that he helped lead decades ago into the modern era. This may serve as a wake up call to other largely silent cultural leaders of days past that their input is needed if we are to involve and inspire more people to protest immoral and detrimental policies in the present and future.

World Series or Not, the Yankees Still had a Remarkable Season

By Andrew Najjar & Adrian Flynn                        

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On October 9th, the New York Yankees were eliminated from the playoffs in a best of five Division Series by the Boston Red Sox, three games to one. They got notoriously blown out in Game 3 at Yankee Stadium 16-1, and then were edged out in Game 4 by a score of 4-3. Many fans were disappointed, and some even called for manager Aaron Boone’s firing. However, despite the early exit from the postseason, the Yankees still had a remarkable 2018 season.

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Yankees relief pitcher Dellin Betances recently stated, “If we don’t win… it’s not a great year for us.” Is this really true? The Yankees still have a stacked, young roster. The Yankees bullpen was second to nobody. The Yankees broke MLB records and several franchise records. The 2018 Yankees hold the record for most home runs in a single season, recording 267 homeruns.

A year ago, the team wrapped up the 2017 season with a record of 91-71 and had an away record of 40-41, their overall record ranked 8th best among all MLB teams. This record secured them the number 1 seed in the wild card game and home field advantage against the Minnesota Twins. Though, the Yankees played in the wild card game against the Oakland A’s this postseason, the Bombers managed to improve their overall record to 100-62 and improve their away record to 47-34, their overall record ranked 3rd best among all MLB teams. They managed to boost their record up by nine games. The last time the Yankees had a 100 plus win season was back in 2009, of course the Yankees went onto defeat the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series that year.

After the Yankees lost to the Astros in the 2017 ALCS, the Yankees organization understood that only a few more additional pieces were needed to create a championship team. With that said, the Yankees made notable offseason moves. The Bombers added the big bat of Giancarlo Stanton, who had a fantastic year for the Miami Marlins in 2017. He batted .286, tagged 59 home runs, and batted in 132 RBI’s, all of which led him to win National League MVP. The addition of Stanton had Yankee fans buzzing. With Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorius, and Giancarlo Stanton, the Yankees looked invincible.

After the addition of Stanton, the Yankees made a surprising move in the firing of manager Joe Girardi. Girardi managed the Yankees from 2008-2017, lead the Yankees to a World Series win and overlooked multiple winning seasons. The Yankees went further than people anticipated in the 2017 postseason, which some thought were clear indications that Girardi would remain the manager. However, after losing to Astros, the organization believed a change was needed.

The Yankees went out and scooped up Aaron Boone, an ex-player, to manage. Boone came into his position with immense pressure, as the expectations of the Yankees were through the roof. Boone, just like Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar, was a rookie. A few questionable pitching decisions in the ALDS against the Red Sox should not eliminate the success he had as a rookie manager in the eyes of Yankee fans.  

In Boone’s first season as the Yankees manager, the team managed to record 100 wins and finished third overall in the entire league. The Yankees have one of the youngest rosters in the MLB. In fact, the Yankees had 2 rookies and 2 sophomores in their starting lineup. Additionally, the Yankees ace Luis Severino is only 24 years old. With such a young team, much guidance is needed and Boone secured a trust between him and his players in just one season. Even though Boone couldn’t bring the Yankees their 28th championship this year, he still managed to establish a new identity for the Yankees. Boone has set the bar extremely high for the 2019 season and has made it clear that the Yankees will be back for another run at the World Series.

This season, however, was also plagued by injuries to many of the Yankees starters. The starting catcher, Gary Sanchez, only played 89 games due to a groin injury that was re-aggravated in July and had a major impact on his defense and speed. He briefly came back to form in Game 2 of the Division Series, hitting two home runs at Fenway, but his season average of .186 still is a marker of his injury. The current pride of the Yankees, right fielder Aaron Judge, was hit by pitch on July 26th and fractured a bone in his wrist, resulting in him missing almost two months of games in the latter half of the season. Shortstop Didi Gregorius, who won AL Player of the Month in April, also missed some playing time after he tore some cartilage in his right wrist sliding into home plate on September 22nd. Luckily, his injury was not as serious as was thought, and he was able to return for the playoffs, albeit a little rusty. Flamethrowing closer Aroldis Chapman was placed on the 10-day disabled list due to left knee tendinitis on August 22nd, and even when he came back he was not at 100%. Additionally, infielder Gleyber Torres and outfielder Aaron Hicks missed a few games here and there while dealing with muscle tightness. As with all injuries in sports, it’s impossible to say what could’ve been if they didn’t happen. However, it is not controversial to say that with all of these players being healthy, the Yankees could’ve been a stronger ballclub.

The nature of the New York Yankees as a team that defines success solely in championships will require that they improve for the 2019 season. Right now, the Yankees are looking to acquire a few starting pitchers to deepen their rotation and possibly add on a few more utility players to strengthen their bench. With these additions, the few weaknesses that the team has will be addressed. This is a team that has many positive takeaways to build from in 2019. This is just the start of a new generation of Bombers. A World Series isn’t won overnight or by one player or one manager, it is won by a team of brilliant players and coaches; the Yankees have all of these. The bar has been set and now is not a time to focus on what was lost, but on what was gained this past season.

Getting Involved: A NYC High School Student’s Guide to the Midterms

By Adrian Flynn

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It’s no secret that the midterm elections just under a month away will be enormously consequential for the future of the country and this administration. Democrats seem to be in a good position to win a majority in the House of Representatives, as many Republican representatives are in vulnerable positions and the tendency of high midterm turnout from supporters of the minority party seems all but certain to continue (the President’s party has lost House seats in 35 out of the last 38 midterm elections since the end of the Civil War, with the relative unpopularity of the current President likely to magnify this trend.)

The Senate, on the other hand, is a different story. Democratic incumbent senators are running for re-election in ten states which Trump won. Additionally, according to Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Democrats only have four viable opportunities for pickups from Republicans. These are in Nevada and Arizona, which are rated “toss-up,” meaning that a reliable prediction cannot be made either way, and Texas and Tennessee, which are rated “lean R.”

However, there are great opportunities around New York City to get involved in the midterms. Below are three ideal House districts chosen according to how easy they are to get to and the degree of how competitive the election is.

 

New York’s 22nd Congressional District (Toss-up)

Incumbent: Claudia Tenney (R)

Challenger: Anthony Brindisi (D)

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The 22nd district is a total toss-up with two candidates who could both use all the help they can get. It’s further from the city than the other two, so it would be better for people who have a weekend or more to help.

The incumbent, Claudia Tenney, is a former member of the New York State Assembly who was first elected to the seat in 2016 by winning 44% of the votes against a Democrat, Kim Myers, with 39% and an Independent, Martin Babinec, with 13%. She has been described as a “tea party favorite,” and has garnered the support of the Conservative Party of New York State, the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List and the Citizens United Victory Fund, among other groups. During her two-year tenure in Congress, she has co-sponsored a NRA-supported bill that would substantially eliminate National Firearms Act restrictions on obtaining gun silencers, as well as being quoted as saying after the Parkland school shootings: “It’s interesting that so many of these people that commit the mass murders end up being Democrats.” She also supported the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and the Republican tax overhaul bill (TCJA).

Her opponent, Anthony Brindisi, ran unopposed in the Democratic primary and has served in the New York State Assembly since 2011, as well as having served as a member of the Utica City Board of Education before running for office. While he has the support of the Working Families Party, Independence Party, and Women’s Equality Party, he has been a centrist and moderate Democrat in the Assembly. He has an “A” rating from the NRA, supports Nancy Pelosi’s continued leadership of House Democrats, and “devotes more airtime to burnishing his bipartisan credentials than he does to criticizing President Trump.” However, it may be these qualities which make him an attractive alternative to Tenney, whose rhetoric allows no real room for bipartisanship.

