Summer Politics Recap

By Aidan Coyne

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1. Bumbling Hillary may get #Berned

Eight years after assuming the role of “unassailable and unstoppable” TM Democratic nominee for President, Hillary Rodham Clinton may find herself experiencing a curious sensation of déjà vu. After all, it was in the run-up to the initial primaries of Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina when Clinton’s supposedly inevitable capturing of the nomination began to be upended by the meteoric rise of an upstart liberal, a certain Barack Obama from Illinois. While the question of whether Clinton is to the left or right of Obama politically is still a valid one, this time around there is no doubting the liberal bona fides of Clinton’s current challenger, Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont. Senator Sanders was initially dismissed by political pundits mainly for superficial and silly reasons like his personal appearance, age, and accent, but his policy positions have fired up the activist wing of the Democratic Party. With regular denunciations of the corrupting influence of money in politics, income inequality, and the cost of a college education, Sanders has raced into a dead heat with Clinton in the important early Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary. However, current polling suggests that Sanders may face an uphill battle to gain the Democratic nomination unless he improves his performance with minority voters, particularly African Americans and Latinos who favor Clinton by sizable margins. Whether their preference has more to do with devotion to former Senator Clinton as a politician and her positions, or rather a result of overwhelming name recognition in comparison to her rival is up for debate; Sanders supporters will be hoping for the latter and Clinton supporters the former. Sanders will be hoping his ability to generate excitement amongst college progressives will translate to a broader level of support from Millennials; Clinton on the other hand may be hoping that her rather middling performance of the popular dance move ‘the Nae Nae” doesn’t damage her credibility with the nation’s youth.

2. The Rise of “The Donald Trump Experience”

With all due respect to Senator Sanders, in truth this summer can be said to have belonged to one and only one Presidential candidate, a certain Donald J. Trump. The real-estate-mogul-turned-reality-television-star has inexplicably turned the Republican race on its head, obtaining a healthy lead amidst a crowded field of contenders. Trump’s campaign contains the following elements: a bewildering mixture of blustering braggadocio, puzzlingly moderate statements regarding Canadian healthcare and Planned Parenthood, and an anti-immigration platform with more than a touch of troublingly xenophobic rhetoric. Such is the nature of “the Donald’s” meteoric ascent,  it is a legitimate question whether Trump’s commandeering of the public’s political attention is better explained by the usual cabal of Washington D.C. pundits or instead by your local university’s postmodern philosophy department. Whatever the cause, Trump has remained bulletproof so far against his clear gaffes and missteps which surely would have sunk politicians that were less skilled in the art of public manipulation. Numerous examples of such gaffes include but are not limited to: personal attacks on prisoners of war, female reporters and adversaries, and flip-flops regarding his opinion of former Secretary of State Clinton. While history suggests that Trump, like a slew of quirky anti-establishment politicians before him, is sure to burn out in the long run, there is no doubting that the world is always changing. The financial mantra that “past performance is no indicator of future results” just might apply if Trump is able to gain the nomination when so many candidates like him have failed.

3. A Migrant Crisis Develops in Europe

As the civil war in Syria continues to rage on, and terrorist groups like ISIS wreak additional havoc in the region, refugees have begun to stream out of the area in droves. Their destination has increasingly shifted towards Europe, as more and more people realize that the dream of a stable life up north is superior compared to the situation in many of the surrounding Middle Eastern countries. It is commonplace for these countries to treat refugees like temporary problems rather than integral parts of society. While their treatment in several of Europe’s countries, namely Hungary and Austria amongst others, is likewise far from ideal, the goal of many of these would-be immigrants is to end up in Germany. The German state, under the leadership of Chancellor Angela Merkel, is perhaps more motivated to behave in a humanitarian manner given its troubled past. It has essentially “rolled out the red carpet” in terms of government support for migrants who end up in within its borders. For its part, the United States has recently announced its intent to increase the number of migrants, though the increase is quite modest and likely only for political symbolism. The overall scenario, however, is a complicated one, and no oft-repeated clichés can give a full and sufficient solution. While all right-thinking individuals clearly empathize with those fleeing a desperate situation, concerns about the capacity of countries to deal with the overwhelming numbers of migrants–whose numbers have escalated from thousands to tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands in recent months and years–are nonetheless valid. Additional concerns include the fact that it seems likely that the migrant group as a whole consists not only of refugees from war-torn Syria, but migrants from other nearby regions who seek to move purely out of economic motive to seek a better future for themselves and their families. This motive is entirely noble; however, it remains a fact that in terms of international law, refugees and economic migrants are afforded very different rights and privileges. With the future stability of the Middle East as a whole very much up in the air, there is also the possibility that this migration is merely the beginning of a larger wave that may stretch the welfare state abilities of European nations, at least in the short term before immigrants can fully acclimatize. Unfortunately, but predictably, as non-European populations within the continent have surged in recent years, a rise of anti-immigrant far-right parties has followed. Along with the continued financial troubles throughout the European Union, all signs point to increased instability in Europe for years to come.

4. A Chinese Contraction leads to a Stock Shutdown

Observers hoping for good news coming from across the globe were also disappointed by events which unfolded this summer. In August, the stock market experienced what is euphemistically called a “correction” in the finance industry; in other words, the Dow Jones fell by 588 points in a single day, the worst single-day loss since 2011. That sounds bad enough, admittedly, but for a few panic-filled hours it seemed much worse. Earlier that morning, the Dow dropped by over a 1000 points, a dizzying fall that would be reminiscent of the disastrous days of 2008 if not for a midday rally to return some sense of normalcy to the market. How did such panic grip Wall Street? Traders were primarily reacting to a continuing series of worrying economic data coming from China. While China’s autocratic government asserted that GDP growth remained a seemingly healthy 7%, other reports highlighted Chinese weaknesses in manufacturing exports and serious concerns surfaced that the rapid real estate boom in the country in recent decades may actually result in the bursting of a bubble. The fact that China also devalued its currency, and intervened in its own nascent stock market, gives further credence that the Chinese economy may be finally coming down to Earth after its previously astronomical performance. But in our globalized world, China’s financial problems don’t simply affect China, or even just its biggest trade partners (which, no surprise, surely includes the United States). The collapse of one nation’s markets could easily lead to a global depression, as evidenced by the damage caused worldwide in 2008. The first domino to fall then was America’s housing market, a significant part of our own countries, but rather small potatoes when one considers the entire world economy as a unified whole. But as one domino crashed into another, to speak metaphorically, economies worldwide were effectively destroyed. The effects can be seen even today in nations like Greece. And so all eyes turn to China, with the pending results bearing the weight of billions upon one government’s back.

 

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