Can the New Republicans Live up to the Hype?

James Di Palma-Grisi, Columnist

The Sharron Angles and Christine O’Donnells of the Tea Party are dogmatic and simplistic candidates parroting the same talking points that, by even the admission of Alan Greenspan, will not work in our current economic climate.

So what will happen once these people (or, perhaps except in the cases of Angle and O’Donnell) are elected? We see what happened to Scott Brown — he compromised his conservative principles to do something popular with liberal Massachusetts voters, and his support dropped sharply.

Seeing this example (and being from areas far less liberal than Massachusetts, in most cases), the other Tea Party candidates probably will not take this route. Instead, they either will stick to their conservative principles (and become regular Republicans) or will take a free-wheeling, anti-lobbyist approach and find themselves without funding or backing at all.

That is to say, while they are conservative, they may or may not represent the elite interests that funded their campaigns and organizations. If they don’t, they will be marginalized candidates in the next election cycle, and if they do, they will lose the credibility they had with their constituency. Crucially, the latter only will happen if the voters find out where the money is coming from—something that will be quite clear once the votes on key provisions in bills, or the attachment of earmarks, are made public.

In Congress, in other words, there can be no hiding behind opaque organizations—the Tea Party will be on record, and their ideological purity will be brought into question the same way Scott Brown’s integrity was called into question when he voted liberal on the financial reform bill.

But, stopping Obama’s agenda may be the real purpose behind the Tea Party, and it can almost certainly accomplish that feat.

Now the question for us: what will we do about it? Does Generation Y have a stake in the President’s agenda, or does it have more of an interest in hearing that it’s capable of doing great things?

Gen Y certainly has lost interest, for the most part, in the elections by having turned out in disappointingly low numbers in the 2010 Midterm Election. It has, instead, turned back to pop music and all the other things youthful. Suffice to say it is no longer as politically active as it once was, and is by several metrics horribly narcissistic.

So there is a danger here. This generation could be manipulated rightward by the same promises of power and purity that Candidate Obama offered them in 2008. All that is needed is a potent and communicative leader. Being the Right, there is not much there for young people, and finding a youthful leader would be as easy as finding a natural head of hair at the Republican National Convention–it is the party of the elderly and the established, those who think the world is just fine as it is.

Whether this danger is benign or not remains to be seen. That is to say, whether Gen Y is pulled rightward in large numbers, numbers large enough to impact an election or as an afterthought (which seems likely if they continue to only turnout as much as they did in 2010) has not been determined yet. But surely this is not the only point of entry for Gen Y–there must be strings to pull other than narcissism. Such is the task of political analysts and campaign managers.

Green Energy Progress, Democratic Regression

James Sasso, Associate Editor

In the past week there have been more instances of real “green-energy” progress in America, where changes actually occur instead of only existing in the mythical realm of political rhetoric, than in the past several years combined. Certainly the past couple of years, especially under Obama, have shown politicians generally in favor of cleaning up the environment (except for when politicians need to be elected from fossil fuel producing states), but there has been little actual action in those years. Instead, failures such as the Copenhagen Climate Council and several failed initiatives in the American Congress, have inhibited the absolutely necessary change from polluting fuels to renewable ones. About 68 percent of Generation Y believes that environmental problems need to be attended to, which means that once again, Washington has failed to address an issue of concern to America’s youth.

Yes politicians claim to desire change to our archaic environmental policies, but few actually attempt any real progress. As such, it comes as no surprise that the recent slate of environmental progress comes from powers that have no “Congress” (read: ineffective leadership) to whom to answer. The most minor of initiatives, though with perhaps the largest reaching social effects, was the Obama’s announcement that the White House would soon become outfitted with solar panels to heat water and provide electricity to the building.

While Obama’s declaration only improves the environmental impact of one building, the social ramifications of his decision could be enormous. The President is, arguably, the most important person in the world. His choices and beliefs not only impact those of leaders across the world, but of the people who live in America. We, as people, look up to the president, at least in the abstract. His supporters view him as a role model whose model of energy conservation is worth following, and hopefully they will follow his lead along with other world leaders, thus creating a system of individuals contributing to the larger cause of ending the human impact on our environment, which, if left unchanged, will incur major catastrophes onto human society.

