On November 21, 2018, John Roberts remarked that “We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges. What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them. That independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for.”
Until 2018, Justice Anthony Kennedy was the swing vote on the United States Supreme Court. Now, the swing vote belongs to Chief Justice John Roberts. The United States Supreme Court has long been seemingly untouchable from the political atmosphere. Politicians that have attempted to begrudge the Court, either by denouncing its rulings or justices themselves, have found themselves rebuked by the populus and, on rare occasions, the court itself.
During the impeachment trial of U.S. President Donald Trump, Chief Justice John Roberts remarked, “I think it is appropriate at this point for me to admonish both the House managers and the president’s counsel in equal terms to remember that they are addressing the world’s greatest deliberative body.” Notably, in this statement, Roberts mentioned both Republican lawyers, representing the President, as well as Democratic-appointed house impeachment managers.
Throughout the Roberts court, a “swing vote” has existed, allowing rulings, although split, to numerically balance between Democratic and Republican wishes. On June 18, in Department of Homeland Security Et. Al. v. Regents of the University of California, the Court pushed back on a Trump-led, Republican effort to end the DACA “Dreamers” program that deprioritizes undocumented youth that fit a certain criteria for deportation. Not a month later, on July 8, 2020, the Court ruled in Little Sisters of the Poor Saints Peter and Paul Home v. Pennsylvania, Et. Al. that the Affordable Care Act, passed under Obama, could not require employers to provide free contraception.
This is an isolated trend, right? Probably not. Out of the last four high-profile cases naming President Trump in the petition, two were ruled in favor of Trump and two against: In Seila Law LLC v. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Court ruled that Trump could fire a consumer protection watchdog without cause; in Bostock and Funeral Homes the Court ruled that the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects gay and transgender individuals; in June Medical Services v. Russo, the Court ruled with the Democratic stance; and, in Little Sisters the Court ruled that Trump could end a provision of the Affordable Care Act mandating employers to provide free contraception to employees.
The Supreme Court’s self-written mandate is to interpret issues of legality and constitutionality, and through decisions and opinions, uphold the Constitution. Perhaps another interpretation of this is to maintain faith in the Constitution and the unbiased, nonpartisan nature of the Supreme Court by ostensibly not supporting either party. Chief Justice Roberts has continuously defended the independent nature of the Supreme Court against both notable Democrats and republicans, including but not limited to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Shumer (D-N.Y.) and President Donald Trump.
The extent of the Chief Justice’s influence over other justices on the Court is unknown, and most likely minimal. However, out of the four aforementioned high-profile cases, Roberts was the deciding vote on three of them. Before Roberts, Justice Anthony Kennedy was respected as an independent jurist that maintained the integrity of the Court. Roberts will most likely continue to exert a similar influence on Court decisions in order to maintain the integrity and independence of the U.S. Supreme Court in politics.
Religion has occupied an important place in world history. Spain was occupied by Catholic and Arab forces that fought against each other for centuries; England was torn for just as long between Roman Catholicism and Anglicanism. And, although religion plays a role in governments today, it most often tends to do so in only a ceremonial nature.
In two countries, however, religion has become a basis for governance and policy. In Iran, Islamic law has become the basis upon which its government derives its power and enforces policy. In India, a majority Hindu population does not institutionalize religion in government but rules in a manner that fails to protect minorities as it enacts policies that benefits Hindus and not its minority muslim populations.
Religious oppression in Iran began with the 1979 revolution when the American-instated Pahlavi dynasty was replaced by Ayatollah Khomenei. Khomenei based his revolution on the principle that a government by religion would use faith as a protection against human rights abuses. Thus, when he gained power in 1979, he began to enforce Islamic law.
However, as time progressed, the government could not tolerate criticism based on its use of religion. After all, Islam was the one true religion. All others would have to be eradicated, according to Khomenei. The Journal of Church and State remarked that “The emerging standing national army [under the
control of Reza Khan] suppressed revolts in Khorasan, defeated the leftist Jangali movement in the Caspain Sea region, muzzled the Kurdish and Lur tribes, and after the British removed its support for the Shaykh Khazal, crushed the separatist movement in the southern province of Khuzestan.”
Religion has been further used as a mechanism of oppression through the denial of representation to minority groups. A watchdog government group known as the Council of Guardians filters candidates and removes those that disagree with the current rulers’ ideology.
Iran has both used religion as a basis for government and a principle to govern. India, however, has used religion not as an institutional tool but solely as a basis of policy.
For example, India’s Citizenship Amendment Act provides citizenship on the basis of perceived persecuted minorities. Cultural Relations writer Kayla Krueger recently wrote that if citizens were “Hindu, Sikh, Parsi, Buddhist, or Christian, and they [came] from Bangladesh, Pakistan, or Afghanistan, they [would] be granted citizenship in 6 years.” Notably, this list does not contain Muslims, the majority religion in the surrounding countries. India, after the partition, has been notoriously anti-muslim. Thus, as India supports the expedition of citizenship to some minority religious groups, they do not provide it to the one most discriminated against in their country, even when this citizenship is designed to offer protection from persecution.
