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Trump’s administration should provoke people into taking action

I originally wrote this article for UNC Asheville’s student newspaper, The Blue Banner. It was published January 31, 2017. Digital scan of the issue unavailable.

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By Cody Jones, Opinion Staff Writer

Donald Trump is now the president of the US. For those who normally do not care about politics or are uninvolved, now is a good time to start, the next four years will give you a reason to care. With his cabinet taking shape, his appointees should be examined. Everyone — conservative, liberal or otherwise — will be adversely affected by this administration.

Up first is Jeff Sessions, selected to be US attorney general, the top law enforcement official. The US attorney general can change how civil rights laws are carried out, and considering Sessions’ history and the Republican makeup of most state legislatures, voters should be worried.

During his confirmation hearing after being nominated by Ronald Reagan for the role of a federal judge in 1986, he was accused of both making racist comments and referring to the NAACP and the ACLU as “un-American” and that they “forced civil rights down the throats of people.”

Gerry Hebert, at the time a trial attorney in the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, said Sessions had “prosecuted black citizens on phony charges of voter fraud” and he “supported discriminatory voter ID laws based on the myth of widespread voter fraud.”

A voter ID bill has already been introduced this year in Iowa; voting rights are swiftly being targeted in order to suppress voter turnout. It is expected to pass the Republican-controlled legislature and the Republican governor will likely sign it into law. In Arkansas, Republicans are pushing to reinstate voter ID laws found unconstitutional in 2014. The myth of widespread voter fraud is alive and well, and Republicans, including Jeff Sessions, will continue to capitalize on that myth. Trump recently repeated the lie that millions of votes were cast illegally in the last election and is now calling for a “major investigation.” This rhetoric is being used as a stepping stone to further consolidate their power through the erosion of voting rights.

Tom Price, a former physician who is anti-abortion and anti-Obamacare, has been selected to be secretary of Health and Human Services. Price received a rating of zero percent from both Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice. That rating, Planned Parenthood reports, means he is in “complete opposition” to their public policy positions regarding reproductive rights and sexual health issues. As one example, he supported legislation banning all abortions after 20 weeks. Abortions occurring after 20 weeks are often because of serious health problems threatening the life of the mother.

He wants to privatize Medicare — this would gore the program and ruin it for approximately 55 million people who rely on it. He supports a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act and has his own plan to replace it. Whether his plan will be used as the replacement is in question, but the Congressional Budget Office estimates about 22 million people will lose their insurance if there is a full repeal. The Urban Institute’s estimates are even higher at around 30 million. People will die if they lose their insurance and people will continue to die if the Affordable Care Act is not replaced by a similar or better plan. Republican proposals are not similar or better and universal health care is currently out of the question, so more deaths are inevitable.

Under the Affordable Care Act, birth control was made widely available to women who previously had difficulty getting it — or had no access at all — through their insurers. After Trump won the election, there were reports of women rushing to get IUDs and other forms of birth control out of fear they may not have access soon.

Those fears are not unfounded and people are rightly worried. Trump already signed an executive order to reimpose the so-called Mexico City policy which was originally announced by President Reagan in 1984; the policy prohibits funding foreign nongovernmental organizations that “perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning.” These NGOs provide health care for mothers and children, counseling, HIV testing and contraceptives among other services. NGO-run clinics in other countries will now be paralyzed or forced to close entirely. Again, people will suffer unnecessarily because of this decision. Similar attempts will be made — and are being made — domestically.

Scott Pruitt, a climate change denier who has received donations from the fossil fuel industry and defended the industry as Oklahoma’s attorney general, will now lead the Environmental Protection Agency.

In 2016, Pruitt wrote the debate regarding climate change is “far from settled” and scientists “continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind.” The debate is in fact settled and an overwhelming majority of scientists are in agreement it is caused by human activity.

Rex Tillerson, former CEO of ExxonMobil, is the pick for secretary of state. This role deals primarily with foreign policy and one particular issue of concern is climate change. As secretary of state, Tillerson has influence over the US’ role in environmental agreements meant to reduce carbon emissions, such as the 2016 Paris Agreement. ExxonMobil is currently under investigation after it was revealed the company spent decades ignoring its own scientists’ research showing fossil fuels’ contribution to climate change.

Tillerson’s proclivity to support and expand the fossil fuel industry while disregarding the risks of climate change will result in disaster. The prospect of addressing climate change with any meaningful action seems unlikely under Pruitt and Tillerson. To ignore climate change is to ignore an existential threat.

