Friday, March 23, 2012

Mitt Romney: This Is His Time

With over half of all state caucuses and primaries finished, Mitt Romney has proven to Republican voters he has the stamina and support to represent the party and wage a full-scale general campaign. Up until this point, no other candidate has proven they can deliver a knock-out punch to the prevailing Romney candidacy.
This has proven to be a very unique primary season; the lengthy and arduous election schedule this year (contests spreading from January to June) has made it nearly impossible for any candidate to swiftly capture the coveted 1144 delegates needed for the ultimate prize: the party’s nomination.
While some political commentators suggest Romney has yet to garner the total support of the party, they ignore the fact that the 2012 Republican Primary contest has been, in large part, a four-way race. All things considered, Romney has performed exceptionally well - winning over half of all contests with extraordinary margins of victory and earning nearly double the amount of popular votes as his closest competitor, Senator Rick Santorum.
Even still, some conservatives continue to flirt with the idea of a Santorum nomination. While his ideas echo much of the party’s core-conservative base, the fact is that most Republicans find themselves somewhere in the middle between center and far-right. Nominating a Santorum-type candidate in this election cycle would alienate many much-needed independents and would leave the Republicans with a weaker candidate when it comes to the economy. While Santorum’s fiscal record is very conservative, it is unmatched by that of Romney’s. There is simply no comparison between the economic and private-sector experience of Mitt Romney and any other candidate.  
Comparisons have been made to the grueling Democratic primary season of 2008 with, then-candidates, Obama and Clinton. However, as much as some think Romney has faced a tough battle within his own party, it’s safe to say that either candidate, Obama or Clinton, would’ve loved to have been in Romney’s position now at this stage in their primary process.
The time has come for Santorum, Gingrich (yes, he’s still in it) and Paul (him too) to rally around the inevitable and deserved Republican nominee, Mitt Romney. It is inconceivable that any other candidate will surge at this point and win a majority of the delegates; in some cases, it’s nearly impossible. Just as Mitt Romney promptly conceded to John McCain in early 2008, the remaining Republican candidates should follow proper discourse, step down and put the party first. If there is any desire to combat the looming $1 billon candidacy of President Obama, Republicans must unite behind Romney now and begin the general election process.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Gingrich Under Fire

There is a growing sentiment in the United States for accountability in every facet of government. With the public growing more leery of federal affairs, a new national conversation has sparked as seen in the last Republican Primary debate.

In an effort to display his outrage towards federal justices who have 'gone too far' in his opinion with their liberal agendas, the former Speaker suggested that judges be brought to Washington and, under a Gingrich Administration, testify before Congress on legal proceedings in their court.

There is no doubt that some federal justices have been known to act independently of the law - in the 9th Circuit alone, 88% of the rulings got overturned in a recent term. This statistic highlights the fundamental differences some of those justices have with the rest of America. Accountability and fair justice should be paramount in our nation's highest courts. However what Newt Gingrich has proposed would undoubtedly tilt the scale of justice away from the courts and leave the congress with more power and influence than it already has.

The furthest thing from fair and unbiased is Washington, D.C. Why then would we send our federal justices there to get caught up in a political storm of which the only way to weather is to play into it?

Assuming a President Gingrich could actually impose such a fundamentally distorted way of legal procedure, the checks and balances as we know it in the federal government would be anything but balanced. This idea of bringing justices before Congress, with the help of the Capitol Police if need be, to testify and explain their individual rulings is certainly a zany (as Mitt Romney has said) and actually redundant way to keep the courts in check.

The Framers knew full well that not every citizen would interpret the Constitution the same way. For this reason, a specific structure was put in place that allowed the people to elect representatives (who shared similar beliefs as them) to pick justices (who shared similar beliefs as them). If, for some odd reason, justices are in clear opposition of the widely accepted opinion of the public who chose them in the first place, they can be impeached quite easily.

