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Category Archives: Elections & Campaigns

Voter Discrimination: It Still Exists

Voting discrimination. It’s been around forever. And many people believe that it no longer affects America: no one can be refused the right to vote based on their race, income, gender, or ethnicity. Therefore, everyone (as long as they are over 18) can vote, right? Wrong.

At the beginning of America’s history, each state had different laws that dictated who could and could not vote. At the most restrictive, these laws allowed only adult, white property-owning males to vote. This left out the majority of the population.

Fast forward about 100 years to 1870, when the Fifteenth Amendment was passed, giving all men (regardless of race) the right to vote. But the Fifteenth Amendment was repeatedly challenged in the South, as states enacted laws that did not openly restrict African American voting, but had basically the same effects. For example, many states enacted grandfather clauses, which held that a citizen could only vote if his or her grandfather had voted. Seeing as though African Americans didn’t have the right to vote in 1810, under the grandfather clauses, no African American would have the right to vote in 1870 either. Besides this, many states only allowed men to vote after they had passed a literacy test, a difficult fete for the many African Americans who had received subpar educations.

Even if the states hadn’t restricted the effectiveness of the Fifteenth Amendment, by 1870 the U.S. was still restricting half of its adult population from voting. It wasn’t until 1920 that women finally got the right to vote under the Nineteenth Amendment.

After the Voting Rights Act (which outlawed all discrimination in voting) was passed in 1965, many believed that voter discrimination was gone for good. But there are still voting laws in affect today that many see as discriminatory.

Many find the very day of the elections discriminatory. Elections happen on Tuesdays; it can be difficult for people with less flexible work hours (who usually receive less income) to leave their jobs in order to go vote. Usually people do not receive compensation for the hours they spend voting instead of working, forcing many to abandon the election polls in favor of earning the money they need. Additionally, transportation can be a problem for voters, as not everyone can find a way to get to the polls. To fix this discrimination against lower class workers, many have suggested declaring Voting Day a national holiday, in which employees can take off work to vote without punishment by their employers or loss of pay.

Some states have enacted laws that require voters to bring picture IDs with them to the polls. This often discourages those without IDs from voting. Keep in mind that the majority of those without IDs are from minority groups; therefore voter ID laws restrict minority voting, which is a form of discrimination.

Although the Voting Rights Act has significantly reduced voting discrimination, America is still far from its ideology of allowing equal participation in democracy.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voting_Rights_Act_of_1965

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fifteenth_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women’s_suffrage

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grandfather_clause

 
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Posted by on October 20, 2013 in Elections & Campaigns

 

Does the War on Women Exist?

In this upcoming election, one of the most common   statements made is that the Republican Party is waging   a “war on women.”  This phrase has been used most frequently in the debate on abortion and contraception in the U.S.  Just this week, “the war on women” conversation was revived once again, due to Senate candidate Richard Mourdock’s comments about the legality of abortion in the case of rape.  Mourdock stated that “Life is that gift from God. And, I think, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

Mourdock later apologized (or did he?) for his comments, but Democrats still eagerly jumped to paint the candidate– and the rest of the Republican Party– as ignorant conservatives.
Mourdock’s comments were obviously inappropriate and ignorant, but they’ve helped to raise a prominent question: is “the war on women” really a war on women?  Or is it actually a war on the unborn child?

The Democratic Party and liberals believe that this war is indeed directly aimed at denigrating women at large, and argue that the right to abortion is a woman’s right to her body.  Most articles written about abortion in the liberal news media, such as the New York Times and Time Magazine, mention the “war on women.”  The Huffington Post has even gone so far as to have a playlist entitled “The War on Women,” with tracks such as “99 Problems” and “Butterfly Fly Away.”

The Republican Party and conservatives tend to believe that they aren’t waging a war at all, but rather that their opposition is waging a war on the unborn child.  Many Republicans and social conservatives insist that they are fighting for the unborn child rather than directly attacking the women who are, or will be, carrying one of these unborn children.  Some Republicans also insist that “the war on women” is sexist fiction contrived by Democrats as party propaganda.

