An update on the 2020 Presidential Election

TAYLOR PEPITONE
STAFF WRITER

As students get into the routine of classes and their new environment, the time continues to tick closer to Election Day. More updates come daily on who is doing well, who is not, what is being said and what is being done.

CNN recently posted an update on the polls and it seems that the Democratic Candidate Joe Biden is leading by a 9.1 point average. Unlike the 2016 election, the challenger for this round is receiving much higher ratings. President Donald J. Trump seems to be dropping in popularity as most of the swing states are leaning more towards Biden. CNN says that Mr. Trump is in poor shape when it comes to his political career.

“It’s extremely unlikely that [Trump] will carry the popular vote,” said professor of Political Science, William A. Gorton. “He’s still somewhat of an underdog to win at this point, but he has a very decent shot according to some political scientists and statisticians.”

COVID-19 has also had a great impact on the election. Many are concerned with the idea of holding rallies, mail-in voting and potential voter turnout. DailyDot said that when COVID-19 initially became a significant issue, both Biden and Trump cancelled all rallies and gatherings for the upcoming months.

Voting by mail became a highly considerable idea not only for the safety and well-being of all, but it is also much more convenient for those who cannot make it to the polls on Election Day. This would likely increase the turnout for voters, therefore allowing more people to feel engaged in the approaching election.

When it comes to voting by mail, there is also the worry that not all ballots will be counted properly or on time. Mr. Trump believes that there will be voter fraud involved, so he leans more towards people voting at the polls instead of through the post office.

“Political scientists today speak of what they call the Blue Shift, which is the tendency in recent elections for democrats to gain in the days after the election after the mail-in ballots are counted.” said Gorton.

Police brutality has also played an important role in how the election will play out. People believe that Mr. Trump has done a poor job when it comes to handling the riots, lootings and protests, but mainly their worry stems from his failure to acknowledge the intensity of police brutality. Others believe that he has done a great job with handling it; the main issue comes from how polarized both sides of the political system are.

“It has energized, in particular, the black folks, so you can anticipate high black turnout [at the polls].” said Gorton.

The economy took a brutal hit when the coronavirus stopped production of many businesses and corporations, shut down schools, and much more. WEForum said that it could take the economy possibly up to three years to recover from the impact. Consumer demand is now at a low, which heavily affects the quality of the economy itself.

The overall atmosphere of the 2020 election seems to be frightening for most. Tensions are extremely high on both sides of the scale. The worry tends to lie with the thought of who will end up winning the presidential election.

“Our democracy is going under an extreme stress test.” said Gorton.

It is unknown what these next two months will bring, but voting is the way to make your voice heard.

GEO on strike at University of Michigan

COURTNEY SMITH
STAFF WRITER

Last Tuesday, the Graduate Employees’ Organization, also known as GEO, commenced a strike at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Over three quarters of GEO’s 2,000 graduate student instructors and assistants support the strike, which took place over four days.

Those on the picket lines wore masks and maintained social-distancing guidelines to remain safe while they relayed their message.

GEO’s strike was in response to two major concerns at the U of M campus. The first of their concerns involves the health and safety of students after the university welcomed its 45,000 students back to campus amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Although most classes are offered online, many feel that the close-proximity living quarters on campus facilitate the spread of the virus.

The second of GEO’s concerns involves anti-policing demands after U of M decided to increase on-campus policing as a means of enforcing social distancing and mask-wearing among students. Many feel this increase in policing at U of M could cause a subsequent increase in racist policing activities.

GEO’s decision to strike serves part of a long-running history of workers demanding policy-change by applying pressure to the administrations that oppress them.

“The strike is one of the oldest forms of protests,” said Dr. Ben Peterson, professor of history and political science. “Some point to Secession of the Plebs in ancient Rome as the first example, but I would suspect that strikes have existed in one form or another from the very beginning of the concept of ‘work.’”

With the increase of strikes and protests across the United States throughout 2020, many possess strong opinions about whether they serve as effective, valid forms of creating change.

“Like the power of labor in general, their effectiveness tends to ebb-and-flow across time depending on a variety of legal, social, and economic forces. Despite this they have clearly had a defining impact on the country,” said Peterson.

Many liberties we enjoy today were fought for on picket lines and accomplished through strikes and protests by past generations.

“The strike waves in the 1930s not only improved conditions for striking workers, they established new patterns of wages and labor relations that helped to redistribute wealth throughout the country,” said Peterson. “In Michigan in particular, the UAW strikes in 1936 transformed labor conditions in the automotive industry and helped to build a period of prosperity for the workers of the Midwest.”

