April 19, 2015

Post-Mortem #42

Editor’s Note: Guest blogger Dale Edmondson last wrote “Why Do Both Parties Fare so Badly with the Public?” for us during the election.

A few observations (ok, maybe a bit obvious, but still an attempt to get beyond a Jim Carey in Ace Ventura II scream of “Yeeuuukkkkk”)

  1. Running against something rather than for something wins but lacks staying power. For quite a few cycles, elections seem characterized (oversimplistically but with some validity) as not a mandate for one, but rather a repudiation of the other. This election smacks of that. Rs don’t seem to have won because of a strong message on a widely approved policy agenda (by and large they didn’t offer one) but by running against the perceived status quo. Ds have done the same. That certainly wins elections. But it doesn’t give staying power – especially since the winner of last round becomes, in the public mind, the status quo. In this context, all victories look temporary, and lasting change proves elusive. Still…
  2. Running against something still beats running without any real message. In 2010 and 2014, Ds seemed not to stand for that much. They did not tout what accomplishments they had (possibly because their accomplishments don’t look that great when things overall remained unfixed). Instead they kind of cringed, didn’t really defend their work, didn’t really articulate why they were better alternatives, and hoped not to get slammed too much by the oncoming tide. There were reasons for this, but we saw how it worked out. In a lot of ways they’ve been seen as running not to lose (and when you play to not lose, too often, you do. Rather than offering a vision or a grand purpose, all they had was a “that guy is worse” narrative – one which they often didn’t even press very effectively (eg Braley). And when they did,
  3. “Even if you don’t like me, the other guy is worse” can work but has limits. Kay Hagan did about the best with this strategy and nearly pulled it out in a less blue state than CO or IA. But it only takes you so far, especially against an angry electorate that may feel that, Groundhog-day style, anything different is good, and has as its default “throw da bums out.” The negative approach has been disfavored at least in part out of fears of depressing turnout, and though it may be the best option (given that elections are in truth a choice between candidates far more so than anything else), it hardly inspires. On top of that..
  4. Ds can’t reliably count on Rs to scare away the center. For the last few cycles, Rs have shifted so far right as to frighten everyone not only conservative, but extremely conservative. That’s provided Ds a refuge of sorts, and an excuse not to really change their own side too much. Rs, however, saw this, and responded. With the arguable exception of Ernst (who won anyway given the tide, but by less and with a weaker opponent), the worst of teabaggery was harder to see. Whether newly reformed non-extremists like Gardner have moved to the center in truth (which would be a very good thing for a country that desperately needs a reasoned, compromising, more moderate while still right-side Republican option, but would also be a complication for Ds electorally) or whether their facial moderation was a smokescreen remains to be seen. But for election purposes, they succeeded in being seen as at least plausible/non-scary alternatives to the status quo. Which highlights the underlying problem that…
  5. When things suck, voters don’t seem to much care why. Here, the R attacks on things not being good resonated at least in part because they’re true. Things aren’t good for most people. Wages are falling, employment is low, the list goes on. Of course, the Rs offer little that shows promise of actually making things better, and show every sign of making things worse, as they did the last time they held power. But voters don’t seem to look that deeply. The Rs’ comparative lack of ways to do better, much less ways that have not been tried and failed before, didn’t seem to matter that much – at least, not to those who voted. Which underscores that
  6. Who shows up, wins – and Ds too often don’t. Turnout was down yet again. Maybe part of that is dispiritedness of the base due to scandals, lack of transformative change etc. Or maybe part is generally lower rates of participation -on average years. Regardless, Ds still haven’t found a way to crack this. That leaves Ds in a horrible place (although they did manage to do differently in 06). It also leaves decisions made by an increasingly small fraction of the electorate. (Of course that, compromises the force of any general themes directed at general voting public, including the ones here- but that’s a separate point). It’s hard to say democracy itself is failing when it’s voters’ own choices not to show up at all, and it’s hard to complain about something one has the power to fix but does not. Still, self-inflicted wound though it may be, the situation is a wound for the country, and one that results in decision-making that does not reflect the wills of most of the people. However,
  7. Low turnouts also highlight the prospect for change. Given how depressed turnout seems to be, it would take a correspondingly small shift in voter mobilization to dramatically swing outcomes. That would require shifts in individual desires to make such a change, as well as increased feeling that change would even matter or that either candidate is worth supporting. Such things may be daunting tasks, especially in an overall climate of disappointment on all sides and dislike of the other side being a prime motivator. Shifts like that do remain possible if the underlying factors prompting apathy can be addressed, and should be considered among the many other elements going into what to do next.