So does “the war on women” really exist?  And if so, is it really a “war on women?”  I have to say that, yes, the “war on women” exists, but not in my state.  I live in New York, a historically liberal state, and there aren’t particularly strict abortion laws or politicians who make rape comments on a frequent basis.  But there are states where   both events happen frequently, and I find it hard to believe that most women in those states are happy to hear that their representatives believe that rape is intended by God.  I also find it hard to believe that women in Virginia who wanted, or needed, an abortion were happy with being forced to get a trans-vaginal ultrasound before they could have an abortion before this bill was repealed.  I’ll admit that the Republican party has a decent point when they say that a war is being waged on the unborn child.  But I also have problem with the fact that they’re more concerned with a war waged on a person who isn’t alive than they are about a war on their current citizens.

It’s true that the “war on women” will someday come to an end.  But if politicians keep making ignorant comments and attempting to pass what a Nebraska judge called “Draconian” abortion restrictions, it’s going to be a long time before we see that day.

 

Mad Man Mitt: Stuck in Sixties’ Style Sexism

This presidential election has focused a lot of attention on women and winning the female vote, and last night’s debate returned to the topic again when a young woman asked the candidates what they would do to address the problem of unequal pay for equal work. In response, Governor Romney recounted how as governor of Massachusetts, he hired numerous women to work in his administration. He also said that he had to make work hours “more flexible” in order to accommodate his female chief of staff, citing her desire to get home earlier to make dinner for her family and be with her children. On the surface, this response might seem like a good one; Mitt Romney is flexible and doesn’t discriminate against women. In fact, he went out of his way to hire them. But this attitude comes with deeply sexist implications.

Maybe it was true in the fifties and sixties that women were the primary homemakers for their families, and needed to be home to make dinner. But times have changed. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2011 that 70.6% of all mothers with children under the age of 18 are in the labor force. You can find more specifics in this study: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/famee.nr0.htm. In addition, more and more men are becoming the primary caretakers for their children (although the number is still relatively low). Mitt Romney’s assumptions on what issues are relevant to women in the workforce aren’t necessarily true anymore as gender roles in our society become less defined.

And frankly, those assumptions are offensive. Women don’t need special accommodation so that they can be home in time to make dinner. They need a partner who is willing to share childcare and homemaking responsibilities equally, and America needs employers who understand that men and women deserve equally flexible hours, to give both parents the opportunity to care for and spend time with their family, as well as equal pay for equal work. (Both candidates somewhat avoided the question regarding equal pay, but if you’re interested, here is a description of the Lilly Ledbetter Act: http://www.newyorker.com/talk/financial/2008/09/15/080915ta_talk_surowiecki.)

This isn’t a problem exclusive to Mitt Romney; politicians and journalists alike often talk about “women’s issues” and the “women’s vote”, as if all women have the same problems and vote the same way. Some issues, of course, are more specific to women, such as access to contraception and gender discrimination. But not all women care about those issues on the same level. And in the twenty-first century, childcare and flexible work hours are no more exclusive to women than unemployment is to men.

The comments Mitt Romney made in the debate Tuesday night, and those other politicians have made before him, are just another kind of sexism. It might be easier for politicians to keep gender roles strict, so they can fit the electorate inside little boxes (or binders) and pander to those issues. But it’s time for us to realize that the structure of our society is changing, and we need to change with it.

 

The First Debate- Hit or Miss?

Luckily for me, my very first post on our class blog happens to be due on the night of the very first Presidential Debate. I chose to hold off on writing this post primarily because I thought this would make for a great topic.

My initial thoughts about the debate took me by surprise. What we got from President Obama and Mitt Romney was very different from what I anticipated. The very first thing I noticed was the dynamic between the two. For the majority of the evening it felt as though Romney was on the offensive, forcing Obama to constantly be playing defense. In my opinion this really gave Romney the upper hand.

What I was looking for was a serious blunder from one of the sides… something that I could really sink my teeth into. However, neither candidate presented me with anything that I could really dig in to. I found that overall Romney appeared to be more present than Obama. Normally when I think of Obama in any type of speaking engagement I foresee a lot of positive energy and inspiration. One of his talents is captivating audiences and getting people to really rally around the way he delivers his opinions. Tonight, I just didn’t get that. Romney seemed virtually unscathed by every comment made questioning him all night and came back with sharp an eloquent responses. I was anticipating Romney to be a little more flustered in the first debate.

