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The Midterm Results Are In and This is What They Mean

The Midterm Results Are In and This is What They Mean

Democrats have regained control of the House of Representatives after an eight-year one-party rule in Congress. However, in a “blue wave” that was more of a “ripple”, Republicans have tightened their grip on the Senate.

Despite losses in the lower chamber of Congress, president Donald Trump declared the midterm election a “tremendous success” as Republicans expanded their majority in the Senate, paving the way for a divided Congress.

Promoting himself on Twitter, he focused on the Senate, quoting the following from a commentator:

“There’s only been five times in the last 105 years that an incumbent president has won seats in the Senate in the off year election. Mr. Trump has magic about him. This guy has magic coming out of his ears. He is an astonishing vote getter & campaigner.”

The primary role of Congress—consisting of the House (its lower chamber) and the Senate (its upper chamber)—is to make and pass laws. A legislative proposal only becomes law once the House, the Senate and then the President, have approved it.

Consequently, that the Republicans lost the House to the Democrats could actually mean that Trump’s final two years of term have just become severely limited. Although his name was not on the ballot as a higher-than-usual number of voters elected Congress members on Tuesday November 6, the election was considered a referendum on Trump’s America.

Democrats needed to pick up 23 House seats in tallies early Wednesday, results that could enable the party to block much of Trump’s legislative agenda as well as issue investigations into his administration and business affairs. The Democrats now control the Intelligence Committee—responsible for considering potential Russian collusion in the last presidential election.

It will also be more difficult for Republicans to make changes to health legislation, including Barack Obama’s healthcare law, and could cause problems for Trump’s plans to build a border wall with Mexico. By passing laws out of the House, it will also force Republican senators to consider subjects like minimum wage.

The increased Republican majority in the Senate however, will make it easier for Trump to appoint judges and remake the judicial branch—a branch of government that interprets laws in the name of the state—into a more conservative system.

Democrats also flipped six governorships in the election, including Kansas, where Laura Kelly beat Trump ally, Kris Kobach. Two victorious Muslim Democrats—Ihan Omar (Minnesota) and Rashida Tlaib (Michigan)—made minority firsts, along with elected Democrat governor, Jared Polis (Colorado), the first openly gay man to be voted into the position.

A record year for women, at least 90 female candidates won their elections, the majority of whom were Democrats and at least 28 of whom were sent to Congress by voters for the first time. Sharice Davids (Kansas) and Deb Haaland (New Mexicao) became the first Native American women to be elected. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (New York) became the first woman in her 20s to win a seat, and was later joined by 29-year old Abby Finkenauer (Iowa).

House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi, spoke in Washington. “Thanks to you, tomorrow will be a new day in America,” she told supporters.

Trump allegedly called Pelosi “to extend his congratulations on winning a Democratic House Majority,” her deputy chief of staff Drew Hammill tweeted.

“He acknowledged the Leader’s call for bipartisanship in her victory remarks.”

According to an exit poll survey conducted by the Associated Press, healthcare and immigration were at the top of issues expressed by voters, and 64 percent of those surveyed revealed that Trump factored into their choice when casting their ballots.

Further reading: The Midterms Explained: Everything You Need to Know

The Midterms Explained: Everything You Need to Know

The Midterms Explained: Everything You Need to Know

On Tuesday November 6, voters will receive their first chance to weigh in on Donald Trump’s presidency since he was elected in 2016. With the economy doing well but approval ratings falling short, the midterm elections could sway the control of Congress.

Still following? Here’s everything you need to know about the upcoming midterms.

What are the midterms?

Midterm elections take place halfway between presidential elections, every two years. On Tuesday November 6, voters will choose new members of Congress—a term that indicates the combined body of the House of Representatives (the House) and the Senate. President Donald Trump’s party, the Republicans, currently control both houses of Congress. However, the midterms are generally considered a referendum on the current president, with the party whose president is in the White House often struggling to secure a net gain.

Who is being elected?

All 435 members of the House are up for election, as well as one-third of the Senate, with members of the Senate serving staggered six-year terms.

