USA 2020 Elections The World

The ‘Blue Wall’ Crumbled in 2016; Here’s How it’s Holding in 2020

The Blue Wall includes 18 states that consistently vote Democratic for presidential elections. In 2016 this wall crumbled – states that have voted democrat for years flipped for President Trump. This is how the Blue Wall states are voting in 2020.

The Blue States That Flipped Red in 2016


Maine is currently too close to call but the state is leaning Biden. As of 1 AM EST Trump is ahead in the northern congressional district. This is where the electoral vote in Maine went to Trump. Right now the Blue Wall is holding in the southern part of the state, with that regions 3 electoral votes.

Maine is the first state in the union to implement ranked-choice voting for a Presidential election. This is also the first year that Maine has used its ranked-choice voting system for e general election, though it proved successful for democratic candidates for the 2018 midterm elections. If no candidate reaches 50%, ranked-choice could heavily impact this election.


As of 2 AM EST Michigan is leaning red, and 64% of the votes in the state have been counted. Trump is up with 53.7% compared to Biden’s 44.7%.

Michigan had voted Democratic since 1992, but that changed in 2016. The state that had been considered solidly blue finally flipped. Political commentators blamed Hillary’s campaign strategy for this loss, but if Trump wins Michigan again it may show a solid break in the Blue Wall.


64% of in-person votes have been counted in Pennsylvania. And the state is leaning Trump with 56.9% of the vote, and Biden with 41.9%.

Pennsylvania is one of the states that is anticipated to not have finalized election results for days. This is because of the large absentee ballot voting numbers that could not be counted until the day of the election.


With 88% of the in-person votes have been counted in Wisconsin, Trump is leading. As of right now Trump has 51.2%, while Biden holds 47.3%. Wisconsin is a state that is not anticipated to count the absentee ballots for the suburbs of Chicago until 5 AM or later, so a decision on the state will likely not be made before mid-day on the 4th.

Hillary was criticized for not visiting Wisconsin once after the Democratic National Convention in 2016. This is another state that Clinton was blamed for the Blue Wall crumbling. If Trump wins this state again it could signal a political change in the region, rather than the failing of a single candidate.

The Blue Wall States that Have Been Called

  • California
  • Connecticut
  • DC
  • Deleware
    • Deleware voters also made history by electing the first openly trans congresswoman, Sarah McBride, to the statehouse. 
  • Illinois
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • Hawaii
    • Hawaii has been called blue by The AP, but no official data is available for 2020 votes.

Strap in for a Long Ride

The Blue Wall states will be nerve-wracking for both sides. These states are not going to have all their votes counted before the morning of the 4th, and some will not have results before the end of the week. As of now, this election is not firmly in the hands of either candidate, and all we can do is wait.

The Environment 2020 Elections Inequality

President Trump’s four year long war on science needs to come to an end

The past four years have been irreversibly affected by efforts from the Trump administration to limit the use of science in policy making. During this administration’s tenure all of the progressive climate reforms made by its predecessors have been reversed – the United States removed itself from The Paris Agreement and the wildfires raging across the West Coast have doubled in size causing the forced evacuations of more than 90,000 residents. To make matters worse, these fires show no sign of slowing down as increased emissions from heat-trapping gases have led to warmer and drier conditions in the area. The flames which have torn across the West Coast thus far in 2020 indicate the most active fire season on record. As the climate warms, the wildfires will continue to grow larger and more frequent. Still, President Trump denies the enormity of the threat presented by climate change. Our nation cannot afford another four years of his environmental inaction.

Both presidential debates last month included questions regarding climate change, prompting the candidates to speak on their plans to rectify the situation. But here’s the thing—there is no rectifying it. Global warming has worsened with every passing year since at least 1950. The only viable option left—apart from laying in the grave which has been dug for all living beings—is to try to slow down the progress of global warming and not allow the earth to become entirely unlivable for the future generations. Perhaps this is a classic case of too little, too late.

Since taking office President Trump has invalidated the well-known fact that carbon dioxide emissions are caused by human activities, labeling it “alarmist.” Instead, he has held onto the American coal industry as well as domestic oil production for dear life, therefore accelerating fossil fuel development. On the debate stage a few Thursday’s ago, the president proudly stuck up his faux green thumb and proclaimed that his fervent solution to save the environment is to plant more trees.

On the other hand, Joe Biden’s plan is only a little less ashy. His campaign promises a strict reduction of net carbon emissions through the creation of new energy-efficient homes and electric vehicle charging stations—but there is a big discrepancy. The former vice president cites support of the promotion of clean energy while simultaneously assuring voters that the jobs associated with natural gas production will remain secure. So, he must be lying to someone. A real transition from fossil fuels toward renewable energy will inevitably result in the elimination of the oil and coal industries. At the rate in which the world is warming, this elimination might need to come sooner than we’d expect, leaving millions of working class Americans out of work. But, at least it’s a step away from immediate and total destruction of the earth.

The hottest year ever recorded was in 2016, with 2019 coming in a close second place by less than one-tenth of a degree Fahrenheit. Right now, there is an increased urgency to implement real change because doom is impending. Whoever winds up in the Oval Office next must plan for the economic pitfalls that will come along with such a change—but nonetheless ensure that the change happens, and fast. That is why it is imperative that all U.S. citizens who are eligible to vote do so today. In more ways than one, we hold the fate of the world in the palms of our hands. 


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USA Editor's Picks 2020 Elections The World

How to effectively prepare for a stress-inducing election day

The 2020 Presidential election is now upon us, and many Americans are feeling the weight of what is possibly at stake for the next four years. Given such a highly anticipated, seemingly crucial, and perhaps downright confusing election, many could use some helpful tips on how to effectively prepare for tomorrow’s election. Some elements of concern for voters across the country include new voting procedures, potential misinformation from social media and other news outlets as well as worrying political division.

So, whether you’re wondering what the voting process looks like across the country due to the pandemic, how to constructively utilize social media or what are the best ways to unplug before bed on Tuesday- here’s how you can prepare yourself for tomorrow’s election: 

Learn the correct voting process for your state:

If you missed early voting, it’s important to learn the correct voting process for your state on election day. Understandably, given the unprecedented election rhetoric and processes from COVID-19, what voting looks like state to state may be a bit confusing. Some states are extending mail in votes, while others require in-person voting. Axios has provided a detailed article that illustrates when and how to vote in all 50 states. Click here to learn and understand how to vote in your state.

