Author: Carmen Schaye (Page 2 of 3)

The War on a Woman’s Right to Choose

Across the country, on stages big and small, legislators, activists, and judges are waging a war on women’s right to choose. Though this right has been a settled law for almost half a century, having been decided upon in the Supreme Court in 1973, it has nonetheless become the central issue in the American culture war. And for good reason: for the Christian right, abortion is the immoral termination of a life; for the left, it represents a woman’s right to control her body and adjudicate if they are economically, emotionally, and physically ready to have a child. Each side is uncompromisingly dogmatic about their position on the issue, and equally convinced that it is critical to fight for complete victory.

While Roe v. Wade has ensured Americans’ right to choose on a federal level, some states are adopting limitations on abortion that effectively foreclose the possibility of a safe and legal abortion. There are currently ten states with so-called “heartbeat bills”, which ban abortions once the fetus has a detectable heartbeat, which is typically about six weeks into a pregnancy, when many women still don’t even know that they are pregnant. Some states force women seeking an abortion to have an ultrasound before they terminate the pregnancy; others force women who successfully get an abortion to have a funeral for the remains of the fetus.

Many of these laws flagrantly violate the standards for abortion access laid out in Roe v. Wade, and there is reason to believe that the GOP is deliberately violating those standards as a strategy to bring a case before the Supreme Court. While Roe v. Wade is settled law, it could be overturned if a case challenging a state’s restrictions on abortion is brought before the court. It is unlikely that the court would use that opportunity to ban abortion altogether, but it is entirely possible that it could return the ability to do so to individual states.

There is no telling how disruptive repealing Roe v. Wade would be to our current political system. On the left, women have become the lifeblood of the party, and their representation in Congress is all but certain to grow in the years to come. Rolling back a woman’s right to choose would be received as a direct threat to their equality as citizens of this country. A repeal would divide the country into pro-life states and pro-choice states, essentially creating two Americas.

This scenario is speculative, of course, and Chief Justice Roberts seems to resist the pressure to make the court an activist body. It is perhaps more likely that he will simply allow the status quo to continue, in which abortion rights are eroded and hamstrung but not summarily banned. That strategy spares the GOP the potential blowback of repealing Roe v. Wade while allowing for de facto bans.

Regardless, there is undeniable pressure on Roberts and the other conservative justices to dismantle Roe v. Wade. While running for office, President Trump was clear about his desire to appoint judges to the Supreme Court who would repeal Roe v. Wade, and memorably said that were abortion to be outlawed, there would have to be “some sort of punishment” for women who illegally underwent the procedure. Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s two appointees to the Supreme Court, are both conservative Christians, and were both selected in part for their willingness to vote to repeal Roe v. Wade. While a repeal remains hypothetical, the pieces are certainly in place to make it a reality.

© Dr. Carmen Schaye

It Takes A Woman: Kirstjen Nielsen, Claire Grady, and the President’s Border War

This past week, frustrated with Mexico’s inaction on illegal immigration into the United States, the President threatened to close the U.S.-Mexico border. This would’ve been an unprecedented—and extraordinarily costly—escalation in the President’s fight to curb the flow of immigrants entering the country. The President relented, however, thanks to pushback from within his administration led by Kirstjen Nielsen, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, and Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State, after Nielsen and Pompeo stressed that such an extreme measure would do more harm than good.

That pushback would prove to be the end of Nielsen’s turbulent tenure in the Administration. After Nielsen was excoriated at a cabinet meeting last week, she drew up a “list of things that needed to change,” in preparation for a meeting with the President, according to reporting by the New York Times. When she went to said meeting, however, the President ignored the list and insisted that she resign. After their meeting, Nielsen submitted her letter of resignation, adding her name to the lengthy list of administration officials who either resigned, were forced to resign, or were fired.