There was a certain lack of fluidity when Obama attempted to detail his own policies throughout the debate. Could it just have been an off night for Obama or his he truly feeling the pressure from Romney? Obama did not take any true shots at Romney even when provided with perfect opportunities to do so. I was extremely surprised that Obama never called into question Romney’s comments regarding “47%” that has received extensive media attention recently.

I tried to pay close attention to body language throughout because actions do tend to speak louder than words. While Obama was making his points, Romney seemed to possess a grin that indicated he had the perfect rebuttal in mind and he was ready to use it. On the other hand, when Romney was speaking Obama seemed either distracted or disinterested. His facial expressions spoke to me in a way that said, “Can you believe this guy?!”

Overall, I think it is safe to say that President Obama and Gov. Romney agreed on essentially nothing… which of course is not all that surprising. At times I found things feeling slightly petty, such as when Romney retorted that “virtually everything he just said about my tax plan is inaccurate.” As expected, Romney’s primary goal for the evening was to essentially make the debate a referendum of the past four years of Obama’s presidency. On the other side of that, Obama tried to convince voters that his plan for the next four years is superior to that of his opponents.

I look forward to future debates, and I expect them to be much closer in the future. In my opinion, tonight’s debate goes to Romney. He dominated the majority of the date and it was extremely apparent that his prep work paid off. I expect Obama to possess much more of his usual spirit in the next debate which will pose a much larger challenge for Romney and his occasional stiffness. I look forward to seeing what both candidates bring to the table in the next debate.

 
27 Comments

Posted by on October 3, 2012 in Elections & Campaigns

 

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There’s Still a Point

yep, those are my big feet in that voting booth.

As the presidential election looms closer and closer, there are ads everywhere urging us to pick the “right” candidate for whom to vote.  However, I think the more pressing issue than deciding whom to vote for is lurking beneath the surface: young people have begun to stop voting.

All across the country, politicians, business-owners, and everyday people are insisting that young people are becoming increasingly apathetic towards the idea of voting.   A poll published in Gallup recently said, “Young people are losing interest in voting.  Just 58 percent of voters 18 to 29 years old said they are “definitely likely to vote” this November, down from 78 percent in a poll taken in October ahead of the 2008 election, and 81 percent in 2004. “

This seriously alarms me in multiple ways: first, I have a hard time understanding why young people- or for that matter, any group of people- would voluntarily choose not to vote.  Voting is how we express our beliefs as citizens, and is more effective than protesting ninety-nine percent of the time.  If we don’t believe our representatives are serving our needs as a people, we are able to nominate someone else who will represent us better.  We’re able to select who we want in our government, pushing for our needs, caring for our safety, and bettering our lives.  If people don’t vote, they can’t complain about not being appropriately politically represented.

Second, I think that to not vote is a disgraceful waste of our abilities as citizens in a democratic society.  Our Founding Fathers gave us the right to vote and the right to express our political beliefs, however directly or indirectly we choose to do so.   Reading the papers of Madison, Jefferson, and Hamilton in APGOV has shown me how much they believed in a republican society, and how much they desired that their citizens be able to vote and express their beliefs.

I’ll be eighteen this October, about a week before the presidential election.  I’ve been registered to vote since this March, and it’s all I’ve been talking about for the past six months.  I firmly believe that there’s still a point in voting, despite the apathy of some members of my generation.  No matter whom I end up voting for, I won’t be part of the youth demographic who remained silent during one of the most important elections of this century.  I’ll have chosen whom I want to represent me and serve my needs, and whom I genuinely believe will do a good job leading our country for the next four years.  For me, that’s all the motivation I need to get to the voting booth.

they want you to vote as much as i do!

