RAR Staff Writer Rachel Baily Talks GOP Re-Branding at CRNC Annual Convention
By George Scoville
Rising Belmont University senior Rachel Baily (Political Science) recently told CBS News at the College Republican National Committee’s annual convention in Washington, DC that she’s hopeful that new blood will refresh the GOP for years to come (read the full story with embedded video on CBS News‘ “Political Hotsheet” by clicking here). Baily, a Hershey, PA native and campaign staffer at Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s (R-TN 7th) District Office in Franklin, TN, understands the importance of using new methods for reaching out to young voters. She also understands that the GOP must broaden its base if it is to survive another barrage of electoral misfortune like that of November 2008.
“Obama was able to personalize things for people on the campaign trail (and since assuming office) by using daily emails, text alerts, and other things of that nature. People feel like they have a real connection with him. Republicans are beginning to use e-campaign strategies like this, and I think this is key for Republicans. The GOP needs to find ways and create new venues for young people to get involved in party activities,” said Baily. It is difficult, though, to estimate how successful these strategies are, or will be. Will success be measured only in electoral returns? Or will we look to thinks like participation in political campaigns or civic groups?
The nation-wide Tax Day Tea Party protests on April 15 of this year evidence the effective online organizational capacity of the Right. But before Republicans claim e-campaign success, they must remember that they are competing with a Libertarian Party that has gained considerable traction with voters in the oft-coveted 18-29 age group. There seems to be a gaping divide, both in message and mechanism, between top-down, big-money, Old Guard Republicans, and a vibrant, young online activist community, known as the Rightroots, which doesn’t have the means to reshape electoral strategy or platform messaging. The GOP rewards its members for service to the party – not for the quality of innovative solutions proposed or the achievement of national (as opposed to party) goals.
When asked whether the GOP should consider re-branding its platform, Baily said she has had trouble deciding what to do about the content of GOP messaging. “Republicans might need to consider moving the party’s platform to the center if they want to include moderate Democrats, and they need to work across the aisle,” she said. “Everybody is calling us the ‘Party of No’ right now. [Republicans] don’t need to give up on their values, but they need to appear like they’re working in bipartisan fashion.”
Rachel Baily is a Staff Writer for the Right Aisle Review and an active member of the Belmont College Republicans. You can view her editorials by clicking here.
George Scoville is an alumnus of Belmont University (’09) with degrees in Philosophy and Political Science. He is pursuing a Master of Public Policy at American University’s School of Public Affairs.
On Propaganda and the Future of American Society
By George Scoville
The nation was plagued by civil unrest, a discomfort propelled by a weakened economy and the policy failures of the incumbent government. Unemployment levels soared to record heights. The standard of living could not plummet quickly enough to match income disparities between the working class and the elite. Labor unions across all sectors of industry went on strike, thus increasing the cost of importing goods.
Leftists thought their representatives in the legislature had not done enough to divvy up the national pie. Right-wingers blamed the nation’s ills on the rise of an intangible, unidentifiable threat. The prevention of harm from this threat required an authoritarian institutional structure – a vast expansion of government power. Some thought the nation’s involvement in foreign wars had been foolish; the ends, they argued, had not justified the means.
The nation owed money all over the world. It became increasingly difficult to encourage foreign investment. Many feared that, at any moment, foreign creditors would come to collect – what would the government do then? The treasury was printing currency so quickly that the value of currency was in a free-falling tailspin.
A charismatic young leader emerged, gifted in oratory, community organizing, and promotion, who outlined his plan for a revival of society in a book – a book that reached thousands among the nation’s population. The young man had substance abuse issues in his youth, but he was loyal to his party and garnered support from his colleagues. As his popularity increased, he became emboldened on the campaign trail and began blaming all the nation’s ills on an entire cross-section of society.
The tired masses united under a common banner – an easily-recognizable symbol that stood for change, reorganization, and revival. It was not long before the average citizen saw the symbol everywhere he went. The viral nature of the grassroots movement inspired by the young man – in conjunction with a very-well-coordinated ground game – helped him gain inroads into regions which his minority out-party had struggled to attain.
Does any of this sound familiar? It should. The nation was the Weimar Republic; the time was the early twentieth century; the unpopular war was World War I; the people blamed for the world’s ills were German Jews; the symbol was the swastika; the book outlining reform plans was Mein Kampf; the young charismatic leader was Adolf Hitler.
No, not a drop of blood was shed while Barack Obama made his ascent to the highest office in the free world. No, Barack Obama is not a Nazi. No, America is nowhere close to suffering what early 20th century Germany suffered during the days of the Weimar Republic. But does the comparison infuriate you? Make you feel nauseated? I have deliberately oversimplified the past to demonstrate a media phenomenon that ought to give pause to any thinking American.
