Bruce Watson's Page > Posts tagged with "trump"


Subject: When it comes to harassment, what is your role?

Forum: When it comes to harassment, what is your role?
I recently came across a pair of articles that, together, give an interesting glimpse into how the sexual harassment environment is changing. One covered Billy Bush’s appearance on the Late Show, where he reiterated that Donald Trump bragged about sexual harassment on the Access Hollywood bus. But when it came to explaining why he didn’t push back against Trump, Bush faltered, lamely pointing out that he thought Trump’s comments were a comedy routine.

The other article recapped a public disagreement between John Oliver and Dustin Hoffman that occurred during a panel discussion about one of Hoffman’s movies. Oliver surprised the actor by bringing up the sexual harassment allegations against him, and the discussion became heated. Members of the audience criticized Oliver for going off topic, but he explained that he felt it was important to bring it up, as “No one stands up to powerful men.”

Rather than focusing on sexual harassers and victims, these events put the spotlight on bystanders. Billy Bush chose not to speak out about Trump’s sexist comments, while Oliver chose to shift from a movie discussion — which his audience had paid to see — to a harassment discussion that many of them didn’t want to witness. But for all their differences, Oliver and Bush both made a decision about their values, their responsibility, and their willingness to create an uncomfortable environment in order to address a larger point. Faced with sexual harassers, they chose either to face the problem or to turn away.

It’s an issue that resonates: to a great extent, we’re all bystanders, and we’re all being forced to figure out where we stand on these issues. Knowing what we now know, can we still see “The Graduate” the same way? Do the events of this year change the way hear a Louis CK set, or see a Pixar film, or watch George Takei? Does Billy Bush’s failure change the way we react to our friends when they say something offensive? Where do we draw our lines between appropriate and inappropriate behavior?

Your Challenge

Our culture is in the midst of redefining many of its rules, and we are all part of that discussion. Where do you stand on the changing rules and perspectives around sexual harassment? Are we too insensitive? Are we oversensitive? What do you consider an appropriate punishment for a harasser? How about a bystander? Do you have a story about a time when you stood up to harassment…or failed to do so?

Subject: Honoring the Good and Bad in Our History

Forum: Honoring the Good and Bad in Our History
It’s been an interesting couple of weeks for American history and for the way that we memorialize it. But rather than rehashing last week’s events in Charlottesville, VA, I’d like to find out what you think about our shared history and the way that we address it.

For me, this is a complicated question -- my family fought for the North in the Civil War, but I grew up in the South. As a kid, I spent hours camping out on battlefields, listening to mythical tales about the South, yet still very much aware of my own relatives who fought for the other side. Growing up, I never had a problem with statues honoring Confederate soldiers - I saw them as an attempt to heal the wounds left behind after the war.

I later learned that I was wrong: most of those statues were built in the 1920’s, long after the majority of Civil War soldiers were dead. Memorials to a mythical South that never really existed, they were a rallying point for a host of racist groups - including the KKK - that were in the process of gaining power. In that context, it’s hard to defend their inclusion in our public parks or shared spaces.

But what about statues that honor other flawed leaders? As President Trump pointed out, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson - men that we associate with liberty - also held slaves. In fact, 18 Presidents - including Ulysses S. Grant - were slaveholders at some point or another, as were Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, and many other founding fathers. For that matter, as some have pointed out, the White House and the Washington Monument were both built with slave labor. Does that history affect the way we see these monuments and the men they honor?

Recently, two people attacked America’s oldest memorial to Christopher Columbus, citing it as a tribute to America’s genocidal heritage. Given Columbus’ association with slavery, it’s a difficult point to argue against. In fact, the further we dig into our national heroes, the more it becomes clear how broadly, and deeply, the stain of slavery and racism goes.

Your Challenge:

Where do you stand on America’s memorials? Should we tear down monuments to our flawed and racist founding fathers? Should we keep some and destroy others? Should we ignore the flaws of our leaders? Or does doing so somehow make those flaws seem like virtues?

Ultimately, what criteria should we use for destroying or maintaining our monuments?

Subject: Taking Your Education to the Streets

Forum: Taking Your Education to the Streets
Regardless of your feelings about Donald Trump, one thing is beyond dispute: his election has ignited American political involvement in a way that hasn’t been seen since the Vietnam War, if ever. In the month since he took the oath of office, politics has touched almost every aspect of American life, from the Oscars to the Super Bowl to Nordstrom’s spring fashions. Cabinet appointments, once a fairly boring post-inauguration sideshow, have become nail-biting front page stories, and run-of-the-mill press brefings have become high drama.

And this has extended to the general public, too: protesters have taken to the streets in support of women’s rights, have sat in at airports across the country, have turned out in droves for town halls with their Republican congressmen, and have donated money to political groups in record numbers. Trumps fans have also joined the fray, going to the President’s rally in Florida and amping up their presence on the internet.