Know your voting procedures and stay in line

Before casting your ballot, you’ll be asked to present a form of acceptable identification and voter registration card. For voters 18 to 69, the presented identification cannot have expired more than 4 years ago. Voters 70 and older may use a form of acceptable photo identification that has expired if the identification is otherwise valid. While waiting in line, simply stay until you vote. 

Even if the polls close while you’re standing in line, you are still legally allowed to vote. A 2018 Mental Floss article states, “As long as you are in line at closing time, you have a legal right to vote. In fact, if someone does attempt to force you to leave, you are encouraged to call a voter protection hotline (such as 1-866-OUR-VOTE) or submit a complaint to the Department of Justice (1-800-253-3931).”

Be prepared to wait

Election days can see long lines with possibly hours long wait times. When going to vote, ideally, wear comfortable and warm clothes for standing outside, bring food to snack on and water to stay hydrated, and maybe even take headphones to listen to music or watch a couple episodes of your favorite show. Take whatever you need tomorrow to ensure you’re comfortable and able to withstand a long wait. Also, don’t forget to bring your mask!

Items to bring with you

As previously mentioned, it’s likely you may face long wait times on election day. To ensure efficiency and accuracy, bring the proper resources necessary to cast your vote. 

Most states require a photo ID, such as a driver’s license, military ID, or tribal ID, to vote. Other states allow people to use non-photo identification, like bank statements, to vote. Notably, your voter registration card is needed along with some form of identification. In cases when a voter cannot provide identification, there are two legal options. First being what is called a non-strict policy that lets people cast a ballot without further action from the voter or vote on a non-provisional ballot. Second being a strict policy that requires voting on a provisional ballot and takes additional steps after election day to ensure the vote is counted. For more information on voter identification laws and necessary materials to bring on election day, click here.

Use social media wisely:

On election days, social media can be great for reassurance, community, and much needed humor; however, social media sites can also be a cesspool of misinformation and baseless claims. A recently published Washington Post article advises people “not to jump to any conclusions before a race is called by an official outlet, no matter how it looks on a news or social media site’s official map.” Tomorrow, make sure to check your sources while on social media sites and resist the urge to jump to inaccurate conclusions. In addition, don’t share news unless you’re confident the information is accurate and legitimate. And, finally, don’t forget to take social media breaks!

Find ways to unplug:

Whatever the outcome in tomorrow’s election, many people can attest to having some mild or severe anxiety leading up to Tuesday. Additionally, because of mail in votes, it’s likely we won’t even know the outcome of the election for perhaps another week. With this in mind, find helpful ways to unplug and relax before going to bed on Tuesday, and be prepared to upkeep this routine for a few days. I suggest prioritizing sleep, maintaining social connections with others who are just as anxious as you, or doing a stress-reducing activity: hot bath or shower, read, late night walk or watch an episode of your favorite Netflix show. Ultimately, in addition to election results, your wellbeing matters too.

Lean on friends or family for emotional support:

Finding comfort in those close to you can be very helpful on election nights. There are even emotional support groups specifically for Tuesday on social media sites like Facebook. Try engaging with like-minded individuals, within your friend group or family, on election night for an outlet of humor, support, or comfort to help you get through what is likely going to be a long, stress-inducing election process.

 All things considered, allow yourself to feel any and all complicated emotions during this time. Tomorrow’s election is unprecedented and feels to be one of the most divided elections in American history

Regarding post election preparation, Katyi Christian sums it up perfectly in her article for The Good Trade stating, “The most important thing we can do post-election is to stay engaged and to hold our leaders accountable. Even if your party won or the votes went the way you hoped, it’s up to us to ensure that legislation is passed and promised policies are fulfilled. Election day is not the ending, it’s the beginning.”

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USA Editor's Picks 2020 Elections The World Inequality

In yet another attempt to undercut democracy, Trump suggests the US delay its election

Americans should be upset, but not surprised.

Recently President Trump tweeted his desire to postpone the 2020 United States Presidential election. That’s right – postpone entirely. According to his tweet, a universal mail-in election would lead to the most “INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT election in history” (his words, not mine), with high rates of voter fraud. Apparently, according to Trump, the best option would be to postpone the election, therefore also securing his place in office for an extended term. 

Just for some perspective, in Oregon over the past two decades, there have only been about a dozen of cases of voter fraud out of over 100 million mail in ballots. Some states have encountered delays in counting ballots, yes, but fraud has rarely, if ever been an issue. It is possible that there will be trouble processing requests for mail-in ballots, as well as the ballots themselves. Still, like all forms of voting, voter fraud is incredibly rare. It’s essentially a non-issue. Besides, Trump said in his Tweet that absentee voting was “good,” therefore, not fraudulent. Absentee ballots are essentially the same thing as mail-in ballots, the only difference is who can register for an absentee ballot. Where does he draw the line? 

Trump has also suggested that non-American citizens might also meddle in the election if we use mail-in ballots. It’s a rather bold statement from someone whose own election has been haunted by claims of foreign interference. Earlier this year, a bipartisan Senate intelligence committee concluded that there was deep and significant Russian interference in the 2016 election, for the purpose of installing Donald Trump as President. Trump denied the allegations of course. Still, Democrats and Republicans alike, as well as national security efforts, are fairly certain that Russia did interfere. So, Trump cannot complain about foreign interference when it is the very force that launched him into office. 

Let’s also consider the extreme circumstances around why an in-person election isn’t possible. The COVID-19 pandemic, which is currently ravaging the United States, has not come even close to ending and voting in person would be unsafe for many people across the country. Obviously, the extent of the pandemic here is partially the fault of the Trump administration, and the mentality it encourages, which has put remarkably few guidelines in place for a satisfactory pandemic response and has managed to defund a number of necessary medical programs.

It’s also important to note that while Trump has suggested postponing the election, he has been fighting to reopen schools and the economy. His erratic behavior makes it all the more clear that he doesn’t want to postpone the election out of safety. If this was the case, he’d want to postpone the school year or the economic reopening plan. So what’s his real motivation? 

This is a power grab. Plain and simple.