Nielsen is perhaps most notable for enduring intense public scrutiny while steadily checking the President’s more extreme policy agenda items from within the administration. A lifelong bureaucrat, Nielsen was the rare member of the administration equipped with both pedigree and relevant experience. Nielsen was educated the Georgetown school of Foreign Service and the University of Virginia School of Law, then worked as a special assistant to the security council in George W. Bush’s administration. Before being appointed Secretary of the DHS, she worked for John Kelly, first in his role as Secretary of DHS and subsequently as Chief of Staff in the current administration.

Those qualifications also made Nielsen the target of the President’s suspicion. In an administration where loyalty is prized above insight, she was seen as a Washington insider who only knew how to play by the rules. And for good reason: repeatedly throughout her tenure, Nielsen had to be the voice of reason in order to explain why something that the President wanted to do—stop offering asylum, for instance—was illegal and therefore impossible. Nielsen also hesitated to toe the party line on issues like family separation, and only complied when the President pressured her to do so. While she remained a thoughtful and practiced bureaucrat, she did whatever possible to assuage the President’s concerns that she was undermining his agenda, even adopting his language of a “crisis” at the border.

Needless to say, Nielsen’s efforts to comport herself as a border ideologue did not sufficiently convince her critics in the administration. Nor did they allow her to appoint her own successor. As the undersecretary for management and acting deputy, Claire Grady was next in the department’s line of succession, as outlined in federal law. Like Nielsen, Grady was eminently qualified for her position, having nearly three decades of experience at DHS and the Defense Department. But Grady was also forced to submit her letter of resignation this week, after the President announced that he would instead be appointing a hardliner, Kevin McAleenan, to become the acting Secretary of the DHS.

Though it would be difficult to say that Secretary Nielsen’s time in office was an unmitigated success, it is clear that her breadth of experience and her humanitarian instincts played a role in checking many of the administration’s more extreme impulses. Some have speculated that the specter of family separation will follow Nielsen long after she leaves office. I hope that this is not the case, as it seems fairly obvious to me that Nielsen was doing whatever was necessary to remain at her post and prevent a catastrophe. Further, we need more, not less, women like Nielsen to step up and serve in the current administration. If we place the blame for family separation squarely on her shoulders, we only pave the way for the President to fill his ranks with those who will never challenge him.

© Dr. Carmen Schaye

It Takes A Woman: Lori Lightfoot Becomes Chicago’s Next Mayor

After Rahm Emanuel announced that he would not seek re-election for the mayor of Chicago, a host of qualified candidates piled into the race. Having previously served as chief of staff in President Obama’s administration, Emanuel was elected mayor in 2011, and his tenure as mayor had been exceedingly fraught with scandal. Many Chicagoans came to view the entire political class of the city as corrupt, elite, and out of touch with everyone outside of the Loop.

Enter Lori Lightfoot, a civil servant who had worked behind the scenes in two mayoral administrations. Prior to the mayoral race, Lightfoot was most widely known for having served on an investigative task force examining police misconduct in Chicago. The investigation was far-reaching, and its results were striking: the ensuing report found that the Chicago P.D. had widespread racist tendencies, and that residents of the city viewed them as dangerous and untrustworthy. Following the publication of the report, Lightfoot entered the race.

Lightfoot staged her campaign on similar grounds to that damning report, claiming that Chicago politics were systematically corrupt and in need of a major overhaul. Her campaign slogan was “Let The Light In”. It also didn’t hurt that Lightfoot fit the description for an ‘outsider’; Lightfoot is black, openly gay, and has never served in elected office.

In the February primary, Lightfoot emerged the frontrunner of 14 candidates, narrowly edging out the second-place finisher, Toni Preckwinkle, another black woman and the head of the Democratic Party in Chicago. Most notably, both Lightfoot and Preckwinkle defeated Richard Daley, a member of the infamous Daley family that has been a dynasty in Chicago politics. Daley’s supporters were certain that he would at least land in the top two and get a chance at a run-off, but voters showed that they were sick of the same-old names and mentalities.