36 state governors (similar to a local president) will also be elected, along with dozens of local legislative officials.

The most important question: Can the Democratic Party win control of the House? 

This year, the Democrats believe that they can win control of the House by winning a majority of the seats. In order to do this, they will need to claim at least 23 seats from the Republicans; a feat that many experts believe to be possible.

On average, the party with a president in the White House has lost 32 seats in the House and two in the Senate in every midterm election since the American Civil War. President Trump has also received low approval ratings, a figure that is currently at around 42 percent. On the other hand, generic ballot polling shows the Democrats up by around eight percentage points.

Furthermore, this year, a record number of more than 30 Republicans have retired or resigned for a variety of reasons, with sexual harassment accusations and feelings towards the president among those cited. With representation in the House relatively proportionate to population, and voters usually reluctant to eject sitting representatives, this creates an opportunity for the Democrats to claim seats. Florida and Pennsylvania are two such key swing states where the incumbent will not be standing again.

In the last 50 years, the Democrats have only made a net gain of 23+ seats twice, in 1974 and in 2006. Similarly, the same period of time has seen the Republicans score a net gain of this size three times, most recently in the 2010 midterms during Barack Obama’s first term.

The low voting turnout for midterms (around 40 percent of Americans) has also tended to help the Republican Party, as those who do vote tend to be white and belong to an older generation. However, the “pink wave” of female candidates running for election is hoped to encourage more female voters and increase women’s representation in Congress.

The Senate

35 of 100 seats are up for election in the Senate, with 51 seats needed for control. Republicans have a strong advantage over the Democrats here because the Democratic Party is defending 26 seats, while the Republican Party is only defending nine.

The Senate electoral system also means that each state gets two senators, regardless of how large the population is. These smaller states tend to be more rural and, in the past, rural areas have favored the Republicans.

What does this all mean for president Trump?

With control of Congress comes the advantage of passing or blocking legislative agendas.

If the Democrats win control of one or both of the houses, they’ll be able to limit the final two years of President Trump’s term. For example, they’d be able to block his future Supreme Court picks and investigate issues such as the president’s business dealings or the allegations of sexual assault made against him.

If the Republicans hold control of Congress, President Trump’s key agendas and promises could be revived. The president was only able to sign his overhaul of the US tax system into law because Republicans held majorities in both houses of Congress.

The word impeachment has also been following discussions around the midterms. Impeachment does not necessarily lead to a removal of office—the formal statement of charges against the president has only been presented twice. Both Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were acquitted after a trial in the Senate, and Richard Nixon resigned before he could be impeached in the 70s.

With the Democrats in control of Congress, calls for president Trump’s impeachment are likely to increase. However, Republican senators would need to turn on the president, as a two-thirds majority is needed to remove him from office.

Nevertheless, with a Democrat majority in Congress, the party would have a better chance of defeating Trump in the next presidential election in 2020.

What happens next?

The results of the midterms could shape the nation for years to come. A “blue wave” of Democrat majority in both the House and the Senate would be able to block President Trump’s future plans.

After the midterms, thoughts will turn to the 2020 presidential election. Worth mentioning here is the fact that 26 of the 36 state governors being elected on Tuesday are Republican. With governors playing a large role in supporting their party’s candidates, securing new governors could have a major effect on presidential campaigning.

Further reading: Taylor Swift Speaks up about Political Opinion

Join the Fight Against Sexual Assault

Join the Fight Against Sexual Assault

Bill Cosby, previously dubbed “America’s Dad”, has recently been sentenced for three to 10 years and “total confinement”. The 81-year-old comedian was found guilty of three counts of sexual assault, drugging and molesting Andrea Constand at his Philadelphia home in 2004.

The fall of such a powerful media figure began when prosecutors re-opened Constand’s case, after more than 60 other women came forward against Cosby. Her allegation against the man whom she thought was her “mentor and friend” was the only case that occurred within the statute of limitations.

“Bill Cosby took my beautiful, healthy young spirit and crushed it. He robbed me of my health and vitality, my open nature and my trust in myself and others,” she wrote in her statement.