Trump is setting up this narrative so that he can lean on it in case he doesn’t win the election. If Biden wins, Trump can claim that it’s fraudulent or invalid and push to continue his tenure in office. This is especially clear when you consider that Trump has consistently claimed that his 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton, only won the popular vote with the help of 3 to 5 million illegal voters. Sure, it sounds far fetched to us, but his supporters eat it up and follow his every word without any consideration, citing ‘patriotism’. 

How can we respond to other countries having unfair elections with violence, and yet ignore attempts to do the same thing in our own country?

On another token, it’s also downright hypocritical to postpone the election. The Trump White House has recently criticized the year-long postponement of an election in Hong Kong. Not to mention that the United States has historically launched coups and regime change wars overseas against nations for having undemocratic elections. How can we respond to other countries having unfair elections with violence and ignore attempts to do the same thing in our own country?

We call ourselves the defender of democracy and use it as a guise to invade countries in Latin American and West Asia. In the same breath, we’ve also proven ourselves unable to protect our own people from a global pandemic. We even use violence against peaceful protestors calling for equal civil rights. And yet, we pride ourselves on maintaining an exemplary form of democracy. What, then, are we driven by? A desire for democracy, or a desire to protect our country’s monetary, capitalist interests? We are so swept up in the notion that we are the greatest country in the world that we never seek to examine how to make it better. 

So yes, we should acknowledge our fear and anger in this scary time. But we shouldn’t be surprised. This administration has consistently violated basic human rights which are guaranteed to all citizens. Not only have war crimes been committed against peaceful protestors without remorse, but immigrant families have been cruelly detained for years, and currently people are “disappearing” (being abducted) from the streets of Portland and New York City in unmarked vans. The fact that Trump has authoritarian, maybe even bordering on fascist, tendencies should surprise no one. 

Therefore, the move to postpone the election shouldn’t surprise us either. In fact,  the United States has a shaky, even dangerous, history with voting rights to begin with. We can’t forget that women and Black communities were systematically disenfranchised for centuries. For a chunk of time, only wealthy, landowning, white men had the right.

Voting has always been deeply connected to power in America. 

Here’s a helpful timeline. White women gained the right to vote nationwide in 1920. Black men technically gained the right to vote in 1870, but most black people were unable to vote for decades afterwards. Rigged literacy tests, poll taxes, and Grandfather clauses prevented the majority of Black American from voting. Most Black Americans were only able to vote after the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965. Native Americans could not vote at all until 1924, and only in 1947 did all Native Americans gain this valuable right. Asian Americans couldn’t vote until 1943. 

Voter suppression still exists to this day, in the form of gerrymandering, difficulty to access polling stations, and the mass exclusion of felons and the incarcerated. Such severe marginalization disproportionately affects people of color and low income people. The idea that the United States government would make it even more difficult for people to vote in 2020 is surely disappointing, but it would not be the first time.  

Still, we need to acknowledge the magnitude of Trump’s statements. Even if the United States has a history of this kind of suppression, his Tweet remains troubling. It is also worth mentioing that Trump can’t postpone the election, not without Congress’ approval, but his blatant disregard for our Checks and Balances is stunning. Although he can’t outright change the election, the fact that he even wants to is a red flag.

What Trump is doing is insidiously delegitimizing the entire institution of democracy, and suggesting that limitations on presidential power are not necessary. If he allows his narrative of fraudulent elections to continue, he could try to stay in office indefinitely. It’s not a stretch to call his attempts fascist, because even Republicans are doing so. This isn’t just a partisan political debate; Trump is showing disregard for the entire system of democracy. The election is only 3 months away, and yet Trump is trying to turn it on its head.

We also need to acknowledge that if he succeeds, there will be disastrous consequences. Let’s not forget what this election result means for our country. It’s a matter of life or death for immigrant families in detention centers. It will determine whether or not we can protect our environment for the future. The lives of Black Americans are at stake, the land of Native Americans is at stake, the wellbeing of protestors is at stake, and the dignity and safety of Muslim and Jewish Americans is at stake. There have always been terrible presidents in American history, but Trump is a blatant racist, an alleged sexual assaulter, a wannabe fascist, and an incompetent bully. This is not just another election year. This election means everything, and Trump knows it.

Do you want to take action? Here are some organizations to donate to:

The ACLU is one of the foremost organizations making legal challenges to voter suppression laws.

The Brennan Center is also a great organization fighting for voting reform, specifically focusing on new, progressive voting legislation.

Let America Vote is a Democratic-leaning PAC currently fighting against Trump’s attempts to postpone the election.

If you’re interested in learning about more groups opposing this measure, here is a letter from 50 political action groups and nonprofits opposing Trump’s comments.

2020 Elections Coronavirus Policy Inequality

Voting has become a privilege in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic

Despite major cities across the United States reopening, COVID-19 remains a huge health and safety risk. Not only is the pandemic expected to continue into the fall, but the virus is expected to return around the end of the year. In addition, 2020 is no ordinary year for American politics either. It’s a long-awaited election year.

With the general public growing more politically engaged, especially as outrage over tragic incidents of police brutality grows, people are recognizing the importance of voting to prevent dangerous individuals such as Trump from taking office.

As people risk their health for the sake of conducting their democratic rights, we need to reconsider our electoral process.

While several primaries had been delayed due to the risk of COVID-19 and the need to socially distance, other states, namely Wisconsin, decided to leave their primaries as they were.

During the primaries, which took place at the height of the pandemic, voting lines wrapped around several blocks, leaving voters in massive lines for hours. Immuno compromised and vulnerable individuals were suddenly forced to choose between voting and a potential health threat.

As people risk their health for the sake of conducting their democratic rights, we need to reconsider our electoral process.

Currently, the state of mail-in voting is not ideal, due to one main issue. Mail-in votes are rejected at much higher rates than in-person votes. This issue also happens to disproportionately affect first-time voters, voters of color, and voters of lower socio-economic backgrounds.

In California alone, one hundred thousand ballots were rejected for arriving late.

Trump and several other politicians have claimed that mail-in voting leads to more voter fraud, despite there being no proof for these claims. Of course, it’s always possible that first-time voters who aren’t educated about the process aren’t filling out the ballots properly. But this doesn’t explain why minorities (particularly Black people) are more likely to have their votes discounted.

