“This Sure Sounds Familiar…” Populism and the Cyclical Decline of Political Parties

Political Party expiration dates and the power of Donald Trump’s American Populism
By Laura Thompson
It is the summer preceding the presidential election, and the United States is a nation of mass discontent. Many citizens feel that they are being deceived and swindled by the elite of society and the businesses meant to hold the economy together. The justice system appears rigged to favor the few rather than protect the many and regions all over the country are being impacted by waves of battered and distressed immigrants—immigrants that often have had limited education, do not come from countries that strictly favor English, and who practice religions that decidedly differ from the Christian principles many Americans consider ‘tradition’. This influx of immigrants also comes at a time when the nation’s economy is not particularly thriving, and many deal with upheaval and unemployment in their workplaces, whether from expanding population versus demand, or from technological change.
That summer, to be specific, is of approximately 1854.
In the decade span of 1845 to 1855, the United States felt the influx of thousands of European immigrants—immigrants that were often poor, uneducated, and very Catholic in a relatively Protestant nation—as well as the global turning tides of the slavery debate on the economic stage. The response to this change, more immediately than the Civil War, was the evolution of political theatre. Amongst all of this societal turmoil, after all, the U.S. saw the final breaths of the Whig Party, and the rapid formation of its populist replacement: The Know Nothing Party.
The Know-Nothings were a short-lived party that had national popularity but tangible power in Massachusetts. It advocated for nativist ideologies, anti-immigration, and anti-Catholicism, and its membership was for Protestant men only. Historian Tyler Anbinder noted in his Nativism and Slavery that the Know Nothing’s success relied not only upon the conditions of society at the time, but the collapse of the Whig Party, which had suffered internalized weakening and factionalism over the last several years, and in particular damage over the Kansas-Nebraska Act.
The 1840s saw a massive and continual influx of Irish immigrants in particular, fleeing their country out of fear, hope for employment, and starvation. When they arrived in America, they found a largely Protestant nation that resented their masses and their devotion to the Pope; Irish stereotypes ranged from laziness and alcoholism at best, to primitive clan-behavior and subhuman existence at worst. The name, Know Nothing, came from the melodramatic practice of the earliest party foundations: the Order of the Star Spangled Banner, which was founded to resist Catholic immigration, encouraged members asked about the order to reply that they “know nothing” of the cause.
The Know Nothing Party did not survive long, and although familiarity with the name is common, the ability to list the beliefs of the party is more difficult. Once the Know Nothing movement disintegrated, the Republican Party formed in its wake, took Abraham Lincoln as its leader, and the nation dove into a brutal and bloody civil war. Did the Know Nothing movement cause the war, or even qualify as a variable cause? No, not necessarily. Things are always more complicated than that, and the Know Nothings were not terribly successful on the national stage—they simply gave a platform for people to voice their discontents, however xenophobic or radical they may have been. The trouble with populist ideologies taking form as political parties rests in the inherent broadness of the issue: populism is a movement based upon mobilizing the power of a perceived oppressed majority against an oppressive few.is, essentially, to represent the populace, and to oppose the strong will of the elite few.
Abstract notions of populism seem promising. The complication is that a politician who declares themselves a ‘populist’ has told their audience very little about their specific policy proposals. Although populist rhetoric and policies are often left leaning of the nation’s middle-ground voting position, strong economic structure is often lacking in favor of economic policies fueled by societal-based resolutions. In the context of macroeconomics, Rudiger Dornbush and Sebastian Edwards summarize this issue neatly:
Populist regimes have historically tried to deal with income inequality problems through the use of overly expansive macroeconomic policies. These policies, which have relied on deficit financing, generalized controls, and a disregard for basic economic equilibria, have almost unavoidably resulted in major macroeconomic crises that have ended up hurting the poorer segments of society.
The Republican Party, somewhat affectionately known as the GOP, is in a minor crisis. The current 2016 election has seen the party nomination of Donald Trump, a businessman, television personality, and now—politician. He is known for his bombastic speeches, broad and sweeping statements, and controversial opinions on women and minorities. He is, generally: anti-Muslim, anti-immigration, and pro-middle and lower classes. His popularity is evidenced by his nomination; but why? Curiously, perceived authenticity tends to reign supreme.
Notions of authenticity are key to populist success, as the masses are receptive to those who are believed to be identifiable and proactive. This is, according to Bram Spruyt, Gil Keppens, and Filip Van Droogenbroeck, “the ‘people centrism’ component in populism—that is, the representation of the people as a pure and homogenous group whose will should be the crucial reference for politicians—is the element that theoretically distinguishes populism from mere political discontent […] populism remains a politics of hope, that is, the hope that where established parties and elites have failed, ordinary folks, common sense, and the politicians who give them a voice can find solutions.” Furthermore, in a fellow World Mind publication, Jeremy Clement also expands on American Populism regarding Trump, in particular comparing him to George Wallace: “The claims of both are generally not supported with evidence, but that is not the point. The speech sounds good and feeds into the idea of the common, struggling, working man fighting against an unfair system that does not respect his values.” The authenticity that Donald Trump possesses, presumably, is his ability to rouse hope in people based on the desired images many have of what America is—American exceptionalism, indeed.
American historian Andrew J. Bacevich emphasizes the broken nature of how the U.S. views itself. In an article for Politico breaking down the crisis with Russia, he tackles the notions of American exceptionalism and how the problematic nature of these self-assumptions has hindered the U.S.’s competence. He writes:
The events we are commanded to remember are those that happened during the period 1933-1945. In geographic terms, we can be even more specific: They occurred in the space bounded by London, where stiff upper lips withstood the Blitz, and Auschwitz, where countless Jews were murdered. But the true epicenter was Munich, site of the great betrayal from which the horrors were said to follow. Events prior to or after that period—1914 or 2003, for example—or events occurring beyond that expanse—you know, like Vietnam—don’t count for much.