Cosby may have declined the opportunity to speak before his sentencing, but the voices of many brave women haunt the aftermaths of the trial.

Actress, Lili Bernard said: “On the one hand I feel absolutely elated that justice was served. On the other hand, I also feel disappointed, because clearly the three-year minimum sentence does not adequately reflect the havoc this man, this rapist, has inflicted on so many women, including myself.”

“It does indicate there is now a shift in the legal system that is now going to reflect modern culture, and that now women’s voices are being believed and women’s lives are being valued,” she continued.

Janice Baker-Kinney, who also testified against Cosby, thanked him directly in a statement: “Your arrogance sparked a movement that has grown to thousands of women taking back their self-esteem and proudly standing up for what is morally right.”

Such an inspiring outlook on equality has been helped by Cosby being the first celebrity of the #MeToo movement to be sent to prison. Following the sexual misconduct allegations made against Harvey Weinstein, men and women everywhere are encouraging each other to speak out against sexual assault and domineering ideologies with the hash tag, #MeToo.

“The #MeToo movement has shown that we are at a turning point on certain issues. While many of our elected officials are yet to catch up, the public has become more comfortable with talking accurately about sexual harassment,” says Camonghne Felix, Senior Communications Manager at the Ms. Foundation for Women.

“However, not all women have benefitted from the #MeToo movement equally. The initial survivors who shared stories about their experiences were wealthier, white women, while women of color, LGBTQ and transwomen, undocumented women, and women in lower income work still face exceptional risks to their personal safety every day.

“They are the least likely to be protected and believed in the case of sexual harassment and we need to continue to fight until all women, everywhere, are respected.”

Cosby’s case comes at a time when Brett Kavanaugh is also facing accusations of sexual misconduct.

President Trump has publicly challenged the assertions against his Supreme Court nominee, questioning why they weren’t “immediately filed”.

In the era of #MeToo, thousands of social media users have responded with passionate fury to the president’s comments, recounting why it took them time to open up about their attacks.

College News asked Felix for her thoughts on the link between shame and trauma—an emotion that Andrea Constand openly described as “overwhelming”:

“We need to change the way that our country talks about sexual assault, and we need to change the messages that we send to girls and women about their value and their worth.

“Our country was founded on patriarchy, misogyny, and white supremacy, and cultural acceptance of these societal systems needs to change. For it is these issues that send a clear message to women and girls that they are to blame for what happens to them, and that men do not care about their pain, humiliation, and self-worth,” Felix said.

“We live in a highly patriarchal and misogynistic society—it’s what this country was founded in. Boys and men are applauded for their sexual activity, while girls and women are degraded for it. If a woman is sexually assaulted, often the first instinct is to ask what she was wearing, whether she had been drinking, or how she had been behaving.

“But it does not matter what she was wearing, or if she was drinking, or if she was flirting prior to a sexual assault. Period.

“Because of these expectations and these types of questions, it is difficult for women in our society not to internalize the events that may have happened to them and to blame themselves.

“Overcoming this way of thinking depends on listening to women and believing their experiences so that they are not inclined to blame themselves and feel shame for the abuses perpetrated against them.”

It does not matter what she was wearing, or if she was drinking, or if she was flirting prior to a sexual assault. Period.

And how can we continue to bring attention and justice to sex offenders? We asked.

“It is critical that we continue to listen to and believe women and their stories. Whether allegations of misconduct took place three days ago or three decades ago, whether it took place in a social setting or a place of work, it is important that we continue to listen to the stories of women and learn from their experiences.

“But we cannot count on women alone, and women shouldn’t have to share stories about their deep personal traumas in order for change to happen.

“We have to have honest conversations with boys and men about what it means to respect the girls and women around them. Men need to step up and do the hard work of teaching men around them to do, and act, better. Movements can’t grow without allies, and we need to ensure that men are just as active a part of the #MeToo movement as the brave women who have stepped up have been.”

Camonghne is a member of the nation’s oldest women’s foundation, that works to build women’s collective power in the US and advance equity and justice.

