Legalise and Destigmatise

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Ireland goes to the polls this week to vote on whether to repeal the 8th amendment, one of the most controversial pieces of the Irish constitution. Just three years after voting to legalise gay marriage, Ireland has another opportunity to strike a crushing blow against the regressive forces that want to keep the country in the dark ages.

The vote comes mere months before a visit from the head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis. The church’s influence on the island of Ireland has been deeply pernicious causing extreme amounts of oppression, no more so than its teachings on abortion which has caused an immeasurable amount of stress and misery to many pregnant people throughout the years. The church’s position that life begins at conception and that all forms of abortion are to be prohibited is viewed as extreme across most of the secular world but in Ireland the rights of pregnant people are restricted by the constitution and our media and politics has pandered to anti-choice ideologues for too long. This is the most consequential referendum on abortion since 1983 when the anti-choice extremists managed to dupe the country into voting for the introduction of the 8th amendment based on lies and divisive manoeuvres. But the landscape is dramatically different now with a well organised pro-choice campaign and a Catholic Church which has seen its influence wane due to abuse scandals and its rigid teachings on several social issues.

Ireland has a sordid and troubling history when it comes to its treatment of pregnant people. We of course all heard of the harrowing case involving Savita Halappanavar which made international headlines but there have been cases preceding and following her case which have been deeply shameful too.

Just years after the 1983 referendum the scenario which pro-choice advocates greatly feared came to pass. It became known as the X case and involved a 14 year old girl who had been raped and required an abortion. The state intervened and granted an injunction which forced the girl and her family to travel back from Britain where they had been staying to receive the care she so desperately needed. In the month that followed, her case became the subject of a bitter legal dispute which was eventually settled when the supreme court overturned the high court’s decision and declared she could leave the county to have an abortion. To the shame of the Irish government legislation was never brought forward to protect the mother’s life when her health was at risk.

Savita’s death in 2012 left an indelible mark on the country. Her case was a seminal moment in the country’s attitudes to abortion. While the cause of her death was due to sepsis, the legal inability of doctors to perform an abortion at her request allowed the sepsis to develop. Savita knew there was little chance of her child surviving but was denied an abortion on the grounds that the foetus still had a heartbeat. The author of the report into Savita’s death, Prof Sir Sabaratnam Arulkumaran has stated that Ireland’s illiberal abortion laws directly led to her death. Her death led to international condemnation and scrutiny of Ireland’s abortion laws and showed the human cost of anti-choice zealotry. If she lived in a country which wasn’t ridden with anti-choice extremism she’d still be alive today. Since her death, pro-choice people have dedicated themselves to make sure her death wasn’t in vain. Her father has also made an emotional plea to the country stating that he will be watching the vote and hopes the country votes for access to abortion.

In response to Savita’s death the protection of life act was brought in and yet it was a very flawed and wholly inadequate piece of legalisation. The flaws were starkly underlined by another horrific case which occurred in 2014. The Y case involved a woman who was brutally raped abroad and who was provided asylum in Ireland, her case was made more difficult by the fact it would have been unlikely for her to have been able to travel to England to have an abortion because of her status. Despite her poor mental state and strong desire to have an abortion she was forced to continue with the pregnancy. Amnesty gave a detailed account of the horrendous treatment Ms Y was subjected to and it’s gruelling to read about. These are the kind of scenarios that will continue to arise if this amendment isn’t repealed.

Only a few months following the Y case we had the deplorable case involving MS P, who despite being clinically brain-dead was kept on life support in the slim chance that her foetus may survive. It caused considerable anguish to her grieving family. All of these cases are a great source of shame for the country. We can not pretend to be a forward-thinking country while we subject people to this kind of treatment.

The inescapable fact is that abortion is already a reality in this country but it’s unsafe, unregulated and puts women under great mental and financial strain. In addition to the use of imported abortion pills which has caused great concern among doctors, thousands of Irish women travel abroad each year to England to have the procedure they so desperately need. At least 170,000 women have made the journey to England since 1980 and on average 12 women a day make the journey. Many of these women have recounted their poignant stories In Her Shoes and it underscores the courage so many Irish women have. Their bravery in sharing their experiences has gone a long way in reducing support for the noxious amendment. If the 8th is retained the country will have chosen to betray these women and continue to subject pregnant people to this unnecessary and emotionally testing journey.

In the video below, a beautiful mosaic of notes sharing the personal stories of many women who have travelled abroad to access abortion services.

Our Right To Choose from Uilu Stories on Vimeo.

The objective of any pro-choice person should not merely be to campaign to legalise abortion but to also remove the stigma from the act of abortion itself since this stigma is so detrimental to people who have had abortions. It’s also what has allowed the anti-choice side to have moralised quite effectively on the issue for so long. Far from being undesirable, abortions are a vital and normal service for those who may need it. In most democracies which have introduced pro-choice legislation the results have been clear: Abortions alleviate suffering not increase it. There will always be isolated cases of people who have bad experiences with abortions, like any medical procedure which contains minor risks but for the bulk of people who require the procedure they go as expected and allow them to go back to living their life without the imposition of an unwanted pregnancy. The No side are correct to state this referendum is about far more than abortion in cases when the mother’s life is in danger or when a victim of rape needs one. We shouldn’t have to distance ourselves from what should be a morally uncontroversial fact. The bulk of abortions will not happen under these circumstances and that’s perfectly okay. Pregnant people who have abortions shouldn’t feel under pressure to rationalise their decision, it’s between them and their family and should not be something for society to pass judgement and sanctimony on. Abortion is not invariably a difficult decision for pregnant people, for some it’s simple and takes away the unnecessary stress a pregnancy would bring. Bringing a baby into the world is a beautiful thing when there’s a genuine desire to care and love for it, but when a pregnancy is imposed on people by force it can become ugly and lead to quite a degree of suffering for the person involved. Legalising abortion is simply about providing more autonomy to pregnant people and this can only be of benefit to wider society.

The desperation of the No Side is laid bare by their provocative tactics throughout the referendum. A side confident of victory wouldn’t resort to such desperate tactics, and this is an expression of intense rage at the realisation they’re losing the battle on this critical social issue. They’ve also tried to imitate the styles of Trump and Brexiters by depicting themselves as fighting against the establishment and being tyrannised by a biased media, being the underdog essentially. This is a standard mindset from people who have had unearned privilege and an unchallenged platform for much too long. Once they’re challenged and their claims no longer treated with the undeserved reverence they once had, they feel oppressed and under attack. The pro-choice side have done well to keep things as civil as possible, and avoid getting personal with the No side, but make no mistake about it: They feel deep feelings of revulsion at the tactless antics of the No Side

The anti-choice side are on such perilous ground when it comes to the morality of abortion they resort to propagating anti-scientific falsehoods. A side sure of their convictions on the morality of an ethical issue would require no need to promote lies because the truth would be more than enough to convince the average person of the virtues of their stance. Some of the untruths they perpetuate include the ideas that abortions cause depression, suicide, cancer and reduce fertility. All of these claims have been repeatedly debunked but it doesn’t stop them advancing these insidious lies because they sow doubts in the public’s mind about abortion. But expert medical opinion matters and it is overwhelmingly in favour of a repeal of the 8th amendment. More than 1000 doctors and The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists have expressed support for Yes.

The No Side have claimed that in the event the referendum passes the proposed legislation is extremely radical but in actual fact we’d still be on the conservative end of the European spectrum when it comes to reproductive rights. The mandatory waiting period of three days before the procedure can be done also sets us apart from many European countries and has been criticised for being patronising and infantilising to pregnant people implying that they haven’t seriously considered the decision before arranging for the procedure to be done. What is being proposed is a big step in the right direction but it’s by no means everything pro-choice campaigners wanted. What’s in fact radical is the maintenance of the status-quo which unmistakably distinguishes us from other European countries.

Facebook and Google deserve credit for banning foreign ads related to the referendum on social networks. The anti-choice side have tried to exploit this because they’re aware how ineffective they are on the ground and connecting with run of the mill people. Social media has come under intense scrutiny since the 2016 US elections with many people convinced the promotion of fake news and use of bots determined the outcome of the election. A study has cast doubt on just how influential fake news was but nevertheless the anti-choice since were hellbent on trying to influence the result with money from America. The fact this avenue is now closed to them is deeply gratifying.

Credit must go to leader of Fianna Fáil, Micheál Martin for supporting the repeal of the 8th. His party is rife with anti-choice fanatics and he knew the avalanche of abuse his courageous statement would unleash but he outlined his support for repeal and that support underscored just how successful repeal campaigners have been. To get the leader of a party which has always been notorious for anti-abortion prejudice is an incredible feat and just shows how impactful the repeal campaign has been. Simon Harris, minister for health has also been a breath of fresh air on this specific issue, vigorously campaigning for repeal. In addition he has refused to pander to the anti-choice brigade which attracted a lot of personal abuse but instead of kowtowing to them he confronted them on it.

Not every anti-choice person is odious, some sadly have just been deceived by the sheer scale of anti-abortion propaganda which has infested this country since its inception. But everyone who votes no on the 25th May will have chosen to deny human rights and ensure more suffering occurs, a reprehensible act which shouldn’t be excused on the basis of ignorance. While we disagree with anyone who abhors abortion those who have set aside their personal distaste for the procedure and accepted that everyone has the right to decide for themselves warrants some credit. These people have managed to put their personal morals to one side and not violate the human rights of their fellow citizens.

The No side did get a late boost by RTE’s regrettable decision to host a live audience in its first televised debate for the referendum. Peter Boylan who is a dignified man was treated horrendously and you can understand why he was targeted. Boylan who is a consultant obstetrician and former master of the National Maternity Hospital has spoken eloquently and powerfully on why the 8th amendment needs to be repealed. The fact the anti-choice mob targeted him shows you how effective a voice he’s been to the repeal side. An issue of this seriousness deserves a bit more respect than it to be reduced to sheer bedlam more resembling a circus than a dignified, solemn debate on an emotive issue. When it’s kept civil and to the hard facts this will always suit those on the side of evidence and rationality whereas chaos always suits those who peddle lies. RTE’s decision wasn’t based on any sort of journalistic integrity but a selfish urge to attract as many viewers as possible and unsurprisingly it worked.

The amount of people who have protested and campaigned for reproductive rights over the last number of years has been deeply inspiring. People from all age-groups have worked hard to secure the right to choice. We managed to interview a canvasser from the Yes side, Martin Byrne of Balbriggan who has attended pro-choice marches and has canvassed strenuously in the weeks leading up to the referendum.


Martin Byrne and Together For Yes Canvassers.

Hello Martin, as a vehement pro-choice advocate can I first express my appreciation for your tireless campaigning over the past few weeks. I think it speaks to the importance of this issue that so many people from all walks of life have been motivated to get out and campaign.

Have people been more receptive to your pro-choice message than you would have thought?

Everywhere we go we are getting a great welcome. I think that’s because people have seen such a huge amount of ‘No’ postering and messaging that they are happy to see their team showing up. You can also feel the underlying anger in many people – anger at how women have been treated in the country for decades, in fact a century. They want to tell us how determined they are to vote yes and that all of their household is voting yes. So overall we’ve had a great welcome at the doorsteps.

Have you encountered any nastiness or intimidation while out canvassing?

I’ve encountered very little. I was called a murderer by one older lady. She tried to give me a ‘no’ pamphlet and I said ‘No thanks, I trust women to decide’. She said ‘So you don’t mind murdering babies, then’

One man at a doorstep said ‘God gives life and God takes it away’ – I smiled and thanked him for his time. But overall everyone has been very decent and respectful, even if they strongly disagree with what we are saying.