The Arianna Huffingtons and Markos Moulitsases of the world (founders of The Huffington Post and The DailyKos, respectively) served as primary message dissemination points for the Obama campaign, and continue to be the leading culprits in a propaganda-laden drive to smear anyone right-of-center. MSNBC‘s Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow are now candidly marching in lock-step with the President’s partisan drum-banging. Their brash, innuendo-filled characterization of conservative protestors as “teabaggers” is repulsive. CNN‘s Susan Rosen boldly berated (on camera) an ordinary citizen attending the Tax Day Tea Party in Chicago.
Blaming conservatives and the Republican Party for the nation’s ills – when there are equally culpable liberals and Democrats – is as reprehensible as it was for Hitler to blame the world’s ills on German Jews.
Media bias exists on both sides of the ideological spectrum; to defend FOX News‘s claim to be “fair and balanced” would not only be fruitless – it would be hypocritical. What I fear is a Congress and a president – with an army of willing lapdog journalist accomplices – who obfuscate the truth about American politics and who insulate themselves from criticism of any kind.
I listened patiently on November 4, 2008 as President Barack Obama delivered his acceptance speech. “I know that there are many of you out there who did not vote for me,” he said. “I promise to be your president too.” It was a small concession – but even I gave the man the benefit of the doubt. Call me “cautiously optimistic.”
Some of Obama’s hopeful campaign rhetoric was intoxicatingly idealistic. But any critiques of President Obama offered by the Right are met with allegations that we are selfish, xenophobic, hegemonic racists. The federal government has deemed us threats to national security. None of these characterizations could be further from the truth.
Yes, we should be worried. From the provisions of the GIVE Act to the institutional implications of a Department of Homeland Security memo issued earlier this month suggesting that “radical right-wing extremists” and “domestic terrorists” would overtake the nation-wide Tax Day Tea Party protest, I fear for myself as a conservative and for my unborn children. I fear for those of you who have bought in to this runaway Democratic train just because you don’t like war, Wall Street, or W.
I am not your scapegoat.
Adolf Hitler once quipped, “How fortunate for those in power that people do not think.” For Mr. Obama, this is fortunate indeed. Please heed this call, Mr. President: do not repeat the same mistakes that America – or any other nation – has made.
George Scoville is a senior Philosophy and Political Science double major. He will attend American University’s School of Public Affairs in pursuit of a Master of Public Policy beginning this fall.
By Claire Cunningham
Why has Belmont banned plastic water bottle sales on campus? Has the removal of trashcans from classrooms not have been enough to fulfill the “Going Green” initiative? However grateful I may be that the school has added recycling bins everywhere, I am infuriated with the recent decision to ban the sale of plastic water bottles on campus.
I understand that an enormous uproar has occurred around the country regarding how plastic water bottles rot in landfills and harm the environment. But don’t plastic soda bottles do the same? Where is the uproar there? If this campus is truly committed to bettering its environment, wouldn’t it be more consistent and less hypocritical to ban all plastic bottles? We will not make much impact on the environment by banning water bottles but continuing to sell soda bottles.
Perhaps banning bottled water is the first step in banning all plastic bottles on campus. But that raises another question: has Belmont even considered how these decisions will affect student consumption patterns?
Students value convenience and accessibility. Banning the sale water bottles on campus is likely to lead to more soft drink consumption, as students will prefer a quick alternative to standing in re-hydration lines. Students are also likely to gravitate to Circle K and other local businesses to buy their water. Even if we are able to assume that re-hydration areas offer healthier options than our current arrangements, what is to guarantee that students will use them?
But what about SoBE bottles? If we need to ban the sale of anything because it’s harmful to the environment, ban glass bottle sales! There are few recycle containers for glass on campus. Most bottles end up thrown into the garbage. Those bottles end up rotting in landfills as well, but Belmont turns a blind eye to the glass we are not recycling and allows us to throw it away. How about providing the easy alternative—another recycling container?
My biggest concern centers on the lack of student input in this decision. If we are to ban the sale of disposable water bottles on campus, it should come from students lobbying for it, not from the administration mandating it. I see many students recycling their plastic and reusing their bottles. Belmont should continue to encourage us to be environmentally responsible citizens, instead of attempting to dictate what we can and cannot buy on campus. At least we know Circle K just got paid.
Claire Cunningham in a sophomore Music Business major.
