DNC Journal Entry: Day Four

Note: I am currently in Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention. I am attending an academic seminar this week and will be doing a fieldwork placement during the convention next week. I am writing a daily journal to reflect on my experience and will post my entries here. Enjoy! 

Day Four

Even though we briefly covered immigration earlier, we did not get to examine the topic in-depth until today. Philippe Weisz, who is an attorney from HIAS Pennsylvania, a non-profit agency that offers legal services for immigrants, explained that immigration has been a controversial issue for decades, but there has been no federal immigration reform in a while. He also presented charts that show how notoriously high crime rates are in Central America’s Northern Triangle, which consists of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Many people in the Northern Triangle sought asylum in the United States because of how dangerous it is in their homelands.

In order to address the immigration issue, I strongly believe that the United States should also look into problems in the Northern Triangle and try to deal with them. We can pass immigration reforms and encounter the immigration issue inside our country, but in order to fix the entire problem, we need to look at the bigger picture. How can we address immigration completely without looking at its origins? There is a reason why people left their countries and if it is resolved, immigration may become less of a problem later.

Our next presenter, Jon Scott, ended up touching on immigration during his lecture about macroeconomics. Regardless of how controversial immigration may be, it can be good for our economy. Scott argued that immigrants usually do the work that Americans would not do in the first place anyway and it is shown that immigrants do not lower Americans’ wages or hurt them in general. They actually can help raise Americans’ wages. Immigrants with limited English take the lowest skilled jobs from Americans with better English skills and these Americans with enough English skills have the opportunity to move up the ladder. If it were not for these immigrants, these Americans would be stuck doing the lowest skilled jobs just because there is nobody else who can do them. However, immigrants give Americans who are qualified the opportunity to move up and earn higher wages.

Scott also mentioned how many of our start-up businesses are established by our immigrants and we clearly benefit from start-up businesses. Based on these facts, it seems like immigrants do help our country. It would not make sense to bar immigrants completely and lose opportunities that they give Americans. We cannot forget that immigrants founded the American government and they are part of our roots. Our government was established on immigrants’ values, such as working hard, so allowing immigrants with regulations only would retain these values in our country.

Aside from immigration, we also discussed polarization in the United States with Matt Levendusky, a professor from Penn State. The Republican National Convention (RNC) is taking place this week and except for Ted Cruz, a good number of prominent Republican politicians are endorsing Trump now even if they clearly dislike him. Their endorsements may seem surprising. No matter how much they might have loathed Trump, they ultimately chose him over Hillary. For the sake of not allowing Hillary become the next president, they are supporting Trump, regardless of how unqualified they probably know he is. I find this truly fascinating. It is a bit sad that the issue of polarization has gone so far that politicians now only endorse a candidate just to stop another candidate from winning without even doing minimal qualification screenings of their own candidate. In the RNC, people are so focused on bashing Hillary and chanting, “lock her up” that they have not truly looked into their own candidate.

 

 

DNC Journal Entry: Day Three

Note: I am currently in Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention. I am attending an academic seminar this week and will be doing a fieldwork placement during the convention next week. I am writing a daily journal to reflect on my experience and will post my entries here. Enjoy! 

Day Three

We started our morning by having an ABC television reporter, Matt O’Donnell, talk with us about the relationship between media and the 2016 election. He believes that many Americans seem angry today mainly because of the echo chamber effect. The echo chamber effect refers to situations when people think a certain way after hearing about a certain view so many times. Being exposed to political news all the time, which is mostly negative, results in most Americans becoming frustrated with politics.

O’Donnell goes on to discuss how while news outlets have the responsibility of informing the public about what is going on in the world, they cannot bore the audience. In order not to lose news viewers, they have to find the balance between informing and entertaining them. O’Donnell compared the difference between social media and the news by using the washing machine analogy. He said unlike social media, the news is like washing clothes in a washing machine because you are guaranteed to get clean clothes after putting them in a washing machine, like you are guaranteed to receive reliable information from the news. While I do agree with him that the news may be more reliable than social media, I do not think the news is always clean due to their biases.

O’Donnell calls the Internet the today’s version of the Wild West. This parallels with what Obama said recently when he criticized the media for not holding candidates accountable. With the Internet, presidential candidates manage to receive plenty coverage even when they present plans that cannot work and make promises that they cannot keep. The Internet may have influenced the news outlets to stoop to its level and broadcast candidates’ unrealistic platforms. I understand why Obama complained about this and I have to agree with him on this one.                   However, influence of the Internet is not all bad. O’Donnell did acknowledge that social media encourages more participation and removes some shells that the news outlets used to have in the past. I certainly think so, as social media gives people more power over the news. People had fewer opportunities to share their opinions and criticize the news before the existence of social media, so it did give us more power. Right before O’Donnell wrapped up his speech, he mentioned that today was the first time he had someone interpret for him in American Sign Language (ASL). How cool!