Everyone can and should find an issue to focus on in the coming years as the Trump administration and Congress begin to take action. Workers’ rights, the minimum wage, health care, public education, indigenous rights, women’s rights, voting rights, LGBT rights, drug policy reform, immigration, foreign policy, welfare programs, climate change and much more are all likely to be negatively impacted. There is plenty of cause for concern.

The next four years are going to require an acute attention to detail of what this administration does in conjunction with the Republican majorities across the country, and much more than simply paying attention, action must be taken at the local, state and federal levels. Whether it is voting, campaigning for candidates, organizing rallies, calling members of Congress, protesting, coordinating general strikes or donating to a preferred cause, there are countless methods to use and opportunities to push back.

The recent women’s march — one of the largest demonstrations in decades and perhaps the largest in American history by some estimates — should make it clear there is, and will continue to be, a great deal of pressure on this administration. That momentum must be multiplied, sustained and unrelenting if there is to be any hope of mitigating the damage to come.


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Election results trump student expectations

I originally wrote this article for UNC Asheville’s student newspaper, The Blue Banner. It was published November 15, 2016. Digital scan of the issue here.

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By Cody Jones, News Staff Writer

Now that the election results are in, some students at UNC Asheville grapple with the reality of President-elect Donald Trump.

“It’s shocking, I didn’t expect this at all,” said sophomore political science student Blake Hollar. “I don’t think anyone did. It’s like a bad dream.”

Ashley Moraguez, an assistant professor of political science at UNCA, said there are two ways to forecast presidential elections and most people only paid attention to the models predicting a win for Hillary Clinton.

Moraguez said some predictive models focus on what are called the fundamentals and some focus on public opinion polls. In this election the two models had different predictions: the fundamentals leaned toward Trump while the public opinion polls leaned toward Clinton.

The fundamental model relies on three main factors irrespective of who the candidates are. Those factors are incumbency, how long a specific party has controlled the White House and the health of the gross domestic product.

“If an incumbent is running, we typically think that they’re going to win a second term,” Moraguez said. “Another factor is the longer a specific party is in the White House, the less likely they are to keep it and the final factor is the GDP. If the GDP growth is low, it’s typically really bad for the party currently in the White House.”

Moraguez said these factors were not favorable to Clinton.

“So the low growth of the GDP, the length of Obama in the White House and that she’s not an incumbent, all of those things were working against her on the fundamentals.”

Moraguez said most people put their faith in the polling models and did not pay much attention to the fundamentals.

“The margins differed and the certainty we had in the polls differed but almost all of them were pointing toward a Hillary victory with fairly good certainty,” Moraguez said. “Political science is a little split on which to look at but I think the media was focusing on the polls.”

Hollar said he is worried about the policies Trump campaigned on.

“His immigration policy is scary even though it seems impossible to do, talking about deporting 11 million immigrants,” Hollar said. “I still think he’s going to try to do that on a smaller scale.”

Moraguez said many of Trump’s campaign promises, particularly his immigration policy, are not likely to come to fruition.

“Just from an economic standpoint, we don’t have the money to build a wall or deport 11 million immigrants,” Moraguez said. “I do think he might be able to crack down on immigration, but not to the extent he campaigned on.”

Moraguez said many of Trump’s policies would ultimately be determined by the Supreme Court.

“So it’ll be interesting to see who he ends up appointing or who he’s able to appoint and how they will decide certain cases,” Moraguez said. “It’ll be interesting to see what policies he decides to prioritize, the first 100 days of a transition tend to be where you have the biggest mandate.”

Kelsey Gaffigan, a junior sociology student, said she is concerned about what Trump’s election means for society in general.

“I’m really worried about what’s going to happen,” Gaffigan said. “I’m worried about what Trump getting elected says about America accepting rape culture and excusing those behaviors.”

Gaffigan said she has privileges that others may not and because of that she is worried about what a Trump presidency might mean for minorities.

“Latino and Latina immigrants, and they don’t even have to be immigrants because they’re going to be profiled anyway, I’m worried about LGBTQ brothers and sisters,” Gaffigan said.

Hollar said the North Carolina gubernatorial election result is also surprising.

Roy Cooper, the Democratic challenger to Gov. Pat McCrory, is ahead by roughly 5,000 votes. Counties will have a recount and the final result is expected be announced on Friday.

“Cooper probably won’t be able to veto any of their legislation if he wins,” Hollar said. “It’s better that we’ll have a Democratic governor but he probably won’t get much done.”