“We provide financial and capacity-building investments to grassroots, women-led organizations, that are making meaningful social, cultural, and economic change in the lives of women.

“Only 2 percent of fundraising money goes to women and girls of color, and we believe that, by targeting these underserved groups, we can create better outcomes for all women.”

Felix’s passionate intellect made us eager to get involved.

“Visit our website, join our mailing list and learn more about our current grantee-partners in your community to get involved in issues that matter to women at the grassroots level.

“Keep an eye out for the next Young Professionals Advisory Committee (YPAC), which is currently planning upcoming events in which there will be plenty of opportunities to participate in and advocate for women!”

Bill Cosby may be in prison, but it’s clear that the fight isn’t over.

Find the Ms. Foundation for Women at forwomen.org

Further reading: Amy Schumer and Emily Ratajkowski Arrested During Kavanaugh Protest

Amy Schumer and Emily Ratajkowski Arrested During Kavanaugh Protest

Amy Schumer and Emily Ratajkowski Arrested During Kavanaugh Protest

Amy Schumer and Emily Ratajkowski joined thousands at the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill to protest the Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh. The actor and model were two familiar faces among the 300 people to be arrested during Thursday’s protests.

In video footage that has been circulating on Twitter, Schumer, 37, can be seen interacting with the police.

“You want to be arrested?” an officer warns her.

Schumer replies: “Yes.”

An outspoken advocate for women’s rights and gun control, Schumer’s shirt read: “This today, then #ERA”.

Ratajkowski, 27, shared an image of herself with a banner on social media, stating that she had also been arrested at the protests.

“Today I was arrested protesting the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, a man who has been accused by multiple women of sexual assault. Men who hurt women can no longer be placed in positions of power.”

In the photo, Ratajkowski’s banner reads: “Respect female existence or expect our resistance”.

The Women’s March, a liberal organization that moved in opposition of President Donald Trump, was one of multiple activist groups tweeting from the protest.

It comes before The Senate’s crucial vote on whether to advance Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court on Friday. A week-long FBI investigation has concluded, following multiple allegations of sexual misconduct.

Banners from angry protestors read: “We believe Christine Ford”—the woman who has spoken out about being sexually assaulted by Kavanaugh at a party in 1982.

Donald Trump, on the other hand, has expressed support for Kavanaugh—who denied all allegations—recently angering some of his fellow Republicans by speaking against Ms Ford’s testimony.

“How did you get home? I don’t remember. How’d you get there? I don’t remember. Where is the place? I don’t remember. How many years ago was it? I don’t know,” the President mocked.

Republican, Jeff Flake, responded to the incident, saying: “There is no time and no place for remarks like that, but to discuss something this sensitive at a political rally is just not right.”

Kavanaugh’s appointment to the US Supreme Court would put it in favour of conservatives for years to come.

Further reading: Why We Should All Channel Our Inner Serena Williams

Trump's America

Trump’s America: The Story So Far

His presidency has been without doubt one of the most bizarre and erratic in America’s 241-year history—whether you love or loathe him, Trump is here to stay.

Donald J Trump, self-styled ‘stable genius’ and billionaire businessman, hardly sleeps, loves cable TV’s Fox & Friends, lives in perpetual campaign mode, dines on the finest American fast-food and uses Twitter as the strangest form of diplomacy. He also thrives on controversy, relentlessly seeking out his next target—be it the ‘fake news’ media or his Democratic foes.

College News takes a look at Trump’s America, his administration so far and the legacy it’s likely to leave.

A nation divided?

For his supporters, president Trump is the best thing to happen to the USA for years. He is the standard-bearer of American business, he stands up for the nation and champions the “America first” mantra. Indeed, support from his loyal base is staunch; thousands turn up to his rallies, worshipping their idol with pseudo-religious enthusiasm.

But millions of Americans regard Trump with dismay. For them, he is a divisive figurean egotist who stokes tensions over race, the media and the environment. His approval ratings are low—they linger at around 40 percent, according to Gallupyet if Trump has taught us anything, it’s that he repeatedly defies the pollsters and disproves the naysayers.