Furthermore, the revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, granted due to its unique position as a Muslim-majority state, is another example of religious influence in governance. Revoking its special status would allow greater government intervention in local affairs, and would allow for for the oppression and degredation of the Muslim-majority government.
Both Iran and India present dangerous scenarios for religious minorities, and both present human rights issues that need to be combatted. Furthermore, countries such as Iran that are non-compliant with international transparency standards and global agreements allow persecution to continue unchecked. Recent U.N. reports show that Iran has failed to report several incarcerations and government-induced deaths and confessions of minority citizens.
January of 2020 will be remembered for several reasons. There are the obvious ones that are affecting the world now such as impeachment, the death of legendary basketball phenomenon Kobe Bryant, the 2019 novel Coronavirus (n-CoV) and the long-awaited departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union. Then there are repercussions of the events this month that will not be realized for months or years in the future, which will perhaps make this month one of the most consequential in modern history.
There are times in the world where the political establishment rearranges itself. One such rearrangement happened during World War II when old alliances broke down and others were made. Another such realignment occurred in the war’s aftermath with the Cold War with the advent of the United Nations and the European Union, along with the Warsaw Pact. These alliances were founded upon common political ideology and beliefs, and to a lesser extent geographic connection. Based on current events and further analysis, one can conclude that we are living through such a time.
University of Virginia researcher John Owen published in International Studies Quarterly that “the likelihood that alliances will form along ideological lines increases with the fear among at least two governments…. [when] they are threatened by transitional rival ideology.” Modern times reflect this theory. Domestic populist leaders, when elected, are forming alliances with other populist leaders in order to protect themselves. For example, populist British Prime Minister Boris Johnson touted a possible trade deal with the United States and more formalized relations with America. Populist Donald Trump has reciprocated these feelings.
The aforementioned alignment of populist ideologies also pertains to Brazil, where populist leader Jair Bolsinaro has been aptly described by Business Insider as the “Brazilian version of Donald Trump”. The two presidents exhibited a strong ideological alliance in 2018.
The United States has typically been the center of alliances founded upon ideals of democracy. Instead, under its current President, America is becoming a way for other populist-led countries to band together around a common strategy of partisanship, decisiveness, and patriotism. In other words, loyalty to a leader instead of a cause.
So why will January be remembered as one of the most consequential months in modern history, you may ask? Brexit, for one, is the most significant representation of the devolution of political alliances that began with Donald Trump withdrawing from NAFTA and the Paris Climate Accords.
The international destabilization of domestic affairs, not limited to but including unstable governments in the United States, India and Brazil, are occuring in the largest democracies in the world. These unstable governments that are being guided, or perhaps misguided, by populist and partisan agendas. In America, this came to a tipping point recently in the impeachment trial that will inevitably end with President Donald Trump’s acquittal in the U.S. Senate. Personal loyalty to the President and factional conflict has destabilized the world’s oldest democratic government, now that impeachment has been weaponized as a partisan tool.
Further, the Coronavirus that became an international epidemic this month brought to the forefront the impossible epidemiologic task of maintaining health safeguards in the era of globalism. Widespread travel and human-to-human contact makes it understandable easy for airborne viruses to travel. Yet, the health concern is not the only implication of the Coronavirus. Epidemics inspire isolationist tendencies such as the closure of borders. The United States, Russia, and other countries have restricted travel to and from China. Paranoia over the outbreak has run rampant.
The reality of the world’s state is dire, but there remains hope. The established order is being shuffled, but for the better or worse one can only guess. This month will also be remembered, although perhaps to a lesser extent, for the end of a trade war with China and a completed U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement ready to be signed by the President in a rare display of bipartisanship by Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives and the White House. As problems are created, they are also solved.
In the words of President Kennedy, “Geography has made us neighbors. History has made us friends. Economics has made us partners. And necessity has made us allies. Those whom nature [has] so joined together, let no man [tear apart].” Let us hope that alliances are enough to sustain the world well into the future, and that January of 2020 will be remembered as the advent of a new, better era.
The world has seen dozens of economic recessions, ranging in degrees of severity. Each recession has historical context, such as the fact that before downturns, there is traditionally a period of economic growth. The Great Depression followed the roaring 1920's, the stagflation in the 1970's followed the post-World War II boom, and the 2008 Great Recession followed a period of previously unprecedented growth.
Further, history shows that the greater the growth, the worse the recession. For example, during the 1920's, U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by roughly 42%. During the Great Depression, GDP fell by nearly 26%. In contrast, Roosevelt's New Deal increased GDP by roughly 29%. This was followed by a less severe recession, known as the "Roosevelt Recession", when GDP decreased by 4%. The correlation between the extent of growth and severity of recession is undeniable.