What Gingrich is forgetting is that we already have a system that monitors the judicial branch of government - likewise, the system works because the "monitors" are also being monitored. If we fuss with this structure in any way, you elevate one branch above another and suddenly the democracy becomes some sort of oligarchy. The precedent something like this would set would be disastrous.

Monday, August 15, 2011

GOP Candidates Take the Stage

Last Thursday, the Republican contenders for the party’s nomination squared off in Ames, Iowa in one of many scheduled primary debates. The candidates, many of whom have already begun to encounter the fierceness of a national campaign, are coming under closer scrutiny as the electorate becomes increasingly dissatisfied with the economic direction of the country.
Just one week ago, the national credit rating was downgraded for the first time in the nation’s history. With so much on the line, this nomination process will be something much different from previous election cycles. The public tolerance for cheap political rhetoric and vague campaign promises is waning. In such an uncertain and desperate time, the American people don’t have time to hear meaningless chatter from candidates who seek to deflect the important questions and who lack specificity in their proposals.
At the debate, all of the candidates underwent considerable scrutiny for comments they have made in the past that now conflict with their most recent stances on the issues. When asked about his fragile campaign by Fox News reporter, Chris Wallace, Newt Gingrich quipped, "I'd love to see the rest of tonight's debate asking us about what we would do to lead an America whose president has failed to lead, instead of playing Mickey Mouse games."
The audience seemed to respond most passionately at Gingrich’s comment than almost any other the whole night. This moment sent a clear message that the American people aren’t interested in horse-race politics as usual, they want to hear from the candidates about their specific proposals to get America out of this economic downfall.
As the Republican field comes closer into focus, the party is still waiting to hear from newcomer, Rick Perry, and potentially, Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin. It seems as though no one (except the Ron Paul fans) are committing to any specific candidate just yet – a clear sign that this time around, the party’s nominee won’t be about the person themselves, but rather the ideas they represent and their commitment to save America.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Weiner Scandal: Week Two

With a failing economy, troop casualties in the Middle-East and high unemployment, it seems frustrating that the country’s attention has been shifted to Anthony Weiner’s cyber-scandal. In a time when we need our nation’s leaders to be worrying about bigger issues, instead we’re talking about a Congressman’s unwillingness to resign.
Earlier this year, when Congressman Chris Lee of New York was caught in a brief cyber-scandal, the Congressman swiftly resigned within three hours of the news breaking. Much of the push for his resignation came from his party’s leadership, John Boehner himself, who believed Representative Lee could no longer be effective in Congress anymore.
In contrast, “Weinergate” is nearing its second week in the headlines and the only reason for such attention is the fact that Representative Anthony Weiner, along with the majority of his fellow party members, do not see his resignation crucial at this point.
Only eight members of the Democratic Party have called for Weiner’s resignation as of June 8th. While House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called for an ethics investigation surrounding the case, that could take up to months to play-out while, in the meantime, this scandal continues to be the center of our nation’s attention.
With all judgment aside, it is not conceivable that Anthony Weiner can be as effective for the Democratic party as he was leading up to this scandal. Once an outspoken voice for the liberal activists in Congress, Weiner now faces a chamber full of colleagues who will find it politically risky to side with the Congressman even if they find themselves agreeing with his politics.
If left untouched, this scandal could define the Democratic Party in a negative way much like how the Mark Foley scandal of 2006 cost Republicans the House of Representatives. The most advantageous thing for Weiner, the Democrats and the efficiency of Congress is for Anthony Weiner’s quick resignation. However, since Weiner has showed his unwillingness to see the vast majority of Americans dissent with his decision to stay in Congress, he now brings down with him his own party who is unable to reach any collective agreement on this issue either.
It’s time to hold our elected leaders accountable for their actions and send the right message to the youth of this country. The United States Congress should be seen as an honorable institution with offices held by only the most upstanding of citizens. Instead, we’re left with a man who is unable to put ego aside and do what’s best for his party, his constituents and this country at this time.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Foreign Analysis: Christianity in Nigeria