The bitter satire of Bacevich’s article is rather forgivable. This comes from a man who regards American exceptionalism as a sort of religion, one that has severely narrowed the perspective of Americans and compromised the strength and capability of the nation—the people are more preoccupied with perceived entitlements to grandeur than to continually earning high regard. American exceptionalism exists within a very peculiar universe: the 1950s were golden, everyone was happy, and things have only gone downhill from there. Likely mental images of stereotypical grandparents reminiscing on the ‘good old days’ have been conjured by this point. For Trump, American exceptionalism is the ambrosia and nectar of his entire campaign.
Donald Trump is a candidate thriving on populist ideologies in America, but the very passion fueling him is also enabling the potential for a collapse of the Republican Party of which he is the candidate. There is a desire to return to the ‘good old days,’ a notion that rejects the realities of history—but it is a reminiscence that Trump encourages: ‘Make America Great Again!’ cries the businessman’s campaign. What once may have been a melodramatic concern is now fair game: Donald Trump is the candidate of the GOP, yes, but he is hardly representative of the party—whether one considers the primary platform or its factional offshoots, such as the Tea Party. The man could easily run as a third-party candidate and likely endure little competition for voters with a separate GOP presidential candidate. The trouble is that Trump is not a Republican: he is a man who has chosen to enter American politics on his own terms.
There are several months to go before the U.S. engages with what may be one of its most important presidential elections in decades—it could, quite literally, change the course of American household politics. Although Trump is hardly friendly with many Republicans, he has recently won endorsements from several major faces, such as Paul Ryan and Chris Christie. However, there is a deeper meaning implicated in these endorsements: party insecurity. In the 1840s, the Whig Party of the United States endured several fractures that eventually sank the entire Party—the mass voting populace no longer unified in its identification with Whig platform values. Today, the same may be happening for the Republican Party; Republican voters find themselves across a broad spectrum, some finding themselves in polarized positions at the far end of the spectrum and too often at the derogatory butt of many liberal media jokes. These jokes do not harm those in the far end, though; the damage is often felt more often by centrist Republicans who are all-too-conscious of the public eye and misconceptions. The result, however, is the same: increasingly irreversible divisions within the Party, impacting both voter optimism and campaign numbers.
What is important to note here is that the Whig Party did not fall in a month. It is likely that the Republican Party will continue to persist as well; Trump is a wild card, but the future hinges on more than one man. Populism compromises the future of the GOP, as it questions the capacity of the Party to connect with U.S. citizens and encourages further political divisions and ideas on reformation. The Know Nothing Party did not last long in its most tangible form, but its values would reverberate across the country for nearly a century. It is difficult to argue that Donald Trump’s dream of a wall will not hold the same impact, both for immigrants and Muslims, as well as for the stability of the floundering conservative Party that has played host to so much of the groundwork for these attitudes.
All views expressed are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the World Mind or of Clocks and Clouds.

Taking Socialism Home to Meet Your Parents

An increasing number of young people support democratic socialism, but what does that mean?
By Andrew Fallone
So you come home from your first year at college. You wave goodbye to the rear fender of your friend’s beat up 1998 Toyota sedan as it drives away into the distance. You see your parents standing in your doorway smiling proudly, happy to have you back. You walk inside and sit down to a freshly cooked family dinner to reconnect after a year away. Your parents start to ask you about your life, how are the grades, have you locked down a job for the summer yet, do you remember your curfew is still midnight, and for god’s sakes do you have a boyfriend yet? “No,” you reply, no job and no boyfriend yet, but you have started to really like this idea you learned about in your introduction to political theory class; you’ve become a socialist.
Dad dramatically pushes his chair back and storms off to his study to drink scotch straight from the bottle and contemplate where he failed you, while your mother sobs into her apron, and your little brother runs off to alert the neighborhood watch that there’s a dangerous Marxist guerilla living in the area. The white-picket fence has caught on fire and all of the years of wholesome upbringing and money spent on college tuition have gone to waist…or not. Maybe it should not be so shocking that socialism is seeing a resurgence in popularity amongst many young college-age Americans. Now, this is not the socialism of the radical socialism of envisioned by dusty theorists where the government is in direct control of distributing wealth equally to all of its citizen. Instead, this article refers to democratic socialism, which is growing in popularity because it gives the government the tools it needs to administer economic policy and welfare programs, while still maintaining individual rights such as private land ownership and free markets. This allows the enhanced power of the government to be wielded by the larger populace. Indeed, to those who are educated, the ideas that drive socialism are not so foreign or exotic, but are actually reasonable and effective.
Now, in order to evaluate different forms of government, there must be some agreed upon metric by which to do so. For this article, an effective and efficient government is one that can most successfully carry out its laws and directives. Yet this comes with an important caveat, for a truly effective government must also take the best care of its citizens’ needs. In summary, an effective government must be accountable and responsive to its people, while still creating policy that is actually effective at accomplishing a government’s first job—to provide for its citizens—opposed to blindly following every brash impulse of its electorate. While an authoritarian government might be effective, it is not the most humane because large constituency of people are victim to the wants and choices of the small concentration of power in a ruling party or a dictator. A democracy, conversely, while the choices of the electorate might not always be the best or most humane, does have the largest portion of the total populace making the decisions, which is in theory the most humane form of government. Yet that large and theoretically humane electorate is slow to take action and thus is actually not the most responsive or effective in executing its policies. In this article, I posit that a socialist democracy is the best way to execute effective governmental action in the most egalitarian and humanitarian way.