Protest is, once again, becoming a way of life in America. An article in Slate recently commented that “Protest is the new Tinder,” and other stories have argued that the spate of confrontational town halls have much more to do with expressing individuality than with attacking elected officials.

This leads to an interesting question: as students, all of you are involved in an active process of self-creation. You’re defining yourselves, determining your values, and investing your money and time in developing your abilities. You are, truly, making yourselves every day. And, as we see so vividly, so is our nation.

How do you feel about this? Do you see this as an opportunity for growth, or are you feeling inclined to hide under the covers? What, if any, issues and stories interest or worry you? Are you getting involved, or do you want to? Do you feel more or less engaged in our country than you did a year ago?

Subject: Who Do You Trust?

Forum: Who Do You Trust?
Who do you trust? Where do you find truth?

I know, I know: these are the sorts of annoying questions that you expect to hear from someone passing out pamphlets in the subway or ringing your door at 9 AM on a Saturday morning. But they're also important: who - or what - do you consider an authority? Do you get your truth from a religious testament? A philosophy text? A newspaper? Do you get your truth from a laboratory experiment or a professor or an elected official? Is truth something that you can prove? Something you feel? Something that you just know?

Over the past few days, these vague, philosophical questions have become incredibly relevant as President Trump and his staff have gone head-to-head with the press and with their own government agencies. Arguing over issues ranging from the size of the inaugural audience to Russian hacking to the feasibility of dismantling Obamacare, the White House has thrown the notion of truth into question. And, as terms like "alternate facts" have entered the national conversation, it's clear that arguments about "truth" are going to become increasingly common over the next few months and years.

Almost 50 years ago, the double whammy of the Watergate break-in and the publication of the Pentagon Papers shook a generation as they realized that a sitting President had authorized a cover-up and that their government had continued to fight the Vietnam war, even after it became clear that it was unwinnable. Decades later, trust in the government remains shaky. And now, as we enter a new phase of widespread distrust in the government, it's clear that truth is going to become something increasingly personal - and divisive.

Your Challenge:

Where do you go for truth? Do you trust the government? Place your faith in scientific studies or peer-reviewed literature? Do you have a handful of trusted news sources or websites that you always check? What are they?

More to the point, why do you trust these sources? Why do you consider them sources of truth? Why do you think they have value?

Subject: The New Identity Politics

Forum: The New Identity Politics
In some ways, this last election was almost a parody of identity politics. On one side, there was Hillary Clinton, the first woman to run for President under the banner of a major political party, and the veteran of four decades of sexist political harassment. On the other side was Donald Trump, whose short political career has been marked by a near-constant stream of attacks against women, minorities, the handicapped, and dozens of other disadvantaged and minority groups.

For millions of people, Trump's election signaled a major setback for disadvantaged groups, and many voters took the results as a sign of a racist, sexist backlash. Or, as one pundit put it, a "whitelash."

But, while there's no doubt that bigotry played a big part in this election, there may be another side to this story. Many of the states that went for Trump are former bastions of organized labor, where unions once ensured huge Democrat returns. However, globalization, union busting, and the loss of manufacturing jobs have crushed unions, and left millions of workers with an uncertain future, both for themselves and their children. For many, there isn't a clear path to the middle class. And for those in the middle class, there's often an uncertainty about how secure their position really is.

It's easy to see this election as the selfish convulsions of a white male electorate, or a rejection of Clinton-era scandals, or an attack on politics as usual. But what if it signals the emergence of something else: an economic underclass that perceives itself as victimized and abandoned by mainstream politics?

Your Challenge:

What are your thoughts on the position of identity in politics after this election? Was Trump's victory an attack on disadvantaged groups? A victory for disadvantaged workers? A warning for mainstream politics? A major reconsideration of what it is to be a victim in the current economy? Does it signal a return to the bad old days or a new page in American culture?

Subject: Is the 2016 Election a Dumpster Fire or a Phoenix?

Forum: Is the 2016 Election a Dumpster Fire or a Phoenix?
It’s easy to see why pundits argue that the 2016 election is among history’s worst: we have two unpopular, scandal-plagued candidates locked in battle, and one of them seems determined to transform the political process into a reality show. But for all its disgust and horror, the public is also engaged, and it made the first Presidential debate the most watched in history.

It’s easy to dismiss this election as a dumpster fire, but what if there’s another reason for its popularity?

For both parties, 2016 has been a gut-check. The Clinton/Sanders primary sometimes felt like a fight between battle-scarred 2016 Hillary and idealistic 1969 Hillary. And, while 2016 Hillary won, Bernie Sanders’s angry, disappointed supporters suggests that many working class and middle class Democrats are wondering if the party still represents their interests.

On the flip side, it’s easy to dismiss Trump’s grotesque behavior, but it’s hard to ignore the link between his outrageous, offensive comments and the subtler “dog whistles” that the Republicans have been sending out using for years. In many ways, this is the year that subtle hidden messages were finally dragged into sunlight.