Achieving independence in 1960, Nigeria has proven to be a multifaceted nation with an extensive and complex history. One of the most significant and vital forces for the growth of the region has been the introduction of Christianity in the second millennia. With this element, the region has developed into a culturally diverse country severely impacted by Western ideals - a nation on the brink of complete global integration.
            Nestled in the Gulf of Guinea region in mid-Western Africa, the location of Nigeria reveals much about its history. With extensive Muslim influence from the North, Christianity naturally found its niche in the Southern part of the African continent, leaving an undefined central region wherein lies present-day Nigeria. Because of the central coordinates of the country, this area has become affected by believers of both religions.
            It wasn’t until the fifteenth-century when Spanish explorers, in a quest to find a trade route to Western Asia, stumbled upon this area rich with natural resources and native inhabitants. The Spanish, being dominated by Judea–Christian beliefs, were the first of the colonizers to feel a minor obligation to spread their faith. However, their desire for material wealth and their interest in the slave trade made this “mission” unsuccessful. The natives who had come in contact with this Western ideology were soon shipped off as cargo in the global slave trade. As well, local kings seemed to be more impressed with the Europeans’ weaponry than their religious beliefs. Thus, the little influence Christianity had obtained during this period had quickly dwindled and, by the early sixteenth-century, there was little to no representation of the faith in the region. Christianity would have to wait several centuries before a significant presence could be realized in the region.
            Contributing to the difficult establishment of Christianity during this time, and the lack of any significant cultural penetration, lies in the fact that this region has been home to many different kingdoms and communities throughout the past several centuries. These communities, with their own unique cultures and languages, limited the ability of outside forces making their way in and establishing a base. The Igbo, Yoruba, and Hausa-Fulani were, and continue to be, the largest ethnic communities in the region. The Igbo, lying in the Eastern region - the Yoruba, from the West and South- and the Hausa-Fulani, from the North are a symbol to the cultural commitment by the natives to their ethnic roots. Naturally, any Western presence wouldn’t normally be well-received in an area with such strong cultural boundaries. Moreover, these large communities working together under a common law seems hard to digest given the vast differences among them in terms of geography, heritage, and culture. Thus, any imposing colonial force that dared to unite these entities in any way would have been, as Great Britain was, met with opposition.1
            Following the Spanish intervention in the region, the area surrounding present-day Nigeria grew into a scattering of tribes and communities. Each mini-society developed its own culture and possessed individuality in a way that allowed each territory to become its own unique entity. The groups formed local governments and participated in the trans-Saharan trade. The exchange between the Africans and the merchant travelers resulted in the spreading of goods and ideas. From this relationship, West Africans found themselves becoming increasingly influenced by Islamic ideas. In the years to follow, two states, the Hausa and the Fulani, grew to become rich with Muslim traditions. The culture had penetrated the region so forcefully that, by the nineteenth-century, the northern states became dominated by the established belief system. In an attempt to unify their religious forces, in 1804 the Fulani waged a jihad on their neighboring state, the Hausa, in an attempt to rid the area of non-Muslim practices. As a result, Islam achieved a much tighter grip on the region and the permeation of religion into the political sphere flourished.
            In the interim period, Europe began to see significant changes relating to their practice of slavery. Word had gotten back to England concerning the harsh treatment of slaves abroad and the practice of slavery became increasingly unpopular amongst the English; change was beginning to be demanded. In an almost unanimous opinion, the British insisted on the end of the slave trade as they had come to know it. In Great Britain, slavery successfully became abolished in 1807 and, in an effort to “moralize” the region that they had been slave trading with, sought to end slavery in the West African region.
            In the years to follow, Great Britain and their unified Christian base began to conduct expeditions to the African continent, specifically, the Gulf of Guinea. The imperial power initiated their law proclaiming the end to the slave trade in the African region of present-day Nigeria and policed the area with their naval forces. With the government’s commitment to the issue, Christian missionaries were safe to move in and work with the governmental agencies in establishing a strong allied force in the region. With both private and public organizations working together, the British presence in present-day Nigeria fortified while the bond between the Western world and the African region came into sharper focus.2
            By the mid-nineteenth-century, Great Britain had pioneered expeditions to the Gulf of Guinea region in an attempt to end the slave trade. In 1841, the British, funded by the Society for the Extinction of the Slave Trade, began this crusade. In particular, Christian missionaries were among the first Europeans to begin such work. Slavery soon began to deteriorate in the region. Freed slaves, who had been in closest contact with the missions, began to follow the Christian faith more seriously and soon achieved a considerable populace of believers. The freed slaves began to see the British and their Christian fundamental beliefs as the root behind their liberation. The Europeans, who had initially been the ones to enslave them, had now chartered the way for their emancipation.             This time, European intervention came with a considerable and forceful Christian coalition who saw slavery as the evil it was. With their commitment to the region and to their core beliefs, the Christian missionaries made a huge impact on the natives. The Europeans successfully became a symbol of Christianity to the natives and credited their ability to free the Africans to their religious duties.  Because the exporting of inhabitants fell so rapidly, the freed natives were able to more swiftly spread the Christian principles.
            In the years to follow, Christianity became such a growing force that it began to challenge the pre-established religions in the area such as the African Traditional Religion and, of course, Islam. With the European presence in the region and Christianity taking hold of the people, schools were more easily founded and Christian principles were to be taught in them. Now, the faith had effectively reached the grassroots of the society and the presence of Christianity was undeniable. Hospitals were constructed and medicine was introduced to the severely needy area. Trade relations with the West became stronger and economy of the southern region began to sprout. The British also had the means to construct the first forms of infrastructure this area had ever seen. Roads and modernized travel routes were resisted up until this time because of the accessibility it gave to slave traders. Europeans participating in the slave trade abused the first forms of infrastructure in this region which led to the natives willingly restricting the construction of roads in an attempt to protect them from the possibility of slavery. However, as the ultimate symbol of trust, the newly freed slaves and the gratuitous people of the region openly accepted the British willingness to create a modernized infrastructure for the area. The British had earned the trust of the Africans and had demonstrated that they could be protectors of the natives; they also committed to the idea of westernizing the region.