A student of political theory might tell you that an authoritarian or autocratic government is one of the most effective at just directly carrying out its directives. In terms of the economy, a government that does not have to worry about any opposition, nor any approval, can make the changes it decides are the most beneficial for itself much more quickly than if it had to go through more widely accepted democratic routes. While other nations may make economic success more difficult for autocratic governments by punishing them for their system of rule, case in point the embargos that stood for decades against Cuba, authoritarian governments are some of the most capable in terms of implementing their own policy within the confines of their own economy. When speaking about economic development, Modernization theory puts forward the idea that democracy was something for rich and developed nations, and in order to achieve that affluence other less-developed nations had to go through a period of non-democratic rule. Indeed, this idea is supported by London School of Economics professors Timothy Besley and Masayuki Kudamatsu, who illustrate it thus:

[A]utocratic government is not always a disaster in economic terms. Indeed, throughout history there has been growth and development in autocratic systems of government. For example, the British industrial revolution predates the introduction of free and fair elections with mass participation. Modern China is also a case in point with a spectacular growth performance in a non-democratic setting.

The example of modern China is especially pertinent here, for many other countries in Southeast Asia—Taiwan, South Korea, and Singapore just to name a few—all experienced incredible economic growth and success under military dictatorships similar to that experienced by China under single party, autocratic rule. This is because of how efficiently they are able to administer their economic policy. Columbia University economist Jagdish Bhagwati is quoted by G. William Dick to say that “No policy of economic development can be carried out unless the government has the capacity to adhere to it […] Quite often, however, democratic governments lose equanimity and determination in the face of opposition.” Yet, the ability to effectively orchestrate policy comes at a price, for few would disagree that authoritarian or autocratic systems are not the most beneficial to the average citizen, thus violating our second rule for effective governance. In China, the economic growth that the single-party government has fostered has not equally benefitted all of its subjects: the elite have become richer and the wealth is not shared equally. This leads us to one alternative to an authoritarian system: democracy.
Yet while democracies are typically far better for all of their constituents in terms of holding their governing figures accountable to the populace, the question remains: can they achieve the same economic success as authoritarian systems? As NYU professor Adam Przeworski notes, “The reason everyone opts for democracy in affluent societies is that too much is at stake in turning against it” because the alternative is so much worse for the average citizen, especially those not aligned with the ruling party. Furthermore, it is true that, as Pranab Bardhan says in the Financial Times, “Democracies are better able to avoid catastrophic mistakes, (such as China’s […] massive mayhem in the […] Cultural Revolution), and have greater healing powers after difficult times. Democracies also experience more intense pressure to share the benefits of development among the people, thus making it sustainable.”
In essence, Bardhan is saying that democracies avoid dangerous blunders because all decisions must first come from the people or those who they elect to represent them. Yet while it might be better for the average citizen in terms of sharing the wealth, a democracy can prove to be painfully slow and inefficient when it comes to deciding upon and administering economic policy. One needs only to look at the struggle the American government goes through every year to pass a budget to simply keep itself operating, and the number of times it has shut itself down due to partisan differences, to see how cumbersome and lethargic a democracy such as our own can be. As Timothy Besley and Stephen Coate posit in the American Economic Review, “[W]hile political equilibrium does satisfy a certain efficiency property, this does not imply that policies are efficient according to standard economic criteria,” for even if we do manage to agree on an economic policy, there is no guarantee that all of the concessions made to reach that agreement have not stripped the policy of all actual effectiveness. This leaves us with one essential question: how do we maintain the economic efficiency of an autocratic government while imparting the social equity of a democratic one?
Our answer lies back in that one dirty word—socialism. A socialist government has a large federal government empowered by its electorate to be able to more directly implement its economic policies, while giving the fruits of its prosperity to its citizens equally instead of having it funneled directly to the top as an authoritarian system would. Cedric Muhammad of Forbes put it eloquently when he said of socialism that
[a] socialist system that is working well is one that is fully deploying the nation’s resources through a central plan that has the approval of the people. It would be superior to a capitalist system that is working so poorly that its adherents must find excuses for mass unemployment, widely diverging income classes, and deepening social pathologies.

Indeed, it is the effective implementation that is the crux of what makes democratic socialism the best choice for America. In post-WWII America, we had a massively powerful federal government that was able to capitalize on the economic success that the nation was experiencing and return it to the people in terms of social welfare programs. This union of the ability of the government to make decisive and responsive economic actions while still having a government by and for the people that makes socialism such a potent and attractive form of governance. I’ll leave you with another quote from Jagdish Bhagwati of Columbia University: “Another advantage of the socialist countries is their passionate conviction and dedication to the objective of economic growth—which contrasts visibly with the halting and hesitant beliefs and actions of democracies.” A socialist system gives the government the power it needs to enact successful policy, while still being accountable to and benefitting its people, and that’s an appealing concept.
All views expressed are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the World Mind or of Clocks and Clouds.

Will Doves or Hawks Fly? An Analysis of Democratic Policies in the Levant

A look at whose Sanders’ and Clinton’s foreign policies in the region
By Caroline Rose
In 2011, the streets of Cairo were teeming with political, financial, and religious fervor—with Egyptian President Mubarak at the root of discontent. Young protesters led by the Muslim Brotherhood and pro-democratic groups such as the “Tamarod” movement, took to Tahrir Square to oust a dictator representing three decades of Egyptian strife under secular autocracy, a militant ruling party, and economic strain. While uncertainty loomed in Tahrir Square, discord loomed in the White House Situation Room. Obama and his administration were bereft of time—with the choice of opting for “the right side of history” with young, pro-democracy protestors, or with a decades-old status quo embedded in the Mubarak regime. Answering the pleas of his advisors, President Obama chose to support the rebels. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton—the current 2016 Democratic Presidential frontrunner — unsuccessfully advocated siding with Mubarak based on the rationalization that supporting an unstructured, youthful revolutionary movement would not be any less than naïve. The rebels represented change and renewal, but Mubarak represented years of American investment, relative stability, and guarantee of U.S. access and provision.