This past week, Lightfoot won her run-off against Preckwinkle, having successfully positioned herself as the more progressive candidate and widening her lead from the primary. She will become not only first black woman to serve as Chicago’s mayor, but also the first openly gay person. She pledges to bring equity and prosperity to the entire city, which is notoriously segregated, claiming that she would transform Chicago into “a place where your ZIP code doesn’t determine your destiny”.

The wider implications of Lightfoot’s victory are all-too-clear. In a nation frustrated with corruption and dishonest leadership, voters turn to candidates who can credibly claim to be outside the influence of the powers that be. More and more, those candidates are women and particularly women of color. As we approach the primaries for the presidency in 2020, this trend only stands to grow stronger.

© Dr. Carmen Schaye

It Takes a Woman: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Left

When she began her run for congress in the 14th congressional district, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was working as a bartender and waitress in Manhattan. She had worked as an organizer on Bernie Sanders’s 2016 run, and, after taking a road trip through places like Flint, Michigan and the Standing Rock reservation, she decided to run against the ten-term incumbent, Mike Crowley, in her district. Having run unopposed in the primary since 2004, Crowley was caught flat-footed—he didn’t even show up to their primary debate—and AOC, as she is now known, successfully painted Crowley as a complacent and out-of-touch. In June of 2018, Ocasio-Cortez beat Crowley by almost 15 percentage points in a landslide victory that the New York Times predicted would “reverberate across the party and the country.”

AOC’s stature as a political figure has only grown since then, as has her platform of Democratic Socialism. If Bernie Sanders introduced the ideology of democratic socialism to the American people, AOC has made it mainstream. In quick succession, she has brought once-unthinkable propositions to the table: she has championed the Green New Deal, a sweeping package designed to curb American’s carbon emissions while creating thousands of new jobs; she has proposed a 70% marginal tax rate for those making more than $10 million dollars per year; and she opposed the construction of Amazon’s much-discussed “HQ2” near her congressional district, leading a chorus of voices that may have contributed to Amazon’s decision to scrap the plans.

These bold moves have certainly won AOC many supporters, but they have also made her the target of breathless criticism. Critics on the right have seized upon AOC’s idealism as naïve and dangerous. Many on the left, too, view her as too disruptive a force within the Democratic party. Former Governor Ed Rendell recently stated that “AOC does not speak for the democratic party,” and that people like her will decrease the likelihood that a Democrat will defeat President Trump in the 2020 election. People like Rendell believe that the Democrats should occupy the safe territory of criticizing President Trump and winning back the moderate voters who voted for Trump believing that he could deliver some change in Washington.

While there may be a logic to that sort of thinking, AOC’s power lies in her ability to tell a story that makes sense to voters, rather than just trying to cobble together enough votes to win elections. For AOC and her supporters, the status quo has become so perilous—fast-approaching climate catastrophe, precipitous wealth disparity, a disappearing middle class—that fundamental shifts must be made in the way we operate. For too long, the democratic party has overdelivered inspiring rhetoric while underdelivering policy that will improve their constituents’ lives. Unlike the vague promises of “change”, AOC speaks to concrete, if historically ambitious, policy proposals.

While this may seem like a small distinction, it constitutes a fundamental reimagining of the democratic party as it exists today. For those like Governor Rendell, the democratic party is essentially a hedge against the hard-right instincts of the GOP; for AOC, the democratic party should push an ambitious platform that advocates for the poor and the working class. In a nation with a runaway conservative party that denies scientific consensus, refuses to address gun violence, and actively seeks to strip health insurance from constituents, arriving compromise is insufficient.

If her career thus far is any indication, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez understands these dynamics and has a preternatural ability to engage with them. She is the first political leader that not just understands but embodies the burgeoning social consciousness that defines her generation and those that will follow it. Her political appeal is as emotional as it is philosophical, deeply felt and deeply held. For those who do not agree with her politics, this emotionality is further evidence of her un-seriousness as a politician. But for those who do agree, her conviction is all too fitting: the oceans are rising, the forests are burning, and three Americans (Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett) have the same combined wealth as 50% of the American population. For the vast majority of the American people, these trends are dangerous, hostile, and anathema to a well-functioning republic.