What has impressed you most about the Yes campaign?

I’ve been most impressed by the unity and organisation on the ‘Yes’ side. Every canvass has a leader with maps and an almost military level of canvasser management. I’ve also been impressed by the big variety of people involved. All ages, genders and classes are together for yes, and the atmosphere has been universally positive and welcoming.

The No side have run a decidedly hateful and vitriolic campaign. What did you find most offensive about their tactics?

I found the graphic imagery outside schools and hospitals to be pointlessly offensive. I’ve also found the deliberate misinformation to be frustrating. If one side is going to openly lie, then the other side is left with the job of countering and explaining. They start fires so we have to waste time putting them out instead of getting our own message across.

I find it hard to believe that the organisers of the ‘no’ campaign have any genuine concern about the issues involved. I think some of them are just serial ‘antis’ – be it Equal Marriage, Children’s Rights, Divorce, Contraception, Protection of Live During Pregnancy – they have been anti everything.

And finally, are you confident of a victory in a weeks time?

I’m not completely confident, no. I think it’s going to be very close, and it could still be won or lost on turnout. The last poll has ‘Yes’ with a 16 point lead. But there are still plenty of undecideds and still a week of misinformation and scare tactics from the anti choice side. We are changing our messaging to ‘Plan your vote’ so as to encourage as many people as possible to get out and vote on the day. It could come down to a few votes in each ballot box at the end of the day, as it did with the divorce referendum.

Throughout my article you will have noticed I have used the gender-neutral term “pregnant people”. Of course it goes without saying that misogyny is a major component of the efforts to criminalise abortion in this country. But abortion isn’t an issue that exclusively affects women as both trans men and non-binary people can become pregnant too and may need access to services. Remembering to be inclusive is a small step but goes a long way in helping the trans community to feel welcome in the Repeal campaign. For too long they’ve simply been erased from the debate. Their voice matters too.

Sadly, a victory in a weeks time wouldn’t bring an end to the hateful and odious behaviour of the anti-choice dogmatists. When we have access to abortion they will try to terrorise people who do have abortions and will try to stymie pro-choice legalisation. But that aside, victory would mark the biggest defeat for the anti-choice lobby since the country’s inception and would show that Ireland is a country which values the human rights of its citizens.

Top Of The World

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The mark of a great champion isn’t merely an ability to win, but the ability to overcome adversity. With his victory on Sunday at the Open, Justin Spieth displayed that ability in abundance.

Spieth’s victory comes 15 months after his calamitous loss at the Masters where he squandered a 5 shot lead, which involved a disastrous quad bogey at the infamous 12th. Some speculated that loss may do irreversible damage to his psyche and that he would struggle to fully recover. And indeed, it looked like the crushing defeat took its toll because in the following majors Spieth looked deprived of that killer instinct that had become so distinctive. But as we remarked back then, Spieth has all the attributes of a champion and it would only be a matter of time before he bounced back.

The signs coming into the championship were auspicious. Just three weeks ago he won The Travelers championship in memorable fashion by holing a bunker shot in the playoff, the second time he has achieved such a feat. But even such a great win couldn’t be a true gauge for just how well Spieth would cope under intense pressure at one of the most coveted tournaments in golf.

For the first three rounds Spieth played near faultless golf, recording only four bogeys. It led many to believe the final round would be a coronation with Spieth coasting to victory. But it proved anything but with Spieth getting off to an inauspicious start by bogeying three of the first four holes. The magic we’d come to expect from Spieth’s putter abandoned him, he was rattled and suddenly looked like any other golf exhibiting vulnerabilities on the greens in a final round of a major championship.

The catalyst for his miraculous recovery would prove to be one of the worst golf shots he’s ever hit. On the 13th tee he launched a drive so errant it was 120 yards off line, on a steep mound buried in rough so thick it meant he would have to take an unplayable lie. Speith was visibly shaken by his egregious tee shot, putting his hands on his head, an indication of the predicament he thought he would find himself in. But the golf gods were shining on Spieth, not only was his ball found by spectators but he could take an unplayable lie which meant he could hit his third shot from short grass and possibly salvage a bogey. His third shot wasn’t struck perfectly but it left his ball in a position where it was possible to get up and down. He pitched to 10ft and his tournament arguably hinged on that putt. Miss and he would face a deficit of two shots with all momentum gone, make it and suddenly the hole which looked like ending Spieth’s championship would become the one which made it. He made the putt and salvaged the most improbable of bogeys, one that would make Houdini proud.

From that moment onwards Spieth’s whole demeanour changed. Suddenly his killer instincts which deserted him for most of the round returned in stunning fashion: A gorgeous tee shot led to a birdie on the following hole to tie him for the lead, and then a sensational 50ft eagle putt on the next returned him to the top of the leaderboard. For good measure he birdied the next two as well to complete one of the greatest finishes to a major tournament in golfing history, leaving fans marvelling in awe.

Matt Kuchar was Spieth’s opponent and a worthy one at that. He barely put a foot wrong all day, and his class endeared him to the galleries. For journeymen golfers like Kuchar, opportunities to win majors are not dime a dozen so he will understandably be crushed to lose in those circumstances. But hopefully his defeat will motivate him to keep plugging away, and perhaps he will taste major success in the future.

But this was a day that belonged to Jordan Spieth, a victory which now puts him into the category of all time greats. What happened at Augusta in 2016 is now firmly in the rear view mirror and his sights will now turn to winning the career grand slam, a feat he could achieve in three weeks time. Spieth has his doubters, but surely they must admit what he accomplished on Sunday at Birkdale was mightily impressive.

Jez We Can

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This was supposed to be a foregone conclusion, a landslide win for Theresa May and a drubbing for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour.
But when the exit poll was released at 10 pm on Thursday evening it sent shockwaves throughout the British establishment that reverberated around the world. Yes, Corbyn didn’t win and yes the Tories remain the largest party, but this result has completely changed the landscape of British politics.

There can be no escaping the fact that Theresa May made one of the worst political calculations in political history by calling this election. Her opportunism has backfired in stunning fashion and she is now mortally wounded with the only question being when she leaves, not if. She has squandered the majority the conservatives had and if she lacked a mandate to implement a hard Brexit before this election, she certainly does now. From the very beginning of the campaign Mrs May’s arrogance led her to believe that she could ignore the people and the press and coast to victory, badly underestimating the campaign her opponents would run. She launched a manifesto which is universally regarded as one of the most disastrous in U.K political history, with her controversial policies on social care causing a furore and leading to a U-turn. Her response to the manifesto launch compounded matters, instead of showing contrition and admitting the mistake she insisted nothing had changed and sneered at the press when questioned on it. In response to the terrorism which befell the country she exploited the attacks to make a cheap smear claiming that Corbyn stated British people were to blame for the terrorism. Her reaction to the Manchester attack was as bad, calling for regulation of the internet which angered tech experts.

Now for the 2nd year in succession, the Tories who are absurdly regarded as a party which is responsible has brought major instability to the country. To make matters worse, their desperation for power and what they will resort to get it have been laid bare to the public. Mrs May’s immediate instinct was to make a deal with the DUP, having no regard for the implications both for her party’s long term interests, but more importantly the interests of Northern Ireland and the peace process. The DUP who are infamous for their regressive social views, and ties to loyalist paramilitary groups may not drag England backwards when it comes to social rights, but the optics look terrible, and this may be the latest in a long list of political miscalculations from Theresa May. All throughout the campaign May and the Tories depicted Corbyn as a terrorist sympathiser, and that a vote for him would potentially bring a coalition of chaos. Now it’s the Tories who find themselves once again creating chaos and dependent on a party which has a history of supporting terrorism. For once and all this election has shattered the myth that conservatives are a party of stability and responsibleness.

When this election was called Corbyn and Labour found themselves in a hopeless situation. Polling was indicating not just a defeat, but a mauling. Enthusiasm was scarce, and Corbyn’s personal ratings were catastrophic. Anyone who had the temerity to suggest that this election could turnaround was dismissed and roundly ridiculed. But what has unfolded in the last two months has been something of a political miracle. The conventional wisdom is that campaigns are largely irrelevant and that public opinion rarely sees radical shifts in a short period of time. But this was not a normal campaign, and Jeremy Corbyn is not a normal candidate. His and Labour’s resurgence is one of the greatest fight-backs in UK political history. Despite the wobbles of May’s campaign it would have largely been forgotten if Corbyn wasn’t on his game ready to capitalise. From the moment he started the campaign his message was clear and firm, “for the many, not the few” a political slogan which perfectly encapsulated the contrast between the Tories and Labour. He advocated defending the NHS, investing in jobs and strengthening job security. His manifesto which was brimming with popular policies including banning zero hour contracts, plans to renationalise the railways and an increase in taxation on the ultra wealthy resonated with the British people and created enthusiasm among Labour’s base. Corbyn’s campaign was also notable for the amount of people he attracted to his rallies showing that his message really does have popular appeal.

Corbyn’s campaign wasn’t all plain sailing, on Question Time he struggled on questions pertaining to Trident and the IRA, and clearly the topic of security made him nervous. On Woman’s hour he forgot the figures to his childcare policy although in contrast to May he humbly apologised hours later. No doubt Corbyn has performed better than anyone expected during this campaign, but there are still areas where he can make major improvements.

Those most loyal to Corbyn always insisted that despite the polls, once an election began and Corbyn was given a fair chance by the British media, that the public would respond well to him. This is precisely what has happened.
The media caricature of Corbyn as a man who is hopelessly incompetent, weak and an extremist fell apart once the public had a chance to listen to Corbyn over the course of a campaign.

The brilliance of Corbyn’s campaign was reflected in the fact Labour gained seats in Kensington and Canterbury. Canterbury saw a swing of more than 18% from Tories to Labour and it was first time Labour took the seat since before the 2nd World War. Kensington equally was extraordinary seeing a swing of 11% to Labour from Tories and it was the first time Labour took the seat. Their share of the vote increased from 30% to 40% a figure considered inconceivable only weeks ago. It was also Labour’s highest share of the vote since 2001 and the highest swing in share since 1945. But just as importantly, they also reduced the deficit in a number of constituencies turning them from safe seats for the Tories into marginals. Since the election Labour’s membership has increased by some 25,000 members; momentum is now fully with them.

Bizarrely and keeping with the theme of this election, Scotland proved to be Tories saving grace. The SNP were widely expected to lose a few seats, but they had a disastrous night, reflected by the fact Westminster MP Angus Robertson and former leader Alex Salmond both lost their seats. Labour also saw a bit of a resurgence in Scotland but were always going to be held back by Scottish Labour’s fiercely unionist politics. What’s clear is the timing of Nicola Sturgeon’s call for another independence referendum was a big miscalculation. Over the last year, Nicola Sturgeon has made a habit of deriding Jeremy Corbyn as unelectable and that he won’t get anywhere near Downing Street so it is deeply ironic that the reason Corbyn isn’t sitting in Number 10 this week is because of the SNP’s bad performance in Scotland.