Republicans maintained their supermajority in the North Carolina House and Senate. A supermajority means the legislature has the numbers to override any veto by the governor.

Gaffigan said she hopes Cooper could bring about some change as governor.

“Assuming the recount is the same as the original count, I’ll be really happy,” Gaffigan said. “Hopefully, that means more financing for education and maybe an overturn of HB2.”

Gaffigan said a Republican-controlled Congress and White House means they will be able to pass almost anything they want.

“They really have a lot of political power right now,” Gaffigan said. “They can kind of get whatever they want passed. That’s why Obama has been struggling with getting anything accomplished.”

Junior art history student Margaret Dillon said she is concerned about the concentration of Republican power.

“That is probably scarier to me than Trump winning the presidency,” Dillon said. “We have a system of checks and balances and it could potentially fail now.”

Moraguez said both chambers of Congress and Trump will have to work together and determine their priorities since the Republican Party is not entirely unified with Trump.

“He’s not really a uniting figure within his party, so I think they’re going to have to really have a heart-to-heart and talk about what the party is going to accomplish as a unit,” Moraguez said. “I think Trump is going to have to fall in line with what his party in Congress wants in some of these issues, so he’s going to bend toward the median of the Republican Party to some extent.”

Hollar said the Affordable Care Act is in trouble.

“I think Obamacare is not going to exist anymore,” Hollar said. “Trump is talking about replacing it with something else, but I’m not exactly sure what that would look like. I feel like he can’t just get rid of it at this point. You’re going to have to replace it with something.”

Moraguez said she believes the Affordable Care Act will likely be repealed.

“I do think that one of the things they agree on is that Obamacare isn’t working,” Moraguez said. “But Trump and his party don’t necessarily agree on what to do instead of Obamacare, so that’s going to be an interesting conversation to watch but it does seem like it might be in trouble.”

Sophomore mathematics student Carey Dunn said she is glad Trump won.

“I think Trump will protect our country more than Hillary would have,” Dunn said. “I think that with the globalized world that we have, we need to put in more protection for us as a country and I didn’t think Hillary was going to do that.”

Dunn said she believes Trump is an outsider who will be able to improve the economy and keep the U.S. out of potential wars.

“I think we’ve been in debt for way too long and with Trump being a businessman, I hope he might be able to get us out of that,” Dunn said. “We should not be as involved in as many wars as we can. I think we should go back to a more isolationist perspective as is possible in this political world.”

Moraguez said Trump is the truest outsider the White House has seen since Herbert Hoover.

“This election was very much an anti-establishment impulse. People thought that political insiders weren’t serving their interests and Trump was a breath of fresh air to a lot of voters,” Moraguez said. “I think for some voters, having an inexperienced president is worrisome and for some it might mean meaningful change.”

Dunn said she aligns more with the Libertarian Party but could not vote for Gary Johnson since she does not believe third-party voting makes a difference.

Dillon said she is trying to be more optimistic about the future.

“I’m just trying to be positive,” Dillon said. “I don’t necessarily think it’s the end of the world. I think a lot of people are behaving like it is and that can be very detrimental.”

Moraguez said she encourages those who are worried to have the same optimism as Dillon.

“I know that on this campus in particular the students seem to be very upset, but I would advise people to have faith in the system,” Moraguez said. “A president is not a dictator. If you’re not a Trump supporter it does not mean that our democracy is changing and if you are a Trump supporter, he may not be able to enact everything that you want.”

Moraguez said people should look forward to the 2018 midterm elections. She said dissatisfied voters can change the makeup of Congress then.

“Realize that the dynamics will shift, this is how American politics go,” Moraguez said. “Politics don’t end after a presidential election. There are still local elections that happen all the time and if you’re happy or angry with the results, you should get involved in politics.”


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Students lay out issues the next president should address

I originally wrote this article for UNC Asheville’s student newspaper, The Blue Banner. It was published November 8, 2016. Digital scan of the issue here.

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By Cody Jones, News Staff Writer

As the election draws to a close, UNC Asheville students discuss some of their hopes and expectations for the crucial issues they think the next administration needs to focus on.

Improving the health care system overall remains a priority for some.

“My mom is really sick and watching my parents go through trying to pay for everything has been really stressful for them,” said Caroline Boyd, senior psychology student from Charlotte. “Medical care is a big one for me.”

Boyd said she hopes the U.S. will one day enact universal health care, but for the time being the Affordable Care Act should be improved.

“I think the Affordable Care Act has some good things, but I think we should build on what we have and improve the parts that aren’t working,” Boyd said.

