Stop Mixing Fashion Into Elections

The practice of discussing presidential nominees’ fashion and appearance is not new: Hillary Clinton’s pantsuits, Carly Fiorina’s plastic surgery, Sarah Palin’s glasses–they’ve all received a great deal of attention from the press in the past decade. These examples reflect the larger trend of questioning women’s fashion trends exclusively. But why do we focus on the style of female politicians and not that of male politicians?

Reporting on females’ fashion while ignoring that of the males is degrading. Women deserve to be asked real, substantive questions before elections instead of “Who made your dress?” It is disgraceful–and sexist–that a reporter would ask a woman where she purchased her handbag after asking her male counterpart about a serious issue.  Some female politicians, such as Hillary Clinton, have expressed frustration and disgust with this phenomenon. Fashion does not deserve a place in campaign coverage.

We elect individuals to represent our interests in government, not to be our magazine models. To value women as candidates, reporters must transcend these superficial double-standards and ask relevant, policy-oriented questions. If the press does not provide substantive coverage of the female candidate, we as voters automatically take her less seriously.

Fashion coverage of female politicians is unnecessary and discriminatory, relegating female candidates to Barbie dolls. Although it should go without saying, a woman’s appearance will not determine her merit in office. Ask her real, tough questions. Highlight issues she cares about as a candidate. Highlight her passions, her goals and accomplishments, not her hair.

When it Comes to Immigration, Bush Wins the GOP

“As a candidate, I intend to let everyone hear my message, including the many who can express their love of our country in a different language. Ayúdenos en tener una campaña que les da la bienvenida.” – Jeb Bush

If Jeb Bush were to be elected president of the United States, he would be the first functionally bilingual president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Married to a Mexican-born woman, Bush “speak(s) Spanish at home” and describes his kids as “Hispanic.” Most importantly, unlike some other popular GOP frontrunners, Bush also displays a comprehensive understanding of the American immigration system. In 2013, Bush (along with co-author Clint Bollick) wrote a book entitled Immigration Reform, which emphasizes the need for fundamental, comprehensive immigration reform. Bush stresses the importance of simplifying the immigration system, expanding quotas for various methods of entry, increasing border enforcement, increasing the role of the states in immigration, and providing pathways to permanent residency for undocumented workers.

Despite suggesting some policies that conflict with progressive ideals, such as mandated English fluency and limited family reunification quotas, Bush understands that there is an urgent need for comprehensive immigration reform based on facts and realistic goals.  Furthermore, he does not participate in propagating the myth of immigrant criminality, and, unlike Donald Trump, understands the deleterious–and infeasible–nature of deporting 11 million undocumented immigrants. In Immigration Reform, Bush details various counter-arguments to the idea that the immigrant population is disproportionately involved in criminal activity, even arguing that an efficient method for locating the safest cities in America is looking at those with the highest immigrant populations.

Obviously, Bush is not a perfect choice for immigration; he has advocated for withholding federal funds from sanctuary cities and opposed President Obama’s executive order on immigration solely on the basis of Bush’s preference for legislative action. Nevertheless, he has consistently been a champion of comprehensive immigration reform. He understands the fact that the immigration system is broken, archaic, and mismanaged. He also understands the fact that the immigration system is so profoundly damaged that it can only be fixed through sweeping, fundamental change.   As the immigration system continues to fail the people whom it should be serving, and as xenophobia continues to remain a persistent problem in America, it is important for politicians like Jeb Bush to express an informed, moderate view on immigration.

Despite his extremely conservative views on some social issues, such as gay marriage and abortion, Bush’s informed and practical ideas on immigration reform serve as a glimmer of hope that the GOP is not completely radicalized, but maintains some semblance of sanity; one can only hope that this will be more common in the GOP of the future.


Are you Feeling the Bern, or are you Ready for Hillary?

If you were to ask me this question, my answer would be “I have no clue.” How does one begin to compare and contrast two drastically different people? On the one hand, Bernie Sanders is the outspoken liberal/socialist-in-name-only candidate who reflects my ideals perfectly; on the other hand, Hillary Clinton is the powerful, passionate, and successful woman that I have always wanted to see as president. So what are the pros and cons of the two candidates? How will he or she win the presidency? And, even more importantly, what would be his or her most debilitating shortcoming?

First, let’s start with Bernie Sanders. Currently the junior Senator from Vermont, Sanders is known as a “Democratic socialist” whose priorities include addressing America’s most salient economic challenges (i.e. stagnant wages, declining unionism, and college debt). He is most renowned for his fight against “big money” in politics, and is especially critical of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case (In this case, the Supreme Court decided that corporations could “spend as much as they want to convince people to vote for or against a candidate” on the grounds that they are “an association of individuals” and therefore protected by the First Amendment). He is also a fighter for basically all forms of rights, equality, and justice in the world: he has taken strong progressive stances to the problems of racial justice, women’s rights, LGBTQ equality, veteran’s rights, and immigrant’s rights, just to name a few.

With all of these beautifully progressive ideals, why wouldn’t one vote for Sanders? The answer is in the question itself: Sanders is just too liberal for the rest of America. There are parts of the American electorate that will be opposed to Sanders no matter what, due to his supportive stances on gay marriage, on civil rights, and women’s equality.

Within the Democratic Party however, there is an even more critical problem: there are more moderate democrats who may find Sanders too radical for their own taste. Many Democratic voters have their reservations when it comes to Sanders; some worry that if he were to win the Democratic primary, many of the centrists or more traditionally fiscally conservative “Blue Dog Democrats” who helped propel President Obama into office may indeed cross over to the Republican side during next year’s general election.