Perhaps the only ones who came out of this election looking stronger than Jeremy Corbyn were YouGov and Survation. While the outcome took many by surprise, the fact of the matter is that according to certain polls it was far from inconceivable that a hung parliament would occur. Weeks before the election YouGov predicted a hung parliament and gains for Labour, leading to derision and declarations that come the result Yougov’s reputation as a reliable pollster would be toast. In addition, Nate Silver, the much-maligned US statistician cautioned that the polls giving May such a sizeable majority may not be taking into consideration the different factors in this election compared to previous ones. And finally, Survation on the eve of the election, when all polling looked grim, stated Labour was only one percentage point behind the conservatives. Survation unlike some of the other pollsters refused to herd, and stuck by their projection, basing their confidence on the fact that the model they were using accurately called the last election which left them ruing their decision not to publish it.

Now that Corbyn has outperformed and exceeded expectations, ambitions will now be higher. He is now in the strongest position since his leadership victory almost two years ago. Many MPs who doubted whether he could gain seats in a general election have conceded they got it wrong. This result will embolden Corbyn and the Labour left but also hopefully unify the party behind them and lead to the kind of stability within a party that is conducive to general election success. But most importantly what Corbyn has done has brought hope back to British politics, and created a sense that there is another way, one that is fairer and just. Considering where he found himself no more than two months ago, that is an incredible accomplishment.

A Pyrrhic Victory For The Tories

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Britain goes to the polls tomorrow to determine who will lead the country through their exit from the European Union. Theresa May – leader of the Tories is expected to retain a majority for her party despite a poor campaign. Labour under Jeremy Corbyn are expected to perform much better than initially expected, but despite a strong campaign which has created genuine enthusiasm among Labour’s base, they faced insurmountable odds going into the election with polling showing a more than 20 point lead for the Tories at the beginning of the campaign.

The election comes almost a year after the British public voted to leave the EU in an historic referendum which shocked the world. Unsurprisingly much has changed following the outcome: Nigel Farage – leader of UKIP, the leading exponent of Brexit for many years resigned after his successful bid to end Britain’s membership of the EU. The outcome of the referendum also had the effect of consolidating the conservative vote because many UKIP voters flocked back to the Tories.

Prime minister David Cameron who called the referendum both as a ploy to get votes and to pacify the pro-Brexit members within his own party resigned the morning of the result after campaigning for remain; this triggered a leadership contest where Theresa May was overwhelmingly chosen by Tory MPs to succeed Cameron as PM.

On the Labour side, many MPs held Corbyn responsible for the result, blaming his lacklustre campaign and held a vote of no-confidence in which MPs overwhelmingly voted for him to go. Corbyn maintained that he still had the support of the Labour membership and that if he was go, that would have to be determined in another leadership election. Many Labour MPs wanted Corbyn removed from the ballot but the NEC declared he would be eligible to stand again. All throughout the summer Corbyn was pilloried and hounded by the press and those within his own party. His challenger Owen Smith floundered during his campaign suffering many gaffes which included making inappropriate jokes about two women politicians, and advocated negotiating with ISIS and could not create a message that resonated with the membership. Corbyn won the leadership election, but unlike his first victory this was no cause for celebration. The sabotage of his leadership had done irreversible damage to the party’s image and decreased the odds of winning a general election.

Brexit is a poisoned chalice, of that there’s little doubt. Article 50 was triggered on 29th of March and now Britain is in the process of exiting the EU. Despite the calls for a 2nd referendum from the most aggrieved of the remainers the British electorate has no enthusiasm for another divisive referendum.

Theresa May’s insistence that she wouldn’t call a snap election always seemed insincere because for one she lacked a mandate from the British electorate and two her poll ratings in contrast to Corbyn were too good to ignore. She called a referendum fully expecting to lead the party to a landslide victory and to humiliate Corbyn’s Labour. There is nothing politically unusual about that type of opportunism but Mrs May must take us for fools when she says she called it for ‘the good of the country’.

May has faltered since calling the election, she has displayed great antipathy for the British people by refusing to debate her policies and has generally tried to avoid interviews from the press. The manifesto launch was a disaster leading to questions on social care and a u-turn on the infamous dementia tax. Whatever the result May’s position has unquestionably weakened, both in the eyes of the electorate, but arguably more importantly in the eyes of EU negotiators.

In terms of Brexit negotiations she has repeatedly said no deal is better than a bad deal but that ignores the fact that no deal is disastrous in and of itself. May’s negotiating style is said to have angered EU negotiators and with her at the helm the chance of a good deal appears increasingly unlikely which is why she’s depicting a no deal as an acceptable outcome. In addition, May appears determined to implement a hard Brexit. Economic growth has already been quite dismal under the Tories, but with the instability involved in exciting the EU, Britain’s economy will weaken further.

Labour’s policies are costed unlike the Tories and would be conducive to a more successful Brexit, but much of the consequences that will arise because of Britain’s exit would be out of their control and they would be scapegoated for the mistakes made by the Tory government. Bearing that in mind, it may be preferable for their long-term prospects that they avoid government and allow the Tories to take full responsibility for the mess they have made.

Before the campaign the consensus among the British press was that Corbyn would lead Labour to its most catastrophic result in decades making the party unelectable for generations to come. It would also be seen as a major rejection of the left and the Labour right who sabotaged Corbyn’s leadership would feel vindicated and retake control of the party. There are signs the Labour right still intends to go on with their plans, but they’re unlikely to succeed as the membership bear plenty of animosity towards them. Corbyn has his faults but when it comes to the future of the party, he’s on the right side of history. For Labour to be a force in British politics they had to extricate themselves from the toxicity created by New Labour’s politicians, and Corbyn’s reign has helped further that process. It’s imperative that the next leader doesn’t reverse Labour’s turn leftwards, and appeals to the large membership which Corbyn has helped created.

Corbyn’s strength has always been campaigning. Indeed that’s what propelled him to leader in the first place and prevented the attempt of getting rid of him. Not only has he excelled throughout this campaign but he’s also won over some critics and skeptics because of his strong performance. Corbyn’s personal ratings have also significantly improved in part due to his impressive TV appearances, while May’s have tanked because of the wobbly campaign. While huge rallies and thousands of people cheering your name don’t translate to electoral success they can’t be dismissed either. For a future left-wing party to succeed there has to be a strong grassroots support for the party and under Corbyn that has returned. In addition Corbyn launched the most radical manifesto in years, far from resembling Michael Foot’s ‘suicide note’ which the media claimed it would, it generated huge enthusiasm among British people and received praise from a hostile media.

The media has generally been very hostile to Corbyn. Scrutiny of political leaders is perfectly reasonable but the degree of attacks against Corbyn and the way in which he’s been misrepresented is clearly disproportionate to the way the Tories are treated. Part of the reason Corbyn has done well in this election is because of the rules governing media coverage during an election which mandate that candidates are given equal coverage and that their speeches are reported. What this shows is that if the media were fairer to Corbyn throughout his leadership his chances of winning would have undoubtedly been greater. While the power of the traditional media has weakened, there’s little doubt that its coverage of parties and candidates still has an impact on how they’re perceived by the wider public.

Many on the left recognised that when Corbyn won the leadership contest, winning a general election was always an improbability, the sabotage which followed only furthered his odds. But for many on the left, Corbyn’s victory was in many ways more about the future direction of the party than Corbyn himself. A party in transition is always unlikely to fare well in an election where stability and unity are often valued, but if Corbyn and his supporters could win the argument on the direction the party should go, it would lay the groundwork for future electoral success. The hope is that in the coming years someone who has more leadership qualities, doesn’t have the weak spots that Corbyn does, and runs on a platform as left-wing as his wins.

If the Tories win a majority, Corbyn should resign sometime in the coming weeks but state passionately that the path he’s led the party on should continue. He’s shown that there’s a large enthusiasm among people and especially the young for an unapologetically left-wing party.

The Lib Dems who were tipped to have a great election have done quite poorly under the uninspiring leadership of Tim Farron. It was widely expected that their share of the vote would greatly increase because of their Pro-EU stance which would attract disillusioned Labour voters who wanted another referendum. Farron to his credit has made civil liberties and the decriminasaltion of cannabis a subject of this election. Despite taking a lot of flack from the technically illiterate press, Farron has maintained his stance that encryption should not be weakened and defended his rejection of the authoritarian snoopers charter. He deserves genuine credit for that.

For the SNP, this election is unlikely to change much. Nicola Sturgeon has come under increasing scrutiny over her leadership of the party but Scottish people still prefer the party to the Tories and the staunchly unionist Scottish Labour. There are signs that under Corbyn, Labour are recovering some ground in Scotland but the sense of betrayal many Scots hold for Labour over their project fear campaign during the 2014 independence referendum lingers. The SNP who have called for another referendum on Scottish independence have had to tone down the calls for another referendum because during this time it’s not popular. Sturgeon no doubt will expect that under a Tory government and the hard Brexit they promise, support for a 2nd referendum will increase especially considering the Scots voted overwhelming to remain a part of the EU.

The horrendous events in Manchester and London have overshadowed the elections. The attack in Manchester which was targeted at young people was particularly gruesome and sinister.

The timing of the attacks are unlikely to be coincidental. ISIS make no secret of wanting to influence politics. They have said in the past that their goal is to eliminate the grayzone of coexistence between Muslims and the West. These attacks are intended to engender a backlash against Muslims in the West, in the hopes that they’ll become more sympathetic to ISIS’ goals. A win for Corbyn would be a disaster for ISIS because it would show that contrary to their claims about everyone in the West hating Muslims, there is a significant number of people who don’t want to demonise Muslims and who don’t think bombing is the solution to the problems in the Middle-East. On the other hand Theresa May has pandered to xenophobic nationalism and threatened more authoritarianism in the wake of the attacks.

The Muslim community who are invariably blamed for not doing enough to stop the terrorists alerted the authorities over their concerns regarding them. One of the London attackers was also banned from his mosque for his extremist views.

The attacks inevitably turned the discussion to security which Corbyn is perceived as being weak on despite being vindicated on a number of security issues. Security also became a bit of headache for May because of her time as home secretary when she cut some 20,000 police officers despite warnings that it would risk the security of Britain. The Tories also received some criticism for their cosy relationship with the Saudi government, but this is an issue that the average British person just doesn’t care about.

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London came under vicious attacks from US president Donald Trump. Trump deliberately took Khan’s comments out of context at a time when he should be showing solidarity towards London. His remarks were rebuked by people within his own government and political leaders of Britain. Conspicuously absent in denunciations of his comments was Theresa May, who also refused to public denounce him for his decision to exit the Paris agreement.

The response to the attacks have been a lesson in the proper way to respond to terrorism. Instead of playing into the terrorists’ hands people within Manchester have shown unity and displayed courage. The One Manchester Concert was poignant and inspiring and the perfect way to pay tribute to the victims of the attacks and also a defiant reminder to the terrorists that people will not be cowered by terror. Credit must go to Ariana Grande for returning so soon after the attack, visiting the wounded in hospital and relatives of the victims and putting on a concert which uplifted the city.

The Tories now have the task of leading the country through a tough period. They’re an unpopular party and their regressive and anachronistic ideology is ill-equipped to deal with modern challenges. Under Brexit the perils and failures of their policies will be laid bare to the British public. Tories’ weaknesses will be exposed and the party will likely incur major long term damage because of Brexit. The electorate – especially the youth will feel betrayed and turn to someone else for solutions. The Labour Party and the Left should be prepared for when that day arrives.

Patriots Win In Historic Comeback

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There are events throughout history that leave yourself scratching your head in disbelief. The 51st Super Bowl was without question one of those moments.

I’ve seen my fair share of Super Bowls and I thought I’d seen it all in 2015 when the Seahawks blew a 10 point lead and were 1 yard from glory when they inexplicably chose to throw the ball instead of running which led to an interception. But that pales in comparison to what unfolded last night.