Ethan Wright, a senior atmospheric science student from Newton, agrees with Boyd.

“Now that premiums have recently gone up for people I would like to see some of those issues worked on, but not a complete repeal of Obamacare,” Wright said. “The system is broken and I want to see it fixed, but I want to see it better off for low-income and middle-income families.”

Wright said environmental issues such as climate change need to be addressed soon.

“I think Clinton is for a carbon tax, which I would actually agree with. I compare it to taking out your trash,” Wright said. “We have to start from somewhere and it can’t be done if there are no controls over what we put out. I’m very much against taxing people, but I think you have to pick and choose which issues are alright to tax people for.”

According to the platform on her campaign’s website, Hillary Clinton does not seem to be pushing for a carbon tax.  Discussion of a carbon tax was largely avoided by Clinton during the primaries when then-challenger Sen. Bernie Sanders brought up the issue.

Wright, who said he is fiscally conservative and socially liberal, is also concerned about the national debt.

“Neither one of the politicians have pointed too much to our national debt which is nearly $20 trillion,” Wright said. “I would like to see a plan to reduce that debt. Financial security to me is national security.”

Astrid Tarleton, a sophomore chemistry student from Atlanta, said racial issues have become more prominent during this election and she hopes the next president will work toward meaningful solutions.

“There’s this underlying white supremacy that’s been around since our country was founded,” Tarleton said. “We’ve mostly only had white men in office, so no one is really representing the working class or minorities. I think a lot of people are afraid to address that issue.”

Isabella Jackson, a sophomore women, gender and sexuality studies student from Savannah, said racial problems in the U.S. will not be solved without profound changes.

“Prison and police reform needs to be a total, radical change. The whole history of the current system is based on ideas that certain populations are criminal,” Jackson said. “We’ve painted these false narratives of criminality being inherent in certain categories of people and I think we just need to completely get away from that.”

Jackson said people should only be imprisoned for violent crimes and their time in jail should be for rehabilitation.

“Crimes like theft should not result in the caging of people because the majority of things have to do with economic access and opportunity,” Jackson said. “But we definitely have way too many people in prison and way too many police with weapons on the streets. We’re going to have to radically change that if we ever want a real democracy.”

The incarceration rate in the U.S. is higher than any other country. According to the Prison Policy Initiative, there are more than 2.3 million people in 1,719 state prisons, 102 federal prisons, 942 juvenile correctional facilities, 3,283 local jails and 79 Indian Country jails. There are also people incarcerated in military prisons, immigration detention facilities and prisons in the U.S. territories.

The incarceration rate of the U.S. is 693 people per 100,000. Turkmenistan has the second highest rate of 583 people per 100,000.

Jackson said the focus on police shootings of unarmed black men and women within the past couple of years allowed people to better understand the experience of black Americans.

“Technology and social media is starting to let white people into that reality,” Jackson said. “I grew up as a white child in a family of seven and all of my siblings were black and biracial in south Georgia. I’ve always known police kill people who look like my family so I’ve never trusted the police and I think that’s a very common sentiment in the black community.”

Kailey Schmidt, a sophomore environmental science student from Maine, grew up in a different environment. She said she became more aware due to the increased visibility of the problems.

“Especially for where I’m from, growing up I was taught that racism isn’t really a thing anymore and that it’s of the past,” Schmidt said. “But in the last few years it’s becoming more of a prominent issue. Hopefully we’ll take a step in the right direction.”

Mae Hoffman, a sophomore psychology student, said the drug policy in the U.S. predominantly affects black men and she hopes the policy eases during the next administration.

“Our drug policy is ridiculous, especially with marijuana, since it’s a minor thing and it isn’t really dangerous,” Hoffman said. “And it’s targeted toward the black male community, white males are usually let off for those kind of charges.”

According to an analysis by the American Civil Liberties Union, black people are 3.73 times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana despite approximately equal usage rates.

Hoffman contrasted the punishment given to nonviolent drug offenders and convicted rapists.

“Smoking or using marijuana is a minor thing that people do for fun and people are going to jail for it, but rapists and abusers are getting off scot-free.”

Hoffman said access to education and health care needs to be quickly addressed as well. She said people sometimes take extreme measures in order to pay for their education and health care.

“It’s so expensive that young girls are putting their lives at risk by prostituting themselves, doing porn, stripping and things like that,” Hoffman said. “It’s fine if you want to do that, there’s nothing wrong with it, but there are a lot of women who are doing that just so they can pay for it, which is ridiculous.”