Such a decision is congruent with Clinton’s so-called “hawkish” foreign policy agenda—yet scholars, critics, and constituents alike are still scratching heads in regards to Clinton’s strict theoretical framework. Many point to former First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State as an oscillation between neo-conservatism and liberalism in international affairs. Clinton’s opponent, Vermont Senator Bernard Sanders, staunchly falls within liberalism, yet is misunderstood in his policy projections. In the largest and arguably, most historic presidential election this country will witness, the media machine has detracted voters from dissecting Hilary’s ideological direction or Sander’s exact foreign policy agenda. In this piece, I seek to dissect Clinton’s and Sanders’ theoretical identities and visualize their policies in the most precarious geopolitical hotspot of the 21st century: the Levant region.
Neo-con, Realist, or both? Assessing Hillary’s Ideological Conundrum
Advisor Jeffrey Bader once remarked that Clinton is “not an ideological person, she’s a deal-maker.” The ambiguity that surrounds the exact identity of Clinton’s foreign policy has been the subject of widespread speculation in this election. Her extensive record appears to be a conjectural blend of realist, idealist, and neo-conservative policy selections. As a New York Senator, she voted yes for intervention in Iraq. In her “pivot to Asia” as Secretary of State, she sought a role for the United States in territorial disputes in the South China Sea. She has angered Jewish voters when she has remained neutral with Israeli-Iranian tensions, while acknowledging Israel’s pivotal role as an American ally in the Middle East, and even proposing support of Iranian democratic attempts at a 2016 appearance at AIPAC. Public perception has suggested that Clinton reflects all three ideological identities of realism, liberalism, and neo-conservatism. Yet, when we arrange her record comprehensively, we will discover that Clinton is unapologetically neo-con in every crease and corner of the fabric that is her foreign policy agenda. Clintonism will champion hard power over soft, politics of preconditions, shoe-leather diplomacy, and operating from a position of strength. Is Hillary the next Kissinger? No, but expect a hybridized version of Kissinger, Kagan, and Robert Gates. Hillary will exemplify her appreciation of using clout of diplomacy, but realizes militarized strength may be necessary to sit parties at the table in the first place.
To compare the Democratic candidates, one must comprehend Clinton’s appreciation for statecraft abroad, while Sanders focuses on the American state itself; external reformation runs divergent to internal reconstruction. Clinton and Sanders both exercise caution when flexing their foreign policy muscle, yet differ in nature. Clinton sees the military as a valuable mechanism, while Sanders sees it as a potential deterrent. Clinton practices caution in the calculation and execution of hard power initiatives, keeping her cards close to her chest. Yet in retrospect, she keeps a maximalist thirst for an American militarized footprint across the world. Secretary of Defense Gates recalls Clinton favored 40,000 boots on the ground when he advised 30. After all, Clinton’s education in the world of foreign policy began not in her tenure as Secretary of State or even as First Lady, but as a freshman New York Senator on the Committee on Armed Services, where she developed a great appreciation for American military capability. Sanders on the other hand, is more cautious in foreign policy. He voted against intervention in Iraq and champions that decision as representative of his strong anti-interventionism. Many have compared Clinton’s foreign policy as a continuation of the Obama Administration, such as non-intervention in Syria, but in fact it is Sanders that would replicate “skeptical restraint” best. While critics have pointed to Sanders as immature in foreign policy and avoidant of the topic altogether, they must explore Sander’s liberal logic of policies he has already presented on debate floors across the country. To understand Sander’s global strategy is to understand his domestic platform. His policies abroad are anchored to his economic strategy to alleviate collegiate debt, combat Wall Street, and improve social welfare programs; the United States cannot pour money into carpet-bombing the Islamic State that drains taxation at home, nor expend resources fighting for democracy in Iran or Egypt when democratic ideals are endangered at the expense of the corporate machine.
Visualizing the Levant
The Levantine region of the Middle East has become characterized by regenerative, endless conflicts, ruptures in the ethnic and religious foundations, and proxy interests intersecting in Iraq and Syria. Civil wars are incubated within civil wars—spurred initially by democratic fervor and devolving into foreign manipulation of rebel factions to install puppet leadership. These conflicts are consequential; it is fuddled, it is not simplistic enough to characterize with theory alone. A presidential candidate who claims to contextualize a policy strategy in all corners of this conflict is lying, but a candidate that can produce a doctrine America can commit to, is integral in the Democratic race. Senator Sanders has accomplished this, publicly advocating commitment to non-intervention in the Middle East. Clinton’s stance tethers its “globocop” approach to combatting the swath of violent non-state actors, bloodthirsty dictatorships, proxy interests battling from the Gulf, and militarized “aid” from China and Russia. To Clinton, Putin has no business fighting in Syria. To Bernie, neither does the United States.