Using her unique blend of social media savvy and congressional advocacy, AOC can singlehandedly propel an issue into the conversation. As she continues her political career, it is conceivable that she will champion even more ambitious progressive issues like universal basic income and free college tuition. Her advocacy is powerful, and she commands an enormous audience of Americans who share both her anxieties and her aspirations for a new mode of American life. In that way, she maybe a sort of ‘oracle’ for American politics and where we might be heading. Regardless, she is a true leader and a new model for the type of citizen that, like it or not, might come to define the next chapter in American history.

© Dr. Carmen Schaye

It Takes A Woman: Reclaiming Moral Leadership

This past week, news broke of a sweeping criminal conspiracy in the world of college admissions. Through an organization called “The Key”, William Singer committed widespread fraud by falsifying his clients’ test scores and applications in order to gain admission to elite universities across the country.  Singer bribed SAT proctors to correct student’s answers to achieve a desired score. He bribed college officials to falsely claim that they were recruiting a student. He called these avenues to admission the “side door”–the front door being ordinary, regular admission, and the backdoor being buying admission through mega-donations.

Needless to say, Singer’s services were not cheap. Ranging from $15,000 to more than a million dollars, his fraud was only available to those children who already had every conceivable advantage in applying to college. Their parents were CEOs, partners in major law firms, fashion designers, and famous actors. They had attended private high schools and had private tutors. They could afford to pay full tuition at any university they might choose to attend. Yet their parents felt compelled to use the “side door” in order to guarantee that their child was admitted to Ivy League schools and prestigious universities.

This story is deeply troubling, as it reflects the sort of moral decay that has become commonplace among the rich and well-connected. It reflects a prevailing mindset of “me first”. So what if my child, who has never played soccer, will be fraudulently taking the roster position of someone who practiced every day for 12 years–me first. My daughter wants to go to Yale, and if bribing the soccer coach is what it takes to get in, that’s what it takes.

Perhaps more insidious than Singer’s “side door” of outright bribery is the “back door” that is completely legal: the use of money and legacy at a university to attain admission for one’s child. Universities thrive on the donations of their alumni, but their swelling endowment often comes with an understood price: admitting the children of those alumni when the time comes. Unlike Affirmative Action, which then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions tried to outlaw just last year, this practice of “legacy admissions” has gone completely unchallenged as a means of circumventing the supposedly meritocratic process of college admissions. The fact that Sessions and other lawmakers would seek to challenge Affirmative Action, which seeks to diversify the ranks of elite college and universities by giving special consideration to the under-privileged, while allowing legacy admissions to continue unabated belies their supposed intention to create a level playing field for college applicants.

Both the ‘side door’ and ‘back door’ to elite colleges exist as a means for wealthy parents to intervene in the college process to increase, or guarantee, the likelihood of their child’s admission. Again, this “Me first” mentality is all too familiar in our society, from the Oval Office to the home. As a society, we have been groomed to view someone’s success as a result of their upstanding character, when studies show that the exact opposite is often true. Recent studies have shown that there exists a “dark triad” of personality traits—narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism—that are mostly highly correlated with success. These traits are not only tolerated but deliberately sought out by some corporations, as they employ the sort of thinking that prioritizes personal success at the expense of others.

Nonetheless, we would do well to foreclose those ‘side doors’ and ‘back doors’ in our society that allow the less qualified and more privileged among us to rise to positions of power. The more that our society resembles a meritocracy, the more that those who rise to power will reflect those values, and the more they can encourage others to set their sights on success by modeling their behavior.

Reorienting our ideas of leadership and the qualities that make one a leader is a responsibility that may fall to women. The past few decades have seen an enormous spike in women rising to leadership roles, and the sunlight of our presence in positions of power has already proved a very effective disinfectant. The cultural phenomenon of the #metoo movement demonstrated how sexual predators had been allowed not just to linger, but to thrive, despite multiple accusations of misconduct. Further, a new wave of congresswomen like Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez has ushered in much-needed conversations on issues like climate change and income inequality. It is painfully clear that women’s moral clarity is long overdue in the public sphere; now, as we continue to expand our influence, we would do well to reward the behaviors of ethical, moral leadership, rather than those of the “dark triad” that disguise a naked desire for personal gain. Then, and only then, can women effectively reorient the moral compass of the nation to point in a direction that is more reliably ethical.