When the Atlanta Falcons accumulated a 28-3 lead at the beginning of the 3rd quarter there was talk of humiliation, this lead was seemingly insurmountable, a comeback so statistically improbable that not even the most ardent Patriots fans could have envisaged it, some even had the audacity to suggest Patriots quarterback, Tom Brady should retire. Little did they know what was to come and how instrumental a role Brady would play in it.

Even by the end of the 3rd quarter the Falcons had a healthy 19 point lead. The Patriots would have to score a field goal and two unanswered touchdowns with two point conversions under severe pressure, a tall order under normal circumstances. Many in Europe had turned off and went to bed thinking the game was long over. But when the Falcons fumbled the ball in their own half, the momentum and the game turned. Even after securing the 8 point touchdown the odds were still stacked against the Pats. The Falcons were agonisingly close to getting a field goal which would have ended hopes of a comeback but their quarterback was sacked which put them out of field goal range and they had to punt. Suddenly the Patriots sensed a history-making comeback and seised it in the most spectacular way possible. When Julian Edelman caught the most improbable of catches you knew this was going to be their day. Brady then did what Brady does, in the dying embers of the game, threw the touchdown that with the 2 point conversion tied the match. For the first time in Super Bowl history, overtime would be required. The rules of overtime mean that the first team to score a touchdown wins the game, with a field goal giving the opposing team an opportunity to respond. The coin toss couldn’t be more important under these circumstances and of course it went to the Patriots. And it only took them a matter of minutes to score the decisive touchdown which etched their names in sporting history.

To put this feat in perspective, no team has ever come back from more than 10 points down in a Super Bowl. To complete a comeback like that in a normal game would have impressive, to do it in a Super Bowl when the eyes of the world are watching is just unfathomable. For Edelman to make that catch under those circumstances just defies reason and to break so many records under the highest pressure imaginable just reinforces what a great team the Patriots are.

If there was any doubt before last night on whether Tom Brady was the greatest of all time, he dispelled it with the performance of his life, directing his team to the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history. What makes it all the more impressive is how poorly he started by Brady standards. He was sacked multiple times and threw an interception which led to a touchdown. To respond in the fashion he did epitomises mental strength and only confirmed what a great champion he is.

Anyone watching last night should feel privileged to have witnessed the greatness on display. I was rooting for the Falcons, and can only imagine the despondency their team is feeling today but last night is why we watch sport. To experience emotion, drama and passion.

Props must go to Lady Gaga too for her impressive half-time performance. She delivered on the biggest of stages and her little monsters will be incredibly proud. The only disappointment was the lack of a satanic ritual but we can’t have everything.

Terror In Quebec

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On Sunday evening a mosque in Quebec, Canada was attacked by a gunman which killed 6 people and injured more. The attack comes amidst a period when prejudice towards Muslims is alarmingly high with anti-Muslim extremists like Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen doing well politically.

Initially there was some confusion about the motive of the attack because the Quebec authorities detained the witness who actually alerted them of the massacre. The name of the witness was released and the media reported on it and his Moroccan nationality; the name of the witness and suspect should have never been released until it was ascertained exactly what the role of the two individuals were. The suspect who has now been charged with 6 counts of murder was named as Alexandre Bissonnette a French-Canadian who was a white nationalist with some appalling political views which included support of political extremists Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen; Le Pen’s visit to Quebec City in March 2016 is alleged to have inspired Bissonnette to become more overt in his extreme politics. He was a college student who has been described by classmates as pro-Trump and a vigorous supporter of the Israeli military who also had an antipathy towards immigrants and refugees.

The response from the far right was predictably noxious and only reinforced the fact that their political views are driven by hatred. The instant reaction from them was not one of compassion or concern for the injured but immediate opportunism, trying desperately to create a narrative that this was Muslims killing each other in an attempt to absolve themselves of guilt about what their kind of prejudices can lead to. When it was revealed it was of their own who had committed the act of wanton slaughter they were conspicuously silent. This was compounded by the fact that the press secretary of the Trump administration exploited the murder of Muslims to justify the deplorable travel ban targeted at Muslims.

Some have claimed the gunman’s support of Trump is irrelevant and that’s irresponsible to connect Trump to the killing. If Trump was just some random politician who never had a history of making contemptible remarks about Muslims you could understand that line of reasoning but Trump is a demagogue who has made inexcusable remarks about Muslims in the past. He’s also rewarded racism by appointing the former head of Breitbart (one of the most fervently anti-Muslim sites in the US), Steve Bannon as his chief strategist who is also part of his National Security Council. Michael Flynn his national security advisor has said fear of Muslims is rational. And how could we disregard Trump’s travel ban which is motivated by anti-Muslim prejudice and which has coincided with this brutal attack. The prejudice stoked by Trump and his chumps is inextricably linked to crimes like this because it contributes to a political atmosphere where Muslims are stigmatised and increases the risk of extremists targeting a group of Muslims.

The attack just underscores how vital it is confront prejudice towards Muslims. It’s not simply innocuous and without consequences, this is an outcome that sadly could be foreseen by many considering the degree of prejudice against Muslims in Western society. We’ve seen arson attacks against Muslims, attempts to police the clothing of Muslim women, attacks against Muslim women and aims to intimidate Muslim people; this is not simply an unforeseen, isolated event but the natural consequence of vicious prejudice which plagues Western society. We must of course confront Jihadist violence, and show no tolerance for it but decent people know that all of Islam and Muslims are not responsible for every act of Jihadist murder. To generalise or treat average Muslims as if they bear some responsibility for the acts of murderous criminals is inexcusable and creates a toxic political atmosphere where people feel like they can justify targeting Muslims.

Credit must go to Justin Trudeau, Canada’s PM for his strong statements following the attack. He immediately denounced it as a terrorist attack and expressed his support for the Canadian Muslim community. An attack like this, in a place of worship is not just an attack on the Muslims of that Mosque but all Canadian Muslims and is designed to terrorise and spread fear in the Muslim community. A passionate and firm denunciation of the attack from the head of the country is important for a community reeling from such a horrific attack against them.

In these testing times, we can again take solace from the love people have shown in the aftermath of the attack but also be aware of the threat we face. This killer is not a loner, his vicious ideology is shared by an increasingly alarming number of people in society, many radicalised online, hellbent on dragging Western society backwards. They feel emboldened by the political events of the last year, and interpret this as a sign that we’re edging closer to their sinister version of what society should be like. We must make damn sure that isn’t allowed to happen.

Don’t Lose Hope, America

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President-elect Trump. A fact that would have appeared unthinkable not long ago came true in the early hours of Wednesday morning. In a result that stunned not just America but the world, Trump pulled off one of the greatest upsets in political history.

As many Americans are still coming to terms with this seismic result, many people are wondering how this was possible. How could someone who espouses the most absurd conspiracy theories, promotes vicious racism and misogyny and overtly expresses authoritarian tendencies win a democratic election to become the most powerful man on the planet?

There is not one solitary answer to that question. A multitude of factors all coalesced to provide Trump with an opportunity of victory. If you listen to some Democrats, the answer is simple! The result is easily explained by racism and sexism, and other factors such as class, anger at the establishment and the incompetence of the Democratic Party should be discounted.

There is no doubt that prejudice contributed to Trump’s victory. His base is overt in their hostility to women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, and movements like Black Lives Matter which aim to confront the racism which greatly plagues the US. The Republican Party has also spent many decades whipping up hostility towards minorities and this marks the culmination of that, Trump is certainly no more prejudiced than contemptible racists like Ronald Reagan and Dick Cheney, but unlike them he makes no effort to sanitise it which is why he has received such enthusiastic support from the KKK and people like David Duke.

But attributing the victory exclusively to prejudice does not compute. If there genuinely was a huge revolution for Trump, and massive voter turnout which favoured him there would be more credence to that claim. While votes are still being counted it looks like turnout among Democrats and Republicans was the lowest since 2000 – Trump won fewer votes than Bush in 04, McCain in 08 and Romney in 2012. It’s quite clear what happened here and Sanders and his supporters predicted this long before the eventual outcome. The Democratic vote collapsed which gave Trump a clear path to 270 electoral votes. Trump managed to win key battleground states like Florida, Ohio and North Carolina but what was unmistakable was how he breached Clinton’s supposed firewall. Blue states that voted Democrats for decades turned red – Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania all voted for Trump in narrow margins despite the confidence the Democrats had in holding these states. The results clearly show that Trump pulled this upset off not because he managed to inspire millions of new voters to come out for him, but because there was very little enthusiasm for Clinton and the Democratic Party.

Sanders’ prophetic words in 2015 on why the Democrats would likely fail:

Let me be very clear. In my view, Democrats will not retain the White House, will not regain the Senate, will not gain the House and will not be successful in dozens of governor’s races unless we run a campaign which generates excitement and momentum and which produces a huge voter turnout. With all due respect, and I do not mean to insult anyone here, that will not happen with politics as usual. The same old, same old will not be successful.
The people of our country understand that — given the collapse of the American middle class and the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality we are experiencing — we do not need more establishment politics or establishment economics.
We need a political movement which is prepared to take on the billionaire class and create a government which represents all Americans, and not just corporate America and wealthy campaign donors. In other words, we need a movement which takes on the economic and political establishment, not one which is part of it”

Some people have discounted the idea that income and poverty levels played any role in the defeat of the Democrats. They cite statistics showing Clinton winning among voters who earn below 50k a year and claim this debunks the notion of a working-class revolt; this is misleading however. Low-income voters always tend to vote for the Democratic Party opposed to the GOP but what occurred in this election was pretty staggering. They swung significantly in favour of the Republicans greatly reducing the margin of victory Democrats usually enjoy in that income bracket. A 16% percentage swing in favour of the Republicans among voters earning below 30k a year is highly significant bearing in mind how slim the margins of victory were in this election. Low voter enthusiasm among this group for a party they feel alienated and abandoned by was most likely the primary factor in this huge swing.

The Democratic establishment will vigorously deny this fact but Clinton was a woeful candidate who should have never been chosen to lead the party in one of the most important elections in decades. Some people have also tried to pin Clinton’s defeat on voter suppression but the evidence indicates it had little impact on the final outcome of the election. In most of the key states that Clinton lost, no new voting restrictions had been passed prior to the election. Her lacklustre campaign failed to resonate with most of the electorate and they were complacent and neglected states they assumed would remain blue; for instance throughout the whole general election campaign Clinton didn’t make one stop in Wisconsin. Democratic pollster Paul Maslin said: “It’s is nothing short of malpractice that her campaign didn’t look at the electoral college and put substantial resources in states like Michigan and Wisconsin,”

So the natural question to ask is would Bernie have won? Obviously this question can’t be answered with a high degree of certainty but there certainly is a compelling case to be made that he could have performed better than Clinton in some of the key states that she lost. Bernie didn’t have the unpopularity and untrustworthiness issues that Clinton had, and was in fact one of the most popular senators in America. Clinton’s supporters counter this by claiming that once Bernie became the nominee the Republicans would have waged a vicious campaign on him and his popularity would have plummeted, they also contend that it’s delusional to believe Bernie could have turned Trump voters into Democratic voters. On the latter point they’re correct, but it misses the point. The Democrats didn’t lose because they failed to persuade Trump supporters to vote for them, they failed because of voter apathy and the fact they couldn’t inspire millions more people to come out and vote. Clinton and her strategists put more of a priority on switching disillusioned Republicans than they did on motivating uninspired Democrats to come out and vote, the miscalculation was reflected in the fact more Democrats switched and voted Republican than vice versa. Sarah Jaffe writing for the NYTimes summed it up perfectly: “Mrs. Clinton opened her arms to disaffected Republicans rather than wooing the disaffected within and around her own party. Most of the television ads she ran were more about painting Trump as a dangerous aberration, an outsider unfit for office, than pitching any plan of her own for change.” More than 40% of people eligible to vote didn’t in this election, which isn’t particularly anomalous but Sanders’ campaign showed quite clearly he had the potential to inspire new voters, and that his message was resonating with a large number of Americans. In addition during the Democratic Primaries Bernie beat Clinton in two of the key states she lost – Michigan and Wisconsin. The dominant theme in politics at the moment is hostility towards the establishment, this manifests itself not only in people voting for anti-establishment politicians but also for people simply refusing to vote for establishment candidates and parties. Bernie was unapologetically anti-establishment and has spent his entire life fighting to make America’s economic system fairer, during times when it was unpopular he fought against racism and stood up for LGBTQ Americans. People would have seen that he was authentic, and that his message wasn’t simply a facade to gain votes.