The district includes the cities of Utica, Cortland and Binghamton, while also housing Binghamton University, Colgate University and Hamilton College, making the district an ideal place for youth to flex their political muscle. It stretches from part of the Finger Lakes region to the Hudson Valley, and is accessible from the city by train and bus.

 

New York’s 11th Congressional District (Lean Republican)

Incumbent: Dan Donovan (R)

Challenger: Max Rose (D)

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The 11th district covers all of Staten Island and small parts of Southern Brooklyn, including Bay Ridge. It is extremely easy to get to via the ferry, but also slightly more tilted towards the Republican incumbent, as it’s the only congressional district in New York City to be represented by a Republican and to have its majority vote for Trump in the 2016 election. Still, it presents a viable opportunity for a Democratic pickup and is more accessible than upstate districts.

The current holder of the seat, Dan Donovan, was elected in a 2015 special election after the resignation of Michael Grimm, and has since been re-elected once. Before his election to the House, he ran unsuccessfully to be Attorney General of New York against Eric Schneiderman following Andrew Cuomo vacating the position to run for governor. He received national attention in 2014 during the Eric Garner case when as District Attorney for Richmond County, his office declined to indict the officer who put Garner in a chokehold. In Congress, he has worked with Democrats on a number of bills. However, he is close with the President, even introducing legislation to require post offices to display Trump’s portrait and publicly supporting his 2017 executive order to impose a ban on immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries. However, curiously, he voted for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act but against the Republican tax overhaul bill and American Health Care Act. He is on the House Foreign Affairs and Homeland Security committees.

Donovan’s challenger is Max Rose, who won the primary with 63.32% of the vote. Rose served in the Army from 2010 to 2014 and continues to serve as a Captain in the National Guard. While serving in Afghanistan, Rose was injured when his vehicle was hit by an IED, and he was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. He has the support of the Working Families Party, Women’s Equality Party, former Vice President Joe Biden and former President Barack Obama. After his service with the Army, he worked as Director of Public Engagement and Special Assistant to the late Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson.

 

New York’s 19th Congressional District (Toss-up)

Incumbent: John Faso (R)

Challenger: Antonio Delgado (D)

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Considered by many across the country to be the most high-profile Congressional race in the state and one of the most vulnerable Republican-held seats in the country, the 19th district is comprised of the Hudson Valley and Catskills regions as well as the northernmost region of the New York metropolitan area. Because of this, it is relatively easy to get to on the Metro North or a bus. The district went for Obama in both the 2008 and 2012 Presidential elections but then switched to Trump in 2016.

John Faso, the incumbent, was in the New York State Assembly for 15 years and was the Minority Leader from 1998 to 2002. He has run for statewide office and lost twice, including in a run for governor in 2006 to Eliot Spitzer. He was elected to the seat he currently holds in 2016 after the incumbent, Chris Gibson, retired and endorsed him against Democrat Zephyr Teachout. Faso is is a member of the moderate Republican Main Street Partnership and has been a bipartisan influence in the House of Representatives. He has spoken out against the Trump Administration’s “zero tolerance” policy resulting in family separations at the border as well as expressing support for legal status for “DREAMers.” He also voted against the Republican tax overhaul bill and introduced the bipartisan Challenges and Prizes for Climate Act of 2018 to encourage innovation in combating climate change with Illinois Rep. Dan Lipinski. In contrast to these more progressive stances, Faso voted for the American Health Care Act to replace the Affordable Care Act, and received much criticism from his constituents as a result. Additionally, from 2012 to 2015, Faso was a public affairs consultant for the Constitution Pipeline Co., an energy company that was attempting to build a pipeline to carry natural gas from Pennsylvania to New York. The pipeline was controversial because it would have transported gas extracted from fracking and was blocked by the state.

Antonio Delgado, an attorney and Rhodes scholar, is challenging Faso for the seat. He won a crowded primary among six other Democratic candidates, but amassed the most votes out of the group with 22.1%. Born and raised in Schenectady, N.Y., Delgado has garnered the endorsements of the Women’s Equality Party, Citizen Action of New York, and former President Barack Obama, among others.

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To get involved, contact the campaign office of the candidate you support to see what kind of work is available for the dates that work for you. If you are unable to work in these districts personally, there are always phone banking and community organizing opportunities to get out the vote. For Democrats to control the House, they need to have a net gain of 24 seats. Whether or not you would like to see this happen, there are many golden opportunities nearby to have an impact. Make no mistake about it, every single door knocked on makes a difference. This is true in any election, but is especially accurate in this one, where the races which decide control of Congress will be decided by the thinnest of margins.

All Politics Is Local: Council Member Brad Lander Comes to Beacon

By Adrian Flynn

Photos by Kareem Sidibe & Adrian Flynn

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On Wednesday, May 16th, NYC Council Member Brad Lander spoke to Beacon students about his experience in city government as part of an event organized by Model Congress minority leader Divine Ndombo. In her opening speech, Ndombo noted Lander’s support for youth involvement in politics, a theme that became clear through Lander’s advocacy for community-based change. While Lander touched on a multitude of issues he dealt with as a Council Member, one message was particularly prominent:  “All politics is local.”

This sentiment underlines Lander’s belief in community activism. After graduating from college, Lander spent over a decade in community development with a focus on affordable public housing. He worked for 10 years at the Fifth Avenue Committee in Gowanus and Park Slope, an organization he stated “helps organize tenants, build affordable housing, help people find jobs, [and] do prisoner re-entry work for people coming back to the neighborhood.” He added that his first “taste into politics” was assisting people in getting organized to participate in public policy campaigns, mostly dealing with gentrification. In Park Slope, Lander recognized that a growing number of individuals were being forced out of their homes by rising prices due to increased development, an issue that he asserts “has grown and still persists today all over the city.”

As Lander tried to deal with these issues, he says that he found that “the public policy tools we needed just weren’t there… [laws] were just too weak to be protecting tenants from displacement.” He subsequently found that his work entailed more effort to change public policy than he had initially envisioned. Over time, he built up his skills in community organizing and applying pressure on politicians to make stronger laws on tenants’ rights. He discussed “inside-outside strategies for making change” and how, while he believes in what government can accomplish, he does not think that change happens just from “good people running for office, getting elected, and making good things happen.” Rather, it is a combination of grassroots organizers and politicians who understand the complexities of moving a piece of legislation that can be effective in bringing about real change.

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After weighing the pros and cons of running for public office, Lander decided to take a look at the district he was living in, which was then represented by “somebody named Bill de Blasio.” In 2009, de Blasio was term-limited, so Lander decided to run for Council Member in the Democratic Primary and he won with just over 40% of the vote. He was then endorsed by both the Democratic Party and the left-wing Working Families Party, and easily won the general election with about 70% of the vote. Upon entering the Council in 2010, Lander and Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito formed the Progressive Caucus. Lander said the reason for this was that he noticed that even with the Democrats’ overwhelming majority in the Council, there was much “diversity of opinion.” In that first term, the Progressive Caucus decided to focus its work on three core issues: winding down “stop and frisk” procedures, ensuring at least five paid sick days per year for workers, and passing a “Living Wage” bill to make sure that businesses receiving subsidies or grants from the city were not paying their workers poverty-level wages. All three of these initiatives passed before the end of Lander’s first term, an accomplishment he says was due to the overwhelming public support that each initiative received and the ability of the Progressive Caucus to work with outside coalitions of citizens.