© Carmen Schaye

It Takes a Woman: Learning To Lead On the School Board

Though almost anyone can run for office, there is certain knowledge and skill that makes someone an ethical, responsible politician. The most surefire way to gain that skillset is through hands-on experience. The question is, how does one gain sufficient experience to lead before taking office? Obviously, there is no easy answer or pathway: some deeply qualified candidates never win a single election, while the sitting President won his election despite having no experience as an elected official.

The most reliable means of building a strong political career is through fostering one’s connection to a community. There is a reason that many politicians begin on the local level before expanding to state or federal office; at the local level, a politician can approach issues with personal experience on the issues at hand, and credibly offer solutions to improve them.

There is perhaps no elected office more intimately connected to a community than that of a school board member. While mayors and city council members interact with a diverse range of issues and policy areas, school board members are specifically tasked with providing for the future of the community through the oversight of its schools, and thereby its children. As such, a school board member is entrusted with the responsibility to maximize a city’s resources to ensure that it provides children with the tools necessary for a gainful career and healthy adult life. Furthermore, the members of a community who the school board interacts with most frequently are not the students themselves, but the students’ parents. Needless to say, parents are extremely passionate about their children’s education. To that end, the school board must work in concert with the parents in a community to hear their concerns and implement solutions wherever possible.

School board members are truly on the frontlines of problem-solving, working towards the shared future of a community. A school board’s actions can influence student’s academic achievement, and school board members make decisions that impact future generations by setting policy and allocating resources necessary for student academic achievement.  The board member sets priorities and can hold the district accountable for meeting student expectations.

For all of the above reasons, a school board is a great place to start a career in public service as an elected official, particularly as a woman. Nationwide, 44% of school  board members are women. Far removed from the grandstanding surrounding national politics, school board elections deal with the concrete problems facing a community. They demand that candidates propose solutions to problems, and their success or failure in office rests on their ability to achieve those solutions, or at minimum, to improve the performance of the schools. This sort of solution-oriented strategies, rather than soaring rhetoric or shallow fearmongering, is the foundation for a sustainable career as an elected official.

Take for example, the career of Jackie Goldberg,  a 74-year-old former California assemblywoman , who this week is the frontrunner in a special election for a seat for the Los Angeles Unified School District on the board of education. Goldberg is running because she believes that there is a need for her experience and skills in this critical period of Charter School inundation in California school districts. As a former teacher, she knows firsthand the needs of the classroom and pathways to student success. Goldberg will now face whomever emerges as the second-place finisher–currently a dead heat between Graciela Ortiz and Heather Repenning–in a run-off election. While all of the contenders for the seat are uniquely qualified, Goldberg has the enviable position of a proven track record as a classroom teacher and school board member; Goldberg previously served on the school board from 1983 to 1991, fighting for increased autonomy for teachers and administrators within schools. After 1991, Goldberg went on to serve as an LA City Councilor and subsequently as a California Assemblywoman. While in the state assembly, she studied the budgets of school systems statewide, and authored legislation tailored towards optimizing school performance. Having served on a school board, she knew what sort of solutions would funnel resources to students and improve schools.

Democracy is a tricky business, and there will inevitably be politicians who seek to jump the line. As more women seek elected office, many are choosing to run for legislative positions and skipping school board. But building a strong foundation through community organizing and local action is the best way to ensure that when a politician arrives in office, they can achieve their policy proposals with a realistic and considered idea of how campaign proposals will translate to action and ultimately affect the communities involved. A school board is a fantastic place to build on-the-ground experience and a sense of what it means to lead.