Most Bernie supporters do not take great delight in Clinton’s defeat, and we aren’t criticising the Democratic establishment due to vindictiveness. The reason we think it’s vital not to downplay Clinton’s failings is because we fear the Democratic Party won’t learn anything from this humiliating defeat. We feel the party is out of touch with most Americans, and that unless it goes in a different direction, one more in tune with Bernie’s message, they will continue to suffer in congressional and presidential elections.
The Democratic Party in its current state will not inspire Americans disillusioned by the political system and it’s the politically apathetic voters they need to reach if they want to defeat the Republicans in upcoming elections.

What’s been striking since Trump’s victory is how the markets have responded. Despite predictions from pundits that the markets would crash and wouldn’t recover, the precise opposite has happened. They’ve surged with the Dow closing at an all-time high on Thursday evening. Unlike Brexit which ensured long-term uncertainty, the Republican victory in the presidential race and Congress actually satisfies Wall-Street executives, bankers and investors because Trump and the Republicans are determined to deregulate the financial system by repealing the modest regulation Obama put on the financial system and provide tax-cuts to the wealthy. In the next 4 years we’re going to see a return to extreme neoliberalism which will further exacerbate the economic inequality in the country and which will greatly increase the risk of another financial crisis. The Trump supporters who bought into Trump’s rhetoric of ‘draining the swamp’ and ‘shaking things up’ will most definitely be disappointed; they have been duped by a narcissistic demagogue who will now embrace the political and financial establishment.

Before Donald Trump won the Republican nomination the media provided him with disproportionate coverage compared to other candidates. It’s ironic that Trump complained so much about the media coverage of him, because without them it’s highly doubtful he would have won. The amount of exposure a candidate receives in the media strongly correlates with how successful they are. If they’re largely ignored by the media, they will struggle to compete in the primaries. The mainstream media gave unprecedented coverage to Trump, which greatly facilitated his campaign for the simple reason that coverage of Trump was profitable. When you contrast this with how little coverage Bernie got in comparison despite the thousands of people he was attracting to his rallies and events you can see why his supporters feel a little aggrieved. Far from conjecture, this is substantiated by empirical data from a study conducted by Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics Public Policy.

“Of all the indicators of success in the invisible primary, media exposure is arguably the most important. Media exposure is essential if a candidate is to rise in the polls. Absent a high poll standing, or upward momentum, it’s difficult for a candidate to raise money, win endorsements, or even secure a spot in the pre-primary debates… In the early going, nothing is closer to pure gold than favorable free media exposure. It can boost a candidate’s poll standing and access to money and endorsements. Above all, it bestows credibility. Journalists seemed unmindful that they and not the electorate were Trump’s first audience. Trump exploited their lust for riveting stories. He didn’t have any other option. He had no constituency base and no claim to presidential credentials. If Trump had possessed them, his strategy could have been political suicide, which is what the press predicted as they showcased his tirades. Trump couldn’t compete with the likes of Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, or Jeb Bush on the basis of his political standing or following. The politics of outrage was his edge, and the press became his dependable if unwitting ally.”

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I do not hold animosity towards the Democrats for expressing their willingness to work with Trump. The Democrats lost the senate, the house and the presidency. They are not in a position of strength, and therefore trying to undermine Trump’s presidency would be completely counterproductive and would only lead to Trump doubling down on some of his extremist ideas. Every effort should be made by the outgoing president and elected congresspeople to mitigate the damage of a Trump presidency and there’s no conceivable way to do that without working with Trump’s administration. But Trump’s presidency has no moral legitimacy, and in an ethical political system he would have long ago been disqualified for his advocation of criminality. That’s not to say overthrowing him or advocating violence towards him is the solution, but people should exercise their 1st amendment rights and demonstrate against him. Trump and the dark forces that he represents have to be shown that there’s a significant portion of the country unwilling to give legitimacy to his presidency.

The United States is a deeply divided country and that won’t change anytime soon. But the country is a much more tolerant and progressive place than it was 30 years ago. Socially, the country has been moving in the right direction over the last few decades. Trump’s victory is a major setback, and considering that the Republican Party is one of the most dangerous political organisations in human history, the stakes couldn’t be much higher but the result has the potential to motivate hundreds of thousands of people to become politically active, and build a powerful progressive movement in the country. The future of the world very much hinges on whether they’re successful.

Trump Must Be Beaten

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This November the US public will elect their 45th president to succeed incumbent president Barack Obama. The choice is decidedly grim – the nominee for the Democrats is former First-Lady and Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton who is regarded by many as the quintessential establishment candidate with close ties to Wall Street and weapons contractors. The Republican candidate is the infamous business tycoon Donald Trump who has secured the Republican nomination by masquerading as an anti-establishment candidate while pandering to the very worst prejudices of the American people.

The outgoing president Barack Obama won an historic election in 2008 becoming the first African American to serve as president of the United States.
Obama who is an adept campaigner, deceived people into believing that he would be a president who would address the legal and ethical violations of the Bush administration and who would be a force for change in the US political system. Following his inauguration it became immediately apparent that this wouldn’t be the case and that Obama’s policies would resemble Bush’s more than Democrats would care to admit.

With regard to the economy, Obama hasn’t been disastrous as the Republicans predicted, but his success is wildly overstated by his supporters. Obama had the misfortune of inheriting an economy which was in its worst state since the 1930s, an economic crisis which was precipitated by increasing financialization of the economy and the deregulation of the banks which had bipartisan support in the US. Obama’s decision to pursue a stimulus was certainly better than the huge cuts in public spending which the Republicans recommended but it didn’t go far enough and the introduction of modest legislation like Dodd-Frank was a positive step, but Obama’s policies are designed to mitigate the extent of a crisis, not to prevent the crisis itself. The same financial structures which led to the crisis in 2008 are still intact, and make another economic crisis all but inevitable. It also is important to note that accountability for criminal behaviour is an important step to ensure it doesn’t happen again. If those engaged in criminal activity are shown leniency where is the disincentive for others to refrain from illicit risk-taking especially when the rewards are so lucrative? Under Obama’s presidency, Wall Street has been shielded from legal consequences for their acts of illegality and considering Wall Street donated significant sums of money to Obama’s campaign in 2008 it’s not difficult to see why. Obama touts the declining unemployment rate as one of his finest achievements as president yet it’s not the resounding success he portrays it to be. Gauging the strength of an economy solely on the rate of employment while disregarding other key factors is facile and doesn’t give a true understanding of the health of the economy. Things that should also be judged are quality of employment, labour participation rate, wages and job security. When judged collectively it’s clear that the US economy is in a more fragile state than Obama’s optimism would indicate. Since the US economy crashed the bulk of the job growth has come in low-wage employment whereas the middle-income bracket has been shrinking due to losses in jobs in construction and manufacturing. In fact the decline of the Middle-Class in America is not a new phenomenon, it’s been happening since the neoliberal policies were ushered in by the Regean administration, and while wages have been skyrocketing for CEOs and top executives, the wages of middle-class people have been stagnating. In addition Obama has supported harmful trade agreements like TTIP which would undermine democracy and provide corporations with even more power than they already have. Obama does deserve credit for helping avert a financial depression, but his deceptive statements about the state of the US economy are insidious especially when there is a desperate need to address the extent of wealth inequality in the US.

Owen Jones on the US economic recovery:

“The gains of economic recovery have certainly been beneficial to those of great wealth – including the culprits behind the crash – but have meant little to the average American. Of course, that has everything to do with the structure of the US economy since Ronald Reagan swept to power. Consider this: according to the Economic Policy Institute – a thinktank close to the embattled US labour movement – between 1979 and 2007, the top 1% seized 53.9% of the entire increase in US income. It is often suggested that male median income has been stagnant in the US since the 1970s, hidden only by a flood of women into the workforce: how that’s worked out depends on all sorts of qualifications, such as which price index you choose. Yet even by the most optimistic calculations, if university-educated American men have enjoyed a boost in salaries, those with only high school qualifications endured sliding incomes between 1979 and 2013. But if Reaganism engineered this model, Obamaism failed to replace it. According to Emmanuel Saez, a US economics professor, between Obama’s inauguration in 2009 and 2013, pre-tax income among the top 1% has jumped from $871,100 to $968,000; for everybody else, it practically stood still.”

The US health system is rife with problems and when compared to health-systems in other industrialised countries it’s clear significant change is needed. Most of the issues stem from the fact that the US system lacks universal health care coverage, costs are also astronomically high and contributing factor to why low income Americans are less likely to visit a physician when sick or visit a dentist than their counterparts in other countries. Over 50% of physicians in the US also acknowledge their patients have difficulty paying for care. The Affordable Care Act was an attempt to mitigate some of these problems and reduce the rate of uninsured in the US but it lacked a public health care option. It has made improvements, but it’s going to take something much more ambitious to adequately deal with the problems of the health-system in the US.