Your Challenge

My question for you is this: is this election Democracy’s end or its rebirth? Does our first reality TV election signal a loss of hope or a renewal of interest? Will it leave voters disaffected? Energized? Will this signal business-as-usual for the Republicans and Democrats, or will they change their approach? What do you think will happen on November 9, 2016? What about 2020?

Subject: The Most Uninspiring Election

Forum: The Most Uninspiring Election
The Presidential election is five months away, but it's pretty clear who the two major candidates are going to be. And the electorate is...well...pretty apathetic. In fact, some polls have shown that Trump and Clinton are the least-liked major party candidates in US history.

On the Republican side, Trump has inspired legions of new voters to step up in the primaries, but it's not clear if they'll carry to the general election. Meanwhile, many traditional Republican voters are worried that he's turning their party into a circus sideshow and appealing to some of its most unsavory elements. Party leaders are offering their endorsements slowly and grudgingly.

As for Hillary, many voters seem to regard her as politics-as-usual, a traditional candidate who is too secretive, too slippery, and far too likely to compromise on important issues. It's all-but-impossible for Bernie Sanders to clinch the nomination, and his supporters have already begun complaining that Clinton "stole" the nomination with her huge slate of superdelegates. Many claim that they will refuse to support her in November.

Some of these hard feelings will likely evaporate when campaign season begins in earnest, but it doesn't change the fact that many voters will likely be holding their noses when they pull the levers on election day.

Your Challenge

Many of you are millennials, the group of voters who are being most aggressively courted as we go into the upcoming election. As a potential swing vote, what do you think of the candidates? What could they do to gain your trust and support? If you had your choice of any potential candidate, who would you LIKE to see win the Presidency? Why?

Subject: The Lost Voters

Forum: The Lost Voters
During his failed presidential run, Mitt Romney was caught on video telling a room full of donors that 47% of the public would vote for Obama "no matter what." These people, he said, were "dependent upon government," "believe they are victims" and don't pay income taxes.

Romney's speech reflected conventional wisdom about the American political divide. Republicans tend to push for lower taxes, reduced social programs, and less government oversight, while Democrats generally promote higher taxes, stronger social programs, and more government. Not surprisingly, the poor and disadvantaged tend to skew Democrat, while the rich and privileged are more likely to skew Republican.

But Donald Trump has turned that equation on its head. Recent analyses of his voters show that they tend to be poor or working class, undereducated, underemployed, and rural. In other words, they're exactly the sort of voters who would be most likely to benefit from the larger social safety net and increased oversight that Democratic candidates tend to endorse. Why are they are flocking to Trump's banner?

Trump's voters have become a sort of Rohrshak test for political analysts, who use them to illustrate everything from political fatigue to rural racism to white fear. And, in the process, many of these pundits have displayed their own prejudices - both liberal and conservative . But, under the politics, what are the realities of Trump's populist wave?

Your Challenge:

How do you explain Trump's popularity among underprivileged rural voters? Do you think it reflects a short term trend or a long term issue? What should the Democratic party try to woo these voters? Or, alternately, what can the Republican party do to address their needs and concerns?

Subject: When the Political Fringe Moves to the Main Stage

Forum: When the Political Fringe Moves to the Main Stage
According to the experts, the 2016 election was supposed to be a pretty standard battle between two political dynasties. Bush 3.0 – Jeb – was moderately conservative, was the son of one President and the brother of another, and had spent eight years as Governor of Florida. Meanwhile, Clinton 2.0 - Hillary - had a similarly impressive-yet-moderate resume: eight years as First Lady, eight years as a Senator from New York, and four years as a Secretary of State. Neither Jeb nor Hillary was particularly exciting or galvanizing, but both had strong resumes, deep political skills, and were relatively moderate.

Then came Donald and Bernie.

On the Republican side, Donald Trump jumped into the race with a plan for a gargantuan border fence with Mexico and outspoken comments on everything from women to guns. And, on the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders entered the race. America's longest-serving independent Senator, he describes himself as a Democratic Socialist, his policies are inspired by liberal European political parties, and are largely aimed at taking on income inequality.

Experts initially dismissed Sanders and Trump as side shows, but Trump now leads Republican polls by a wide margin and Jeb Bush has fallen to number six. As for the Democrats, Hilary still leads, but has seen her poll numbers drop from 51% to 41%. Sanders, meanwhile, has edged up to almost 30%. And, in numerous polls, he’s been declared the winner of the first Democrat debate.

Even if Donald and Bernie don’t go the distance, it seems likely that they’re going to have a major effect on the policies of their respective parties’ candidates. Trump’s approach already seems to be affecting his fellow candidates, most notably Ben Carson. And Sanders seems to have pushed Democrats into a far more extreme position on income inequality.

Your Challenge:

Why are extreme challengers doing so well in this election cycle? Are voters simply attracted to outsiders who are less tainted by association with politics as usual? Or are we looking for political leaders pushing bolder, more innovative policies? Are we searching for new ideas – or just new faces?