 

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Moderation to the Extreme

Have you ever been asked to pick a side between two friends? Or, even worse, between two people who you don’t like at all? I know I have. And every time I am asked to make such a decision, all I can think is “Here we go again!” These decisions always seem to be between two extremely different opinions, and I always, without fail, fall somewhere in the middle. Instead of being an extreme supporter of one of these sides, I consider myself an extreme moderate. (Want to know more about this? Visit this site.)

I have been raised with a disliking, yes, even a hatred, of extremism. Why? Because in most cases, extremist actions only cause damage. History is full of these cases. World War II is the most notable event full of extremely racist and religious beliefs. The millions who were killed or interned, both in Europe and the United States, often did nothing wrong but be of the “wrong” belief system or race. They were killed because of a few powerful extremists.

Extremism is also found in domestic issues, such as the debates today about gay marriage and abortions (For more information about these debates, click on the links!) In both cases, you have extremists on the side of the Church, and extremists on the more liberal side. Both sides point fingers at the other, and both sides scramble for their own victory. From my middle-ground point of view, I think they are both wrong. Both sides have descended to the level of claiming they are right, because others are wrong. I don’t like this black/white point of view. As the famous line goes,

Two wrongs do not make a right!

I believe in the philosophy that everything (or anything) in moderation is better than any extreme. Chocolate is bad if you eat a lot, but a little bit won’t hurt. In fact, it helps your serotonin levels! The same is true of any belief or party system. When you have a few democrats, and a few republicans, a nice balance of views is created.  So instead of creating this huge gap, why don’t we hang out in the middle?

 
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Posted by on October 2, 2012 in Current Events, Elections & Campaigns

 

AP Government Ruling My Daily Thoughts

Since AP US Government has begun, the information that I have learned has spilled over into my daily life. From classes at school, to watching the news, to hearing my family’s conversations, AP US Government has begun to influence the way I view my everyday surroundings.

At St. Cecilia Academy, the school I attend, it is normal to discuss politics as it relates to our everyday lives. St. Cecilia is a Catholic school, so one can imagine that in the last year how the topic of politics has come up more often in theology classes with the new health care mandate. AP US Government has given me the knowledge to filter through what is told to me by my religion teachers and understand what is constitutional and what is not. St. Cecilia is located on what is known as the Dominican Campus in Nashville. On the Dominican Campus, Aquinas College, a catholic college, is also located along with Overbrook School, a Catholic grade school.  Recently, Aquinas College along with six other Middle Tennessee Catholic institutions filed a lawsuit against the federal government over the mandate within the Affordable Care Act requiring that businesses provide their employees with contraceptives and other sterilization processes. If one has any notion about the Catholic faith, he or she would understand how these medical treatments are not in agreement centuries of teachings within Catholicism. (If you want to read more about it, here is a good link: http://www.tennessean.com/article/20120913/NEWS01/309130042/Nashville-Diocese-sues-over-health-law-s-insurance-mandate-contraceptives-morning-after-pills)  Knowing of this and the Catholic faith along with having the intelligence that I have gained from AP Government, I am able to make what I believe is a just decision in what to believe is right or wrong about this situation.

Today, the US government is in constant turmoil over national debt and the consistent threat of the government being shut down due to unpassed budgets or bills. When I hear this on the news (which I happened to a few days ago) I no longer have to turn to my dad and ask him why this could happen. AP Government has enlightened my mind on the workings of our government and how/why things occur. Also, during this election, I have become aware through AP Government of how the United States was not originally intended to only be a two-party system. As my AP US History teacher describes it, the founding fathers would be “rolling over in their graves” if they knew the United States had become a two-party system. By primary documents I have read in AP Government, I know that the electoral college was invented with the intention that no single person would win by majority because there would be multiple parties running. Today, this is obviously not the case.

My family is very wide on the political spectrum. I have family members whose political beliefs range from liberal to conservative. One can imagine that when the topic of politics comes up at family gatherings, tensions rise substantially because of this wide spectrum of beliefs. However, when this does occur now, I feel much more confident in my political beliefs and that my beliefs make sense with the constitution. AP Government has also made me feel as if I am “freer” of the typical stigma that children only follow their parents political beliefs. It is amazing what an understanding of the constitution and inner workings of the government can do for you.