By Shirah Foy
As I sat down to write this article—supposedly summarizing ‘right aisle’ perspectives on major historical events since the creation of this country—I could not help but lament my lack of familiarity with many of the events that needed to be included: 1820’s Populist Rise, Great Depression, Women’s Suffrage, Cold War, etc. What’s worse –the whole motivation behind writing a historical piece was an attempt to cache my lack of familiarity with current events. It is embarrassing to admit that I currently have only a vague idea of what is going on beyond my immediate environs, yet I sense that I am not alone.
With the rise of the Information Age, gaining access to breaking news is now effortless, but it seems that people, like me, are less and less informed. How has this happened?
There are several reasons why we rest blatantly oblivious to the world around us.
For one, we are inundated and intimidated by news everywhere. “Thai Army Chief Vows to End ‘Chaos’ as Protests Widen” (NY Times), “Lebanon’s Hezbollah savors increasing legitimacy” (LA Times), “Lucky to Be Alive: Attacked By a Polar Bear” (ABC News), “Bullies Drive Boy to Suicide” (ABC News), “Madagascar: Cyclone Kills 9″ (NY Times). These are only a few of today’s headlines from major news publications across the country. Couple that with hectic mornings—finishing that last minute research paper, getting in some exercise, maybe grabbing a bite to eat before heading out the door—the news can be a lot for students to tackle. So we opt out.
It becomes increasingly difficult for students to stay informed because many issues not seem relevant to our individual lives. We do not want to be bothered with information that is not essential to the task at hand; it takes up space in our working memory—space that many of us are reluctant to proffer. We are even more reluctant because it is difficult to see how many of the headlines affect our families, jobs—our lives.
We also have a variety of entertaining distractions at our disposal. Have you ever spent an entire evening on Facebook or Twitter? Although these interfaces have great didactic potential, little of the transpiring information could honestly be called objective and informative. Add in TV, iPods, and video games, and it becomes clear that intelligent, thought-provoking news has many competitors for our attention.
I have come to several conclusions: (1) Informing oneself is a conscious choice and must be self-motivated. An authority teacher, or professor, cannot enforce it. (2) Maintaining my status as an informed individual will require a time commitment. Personally, I plan to block out 30 minutes a day to read a newspaper or informative online source. (3) Getting started is the hardest part.
The only remaining question is “why?” Why sacrifice the simplicity of an uninformed life? Why break through the societal bubble?
There are superficial reasons. Knowing something makes it easier to join conversations, learn new perspectives, and formulate opinions. Being informative is also a confidence booster and contributes to one’s preparedness.
It is most important for all to break through the bubble and inform themselves because current events matter. Daily events that might seem trivial have the potential to drastically change individual lives. The economic crisis, for example, seems to be leading to the end of classic American political values like small government.
Only individual citizens, vocalizing their opinions, can stop the trend. The people’s will delegates power to the government. A disengaged populace allows government to run rampant and infringe liberty. The choice is yours.
Shirah Foy is a sophomore International Entrepreneurship major.
By Travis Harvey
Belmont’s religious left has not been shy about its opposition of the Iraq War, nor in its vitriol disgust of former President George W. Bush.
The past three years have been littered with convocations sponsored by the Office of Spiritual Development that described the United States as a war-loving, imperialistic empire.
The RAR has featured op-eds in the past; our major criticism has centered on the political nature of some OSD convocations. Perhaps we are witnessing a trend that is forming among leftist religious academics on a national level, and have missed the point. The religious left does not just disagree with Bush’s justification of the Iraq War and the international War on Terror—they disagree with war in general.
“What you have identified is a kind of quasi or neo-pacifism,” said Dr. Jean Bethke Elshtain, the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics at the University of Chicago Divinity School. “People may stand up and say I’m a pacifist, but if they go on and talk about some wars being justified, they raise the bar so high that you realize no war could ever meet their criteria.”
Elshstain contends that it would be far better if these people would identify themselves as “functional” or “practical” pacifists.
“I think it would be far more honest just to say, ‘I really am a functional pacifist and I just don’t think war is justified,'” said Elshtain, “rather than saying, ‘oh yeah, I can imagine a Just War, but this isn’t one.'”
In an interview with Dr. Todd Lake, following an OSD sponsored convocation to mark the 5th Anniversary of the Iraq War, he pointed out that eighty to ninety percent of “informed” Christian leaders oppose the Iraq War and deem it unjustified. It was his description of the state of Iraq before the United States invasion that left the RAR skeptical, describing pre-war Iraqi communities as places that had “lived in harmony for decades.”
Clearly Iraq, under the control of Saddam Hussein, had not been living in a state of harmony. Beginning in 1987, Hussein used mustard gas against the Kurds living in Northern Iraq. Perhaps the worst attack was against the Kurdish village of Halabja in 1988, where a chemical combination of mustard gas left 5,000 dead, and more than 65,000 wounded. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, Hussein launched around 280 chemical attacks on the Kurds.