In the same breath of significant but not world changing events in the green-energy world, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar gave final approval to the first ever large solar plants to be built on federal land: those in the California desert. The two projects alone could produce enough energy to power 556,00 homes. These approvals will not be the last, according to Salazar, and hopefully this will lead to increased construction of green-energy plants that can help lead this world away from the devastating polluting ways of past generations.

Still, these plants alone are not enough. There needs to be a nationwide revamping of our energy system so that it could handle the new energy without being excessively wasteful. Also, green energies themselves need to be improved upon to where they do not inhibit the lives of ordinary citizens, as some claim windmills do. Though, if you ask me, clean, safe, reliable, cheap energy is a fair trade off for a bit of excess noise.

The last, and likely most realistically important, announcement in the field of green energy came from a source that one usually would  label as conservative and, therefore, likely opposed to any sort of green-energy initiative: the military. Using fossil fuels to power its armies, ultimately, is a bad idea. Fossil fuel transports are easy targets for militants. Perhaps even worse, these fuels, which cost the military one dollar per gallon at wholesale, can cost up to 400 dollars per gallon to transport because of the inherent risk in transporting literal moving bombs across hostile territory. The military has decided that to save costs and increase security (they no longer will  have to deal as much with enemy countries to purchase fuel), they will initiate a program to move away from fossil fuels and explore the possibility of using renewable fuels, such as solar paneled tents and on-site-grown algae fuels, to replace carbon based power.

This can be seen as the most significant green-energy advancement because the military is generally far ahead of civilian society when it comes to technology. For example, the laser, the microwave, modern computers and many other household technologies find their origins in military uses. Perhaps green-energy will be the next big everyday technology to emerge from the military. Maybe their mass use of it will drive down the cost for the average family, making it all the more appealing. If green-energy technology succeeds in the military, one can guarantee that it will take off in the civilian setting.

Besides the obvious environmental significance of these announcements, one can see why Generation Y has become disengaged with modern politics. Of the major sources promoting these innovative and necessary changes to the use of fossil fuels, none were of a true democratic power. The president, though elected, simply stated that his residency will have solar power, a declaration not requiring any democratic process. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar did not have to consult Congress to approve companies to build solar plants on federal land. And, finally, the military, which obviously operates under laws differing from the Constitution, simply decided that green-technologies should be instated. None of these had to be funneled through Congress.

What does it say about our leaders and about our government, who generally promise to Generation Y that they will help fix a problem affecting America’s youth, that they cannot so much as pass a climate act while individual powers such as the military and companies are taking huge steps towards this green movement?

Perhaps Congress should look past their petty squabbling and narcissistic desires to do what is best for the country and what is best for the next generation of leaders. Perhaps Congress should learn from China, private companies and our own military who are rapidly investing in and developing green technologies. Does this not say that it is the wave of the future, that our country could perhaps benefit both environmentally and economically from an increased interest in renewable energies?  Sometimes our democracy functions so well…

Meet Krystal Ball, Virginia’s 1st District Democratic Candidate for Congress

Stephanie Rushford, Associate Editor

Krystal Ball has created quite a stir in recent weeks in her campaign for Virginia’s 1st district Congressional seat, which is currently held by Republican Rob Wittman. In her campaign YouTube video, titled “On the Road with Rob,” she carried a cardboard cutout of Rep. Rob Wittman around the district, introducing “your Congressman” to voters who would not likely meet him otherwise. Expectedly, Ms. Ball’s video faced criticism from Wittman’s staff, with his spokesperson Casey Werderman, calling her “cute.”

Yet, Krystal Ball’s campaign—whether “cute” or not—represents how Generation Y will change how business is done on Capitol Hill. Accountability and Accessibility are some of the central themes in Ball’s “On the Road with Rob” video, which she stressed while speaking to EARLY RISERS, “I have really made an effort to not just be with Democrats in the district but really to reach out to groups across the spectrum, and let them know very honestly where I stand, but let them know that my door is open and my mind is open. So that is a dialogue that I will continue if I have the honor of representing this district.”

Furthermore, Ms. Ball is committed to changing the environment of Washington D.C. by stating,

“I am big supporter of Campaign Finance reform, I think one of the biggest problems in our system right now is the particular role that money plays and it does make politicians more accountable to the [groups] that have the money, whether it’s large donors or whether it’s large corporations or special interest than to their own constituents.”