American Women and the Presidency

For many of us, Hillary Clinton’s 2016 candidacy for the Presidency was profoundly bittersweet. She was the first woman to win the nomination of a major political party, and she seemed destined to become the first female President. As we all know, that historic achievement was left painfully unfulfilled.

As the field of candidates for 2020 begins to take shape, we are witnessing a different sort of historical moment: for the first time, there are several highly qualified women competing for the nomination. As of this writing, four senators—Kamala Harris, Kristen Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar, and Elizabeth Warren—have declared that they will seek the Presidency in 2020. Each of these women has distinguished themselves in the Senate and their careers at large, and each will be a serious contender for the Democratic nomination. This marks an enormous step forward, by which women can move beyond the novelty of running as a woman, and can instead center their campaigns on the policies and ideas that distinguish them as candidates.

The history of women running for the highest office in the land does not begin in 2016, however; it stretches all the way back to 1872, thanks to a woman named Victoria Woodhull. Woodhull was a women’s suffrage and “free love” activist, advocating for women’s ability to marry, divorce, and bear children without government interference. She was nominated by the short-lived Equal Rights Party to run for President in 1872. Though Woodhull didn’t receive any electoral votes, her candidacy served to bring women’s suffrage and equal rights into the mainstream.

It wouldn’t be until almost a century later, in 1964, that another woman—a Republican, no less—entered the conversation. Margaret Chase Smith, a distinguished congresswoman who served in both the house and the Senate, was the first woman to be considered at a major party’s convention. Shortly thereafter, Shirley Chisholm was the first black candidate for the office, and the first woman to vie for the Democratic nomination in 1972. Geraldine Ferraro and Sarah Palin were on the ballot as vice presidential candidates in 1984 and 2008, respectively. Women were inching ever-closer to the Presidency, culminating in Hillary Clinton clinching the democratic nomination in 2016. The only obstacle left was to break the final glass ceiling.

Clinton’s loss in 2016 was crushing, made all the worse by Donald Trump’s flagrant disregard for women and particularly women in power. Nonetheless, it would be a mistake to neglect the enormous progress that has been made since Victoria Woodhull sought the Presidency in 1872. Generations of women have fought to bring us to this historical moment, and the current array of eminently qualified women vying for the presidency in 2020 is nothing short of inspiring.

Carmen Schaye ©

It Takes a Woman: Universal Human Rights Declaration 1948

“Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility. For the person who is unwilling to grow up, the person who does not want to carry his own weight, this is a frightening prospect.” —Eleanor Roosevelt, American Delegate to the United Nations

This month marks the 70th Anniversary of the United Nations Human Rights Commission, which was established on December 10, 1948. The driving force behind the creation of the Commission was The former First Lady of the United States at that time, Eleanor Roosevelt. Throughout her career, Eleanor identified and codified the liberties in the 1948 Human Rights Declaration.

Eleanor Roosevelt began her life as a privileged woman with a remarkable humanistic sensitivity that drove her to a lifelong career in advocacy and social justice for populations in New York City tenements. Through her early commitment to volunteerism in the 1900s, with other New York socialites such as the Harriman’s, she began her career in civic leadership, through teaching English to immigrant families and working with refugees as one of the Founders of Junior League. Early in the 20th century, she married Franklin Delano Roosevelt who, as we know, would be elected the President of the United States in 1933. It was Eleanor who raised her husband’s consciousness and worked toward assisting Depression-era families.

The First Lady of the World

During the Great Depression, she turned her attention to the needs of the poor in the South. Through Eleanor’s influence, the Roosevelt era administration created many modern social programs, including groundbreaking legislation such as Social Security, WPA and immediate economic relief from the Great Depression. Her passion resulted in reforms in industry, agriculture, finance, labor, housing and welfare for families with dependent children. Eleanor changed the previously more traditional role of First Lady, first by joining her husband on the campaign trail, and then by becoming an advocate for Human Rights during and after World War II, so much so that she eventually became the first delegate to the United Nations from 1945-1952, and was known as the “First Lady of the World.”