In an administration plagued by allegations of Russian collusion, accusations of racism and serial sacking of senior staff, Trump seems invincible. What’s more, the divisions he instils serve only to make him more defiant and eager to remain in power.

The predictability of Trump’s unpredictability

One thing is certain. The most predictable thing about Trump is his unpredictability—making it nigh on impossible for political commentators to foresee his next move. From his inauguration to his state of the nation address, Trump’s tone has fluctuated. He now seems more conciliatory, offering something of an olive branch to the Democrats, though this could change at any time, as appeasement certainly isn’t his style.

What we will see of the president over the next years is anyone’s guess. All we can do is sit back and enjoy the show—because that’s what Trump does best: he entertains. (Though some may question the sustainability of an entertainer at the political helm of the free world.)

A businessman in the White House

Trump is not a politician. Rather, he is a ruthless businessman who will stop at nothing to get the job done. As such, his cutthroat approach to business has permeated the White House, with the hiring and firing of senior staff as commonplace as his scolding of the mainstream media.

Perhaps this is what the American political system needs: someone who takes no prisoners to push an agenda through. Trump has signed 33 percent more executive orders than Obama in his first year. Which is awkward, given he criticised Obama on at least six occasions for making them. In January 2016, he said: “We have a president who can’t get things done so he keeps signing executive orders all over the place.” Nonetheless, you can’t deny Trump’s got guts; and this appeals to his unswerving devotees. They love the fact that, finally, someone is strong for America, asserting the country’s place on the capricious world stage.

The ‘Trump Bump’

Much has been made of the so-called Trump Bumpthe positive the effect the president has supposedly had on the U.S. economy since his election in 2016. However, the real question is how much of this positive sentiment can be rightly attributed to the policy plans of the new administration?

Since Trump’s election, the S&P 500 is up 20.4 percent. Only George H.W. Bush (23.7 percent), Lyndon Johnson (22.4 percent), John F Kennedy (24 percent) and Franklin D Roosevelt (23.8 percent) have beaten Trump. Yet, we must be careful not to take this arbitrary yardstick as gospel. Indeed, there are warning signs markets may be in imminent decline. The alleged ‘Trump Bump’, it seems, may well be short lived.

Race

The successor of Obama, America’s first ever black commander-in-chief, has proved to be one of the most contentious figures in U.S. history and, more often than not, race is at the center of the controversy.

From his refusal to condemn white supremacists after a march in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a civil rights activist was killed, to which he said: “I think there is blame on both sides”, to the condemnation of American football players who “take the knee” during the national anthem to make a statement against racial injustice, Trump has done little to heal America’s endemic during social malaise around race.

The majority of Americans (60 percent) say Trump’s election has led to worse race relations in the U.S., while just eight percent say it has led to better relations, according to a national survey by Pew Research Center.

If African American turnout at the next general election is high, the Republicans could pay the price.

Russia

Trump’s first year in office has been dogged by charges of collusion between his election campaign and Russia. The steady drip of revelations may hit fever pitch in 2018, with Robert Mueller’s appointment last May threatening to bring matters to a climax.

Should Mueller accuse Trump of collusion, there will be calls for impeachment, but Republicans on Capitol Hill are unlikely to heed them. Meanwhile the world waits for Trump to utter anything vaguely critical about Russian president, Vladimir Putin.

Trump’s legacy

While most people have vehement feelings about Trump, a few inevitably haven’t made up their minds, preferring to let the results of his administration speak for themselves. Regardless of your opinion, Trump will go down in history as one of the most colourful, yet deeply notorious, presidents of all time. He is the product of an era of political populism and has ridden the wave spectacularly well.

Trump—a deft maneuverer—may not be a bona fide politician, but he has read and played America’s political pulse with enviable skill. For this, he will always be remembered.

Further reading: Donald Trump’s First Days as President

School Shootings

When Will Horrific Scourge of School Shootings in America End?

We’re hardly two full months into 2018 and there have already been 18 school shootings—that’s roughly double the amount of the same time last year.

College News asks: when, if ever, will the horrific scourge of school shootings in America end?