– Dale Edmondson

Why Do Both Parties Fare so Badly with the Public?

Sen. Mike Lee, a co-founder of the Senate tea party caucus. Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography

Some is image, some is reality, some is tough times – but neither will crack that on their current path.

The GOP knows it has an image problem. It regularly polls below anything this side of toenail fungus. So the party elders have spent a lot of energy considering how to fix their messaging. The real problem, though, doesn’t seem to lie as much with the messaging as the message. The GOP in practice is for all intents and purposes the party of the one percent (or the point one percent). Some of its principles are positive messages – freedom, entrepreneurship, and so forth. What it actually does, however, is advocate for the elite at the expense of everyone else – and it really doesn’t even propose, much less seriously push, anything that helps the everyman. The public seems to get that – maybe imperfectly, but they get it. In their mind, the GOP has become the party of the plutocrats – with an antiscientific and often wilfully blind crowd of Fox News viewers cobbled on. This is not an appetizing portrait. In fact arguably the mystery is not why the GOP doesn’t do better, but why it does as well as it does while acting so consistently to the detriment of most of its own voters.

So why don’t liberals clean up? Because they don’t look too great themselves. Substantively they haven’t delivered on their promises. Maybe that is, as Kuttner says, because of conservative obstruction to a greater or lesser degree. But the average voter doesn’t seem to care nearly as much about the why as about the what – and the what is a lack of major improvement. Worse still, many see them as just throwing tax dollars away on different interest groups – and when those groups are not them, it’s unfavorable. This is particularly bad when times are tight – people seem more willing to be generous with the poor when they are in good shape themselves, but when people are straining to make ends meet, it’s harder to favor payments to anyone else – particularly those who are perceived as working less hard (or not at all). Liberals also have the problem that they are identified with government, which people generally think doesn’t work. Ok, partly they think that because conservatives are doing their best to make sure it doesn’t work. But government is also pretty good at botching things up even when no one is deliberately throwing wrenches into the gears. Take Healthcare.gov. So liberals look to most of the public as maybe closer in heart to the middle class than conservatives, but ineffective, catering to the indolent with money the country doesn’t have, and not a very positive alternative in themselves.

The negative views of both sides are exacerbated by gridlock and polarization. Between the very deep divides that exist and the quirks of the political process, (gerrymandering etc) it is very difficult for either side to really do things. There have been major exceptions, true (eg the Bush tax cuts or Obamacare). Still, it’s so much easier to stop then to do that neither party can end up with much in the way of trophies. Even when something gets done at all, it’s complicated, messy, and usually unsatisfying in one way or another. There seems to be an absence of “grand triumphs” that anyone can trumpet. This leads to even greater disaffection and disappointment, as well as a political culture of persistently running on not being the other guy rather than having a positive message. With the possible exception of Obama in 2008, it’s rare that anyone wins for who they claim to be rather than who they aren’t. The last several *waves” have all been incarnations to one level or another of “throw da bums out”, with no real mandates for (or even really approval of) their replacements.

Maybe part of this is that when things are on a general downward slope, everyone is dissatisfied – the opposite facet of the rising tide lifts all boats trope. We’re currently coping with a whole series of trends – the soaring costs of health care and college, the hollowing out of certain sectors, the sluggish job situation, etc, etc – that have been building for years. Taken together, they create a generalized and quite justifiable angst in the electorate – especially given that most were raised in better living standards than even relatively good jobs can support now. That angst lies behind much of the Tea Party frustration (though whether that angst has been targeted in the right directions is another question entirely). On top of that, really turning things around is exceedingly difficult especially given a toxic political climate and often postrational debate environment, where actual facts matter less and less to a disturbingly high fraction of the politicians and the people as well. With a chronically disappointed electorate, elections seem to boil down to picking lesser of two evils in all but the most unusual cases.