At this point in time, access to mail-in ballots is a crucial element of our electoral process.

When we live in a country where so many people, from immigrants to convicted felons, are disenfranchised, we can’t allow voting rights to be taken away from so many others as well. Yet despite the problems with mail-in voting, the most disturbing issue is how voting has now become a partisan debate. When Wisconsin’s Democratic governor tried to postpone the state’s primary elections, it was the Republicans who pushed back and prevented the delay.

Now, we see the same partisan issues continuing. The general pattern appears to be Democratic politicians advocating for more access to mail-in voting while Republicans say no.

At this point in time, access to mail-in ballots is a crucial element of our electoral process. But that means that our officials need to be taking measures to prevent further disenfranchisement.

Rather than actively pushing for disenfranchisement like many politicians are so unabashedly doing, we need to be educating the voting public on how they can access mail-in ballots. We need to be making sure that millions of votes aren’t being excluded.

America has always prided itself on being the world’s most powerful democracy, but as soon as the fundamental right to vote is ripped away from millions, this country has no right to call itself a democracy. When we have politicians openly taking away the right to vote from millions of Americans, we find ourselves slipping deeper into authoritarianism.

There are two ways to view the pandemic’s effect on voting. We can see it as an obstacle to the democratic process. An issue preventing millions of people from safely voting and having their voices heard in this election. Or we can see it as an opportunity. A crucial chance for our country to emphasize its focus on the right to vote. Rather than dismissing the possibility of avoiding disenfranchisement, shouldn’t we be taking this opportunity as a chance to educate people about mail-in votes and the procedures they need to follow? Shouldn’t we be taking every precaution to ensure that each vote counts, as it should?

As the fundamental right to vote is ripped away from millions, this country has no right to call itself a democracy

Fortunately, efforts are being taken to work towards accessible voting. Given that COVID-19 shows no sign of slowing down, especially in huge electoral states such as Texas and Florida, we can expect our voting procedures to look drastically different this November.

In Texas, Democrats have filed a bid to allow all Texas voters to vote by mail in November. According to current Texas law, voters are permitted a mail-in ballot only if they are older than 65, cite a disability or illness, won’t be in the country during the election, or are in jail.

In South Carolina, voting rights advocates are attempting to expand mail-in voting, including efforts to remove a requirement that all mail-in ballots be notarized by a witness. Experts have claimed that this requirement does little but burden voters with unnecessary tasks. A similar requirement was struck down in Oklahoma but reinstated just days later under the guise of preventing fraudulent voting.

These are just a few examples of efforts, typically Democratic, to make mail-in voting more accessible in time for the general election. Many suits of similar goals are still in courts, and we can expect them to change our electoral procedures greatly. Even with harsh Republican pushback.

Voting is not meant to be a privilege, but a right. During this upcoming presidential election, it would serve our government well to keep that in mind.

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2020 Elections Politics The World

We cannot excuse Joe Biden’s behavior even if we hate Trump

Opposition towards the Trump administration has skyrocketed in the wake of continual Black Lives Matter demonstrations. Many, even Republicans, have called out Trump’s handling of the protests problematic, inadequate, and even opportunistic. He has routinely called on the military to intervene in peaceful protests, blatantly incited violence, and taken advantage of the political climate to take favorable photos. Just as anger against Trump grows, so does appreciation for Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden.

Recently, my social media feeds have been flooded with endorsements of Biden, often accompanied by images of him with protesters. I don’t mind this; I’ll be the first to admit that Trump proves himself more incompetent and bigoted each day. However, in our rush to disavow the Trumpian ideologies, we should be careful to embrace Joe Biden, and the Democratic party in general, as our savior.

For one, Biden still has sexual assault allegations against him that the Democratic machinery has conveniently swept under the rug. Tara Reade’s sexual assault accusations against Biden has not been met with the outrage it should have been. Reade’s accusations have been ignored for decades and we are continuing to dismiss her now.

In fact, at this point, it’s rare to see any articles or publications telling her story. Rather, Democrats have done their best to push it aside, make excuses, and maintain an idealistic image of Biden.

But we can’t pretend that Reade’s story is irrelevant, or an isolated incident. After all, let’s never forget that Biden voted to confirm Supreme Court Justice, Clarence Thomas in the wake of sexual assault accusations from Anita Hill.

Staffers of his have even come out and voiced their discomfort about the environment that Biden creates.

Biden’s reputation with sexual assault has always been problematic, whether it be allegations against him or his support of other harassers.

But, with this along with growing political tension between civilians and the police, one of the most important issues on people’s minds right now is police reform. Both of these misgivings unsurprisingly go hand in hand. It is all about the maintenance of power. Trump has made his stance clear in that he continues to support the status quo of police departments and tactics. Consequently, hate mounts against him each and every day as he attempts to justify the violence of the police.

However, I’m hesitant to say that Biden is the opposite of Trump in his policies.

For example, Biden recently said that police need to be trained to shoot people in the legs rather than in more fatal ways. Why not teach them not to shoot at all, while upholstering any surviving racist tactics or training? Essentially, to Biden, police reform doesn’t mean changing the culture of authority in this country, or ensuring accountability. It just means making sure officers only maim, not kill.

Biden has a slippery reputation with racism. During his time as Senator, Biden played a major role in the rise of mass incarceration. And he was proud of it. 

He worked with segregationists on criminal justice policies that pushed the country towards the racist and troubling policies of today. 

And recently, in an interview with Charlamagne Tha God, Biden stated that “if you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.” 

It’s clear that Biden is using the fact that he’s a Democrat to excuse all his behavior and continue to market himself as the best choice for Black people and other marginalized groups. But we can’t avoid holding him accountable anymore. 

I don’t write this article to discourage voting or democratic political engagement. Obviously, if you are able to, please do vote. It’s undeniable that in our society voting is the most powerful tool that citizens have. However, we must not forget that voting alone is not enough. We must also hold Biden accountable for his actions, too. The lesser of two evils logic might justify us voting for him, but it does not, in any way, excuse his behavior. That is reprehensible.

When we are too fast to assume Biden as a hero, we fail to hold him accountable. Often, when I mention Biden’s flaws to people and the importance of making him confront his problematic views, I’m told that highlighting his flaws will only ensure another Trump presidency. Here’s what I say.