Clinton mutually supports an Israeli state and Palestinian forces, yet shies away from the high dive board when pursuing the hunt for a two-state solution like presidential predecessors have done, believing the timing is not ripe in 2016. Senator Sanders additionally will pivot towards the acknowledgement of the right for a Palestinian solution, playing what he called an “even-handed role” in the interaction between Israelis and Palestinians. While Sanders is Jewish, he has shied away from proclaiming himself a Zionist. Sanders has proven to be tactical when approaching the Palestinian question; he wholeheartedly supports the Israeli right to exist, but does visualize an emerging landscape of a new Middle East. Does this make Sanders a realist on Israel? Possibly. It is not clear whether Sanders will pursue a two-state solution, but it’s clear he will not isolate the Palestinians, as have previous administrations. With both candidates, the world will see an American presidency that will re-balance its allegiances in the Gaza Strip.
The question of Syria has deeply characterized the foreign policy agenda of the Obama Administration, and will quite possibly plague the remainder of the twenty-first century. The Syrian Civil War is a tumultuous blend of civil war, proxy interests, terrorism, and underlying cultural and religious tensions—remnants of colonialism and the 1917 Sykes-Picot Agreement. Both Sanders and Clinton understand that any future policy decision in Syria should represent the American people’s aversion to intervention, yet nips the humanitarian strife in the bud. Such a policy has posed presidential politics in a state of flux; Senator Ted Cruz advocated carpet-bombing campaigns, Trump called for the elimination of local gas sources, and many other candidates have called for the eradication of ISIS before approaching the Syrian Civil War. To evaluate the stances of the two Democratic frontrunners, one must first question what beast the candidates will encounter first: Assad or ISIS? Clinton has chosen ISIS, opting to place a larger American presence in the region, surpassing Obama’s authorized 50 Special Operation Troops. The former Secretary of State has advocated the preparation and training of Syrian Sunni and Shiite rebels to fight in Syria, believing they would be a “psychological boost to the opposition” that would back American enemies into a dark corner. Mrs. Clinton sees it necessary to unite under a common international enemy, and then seek regime change with the dismantling of Assad in Damascus. Senator Sanders, on the other hand, has chosen to avoid what he calls a “never-ending quagmire” between American boots on the ground and ISIS fighters, and additionally has not supported a no-fly-zone in Syria. Clinton’s threaded short-term strategies starkly contrast with Sander’s isolationist long-term vision of the struggle with ISIS. While Clinton sees it necessary for the American struggle to incorporate international cooperation, Sanders finds it necessary for the fight to be a globalized one. Sanders has called for an international coalition to combat the Islamic State, emulating the Jordanian King Abdullah’s plan to build a coalition of Muslim nations on the ground, while remaining international powers carry airstrike campaigns and economic measures to cut off the blood-flow of the Islamic State.
Looking Towards The Future
The presidential strategies in Syria best reflect two very contrasting tones set in the Levant region. Clinton’s neo-conservative approach and foreign policy chops will utilize hard and soft power to promote democratic, American ideals in fluctuating political systems. Under a Clinton administration, Hawks will predominately fly over the Levant—a product of the former Secretary of State’s step-by-step strategizing, teaming diplomatic strength with military muscle to accomplish infrastructural stability and political peace in the Levant. Sanders will, by contrast, engage the global arena in coalition building and aversion to on-the-ground intervention. His foreign policy decisions will reflect that of his domestic platform, illustrating the Senator’s long-term vision of a cooperative and welcoming United States in the international community. As Levantine conflicts have begun to pour into the political, economic, and cultural borders of Turkey, the Balkans, and Europe, the world holds its breath as candidates assemble policy projections for such a delicate region. While running within the confines of the Democratic Party, this race is showcasing candidates that will envision two very different faces of the Levant Region in the next four years to come. Doves may fly, but under the shadow of hawks.
 All views expressed are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the World Mind or of Clocks and Clouds.

Hope and Change in the Time of Police Violence: From Obama’s Inauguration to Trayvon Martin’s Murder

U.S. strikes have violated international humanitarian and human rights law and are setting a dangerous precedent for future American foreign policy
By Sophia Vos
“Euphoric. It was unbelievable to really see that we could do anything we put our minds to. I never had a plan to go to an inauguration before that day.” Dr. Omekongo Dibinga’s eyes lit up as he shared his feelings on President Obama’s 2008 inauguration. He claims it is one of his happiest memories from any public event, one which “sparks something in his heart.” Dibinga is not alone in this sentiment. For so many Americans, Obama’s election seemed to represent the beginning of a new era. As he stood in the freezing cold that January night at the National Mall, he held his little toddler on his shoulders. It was as though, for just one moment, he was holding her up higher than the scourge of a country whose legacy was rooted in slavery, eugenics, and mass incarceration. She would be hurt by these injustices later, but tonight she would witness her father’s joy. An eternity of oppression and despair, seemed for just a moment, to fade in the triumph of a new narrative of hope we can believe in.
At the time, Dibinga was a motivational speaker and diversity counselor in schools that served predominantly low income youth of color. The morning after Obama was elected, he believes his students arrived to class with a new light in their eyes, a new sense of pride and belonging. “I saw my students show up to my class wearing Obama t-shirts. I had never seen my students choose to represent a politician on their clothing before. I had seen rappers and musicians, but never a president.” Dibinga recalls that Wednesday in the classroom with a Jay-Z quote: “The day Obama won the election, the gangster became less relevant.” His students were able to see themselves in a new light, one where they finally saw a representation of themselves beyond entertainers and athletes, a president who looked like them. “I saw black people stand and pledge allegiance to the flag for the first time in their lives. To be alive and witness that moment, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. People finally felt like they were part of this country after being on the outskirts for so long.”