In the 2013 elections, the progressive platform again proved successful, with Bill de Blasio winning the mayoral race and the Progressive Caucus doubling its representation. Lander’s Progressive Caucus co-chair Melissa Mark-Viverito was also elected as Speaker of the City Council. With this new sphere of influence in his second term, Lander helped enact many progressive policies. These included persuading the Mayor to announce his intention to close Rikers Island Prison and to ensure that low-income tenants in housing court who are facing eviction could access a lawyer, which Lander states 95% of them did not have. In 2017, Lander got elected for a third time with a whopping 98.49% of the vote. In 2021, Lander and 36 other Council Members will be forced to vacate their seats. Lander remarked to Beacon students that “there will be a lot of openings… it’s a good place to start!” He stressed once more that we need “good leaders” to write public policy and that we should not be intimidated by the prospect of running for elected office.

At one point, Lander recalled the biggest humiliation of his political career. He even remarked that a student was “triggering” him when asked about his relations to the New York State government. He then explained how he had introduced legislation last year to put a five-cent tax on environmentally-damaging plastic bags. The City Council vote was the closest that he has seen so far on one of his pieces of legislation, but the bill passed. However, the state government in Albany overruled the bill, striking down the plastic bag fee. Lander explained: “States are the foundational element in this country,” both giving cities their power and taking it away.

When asked how young people can make change without being able to vote, Lander shared his hopes of “expand[ing] the sense of what civic obligation is” beyond voting, noting how he wants to establish an Office of Civic Engagement to help people take “shared responsibility for the city.” Lander also expressed support for the activism of Beacon students and encouraged them to continue organizing for the causes that they care about. He also emphasized that we should strive to “build relationships across lines of difference,” as “we’re not going to be able to solve problems unless we build that capacity for working together.” This applies to both working in a bipartisan manner and bridging the gap between politicians and community activists.

To end, Lander reiterated his main message, urging students “to stay engaged at the local level.”

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Making Beacon an Active Community

Op-Ed Contest Winner #4

By Adrian Flynn

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Beacon students are known around the city for being politically active. It is a reputation that we take pride in because we see the value in caring about larger issues that are developing in the world around us. However, some of these larger issues can be quite distant, and making feasible progress in these areas may be confined to activism that only spreads the word and does not tackle the issue head-on. In order to reaffirm our values and pursue a life of helping others, Beacon students should be more involved in community projects in New York City.

Walkouts and protests show that Beacon students care about upholding democracy and holding leaders accountable. However, after these protests, most Beacon students return to inaction and seem to forget about the issues. Only the student government directed call-making to representatives over banning certain types of firearms. Additionally, the schoolwide walkout, while well-intentioned, was largely symbolic of our beliefs, and may not have done much to change the gun control debate as our school seems to mostly lean in one direction on that issue. If students believe that most people agree with them, then they will feel less of an urgent need to take further action.

The way to shape our impact and make it tangible is to start creating Beacon-led community service projects throughout New York City. As a public school, we are morally obligated to give back to the community which funds our education–the entire city–and show that we are grateful for the opportunities that are bestowed upon us. In the walkouts and protests, the concern seems to be how to most effectively spread the message on social media and online, while more pressing and direct issues are staring us in the face. Human connection is a vital and enriching part of service, one that the Beacon community should take into account when carrying out activism. The Nassau county superintendent in 1994 stated that “we’ve learned that in school districts where community service is mandated many kids who might have been reticent or too shy to volunteer have admitted that they were glad they had been forced into participating.” From this, mandated service, just with more guidance from the administration and more cooperation with other activism projects, may be the way to link active community involvement with real impacts on the city. It will also help some students come out of their shell and embrace the positive emotional impacts of changing the lives of others for the better.

Making this happen will require leadership and effort from both students and the Beacon administration. Enhancing this relationship will also make Beacon a more intertwined and connected community. Community service projects can be found by student research and then proposed to the administration, who will decide the parameters of what the students can or cannot do. Teachers can also help to facilitate this process, and even manage projects to which they feel personally attached. People who are interested in similar issues may do the same projects. The key is that the impact of said projects is local and visible to those who participate in it. In order to ensure that we are enriching and improving the lives of other New Yorkers, we must immerse ourselves in their situations and work with them face-to face, not behind the smokescreen of a cell phone or computer. This is the only way to ensure that results are tangible.

Finally, Beacon should implement more meaningful community service projects because it reflects the missions of Beacon students who want to make a difference in the world and change peoples lives for the better. This program would not only enrich the lives of those who are given help or assistance, but also the lives of the students who take participate because doing meaningful community service has a positive effect on the body and mind. With a partnership between Beacon leadership and the student body, great things can be achieved. As a result of these accomplishments, our community will be a better place for everyone.

Knocked Down but Never Knocked Out: Congressman Hakeem Jeffries Visits Beacon

By Adrian Flynn

Photos by Erdene R. Greene

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Hakeem Jeffries, the Democratic Representative of New York’s 8th district in the United States Congress, came to Beacon on May 2nd to address students and take questions from people interested in politics and the current political climate from the perspective of a prominent politician. The event was organized by Model Congress, with Senior Kareem Sidibe introducing Jeffries and his son, Beacon Junior Jeremiah Jeffries, who was sitting beside him.

Jeffries started by acknowledging the pressures in student life and the college process, while also offering congratulations for seniors who have already been accepted into their respective universities. He also drew a laugh as he noted that “as aspiring politicians you understand that you always acknowledge your wife at the very beginning.” Coincidentally, his wife, Kennisandra Arciniegas-Jeffries, was in attendance.

As he described his journey into politics, Jeffries began with his focus on public policy in his earlier studies and making his way through corporate law, before finally running for the New York State Assembly in Brooklyn. He mentioned that it was inspiring for him to see so many students interested in politics at this time by trying to make a difference in the areas and social environments that they care most about. He emphasized that this is a “core American value,” saying that the system of government of the United States, of, by and for the people, had always “necessitated citizen engagement in order to preserve the things that are of great importance to us.”

The focus on public affairs was a key topic for Jeffries, as he said it gave him a “great deal of confidence” that we would continue to uphold the democratic system of our country. Jeffries drew on the ideas of the Founding Fathers in addressing the students to show how extraordinary and novel of a concept that the United States was and still is. He remarked that we seem to have upheld these values, but that “many would argue at this moment [that] it’s being challenged like it has never been challenged before.”

As he reflected on his first races in Brooklyn for the 57th Assembly District, he explained how running a successful campaign would not be an easy endeavor. A big democratic establishment “machine” held a great deal of influence and Jeffries was working from the “outside” at that time. In his first Assembly primary race, he said he had “no name recognition” and that he initially asserted that he could only count on himself and his wife to vote for him. However, he revised that statement, saying, “even that calculation, my wife might agree, would be a little bit shaky. Because, you know, on any given night, [if] a brother’s not doing the right thing at home, I could suffer a 50% erosion!”

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He ended up getting 41% of the vote in his first race against a 20-year Democratic incumbent and by doing so “shocked the establishment.” He noted; however, that in 2002, his apartment was drawn out of the assembly district by a block. Grinning, Jeffries said “However this came about, my apartment had been drawn out of the assembly district I had just run in… by a block.” He said to us that he knew that politics in Brooklyn could be rough, but “cutting my house out of the district by a block… that move is gangsta.”

With the district change in tow, Jeffries ran again in 2006 and finally won after the incumbent decided to run for Congress. His hard-fought win taught him that “often, people will encounter failure before they’re able to achieve success,” a lesson he said could be applied to any profession and life in general. As Jeffries learned from his mistakes, he came out “stronger on the other side.” As advice to anyone running for office, he said that they would need to “out-organize… out-raise and out-work the opposition.” He also emphasized that the most “powerful thing” a candidate can do is to knock on doors and get as much “face-to-face time” with voters as possible. Smiling, he said “Door to door wins the war.”