A lot of criticisms of Obama’s foreign policy centre around his apparent failure to resolve the Syrian Civil War. Some neocons have described Obama as an enabler of genocide for his failure to overthrow the Syrian government and they lament the lack of US intervention. It goes without saying that this is complete drivel and no one who is serious about addressing the Syrian crisis should heed the opinions of those who are partially responsible for one of the most destructive and violent wars since World War 2. The idea that the US haven’t intervened in Syria has no grain of truth either, since 2011 they have poured weapons into the country, many of which have ended up in the hands of extremists, have imposed sanctions which are said to have caused untold damage to the civilian population of Syria and have implicitly allowed Saudi Arabia and Qatar to fund and arm extremists while also illegally invading Syria to bomb ISIS. To this day the more extreme hawks are still demanding an imposition of a no-fly zone which is a pretext for war and virtually guarantees a military confrontation with Russia; there’s too much at stake for Russia in Syria and the expectation that once militarily confronted by the US, they’ll simply stand down fails to take into account Russia’s long-standing loyalty to the Syrian government. Negotiations haven’t been particularly fruitful so far, but then no one expected a miraculous resolution to this bitter war which is now in its fifth year. But it still beats the alternative which is a full-scale military intervention by the US and its allies which could put the world on a path to a nuclear war. Obama’s primary foreign policy failures are not in Syria, but in Yemen, Gaza and Egypt. In Yemen, Obama has facilitated the Saudi’s war of aggression in Yemen by supplying them with weapons, providing intelligence, refuelling their planes and also giving diplomatic cover for their crimes. Just weeks ago the Saudis bombed a funeral which killed more than a hundred people using US-supplied weaponry and recent reports from renowned writer Robert Fisk also indicate the Saudis are deliberately targeting Yemen’s agricultural industry which will lead to starvation among an already beleaguered country. In Palestine, Obama has rewarded the violence and criminality of the Israeli government by supplying them with the largest military aid package ever given to another country, and protected Israel at the UN from accountability by vetoing several resolutions designed to bring some form of justice; Neantahyu and his vicious government will never make concessions when they know that not only will the US ignore their human rights violations, but will actually reward them; the expansion of illegal settlements in the West Bank are case in point. The US has always had a pretty deplorable history in Egypt, supporting the despotic and violent Mubarak government up until he decided to stand down due to severe pressure from the Egyptian people in 2011. Once the Muslim Brotherhood were democratically elected the US didn’t really change its position, and were clearly interested in maintaining the close relationship with Egypt. In 2013 many Egyptians became disillusioned with the Brotherhood due to economic issues, constitutional issues and lack of security. But the disillusionment was exploited by the Egyptian military to launch a coup and install army chief General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi as president of Egypt. What’s followed since then is appalling, the military has returned to the Mubarak-levels of repression and has crushed dissent, the most notable atrocity occurring in August 2013 where at least 800 civilians were massacred. Obama made verbal condemnations but the support and aid to Sisi’s government continues to this day.

When Obama campaigned for president he pledged to be a protector of whistleblowers, he said they were “the best source of information about waste, fraud and abuse in government” and saying that “such acts of courage and patriotism should be encouraged rather than stifled” we now know of course that this was insincere and an electioneering tactic and that the Obama administration has actually waged war on whistleblowers. Under Obama the NSA has become almost an exact manifestation of an Orwellian dystopia which indiscriminately collects data on Americans including telephone records and online communication; many of these programs are regarded as illegal by legal experts. The courageous whistleblower Edward Snowden selected journalists from The Washington Post and The Guardian to examine the documents he took and ascertain which of those were in the public’s interest. Obama and many who criticise Snowden said he could have gone through the ‘proper channels’ instead of leaking to the press, the people who make this claim know that it hasn’t a whiff of truth, but rely on the public being ignorant of the facts. Most people know who Edward Snowden is, they may not know who Thomas Drake is, who similar to Snowden was aghast at what the NSA were doing without the consent of the US public. He tried the approach advocated by Snowden’s critics and he was destroyed and his concerns disregarded. If Obama genuinely understood the importance of whistleblowing he would do what the NYTimes has said he should do: Offer Snowden a presidential pardon. In addition he should offer Chelsea Manning a pardon, and this is probably more urgent considering the degree of abuse inflicted against her has intensified in the last year. Chelsea Manning exposed severe crimes during an illegal war the US waged on another country, her leaks shed light on the US’ human rights abuses and there’s no evidence they harmed any US military personnel but even if they did, the responsibility is on the warmongers who launched the war in the first place.
Obama has also been described by award-winning NYTimes journalist James Risen as the “greatest threat to press freedom in a generation”. Now whether you think Risen’s characterisation is hyperbolic or not, the fact remains that Obama’s attitude to the press and whistleblowing has been troubling to say the least. He’s employed the repressive and anachronistic Espionage Act several times and prosecuted more whistleblowers than all of his predecessors combined. Over time, his authoritarian attitude towards the press and whistleblowing will rank as one of the worst aspects of his presidency.

Justin Raimondo on the injustice of charging Chelsea Manning but excusing Hillary Clinton:

“The “crimes” of Chelsea Manning weren’t crimes against people but against the US government, i.e. they were acts of conscience that should be rewarded rather than punished. Nothing she did hurt a single person, except those persons in power whose hypocrisy and venality was exposed: not a single US casualty in our interminable “war on terrorism” can be traced back to the leaking of the materials that have been posted on Wikileaks via Manning. Indeed, the material that was released to the world exposed the very real crimes of our rulers in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the world. This is Chelsea’s real “crime,” one for which she is paying dearly. On the other hand, let’s take a look at another lady who stands accused of mishandling US secrets, including material classified “Top Secret”: Hillary Rodham Clinton. While serving as Secretary of State, she violated US government protocol by conducting both her professional and personal email correspondence on her own private server. This alone is illegal, but her crimes don’t stop there. When this unusual arrangement was discovered, she refused to hand over the server: instead, she separated out those emails she deemed “personal,” handed some over to the US State Department, and then erased the entire contents of the server – thus covering up whatever violations of national security standards may have occurred during her tenure.”

Two of Obama’s foreign policy successes (and it’s important to highlight considering how extreme the Republicans are on these issues) is the Iran nuclear deal and the rapprochement with Cuba. Neither of these policies would have been possible under a Republican presidency. Most of the world agreed with Obama on the sensibleness of the Iran nuclear deal but his administration faced extreme hostility from Republicans in Congress and the extremist government in Tel-Aviv, both who are eager for war with Iran, in fact Israel would have launched a war on Iran long ago if it weren’t for the effective military deterrent the Iranians have. The nuclear deal has been successful and reduces the chance of a conflict with Iran and that warrants credit. Secondly, the US has a shameful record with regard to its treatment of its small neighbour, Cuba and Obama whitewashes the US record of terrorism and destabilisation by referring to it as ‘attempts at democratising the island’ but nevertheless regardless of Obama’s intentions, the restoration of diplomatic ties between the two countries is a step in the right direction in terms of relations between the two countries. The Republicans who consider an end to US criminality towards Cuba as tantamount to surrender are hellbent on preventing the lifting of the economic embargo, an embargo which the vast majority of Americans oppose.

Hillary Clinton lost the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama in 2008 and it’s long been clear that she’s been the Democrats preferred successor to Obama. Similar to Obama, she will likely make history by becoming the first woman to lead the country since its independence 240 years ago. But she is a much weaker politician than Obama, and lacks his charisma and charm which has helped Obama avoid the scrutiny his presidency warrants. In fairness to Clinton, Obama is the exception not the rule, most politicians do not have the ability to inspire in the way he does but this does pose a problem for the Democrats. Rationalising a lot of what Obama has done has been made much easier by the fact that the presidency of his predecessor was marred by the scale of illegality it committed both domestically and abroad. The liberal press has also been much more lenient on Obama because of his likeable personality and amongst liberals, aversion to Obama is seen as a great sin. Clinton won’t have these luxuries, animosity towards Clinton among the general public is considerably more prevalent than Obama and liberals do not revere her in the same fashion they do with Obama. It’s also no secret that the catastrophe of the other candidate has made it taboo to be very vocal in your disdain for Clinton. Once Clinton is elected president there should be no hesitancy or reluctance among those on the left to hold her to the standard a leader of the most powerful country on the planet should be held to. Her deplorable record of supporting odious policies and people should not be whitewashed simply because the alternative candidate was such a monstrosity.

Clinton has long been regarded as one of the more hawkish members of the Democratic Party, and for good reason. When you consider how close a relationship she has with a vicious war-criminal like Henry Kissinger and the fact she describes people like Mubarak as friends of her family it’s easy to understand why. Her voting record on US military interventions abroad paints a bleak picture, but perhaps her most shameful moment in regard with foreign policy is how she played an instrumental role in the US’ participation of the Libya intervention in 2011 which decimated the Libyan government and left a vacuum for jihadists to fill. Once Gadaffi was butchered on the street, a despicable way to be killed regardless of his crimes, Clinton boasted by quipping “we came, we saw, he died”. Following the overthrow of Gaddafi, like so many interventions before it became clear the US had no intention of rebuilding the country and investing in infrastructure, the only goal was to destroy.

David Mizner of Jacobin on Hillary’s disastrous legacy in Libya:

“The humanitarian case for war depended not just on the prospect of mass atrocities by Qaddafi but also on the existence of a superior alternative. Administration officials and others depicted the opposition as gloriously and uniformly progressive. When the United States recognized the Transitional National Council (TNC) as Libya’s governing authority in July 2011 — and gave it access to $30 billion — Clinton described it as “steadfast in its commitment to human rights and fundamental freedoms.” The TNC, far from a representative sample of the opposition, was a collection of expats, former Qaddafi loyalists, and other elites who rose to power with the apparent help of France. One of Blumenthal’s memos to Clinton asserts that France funded the nascent council in exchange for the promise of financial favors. French intelligence “expected the new government of Libya to favor French firms and national interests, particularly regarding the oil industry in Libya.” Whatever its nature, the TNC was merely the figurehead atop a loose coalition that included vicious racists and other reactionaries. Indeed, it was immediately evident that the threat of mass atrocities came not from the government but from the opposition.”

Another flaw of Clinton’s is how intimate she is with Wall Street executives and the latest Wikileaks revelations have only reinforced how close she is to them. Three of Clinton’s top 5 individual donors have been Wall Street banks – Goldman Sachs, Citibank and JP Morgan. Bernie Sanders repeatedly criticised Clinton throughout the campaign for receiving so much money from Wall Street, and stating this undermined her ability to reform it. Clinton claims Wall Street’s enormous donations haven’t influenced her voting record, but CEO’s of Wall Street banks seem very confident that a Clinton presidency will shield them from losses in enormous profits. Clinton like Obama claims to be a friend of the American worker, but there is a clear conflict between trying to reduce the scourge of inequality in America and being beholden to Wall Street; they don’t donate that kind of money for nothing.

It may very well be true that Clinton’s foundation has done some good things around the world, but that should be no reason for it to be immunised from scrutiny, especially when there are troubling relationships with some of the most autocratic governments on the planet. The Saudi government has donated between 10 million and 25 million to the Clinton foundation, and other gulf countries have donated too. During Clinton’s time as Secretary Of State, the state department supplied these regimes with billions worth of weaponry. Clinton insists that there was no quid-pro-quo but even some of her supporters have been able to recognise the clear conflict of interest that arises because of donations made to the foundation.

Just fathom for a second how absurd it is that someone who has awarded Israel with its most expensive military package ever is apparently not loyal enough to Israel. Well Clinton has expressed her wish to resolve this ‘rift’ that developed between Obama and Nentanyahu and strengthen the relationship between Israel and the United States by taking it to “the next level”, which simply means more enabling of war crimes, and more impunity. She has also denounced BDS and linked it to anti-semitism, which is appalling when you consider BDS is probably only one of the mechanisms in which Israel can be held accountable for its actions.

Before the Democratic National Convention in July, Wikileaks revealed information that proved the Democratic National Committee conspired to undermine Bernie Sanders’ campaign using black propaganda. The information led to the resignations of Debbie Wasserman Schultz and other high level officials. There is little doubt this was in the public’s interest; Democrats and Bernie supporters had the right to know how their candidate was mistreated by the committee before the official nomination of Clinton.

The more recent leaks from Wikileaks have revealed more interesting information. They’ve been dismissed by Clinton partisans on the basis that they’re not shocking, but it doesn’t have to be to be newsworthy. Leaked emails show Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta claiming that Saudi Arabia and Qatar funded ISIS, that she has disdain for environmentalists and that she is an eager promoter of fracking despite it’s harmful effect on the climate.