Hold them both accountable for their actions. What’s stopping us from doing that? Democrats are always racing to highlight how dangerous, bigoted, and supremacist Trump is. Republicans are always quick to highlight Biden’s precarious reputation.

But accountability shouldn’t be a partisan issue. We shouldn’t be ignoring the narratives of Tara Reade and Anita Hill just because we want Biden to secure the presidency, the same way Republicans cannot keep ignoring the incompetence and bigotry that Trump continues to display, even more so now amid a harrowing pandemic and widespread calls for civil rights reform.

Whoever our next president is, don’t we want them to be conscious of their problematic views, apologetic of their past, and open to true change? Because, if we don’t force our politicians to claim responsibility to their actions, can we really expect our society to change?

Biden may be the best choice for America at this point, but that doesn’t mean we should be excusing his actions for the sake of partisan politics. Being a democrat does not equate to a shield from accountability for highly problematic and unruly behavior.

Movies Pop Culture

This is how the Academy REALLY chooses how to award Oscars

Getting to the Oscars is the dream of everyone who’s ever wished to work in entertainment,

It’s been almost three years since the Harvey Weinstein exposé (did you hear? He got a 23-year prison sentence!). When I was young, I always wanted to work in entertainment, and Miramax was the Holy Grail. Learning that this man who I revered so much abused his power in a myriad of ways was terrifying. So I did what I always did, I tried to make sense of it all. How exactly was this man able to hold an entire industry hostage for three decades? My search for answers led me to all ends of the internet.

Then in a stroke of luck (but really, intelligent algorithms), I found the Be Kind and Rewind Youtube channel. The very first video I came across was the titled ‘Harvey Weinstein and the Oscars.’ In this video essay, the Youtuber discussed how Harvey Weinstein refined the art of Oscars Campaigning. From finding out where Oscars voters vacation and setting up screens there to utilizing press relationships. All of these things induced a particular kind of anticipation for Miramax films. Miramax studios created ads specifically for high profile magazines like The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. Harvey Weinstein’s effect on the Academy Award process is apparent. What we often declare as ‘Oscars bait’ films, such as period dramas and inspirational movies, were perfected to garner wins by the Miramax Company.

This Youtube channel also discusses how an award isn’t necessarily a pronouncement of someone’s talent or quality of the film. An excellent example is Elizabeth Taylor’s Academy Award win for Butterfield 8. A film about a Manhattan call girl that is in a doomed affair with a married man. The narrative surrounding Elizabeth Taylor was closer to her winning the award rather than the film itself. Butterfield 8 isn’t a good movie. I could argue that’s a bad film. Elizabeth Taylor disparaged the film for the rest of her life. However, the image Elizabeth Taylor took on after filming the movie is what is of great importance.

During the filming of Cleopatra, she contracted pneumonia, which could have killed her. As Be Kind and Rewind is quick to point out, this coincided with the Academy Award voting period. One of the most bankable stars in the world had been on the brink of death. After years of snubs, Elizabeth Taylor got what she wanted: an Oscar.

Be Kind and Rewind focuses on the stars of old, not because of nostalgia. But because in our contemporary times we have somehow convinced ourselves that the machinations of film studios and actresses are a new phenomenon. There have always been ‘just due’ awards. Before Leonardo Dicaprio had to suffer for The Revenant, Geraldine Page suffered an entire career’s worth of Oscar losses. She finally won in 1986 for the film Life is Beautiful in the Best Actress category even though Whoopi Goldberg had a fantastic run that year. Life Is Beautiful was a good movie, but Geraldine was not being awarded for that film in particular; she was being awarded for a lifetime of excellent work.

Insights like these are essential because, as we look back at the best films of 2019, we often think about which films should be awarded in simplistic terms. But awards are never just about the film, the director or the cast and crew. They are a way to leverage the power and gain influence in the industry. They are a pronouncement on what a governing body thinks is valuable. That being said, it’s the audience that can ascribe life to art. After all, The Color Purple is still a beloved film.  

The Youtube channel Be Kind and Rewind also hits the apparent failings of these awards – consistently excluding women. Particularly women of color. The refusal to reward films that are challenging rather than safe ones and how these awards encourage a winner take all mindset.  The lack of attention and respect that foreign films get is another failure. Foreign language films are less likely to win awards in major categories, creating a bias against them. Truthfully, most winners we see kiss their statues are American and British actors and actresses. This is why Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite Oscar sweep was so satisfying to watch amongst so many people.

On some level, we all know that people in expensive gowns handing out awards is an exercise of vanity and navel-gazing. Yet we still enjoy it because we believe it’s a meritocracy when the truth is murkier than that. The relationship between the Oscars voters and Oscars winners is uncomfortably close. Through discovering this channel, I was able to understand the real importance of taking award seasons with a grain of salt.

Awards are a very narrow arbiter of excellence. And the real power of a film lies with those who watch it with no reservations or motives.

Sometimes, a statue is just that.

World News The World Life

I’m a dual citizen, does that give me the right to vote in both countries’ elections?

Now more than ever in the U.S., the importance of voting has taken center stage. This holds particularly true for younger populations, whose voter turnout has increased significantly between 2016 and 2018. From Rock the Vote to HeadCount, there are many campaigns urging millennials to cast a ballot. This is for good reason. Voting has a legitimate impact on the realities of voters and there are many cases where a few votes tip the balance.

During women’s suffrage, people died so that young women of color, like myself, could vote in the United States. With so much at stake, there is no good reason not to vote, or so I thought.

In January, my mother registered me to vote by mail in the Thailand election. I am a dual citizen of Thailand and the U.S. and being Thai has been and will always be essential to my identity. However, my knowledge of Thai politics is very limited as I’ve lived in the Chicagoland area for most of my life. I know that we have a King, Royal Family and Prime Minister. I  know the former Prime Minister was convicted of corruption and was exiled, but I had to Google the Thai style of government (it is a constitutional monarchy).

When it came to voting for the Thai government, as much as I wanted to proudly practice my civic duty and wear my imaginary “I voted!” sticker, I had a lot of doubts about it. Among them:

Do I have the right to vote?