The bottom line is that both parties have severe image problems – but that really isn’t the core of the problem. To a much greater degree, they have substance problems (maybe in the literal sense too for some members) underlying them. Both have to operate in a difficult environment against a backdrop of tremendous angst. And both have opportunities to change where they stand and how they see things going – but they aren’t likely to be able to really fix anything on their own either, so victories will remain fleeting and the battle will continue to be second worst until the game changes.

– Dale Edmondson

The Historical Connection Between U S Immigration Policy and Civil Rights in America

Editor’s Note: We welcome Charles Cheng-Kung Wang, an immigration attorney at law in Cincinnati, Ohio, back as guest blogger with the below piece. His last piece “Why Asian Americans Confuse Affirmation Action with the Very Real Plight of being Capped Out from Universities of Their Choice“, aggressively touched on this topic critical to all of us and our community and families.

The Whole Truth about US Immigration Detention

2013 has been dubbed the year of hope for passing immigration reform. There is less than two months of the year left to do this, and given the dysfunctional state of the U.S. Congress, it is unlikely that anything substantive will pass.

This said, I would like to explore the historical connection between U S Immigration Policy and Civil Rights in America. One reason is that an appreciation of this connection will also help explain why immigration reform is so hard to achieve today.

I will make the bold assertion that, historically, immigration policy is racially based, and even at this moment there are those who oppose immigration reform also for the reason of race. Let us look at the key milestones in U.S. Immigration legislation.

All immigration lawyers will agree that the single most important piece of immigration legislation in modern times is the Immigration & Naturalization Act (Hart-Celler Act) of 1965. The key progress achieved in 1965 is the writing over of the then notorious Immigration Act of 1924. Notorious because the 1924 Act is totally race based – it contained two racially obnoxious parts calculated to ban the entry of “undesirable” immigrants: the National Origins Act, and Asian Exclusion Act. The Asian Exclusion Act is blatantly obvious on its face – it barred immigration from the Asia-Pacific Triangle. The National Origins Act is more subtle – it sought to preserve the racial mix of the USA to that which existed in the year 1890. Up to 1920, about 90% of immigrants were from Europe. The Immigration Act of 1924 is also remembered as the Eugenics Act, eugenics being the pseudo-science of genetic engineering based on perceived traits of superiority started the 1860s but discredited along with the defeat of Nazism at the end of World War II in 1945.

The hand-waving of the National Origins Act was necessitated partly by the advocacy and efforts of African American activitists and supporters. In 1890, at the height of Jim Crow laws in the South which arose after the end of Reconstruction in 1877, the discriminatory situation was a rallying cry for segregationists seeking to preserve white supremacy in America. In 1883, the U S. Supreme Court in various Civil Rights cases declared unconstitutional the Civil Rights Acts passed by Congress during Reconstruction Era reasoning that the 14th Amendment did not authorize legislation against individual conduct, but only against official state action. Are you surprised, then, that given the racial attitudes gripping America during that period, that in 1882 Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act which barred immigration from China? This brings me to the crux of my discussion – the impact of civil rights on immigration.

The year 1965 is also significant because Congress passed and President Johnson signed into law the Voting Rights Act. A year earlier, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 also became federal law. These 2 Acts are the culmination of the civil rights movement to eliminate segregation historically against freed slaves and their children, that is, to end Jim Crow. The pinnacle of the legalization of discrimination is the approval of the “separate but equal” doctrine by the U. S. Supreme Court in Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896 which upheld segregation of public transportation by reason of color. Lesser known is the case of Giles v. Harris decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1903 forbidding the federal courts from hearing complaints against state officials of voter suppression against African Americans.

With Brown v. Board of Education, the Court in 1954 signaled a cardinal reversal of national policy towards institutional segregation. In response to the modern civil rights movement, Congress got into the act in 1964-1965 with the modern Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts. Is it a mere coincidence that in 1965, Congress also passed the Immigration & Naturalization Act which removed the color bar and equalized immigration from the “Eastern and Western Hemispheres” of the world? Is there a connection with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965? I think there is a direct connection – the Congress could not in good faith continue the racially discriminatory immigration policy in the face of the progress made in civil rights at home.