Contributing more political advice, Jeffries added that anyone in a leadership position should be able to handle unexpected adversity. When asked about the state of the Democratic Party after the 2016 election, Jeffries reflected on the shock that he and many across the country felt, and even noted that he allowed his son to participate in the Beacon walk-out in protest of Donald Trump’s election. He said that the way that the Democratic Party can find a way to be successful again is to shape public sentiment, as he echoed the phrase expressed by Abraham Lincoln: “Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail. Without it, nothing can succeed.” Jeffries believes that the Democrats successfully used this method to stave off the Republicans’ first attempt to remove protections in the Affordable Care Act, which eventually did not pass, as so many people voiced their concerns to their representatives in Congress. He also described Hillary Clinton as being “clearly ‘out-messaged’ by the opposition,” mainly because Donald Trump was a master of “speaking in headlines” while Clinton was trying to persuade people with “fine print.” Trump effectively grabbed people’s attention by distilling complicated issues down to headlines, while Clinton struggled with blue collar Americans particularly because she could not persuade them despite having actual complex policy proposals. Jeffries believes that we should govern in fine print in order to get programs like social security and medicare passed but that we should communicate in headlines. He also noted that with this strategy learned directly from the 2016 campaign, the Democrats are in a “good position to take back the House.”

In response to a question about the dynamics between members of Congress, Jeffries believes that there is room for policy criticism, but that personal criticism is a line that should not be crossed. This is especially true because personal issues are where representatives can find common ground, especially with a topic such as raising children and families, as Jeffries remarked.

In any government setting, Jeffries emphasized that, looking forward, we must uphold the checks and balances system of the three branches of government and respect for the rule of law. He stressed that the current situation in the Executive branch is “not normal” and that the Congress needs to be “an independent body to check a potentially out of control executive,” and that Judges should be exercising the rule of law without being attacked as “so-called judges.” He also commented on the importance of a free press, protected under the First Amendment. Jeffries views this freedom as “currently under threat,” with Trump’s denunciation of some of the nation’s most reputable sources. In his conclusion to Beacon students, he spoke to the importance of civic engagement for future generations and ordinary citizens, and how this involvement can “continue our necessary and majestic march toward a more perfect union.”

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March For Our Lives: A Look Into the Historic National March Against Gun Violence

**If you have any quotes or media that you would like to share with The Beacon Beat, please do so in the Google Form listed here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1ZxdrFZzuCIPDxOQvUFrKDWSG7Ih68TEyc5vVvSwjs-4/edit

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Photo by Boo Elliott

With handmade signs and empowering chants, people across the nation took to the streets on March 24th, 2018 to participate in the “March For Our Lives.” The march took place in Washington DC and sister marches were held in numerous cities including New York City, Los Angeles, and Nashville. The march was organized by the survivors of the Parkland school shooting that took place last February. Teenage survivors and gun reform activists David Hogg, Emma Gonźalez, Cameron Kasky, Alex Wind, and Jaclyn Corin were assisted by Everytown for Gun Safety in organizing the event. Demonstrators ranged from infants to grandmothers, with people uniting across generations to call for legislative change.

Over the last two months, the fight for gun regulation has only intensified. After the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSD) High School, the media has increased coverage of gun-related stories, while teen activists have used their platform to further discussion of gun violence and common sense gun reform. The horrible tragedy that occurred at MSD, in which 17 students and faculty were killed by shooter Nikolas Cruz and his AR-15 rifle, has sparked a nationwide “Never Again” movement.

In NYC, the march began at 10am and the route went from 72nd Street and Amsterdam Avenue and to 45th Street and 6th Avenue. An estimated 200,000 people marched along Central Park West that Saturday morning. One marcher and Beacon senior Meghan Callahan found the march “incredibly powerful,” and “was especially impressed with our nation’s readiness to call out NRA-supporting politicians and anyone who has turned a blind eye to gun violence.” Along the march route were massive speakers broadcasting the words of NYC organizers and activists, as well as speeches taking place in DC and across the nation. At 62nd Street, there was a podium and stage set up for demonstrators to watch the speakers live.

NYC speakers included Parkland shooting survivor Sam Hendler, the Wear Orange Movement founder Nza-Ari Khepra, and Sandy Hook survivors. The speakers weighed in on issues such as gun violence in black and Latino communities, the #BlackLivesMatter movement, the Sandy Hook shooting, and the lobbying power of the NRA. Across marches, celebrities such as Amy Schumer, Yara Shahidi, and Connie Britton spoke on the issue of gun violence, while there were musical performances by Charlie Puth, Miley Cyrus, and Demi Lovato. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s granddaughter, Yolanda Renee King, joined the Parkland survivors onstage in DC as she shared her “dream of a gun-free world.” Two groundbreaking movements, the Civil Rights movement and the anti-gun violence movement, intersected as the nine-year old inspired students and adults alike. 11-year-old speaker Naomi Walder from Virginia stated that she was at the march “to acknowledge and represent the African-American girls who’s stories don’t make the front page of every national newspaper.”

Also in DC, survivor Emma Gonźalez called for effective gun reform policies and criticized policymakers who refuse to take action. She also closed her speech with powerful minutes of silence on stage, representing the time span of the active shooting in MSD. The march in Washington was also politically charged, with the appearances of many politicians and the partisan split on the issue more apparent in the immediate vicinity of Capitol Hill.

The bravery and eloquence demonstrated by Emma and the rest the Parkland shooting survivors has inspired many students to speak up in their own communities and fight for change. Beacon held its own walkout on March 14th to commemorate the victims of the Parkland shooting and to stand in solidarity with the anti-gun violence movement.

Protest signs were also crucial to the real and online presence of the event. Some popular sign phrases and graphics included a target accompanied by the words “Am I Next?” and bold lettering of the word “Enough.” Kids also sported some of their own signs, highlighting their unnecessary but telling fear of gun violence. Another popular sign read “My Life>>Your Guns,” referencing the donations many GOP politicians accept from the NRA.

The march in NYC also focused on voter registration. Organizers of the march emphasized voting for politicians who support gun reform. In an effort to increase youth voting, volunteers facilitated voter registration with passers-by. NBC New York reported that as many as 4,800 were registered to vote as of Sunday night. There were also over 1,000 volunteers seeking to register people to vote in the 2018 election. This included Beacon students, many of whom facilitated voter registration and petitioned for the Young Voter Act with the Youth Progressive Policy Group and Brooklyn Voters Alliance.

The March for Our Lives showed the power of youth to advocate change. As a united front, demonstrators were able “get out the vote,” share stories of survival and heartbreak, and fight for their lives. The movement will continue with the National School Walkout on April 20th, the anniversary of the Columbine shooting massacre. For NYC students, NYC Says Enough will hold a rally in Washington Square Park at 12pm to demand legislative action on gun control from our state and federal policymakers.

Photos by Ilana Cohen in New York:

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Photos by Adrian Flynn in Washington, DC:

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Blue Dreams, Red Reality: Donald Trump Is (As of Now) Poised for Re-Election in 2020

By Adrian Flynn

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On November 8, 2016, I stood in Rockefeller Center, wearing an anti-Trump shirt, watching the vote counts come in. I knew he was not going to win. Yet it happened. I was hardly alone in this reality check, as millions of Americans were also seeing what they once thought was impossible unfolding before their eyes. However, over a year later, I hear from classmates and commentators that there is “no way” that Donald Trump will be re-elected as President of the United States. The conviction that Trump’s re-election in 2020 is impossible is as misguided as it was to assume a Clinton victory in 2016.