            While the British maintained that they followed an “indirect rule” style of management in the region, the impacts of their culture became increasingly more apparent. To their credit, the British had successfully ended the slave trade in the region and, to a large extent, earned the respect of the natives in the South. Without British involvement, it is hard to say whether or not slavery would have come to an end so quickly and with such finality.
            The Gulf of Guinea region started to see the first glimpses of cultural clashing as Christianity took off in the South and Islam continued to conquer the North. Because the Europeans, who had spread the Christian faith in the first place, were only served by dealing with the commercial, Southern coastal area, there was little motivation to bring Western ideas up North where it would be met with resistance. As a result, Christianity became static in the South and unification began amongst the local communities who had subscribed to the religion. With this growing cultural commonality between the Europeans and the West Africans, further plans were able to come to fruition – British prospects of obtaining an African trading partner and establishing a commercial relationship with the area rich with natural resources. Colonialism became the natural next step.3
            By the mid-nineteenth century, the British presence in present-day Nigeria had brought much reform to the region. With European involvement, slave trade in the Gulf of Guinea area had come to an end, prospects of an economy grew, and the introduction of Christianity had brought about the first cultural tie to the Western world. With a common faith, the British could more easily work with their converts and establish a colony in the region - Nigeria.
            While the Europeans had seemingly good intentions, the arbitrary border divisions that were cut out neglected to realize any common thread amongst the natives and, in effect, brought the Southern Christian communities and Northern Islamic cities under one state. In 1901, Great Britain officially became the protectorate of Nigeria and gained a tighter grip on the region. As a result, trade relations were cemented and the African coast started to experience a more balanced exchange with Europeans. However, the dichotomy between the North and South of Nigeria still remained. The differences between the two areas of the colony were apparent and little was done on Great Britain’s part to successfully unify the tribes.
            By the end of WWII, the Nigerians had experienced the first glimpses of political global integration with their participation in the world war. Yet, they began to question the force behind their ascension and whether or not the British power had grown to be a direct ruler in the region. While the churches established by the Europeans were widely instrumental in freeing the people and modernizing the communities, they had become increasingly officious and had not entertained African participation on a managerial level. As an effect, Africans began to develop their own denominations of Christianity and formed churches that were solely run by natives. These early signals of independence started in the churches and eventually led to a nationalist movement across Nigeria. No longer would the natives be restricted to acting only in the interests of the British.4
            While the British had freed the African slaves, helped the Nigerians modernize, and introduced the region to a global economy, they had also imposed a Westminster style of government on the people. This blanket governing principle challenged the established local governments and demonstrated perhaps an imbalance in the relationship between the natives and the Europeans. By the end of WWII, independence became a serious consideration for the Nigerians. However, a large issue facing the region was how to organize such a large populace. The area the British had carved out included many different ethnic groups and two major religious groups acting under one state. As a result, the Western-educated elites were among the first to step up and claim authority for their respective political sects. The problem with this concept was that these Western-educated elites were still somewhat loyal to Western ideas and had a difficult time representing the region as a whole. In the years to follow, an effective constitution was set up which paved the way for complete independence. By 1960, the colony of Nigeria had successfully become its own sovereign country and had with it a promising economy.5
            British involvement in the area of present-day Nigeria had lasting effects. Stemming from the ending of the slave trade and the introduction of Christianity in the mid-nineteenth century, Great Britain became a strong protector of the region and was able to, with the growth of cultural similarities, bring about modernization and change to the area. Among the benefits of being a protectorate of a global superpower, Nigeria was blessed with new schools, roads, hospitals, and found itself with an increase in employment. Connections to the Western world helped develop the colony in a way that wouldn’t have been possible given the many different local communities that existed, all acting independently.
            However, the massive grouping of the North and South of Nigeria into one state didn’t come without challenge. As Samuel Huntington points out, clash of civilizations is a key political indicator and is at the root of all major conflict. Nigeria, in its own right, experienced this clash when the Muslim North unified with the Southern Christian communities. Great Britain neglected to consider this important and defining element and, for its own purposes, created the large colony anyway. This ultimately led to the struggle of two large communities and their attempt to work together.
            Great Britain would not have had a chance at claiming Nigeria for its own unless it had developed some sort of cultural commonality with the people. The introduction of Christianity, and crediting the religion for the liberation of the slaves, allowed the Europeans to more easily find common ground with the natives. From this point, the British were able to continue their “indirect rule” in an easier fashion while being seen as allies with the African people. While these religious ideas helped bond the Europeans and Africans, it proved to be one of the greatest challenges to independence when, by the 1950s, the North and South of Nigeria desired to unify themselves.
            The conflict that took place between the different religious sects that had now been formed, hindered the creation a new style of government to take place in Nigeria. By the mid-twentieth century, the demographics in Nigeria displayed the emergence of Christianity as an equal force to the established Muslim population. The two groups would now have to work together with this new element despite the vast differences in ideology. For instance, the desire to implement Sharia Law in the Muslim North seriously conflicted with Christian beliefs in the southern part of the colony. This fundamental disconnect divided the two areas of the colony and helped perpetuate social instability. Had the British not divided the region of Nigeria into the arbitrary territory that it became, this conflict would have been less likely given the ill-need of the Muslims and Christians to work together.
            Today, clashes between the North and South continue in Nigeria. After decades of political turbulence, Nigeria has just recently found itself out of a military-style of government and into a more democratic form of organization. However, this new system hasn’t done much in terms of preventing cultural conflicts. In 2010, the Jos Riots, involving the Hausa-Fulani and Yoruba groups, was seen as a holy conflict amongst Muslims and Christians. The desire for Islamic extremists to rid the North and middle parts of the country of opposing religious beliefs is still in effect. Had the British never introduced Christianity in this region, there is a possibility that the expansion of Islam would have persisted in Nigeria and, if nothing else, unified the people easier.