When voting in the United States, I feel like I’m voting for my rights, for my friends, for my community and for my country. Having lived in the Midwest all my life, I have a sense of ownership and obligation to it. I do consider Thailand a home, but a second one. Arguably, politics have an impact regardless, but I had never felt the distinguished influence of Thailand’s government myself. As someone who grew up outside the country, I’m wasn’t sure if it was fair for me to vote. The truth is, I have little context on Thai politics and do not feel particularly passionate about it. I have a Thai name and passport, but does that equate to being a true citizen?

How does voting in Thailand even work?

I can write my name in Thai and read some one-syllable words. The actual process of voting seemed daunting. I knew my parents would guide me through it by translating when necessary. However, it’s unlikely I could build an IKEA table with instructions in Thai, so being a conscious and educated voter seemed like even more of a stretch.

Is the time spent trying to figure this out worth it?

I’m busy. My laundry list of complaints on being a young woman trying to balance her career, social life, mental and physical well-being is not the purpose of this article. But the point is, I’m trying to do a lot with a little bit of time, on consistently little sleep.

Honestly, it felt like there were more reasons not to vote than to vote. I voted anyway. Mainly because I knew my mom would give me grief if I didn’t. The effort required in that conversation seemed more demanding than taking time out to vote. I wish I could say I was motivated by duty to my country, but it was more out of duty to my mother. In the end, I decided that I was going to suck it up, sit down and figure it out.

There was a 3-page packet of the 30 parties, each with a number, the party name and the local representative, all in Thai. Those were not one-syllable words that I could easily decipher or copy and paste into Google translate. In addition to her explicit instructions, my mom sent a numbered list of quick notes on the parties based on her research and personal opinions. She made notes on all 30 parties, noting who was against corruption, who was using Buddhist teachings, who focused on women, LGBTQ, education, environment, inequality and economics.

I skipped the ones that are affiliated with the ex-prime minister Thaksin, have religious-based platforms or just didn’t resonate with me. Out of that list, I narrowed it down to five parties:

  • Prachatipat (Democratic Party): Women’s rights, paying for newborns, disabled, elderly. Helping farmers and workers get better pay
  • Rakpunpaprathatthai (Thai Forest Conservation Party): Environmental focus, revive green forests
  • Prachaniyom (Populism Party): Help teachers get out of debt
  • Kakaochaovilai: Help the poor, farmers, anti-corruption, improve education, give money to the elderly
  • Tairaktham (Thai Rak Tham Party): Help people find more jobs, pro-culture, pro-LGBT

Once I narrowed it down, I couldn’t actually Google their names without the manual exercise of trying to type their names into a Thai keyboard. A couple more Google searches later and I could not find a comprehensive list of the candidates and their policies. What I did find was a poll for the top four candidates for Prime Minister. I figured I could go from that list instead. Even with 30 parties, it made sense to choose one who was more likely to win. I could apply the same philosophy of voting in a two-party system, easy enough! Right?

Wrong. Even the four Google results confused me. I would see a face for one party, but couldn’t find that face in the packet. I called my mom to ask who was who and she explained that the faces weren’t the same because we were voting for the local representative of each party, not the Prime Minister. This is where I shamefully admit I was even confused on what position I was voting for.

So, I retracted my plan to vote for one of the four parties, chose one of my five original picks and called it day. At the very least, it was a good learning opportunity.   

I learned a lot about Thai politics through voting and clearly have a lot left to learn. For example–this is the first democratic election since the military coup in 2014. In the United States, our elections are scheduled, intervals of change are promised. In other parts of the world, that is not a given. I’m still unsure about the fairness of the Thai elections or what the implications will result. But I do know voting is a privilege. And I can say that I voted. 

USA Community Politics The World Interviews

Why legalizing marijuana in California hits close to home

In 2008, I was going into my freshman year of high school and my mom was going into the weed business. At age 14, I had no idea how it would really change my town, how the economy and livelihood of Nevada County, California, would become so reliant on this business.

In 2016, it was official, recreational marijuana was legalized in California. But voting to legalize it wasn’t a cut and dry decision for me. It was more personal. I had a multi-layered opinion about it because it’s more than just getting to buy a few buds down the street with a simple flash of your ID. Among other things, I was reflecting on how this legalization is going to affect the energy and soul of the place I grew up. Whether positively or negatively, I wasn’t sure.

[bctt tweet=”In 2008, I was going into my freshman year of high school and my mom was going into the weed business.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Small cannabis garden in the daytime.
[Image Description: small cannabis garden in the daytime, Nevada City, California.] via Sara Marshall
Legalization in California doesn’t directly affect each county since they vote and implement their own laws. However, legalizing marijuana statewide does flood the market, which then trickles down to the counties. This has been propelled by the legalization of delta 8 THC, a popular cannabinoid in California which has taken away sales from traditional delta 9 THC. Most delta 8 products are sold in stores like gas stations without regulation, with other vendors turning to the internet to sell delta 8 gummies, vapes, and oils.

For Nevada County, there isn’t an ordinance in place to regulate anything. This is conflicting for the growers. With no ordinance or real restrictions, it has allowed space, literally and figuratively, for people to grow as little or as much as they’d like. There becomes so much product that the prices drop.

Sheriff Keith Royal states in an interview with the Union that “there’s a philosophy that Nevada County is an open county. We’re seeing a tremendous increase of people coming from other parts of the state where it’s strongly regulated or where they’ve banned outdoor grows.” He continues, “they’re buying second properties so they can grow. It’s a bigger problem than we anticipated.

[bctt tweet=”It has allowed space, literally and figuratively, for people to grow as little or as much as they’d like. ” username=”wearethetempest”]

On the other hand, the influx in people meant the county needed more of everything.

Local businesses like the co-op grocery store, lumber yards, and soil companies experienced big expansions. In 2016, the Nevada County Archive Center shows these industries in the top six value crops with timber valued at $1,800,800, vegetables at $1,771,000, and nurseries at $502,200. Marijuana growers rely on these resources for their gardens, feeding themselves and their trimmers.

My mom, who I will call Carmen, a resident of Nevada County for 18 years and a cannabis grower for over a decade, sees how this business as a whole, “has brought so much to this town, whether it be the music venues or all the jobs,” she said. “It’s brought a real rich culture to this town. It has brought life and diversity.”