I view slavery as involuntary immigration where people from Africa were forced against their wills to leave their homes and were transported in chains to these shores. Those enslaved are nonetheless immigrants just like the people who crossed the Atlantic Ocean from Europe to find political and religious freedom and economic opportunity for themselves and their children (economics and race are hand in hand in making immigration policy). After the baptism by fire and steel of the American Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation of President Lincoln, and the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the United States Constitution, can immigration be restricted to only from across the Atlantic? In fact this is exactly what happened – immigration policy continued to be race and color based until 1965, the year Jim Crow was officially struck dead by the U. S. Congress, but after a hundred years from the end of the Civil War.

After the comprehensive overhaul of immigration law in 1965, immigration from Europe dropped to around 15%. After 1965, subsequent amendments in immigration in 1980, 1986, 1990, and 2001 (Patriot Act passed a month after 9/11) all show a tendency towards restricting immigration. What kind of immigration amendment will come in 2013-2014?

Earlier this year, the U. S. Supreme Court in the landmark case of Shelby County v. Holder, signaled that the Voter Rights Act may have outlived its purpose, striking down the core Section 4(b) because Congress had renewed it using stale 1975 data, suggesting that states and local government previously subject to strict federal oversight of voting procedures are no longer engaged in voter suppression. Has American totally freed herself from racial animus and perceptions of color supremacy that gave rise to slavery, Jim Crow, the Chinese Exclusion Act, and the Asian Exclusion Act?

Will this emerging rationale epitomized by Shelby County have an impact on immigration reform in light of the historical relationship between civil rights and immigration policy? I close with the current census projection based on current trends that by 2043, the population demographics in the United States will shift to no racial majority but only a plurality of races. How can American have a relevant & useful immigration policy given such rapid shifts with a useless Congress?

– Charleston C. K. Wang

How Should Our Immigration Policy Be Reformed

We proudly announce our 2013 Blogathon winner: Subrata Saha! We congratulate his very thoughtfully writing and impassioned spirit on this topic all-important to our community & readers. His submission is below.

The Whole Truth about US Immigration Detention

My parents immigrated to the U.S. from India. I could go on and tell you about how they are productive, good people, but I’m not going to. Sharing my story won’t help you think about the immigration debate in any real constructive, analytical way. It might make you feel good for a few seconds, but there’s chicken soup for the soul for that. This post is not about feelings. This post is about how should our immigration policy be reformed.

So when the pen touches the paper and proposals are to be produced for lawmakers, how should we do this?

I don’t know. I’m not an expert on immigration. I’m not a social scientist, or an immigration attorney, or someone who knows econometrics very well and can analyze all of the data.

But what I do know is that there are beginning steps in how immigration policy should be reformed. More specifically, these steps are about how we should think about immigration policy. Let’s face it, at this hour, this post, nor others like it, will have any effect on the Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 that is up for debate. What this post instead hopes to do is to get you to think about immigration policy reform in a slightly different way. This will hopefully allow you to think about immigration not just now, but down the line.

(1) Open Your Mind About Immigration

Let’s get rid of all immigration. I mean, hell, why or why not? Let’s just close all of the doors to legal, and to the best of our ability, illegal immigration. Do we even need it? Let’s just subsist on what we got and see how it goes. Is that a bad idea? I don’t know. I can’t predict the future.

Or how about just making it a free for all? Let in whoever wants to come. Give us your tired, your sick, your poor, etc.

The point is: we need to be more broad minded about immigration. By thinking of all sorts of possibility reforms, we think more about the reasons why we do things. This will help us better think about what it is that we really want for our country.

(2) Move Past Thinking about What’s Fair and What’s Not Fair

The government isn’t about fairness. A rich person pays more in pure dollars in income tax than a poor person. As if that’s not enough, a rich person also pays a higher percentage for income tax than a poor person. That’s not fair. But neither taxes nor the government are about fairness. It’s about interests and the betterment of society. On the same token, immigration should not be about fairness either. An illegal immigrant comes to the U.S., works her butt off for years, and is productive in the economy. Would it be fair to grant her amnesty just because of her efforts? Maybe, maybe not. But again, we are not about fairness. The government should think more broadly than simply thinking about fairness. This should be considered when thinking about issues like amnesty or giving people opportunity.