Regardless of the spectrum of approval for the rise in strikes and protests across the United States, GEO’s strike at U of M sparks controversy because the state of Michigan prohibits public employees, such as professors at public universities, from striking.

“Public sector employees are regulated under different systems depending on the state,” said Peterson. “Some states treat public workers as regular workers, but others severely restrain what they can, and cannot do.”

In spite of these restrictions imposed by the state, GEO successfully picketed for four days, concluding last Friday. Strikes and pickets such as this may not always conclude in instantaneous policy change, but they open the door to discussing change.

More than a challenge

HADEN GROSS
STAFF WRITER

Cries for change could be heard all around the world Aug 5 as Turkish women took to the streets chanting “The choice is ours, the decision is ours, the night is ours, the streets are ours!”. These women were protesting President Erdogan’s consideration to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention: a pact to end gender-based violence.

Women taking action against gender-based violence has increased exponentially in recent years. In 2019 a total of 419 women were murdered, the death tolls this year have reached 201 women according to Balkan Insight.

“The coalitions the protest has engendered have been heartwarming and inspiring–activists are working across party lines in Turkey to protest systemic violence against women.” Said Professor of English and Gender Studies Maya Dora-Laskey. “Further when prominent detractors have cited their opposition of LGBTQ values as the reason for the withdrawal, activists have refused to let themselves be conned by this sort of patriarchal divide-and conquer tactic.”

The protests, however, did not just take place on Turkish soil, many American women took to social media in support of the convention. Hundreds of celebrities and other women posted black and white photos of themselves with the caption #ChallengeAccepted and #WomenSupportingWomen. This challenge, however, sparked major controversy according to CNN, it was said to be distracting from the actual social justice issue occurring.

“I think the Instagram challenge is really good for raising awareness, but it immediately ends there,” said Kate Stymiest (’21), “Raising awareness is only the first step and these challenges give online social justice warriors an easy way out.”

The social media challenge has changed many forms over the last few days, many claiming that any awareness is still awareness.

“While there have been charges leveled against those who participated in the photo “challenge” that range from co-optation and slacktivism to narcissism, the B&W challenge was reported to have generated 8.5 million posts,” said Dora-Laskey, “That is a lot of attention and awareness generated for an important cause that is often ignored. I’m notoriously camera-shy and have found other ways to contribute; but I’m proud and happy for those who participated–any level of participation is better than apathy.”

This social justice movement is not the first of its kind, Turkish Feminists have called for change since 1930. Their need for emancipation created the Turkish Women’s Union and banded together with the IAW (International Alliance of Women) who held their convention in Turkey circa 1935.

According to the IAW the convention served as a merge between western and eastern feminists. The conventions goal is to address systematic violence and aims to prevent domestic abuse leading to mass femicide. In the following years, the convention gained many rights for women across the globe thus, bolstering civil liberties for Turkish women.

Speaking on topics such as Sex Trafficking, Domestic violence and a plethora of laws that hinder women’s rights. In recent years Turkish woman have rallied and called for change in unfair dress codes, domestic violence, and the rising murder rate within the country.

When asking faculty and staff at Alma what they believed would happen if Turkey was to pull out of the convention, a barrage of hypotheses was given with relatively the same result.

“Turkey has a long history of constitutional rights for women (since 1930!) so this development is particularly unfortunate and made even more so by the fact that the withdrawal the Turkish government is contemplating was signed in the Turkish city of Istanbul and is popularly known as the Istanbul Convention!” said Dora-Laskey.

“Any refusal to enact or stay apart of legislature that protects women will leave women more vulnerable than they are already are,” said Stymiest. “The protection of women needs to be at the forefront of every policy in every country and failure to do so will leave women left out and in turn, keep the whole country in arrears.”

Ways you can help Turkish women would be signing the petition to keep the convention on Change.Org.

According to KQued, the Women Against Child Sexual Abuse has also put together a letter and provided the emails of representatives from the Central Executive Committee of the Justice and Development Party, in effort to keep the Istanbul Convention.

Protests over return to in-person classes

COURTNEY SMITH
STAFF WRITER

Late at night on August 20th, over 40 protesters congregated outside of U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s home in Holland, Michigan, donning signs that read “Wake up Betsy,” and “People over profit.”

Protests just like this one are happening all over the country in response to the return of students to in-person classes for the 2020/21 school year. These gatherings consist of educators, administrators and parents concerned for the health and safety of local school systems during the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision-making process regarding how each school district should respond to delivering quality education to students during the COVID-19 pandemic proved a difficult and divisive task.