Dibinga was very careful with his word choice. This was just a moment in time. It was a powerful moment, but far from the end of a nation fueled by white supremacy. Maybe it felt like the start of an era where a man of color could lead the free world, but it did not feel like the end of an era where white supremacy remains as prevalent as the air we breathe. It was not until a black man could sit in the Oval Office that we heard proud utterances of a “post-racial United States.” Nevermind the photoshopped images of a lynched Obama with the phrase “hope” replaced with the phrase “rope,” or the fact that congress seemed completely unwilling to get anything passed under his watch. Maybe this gridlock was ideological, others suggest it was racially motivated. At first these messages were whispered on social media, and later they became more confident, even self-righteous shouts of “Your president is black, so what are you people so upset about?” So many, including Dibinga, feared this narrative. We only needed to look at the worn faces of those in the ultra-segregated communities in our home city of Boston, the crumbling state of Boston’s public schools, the hopelessness of our voter turnout, the clearly inequitable way the “T” subway system skipped over black and brown neighborhoods, and the way communities lived in an inescapable state of chaos and poverty. “It was projected that people like me wouldn’t live past the age of 25, that if we weren’t killed by them we would be incarcerated,” said Dibinga. These realities proved to us that regardless of how our president lived, we were very much living in a harsh and unforgivingly racist society.
This has become particularly clear in the recent resurgence of a new civil rights movement which has been sparked in part by the death and subsequent lack of justice for Trayvon Martin. Patrisse Cullors coined the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter after Mike Brown’s death, and it has been employed every time the nation is faced yet another pointless act of police brutality. After Trayvon’s death, President Obama stated “If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon.” This emotive sentiment was one of the first times Obama had been so vulnerable about his position as a person of color for the whole nation to hear. While Dibinga and many others felt affirmed by these words, many others felt threatened by having the president make a statement that connected him exclusively with other Americans of color. The president who Dibinga celebrated had just claimed something Dibinga also felt; this representation from a president was a new experience.
“I see myself in everyone of these guys who is killed.” Dibinga is referring to his reactions to the recent deaths of young black and brown men and women. In 2015, 1205 people were killed by the police in the United States. Black men and boys are twenty-one times more likely to be killed by the police than their white male counterparts. He carries the memory of Obama’s election deeply on his conscience, but says that the media coverage of those killed by police is “always on [his] mind.” Dibinga is somber as he shares how he is scared and sad to hear media “come up with all these theories about why a kid deserved to die. You can’t help but wonder, what story will be told if it happens to you?” As state-sanctioned violence against people of color increases, how can we return to that feeling of unlimited possibility on November 4, 2008 without it being tainted? How can we believe in the hope Obama promised without feeling a sense of fatalism or frustration? Dibinga quietly shares “you feel like you are being minimized at every step… I wonder if people even care about who I am here…”
The media did not help to dispel this sense of the community of color being one dimensional. For the media, these murders are shown as must-see TV. Dibinga looked off saying “Why is it in America we have to see proof of a black man being killed? Why do people have to see us get slaughtered in order for us to believe it?” Over the summer a twitter hashtag, #iftheygunnedmedown, began to gain traction. The hashtag showed two pictures side-by-side of a man in a suit, and that same man dressed in clothes where he would be perceived as a “thug.” “When we die they show us at our worst, if I get killed by police tonight they won’t show the picture of me getting my diploma… To the media at the end of the day your accomplishments aren’t going to mean anything if you are killed by police,” said Dibinga.
Dibinga began to share negative interactions with the Boston police that further fuel how much he saw himself in each man who had been lost. “My Congolese mother [with a Ph. D.] who didn’t learn English until she was 29 was in the train station and a white girl told the cops she was selling drugs. Without question my mother was arrested and when my father came to pick her up in jail, she only had her shirt on.” These stories are so common that they sometimes feel inevitable. If this is the reality, how can we believe in any hope or change? Even for Black and Latino Americans without stories quite as intense as this one, many more wonder why there are no train stops, grocery stores, or decent schools in our neighborhoods of color. Each individual’s story is unique, but they also include patterns caused and upheld by a legacy of racism. Today, Dibinga’s daughter is nine years old, and she does not remember being present for Obama’s original inauguration. Although she was born in a time characterized by hope and change, she is now being raised in an era of cynicism and mistrust. Will she grow up to live a life more boldly stamped by a Black president or by the mindless state sanctioned violence her grandmother experienced?
 All views expressed are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the World Mind or of Clocks and Clouds.

To Salute or to Burn: The Battle over Flag Desecration Did Not End with Texas v. Johnson

This legal question precipitates spirited debate in the 2016 election cycle, so how should we think about flag desecration?
By Jeremy Clement
“You are a fucking scumbag traitor piece of fucking trash.” In Missouri Donald Trump supporters shout at flag stomping Anti-Trump protesters. Violence erupts as more than 200 people take part in a standoff at the very same Trump rally. Another rally in Wisconsin includes members of the “Fuck Your Flag Tour” protesting against racial discrimination while stomping on an American flag.
Flag desecration and, in particular, flag burning are not new phenomena. The emotional contention over the issue during the Vietnam War era and the following decades is a testament to this. While the act of flag desecration has been declared legal and a legitimate form of free speech by the United States Supreme Court; controversy and emotions are building over the issue again. The views of our potential presidential candidates on this sensitive issue may be worthy of more discussion given the huge impact on our society another era division over this issue would cause. While the flag desecration issue may seem menial, it is representative of a much larger divide in the United States. This is a divide between those who view the flag as a symbol of freedom and sacrifice, and those who view the flag as symbolic of a broken system. If this toxic issue is approached the wrong way during this political climate, it could ignite more division and even violence.