(3) Think Less Like Positional Bargainers

“There’s too much immigration!” “We need more immigration!” This type of attitude gets us nowhere.

Positional bargaining, as discussed in Fisher’s and Ury’s modern classic “Getting to Yes,” is where each side opens with their fixed position on an issue and argues for it without considering underlying interests. The typical example is haggling over price. Sometimes a compromise is reached. And often both parties end up feeling crappy. The authors of “Getting to Yes” instead suggest bargaining on interests.

We haggle too much on immigration, particularly immigration numbers. Get past that and consider what are the real interests of the U.S. What do we really want? What are we really interested in? Having a greater diversity in population? Making sure low-level jobs are fulfilled? Highly-skilled jobs? Trying to market the U.S. as the central place for everyone to try to come?

Positional bargaining also causes us to have blinders. If we are pro-immigration, we are happy that more H-1B visas are available. If we are anti-immigration, we are happy that less H-1B visas are available. But what about the idea that many domestic individuals are qualified for the same jobs that H-1B visa holders are taking up? Or that H-1B visa holders are often underpaid and can often have a seemingly indentured servant relationship with their employer? By focusing less about the numbers and more on interests we can better analyze whether goals of visa holders and the U.S. are being met.

In short, when it comes to immigration policy, think outside the box and think about interests. At best, you can help shape the future immigration policy of our country. At worst, you can have more interesting conversations about immigration reform. And of course, if all else fails, fall back on a chicken soup for the soul story.

– Subrata Saha


When we experience discrimination, are we moved to help others who experience the same feeling? Are we better able to empathize and understand what battles they face?

A speaker at an Asian-American awards ceremony I attended said something along these lines, and I mentioned it in my first blog post.

There are many forms and shapes discrimination takes. There are the more obvious ones like gender, race and sexuality. And then there are the more hidden ones, like those with disabilities, physical and mental.

This past week, I covered a disabilities employment conference and found that those with disabilities are paid 10 percent less than other workers in similar jobs. Although these findings were based on a survey of full-time male workers only, researchers still discussed the importance of this wage gap and the way people perceive disabled people.

Another story I worked on this week dealt with the link between crime and immigration and growing ethnic diversity. Although there is hard evidence to disprove this connection, a new poll by the Center for American Progress found that almost half of those surveyed said they are concerned that crime and problems in neighborhoods will increase with rising ethnic diversity.

Many of the immigration experts I spoke to said these misconceptions and this fear of the “other” could negatively impact diversity-related policies like immigration reform.

Researchers at the disabilities conference also expressed concern about how employers’ misconceptions about people with disabilities could negatively impact the hiring of disabled people. They also found that management training and accommodation programs for disabled people did not ensure workplace satisfaction. Some disabled workers felt their managers saw them for their disability and not as an employee.

One of the researchers also said employers need to be as conscious about disability wage gaps as they are of gender and racial pay disparities. There was also a comment that disabled people are becoming the “new diversity.”

I remember one of my professors asking the class how often they felt like the “other.” One person said she felt like the “other” at a party where she was the only Caucasian person there. But she said when she felt uncomfortable, she left the party.

But what about those who can’t leave? What about those who feel like the “other” all the time?

My diversity stories:
“Study: Workers with disabilities paid 10 percent less”

“Poll: Many Americans link crime with growing ethnic diversity”

Why Asian Americans Confuse Affirmation Action with the Very Real Plight of being Capped Out from Universities of Their Choice

Editor’s Note: We’ve given immigration particular attention with our posts over the last 2 years from the importance of family immigration (of particular concern to our community) to calling out bigots in the immigration debate (a serious concern, not ok or passeable) to original personal stories about immigration. Our annual blogathon was about this very topic. We continue with a piece from Charles Cheng-Kung Wang, an immigration attorney at law in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Since debate regained energy among Asian Americans with Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin (just like in the Jewish American community with DeFunis v. Odegaard nearly 40 years ago), I have reflected on the facts and law, seeking to think out-of-the-box, if you will.

In my mind, the answer lies partly in understanding DeFunis. He was a person of Jewish ancestry who applied to the University of Washington Law School way back when and was denied admission. He sued in state court and then in federal court claiming that he was a victim of affirmative action which favored African Americans. DeFunis was unable to derail Affirmative Action (just as Fisher also failed a few months ago). However and sadly, the Defunis salvo caused such discord both in his own community and in the black community that to this day, the scars are still there within the very civil rights community itself.