According to Dr. Nicola Findley, professor of education, “In Michigan, the governor and legislators presented a plan in mid-August for safe return to schools. This made it clear that the decision about in-person classes would be up to local school districts, although districts are required to submit plans for how they intend to educate students at this time.”

Because each school district implemented different plans and protocols for COVID-19, policies vary widely from district to district, as does the public’s approval.

“I think the decisions that have been made in different districts do tend to reflect local community wishes and that’s good, but any decision has pros and cons and will be met with some resistance,” said Findley.

The pros and cons of resuming in-person classes entail many different issues, a major one involving the ability of both teachers and students to follow the safety protocols prescribed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Personally, I don’t think that allowing public schools to open was a very sound idea,” said Martin Betancourt (‘21).

“The student to teacher ratio is already eighteen to one and few classrooms are going to allow proper distancing. Hallways are also a huge problem with the class rotation and all of the students walking through. Of course, if schools do open, students and staff should be required to wear masks.”

Another highly contested matter each school district considered in their COVID-19 response plans involves whether or not quality education can be delivered via online courses.

“I think that online classes can be useful to many students, especially younger students. These kids are part of a generation that is growing with technology so adjusting would be fairly easy for them. That is, if they have the means to attend remotely,” said Betancourt.

Whether online-learning is an acceptable substitute for in-person classes proves a divisive issue among educators as much as it is among parents of students.

“Most early grade educators argue that online classes may include some helpful ways to individualize learning, provide alternative experiences, support practice and other advantages,” said Findley.

“However, they often argue that this is best done in an in-person environment with the support of a skilled teacher who has a relationship with each child.”

Regardless of how each school district responds to the coronavirus pandemic, each district crafted their unique plan with two things in mind delivering a quality education and keeping students safe.

The debate regarding the UPSPS

JORDYN BRADLEY
SPORTS EDITOR

The United States Postal Service (or USPS) has undergone many changes in
the last few months that have sparked debate and frustration across political parties, as well as with the general public. The Coronavirus Pandemic has also not been helpful in keeping the postal service alive.

Louis DeJoy, who is a major donor to the Republican Party and an ally to President Trump, was appointed Postmaster General in May of this year. This was controversial for multiple reasons, one being the fact that DeJoy has large financial interest in many of the Postal Service’s private competitors.

DeJoy has implemented numerous changes since taking over that affect the general public, including reduced hours of operation and the removal of many of their letter collection boxes. Shipping time has also increased, causing important mail such as medications, paychecks and bills to be late or to never arrive.

Because a variety of USPS’s services are being reduced or eliminated completely, many people are panicking.

“If [USPS] is abolished or even defunded, it would hurt a lot of people. FedEx and UPS rely on the USPS to deliver packages to more rural areas. Without the postal service, we would most likely have to pay to get mail, which would really affect the lower class,” said Em Bolam (‘22).

The post office is a service available to small, rural towns where the nearest UPS or FedEx locations are multiple miles away. The post office has kept their word since they started: to always deliver to someone, no matter how rural the location.

The Washington Post says, the Republican Party has been trying to privatize
the post office for decades, which would cause it to no longer be a union-operated business, taking away benefits from its workers and causing its consumers to have to pay significantly more to send and receive mail.

“The USPS is a service that is provided to everyone, and it should stay that way,” said Emmett Kelly (‘22).

President Trump has been in the process of trying to defund or fully eliminate the postal service in efforts to make the United States more money. Trump also believes mail-in voting could be fraudulent and harmful to his re-election efforts.

“Having access to resources like the post office shouldn’t be a political debate.” said Kelly.

“Everyone should have equal access to that resource, no matter what their views are.”

Since being appointed to the position of Postmaster General, DeJoy’s
administration has issued a warning that mail-in ballots will no longer automatically be sent as priority mail. Many believe that this is due to his close ties with the Trump Administration.

Not only are mail-in ballots being affected by these changes, but DeJoy and his administration also removed high-speed letter sorters, which help process absentee ballots. Because of these statistics alone, college students who wish to vote in the election this November will most likely have to change their addresses to their school address to vote from school, or go home to vote.

“My polling station is two and a half hours from Alma and I can’t drive, so [voting] would be very inaccessible [without mail-in voting],” said Bolam.

In addition to college students, those who are elderly, immunocompromised or without a method of transportation would also be ostracized if mail-in ballots go obsolete due to the newest administration. Many people still don’t feel safe enough to leave their houses, due to the Coronavirus Pandemic
still infecting hundreds of people in our country a day.

