In only the first month of 2023, a lot happened on the U.S. political stage. Read Shan’s take on various political and cultural happenings (and Tweets!) below.
Former Vice President Pence’s Classified Documents Put AG Garland in a Box
The discovery of classified documents at former VP Pence’s home in Indiana puts AG Garland in a box – having prematurely appointed a Special Counsel for Biden’s documents Garland now likely must appoint one for Pence as well.
President Biden’s classified documents
The early facts we know from the discovery of “several classified documents from President Joe Biden’s time as vice president” by Biden’s lawyers while packing up his former office at the Penn Biden Center, show very little similarity to the discovery and recovery of hundreds of classified documents found to have been kept by former President Donald Trump at his personal residence in Mar-a-Lago. The difference being the immediate and transparent actions by Biden’s lawyers make the likelihood of any criminal culpability very low.
The Varsity Blues Admissions scandal burst on the scene in pre-Covid 2019. It’s conclusion a life-time later shows both the workings of how the elite are treated and the gamesmanship of criminal plea bargaining. The mastermind of the whole plan who arguably persuaded anxious parents into his money-making scheme -William “Rick” Singer- was recently sentenced to only 3.5 years, less prison time than most class b felonies.
The key take away from these scandals is not the grandeur or the intricacy of the crime, but the inequalities it makes abundantly clear in higher education. There are clear advantages presented to wealthy candidates, not just access to intel that gives their applications an unethical but competitive edge such as in the Operation Varsity Blues case, but also preferential treatment for legacy students, athletes and awarding financial aid based on test scores. Every time a scandal like this surfaces, there are promises to regulate and increase oversight into the college admission process, but this does little to solve a system that evaluates intelligence by income. Oh, and how was Singer able to get such little prison time? By flipping on up to 50 convicted clients, including Hollywood actors and hedge fund millionaires.
Anti-Asian Hate Speech by the Purdue Northwest Chancellor Thomas Keon
The Purdue Northwest faculty and staff overwhelmingly voted no confidence in his Chancellor Thomas Keon after an overtly and casual racist remark he made at commencement. While his remarks on their own were offensive enough, when coupled with his choice of an all-white senior leadership team, the snickers on stage at his racist antics, and the spectacle of Keon saying he is heading their DEI initiatives make it all the more insidious.
Free speech absolutists will defend this reasonable outrage as the latest victim of cancel culture. This sleight of hand allows them to deflect attention from the baked-in racism and prejudice in our history and institutions to the new straw man target of “cancel culture.” An institution whose leaders think that racist mockery is acceptable should not be in charge of educating young minds. Let’s cancel institutional racism.
How Racist Speech Can Foster Violence
A female Asian student at the University of Indiana was stabbed repeatedly in the head by a white woman who later confessed to police that she targeted the victim because the was Chinese and because she believed that attacking the victim so that “it would be one less person to blow up our country.”
Republicans are undergoing a rebrand of finally embracing science and doubling down on Title 42, a Trumpian policy to prevent immigration under the guise of Covid precautions. Or wait, sounds like they’re staying very consistent to their brand. What’s surprising, however, was the Biden Administration’s expansion to the contentious policy to include expulsions for migrants entering unauthorized from Nicaragua, Haiti and Cuba. While it’s being branded as border security, this reads as clear solidarity with anti-immigrant rhetoric.
McCarthy, Crenshaw, and What it all Means for the House
Kevin McCarthy has made history by taking 15 rounds of voting to become Speaker, breaking a 163 year record for elections for Speaker of the House. Democrats who are usually on the other side of the accusation of polarization are relishing this lack of unity, by bringing their popcorn, binoculars and beers to enjoy the show. But who is Kevin McCarthy and why is the GOP praying on his downfall?
Kevin McCarthy is not alt right enough for the House Freedom Caucus which begs the question of who is? McCarthy was the first to hug former President Trump following the Jan 6th Insurrection and helped lay the foundation for his MAGA rhetoric. It is ironic that after mobilizing this fanatical group, neither him nor Trump can sway any of their fans to cast a vote.
Instead, McCarthy was forced to broker a deal with several concessions to the insurrectionists of the House. Reps. Lauren Boebert and Matt Gaetz are the ring leaders of the House Freedom Caucus, detested by previous speakers for their chaotic tactics. Yes, the same Matt Gaetz who was previously investigated by the DOJ for sexual abuse of a minor.
McCarthy announced the intention to investigate the withdrawal from Afghanistan, weaponization of the FBI, and the origins of Covid, but Democrats don’t need to be worried. The Trump era and the work of the Jan. 6th Committee itself provide a simple blueprint for Democrats in defending against these promised investigations, which may be summarized as: comply, delay, and defy.
George Santos is the culmination of not just lack of regulation in campaign finance, but also fact checking in the 24 hour political cycle. He is accused of illegally using campaign funds to pay personal expenses and of concealing the source of more than $700,000 and has fraud charges against him in Brazil. Despite all this, he was able to win the election for representative of New York’s third district.
The recent tide of media directed at frauds, whether it be Anna Delvey, Elizabeth Holmes or Donald Trump, it has created an alarming trend that normalizes financial and ethical discrepancies. George Santos is a symptom of a political system that refuses to regulate campaign finance and a news cycle that does not fact check its candidates.
Student Loan Debt
The Supreme Court is set to hear two lawsuits covering the constitutionality of student loan relief in February – interestingly close to primaries in the off-year election. The courts are set to provide this decision in late summer, also close to election time. While this may not be a ploy for politicization, student loan relief has become a political issue while elucidating the increasing class divide in both political parties.
Please do let me and the team know what topics you would like to hear more from me about – look forward to hearing your voices!