After the death of her husband (1945), she was appointed by President Harry S. Truman as the First U.S delegate to the newly established United Nations and in 1946 Eleanor was selected to Chair and draft a Declaration for Human rights. The focus of the document was on refugee issues and on creating elements that might prevent another war. She became a forceful advocate for women and children.

In the past 70 years the Human Right Declaration has expanded exponentially and celebrates the following:
∙ 500 languages: UDHR holds the Guinness Book of World Records as the most translated document in the world, with translations ranging from Abkhaz to Zulu.
∙ 18 treaties and optional protocols advancing human rights have been agreed since 1948.
∙ 198 countries now allow women the right to vote, compared to 91 countries in 1948.
∙ 104 countries have now outlawed capital punishment, compared to only 9 in 1948.
∙ 57% of countries have a national human rights institution today.
∙ 111 countries have adopted freedom of information laws & policies, at least 15 of them in the past 4 years

∙ Global multilateral frameworks for peace and human rights are increasingly under threat.
∙ Climate change: a threat to the right to life, food, water & housing.
∙ Right to work: emerging problems of automation and challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
∙ Inequality: global, national, and urban inequalities regarding such factors like gender, socioeconomic status, race, and others.
∙ Women and gender: issues such as sexual assault, rape, exploitation, violence against women, and pay gaps.
∙ Freedom of Expression: complications in the internet age
∙ Migrants and refugees: growing global migrant crisis.
∙ Democracy: under threat around the world.


The UDHR has also spawned many other important international treaties, including the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (179 states); the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (189); the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (196); and the United Nations Convention Against Torture (162).

The UDHR continues to inspire new treaties. One of the most recent, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, is also one of the most rapidly ratified, with 175 states signing onto it in its first decade, and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which entered into force in 2010, has so far been ratified by 58 nations. (THE UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS 70TH ANNIVERSARY)

Thank you, Eleanor T. Roosevelt, for your tireless work to the end of your life for the implementation of the Declaration of Human Rights.

“Do what you feel in your heart to be right—for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

We should all heed Eleanor’s words. We Know that It Takes A Woman to Make Change.

The Honduran Migrant Women

An invasion of alleged criminals, gang members and “Middle Easterners” was set to spill over the  US southern border and create mass chaos in the United States. Mass fear-mongering proliferated by the GOP as the elections approached, calling for increased security against the unruly mob of refugees approaching our verdant country in order to ignite a robust RED Wave. However, the story of the women and children fleeing violence and economic hardships is overlooked in the broader group.

The Administration and media labeled a caravan of Central American economic refugees with a list of unsavory titles in order to rally support for the approaching elections. The Commander and Chief ordered troops to the southern border with the express purpose of defending against the oncoming horde. However, that gaggle of migrants hundreds of miles away on the southern border of Mexico. In fact, almost a month after initial deployment and those troops have yet to see any engagement and it is unlikely that they will due to the legal status that prevents them from arresting migrants. This caravan of poor families and workers seeking to improve their conditions has proven to be little threat to national security. The danger these women face staying in the countries they have fled is great enough for these women to sacrifice everything, despite the hostile disposition they have received from the United States.

The entire debacle continues to grow now the elections have passed. Around 800 of the refugees are currently in shelters in Tijuana, where they are not popular among the local population. Migrant shelters are their capacity and the main body of the caravan approaches as it makes its way through the Mexican state of Sonora. The women and children in these shelters have already faced extreme hardships to reach this point. Now, the United States President has issued an executive order denying the right of these families to apply for asylum. Having crossed an entire county to escape violence and seek safety, this decree comes as disheartening to those who have uprooted their entire lives.

United States District Judge Jon Tigar of San Francisco ruled the administration’s policy that denies the right to asylum for these families is in direct conflict with the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act. Under this law, migrants may seek protection even if they enter the country outside of a legal port of entry. The future of this block is uncertain as the case will be reviewed in December. The threat to these migrant women is great as some they are prime targets to be trafficked after they are denied asylum.  The treatment of those seeking asylum who have fled Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador as a single blanket group is a grave mistake with consequences for these vulnerable women and children. Rather than placing a flat ban, they should be considered as families and individuals. If the administration has family values, then it will value families.