Yesterday’s traumatic images from Parkland, Florida, are igniting once more the divisive debate of U.S. gun control.

Since 2013, there have been almost 300 school shootings in America—an average of about one a week, according to Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control advocacy organisation.

While these figures may be shocking, the right to bear arms is enshrined in the American constitution.

For many Americans, tightening up on gun laws won’t change anything.

They’d ask: what would stricter gun laws do to stop mentally unwell people from committing heinous acts?

In fact, a recent study, published in the Harvard  of Law & Public Policy, concluded nations with strict gun laws had higher murder rates than those who did not in general.

“For instance, Denmark has roughly half the gun ownership rate of Norway, but a 50 percent higher murder rate, while Russia has only one‐ninth Norway’s gun ownership rate but a murder rate 2500 percent higher.

“There is not insubstantial evidence that in the United States widespread gun availability has helped reduce murder and other violent crime rates,” the study said.

Still, this doesn’t hide the fact gun violence in the United States results in thousands of deaths and injuries annually; or that several of the deadliest shootings in modern U.S. history have taken place in schools.

In 2007, 32 victims were killed at Virginia Tech. The 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre left 26 dead.

Wednesday’s mass shooting at Majory Stoneman Douglas is the deadliest since Sandy Hook.

Michael Irwin, a parent whose son attended the school, told the Guardian newspaper: “All the regulation in the world wouldn’t have prevented necessarily what happened today. It’s something that’s tragic, but what regulation can you pass that takes away the guns already out there?”

John Crescitelli, a family doctor and parent whose 15-year-old child was caught up in the shooting, said: “These school shootings have to stop. This is crazy. My son’s football coach died. It’s horrible. It’s like Columbine across the street from my house.”

 Sarah Tofte, director of research and implementation at Everytown, told CNBC: “We really do deserve to live in a place where children are free from gun violence in their homes, schools and communities.”

She added: “When you look at all the ways children are impacted by gun violence, you realize what a tremendous problem we have as a country.”

President Trump is a strong advocate of every American’s right to bear arms.

So where does this leave the nation? Will these school shootings ever stop?

Share your views with us.

Further reading: Do Millennials Trust Trump with Gun Control?

Trump Lifts Import Ban on Elephant Trophies

Trump Lifts Import Ban on Elephant Trophies

Donald Trump is to lift the import ban on African elephant trophies into the US, overturning regulations previously made by the Obama-administration.

The new administration has reversed regulations made in 2014 which forbid big game hunters to bring elephant body parts—or “trophies”—back to the US from Zimbabwe or Zambia. The Obama-administration found that hunting did not “enhance the survival of the African elephant in the wild.”

A new statement released by the US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) November 16 stated: “The US Fish & Wildlife Service will begin issuing permits to allow the import of sport-hunted trophies from elephants hunted in Zimbabwe.” The statement advocated the sport saying, “Legal, well-regulated sport hunting as part of a sound management program can benefit the conservation of certain species by providing incentives to local communities to conserve the species and by putting much-needed revenue back into conservation.”

The elephant has been listed as a “threatened species” since 1978 under the Endangered Species Act.  Much of Africa’s megafauna is rapidly declining as a result of poaching.

This decision to lift the ban on elephant trophies has been championed by the National Rifle Association (NRA). Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, said that the decision supported “sound scientific wildlife management and regulated hunting.” Conservation groups fear that lobbying by these kinds of organisations will have a detrimental effect on big game species in the wild.

The chief executive of the Humane Society, Wayne Pacelle, condemned the “reprehensible” plans to lift the import ban on elephant trophies. “Let’s be clear: elephants are on the list of threatened species; the global community had rallied to stem the ivory trade; and now, the US government is giving American trophy hunters the green light to kill them.”

President Trump’s sons faced backlash in 2012 when they published photos on social media with game they had just hunted. Donald Trump Jr posted an image of himself next to a deceased elephant, holding up its severed tail.

Trump told TMZ in 2012, “My sons love hunting. They’re hunters and they’ve become good at it… I am not a believer in hunting and I’m surprised they like it.”