            It is right to think that Great Britain had good intentions moving into the Gulf of Guinea region. They helped end the slave trade, set up schools, opened hospitals, developed infrastructure, and helped create a modern economy. All this wouldn’t have been possible without the introduction of Christianity and its usefulness in bringing the people together. From a point of cultural identification, the Europeans and Africans could more easily work together and, thus, Western ideals could be spread.
            While the colony remained under “indirect rule,” the spread of Christianity allowed less uncertainty on the Europeans’ part in terms of evaluating Africans’ willingness to work with them. The faith allowed a strong bond to be made between the people and permitted growth much faster.
            Today, Nigeria is home to the largest population on the African continent, fifty-percent of whom are Christian. With a promising economy and a Westernized system of government, Nigeria has the potential to become a key player in the global political arena. Their Christian base is their key into the Western world and has certainly transformed the country into the nation it is today.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Tragedy in Arizona

In what has proven to be one of the most shocking and horrific crimes of late, the recent shooting in Arizona by 22 year-old, Jared Loughner, has left the country in deep sorrow. The shooting, involving 19 innocent people, included Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who represents Arizona’s 8th Congressional District, among several other government workers. The event, which occurred last Saturday, has made a major dent in the image of this democratic-republic which seeks to encourage personal freedom of speech and accept persons with differing views.