Wikileaks has a sterling record of releasing pristine, authentic data to the extent that it’s been used in 100′s of court cases to convict people of crimes and to free those falsely accused from prison and their data has many references in academia. Its role in shining light on how those in power operate and often abuse their power has been a tremendous service to the world. Wikileaks is not infallible and have been legitimately criticised by whistleblowers and journalists who are mostly supportive of their cause for their lack of curation and at times their leaks have done harm to innocent people. But claims that they’re a front for the Kremlin is just a propagandistic tactic used in an attempt to delegitimise the important work they do.

Clinton and Trump are two of the most unpopular presidential candidates of all time. Popularity or lack of doesn’t exactly correlate with success as we see that Obama currently has a very impressive popularity rate, but at a time when the country is plagued by division, America needed a candidate who could repair some of this division. Sanders was that candidate.

Strong, healthy democracies do not nominate someone who incites violence and who is as racist, misogynistic and abusive as Donald Trump to be one of the two contenders for leading the country. Trump’s ascension is not just an indictment of the extremist Republican Party but much of the country and indicates that racism and sexism are still pervasive in America. With the election only weeks away, it looks like Trump has squandered his chance at victory with one too many scandals, but any relief should be tempered with the reality that there is a significant appetite among Americas for someone who is overt in their prejudice and that the movement that drove Trump to the head of the Republican Party is going nowhere. The fear is that someone much more charismatic and competent than Trump comes along who genuinely is a fervent right-wing nationalist but unlike Trump is much more adept at navigating the US political system. If such a figure arises in the next decade or two, this could spell major trouble for both the US and the world.

It’s important to note that the Republican party gave up on parliamentary politics years ago, in fact following Obama’s election many in the party made it their mission to sabotage Obama’s presidency and engage in obstructionism, because the Republican Party has very little to offer the country apart from tax breaks to the wealthy and more military intervention abroad, they’ve instead prioritised attacking Obama and Clinton opposed to rebuilding their party. Nevertheless the Republicans do have a solid base of voters who can always be relied on to vote so while the party has struggled to win many presidential elections in the last few decades, they have been able to retain control of US congress. But many Republican voters have also become disillusioned with the direction of the party, they feel abandoned by what they call political elites in Washington and want to “shake things up” and this partly explains the appeal of Trump to them.

While Trump can’t legitimately be described as anti-establishment as he wants to further entrench economic inequality in the country, and make America’s military even more powerful than it is today, he’s certainly considered an outsider compared to the usual Republican candidates like Bush, Romney, Rubio and McCain. Trump completely destroyed every Republican candidate in the Republican nomination, illustrating just how significantly the party has changed in the last few years. Jeb Bush the brother of George W Bush was expected to at least compete in the race, but Republican voters sent a clear message that they have no appetite for another Bush presidency.

Trump’s unwillingness to engage in political correctness and say exactly how he’s feeling is also something his supporters find refreshing, they see the progress America has made in regard to women’s rights, gay right and civil rights and feel like they’re losing their country. Seeing Trump given such an enormous platform to spew his venomous prejudice fills them with a sense of nostalgia. “Make America Great Again” a catchy, effective political slogan is simply code for undoing the social progress the country has made over the last few decades.

Oliver Laughland on the horrific injustice inflicted on the Central Park 5 who were convicted of a crime someone else committed and Trump’s hideous role in it:

“Nearly three decades before the rambunctious billionaire began his run for president – before he called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States, for the expulsion of all undocumented migrants, before he branded Mexicans as “rapists” and was accused of mocking the disabled – Trump called for the reinstatement of the death penalty in New York following a horrific rape case in which five teenagers were wrongly convicted. Just two weeks after the Central Park attack, before any of the boys had faced trial and while Meili remained critically ill in a coma, Donald Trump, whose office on Fifth Avenue commanded an exquisite view of the park’s opulent southern frontier, intervened. He paid a reported $85,000 to take out advertising space in four of the city’s newspapers, including the New York Times. Under the headline “Bring Back The Death Penalty. Bring Back Our Police!” and above his signature, Trump wrote: “I want to hate these muggers and murderers. They should be forced to suffer and, when they kill, they should be executed for their crimes. They must serve as examples so that others will think long and hard before committing a crime or an act of violence.” Salaam, now 41, cannot remember exactly where he was when he first saw the ads. He had no idea who Trump was. “I knew that this famous person calling for us to die was very serious,” he recalled. “We were all afraid. Our families were afraid. Our loved ones were afraid. For us to walk around as if we had a target on our backs, that’s how things were.” All five minors had already been paraded in front of the cameras and had their names and addresses published, but Salaam said he and his family received more death threats after the papers ran Trump’s full-page screed. On a daytime TV show two days later, a female audience member called for the boys to be castrated and echoed the calls for the death penalty if Meili died. Pat Buchanan, the former Republican White House aide, called for the oldest of the group, Wise, to be “tried, convicted and hanged in Central Park by June 1”

There’s no doubt Trump has capitalised on distrust of media. Like many leftists his supporters condemn the mainstream media for its biased news coverage. Distrust of US media is not misplaced and the evidence that it is subservient to power is overwhelming. The problem that arises is that those disillusioned by the mainstream media seek out sources which at times are even worse. Examples include RT, Breitbart and Infowars, which has a big influence on Trump supporters. This is why it’s imperative that those on the left spread awareness about sources of alternative media which are reliable, don’t kowtow to the US government and have a record of providing responsible coverage of the news. Democracy Now, Alternet and Truthout to name a few.

One of the vexing things about this election is the attempt to depict Trump as uniquely evil when judged against previous GOP presidents. It involves whitewashing the long list of crimes committed by Republican administrations. Reagan for instance is revered by these so-called moderate and respectable conservatives but he was one of the most warmongering, racist presidents the US has had in recent time. What separates Trump from previous Republican presidents and nominees isn’t so much that he advocates criminality and violence but that unlike them he doesn’t embellish it in fancy doublespeak. It makes it much easier for reasonable people to recognise the threat Trump poses, but I doubt I’m alone in thinking the overt manner in which Trump displays his extreme political views is less of a threat. So many Republican politicians like Ronald Reagan, Henry Kissinger, John McCain and Dick Cheney have escaped the level of vitriol aimed at Trump because unlike him they’ve been more competent at sanitising their horrific involvement in or advocation of violence.

Some people claim when it comes to nuclear weapons and the possibility of nuclear war that Hillary Clinton is much more dangerous than Donald Trump because of some of her hawkish views on Syria. I believe this to be a misguided position. While Hillary Clinton’s actions while in government have been a threat to world peace there is no indication she is unaware of the threats of nuclear war. In Syria she has advocated for a no-fly zone, which would be a reckless policy to impose, but in private she has recognised the dangers. I also doubt Clinton would be the type to directly disobey the warnings or advice from the military. Trump on the other hand doesn’t seem to understand nuclear weapons at all, and as commander in chief would have the power to unilaterally launch a nuclear strike against another country. Trump also is depicted as somewhat of a dove by his supporters who has no interest in meddling in the affairs of other countries, but this is highly misleading

Physicist Lawrence Krauss on the perils of Trump leading a country which has possession of nuclear weapons:

“Donald Trump’s candidacy has been a source of anxiety for many reasons, but one stands out: the ability of the President to launch nuclear weapons. When it comes to starting a nuclear war, the President has more freedom than he or she does in, say, ordering the use of torture. In fact, the President has unilateral power to direct the use of nuclear weapons under any circumstances. Cabinet members may disagree and even resign in protest, but, ultimately, they must obey the order of the Commander-in-Chief. It’s all too easy to imagine Trump issuing an ultimate, thermonuclear “You’re fired!” to China, Iran, or another nation—and perhaps to the whole human race. This summer, Scarborough cited an unnamed source who said that Trump, in discussing nuclear weapons with his foreign-policy advisers, had asked, “If we have them, why can’t we use them?” Trump’s campaign has denied that he asked this question. But elsewhere Trump has said he would consider using nuclear weapons against isis and suggested that it would be good for the world if Japan, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia acquired them. These comments demonstrate a fundamental confusion about the role nuclear weapons have played among the superpowers.”

The Democrats have also attacked Trump for his alleged connections to the Russians. It wouldn’t be beyond the realm of possibility that a businessman like Trump does have connections but the conspiracy theory that Putin is the one pulling the strings and commanding Trump to do as he pleases is amusingly absurd. Putin most likely supports Trump which is hardly controversial, Trump is less hostile towards Russia than Clinton and has showed more willingness to cooperate with them. In 2012 Putin endorsed Obama over Romney for the same reason, Romney was much more critical of Russia than Obama and the Democrats ridiculed him for living in the past. In addition one could be excused for forgetting that Bill Clinton himself was attacked over connections to Russia in the 1992 elections by Bush. Are Democrats pleased they have come to mimic the Republicans they once derided for engaging in these McCarthyist-like tactics?

A real issue throughout the election has been the scarcity of coverage or discussion about the crisis of climate change. During the debates it wasn’t even mentioned. At a time when the scientific evidence is painting a really bleak picture, it is crucial the most powerful country on the earth is at the very least devoting adequate time to its discussion. But for the media it just doesn’t seem to be much of a priority. There are many positions of Trump that should disqualify him from even running for president but you’d be hard pressed to find more than denial of climate change and his pledge to exit the climate agreement the US signed in Paris last year. In addition to Trump’s scientific illiteracy he believes the most absurd and problematic conspiracy theories like the long debunked one that vaccinations cause autism.

Trump being the narcissist he is can’t fathom the idea that he might actually lose something, so he had to find some reason to justify a probable defeat. He’s chosen to claim that the election is rigged and that there’s significant voter fraud. US elections aren’t the paragon of democracy they’re portrayed as, and there’s no disputing that certain candidates are given favourable coverage by the media and have unfair advantages over others but voter fraud is exceedingly rare in the US. One of the real ways elections are unfair is voter suppression, but this actually favours the Republican party over the Democratic party and to no surprise the Republicans have no interest in helping confront this problem.

In 1996 an advisor to nationalist candidate Pat Buchanan predicted the Trump phenomenon were seeing unfold, and it explains that there’s an economic dimension to Trump’s rise as well. Trump and his supporters unlike the elites in the party aren’t as dogmatic in their support of Really Existing Capitalism and have criticised ‘free-trade’ agreements like NAFTA and TTIP which should come to no surprise of those aware of the damage NAFTA inflicted on American workers. But Trump is not a genuine nationalist, but simply a narcissistic opportunist, in reality his economic proposals would do considerable damage to the American worker, and considering his record of tax avoidance it’s amusing how he can describe himself as a friend of the American worker with a straight face. While it’s true many Trump supporters harbour prejudiced beliefs, there are also genuine economic grievances that have to be addressed. If these concerns are disregarded and Trump supporters are abandoned by the political system, their radicalisation will only get worse.

What’s not amusing is his treatment of women, and the degree which his supporters have tried to trivialise his misogynstic abuse. The latest allegations and the leaking of the video showing Trump basically expressing intent to sexually assault a woman have reinforced what a sexist man Trump is, but it shouldn’t have been necessary. Trump’s degrading attitude towards women goes back years, and accusations of sexual assault towards him are not new. In the 90′s he stated that the media’s opinion of him was irrelevant “because as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass it doesn’t matter”, at the beginning of this election when Megyn Kelly, anchor of Fox news criticised him for previous episodes of sexism he referred to her as a “bimbo” who “wasn’t capable of objectivity when there blood coming out of her whatever”, he’s also routinely insulted the appearances of women who have been critical of him including the women who accuse him of sexual assault. It’s also been noticeable just how misogynistic his supporters have been to Hillary Clinton often referring to her in sexist terms.