Deep lessons are there to be discerned if Asian Americans use independent and analysis and start thinking for themselves, i.e. not what the conventional wisdom want us to look at things. We must think for ourselves, using a combination of tools, such as historical appreciation (including our own history in America), statistically savvy, and finally legal acumen.

Affirmative Action is an artificial and quite imperfect (and being imperfect, it necessarily must be a temporary) construct of sociology and ultimately of American civil rights law that is designed to assist African Americans (back in the old days of Brown v. Board and onwards and such great men as pastor Martin Luther King, JR. and attorney, late Justice Thurgood Marshall) to cure some of the injustices of slavery, Jim Crow and modern de facto discrimination. As Asian Americans, and because we are Americans, we must revisit this history again and again until the day when our children are not judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character (the man who said these words was a theologian accustomed to contemplating the eternal). Unfortunately, the temporal reality today is that African Americans (and also Hispanic Americans) continue to be under-represented at choice Universities.

Nevertheless, in my opinion, Affirmative Action remains a positive force to correct injustice, and being such, is never a device to inflict injustice. More important, being a device to do justice, it must never be allowed to be perverted to do injustice.

The statistical reality for University enrollment is that the tail end of the Bell Curve is about 10-15%. The bulge of the bell i.e. the “majority” is 50-70% of the population depending on the school one looks at. Asian Americans usually occupy the other tail of the bell at say around 10-15%. So I ask you to figure out, which group is currently the most privileged in terms of access to top schools?

In my opinion, over the years, for a number of reasons too complex to cover here, Asian Americans have been induced to believe, erroneously, that the cause of Asian American being shut out of schools of their choice is Affirmative Action. I think the fundamental reasons, once understood will lead to a totally different conclusion – this I have explained above and in previous writings. I had arrived at this assertion mostly from very simplistic theoretical analysis (e.g. under a very rudimentary feel of the basic nature of a Gaussian bell curve but alas I almost failed statistics in college) and without in-depth study of actual current data (some of which are guarded by the admissions officers like their crown jewels). However, others e.g. Dr. Chen Yu have started looking at data that is available and are coming to the same conclusion with reliable current data as far as I can see.

So I humbly write this rather long letter to urge everyone, and I mean everyone – Asian Americans and everyone in the civil rights community and everyone in university administration offices to revisit this in a new light. I urge all concerned to engage in some de-construction, if you will, that is to consider the premise that Affirmative Action is not the cause of Asian American rejection at the top Universities, and then do some reconstruction to accept that the rejection is due to the cap quota or upper ceiling that keep the Asian Americans out. The outcome of such a quota benefit very much the middle bulge of the bell and not the other tail of the bell. The proof is that while Asian Americans need higher numerical scores to be admitted, the other minorities still are under-represented.

The hard question reduces to “How can the majority occupying a legacy position of privilege benefit from appropriating the remedy of affirmative action to keep better qualified Asian Americans out of the best Universities of America and are still failing in correcting historical under-representation?” Dear friends, something is out of joint! And this challenge will remain vital, regardless of how the United States Supreme Court decide Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action (again no space for me to explain why here).

As the alarm clock I bought for my little daughter always hollers, it is time to WAKE UP and DO SOME MORNING EXERCISE!

Respectfully submitted,
Charleston C K Wang

Real people and their stories: How the government shutdown affected journalists

Editor’s Note: We welcome Jayna Omaye to our blogteam! She’s a journalist with Northwestern University and we are very excited for the professional insight and writing she brings to you our reader.

What happens when your job is covering the government as a journalist, but the government shuts down for two weeks? That was the dilemma many journalists faced as hearings, speaking engagements and other events were postponed so legislators could focus on reopening the government.

Sometimes it’s really easy to get caught up in the politics of an issue, especially when you’re in D.C. When the government shut down, many people were concerned with which politician was arguing for what, why the two parties couldn’t get along, etc.

But the real effects of the shutdown could be seen through the eyes of the average, everyday person: the furloughed employees, the tourists who traveled all the way to D.C. to see barricaded monuments, and the businesses near the Hill that took a beating.