[bctt tweet=”It’s brought a real rich culture to this town. It has brought life and diversity.” username=”wearethetempest”]

My friend Julia Heick sees things differently. Working at Curly Wolf Espresso House for the last 10 years, Julia caters to the influx of people who aren’t giving back in a way she’d expect or hope.

“Originally the trimming scene brought a lot of business into the cafe and the county. But over time and with the growing popularity of living that lifestyle, it started becoming more invasive and less positive for the locals,” she said. “In the beginning, we had a huge spike in how much we were making and that matched with how many travelers were coming in [hundreds]. The crowds kept coming but the business did not.”

[bctt tweet=” The crowds kept coming but the business did not.” username=”wearethetempest”]

White sign with black letters posted on glass saying "Please no large backpacks and/or rolled mats/sleeping bags. thank you."
[Image Description: White sign with black letters posted on glass saying “Please no large backpacks and/or rolled mats/sleeping bags. thank you.”] via Julia Heick at Curly Wolf in Nevada City, California.
Five years back the industry peaked when the market was flooded with product, making it less lucrative to grow and migrate into the town.

[bctt tweet=”Now the town’s quieter, partly because of less trimmers but also just less money it seems.” username=”wearethetempest”]

For example, in 2008, the going rate per pound was $2,600. Now, you’re lucky you might get $800. For growers like my mom, breaking even is minimal after calculating the product bought and labor.

“The amount of people coming in has slowly dwindled, as if the word is getting out that the likelihood of getting work is low,” Heick says. “I don’t believe trimmers have had that much of an effect on our business. But the weed business is how most of the locals make money. So I do believe with less growers it’s causing our business to go down. People go out less. Now the town’s quieter, partly because of less trimmers but also just less money it seems.”

After the midterms, Nevada County voted in California’s first openly-gay sheriff, Shannon Moon who plans to implement regulation and going after the large grows, but not banning it all together.

This method might actually eliminate the influx of transplants from out-of-county who are buying large plots of land and not necessarily giving back to the community as much as they’re taking from it. This could make room for the local farmers to do their thing and keep the business flowing in local stores.

Being in transition right now, it’s still hard to say what will be implemented and how it will affect this town. But hopefully with a good balance of regulation and freedom this small California county will find a new happy medium that benefits both growers and locals.

The Internet Politics The World

Stop blaming young people for the voting problem in this country

While most voter registration deadlines have just past, midterms are coming up, and if you’ve been on the Internet in the last few weeks you’ve no doubt happened upon a ‘register to vote’ website.  You just as likely may have had one forced upon you while looking to indulge in harmless celebrity gossip.

In the last few weeks, Twitter personalities, celebrities, and online magazines have tweeted out clickbait in order to trick people into visiting a voter registration page. Brief tweets claiming dramatic celebrity life events, like a Kimye divorce, lead to inevitably disappointing landing pages about civic engagement. The Splinter’s Katherine Krueger writes, “My immediate reaction, as a dipshit who cares enough about Kim and Kanye news to click, was something akin to disappointment—a troubling feeling to associate with registering to vote, which should be inherently good.”

The Rickrolling voting meme is perhaps harmless, but genuinely irritating and potentially alienating. The assumption of its purveyors is that nonvoters are vapid and uncaring of the larger society, and that stupid and inconsequential celebrity news is an assuredly successful lure for such ignorant masses.

[bctt tweet=”The belief is people who do not vote have no interest in public policy, or state violence—they are blindly distracted by useless celebrity news.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Except, indulging in low-stakes and sometimes funny or weird gossip is…something most people do and shouldn’t really feel ashamed about. I already registered to vote, and I also want to know the details of Ariana Grande’s breakup because I’m nosy and enjoy wasting some of my time!

The implied audience is younger people, who predominantly follow ultimately meaningless interactions between famous people and are regularly accused of civic disengagement, the death of expensive boomer shit, and the current state of the world. These sites assume that young voters don’t care at all about voting. We do, but the issue is more complex – voting is not as straightforward as one would wish, and we’re operating under a system that thrives on voter suppression.

And while yes, 34 percent of nonvoters are in their 20s, this rickrolling ignores that voter suppression regularly targets communities that are abused on all ends of the political spectrum. Not everyone has the ability to bureaucratically battle against a system that might still elect a fascist.

Nonvoters are less affluent than likely voters, with almost 50 percent of nonvoters families living on less than $30,000 a year. Not to mention 43 percent of nonvoters are people of color, compared to 22 percent of likely voters that identify as a racial or ethnic minority. How interesting that the very Good People who vote so much are largely responsible for the violence voting will supposedly fix!

When I registered to vote, I had to find a printer, pick up my slip, buy a stamp and envelope, and mail it in. In maybe a month, I’ll find out if my papers went through or not. Fourteen states don’t allow online voter registration, including more elastic states like New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Michigan. Even online voter registration, which makes the simple act of getting permission to vote, requires an eligible state I.D.—documents that can be notoriously difficult to acquire.

Only 16 states offer preregistration, portable registration, or election day correction should the confusing labyrinth of registration lead to errors. Election day is usually on a Tuesday and not a federal holiday, meaning time off work to vote is mostly left up to employers. Guess who is more likely to have to fight against a wall to vote? People with who need the income! If you happen to live in Guam, the Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, or Puerto Rico, you are conveniently an American citizen without the right to vote! So are the 2.3 million incarcerated people in U.S. prisons.

And if you do live in the mainland, you are subject to policy measures like gerrymandering, voter suppression, the absence of instant runoff, the Federal Reserve, the accepted practices of lobbyists, the Electoral College, and the Senate—all of which exist to skew government representation away from democratic decision-making.

The simple fact is that it’s much easier to blame youth disengagement for the Trump administration—and all of the very not-new American issues like mass incarceration, imperialism, neoliberal austerity, and climate change—than to recognize there is a much deeper and inherent problem in America. Voting is not enough, because it was built to favor existing American powers and disempower those who cannot always conjure the will to fight against a wall.

[bctt tweet=”It’s much easier to blame youth disengagement for the Trump administration than to recognize there is a much deeper and inherent problem in America. ” username=”wearethetempest”]

Non-voting communities have always been on the front lines of social movements, and are often the most at-risk from rich, white people. Believing they’re politically disengaged couldn’t be further from the truth. Rickrolling is stale, and certainly, patronizing ‘nonvoters’ has not produced a clever or particularly creative revival.