Next, we heard from Philadelphia’s District Attorney, Seth Williams, who talked about the importance of being involved with making changes. He is the first African-American District Attorney in Pennsylvania, so he has quite a history of breaking down barriers. Williams emphasized how one cannot continue complaining if one is not willing to be part of the solution and it is simply important to try. He said when people compliment him, they do not mention how many times he failed. The point is that it does not matter how often you fail when you try, as it will eventually lead to succeeding. This goes for any minority group or individual who is facing some struggles.

The next speaker, Nichola Gutgold, spoke about the history of female presidential candidates and what they went through. Even though the earliest women who ran for president knew they might not have any chance of winning, they had to try in order to pave a path for Hillary Clinton and other future female politicians. No change can happen if people do not try, so again, the most important thing is to put in some effort and change will eventually take place. Hillary’s loss in 2008 is a good example. After losing the 2008 primary election to President Obama, Hillary did not break the glass ceiling completely and still faced barriers, yet she did not give up. Instead, she went on to become the Secretary of State and experienced more barriers around the world where some countries refused to recognize her as a female diplomat and treated her as an honorary man. That did not stop Hillary from fighting for women’s rights worldwide though. Hillary ultimately reached where she is right now as the current Democratic nominee because she did not give up in 2008 and continued to try making changes. This is an invaluable lesson to remember.

We continued this discussion during our small group meeting in the afternoon and applied it to other minority groups like Latinos and immigrants. No matter how often we fail in making changes that we want, we must continue fighting and that will make a difference in the end. Taking this lesson of the day to our hearts, a few of us went to a Hillary campaign office to make official Democratic National Convention signs. We attempted to increase the visibility of Deaf people in these signs. We may have a long way to go when it comes to Deaf awareness, but we may as well start somewhere. Look for these signs on television next week!

13710432_10210092866656374_5824298736346344704_o

DNC Journal Entry: Day Two

Note: I am currently in Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention. I am attending an academic seminar this week and will be doing a fieldwork placement during the convention next week. I am writing a daily journal to reflect on my experience and will post my entries here. Enjoy! 

Day Two

This morning, three professors from different universities, each with various expertise and backgrounds, talked about finance, trade, and foreign policy factors in the 2016 election. These topics may not be as exciting or discussed as much as others during the election, but it can still be worthwhile to learn about them. First, Robin Kolodny focused on campaign finance, briefed us about its history, and highlighted current campaign finance issues in this election. After we learned more about campaign finance, Alexandra Guisinger talked with us about the general American opinion on trade. Right before stopping for lunch, Ronald Granieri described the role of foreign policy in past elections and compared current candidates’ takes on foreign policy.

One thing related to campaign finance that I learned today is how candidates of major political parties can receive public funding for their campaigns. Public funding consists of two parts – primary matching funds and general election funding. If you have filled out a federal income tax form before, you probably remember a box that you can voluntarily check to give three dollars of your taxes to the Presidential Election Campaign Fund. Public funding is completely made up of this tax money, thanks to people who checked that box on their tax forms. Candidates can receive public funding for their campaigns as long as they agree to not raise more than a certain amount of money.

Candidates in the past used this public funding, but no candidate did in 2012 because it seemed like winning the election required using more money than the public funding rules allowed. In fact, candidates are not allowed to coordinate with their political party about spending if they use public funds. Giving up that teamwork may be a bad strategy, so some candidates opt out of general funding completely. Primaries can impact candidates financially, depending on how long they last. Hillary Clinton could not get any general funding until after Bernie Sanders dropped out. The longer he stayed in the race, the longer her campaign had to operate without general funding no matter how obvious it was that she clinched the nomination.

There are also complications involved with following campaign finance, as it is difficult to track where all campaign money comes from and goes to. For instance, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi can transfer the money that her supporters donated her to the national party in order to help with the presidential election or any other important federal election. There is no limit for how much money can be transferred between certain candidates/local committees and national parties, so money you donated to a certain Congressperson may end up being used to help fund a presidential candidate’s campaign.

Moving on to trade, it turns out that the U.S. policy on free trade does not correlate with public opinion. While our policy strongly encourages free trade, Americans generally do not support it. It may be because Americans do not know much about trade. Approximately 60% of Americans think China is our top trade partner, but it is actually Canada. If more Americans are aware of this, they may have a more positive view of free trade and less protectionist demands.

Politicians do not often discuss trade in depth, as it is a complicated matter. When it comes to trade, there is no one right answer and one wrong answer. Whether or not free trade is good may depend on where you live. Free trade helps some areas tremendously, but others take hard hits from it. Even so, it is not always crystal clear if free trade helps or hurts your town. It can be both in some cases. For instance, people assume free trade only hurt some cities in Ohio, such as Toledo, yet it is not completely true. While free trade might hurt some parts of these towns, it also helped others. These towns are known for exporting many products and free trade only enhanced their exporting business. There is a reason why Sanders, who is against any free trade agreement, did not win Ohio. At first glance, it may seem like free trade hurt these Ohio towns, but it is more complicated than that. The media tends to focus on negative consequences of free trade agreements, such as how they hurt some towns like Detroit, more than it focuses on their benefits and how they helped certain towns.