Hoffman said she has known people who had to resort to illegal activity in order to receive medical supplies.

“Bernie Sanders has been posting a lot on social media about insulin and the EpiPen and how expensive it is for people to get basic things that they need to survive,” Hoffman said. “I used to date a guy who was diabetic. I remember him not being able to afford his insulin and his mom had to do some illegal things to get money to afford his insulin just so he wouldn’t die.”


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Trump’s final debate performance disturbs students

I originally wrote this article for UNC Asheville’s student newspaper, The Blue Banner. It was published November 1, 2016. Digital scan of the issue here.

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By Cody Jones, News Staff Writer

After the final presidential debate, some students expressed concerns about Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s rhetoric regarding women’s rights and the election results.

“One of the things that stood out to me is Trump’s stance on women’s rights, not just abortion but frankly our existence in general,” said junior biology student Shannon Bodeau. “That’s something that has made me feel personally at risk.”

During the debate, moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump about his position on abortion.

“Well, I think it’s terrible,” Trump said. “If you go with what Hillary is saying, in the ninth month, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby.”

Melody Hager, a sophomore psychology student, said Trump uses fear-mongering to mislead his supporters regarding late-term abortions.

“First of all, that’s called a C-section,” Hager said. “And late-term abortions are for families who have chosen names and have cribs. They’re wanted pregnancies. No one spends thousands of dollars to do something like that, so it’s demonizing to women who are getting necessary procedures that are life-saving.”

Bodeau said many politicians are anti-science and they ultimately mislead the public.

“One thing that has frustrated me, not just with Donald Trump, but with a lot of more right-wing candidates and other politicians is the lack of adherence to science,” Bodeau said. “As a biologist, it always rubs me the wrong way to hear people spew nonsense about abortion.”

Abigail Stephens, a junior history student, said she was troubled by Trump’s comment as well.

“I thought that the incorrect and graphic way Trump talked about abortions was extremely inappropriate,” Stephens said. “He used to call himself pro-choice and now calls himself pro-life, and that seems to be an issue where he’s actually changed his views to be more like his base.”

Another moment from the debate receiving a lot of attention was Trump’s suggestion that he may not concede.

After repeatedly telling his supporters at rallies the election is rigged against him, Trump was asked by Chris Wallace if he will accept the result of the election if he loses.

“I will look at it at the time,” Trump said.

The day after the debate at a rally in Ohio, Trump said he will accept the election results — if he wins.

“He’s treating the election like it’s a reality show,” Stephens said. “He thinks he’s going to get better results if he keeps people in suspense.”

Hager said she likens Trump to a child.

“It’s like when you take a toy away from a toddler. He’s a man-child and I think that simply because he has no decorum,” Hager said.

Bodeau said Trump’s recent comments regarding the election process are undemocratic.

“It’s absurd,” Bodeau said. “That’s basically him saying he’s going to refuse to acknowledge something that I think is foundational to how this country works.”

Bodeau said she worries the combination of Trump’s accusations of a rigged election and his potential refusal to concede could lead to violence at the polls.

“I think it creates a dangerous environment,” Bodeau said. “Basing so much of a platform on racism and sexism feels like it has already created a dangerous environment, but then you add on top of that these things he keeps saying. What I’ve been telling people is to vote early because that way there aren’t going to be people at the polls trying to make it harder.”

Hager said she does not think Trump’s rhetoric will result in violence, but it does create tension.

“It’s frustrating to have a presidential candidate saying things like that so much,” Hager said. “I don’t foresee any violence taking place, but if that does happen, it would more than likely be incited by Trump supporters just because of the atmosphere he has created.”

Alex Day, a sophomore environmental studies student, said Trump’s comments contain racist undertones.

“It’s creating a dangerous mindset in his supporters,” Day said. “It could lead to hate toward other people at the polls. The more people agree with him, the more people will think it’s okay to be vocal about those things.”


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Students respond to Trump’s graphic comments

I originally wrote this article for UNC Asheville’s student newspaper, The Blue Banner. It was published October 18, 2016. Digital scan of the issue here.

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By Cody Jones, News Staff Writer

After the release of sexually explicit comments made by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in 2005, junior sociology student Roan Farb said Trump should be disqualified from the presidential race.

“With the amount of people feeling unsafe after hearing that, I just don’t think it’s at all right that he is still being allowed to run,” Farb said.

On Oct. 7, The Washington Post published a 2005 conversation in which Donald Trump bragged about kissing, groping and attempting to have sex with women.