The main argument for Trump losing his re-election bid is his dismal national approval rating, currently at 43% according to a March 17 NBC/WSJ poll. Nevertheless, in reality, he is holding onto support from his base, particularly in the battleground states in which he edged Clinton out. This was extensively covered by CBS and the AP in Elliott County, Kentucky, a.k.a. “coal country.” As counterintuitive as it may appear, Trump recognizes that winning the total vote is unnecessary as long as his base returns to the polls in equal or higher numbers. Barring extreme circumstances, he still has an energized base and can count on a fractured Democratic Party to provide any leeway he might need.

We must also relinquish the notion that “majority rules.” In the polls before the election, Clinton had a 2-4 point nationwide lead, and indeed ended up beating Trump by 2.2% of the total electorate. However, only the electoral college matters, and unless Democrats can offer a better alternative in states like Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin, Trump is poised to win them again.

To argue that any new negative developments in the White House would greatly impact the next election would be to disregard the history of Trump’s controversies. While it is plausible that Trump could be prosecuted following the Russia investigation and possibly even face impeachment proceedings, this is currently unlikely. He seems to be repeatedly able to escape from controversies unscathed, and has also consistently manipulated American news media. He has its right wing vigorously defending him to a large part of the population while criticizing the actions of Democrats. On the other side, he has the media’s left wing defending itself against “fake news” claims.

Additionally, Trump uses Twitter to fire off distractions while simultaneously accomplishing measures which are far more consequential. Networks including CNN, NBC and MSNBC have been quick to report on outrageous statements which seem to actually outrage none except their own viewer base. The biggest misconception about Trump voters is that they will be swayed to vote for Democrats because of Trump shortcomings, because most either tolerate his outbursts or actively embrace them as what they want to see in a President. The common enemy is the “Establishment,” and it seems that the Democratic Party, stuck in a tug of war between a young far-left base and namesake politicians, is expected to place another establishment figure on the ballot who cannot attract support from a wider base. As seen in the Pennsylvania special election on March 13th, it took a pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, anti-Pelosi, pro-union Marine Veteran Democrat to stave off a challenger in Trump’s mold in a district that he won by 20 points against Clinton in 2016. Would a resurgent left-wing base be willing to embrace more candidates like Conor Lamb if it means loosening a grip on progressive causes? That prospect seems unlikely.

Those who voted for Trump last time have demonstrated that they could ignore evidence of racism, sexism and xenophobia if he could only “make America great again”–or just “great again” for them. Progress in social equality simply may not be a priority for those living from paycheck to paycheck, as they are concerned with the influx of immigration, American jobs and the growth of the economy. Thus far, Trump has checked all of these boxes. He has curtailed immigration, and deportations have steadily risen as ICE has been allotted more agency under his Justice Department. While it may be misleading for him to claim all the credit, jobs are still being added to the economy, albeit at a slower rate than his predecessor. The economy, while it had a short crash, is currently thriving off of a small private sector and the GOP tax bill conveniently cut taxes for just enough time before the next presidential election cycle–putting more cash into Americans’ pockets at least temporarily. Donald Trump knew these ploys would please his base and it appears to be working.

For the rest of the world, Trump’s Presidency has made the U.S. into a laughing stock and fueled diplomatic disasters. Since U.S. international standing is rapidly deteriorating, it is imperative that we take action to prevent Donald Trump from being re-elected in 2020. But to accomplish this, we must not forget the populist right-leaning base which we must reach out to and prove that there is a better way for our nation. Prematurely predicting a Donald Trump loss in 2020 will be even more devastating if Trump claims victory again because of liberals’ wishful thinking and inaction.

Making Your Voice Count: The Renewed Debate Over the Voting Age

By Adrian Flynn

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Since the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14th, a group of student survivors has launched a national movement to pressure lawmakers to pass comprehensive gun control legislation. The movement, #NeverAgain, has resonated with students and their families across the country. In a CNN town hall, some of the Parkland students, families, and teachers were given a nationally televised stage to speak to their experiences, where they used Florida politicians — namely, Marco Rubio — as punching bags. They have skillfully pointed out how many legislators are at the mercy of the NRA when it comes to gun control, and their powerful statements are undoubtedly impacting the ongoing debate.

The most defining feature of the Parkland movement is the age of its leaders. Most high school students don’t meet the voting age of 18. As schools are unfortunately a recurring target for mass shooters, this means that the citizens who are in some ways most affected by gun legislation can be seen as the most powerless to change it.

Changing the voting age has been deliberated more at state and local levels more than it has been on a federal one. While lowering the voting age could potentially increase voter turnout, there are people who argue that 16 and 17 year olds are not mature enough to take on civic responsibilities. However, when it comes to “cold cognition,” — which is referred to as “judgment in situations that permit measured decision-making and consultation with others” — that part of the brain is just as developed as that of adults by the age of 16. Additionally, proponents of lowering the voting age argue that it is unfair that young people are expected to follow the law but have no say in who is elected to their legislatures.

In countries with a lower voting age, younger voters consistently have higher turnout rates. This disproves the myth that young voters are unreliable. Voters aged 16 to 17 had a higher turnout rate than other voters under age 30 in Norway’s 2011 elections, other voters under 35 in Scotland’s 2014 referendum election, and 18 to 20-year-olds in Austria’s elections in 2011 and 2014. This would also make youth more likely to vote throughout their lives than if voting rights were introduced to them at 18, as they are busy completing their education or entering the workforce.

By and large, the same arguments which can be used to disenfranchise the idea of 16 and 17-year-old voters have been used throughout history to limit voting rights for minorities, women, and the poor. These arguments are along the lines of calling people “inexperienced,” “naive,” and “uneducated.” Yet these terms have nothing to do with the age of an individual; these generalizations could just as easily be applied to entire demographics of the electorate, and would still sound as unfounded and preposterous.

While lowering the voting age nationally may seem like a daunting prospect, there are many prominent campaigns across the United States focused on involving youth in elections and bills in legislative chambers which propose lowering the voting age. One of these is the Youth Progressive Policy Group working to pass the Young Voter Act, which would lower the statewide voting age to 17 in New York (yppg.org.) Until then, youth need to make their mark in politics through activism, a mentality that is especially prevalent here at Beacon, where students are helping to organize national walkouts for gun control on March 14th and April 20th. As we have seen in Florida, student activists are qualified to lead a nationwide movement – they’re qualified to participate in our democracy.

To track the progress of other youth vote measures, visit the following link: http://www.youthrights.org/issues/voting-age/voting-age-status-report/

Beacon @Women’sMarch2018, NYC

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STUDENT REACTIONS

Beacon students, you can share your experience at the march in pictures/videos/writing here: https://goo.gl/forms/KytDcooH74foZnDs1.