A troubling theme of this election has been Democrats’ unhealthy hysteria regarding Russia. You don’t have to be an apologist for Putin’s regime to be concerned about the direction the US is going in regard to its relationship with the Russian government.
Putin is an authoritarian and a militarist but the idea that he’s the next Hitler or has ambitions to reclaim the territory that gained independence from the Soviet Union is arrant nonsense.
What explains the US’ recent hostility to Putin and Russia? The idea that it’s Putin’s repressive policies or merciless bombing doesn’t stack up because this was occurring even when the US and Russia were on good terms.

The reason is quite simple, for probably the first time following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia has directly challenged US power. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, NATO has been expanding eastwards despite a verbal promise to the Russians that this wouldn’t occur. In Ukraine the US supported an unconstitutional coup, and a government which is no less violent or corrupt than the one it replaced but it is opposed to the Russian government. Russia fearing a loss of access to their military bases in Crimea illegally annexed the peninsula, and supported the rebels in Ukraine who were opposed the coup government supplying them with a BUK missile which downed a civilian airliner. Russia’s role in Ukraine is criminal and disgraceful but US policy of expansion in Eastern Europe has been dangerous and decreases the chance of peace between the two countries.

In Syria the US claims to be offended by Russia’s bombing campaign yet recent history shows the US are in no position to moralise about war crimes. The priority for the US in Syria was never the people of the country but undermining a government which was a threat to US, Israeli and Saudi power. Weakening Assad’s government by extension weakens Iran which remains enemy number 1 in Israel and Saudi. Thankfully Israel and the US have not been able to launch a campaign of terror against Iran because they have an effective military deterrent but in Syria the US and Saudi could arm rebels and Jihadists in an attempt to oust the regime. And for a while it appeared as this approach was working, Assad’s military was demoralised and had lost significant territory by the summer of last year. But then Russia intervened and everything changed, by unleashing horrendous terror the Russian military reclaimed key territories in Syria like Palmyra and Latakia. They’re currently inflicting severe misery on the civilian population of eastern Aleppo in an attempt to help the Syrian regime retake it from rebels. The US now has no effective strategy to overthrow Assad, barring a major military intervention which would require thousands of US boots on the ground and the American public do not find another major war appealing. While the threat of nuclear war lingers, it’s still not a likelihood at the present moment, but we may be returning to the Cold War, where Russia and the US avoid direct military confrontation but back proxies to weaken eachother. It goes without saying that this should be resisted. While we were fortunate to avoid a nuclear catastrophe during the Cold War, the amount of violence and extremism that occurred on both sides made life unbearable if you were in a country targeted by Moscow or Washington. In Eastern Europe the repression inflicted on the people was inhumane while in Latin America the US terrorised many countries under the guise of fighting communism. There is no great solution to this problem, each power is not driven by social justice or humanitarianism but simply amassing more power, compromise on each side is the only effective way of reducing tensions.

The US government also formally accused the Russian government of interference in the US elections, essentially implying that they’re hacking the US government to change the outcome of the election. It’s impossible to discount this claim completely of course because of the state of relations between the two countries at the moment but the US has yet to provide any evidence of this interference and considering its previous lies with regard to WMDs in Iraq and dishonesty about mass surveillance they should be taken with a large grain of salt. There’s also a deep irony to the US complaining about interference in their elections considering the degree to which they’ve interfered in the political system of other countries. Amusingly former NSA director Michael Hayden claimed that the alleged hacking would be no different than what the US government does to other countries and that he would not like to have to deny it in a court of law.

Glenn Greenwald on the pernicious trend regarding Russia throughout this election:

“Strongly insinuating that the GOP nominee, Donald Trump, has nefarious, possibly treasonous allegiances to Moscow has migrated from Clinton-loyal pundits into the principal theme of the Clinton campaign itself. “The depth of Trump’s relationship with the Kremlin is revealing itself by the day,” her website announced yesterday, and vital “questions” must be answered “about Trump’s cozy relationship with Russia.” The Clinton campaign this weekend released a 1-minute video that, over and over, insinuates Trump’s disloyalty in the form of “questions” – complete with menacing pictures of Red Square. Democrats cheered wildly, and really have not stopped cheering, ever since the ex-Acting CIA Director (who, undisclosed by the NYT, now works for a Clinton operative) went to The New York Times to claim “that Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.” But this smear tactic extends far beyond Trump. It is now used to vilify anyone perceived to be an impediment to Clinton’s victory. When WikiLeaks published thousands of DNC emails shortly before the Democratic Convention, which ultimately forced the resignation of four top officials, it was instantly asserted that it was The Russians who gave them those emails (even though The Washington Post cited an intelligence official as saying that “the intelligence community . . . has not reached a conclusion about who passed the emails to WikiLeaks” and “We have not drawn any evidentiary connection to any Russian intelligence service and WikiLeaks — none”). Democrats not only treated this evidence-free conspiracy theory as Truth, but – following the Clinton campaign – proceeded to smear WikiLeaks as a Kremlin operation: After converting Trump and WikiLeaks into arms of the Kremlin, Democrats turned their smear campaign to media outlets and journalists who simply reported on the contents of the leaked DNC emails: beginning with The Intercept, the first to report on it. That The Intercept and its journalists and editors proved themselves to be witting or unwitting Kremlin weapons and guilty of being Russia apologists and sympathizers was pronounced by MSNBC’s most enthusiastic neo-McCarthyite host, a Clinton-revering Boston Globe columnist, the Communications Director of California Democratic Congressman John Garamendi (including the outright lie below), and one of the growing legion of Hillary’s neocon supporters.”

The highlight of this election has undoubtedly been Bernie Sanders, the senator from Vermont who has a history for standing up for social justice, and fighting for the average worker in America. If Trump’s ascension showed the worst of America and portended trouble ahead, Sanders’ rise showed the best of the country and indicated that there is great potential for the country to move beyond its period of violence and extremism. Sanders inspired thousands upon thousands of younger Americans and managed to get them active in politics which is a real achievement. When you look at the state of the US political system, and the shenanigans with Trump it’s easy to see why young people may simply want to disregard politics as much as possible, but people like Sanders convey the importance of making your voice heard and getting politically active. Sanders managed to attract impressive attendances to his rallies, and his messages surrounding economic justice really resonated with a significant number of people; Sanders is also a major supporter of unions and understands that strengthening them is a necessary step to deal with the inequality in the country. The odds were always stacked against Sanders, but he gave the Clinton’s a run for their money when they were expecting a coronation. Throughout the election he defied convention and criticised certain things that were previously considered to be beyond the pale. For instance, he showed no hesitancy in admonishing Clinton for her relationship with Henry Kissinger and correctly described him as a war criminal who has been responsible for a large amount of violence during his time as Secretary Of State. He also condemned US foreign policy, most notably for its polices in Latin America and its support of terror in Nicaragua. The hope is that Sanders’ campaign emboldens many people on the left to become more active, and to confront the US government on some of its deplorable policies. As inspiring as Sanders was, there was never a realistic expectation that he alone could make radical changes to US policy, even if he won the presidency he would have lacked congressional representatives and governors. The real change to US policy will not come from within the system but pressure exerted from the people. For all the flaws of the US government, it still has important democratic elements which mean if properly organised the people can affect real change. Sanders’ campaign has increased the prospect of that change, and for that we should be thankful for the energy he expended throughout this election.

The smearing by the Democrats of the honourable Ralph Nader who has done so much good work in America was really deplorable. This arose when the Democrats were trying to shame people who were considering giving their vote to Jill Stein. Nader, if you’re not familiar was a third party candidate during the 2000 election in which George W Bush controversially and narrowly beat Al Gore, a result which some still consider illegitimate. The Democrats claim that Nader is the reason Bush is the president, but what they neglect to mention is the amount of Democratic supporters who voted against the party in favour of The Republicans. If the Democrats managed to retain their own voters, they would have won the election. While we disagree with voting for Stein in this election, especially if you’re in a battleground state, if Clinton loses it would be absurd and unfair to pin the blame primarily on Stein’s supporters. If Clinton loses this election with the might of the media and large donations behind her campaign it would be a political humiliation of epic proportions for the Democratic Party and they will try and scapegoat Stein and third party voters. If Clinton is unable to beat someone as clownish as Donald Trump, the people who will bear most of the blame outside of Trump’s supporters are those who backed Clinton over Bernie Sanders, a much better candidate than Clinton.

Anthony L Fisher on the myth that Nader handed Bush the election:

“What that oft-cited factoid leaves out are the inconvenient truths laid out by Jim Hightower in Salon way back when, including the fact that only about 24,000 registered Democrats voted for Nader in Florida, whereas about 308,000 Democrats voted for (wait for it…) Bush! Further, approximately 191,000 self-identified “liberals” voted for Bush, as opposed to the fewer than 34,000 who went with Nader. The conventional thinking goes like this: Nader voters lean left and Gore is to the left of Bush, therefore votes for Nader would have gone to Gore. But leftist academic Tim Wise pushed back on this summation in 2000, writing that “Exit polls in Florida, conducted by MSNBC show that Nader drew almost equally between Gore, Bush, and ‘None of the above,’ meaning his presence there may have been a total wash.” In 2006, Michael C. Herron and Jeffrey B. Lewis authored a UCLA study on the effect of third party voting on the 2000 election. Among their findings: “Only approximately 60% of Nader voters would have supported Al Gore in a Nader-less election. This percentage is much closer to 50% than it is to 100%. One might have conjectured, that is, that Nader voters were solid Democrats who in 2000 supported a candidate politically left of the actual Democratic candidate. This conjecture, we have shown, is wrong: Nader voters, what participating in non-presidential contests that were part of the 2000 general election, often voted for Republican candidates. Correspondingly, [Reform Party candidate Pat] Buchanan voters voted for down-ballot Democratic candidates. Thus, the notion that a left-leaning (right-leaning) third party presidential candidate by necessity steals votes from Democratic (Republican) candidates does not hold.” So why hasn’t there been 16 years of hand-wringing over the thirteen percent of voting Florida Democrats going turncoat for the Republican nominee? What about the traditionally Democratic-voting bases of white women and seniors who both went for Bush, or lower-income voters, who mostly tilted for Gore but nearly forty percent of whom voted for Bush? Why is Ralph Nader the boogeyman of the left and not Al Gore himself who (despite being a VP in a popular administration which had the dumb-luck of presiding over a booming economy) was unable to win his home state of Tennessee, a state with enough electoral votes to send him to the White House even without Florida? Simple. Nader must be vilified because of the popular notion that the two major parties are entitled to your votes, and if you have any agency at all it’s to prevent the more terrible of the two from taking the reins of power. That’s how Gore, despite running an uninspiring campaign where he benched uber-campaigner Bill Clinton and chose the hawkish and moralistic Joe Lieberman as his running mate (thus turning off a great many off the liberals whose votes many feel were Gore’s birthright as the Democratic nominee), gets let off the hook, as do the hundreds of thousands of Republican-voting Democrats (in Florida alone), while “Ralph Nader” becomes shorthand for the folly of idealism.”

This election has caused severe embarrassment to the US and led to international derision and regardless of the outcome of the election, the US’ status as an oligarchy with severe democratic deficits and an imperialistic foreign policy will remain firmly intact. Clinton’s policies will be conducive to further inequality at home and violence abroad, but from a careful analysis of both their history and political views it is our view that a Trump presidency poses more risk to both the United States and the world. Therefore it is imperative that Trump tastes defeat this November.