However, what has been just as shocking in recent days as the rampage itself, has been the heated and highly charged political fight that has erupted from many who seem to believe the shooting had a deeper political objective from some on the fringe of the conservative movement.

If there is anything America knows how to do, it is to come together and unite in trying times - this has been proven time and time again in the wake of numerous national tragedies. It is alarming then that some, like Paul Krugman of the New York Times, would try to paint this terrible event as an act of terror on behalf of the Tea Party or a larger political movement within the United States.

While it is true that Giffords, who won her district in November by only about 1.5%, has been under criticism by those who disagree with her support of the controversial health care bill, she still remains a "Blue Dog" Democrat holding many conservative views. It is questionable then that Loughner, a 22-year-old college dropout, would act in response to her personal political views which remain quite moderate. Perhaps instead of categorizing himself with the interests of any specific political group, the motivation for Loughner's crime was driven by an anarchist and psychotic mentality which has been suggested from personal posts on his Myspace page.

It has been suggested in the media that perhaps rhetoric like Sarah Palin’s “crosshairs” graphic featured on her website for the 2010 midterm election (including Giffords’ district) has provoked this tragedy. This claim is left with little evidence that Loughner himself ever saw the graphic or even involved himself in the political atmosphere of his region. It should be noted, though, that imagery like Palin’s “crosshairs” map is common in political campaigns. In 2004, Democrats featured a bull’s-eye “target” map highlighting key Republican districts in hopes of a political shift in those areas. It’s a peculiar political strategy, but not one atypical of national campaigns from both ends of the political spectrum.

Pointing fingers and calling blame on a broad group only diverts attention from the real catastrophe and is certainly not a productive way to grieve and mourn the loss of innocent life which includes the deaths of nine innocent people. The victims included a 9-year-old girl and John Roll, a federal judge nominated by President George H.W. Bush.

It is important that Americans come together and do everything in their power to avoid politicizing this event. The families of those affected deserve the grace and respect of every American regardless of political identification. Just as President Obama and the First Lady led the nation in a moment of silence today, so should every American take example from them and remain patriots to their country – patriots who know no boundaries when it comes to revering their own.  

2010 Republican "Victory Map"

2004 Democrat "Victory Map"