 

“It’s exhilarating to be here. I’m sure the march is just as riveting in DC but it feels particularly meaningful to see and contribute to this sense of solidarity and love in my own city. The march makes you forget about finals and homework and all of the busywork we push through to be able to go out and celebrate our communities, our values, and our country (or what we believe our country can be). A lot of the chants I heard and signs I saw were centered around federal politics and, of course, a president whose behavior towards women has been abominable and even criminal. It’s reassuring to see how many people—of all races, genders, sexual orientations, and religions—will stand together not only to condemn a culture that denies women their due respect and opportunity but to advocate for a more inclusive and equitable society moving forward. These are the voices that matter. Your voice matters. I hope Beacon students and all other participants in the 2018 Women’s March have as momentous an experience as I did.” -Ilana Cohen, Editor-in-Chief

 

“Having gone to the Women’s March last year in Washington, being a part of the same movement in my own city was an amazing experience. Much has changed in the year since Donald Trump was inaugurated, but many of the same civil rights and women’s rights issues persist. It’s always funny to see inventive signs and Trump impersonators, but I only had time to spend around 2 hours in the march, and I spent much of that time in Columbus Circle, specifically near a small group of Trump supporters in the Southwest corner of Central Park. There were about 10 of them–one was just carrying a sign that read ‘Vets before Illegals,’ one had a ‘Women for Trump’ sign, and one was carrying a strongly anti-Islamic sign and was yelling about the ‘evil’ of Sharia law. Personally, I find more value in discussion with those on the other end of the political spectrum than with those whose beliefs align with my own. I was considering talking to this woman to ask why she believed in these things, but then a Muslim family walked by and she aggressively taunted them and I decided against it. I did, however, absorb the content of the arguments they had with Trump protesters, which were fierce, and by no means does the blame lie on only one side for the intensity of the taunts.

Eventually, I started a discussion with a self-described conservative centrist, named Warren, who ‘mostly’ supports Trump. He was wearing no political gear of any kind and said that he too was just there to ‘absorb’ the atmosphere, not attack it, as he said he believes in women’s rights. He defended the Republican tax bill and believed that there should be some restrictions on immigration. While we had a good number of disagreements, and he couldn’t defend all of Trump’s actions (namely his compulsive tweeting), I found that he was a decent person. He has a son who is in journalism school and he asked a lot about my own goals and wished me success. While these kinds of gatherings can seem partisan at times, it is up to each individual to reach out, because polarization will only work to deepen the divide in this country and continue to hamper progress.”

-Adrian Flynn, Website Design & Publishing Director

 

“It was an indescribable feeling of unity to be part of the march, chanting until I couldn’t hear my own voice.”

– Rowana Miller, Senior

What a Beautiful day to advocate for women’s rights…

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Photography by: Boo Elliott, Ilana Cohen, Mollie Butler

A Radical Middle: Doug Jones’s Unlikely Journey to Becoming an Alabama Senator

By Adrian Flynn

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Yesterday Doug Jones was sworn in as the junior Senator from Alabama, the first Democrat to hold an Alabama Senate seat since 1997. His election rocked the national political landscape, creating a showdown between centrist and far-right values in a state which Donald Trump won in 2016 with 62.1%. Of course, many factors played a role in the victory of Doug Jones and the defeat of GOP nominee, former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court Roy Moore. In particular, unusually high Democratic turnout, a divided Republican party that resulted in a good amount of write-in votes, and the allegations that hurt Moore decided the outcome of the Special Election.

Setting the Stage

The seat Jones now holds was vacated by Jeff Sessions, who was confirmed as Attorney General on February 8. The next day, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley appointed Attorney General of Alabama Luther Strange to hold the seat until the special election. During his short-lived tenure in the Senate he was among twenty-two senators to sign a letter urging the President to pull the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement. He also sponsored bills that held that human life begins at fertilization (S. 1456: Sanctity of Human Life Act,) and to prohibit subjecting gun dealers to reporting requirements for the sale of multiple rifles or shotguns to the same person (S. 1397: Protecting the Second Amendment Act.) By Alabama standards, Strange was a centrist Republican.

Strange launched his campaign to keep his seat in the Special Election and quickly garnered the endorsements of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the senior Senator from Alabama Richard Shelby, Vice President Mike Pence and of course, President Donald Trump. However, Judge Roy Moore, who has been criticized for his controversial far-right sentiments — known for making racist, homophobic and Islamophobic statements — challenged Strange for the Republican nomination. He was also a proponent of the infamous “Birther” movement, falsely alleging President Obama was not born in the United States. Moore nonetheless managed to receive endorsements from a number of influential figures such as former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, US Housing Secretary Ben Carson, commentator Ann Coulter, British politician Nigel Farage, actor Chuck Norris and seven current Republican members of the House of Representatives. In the primary, Strange and Moore advanced to a runoff with 32.8% and 38.9%, respectively.

By contrast, former federal prosecutor Doug Jones easily won the Democratic Primary, securing the nomination with 66.1% of the vote. He is best known for prosecuting two KKK members who perpetrated the 1963 church bombing that killed four African-American girls in Birmingham. Among his endorsers were former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire. Biden was one of the first to encourage Jones to seek the office. At that stage, almost no one expected Jones to have a chance to win in solidly-Republican Alabama.

The Campaign Trail and Moore on the Defense

The first major shock of this election came in the Republican runoff between Strange and Moore on September 26, in which Moore bested Strange by 54.6% of the vote and won all but 4 of Alabama’s 67 counties. Moore carried this victory despite a record of two suspensions from the Alabama Supreme Court, first for refusing a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the courthouse, and then for defying the May 2016 U.S. Supreme Court decision on gay marriage.

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Afterwards, the President rushed to tweet: “Congratulations to Roy Moore on his Republican Primary win in Alabama. Luther Strange started way back & ran a good race. Roy, WIN in Dec!” and also commented “Sounds like a really great guy who ran a fantastic race. He will help to #MAGA!” At that moment, it seemed like Moore would easily win the Senate seat. Alabama had not elected a Democrat to the Senate in 30 years, Moore had already won a statewide election despite having been removed from the Alabama Supreme Court, and now he had the support of the President, who was very popular in the state. Mainstream Republicans were silent, but as happened in many other cases, it seemed likely that they would fall in line and lend their support to him.

However, events in November changed the entire election landscape.. Nine women came forward to accuse Moore of sexual misconduct, three of which accused him of sexual assault (two when they were 16 and 14). Six of the women alleged that Moore either pursued relationships or engaged in unwanted behavior with them while they were between the ages of 16 and 22. Except for one incident that took place in 1991, all these cases dated back to the 1970’s, while Moore was an assistant district attorney. Furthermore, Faye Gray, a former Alabama police officer who worked in the 1980’s said on MSNBC: “we were told to watch him at the ballgames… and make sure he didn’t hang around the cheerleaders.” Moore was never criminally charged.

Moore responded to the allegations on Sean Hannity’s radio talk show on November 10th, stating “These allegations are completely false, false and misleading… I have a special concern for protection of young ladies.” On November 27 in a public campaign event, he said “This is simply dirty politics. It’s a sign of the immorality of our times” and went on to use an all-too familiar tagline, calling the allegations “fake news”, as they were published by The Washington Post, despised by both him and the President.

Following the allegations, Moore quickly lost the support of the main figures of the GOP establishment: Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Speaker Paul Ryan, former Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney, Ohio Governor John Kasich, Senators Mike Lee, Steve Daines, Bill Cassidy, Ted Cruz and Cory Gardner all revoked their endorsements and suggested he withdraw from the Senate race. Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona even donated $100 to the Jones campaign, citing “country over party.” Richard Shelby, the senior Senator from Alabama, said “Alabama deserves better.” The RNC temporarily halted its work in supporting Moore’s campaign.

Yet it was too late revoke his nomination. Republicans were stuck with deciding whether or not to try a last-minute write-in campaign. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Orrin Hatch floated this idea to elect Luther Strange, and McConnell even proposed attempting to elect Attorney General Sessions. The President, on the other hand, continued to support Moore, citing his denials: “He totally denies it … He says it didn’t happen. You have to listen to him also.” He also took the opportunity to attack Moore’s Democratic opponent, tweeting on November 26: “The last thing we need in Alabama and the U.S. Senate is a Schumer/Pelosi puppet who is WEAK on Crime, WEAK on the Border, Bad for our Military and our great Vets, Bad for our 2nd Amendment, AND WANTS TO RAISES TAXES TO THE SKY. Jones would be a disaster!”