“Bush hatred may play a role in the religious left’s strong opposition to the Iraq War,” said Elshtain.
“I have never seen anything like the contempt, and the hatred, and the animus against a political leader as I saw with President Bush,” said Elshtain. “I am just flabbergasted by how ugly it was and how routine it was. It went way beyond criticism to open contempt.”
Criticism and debate are needed. It can be hard criticism, but criticism is far different from hate, said Elshtain. She pointed out an essay published in a major journal of civic opinion titled “Justifying Bush Hatred.” In the article written by Jonathan Chait, published in the New Republic, Chait chastised Bush for everything from how he walked to how he talked.
Obama’s most significant policy departure from Bush in dealing with the War on Terror seems to be rhetorical. The War Against Terror is now deemed “overseas contingency operations,” and terrorist attacks are now “man caused disasters.” Elshtain thinks that this change in rhetoric may be dangerous. Terrorism is an established term in international politics and international norms. A man-made disaster could be anything from someone causing a relatively small accident, to an event like 9/11.
“Oversees contingency operations and man-made disaster mean nothing, I mean, how can you debate an overseas contingency operation,” said Elshtain. “If you say terrorist, you know it is an intentionally planned killing of civilians, and that helps you to take your ethical and moral bearings. This silliness with euphemisms destroys your ability to do that.”
According to Elshtain, President Obama’s administration has done almost nothing to change Bush era policies.
”They have reaffirmed the wire-tapping surveillance policies, which goes against what Obama said in his campaign, they are going to close Guantanamo, yes, but, not right away, and the Attorney General, Mr. Holder goes down there and says it is a well run facility. They left themselves some wiggle room with the use of rough interrogations, you know, maybe there would be some exceptions when some of the rougher methods of interrogation would be justified,” said Elshtain. “I don’t see any super-major changes, but maybe it is too early.”
President Obama’s current policies on war, compared to the rhetoric used in his campaign, may have changed due to what he learned upon taking office. However, the OSD’s attempt to classify the Iraq War and the War on Terrorism as either just or unjust is ridiculous. There is nothing wrong with teaching practical pacifism. I cannot draw judgment on whether our actions in Iraq are just or unjust, but I argue that the OSD cannot either.
Travis Harvey is a senior Political Science major.
A Homemaker or Policymaker?
By Eric S. Deems
Over the history of the American presidency, the role of the First Lady has evolved.. Eleanor Roosevelt used her first ladyship as a tool for policymaking as seen through her work on the UN Declaration of Human Rights. Jacquelyn Kennedy had a more reserved and nonpolitical role while having the same title.
Is America better served by having a First Lady who is a homemaker or policymaker?
In Gender Politics: News Coverage of the Candidates’ Wives in Campaign 2000, Winfield and Friedman posit four frames that journalists apply to First Ladies: an escort accompanying her spouse; a style setter; a noblesse oblige role, doing charitable works; and the role of policy adviser. Winfield and Friedman analyze how 20th century media coverage of the presidency went beyond the president himself.
When wives defended their husbands, the escort role dominated. Once First Ladies began taking more active policy, community, and trend-setting roles, the frames changed. The style-setter frame got the least amount of attention in the study. With this label, most people think of Jacqueline Kennedy as referenced by the New York Times, who called her “fantastically chic.”
Most prevalent in the study was media attention to first ladies’ good works. These are the “pet projects” of the first ladyship. The noblesse oblige role closely relates to the policy advisor role because they both exemplify the passion the First Lady has with a particular issue. The role of policy adviser, however, gathers the most media attention.
Hillary Rodham Clinton struggled against a more “traditional” First Lady role when she tried to participate as a policymaker. President Clinton’s approval rating was at its lowest when Mrs. Clinton tackled health reform, but rose steadily when the former First Lady confined her activity to the role of White House hostess. Eleanor Roosevelt wrote “the political influence attributed to me was nil when my husband was concerned.” However, Winfield suggests a distinct political element found in First Ladies working as behind-the-scenes advisers and sounding boards for their husbands.
The media generally still ignores or marginalizes the First Lady, even when she initiates a White House program. However, controversy is the lifeblood of media. For example, Jacqueline Kennedy’s independent trips and actions were scrutinized and became publicly controversial when her husband was assassinated. Pat Nixon’s attempt to appear perfect as a wife did not resonate as she stood by her husband’s crumbling presidency.