“I moved on her and I failed. I’ll admit it,” Trump said in the recording. “I did try and fuck her. She was married.”

“I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait,” Trump said. “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”

“Grab them by the pussy,” Trump said. “You can do anything.”

Grey LaJoie, a senior creative writing student, said the backlash Trump received seems to suggest he is losing any lead he had against Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

“But what’s interesting to me about that public response, is that now I know how many people weren’t paying attention to him because that’s just so standard,” LaJoie said. “When I saw that tape, I wasn’t shocked. It was totally what I had come to expect from Trump, so I’m glad that the tape surfaced.”

However, LaJoie said he is shocked this recording is what finally resulted in an overwhelming public outcry.

“He makes crazy statements almost every single day,” LaJoie said. “He says stuff that would force anybody else to resign.”

Since The Washington Post’s publication, multiple reports describing similar incidents have been released. Two women, Jessica Leeds and Rachel Crooks, told The New York Times they were sexually assaulted by Trump.

Cassandra Searles, who was a contestant in the 2013 Miss USA pageant, said Trump groped her and invited her to his hotel room. Trump owned the Miss USA pageant from 1996 to 2015.

Mindy McGillivray said she was groped by Trump 13 years ago at his Mar-a-Lago resort.

Republican politicians have expressed mixed reactions. Around 160 of the 331 Republican governors and members of Congress have condemned his comments, but they still endorse him and more than two dozen have said he should end his presidential bid entirely. Some withdrew their endorsements while others backpedalled their withdrawn endorsements by saying they will support him in order to keep the Republican Party united.

Farb said he does not understand how anyone can continue to endorse Trump.

“I think a lot of people currently in the Republican Party have eyes on them to see whether they’re going to make a move one way or another,” Farb said. “I would definitely abandon ship. Between that recording and so many other things he’s been caught saying recently, it’s just very socially irresponsible.”

LaJoie said some Republican politicians are looking out for themselves at this point.

“Most of those guys are probably trying to save their own tails, but some of them I think do have actual integrity and morals,” LaJoie said. “Especially the guys who have been denouncing him from the beginning, which makes me happy when I can see the humanity in the opposing side. That gives me some hope.”

According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll, one-in-five Republicans say Trump’s comments about women disqualify him from the presidency.

Farb found the poll result surprising.

“It’s shocking to know that 80 percent of Republicans do not find that as something he should be disqualified for,” Farb said. “If Obama had been caught saying that, he absolutely would not have been able to win the presidency.”

Jordan Bonner, a junior mechatronics student, said Trump’s comments cannot be disqualifying since there is nothing illegal about them.

“Unfortunately, his comments don’t violate any laws, just like what they say about Hillary technically doesn’t violate any laws,” Bonner said. “So there’s no legal action to pursue. I don’t condone his comments, but I don’t think there’s any legal basis there. He’s not painting himself in a good light at all.”

LaJoie said Trump’s presidential run has damaged the reputation of the Republican Party.

“It is sort of shattering this ideal that Republicans hold themselves to of being the moral party or the Christian party,” LaJoie said. “Trump is definitely ruining that for them.”


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First presidential debate sparks controversy

I originally wrote this article for UNC Asheville’s student newspaper, The Blue Banner. It was published October 4, 2016. Digital scan of the issue here.

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By Cody Jones, News Staff Writer

The first debate between presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton centered on three topics: “America’s prosperity,” “America’s direction” and “securing America.”

Many students at UNC Asheville are reluctant to support either candidate and Ashley Moraguez, an assistant professor of political science at UNCA, said this hesitancy among voters signals a larger political shift.

“I think on both sides this might be indicating something much bigger than this election,” Moraguez said. “We might have a party realignment happening in the next few party cycles. In political history, every 50 to 60 years, we have a new party alignment where the parties shift and their bases shift and this might be a signal that we have one coming.”

Moraguez said the amount of support Sen. Bernie Sanders received during the primaries may mean the Democratic Party has to move to the left in order to appeal to its base.

“I think Bernie was able to show a rift within the Democratic Party that we perhaps weren’t as cognizant about,” she said.

Moraguez said since the 1970s, political polarization of the parties continues to increase. She said political polarization is defined as parties becoming more ideologically distinct from one another and at the same time becoming more cohesive within the party.

“In this election we certainly have polarizing candidates. They’re very different from one another, but we don’t have that party cohesion,” Moraguez said. “The two parties aren’t rallying around Hillary and Trump in a cohesive or coherent way.”