These stories were worth telling, and that is what my classmates and I tried to focus on during the shutdown. If you weren’t in the district during these past two weeks, the shutdown may not have been as obvious. But it has affected everyone, including those not in D.C.

I remember calling my mom to ask her if the federal cemetery where my grandparents are buried was still open. The thought of it closing only hit her as she was driving up the hill to the cemetery.

During the first week of the shutdown, I was working on a story about how well youth followed government news. A Pew study found that younger Americans were least likely to follow the shutdown.

I remember talking to a furloughed intern who was worried about receiving college credit for her internship if the shutdown didn’t end soon. In the meantime, she had to substitute her internship experience with reading textbooks and writing essays. Another intern I talked to was not furloughed because her Congressman deemed his entire staff essential.

Another story I worked on was a video about how D.C. tour companies were affected by the shutdown. I went into the story expecting that these businesses would say the shutdown was horrible and devastating to their business. But again, I was surprised.

Even though one tour company said they were losing business and customers, they also said the shutdown allowed them to explore other avenues and be resourceful. They were able to increase their neighborhood and food tours, which weren’t affected by the shutdown, and help furloughed local workers tour and see their own neighborhoods.

Many people think working as a journalist in D.C. is all about covering government hearings and the politics of an issue. While that is half true, the other part of the job is understanding how what happens in D.C. affects the rest of the country.

I know many people who don’t like “politics.” And while I understand where they’re coming from (because it can be very confusing to grasp), politics and policies encompass everything in this country.

Every single bill that passes through Congress and is signed by the President affects citizens nationwide, whether they know it or not. This idea was even more apparent these past two weeks.

So what happens when your job is covering the government as a journalist, but the government shuts down? As always, you concentrate on real people and their stories.

My shutdown stories:
“D.C. tourism takes a hit during government shutdown”

“Youth least likely to follow government shutdown news, report says”

– Jayna Omaye

Should Teachers Pack Heat?

I recently came across this article about a private Christian school in Arkansas that not only arms some of their teachers, but openly promotes this fact with signs posted at the school’s entrance.

With the recent school shooting at a Georgia elementary school which happened less than a week ago — and Congress’ failure to pass legislation requiring expanded background checks back in April — could this be a viable option for protecting kids in school?  What do you think?

— Alex Polishuk

P.S.  Check out this video by VICE where the team travels to a school that is not only arming the teachers but teaching the kids to fight back against intruders!


Although this is a slight departure from the typical content of this blog, the message that is communicated in this video is powerful and widely relatable.  Basically, life is short and time is precious:  take risks, and do things you love with the people you love as often as you can.  I’m sure you’ve all heard some form of this before, but the creators’ clever use of jellybeans really puts things in perspective.  This video struck a serious chord with me and really got me thinking about the ways I spend my time and possible changes I can make to lead a more meaningful existence.  Who knew jellybeans could have such an impact?

— Alex Polishuk

AAPIs a Crucial Vote

Asian American vote for Democratic President

Although pundits and commentators have attributed Barack Obama’s victory in 2012 to support from the Hispanic and African American communities, many have overlooked the critical role that Asian Americans played in that election. That year, President Obama won 73 percent of the Asian American vote, up from 62 percent in 2008. Asian Americans supported Obama in greater margins than any voter group except African Americans.

While Asian Americans currently only comprise 5 percent of the U.S. population, their numbers are predicted to swell to 9 percent by 2050. Furthermore, in swing states like Nevada and Virginia, Asian Americans already wield significant voting strength. As of the 2010 Census, Asian Americans form approximately 7 percent of Nevada’s population and 6 percent of Virginia’s. In other swing states, like North Carolina and Florida, the growth of the Asian American community outpaces the national average.

Even in non-swing states with high Asian American populations, their votes can be very influential in primary elections. For example, Hillary Clinton’s victory over President Obama in the 2008 Democratic primaries in California, where Asian Americans comprise 8 percent of the Democratic electorate, was largely due to the 3-1 margin of support she garnered from that bloc.

As the 2016 presidential race begins to heat up, Republican and Democratic strategists will undoubtedly focus more attention on this crucial voting bloc.

– Michael Dee