In a recent update, DeJoy was threatened with a subpoena by Democratic Representative and Chairwoman of the House Oversight Committee, Carolyn B. Maloney. This was for documents she said DeJoy withheld from
Congress that related to communications with the Trump Presidential Campaign as well as mail delays. If the administration does not open up soon about what has been happening behind the scenes, Maloney is prepared to go through with the subpoena.

With things regarding the United States Postal Service constantly changing, updates relating to the status of DeJoy’s subpoena and the postal service itself are inevitable.

Bernie 2020

ATULYA DORA-LASKEY
STAFF WRITER

We could regale you with stories about his incredible record. Or win you over with iconic policies such as Medicare for All and canceling everyone’s student debt. Maybe you’re the most pragmatic type who would be persuaded by learning that he is the best positioned candidate to beat Donald Trump by both winning over independents and turning out non-typical voters. The most compelling reason for the endorsement, however, would be that out of the two remaining Democratic nominees only one represents much needed progress while the other one represents a status quo that can no longer be tolerated in the face of a literal doomsday.

 

Climate change is an existential change to humanity. If we do not make radical changes, our generation will suffer from natural disasters with an intensity and frequency that has never been seen before on earth. After our institutions crumble, the generations after ours will be reduced to a pathetic shell of humankind, sold into oblivion by those who came before them.

 

Joe Biden’s climate plan is far behind the ambition of Bernie Sanders’s proposals, receiving the worst score by the Sunrise Movement as a result of the lack of detail. More egregious was the fact that Joe Biden held a high dollar fundraiser that was organized by a natural gas company co-founder, directly taking money from people who are responsible for pushing us closer to the brink of annihilation. In contrast, Bernie Sanders’s commitment to only using grassroots fundraising and his strong support of the Green New Deal serves as an important first step to mitigating the effects of climate change and fighting back against those poisoning the earth.

 

The Bernie Sanders campaign understands that America is a story of contrasts. It is the story of a son watching his father come home from fighting in Vietnam with PTSD he’s unable to get help for. A daughter watching her mom come home late at night from trying to start a union in her workplace. A girl growing up in a Kenyan refugee camp and eventually being elected to Congress. A woman dying from rationing insulin. A high school love story cut short in Afghanistan. A college student traveling the world even though her parents have never stepped foot outside Michigan. A man covered with newspapers freezing to death on a park bench. A couple holding their newborn baby for the first time. A frustrating call with an insurance company representative. A black community uniting to help each other in the face of natural disaster after receiving no federal aid. A non-binary person finally getting to use their pronouns. A mom borrowing money from her kid’s bank account to pay for groceries. A brave queer girl who stays closeted around her family. It is the story of a Jewish family fleeing Europe after losing half of their relatives to the Nazis, and their grandson who sets an unlikely run for mayor, senator, and then President.

 

A climate catastrophe now threatens to wipe out all these people, their memories, and their dreams. It was always just one story. Not of you and me, but a story of us. We must fight with all we have in the spirit of solidarity to better the story, or at the very least––continue it. Bernie 2020.

 

At the time of publishing, Michigan will be voting on the presidential primary tomorrow (March 10th). You can use the secretary of state’s site to find your polling place.

Post-Super Tuesday Election Update

BRETT JENKINS
STAFF WRITER

Joe Biden’s success Super Tuesday primary elections shocked Democrat voters, many of whom expected a much stronger turnout for Bernie Sanders. Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, and Mike Bloomberg have all dropped out of the race, and Biden now stands as the frontrunner. Before the South Carolina primary on Feb. 29, Sanders was the favored candidate. Now, after Biden took the majority in 10 out of 14 Super Tuesday primaries, he’s projected to win the nomination. “Election betting odds have gone from 8% chance of Biden winning the primary to 85%,” said Professor of Political Science Derick Hulme.

Biden’s success was the result of a lot of good timing.

“The key thing for Biden was getting the endorsement from Jim Clyburn and then winning by 30 points,” said Hulme, “Suddenly the psychology of everything changed.”

That change in psychology was exactly what Biden needed to be taken seriously and the results speak for themselves. Biden was no longer just another candidate with nothing new to say. Instead, he represents a more stable, moderate substitute for Sanders. On top of that, he alienates fewer independent voters and therefore stands a better chance against Trump in the presidential election. “I don’t think the Democrats want to put forward a full-on socialist like Bernie Sanders,” said Reo Donnelly, (’23). “I think it’s going to come down to Trump vs. Biden.”