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, is experiencing quite a different situation. Having served as Secretary of State, a Senator of New York, and, of course, as former First Lady, Hillary Clinton has the powerful campaign weapon of experience under her belt.  Her priorities include fighting income inequality, boosting the middle class, and promoting women’s rights. In one of the most famous speeches of her storied political career, delivered when she was First Lady in 1995 at the United Nations Fourth Conference on Women, she proudly declared that “human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights once and for all.” There is no question that Hillary is a fierce and passionate candidate who refuses to let gender inequality get the best of her, and as a woman myself, I find this aspect of her campaign extremely empowering.

Like most Democrats, however, I too have doubts about Clinton. For one, her recent email scandal has led many to question her ability to be trustworthy and professional; certainly, the president cannot use his or her own email server when discussing sensitive national and international issues.  Furthermore, Clinton’s campaign so far has been primarily financed by corporate donations, while the Sanders campaign has refused to accept corporate donations or utilize a super PAC. On top of that, Clinton is currently struggling to win the support of white-working class men (who have increasingly shifted towards the Republican party) and young people, who have drifted towards Sanders.  It is true that Clinton is motivating and inspirational, but those qualities can only take one so far. If Clinton plans on winning the Democratic nomination and the presidency, then she also needs to prove that she is consistent in her ideals, dedicated to her constituents, and not another byproduct of corrupt politics.

Both Democratic candidates have their strengths and, unfortunately, weaknesses, but at the end of the day, only one of them can be the nominee (assuming that Vice President Joe Biden decides not to run, which is becoming increasingly likely with each passing day). So who should the Democratic party nominate as their next presidential candidate? I still do not have an answer. Only time can tell under whom Democrats will choose to unite.

Republican Foreign Policy Interests in 2016

FILE - In this Nov. 12, 2014, file photo, President Barack Obama toasts with Chinese President Xi Jinping at a lunch banquet in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. There could be some awkward undercurrents when the Chinese president is honored with a state dinner at the White House on Friday. The Obama's will honor a guest whose country has been accused of cyberspying, trampling on human rights and engaging in assertive military tactics.  (AP Photo/Greg Baker, File-Pool)The second Republican presidential debate a few weeks ago focused largely on foreign policy, to the detriment of viewers who may have wanted to hear more on the candidates’ views towards issues like the economy, which is often more important than global affairs to the average American voter. Viewers saw the candidates trot out familiar Republican talking points on familiar subjects: the Iran deal is horrible and we should reject it; Russia is evil and we need to stop Putin; and Obama is terrible at his job. The debate covered a fairly wide range of topics, about which many candidates had the opportunity to offer their opinions. I would like to respond to these with a few words of my own.

First on the list was Russia. Trump responded to concerns of Russia’s actions in Syria by declaring that Putin does not respect Obama and that “we don’t get along with anybody,” but offered no concrete plan and ignored our numerous allies. Carly Fiorina laid out her plan to rebuild the Sixth Fleet, which would increase the United States’ bloated defense budget, and the missile shield, which would be ineffective against Russia’s nuclear weapons but, according to Fiorina, would somehow symbolize the “strength and resolve” needed to bend Russia to our will, even though it would actually strengthen Putin’s popularity at home.

Iran and the nuclear deal came up next. Ted Cruz criticized President Obama for “leading from behind,” ignoring the fact that Obama signed additional legislation to increase sanctions against Iran and rallied the U.N. member states to do the same through U.N. Security Council Resolution 1939 in order to pressure Iran to pursue diplomacy. These sanctions crippled the Iranian economy and Iran consequently pursued diplomacy, signing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action earlier this year. Cruz also said that the deal “would only accelerate Iran’s nuclear program,” a puzzling notion seeing as Iran is subject to more inspections and has a smaller offensive nuclear capacity under the deal. Moreover, the U.S.’s ability to unilaterally “snap back” sanctions on Iran–which our allies will do in kind should Iran cheat– undermines Cruz’s criticism of Obama that going to the U.N. has weakened our national sovereignty. Mike Huckabee, relegated to the last speaking spot in the debate, characterized the Iran deal as a “threat to Western civilization.” Obviously politicians love sweeping generalizations, but how a deal to limit Iranian nuclear capabilities threatens civilization itself is beyond me. Although he denounced the deal, John Kasich thankfully spoke up about the importance of acting with our allies and seemed to be the only person on stage that acknowledged the role of our allies in the Iran conflict.

On China, Scott Walker criticized the upcoming state dinner for Chinese President Xi Jinping, saying we should send the Chinese a message about hacking by cancelling it. Of course, cancelling the trip would mean we would not be able to share our concerns or negotiate in person about hacking and many other issues, but this concept seems to have escaped Governor Walker. Jeb Bush argued that the dinner should not be cancelled, although his suggestion we use “offensive tactics” as a deterrent to Chinese hackers sounded like he wanted to escalate the cyber-conflict, which given the abysmal state of our own systems is a bad decision if China were to retaliate against us.

Overall, the debate’s foreign policy section was not incredibly surprising. From the copy-and-paste denunciations of the Iranian nuclear accord to an extreme dislike of Vladimir Putin, the candidates tried to prove their conservative credentials by brandishing visions of a strong America that would be feared by its enemies and subject to the will of no one else. They equated an aggressive America with a strong America and showed impressive zeal for pursuing unilateral actions and breaking international agreements. Worrisome for me is that for many Republican candidates, America is not only the exceptional nation but also one that can–and should–go it alone and disregard its allies by disrespecting mutual agreements.

I agreed with several statements made by Republicans on that stage, but I think that the approach many suggested for foreign policy is inappropriate for our goals that require intense activity on the international stage and cooperation with our many allies. We must avoid the rash unilateral actions that have defined our recent history and realize that military action and aggressive posturing are not the only ways to solve our problems. The Republicans running for President in 2016 say they want to make America great again, but their foreign policy ideas will not lead them towards that goal.