This past week end many Hondurans and Central Americans shuddered when they found out the US authorities shut the border down at San Ysidro, one of the busiest border crossings. Tear gas was fired into Mexico at the Central American migrants approaching the border. The Administration has promised that this group of refugees would not easily enter the country.

The crowds have succumbed to panic as the refugees fear they will not be able to enter on US soil and apply for asylum.  In the meantime, the US is tying to negotiate with an incoming Mexican president. The US is fueled by its xenophobic tendencies.  Yet women and children are fleeing for safety and risk life.

We shall see what will become of these new members of society, whether they stay in Mexico or enter the United States, they face uncertainty.

It Takes a Woman

Nancy Pelosi has served as the Democratic Majority and Minority Leader of the House since the era of George W. Bush. Moreover, Pelosi has been a Congresswoman since 1987 and her long held position has lead her to become the personification of the liberal establishment and the center of Republican attacks against the Democratic Party. Republican ads played on television screens across the country in the 2018 midterms, using Pelosi as a rallying cry to oppose the election of Democrats. Despite the attempts to flip to red by linking candidates to Pelosi, the House swayed blue and has thus raised her to the potential position of Speaker of the House. Yet she faces opposition, and this time it is from within her own party.

With many of the newly elected House Democrats surging in the polls on a wave of promising change in Washington, the first place they look for change is Democratic Leadership.  The letter is as follows:

November 19, 2018

Dear Democratic Colleagues:

As we head toward the 116th Congress and reclaim our Democratic majority, we believe more strongly than ever that the time has come for new leadership in our Caucus.

We are thankful to Leader Pelosi for her years of service to our Country and to our Caucus. She is a historic figure whose leadership has been instrumental to some of our party’s most important legislative achievements.

However, we also recognize that in this recent election, Democrats ran and won on a message of change. Our majority came on the backs of candidates who said that they would support new leadership because voters in hard-won districts, and across the country, want to see real change in Washington. We promised to change the status quo, and we intend to deliver on that promise.

Therefore, we are committed to voting for new leadership in both our Caucus meeting and on the House Floor.

Sixteen potential House Democrats have signed this Letter, just  one vote shy of the margin she needs to win the speaker post and  complicating the path forward for Nancy Pelosi. Nonetheless, these Democrats do not have enough votes to lock Pelosi out of the seat. Furthermore, some of them have not been officially confirmed as a few key races, such as Ben McAdams’ in Utah, are still too close to call. It should be no surprise to see such challenges in a Congress that has required Democrats to be elected from districts that traditionally lean to the right.

Although Pelosi is amidst controversy she still remains a “historic figure”.  She is the first female Speaker of the House of Representatives. yet she calls herself a Progressive but the   Progressive platform takes issue with her lack of support of “single Payer” healthcare.  She is a centrist who in the eyes of some represents the “status quo”.  She has been successful in leading the Democratic Party to great legislative achievements.  Why do we need new leadership when we have a winner? Is it because she is a woman?  Are men being measured by the same yardstick.

Pelosi remains confident in securing her position as Speaker. She has even invited competition for the seat, knowing that challenging her will still be an uphill battle. This is not to mention that a true challenge could create additional friction within the party at a time when they need to remain united in combating a Republican President and Senate. Nonetheless, Democratic Representative from Ohio, Marcia Fudge, the former chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, is considering just that.

While it is important to ensure the unity of the party, questions and challenges to the status quo such as these are vital for a healthy democracy. Challenges to party leadership reflect representatives who do not blindly follow the chain of command and instead make decisions based on what they reason to be the best course for those they represent. Ultimately it is highly likely that no serious battle will erupt against Pelosi and the left wing will remain stable at this critical juncture. Yet it is important to consider the changes that may be necessary for the party to reflect a diverse society whose priorities are ever changing.

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