How foreign policy is used in elections is indeed fascinating. It certainly has changed over the time. Before the Cold War, American presidential candidates could ignore foreign policy during their campaigns, but this has not been possible since the United States attained its superpower status. I found it interesting how some presidents managed to navigate their way to win the election without having much foreign policy experience. For Bill Clinton, he did it by focusing on the economy. Remember his famous saying, “It’s the economy stupid”? By shifting the problem from foreign policy to the economy, his lack of foreign policy experience did not matter. His vice-president, Al Gore, did not have much experience either. Since the economy was shown as the problem, people did not care about how little foreign policy experience they had.

The 2016 election is different for Republicans, especially in the area of foreign policy. Republicans used to own the foreign policy issue during the Cold War era, but now with Donald Trump being their party nominee, it will be difficult for them to maintain their good foreign policy reputation. It does not get any better that Trump’s opponent, Clinton, was the nation’s top diplomat and has abundant experience in foreign policy. Former Republican candidates struggled to criticize Trump’s lack of seriousness about foreign policy in primaries, as they did not want to end up looking like dorks and help Trump win the fun guy title. As for Clinton, she has to defend her Secretary of State record and still keep her distance from other things like foreign policy conflicts during Obama’s second term. She does not want to seem too affiliated with Obama’s administration and Department of State in the second term, as she was not in charge of it at that time. Obama still can be a good asset for her campaign this fall, so she cannot distance herself too much in general and has to find a balance. We will see more about how both candidates deal with foreign policy when it gets closer to the general election!

 

DNC Journal Entry: Day One

Note: I am currently in Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention. I am attending an academic seminar this week and will be doing a fieldwork placement during the convention next week. I am writing a daily journal to reflect on my experience and will post my entries here. Enjoy! 

Day One

It is only my first day here yet I have learned so much already. From studying the traditions of conventions to analyzing current political candidates, today has been all about politics and I love it. It is a good preview of what the next two weeks will be like! I enjoyed hearing words of wisdom from talented individuals like the former Governor of Pennsylvania, Ed Russell, and the current CEO of Democratic National Convention Committee, Rev. Leah Daugherty.

The 2016 election is different than ones in the past. Instead of looking at candidates’ leadership quality, people are much more focused on their personality and issues. It may explain the rise of popularity for Sanders and Trump. Quoting Jesse Jackson, Daugherty said that people can break rules if they know them, but they cannot if they do not. This refers to Sanders and Trump who have new ideas. They only can succeed as long as they know the rules. In order to continue doing well throughout the general election and in upcoming debates, Trump has to prove that he can act presidential and the question is whether or not he is capable of doing that.

Trump has impacted Democratic Party demographics by drawing away certain registered Democratic voters. Like what Russell brought up during his speech, many white blue-collar working men, or Reagan Democrats, as he called them, left the Democratic Party to vote for Trump in primaries and probably will vote for him again in November. They are registered Democrats who typically end up voting for Republicans in presidential elections. I had the opportunity to ask Russell if he thinks the Democratic Party should invest its energy on these Reagan Democrats who are Trump supporters or invest it somewhere else. He responded by saying we ought to focus on doing voter registration drives, as there are numerous individuals who are still not registered to vote. It is probably more effective to convince unregistered individuals to vote for Clinton than to convince registered voters to change their minds.

Historically, conflict at party conventions can hurt the party’s chance of winning in the general election, yet there are other examples where parties do just fine after conflict. In regard to how much impact Sanders has had on Clinton, Sanders supporters actually are switching over to Clinton at a faster rate than Clinton supporters moved to Obama in 2008. However, Russell believes that even more Sanders supporters would move over to Clinton if Sanders did more like asking them to support Clinton.

Unity within the party is especially important in the general election. Some Democrats may not be fond of Clinton, but it may be essential for them to vote for Clinton in order to help the party. As Daugherty said, the decision should depend on how much the party means to an individual. Country versus party, that is something people need to decide. When a student suggested that voting for the first female candidate may not be as important as voting for certain values, Daugherty replied that ensuring that the next president remains a Democrat is more important than ensuring a female in office, but that is even more of a reason to vote for Clinton.

Nominate Hillary Contest (With English captions)

Transcript:

When I was a little girl, I dreamed of becoming an astronaut, but was told that Deaf people could not become astronauts. I was dismayed.  Likewise, Hillary wrote to NASA when she was young and inquired about becoming an astronaut. She was told that women could not become astronauts. Now she is running for president and may very well become the first female president. Female astronauts exist now, too. Very inspiring! The lesson in this is to not give up. I have two moms who have been together for 24 years. When I was young, they could not marry because same-sex marriage was not allowed. Today, same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states. Again, the lesson in this is to not give up. Change can happen. Hillary understands the importance of not giving up. She knows that focusing on small step-by-step changes will ultimately lead to big changes. Hillary’s vision of how to achieve these changes centers on including different groups of people such as women, Deaf people, people with disabilities, people of color, and other minorities, all of whom have much to contribute. If we do not include and work with them, we will miss out on their unique skills. Hillary and the Democratic Party share the same vision of including different minority groups. Hillary does not give up – she is persistent and will work hard to fight for changes until we reach them. This is why we must elect Hillary as our next president.