Both candidates are struggling to gain the public’s approval.

“They are the least favorable presidential candidates we’ve had since 1964. Goldwater was the lowest historically speaking and Trump has fallen right below Goldwater’s rankings and Hillary is right above those rankings,” Moraguez said.

Beginning with the topic of prosperity, the candidates were asked about job creation and income inequality. Hillary Clinton said jobs in infrastructure, manufacturing, innovation and technology, renewable energy and small businesses were her focus. She also said the economy has to be made fairer by raising the national minimum wage and guaranteeing equal pay for women’s work.

“I want us to invest in you. I want us to invest in your future,” Clinton said.

Donald Trump said jobs in the U.S. are being lost to Mexico. To stop companies from leaving, Trump’s plan will reduce taxes from 35 percent to 15 percent for companies and businesses across the board. He said this would incentivize companies to come to the U.S. and expand.

“We have to renegotiate our trade deals and we have to stop these countries from stealing our companies and our jobs,” Trump said.

Abigail Stephens, a junior history student at UNCA, said Clinton’s debt-free college proposal means a lot to her.

“Student debt is important to me. I think that’s probably important to everyone who’s going to college at the moment,” said Stephens, hailing from Raleigh. “We’re all terrified about what our future is going to look like.”

Stephens said Trump’s job plan seems unreasonable.

“I didn’t think Trump’s responses on jobs going overseas were very coherent and I also know that his tax plan would be terrible for single mothers,” Stephens said.

An analysis by Lily Batchelder, former deputy director of President Obama’s National Economic Council, shows Trump’s tax plan would increase taxes for an estimated 7.8 million families with children. The analysis said these families “represent 20 percent of households with minor children and more than half of single parents.” The group includes about 25 million adults and 15 million children.

During the next segment on America’s direction, the moderator asked the candidates about “healing the divide” between race relations, given the context of police shootings of African-Americans.

Clinton said police officers require better training and should use force only when necessary. She also said trust needs to be restored between communities and the police.

Trump said the U.S. needs law and order.

“If we don’t have it, we’re not going to have a country,” Trump said. “And when I look at what’s going on in Charlotte, the city I love, the city where I have investments, when I look at what’s going on throughout various parts of our country, whether it’s … I can keep naming them all day long — we need law and order in our country.”

Lily Furniss, junior art student from the Chicago metropolitan area, said she was disappointed by the candidates’ answers.

“I was disappointed by their take on the police and justice reform,” Furniss said. “Clinton said everyone has some sort of implicit bias, not just the police, but I wish she went more in-depth with that because a lot of people think we’re in this post-racial society or they don’t think race is a factor. But that’s just not true at all.”

Moraguez said the lack of in-depth answers in these debates is by design.

“One thing to note about debates is that candidates really prepare for them. They have these memorized, five-second answers that they want to get out there,” Moraguez said. “So part of the reason it seems like they’re not answering the questions is because they’re taking any opportunity to get those practice statements in. Presidential debates tend to be light on policy in general.”

Continuing with the topic of race relations and the police, Trump said inner cities are dangerous for African-Americans and Hispanics.

“We have a situation where we have our inner cities, African-Americans, Hispanics are living in hell because it’s so dangerous,” Trump said. “You walk down the street, you get shot.”

Stephens said Trump tried to appeal to minority voters.

“There’s a disconnect because he’s saying, ‘Everything about your life is terrible, you’ve done nothing to improve it,’” Stephens said.

Furniss said Trump was trying to indulge specific audiences.

“I don’t even know why he’s trying to pander at this point,” Furniss said. “A big reason why Hillary won over Bernie Sanders is because she cleared the southern states with the African-American vote.”

For the final segment, “securing America,” cyber attacks and terrorism were discussed.

Clinton said cyber warfare will be one of the biggest challenges facing the next president and the U.S. has a greater capacity than countries that might try to steal information or damage infrastructure. She said she does not want to engage in a different kind of warfare but will defend the U.S.

Trump connected the threat of cyber attacks to terrorists using the internet.

“I think Secretary Clinton and myself would agree very much, when you look at what ISIS is doing with the internet, they’re beating us at our own game,” Trump said. “So we have to get very, very tough on cyber warfare.”

Clinton said part of her plan to defeat ISIS involves preventing members from using “the internet to radicalize, even direct people in our country and Europe and elsewhere.” She also said the U.S. has to increase military force against ISIS.