So, if you are able to vote this midterm election – please do. And stand in solidarity with those who cannot. 

USA Tech The World Now + Beyond Inequality

The only way to make voting truly democratic is to take it to the internet

Voters in Oregon have one of the most unique voting systems in the country. Every year, they wait anxiously by their mailbox for their ballot – which comes three weeks before election day. They sign their ballot and then send their votes back in the mail.

The system is completely analog – targeting the 2.7 million registered voters in the state.

It’s one of the most successful voting systems, with 68% participation – however, pride in the system is incorrectly founded. In an interview with NBC, Dennis Richardson, Oregon’s Secretary of State proudly said, “you can’t hack paper.”

In the wake of the 2016 presidential election, fears of elections being hacked by foreign adversaries are on everyone’s mind. 80% of Americans are concerned about vulnerabilities in our voting systems. Those vulnerabilities are caused by a variety of problems – from outdated voting machines to insecure connections and databases.

The bigger problem, however, is that attempts to update voting machines, or institute voting legislation, are often undermined by representatives. In the United States, voting practices are handled on the state level. When Congress proposes a change to voting, such as mandating audits to ensure voting machines are secure or requiring updates to voting infrastructure, the measures are approached with bullishness rather than common sense. Voting is considered such a precious right in the hands of the states, they resist anything that even smells like a federal referendum – causing it to get shot down.

These problems ultimately arise from policymakers being unfamiliar with technology – and unable to understand what is at risk when poor technological infrastructure is used to support a system as precious as voting. As a result, voting is kept in schools and fire departments, on machines that are insecure and vulnerable to attack.

The same technical ignorance that keeps voting machines vulnerable, is the same reason why voting is often inaccessible to the most vulnerable in our communities. Many communities have polling places that can be inconvenient, or even impossible for some constituents to reach. For example, while a 2-mile distance to a polling place is no problem for an able-bodied person, it can be inaccessible for someone who is unable to drive. This can disenfranchise a large population of voters.

One way to solve many of these problems – from our reliance on outdated voting equipment, and enabling the most vulnerable of us to vote, is voting online.

By bringing voting into the digital age, we can stop relying on outdated technology that is impossible to protect from cyber threats. Internet-based databases can be updated and protected much faster than old hardware – which is why we’re able to use servers and cloud systems to keep banking information secure. Similarly, with over 77% of American adults owning a smartphone, internet voting puts the power of the polls in your pocket.

West Virginia sees the power of online voting, and this November is launching a pilot program to out of state voters looking to cast their ballot. This year, West Virginians overseas will have the option to use an app called Voatz to participate in the midterm elections.

Voatz has the ability to bridge the gap between voter fears of a hacked election and the safety of the Oregon model. Every vote cast on the app produces multiple methods of verification including a physical paper trail, that can be used if there is a concern of election tampering.

Further, Voatz uses a security measure called blockchain, which is a growing level of encryption that is most known for its use in crypto-currencies.

Internet voting is one of the only ways that voting can truly be democratized. Almost 92 million voters – over 25% of the population of the United States did not vote in 2016.

Instead of worrying about the safety of our votes, it is much more important to worry about the accessibility of doing so in the first place. Until the entire voting process is made easier, ballots cast will not represent the values of our country.

Editor's Picks World News Gender The World Inequality

There’s a village in Pakistan where women have never voted. Ever.

I live in a country where women obey men. That is just the norm. That’s always been the norm. But that’s not to say that some Pakistanis do not believe in the betterment of women’s rights.

In 1947, along with the creation of Pakistan, women were granted suffrage. In 1956, women were extended the right to vote. In 1988, Benazir Bhutto became the first female Prime Minister, of a country that was built on the walls of patriarchy. These are all facts, but behind every fact, is a story.

Generations of women in Mohripur have lived under the word of the men in their lives. Their legal right to vote was taken away from them. They are the token domestic housewives; told to stay in their homes; told to cook and clean; told to speak only when spoken to. Women’s rights almost cease to exist. But not anymore. These women are defying the men in their lives. They are finally saying no to patriarchy, and yes to their rights. This is the first year that the women of Mohripur will try to vote in Pakistan’s general elections. And for me, even though I’m not from Mohripur, even though I have no ties to Mohripur, this means everything.

Rural Pakistan is plagued by monopolizing men, and the women of rural Pakistan are trapped by unspoken codes of honor. It’s disheartening to see the lengths people go to to keep a woman’s izzat (honor) safe, instead of honoring their rights. At the end of the day, the anti-honor killing bill won’t stop misogynist men high off of power, and women determined for the matriarchy to rise.

These are the women that are told that to leave their house on election day would be cause for dishonor.

And so, for an entire village of women to stand up against that patriarchal code is empowering. For a woman that is not allowed to choose her husband; for a woman that is not allowed to decide where to go when she wants to go; for a woman that is defined by her male counterpart – this means everything.

This is not to say that the fear is gone. These women live under a blanket of uncertainty as every move of theirs is measured. They may not be able to vote at all, because their lives are essentially at stake. Although the Women’s Protection Bill was passed in 2016, it has not been enforced, and in some places, it will not be because the “elders” of certain villages do not believe in the rule of law. However, these women are retaliating and facing that fear, or even beginning to acknowledge it, and this is a move forward in Pakistan’s struggle with women’s rights. The Election Commission of Pakistan declared that 10% of voters from each constituency must be female, and yes, this triggered a small movement.

As a Pakistani woman, I know it’s hard to get people to hear my voice, and for me, I’m fortunate to have that degree of freedom. Having the power the vote is empowering for women who don’t have any power over their lives – it means everything.

This year, 9.13 million women have registered to vote. That gives me confidence. Knowing that the women of Mohripur are fighting against all odds for the chance to vote gives me courage. It gives me hope for my women’s rights. To the strong women who are out there reading this, I hope it gives you strength as well. Strength to tackle what you fear, because your voice has merit and your rights matter. Don’t let the patriarchy stop you from doing your thing.

Here’s to seeing how these elections turn out, and how they will affect the women of Pakistan from here on out.