The Michigan primaries are coming up and students all over campus are getting involved. Increasingly, young people are engaging with politics. Social media has allowed young people to get involved in ways that weren’t possible before. However, young people still aren’t voting. Sanders was relying on young voters to turn out in the primary elections, but they just didn’t show up to vote for him or anyone else.

Many young people feel apathetic about voting, whether they don’t think their vote matters, or they don’t like their options for candidates, they ultimately choose not to vote. They don’t like being forced to choose between the ‘lesser of two evils’.

“This year I’m choosing not to vote. I know that makes people mad, but I rest easier knowing that I didn’t give either candidate my support,” said Ethan Zalac, (’22).

However, young people are situated to vote in elections that really matter. The leaders we elect now will have impacts that will affect us for the rest of our lives.

“If young people have ever experienced a time when who their political leader is matters, it has been over the last 3 years.” said Hulme, “If you think that it matters who’s in charge, you should get out and vote.”

As more young people vote, their collective votes will start to matter more, but it’s up to the youth of the United States to take action.

Fortunately, there are a lot of opportunities on campus for Alma students to get involved in politics. Left-leaning students have clubs for the Democrats and Young Democratic Socialists of

America. For right-leaning students, there are fewer options. However, Donnelly is working to create a platform for those voices at Alma.

“We’re only really getting one side, as students, in politics,” said Donnelly, “So me and a few friends have actually started the ball rolling on starting a Turning Point USA chapter at Alma.

Virginia ratifies the ERA

SYDNEY BOSSIDIS
STAFF WRITER

On Jan. 15, Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment in a House vote of 58-40, and, in the Senate, by a vote of 27-12.

The Equal Rights Amendment states, “Section 1: Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex,” according to the Congressional Research Services. If ratified, this would make it unconstitutional to discriminate against anyone based on their sex.

“That doesn’t mean it would magically end all sex-based discrimination,” said Kristin Olbertson, associate professor of history. “It would simply give those who want to challenge such practices (firing workers for being pregnant, for example) a vehicle with which to do so.”

There is no protection for women against discrimination on a national level at this time. A case could not be brought before the courts because of this.

“The amendment, if ratified, would mean a step toward breaking the divide between the sexes in the larger world today,” said Spencer Berry (’22).

Currently, it is not in violation of the national constitution to discriminate based on sex. However, 21 states have clauses that make it illegal to discriminate against gender identity or sexual orientation in public or private areas.

“I think that people believe that discrimination does not happen because a lot of rights are protected already,” said Grace Schmidt (’22). “It’s important for people to be aware.”

For an amendment to be ratified, it first must be proposed and approved by either two-thirds of both the Senate and House of Representatives or through a special convention proposed by two-thirds of the states. It then must be ratified by two-thirds of all state legislatures which would be 38 of the 50 states.

“The deadline was established on a bipartisan basis by supporters of the ERA as a way to keep the amendment from being indefinitely tabled,” said Olbertson. “It has already been extended once and there is no constitutional or legal reason why it could not be extended again.”

The amendment was approved by Congress in 1972 and given a seven-year deadline to be ratified by the states. In the first five years, 35 states approved it and there was a two-year extension that led to the deadline being in 1982.

Since then, Nevada ratified the ERA in 2017 as well as Illinois in 2018. Then most recently, it was Virginia. All of these have occurred after the stated deadline.

“The deadline should be extended,” said Schmidt. “There should be a fair chance for it to be ratified.”

Berry agrees with this sentiment and believes that if a majority of people feel a certain way then the deadline should not matter.

While there is the chance that the deadline could be extended both the Trump administration and the Department of Justices office of legal counsel say that it could not and will not be ratified at this time. For there to be an extension, there would need to be bipartisan support.

In the past, there have been amendments that have been on the floor for years before being ratified. For example, the 27th amendment—dealing with Congress’s compensation. It was originally proposed in 1789; however, it was not ratified until 1992—over 200 years later.

The ERA was originally proposed by Alice Paul in 1923 following women gaining the right to vote. It was to guarantee that women would have the same rights as men.

“It’s important to know the history and the context to for this amendment,” said Schmidt. “You can’t understand it’s meaning without both.”

It is unclear whether the proposed amendment will be officially included at this time; however, it is a step in a direction for equality. This would provide a national protection that currently does not exist in the United States but does in other modernized countries.

“There’s never a bad time for equality,” said Olbertson. “Moreover, nations score higher on virtually every measure of well-being—family stability, childhood health, education, economic prosperity, strength of democracy, etc.—when there’s greater equality for women. Why wouldn’t we want that for our country?”

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