“We have to intensify our airstrikes against ISIS and eventually support our Arab and Kurdish partners to be able to take out ISIS in Raqqa, end their claim of being a caliphate,” Clinton said.

Furniss said she holds concerns about Clinton’s foreign policy.

“I think she’s going to basically continue what Obama’s been doing, the drone strikes in Yemen, for example,” Furniss said.

Drone strikes have been carried out by the U.S. in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Pakistan and Yemen. The program was expanded by President Obama leading to an increase in drone strikes.

Stephens said Clinton’s foreign policy worries her, too.

“I have issues with her foreign policy, especially with the use of drones and the fact that much of the time they don’t actually go after anybody who’s done anything,” Stephens said. “That’s a large part of the reason I’m hesitant about her.”

Moraguez said she is interested to see where the current political climate leads.

“This is a really interesting time to follow party politics and I think what’s happening is much bigger than 2016,” Moraguez said. “2020 is going to be a very interesting election cycle. I’m looking forward to it.”


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Presidential candidates’ lack of transparency worries students

I originally wrote this article for UNC Asheville’s student newspaper, The Blue Banner. It was published September 13, 2016. Digital scan of the issue here.

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By Cody Jones, News Staff Writer

UNC Asheville students expressed their concern about the lack of openness to the press from presidential nominees Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

“For both candidates to be closing off their media outlets, I think that’s worrying because without openness, it sort of takes away some of their credibility,” said Matthew Wilson, freshman new media student at UNCA.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump began last year to ban certain news organizations from covering his campaign rallies. Among those organizations that were banned are Univision, BuzzFeed, Politico, The Daily Beast, The Huffington Post and the Des Moines Register.

It has been 275 days since Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton last held a press conference as of Sept. 5. She has held numerous one-on-one interviews.

However, one-on-one interviews and press conferences have significant differences. In interviews, campaigns often control the topics covered, including the interviewer’s questions. Press conferences allow for unpredictability and a wider range of questions.

Mary Bolch, a junior creative writing student, said she does not trust either candidate.

“I think Trump is vying for and advertising this totalitarian kind of regime and that scares me because we’re supposed to be a democracy,” Bolch said. “So I think it’s really worrisome that he’s banned all of those from covering him. As far as Hillary goes, I also think she’s worrisome because in a presidential situation, you can’t control everything that’s going to happen.”

Bolch said presidential nominees should be open to the public.

“I think they should be willing to work with the people and the people’s expectations as far as giving information forth because we need to be informed and they should be willing to work with us on that,” Bolch said.

Blake Hollar, a sophomore political science student, said Clinton’s lack of press conferences indicates her untrustworthiness.

“I’m a pretty liberal guy, but as for Hillary Clinton, I don’t trust her. I think she’s very corrupt,” Hollar said. “The fact that she won’t give a press conference says something about her and how honest she is. If she didn’t have anything to hide, she would go ahead and give a press conference.”

Hollar said presidential candidates should be as transparent as possible.

On Sept. 2, Clinton’s lead press secretary Brian Fallon said if Clinton is elected, she will hold press conferences.

“I feel like she’s using that as an excuse because she doesn’t want people to know things that may or may not get her elected,” Hollar said. “If she’s not willing to do that until she’s president, it’s kind of saying she has something to hide.”

Throughout the election, each campaign has its own travelling press corps reporting on their respective candidate’s day-to-day activities. Trump’s press corps currently does not travel with him on the same plane.

The same was true of Clinton until Sept. 5, when her new campaign plane was unveiled and she began to travel with her press corps. This was also the same day she took questions from those reporters while on the plane, effectively ending her streak of 275 days without a press conference.

Trump appears to be easing his stance toward media access as well. His campaign said on Sept. 7 that it will begin approving requests for press credentials from the news organizations he previously banned from covering his rallies.

Wilson said the press ultimately works to inform the public.

“I think the role of the media and the press is to give the general public information that we otherwise wouldn’t have had,” Wilson said.

Bolch said the media is skewed and it should be unbiased in its coverage.

“I think and unfortunately, I think it’s been skewed in this country, that the press is supposed to bring information from government and politics to the people,” Bolch said. “Ideally, for me, it would be unbiased and forthcoming. Donald Trump is right about that, I don’t want to give him credence for anything, but he’s right that the media is skewed. Not what he’s saying it’s skewed for, but it’s a business more than anything.”

Hollar said the press is responsible for holding people accountable.

“The role of the press is to inform the public and to hold people accountable for things they do,” Hollar said. “If we didn’t have the press, you could get away with anything because no one would know about it.”