Significant economic growth is typically created by deregulation of the economy, as was seen in the 1920's and as is happening now. Deregulation allows for buying securities on loan, low interest rates that enable high levels of borrowing, and other unhealthy economic trends. Thus, when the stock market has even the smallest downturn and people default on their loans, the economy destabilizes. Deregulation thus causes short-term monetary growth, but long-term economic depression. This is the cause of the aforementioned correlation, that greater growth is associated with greater recession.
World leaders of slow, steady growth. Some economists compare this to Japanification, a process that occurred in 1990s Japan featuring slow economic growth, a falling yield rate, and a large government debt. Many economists refer to this period as a "lost decade" for Japan.
Japanification differs from healthy economic growth. Deregulation has been proven to cause severe economic downturns, as has the fact that growth is proportionate to the recession that follows. Continued regulation and slow, steady economic growth is desirable to avoid recession.
"Balance, diversity, creativity - these are the elements of Republican equation. Republicans agree, Republicans agree heartily to disagree on many, many of their applications, but we have never disagreed on the basic fundamental issues of why you and I are Republicans. This is a party, this Republican Party, a Party for free men, not for blind followers, and not for conformists."
This quote, from Barry Goldwater's speech to the 1964 Republican National Convention, described a political party, and nation, accepting of diversity. The global conversation has since strayed from Goldwater's 1964 speech. Divisive language and confrontation are the 'new politics' of the 21st century.
'New politics' is disunity. It is the language of 21st century. Each label of an individual member of society results in the delineation of contrast with another person or group of people. Democrats are pitted against Republicans, capitalists against socialists. The connotations associated with these labels are so burned into the global mindset that the bias inherent in these words and labels automatically sets people for or against a cause, and by extension each other.
The rift is ever-increasing and ever-expanding. News organizations and political parties use polarization to
'turn out their bases' and gain traction with party members. 'New politics' is a BBC article published on June 24, 2019, entitled "Recep Tayyip Erdogan: Turkey's pugnacious president." It is the Fox News article entitled "Rep. Collins: We saw a dark day in the House, we saw Speaker Pelosi abuse her oath of office." It is the breakdown of the Brexit conversation due to a failure to compromise. It is brand politics. Republicans claim that impeachment, supposedly a solemn constitutional check on the President, is being used to turn out the Democratic party's base. The polarization between the parties is so intense that the true merits and facts of impeachment cannot be discussed in any objective manner by the leaders elected to govern the United States.
The only way to resist the war of words is to abandon these fraught labels. When one party declaims a position simply based on the source, we must step back and evaluate the position and not just the speaker. We must find a way to have common conversation as a society and not continue to exist in the internet- and cable TV-based echo chambers that reflect our own opinions and amplify our factionalism. The only way to avoid 'new politics' is to establish a global discourse.
WHY Would IRAN StriKe?
U.S. President Donald Trump abruptly canceled negotiations with the Taliban after it attacked American troops in Afghanistan. Why did Iran, seething under tightened U.S. sanctions, put its own negotiations at risk by provoking the United States? There are a few reasonable explanations to this question, which, ironically, seem to be in response to U.S. sanctions.
After the United States withdrew from former-President Barack Obama's nuclear deal with Iran, the Trump administration sanctioned Iran, threatening to cripple their economy. With their commercial industries under attack, Iranian President Rouhani needed a show of strength utilizing their last available option: military force. And, there was no better nation to target than Saudi Arabia, the top oil exporter in the world. This move did two important things for Iran. Most importantly, it was a show of strength in a time when their nation seemed to be economically crumbling and playing defense. Furthermore, they exposed the volatility of the top oil exporting country in the world. After the attacks, the average increase in gas prices within the United States neared 15-20%. Under U.S. sanctions, Iranian oil may not be exported to other nations. Thus, when Iran conducted their drone strike, countries that imported oil from Saudi Arabia might be more inclined to switch to Iranian oil, both strengthening Iran's economy while indirectly protesting U.S. sanctions.
Recent Russian elections show rifts in Putin's political foundations. Incumbent President Vladamir Putin's party, United Russia, is set to occupy 26 out of 45 seats on the Moscow City Council, down from 28. The Communist Party is set to assume 13 of those seats. Other local election results show a similar or larger decrease in United Russia's power.
However significant these local losses may seem, United Russia still retains significant power. Local elections may portend a larger movement, but Putin will not cede national seats easily. Of note, the strategy that United Russia's opposition used was to vote for someone that was anti-United Russia, rather than for another individual party. Therefore, even if United Russia were to be voted out of power, these other parties might not be able to form a majority coalition, leaving United Russia in control. Finally, this possible change in leadership may affect international relations. Since Russia's authoritarian ideology conflicts with that of many western nations, historical tensions are unlikely to deescalate between Russia, Europe, and North America. After United Russia, the leading political group is the Communist Party of the Russian Federation. This party is still vastly unpopular with the rest of the world and even inside Russia, as they wish to impose a quasi-Stalin government. As of right now, many Russians view a government without Putin at the wheel better than one with him.