Meanwhile, Doug Jones was focusing his efforts on rallying voters and raising campaign funds. By December, all major political prediction sites rated the race as either a “toss-up” or a “tilt Democratic.” The Jones campaign especially focused on African-American communities across the state, devoting a large portion of funding to voter outreach.

On the other hand, Steve Bannon opened rallies for Moore, and routinely questioned the merits of the accusations: “Let’s be right, ok, this whole thing was a setup, this whole thing was weaponized, right?” Moore and his campaign refused to debate Jones, with Moore stating, “There’s a great disparity; we don’t need to debate.” On December 4, the RNC hastily reaffirmed its support for Moore, just hours after President Trump tweeted that: “Democrats refusal to give even one vote for massive Tax Cuts is why we need Republican Roy Moore to win in Alabama. We need his vote on stopping crime, illegal immigration, Border Wall, Military, Pro Life, V.A., Judges, 2nd Amendment and more. No to Jones, a Pelosi/Schumer Puppet!” On Election Day, December 12, Jones received the support of Former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton via Twitter. Additionally, Obama recorded a ‘robocall’ that was placed to Alabama voters in the final days before the election.

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The Blue Victory and a Road to Bipartisanship

On the evening of December 12, Americans awaited the outcome of the election with nervous anticipation. I myself eagerly stayed up that night until the AP called the election at 10:23 PM. In around the half hour before it was called, with all precincts having reported in rural Moore-leaning counties, and with more precincts to count in urban Jones-leaning counties, it was already becoming clear that Jones would likely edge out Moore. A few exit poll statistics are especially telling: 60% of voters between the ages of 18-29, 61% of voters under 45, 93% of African-American men and 98% of African-American women voted for Jones. The outreach programs had particularly focused on the registration of young people and African-Americans, which significantly increased the total shares of both demographics. Additionally, the last-minute scramble by Republicans alienated many moderate Republicans and Independents, who couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Moore or Jones, with write-ins making up 1.7% of the final vote total. The write-in votes included Luther Strange, who won about 7,800 votes and Jeff Sessions, who won just over 400 votes. Many write-in votes were comedic entries of “Anyone Else,” “Any Other Republican,” “Mickey Mouse,” “Bugs Bunny,” “Spongebob Squarepants,” and “Jesus Christ.” Meanwhile, Moore slightly underperformed Donald Trump in the rural counties whose votes he had most anticipated. Ultimately, Jones bested Moore 49.9% to 48.4% (by 20,715 votes.)

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In Jones’ victory speech, he remarked, ”I have always believed that the people of Alabama have more in common than that divide us. We have shown not just around the state of Alabama but we have shown the country the way that we can be unified… I’ve said it before, Alabama has been at a crossroads. We have been at crossroads in the past. And unfortunately we have usually taken the wrong fork. Tonight, ladies and gentlemen, you took the right road.”

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Jones enjoyed congratulations from political figures across the spectrum, even earning a somewhat warm remark from the President himself, who could not resist mentioning the effect that write-in votes had on the election: “Congratulations to Doug Jones on a hard fought victory. The write-in votes played a very big factor, but a win is a win. The people of Alabama are great, and the Republicans will have another shot at this seat in a very short period of time. It never ends!” On December 13, the Roy Moore campaign released a video in which he refused to concede the election, citing that it had yet to receive the results from Alabama officials, notably stating, “Abortion, sodomy and materialism [had] taken the place of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill quickly responded, clarifying it was “highly unlikely” that Jones would not be certified as the winner. Jones stated, “The people of Alabama have spoken, it’s time to move on.”

Many political analysts were quick to point out the potential impact that the sexual misconduct allegations against Moore played in the election. However, Jones’ chief media strategist, Joe Trippi, disagrees with the assertion that Jones would have lost if not for the allegations, as the candidates “were in a dead heat in Alabama on election day.” He went on to say he believed that Moore was compromised as a candidate even before the allegations surfaced: “The race was pretty defined by the time those allegations came out. I definitely think they hurt him. But what if we had we spent all those days talking about why he’d been removed from office, about some of the crazy things he’d said over time?”

Since his election, Jones has expressed hopes of promoting bipartisanship. He doesn’t plan on labeling himself as a progressive or a conservative Democrat but as a “Doug Jones Democrat,” and that people should not “expect me to vote solidly for Republicans or Democrats.” He has appeared on Fox News, CNN and NBC, signaling a willingness to reach out to all parts of partisan demographics.

Senator Doug Jones and ‘The Radical Middle’

Whether or not one would argue that this result is a harbinger of what is to come in 2018 or beyond in the American political landscape, the 2016 Alabama Special Election was undoubtedly monumental. It edged the Democrats closer to a majority in the Senate, now divided at just 51-49, giving Republicans little leeway for legislative accomplishment. It galvanized not only national conversation but electoral action against sexual misconduct, which the 2016 Presidential Election largely failed to do, despite the many allegations of sexual misconduct against President Trump. Finally, it has shown that a well-run campaign that activates communities to get out the vote can defy political norms in any state, even Alabama.

On December 28, 2017, the Alabama State Canvassing Board certified Doug Jones as the election winner, effectively ignoring the claims of the Moore campaign. However, Moore has yet to officially concede the race and has continued to solicit contributions from supporters for an “election integrity fund.” Meanwhile, on January 2, Jones announced that he would be hiring former Department of Transportation staffer and Birmingham native Dana Gresham as his Chief of Staff, making Gresham the only current African-American Chief of Staff for a Democratic Senator.

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On January 3, 2018, two new members of the U.S. Senate were sworn in by Vice President Pence: Tina Smith of Minnesota and Doug Jones of Alabama. Walking through the Capitol for his swear-in ceremony, Jones stated, “I think any good Senator is bipartisan, and that’s what I’m looking to [be].” Joe Biden was also present to escort the Jones family and for the photo-op after the swearing-in ceremony, urging him to “Smile, man, smile!” and joking, “Howell Heflin’s looking at you” — a nod to the last Democrat to hold office as a Senator from Alabama. Afterwards, Jones was able to meet many members of congress, including Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, whom he had not previously met. Like Jones, Manchin represents a conservative state, and was able to offer Jones a word of greeting as one who had experienced a similar situation in a turbulent time: “Welcome to the radical middle.”

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Combating Climate Change: A Panel Discussion with Peter Bull and John Light

By Adrian Flynn

Photography by Boo Elliott

Beacon Model UN Secretaries-General Ilana Cohen & Kevin Manuele questioning panel guests Peter Bull & John Light.

“Climate change is an issue which neither politics or the media know how to handle.” – Peter Bull

On December 21st of 2017, Beacon’s Model United Nations and Environmental Clubs invited documentary filmmaker Peter Bull and journalist John Light to speak on a panel about climate change. Notably, neither of the men were climate scientists—or scientists at all, for that matter. Rather, they were investigative journalists, knowledgeable about how the media, U.S. government, and corporations have historically handled the climate crisis.

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Both called the actions of the Exxon Mobil Corporation into question, believing that Exxon had knowledge of climate change long ago and attempted to intentionally mislead the public. Mr. Light noted, “There [was] a vested interest in not letting the information out.” This would be because Exxon relies on the sale and purchase of fossil fuels for their business model.

Mr. Bull, who has won awards for producing educational environmental documentaries was eager to discuss the global politics of climate change and the growing focus on renewable energy. He believes that Americans, by attempting to “revive” the coal industry, “are relinquishing our world leadership… to China.”