In 1984 a man named Gregory Lee Johnson protested the policies of Ronald Reagan by burning an American flag outside of the Republican National Convention in Dallas. His conviction for the act was brought to the Supreme Court. In Texas v. Johnson (491 U.S. 397), the Court decided that “flag burning constitutes a form of ‘symbolic speech’ that is protected by the First Amendment.” The ruling was the first to protect flag desecration on the basis of freedom of speech. Writing for the dissent, Justice Stevens countered that the government had a state interest in limiting the right to desecrate the flag due to the flag’s unique status in the United States.
When congress tried to circumvent the Johnson ruling with the passage of the Flag Protection Act the decision was upheld in United States v. Eichman (496 U.S. 310). After this ruling there were various attempts to work around the decision by congressional statute and state laws; there were also attempts to overrule the ruling through a constitutional amendment.
Current Presidential Candidates
The most recent political battle over this issue was in 2005 and 2006 with a flag desecration bill (in 2005) and constitutional amendment (in 2006) introduced in Congress. The Flag Protection Act of 2005 was cosponsored by Hillary Clinton. This piece of legislation was different from past bills in that it sought to punish flag desecration only if it were to incite violence. The New York Times describes the bill as, “attempt[ing] to equate flag-burning with cross-burning, which the Supreme Court, in a sensible and carefully considered 2003 decision, said could be prosecuted under certain circumstances as a violation of civil rights law.” This position on flag desecration was a middle ground between those who want to keep flag desecration legalized and those who wish to completely forbid it under all circumstances regardless of consequences or content. On the 2006 Amendment, both Democratic candidates, Sanders and Clinton, voted no due to its lack of clarity and broad nature. However, Clinton did endorse a counter measure similar to her 2005 bill to replace the 2006 Amendment.
With flag desecration contention and events becoming more frequent in this present election, the votes of the past could become more relevant than the candidates might believe. Donald Trump has stated that he believes that flag desecration should be illegal and events at his rallies have shown that violence can result when people on the opposing ends of this opinion confront each other. The candidates may need to confront this issue head on at some point in the future.
The most dangerous part of this issue aside from the violence is the near 50/50 divide among the public. A Gallup poll asked for the public’s opinion on the issue in 2006 while the Flag Desecration Amendment was being discussed. The poll asked two questions, one that gave little information about the issue and the other that was more specific. Both polls hovered around a 50/50 divide. With the public so sharply divided on the issue, any resulting conflict would be hard to resolve. Even more difficult would be to amend the Constitution in favor of those rallying against flag desecration.
This particular election has seen an unusual degree of polarization. Americans have seen what they perceive to be their own American values questioned. The foundation of the system of our democracy and electoral system has been questioned by Trump and Sanders through criticisms of the nomination process. Sanders has brought an economic ideology to the table that many Americans are uncomfortable with in the form of Democratic Socialism. Donald Trump has also touched nerves with his comments on race, women, and immigration. These clashes of values are extremely volatile. The question of flag desecration is even more toxic in this environment as America is redefining its image. The American flag does not stand for the same principles for everyone anymore and this polarization of values makes this a nasty time for such a dangerous discussion.
All views expressed are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the World Mind or of Clocks and Clouds.

More of the Same: Bernie’s Foreign Policy, Just War Theory, and International Humanitarian Law

Is Bernie really the dove that some claim?
By William Kakenmaster
The 2016 presidential race has, without a doubt, become one of the most significant electoral phenomena in recent American history. Moreover, the Islamic State (IS) poses a historic problem for candidates, and although foreign policy has not taken center stage, a quiet but vociferous debate goes on about whether the Democrats’ left hand—Bernie Sanders—is more of a hawk or a dove. Sanders basically has no chance of winning the Democratic nomination, but has affected the presumptive Democratic nominee’s position in significant ways. We know enough about Clinton’s foreign policy history given her tenure as Secretary of State, but we know little about Sanders’ positions and how they would possibly influence Clinton. Is Sanders’ policy towards IS theoretically legal? If it reaches the threshold of legality, does that necessarily mean it fulfills the requirements of jus ad bellum and jus in bello? Two useful yet tragically under-utilized lenses for analyzing candidates’ proposed military aggression are those of just war theory and international humanitarian law.
Just War Theory and International Humanitarian Law
International humanitarian law, sometimes called the laws of war, is a set of international legal obligations that applies to states during times of conflict and proscribes them or their agents from certain actions in order to mitigate the harmful consequences of armed conflict. Just war theory provides the legal justification for international humanitarian law, and: jus ad bellum and jus in bello. Jus ad bellum relates to states’ preparatory actions for engaging in conflict before actually doing so. Jus in bello states that, whatever states’ motivations, their wars must be conducted justly. Without going into too much detail, the international humanitarian legal regime takes jus ad bellum and jus in bello as given requirements of warfare—these are like constitutional principles that cannot be violated. The rights granted to states by jus ad bellum and jus in bello are the rights to (1) declare war with just cause and (2) respond to force proportionally. Jus ad bellum derives legal support from Articles 2 and 51 of the UN Charter. Jus in bello’s derives legal support from the Geneva and Hague Conventions, and from customary international law. States have five minimum requirements according to just war theory. First, any just war must be waged by an internationally recognized actor, such as a state or a coalition of states, and must be announced publicly ahead of time. Second, wars must be waged with just intentions, such as the maintenance or restoration of peace. Third, states waging war must only do so if there is sufficient evidence to suggest that the war’s objectives are achievable—the laws of war prohibit mass violence if nothing will likely come of it. Fourth, wars must be waged via proportional means. In other words, if one state invades and conquers another’s territory, then the latter only has the right to take back what is due, not conquer more than its fair share of the former’s territory. Finally, war must only be a last resort after exhausting all other, non-violent means of conflict resolution. As long as states meet these five requirements, their foreign policies are theoretically legal under a just war framework.