In addition, Krystal Ball supports the current proposed Fair Elections Now Act, which would allow prospective candidates, who met the criteria, to receive federal funding for their campaign to offset costs.

While the Washington D.C. establishment may consider Ball’s promise for campaign finance reform naïve, her allegiance to her supporters instead of large corporations speaks to Generation Y’s skepticism of how business is conducted on Capitol Hill. Furthermore, if elected, Ms. Ball seeks to end the cozy relationship between Congress and special interest by banning lobbyist gifts to members of Congress, and she would like “a lifetime ban on lobbying for former members of Congress.” However, Candidate Ball said that she has received money from some PACs, stating: “I have seen where my interests have lined up with other organizations, and then found it to be a mutual beneficial relationship.” Nevertheless, she stresses for the current Fair Elections Now legislation, [the bill] really focuses on lower dollar contributors, so that way the emphasis is not on special interest and it’s not on corporations, it’s really on individuals who are willing to make an investment in your campaign.” Currently, the Krystal Ball campaign has had over five thousand individual donors nationwide, with the average contribution at $25 dollars.

Additionally, Krystal Ball advocates for marriage equality, with the majority of Generation Y: “I support the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, [which] would put the ball in the state’s court, but it would make it so that if one state allows gay marriage all states have to recognize it.” As well as gay rights, Ms. Ball has been a fierce supporter of reproductive rights, “the federal government should not interfere in those personal decisions, because ultimately, I do not think women make these decisions lightly.” Furthermore, Ms. Ball said that choice comes down to “trusting the woman” and, that it is “ a decision that is best made between the woman, her doctor, her family, and her God.” In addition to reproductive rights, Ms. Ball is excited that the recent healthcare legislation made it illegal to discriminate healthcare coverage based on gender. If elected in Congress, she would fight for an increase in paid maternity leave.

Interestingly enough, while Ms. Ball may be in favor of gay rights (and pro-choice legislation) she does not make mention anywhere on her site of her progressive views. Ms. Ball believes in “Pragmatic idealism,” which she says is a value that shared among Generation Y:

“I think this is something that our generation tends to have in common, because on the one hand [Generation Y] is young and we believe that we can make things better, and we are optimistic, and we are hopeful, and those are great things. But we don’t have our head in the clouds, we know that there are sometimes political realities. We know that it takes some pragmatism, and some reaching across the aisle, and some compromise to get things done.”

Ball highlights President Obama’s recent healthcare legislation an example of Pragmatic Idealism:

“The bill that passed was not perfect, there are additional things I would have liked to have seen [in the bill]. The process, in my opinion, did kind of stink. But ultimately if I had been in Congress I would have voted for it, because I think it was important that we take a step forward and that we do something.”

On the economy, Ms. Ball is fiscally conservative compared to the Democrats in the 110th Congress. She would like a 50% cut in payroll taxes for new small businesses. Yet, Ms. Ball supports the recent extension to unemployment benefits,

“We are still in the worst recession since the great depression, and there are whole lot of people who are hard working and doing everything they can to find a job, but there’s nothing out there for them, so that is absolutely something I would have supported. I think that continuing the extension is something we have to stay on top of, and play by ear, and see how we recover as a country, and how the economy recovers.”

One core principle of Krystal Ball’s campaign is competence versus experience—much of her staff is under 25, and her campaign manger is only 21-years-old—and she stresses that this view is the “exact opposite of entitlement.” Further stating, “We think everybody should be judged based on their merit and not on how long they have waited in line or their seniority. We think that if you are there and you’re ready to do the job then you should be there to do the job.”  Krystal Ball may be young—if elected, she will be the first woman in Congress under thirty—but she is not canvassing for some Baby Boomer Congress hopeful, she is looking to hold the seat herself.

Krystal Ball faces a hard race with incumbent Robert Wittman, with many stating that Wittman will easily retain his Congressional seat. Virginians will cast their ballots this Election Day, and with little more than two months left in the campaign cycle, can Krystal Ball beat this incumbent to be the next member of Generation Y in Congress? The stakes are high, and Ms. Ball is faces a tough road ahead of her. Generation Y has been called entitled too many times by their Baby Boomer parents; and yet, perhaps a better word for Generation Y and Krystal Ball would be chutzpah.