Mr. Light highlighted the controversies surrounding climate science in the U.S. and its characterization by an increasingly partisan federal legislature. He brought up Al Gore as an example: “Al Gore polarized the issue. On one hand I praise him [for his actions], on the other I blame him for bringing the issue into the mainstream as a political figure.” Light went on to say that he believes that the only way Americans can start to deal with the effects of climate change as a country is if they can prioritize science over partisan politics. He also suggested that scientific literacy be seen as a more pressing electoral issue than religious beliefs: “Believing in climate change… is not a matter of faith, it’s a matter of understanding the science.”

One of the most intriguing lines of discussion invoked an interesting paradox—that a panel like this was needed to discuss debate over the existence of climate change, rather than just the response necessary to combat it. Both Light and Bull seemed to agree that the blame for that falls on the role that the media has played in explaining climate change to the public. Bull remarked that “reporters have lost the ability to make the [right] conclusions, so there’s still a ‘debate.’” Heading into 2018, the two expressed optimism at growing national interest in the issue of climate change, which they believe has already risen dramatically over the course of their careers.

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Big Sky Election: Rob Quist’s Blue Bid for Montana’s Congressional Seat

By Adrian Flynn

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When it comes to local politics, every state has its own hot-button issues: New Yorkers tend to think about climate change, Floridians worry over income taxes, and Texans often consider immigration policies. But in Montana, it’s all about the land. People want unobstructed access to the land, and their main obstacle in obtaining it is “land grabs” by the wealthy in order to exploit natural resources, such as oil and timber. As a result, land access and preservation defines Montana’s politics and will be the key issue in a special congressional election this month to replace Ryan Zinke as Montana’s at-large Congressional representative in the House of Representatives. The stakes are so high that even Mike Pence flew to Montana over the weekend to throw the weight of his office behind the GOP candidate.

Over spring break, I attended the local Tax March in Bozeman, Montana, a college town considerably more liberal than the rest of the state. We met in front of the Internal Revenue Service building and marched to a highway intersection, where we spread out to the four corners to make ourselves seen.

Through speaking with my fellow protesters, many of whom denounced Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns, I was able to better understand the social and political climate of their communities, as well as their views on federal politics. Some were Republicans who did not feel comfortable with the GOP’s far-right trajectory, especially when it came to Trump. Others were Independents who simply thought that every president should maintain a certain level of transparency, one the Trump Administration has failed to produce.

Over the course of the hour and a half that we were out there, we got many dozen honks of support, waves, and smiles from drivers and passengers. Every once in awhile, someone stuck out a middle finger or cursed at us. This energized us as much as, if not more than, the support we received. From a range of political backgrounds, we marched united in our cause.

As the protest came to a close, our local leader gathered us to announce that Rob Quist, the Democratic nominee for the congressional seat of Montana, was opening a campaign office. Quist, a country singer born on a ranch in Northern Montana, is running against Greg Gianforte, a New Jersey millionaire who had bought a massive property in the state in the 1980’s and moved there. Quist supports public lands, unions, and other liberal ideals often associated with Bernie Sanders, who has announced plans to campaign alongside him in the days before the election. In stark contrast, Gianforte has filed a lawsuit to privatize a creek near his property, supports deregulation of assault weapons, and has a league of GOP super PACs behind him running negative ads against Quist.

Suddenly, Montana seemed almost like a “purple state”: with the right candidate, it could easily go red or blue.

Later that day, my father and I walked into the Bozeman Union Temple, a support office for labor unions. I immediately recognized Quist. His tall figure, wide grin, and signature cowboy hat made him a powerful presence in the room. He gave me a firm handshake and thanked us for the support.

After a few speeches by local politicians to get us fired up, Rob Quist dominated the microphone. He spoke with passion about single-payer insurance, regulation on Wall Street, supporting unions and of course, the protection of public lands. He never once mentioned Donald Trump. However, he emphasized accountability, which clearly referred to both the President and the “300 millionaires in congress.”

In Quist’s words, it is “time for the House of Representatives to represent the people.”

This is the type of local opposition that will fuel the Democratic Party’s opposition to the Trump movement. In Montana, opposition comes in the form of supporting public land grants instead of leasing it for private purposes. This is the land where locals hunt, fish, hike, camp and enjoy the pristine outdoors, and it is the lifeblood of Montanans. It is these environment-centered values that got an incumbent Democratic Governor and Senator elected in the state, both of whom were ranchers like Quist. These elections can determine progressive policy agendas that represent the values of the average Montana constituent, and show a schism from federal policy. So while the word “Trump” is not usually explicitly mentioned in Montana’s congressional campaigns, Montanans may have their own perfect way of banding together and not letting him lay a finger on their land or their state.

The people of Montana will vote for their next congressperson on Thursday, May 25th.

Post-Election Politics: Where the Democrats Go Now

By Adrian Flynn

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For many Americans, the 2016 Presidential election was a cause for despair. Many saw it as a response to a changing country, a challenge of political correctness or even a “whitelash.” But we must remember that the majority of the voters rejected Donald Trump — almost 3 million more people voted for Hillary Clinton, not including the nearly 7 million others who voted for third party candidates — and the challenge now is to move forward despite the asterisks that have become attached to the election of 2016.

We must start by acknowledging that many lower and middle-class Americans do not feel that their economic situation has improved in the last eight years. Also, we must concede that Hillary Clinton’s message did not truly reach this group of Americans. These people — some down on their luck, others battered by a rapidly changing economy — demanded an end to the status quo, even if that meant sending a candidate with limited experience and troubling personal characteristics to the White House. So, for many voters, as in 2008, change was the answer. Donald Trump was that change candidate, and the palpable desire for change is one of the messages — maybe the message — of the 2016 election.

However, as we have seen in the months since November 2016, while the election may be over, the country is not over the election. Widespread protests, political engagement, and President Trump’s dismal approval ratings all speak to national divisions. In addition, these developments speak to the lingering question of where the Democratic Party can and should go from here.

It seems clear that the Democratic Party must become a party of the people once more. The fact that the Democratic Party nominated a fundamentally flawed candidate tainted by corruption and elitism as its standard bearer in 2016, a change election, was astounding. Fellow Democrats, we need to rebrand our party by nominating candidates that can better relate to the people. We are fortunate to have progressive Democratic senators like Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, and, of course, Bernie Sanders.

With the White House and Congress both under their control, Republicans now have the ball in their court, and they are poised to dismantle as much of the Obama legacy as they possibly can.  But if the American people, millions more of whom voted against Trump than for him, are willing to raise their voices and fight for what they believe in — affordable health care, action on Climate Change, renewable energy investment, protecting social security and public education — it will be much harder for the Trump administration to move the country toward the far right.

We must never forget that as citizens, even if we are not yet eligible to vote, our values must not be swept aside. We have the ability, and the obligation, to organize, educate and rally ourselves. Make sure your representatives know what you think they should fight for by calling or emailing them. Exercise your right to protest, and meet with those who stand with you to gain a greater understanding of the challenges our fellow Americans’ experiences. In addition, donate to or volunteer for organizations that may need extra support in the next few years, such as Planned Parenthood and the ACLU. And of course, when the midterm elections and the next presidential election roll around, take the initiative to work on the campaigns of Democratic candidates who share our vision of a united America: one that believes in equal rights for all.

What truly makes America great is the immense level of influence the people can have on the federal government. Elections don’t just take place every four years; the political process is always at work, as is our ability to influence government decisions — and choosing not to be engaged or committed is to leave your rights and your vision of the nation vulnerable. For the next election, we must strive to be more educated on how our government operates and understand how to promote better strategies for electing the political leaders we want to represent us. We have a long way to go, but in the words of Barack Obama, “We don’t fear the future; we shape it. We embrace it, as one people, stronger together than we are on our own.”