It is not useful to list every illegal offense in this essay, which is only concerned with Sanders’ response to IS. Matters of international humanitarian law are almost never as clear-cut as deeming something legal or illegal; they depend on innumerable factors and can be justified in myriad ways by a competent lawyer. However, international humanitarian law relates to jus in bello and derives its authority from two principle legal sources. First, international humanitarian law derives support from hard sources of law in treaties like the Geneva and Hague Conventions, and other legal documents. Second, although not every state is signatory to the relevant treaties, and less have ratified the legal statutes in question, but customary law criminalizes the most severe violations of international humanitarian law. For example, drones are not explicitly banned by any international legal statute, nor are they considered inherently indiscriminate according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). But all states going to war must satisfy the principle of distinction, meaning that they must distinguish between civilians and combatants. Drone strikes against terrorist groups like al Qaeda have a higher threshold for distinction because it is not always clear whether the target is a combatant or not. This means that tactics like signature strikes, for example, are “clearly unlawful,” at least according to the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions Christof Heyns.
Sanders’ Foreign Policy
During the first Democratic debate, Sanders said, “I am not a pacifist […] I support airstrikes in Syria and what the president is trying to do.” Sanders has also shown himself wary of deploying boots on the ground. And he has even called the situation in Syria “a quagmire in a quagmire,” claiming to “make sure that the United States does not get involved […] like we did in Iraq, the worst foreign policy blunder in the history of this country.” So, if he sticks to his campaign promises, we can expect that Sanders likely will not support boots on the ground, opting instead for airstrikes and a coalition of Middle Eastern nations to combat IS—a policy the Senator first supported in 2014.
So, would Sanders’ proposed airstrike-coalition plan comply with the laws of war, and would they adhere to just war theory? On the first question, maybe. On the second, no.
Few would dispute that fighting IS sufficiently constitutes a just cause, especially if the belligerent nations include those most proximate (e.g., the hypothetical members of Sanders’ proposed coalition) and those whose citizens were killed by IS members, not just those who would be indirectly threatened (e.g., the U.S., France, and other victims of IS attacks). Barring more cynical theories that the IS was created by the West in order to justify intervention, going to war because your people have been beheaded or blown up in terrorist attacks does not represent a war of aggression, even if they may do harm to the region. Moreover, Obama’s announcement that his administration will “degrade and ultimately destroy” IS could reasonably count as a public declaration of war by an internationally recognized actor: the United States. What remains is to provide sufficient evidence that military operations are (1) the last resort and (2) likely to achieve the war’s objective. As long as Sanders sticks to his belief that “unilateral military action should be a last resort” and proffers a solution that will likely “degrade and destroy” IS, he has satisfied jus ad bellum.
Sanders’ plan does not fulfill jus in bello, however. Considering that drones are not inherently illegal, but must satisfy the principle of distinction, airstrikes comply with the law only to the unlikely extent that military leaders refrain from signature strikes and other, similar indiscriminate tactics. If, however, the military did not refrain from indiscriminate attacks à la Obama administration, the types of attacks Sanders only says are “counter-effective,” then the drone policy would violate the principle of distinction. The U.S. has not ratified Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions—the protocol officially codifying distinction—but the ICRC considers distinction distinguishing between civilians and combatants part of customary law, or “general practice accepted as law” and independent of treaties. Furthermore, assembling a coalition of Middle Eastern states might relieve the U.S. of any legal responsibility for wars of aggression—whether or not the coalition’s actions would violate the laws of war is beyond this essay. However, if the U.S. knowingly provides funding, weapons, or training to the hypothetical coalition and the latter subsequently violates any international humanitarian law, a case could be made for the U.S.’s complicity. Lastly, if the Senator’s plans include indefinitely and illegally detaining prisoners at Guantánamo Bay—or any other military prison for that matter—and employing enhanced interrogation methods with the purpose of discovering information about IS, then the plan’s detention strategy would violate international humanitarian law. In the abstract, Sanders’ vagueness puts his IS plan in the clear. But as a strategic campaign maneuver, it leaves open the possibility of violating the law when the situation supposedly calls for it. As Sanders described himself, “I am not a pacifist.”
Significant evidence suggests that drone strikes—arguably the centerpiece of Obama’s and Sanders’ plans—engender anti-American sentiment and support for IS. According to a public letter written by four Air Force service members with more than 20 years of experience between then, mistakes that result from the drone program, such as the killing of civilians and U.S. citizens “fueled the feelings of hatred that ignited terrorism and groups like [IS], while also serving as a fundamental recruitment tool similar to Guantánamo Bay.” The number of drone strikes sharply increased under Obama, which Sanders considers “constitutional and legal.” Therefore, Sanders faces an uphill battle to prove that continuing airstrikes will likely achieve the war’s objectives, and that his IS policy will comply with international humanitarian law’s jus in bello requirements.
As with any election, foreign policy has taken a back seat to important questions such as what to do with the economy, and this is no more evident than in Sanders’ campaign. However, all candidates’ policies towards IS represent no less important questions. Sanders can easily justify waging war against IS, thus fulfilling jus ad bellum, however his plan’s strong support for drone strikes sends it into questionable legal territory under the best circumstances, and frankly illegal territory under the worst circumstances. Insofar as it might comply with the law and established principles of justice in international relations, we might accept it as a legitimate plan, but the vagueness with which it has thus far been proffered do more for leaving open the possibility of omission of the U.S.’s legal obligations than to assuage any concerns over its illegality.
 All views expressed are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the World Mind or of Clocks and Clouds.