The First Lady position remains a “no win” situation. The New York Times even complained in 2005 that Laura Bush was “too pretty, too perfect, and too plastic to be true.” Despite how “perfect” one’s First Lady may be, there is a constant in major media coverage: a wife’s potential political influence is too intrusive.
Ann Friedman’s First Ladies in Two Modes differentiates between the First Lady accepted by Republicans and Democrats. The Clintons were the first to fully embrace the Democratic power-couple on the campaign trail. Bill Clinton was not afraid to promise voter a “two for the price of one” presidency. Friedman says the First Partner model allows a candidate to appear centrist while the spouse tends to the base. While Eleanor Roosevelt may have broken the mold, the Clintons took the power-couple to the presidency. Friedman says the Republicans could do a lot of good by learning from this model.
After the analysis of the various roles and expectations of the first ladyship, I would argue that it is better to have a first lady who is engaged in her husband’s administration than one who is passively hiding in his shadows.
The First Lady should serve in each of the roles in a balancing act of sorts. We expect our First Lady to escort her husband, follow protocol at ceremonial events, maintain “pet projects” through charitable works, and to allow her passion to find a way to contribute to the policymaking of her husband’s administration in non-intrusive ways.
Hillary Clinton came into the White House knowing she would be a policy adviser, having been politically linked to her husband since their days at Georgetown. However, the Kennedy family had a number of small children that required rearing by their mother. Chelsea Clinton, daughter of Bill and Hillary, attended a boarding school and was not at the White House every day like the Kennedy kids. There are clear differences and even extenuating circumstances that shape the different first ladyships.
Michelle Obama has two small children, and the Obamas decided to invite the children’s grandmother to live in the White House to help raise them. Michelle feels a duty to be involved in her husband’s administration. She is following in Clinton’s footsteps as a policy adviser. I have strong convictions that a first lady who is a “policymaker” is better for our country than one who is only a “homemaker.”
While finding a balance will be important, we should not expect these qualified, educated, and passionate women living in the White House to settle for anything less than what is desired by the administration.
Eric S. Deems is a sophomore Business and Political Science double major in the Honors program.
The Choice is NOT Yours
By John Lambert
Barack Obama, the first African-American President of the United States, has proposed a mandatory civil service program that is ostensibly temporary indentured servitude. Am I the only one who finds this slightly ironic? Apparently, enslaving Americans is now okay, so long as the federal government is “master.”
White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel outlined the mandatory civil service plan in his book The Plan: Big Ideas for America. Supposedly, the plan will help strengthen “the social fabric of the nation.” The plan is to have all young adults, aged 18-25, serve a minimum of 3 months in “civilian service.” This includes a “national security force” that will be larger than the U.S. military. They also want to create similar groups for elderly civilians and children in primary and secondary education. Anyone refusing to participate in these “volunteer” service corps would suffer a 5% increase in Federal taxes—for life.
For those who have not heard about this initiative before, the mandatory service was originally part of HR 1388, better known as the Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education Act (GIVE). Legislators removed the mandatory language before the bill’s passing. However, HR 1444 reintroduced it. Both of these bills cause serious worry for those who feel that the government should abide by the rules laid out for it in the Constitution.
Part of HR 1388 calls to “prohibit organizations from attempting to influence legislation; organize or engage in protests, petitions, boycotts, or strikes; and assist, promote, or deter union organizing,” for those who are a part of this “civil service.” In other words, during the time that someone is involved in these programs, mandatory or not, they are not allowed to exercise their all of their First Amendment rights.
Similar language appears to further encroach upon First Amendment rights. Section 125 of the GIVE act states as prohibited activities, “Engaging in religious instruction, conducting worship services, providing instruction as part of a program that includes mandatory religious instruction or worship, constructing or operating facilities devoted to religious instruction or worship, maintaining facilities primarily or inherently devoted to religious instruction or worship, or engaging in any form of religious proselytization.” The bill does not allow someone who is in one of the corps to exercise basic Constitutional rights.
To be clear, I am not against volunteering, philanthropy, or serving one’s country. Each is vital to the fabric of America. Nor am I against getting the youth and elderly more involved in society and helping their fellow man. I agree with JFK when he said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” Too many people today do nothing to help their neighbors and community.
What I oppose is mandating citizens to give their time to a government. It is a violation of liberty. Individuals should try to make the world a better place; they should feel compelled by their conscience. Obama’s plan to enlarge the Peace Corps is a step in the right direction because it increases volunteer opportunities. Government should not enforce this. Mandatory community service is for criminals—not law-abiding citizens.
The creation of the Obama Youth is the beginning of a change—a change away from Constitutional principles—a change we did not ask for and should not want.
John Lambert is a senior Music Business major.