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Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Pizza

because pizza is happiness, obviously

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Politics

What I Learned from my Political Science Degree

Hey folks! It’s been a while (about two months – I know you’ve been watching the weeks pass by wondering when you would hear from me again). It’s been a crazy couple of months! Andrew and I went to Orlando and New York City, found an apartment to move to in Salt Lake City, started the tedious moving process, and I graduated from Utah State University!

As my undergraduate degree neared its end, I began to have a bit of an existential crisis. I’ve been a student for 16 years and I think I’m pretty good at it. Anyways, I started reflecting on my time as a Political Science student and the most important things I learned. I think a lot of this is really applicable to the current political climate, which is why I’m sharing this in a public forum.

  1. Arguing on a moral basis will never, ever, ever, ever, ever get you anywhere. Morality is kind of a tricky thing because everyone’s moral compass has a slightly different ‘North.’ There are different priorities for everyone. Merriam-Webster defines morality as “beliefs about what is right behavior and what is wrong behavior.” When something is a belief it is not as black and white as you would think. The person you’re arguing with may have the complete opposite belief as you and they’re not wrong because it’s a belief. It’s not a fact. It’s not even an opinion. It’s a belief.
  2. The best way to analyze policies is based on justice. This lesson took a long time for me to learn. It essentially took me dissecting a hefty load of Supreme Court cases for me to realize that what I think is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ doesn’t matter at all, and that’s actually a really, really good thing. What matters is whether every individual is treated justly in the eyes of the law.
  3. The “big” social issues that the American public is concerned about are basically non-issues for the vast majority of us political science scholars. I’m talking about abortion and gay marriage here specifically. It would officially take a constitutional amendment (which is a notoriously difficult task to undertake) to override these decisions. They’re as permanent as something can be in our government. Politicians only talk about these issues because they know the public is still up-in-arms about all of it. They know the truth, too – it’s all a done deal.
  4. The Constitution is not a divine document. This isn’t to say it wasn’t divinely inspired – it very well could have been. What I’m trying to say here is that the Constitution doesn’t cover everything and that it’s okay to change it. Obviously it wasn’t perfect – we’ve changed it 27 times. Yet people treat it like it’s the tablets handed to Moses on Mount Sinai themselves. As such, it’s incredibly difficult to getting an amendment through. If you take out the Bill of Rights (the first 10 amendments) that were added on as a compromise, then there’s been one amendment every 13.5 years on average. It’s so difficult, that women still haven’t been constitutionally declared equal. It’s done through a backdoor clause of the 14th amendment.
  5. The American public is change-averse. And it kind of makes things really crappy for everyone. Americans hate admitting that there’s a problem (see point number 4), and it takes decades of mistreatment and discontent before they decide to do something about it. I have seen chart after chart and more graphs than I care to share about how America is falling behind other first world countries in areas like public education, higher education, infrastructure, social mobility, and healthcare. But instead of admitting that things may need to be fixed, taxes may need to be raised, and programs may need to be cut, everyone acts like it’s still the 1980’s here and ignoring the reality that 2016 is not quite as kind to America.
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Where are these Donald Trump Supporters…?

I ask this because I’m not sure I’ve met a single one of these apparently abundant specimen. Every time the infamous Trump comes up in discussion (whether that be in class, with friends, or at a family dinner), people (myself included) lament the sad state of the presidential race and the Republican Party. So either these supporters are magical creatures who only appear during polling and primaries, or people I know are lying to my face. I mean, statistically, of the hundred or so people whose opinions I’ve heard, about 37 of them should support him over any other Republican candidate… right?

As Sherlock Holmes states, “Once you’ve eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.” (Why, yes – my Elementary binge watching has taken over my life recently; why do you ask?). So, the magical creature scenario is out the window and I’m left with the conclusion that people must be lying.

This frustrates me for two reasons: first, if you’re willing to put the man in charge of The United States, but you’re not willing to tell your friends, family members, and classmates, should you really be voting for him?  and second, if the man somehow, no matter how inconceivable it is to us more moderate factions of the Republican Party and the entirety of the Democratic Party, makes it to the Presidency we’re going to need to know which of our friends and family members to blame for the foreign policy catastrophes that are nearly certain to ensue.

Below is a screenshot of the polling for the Republican Party. When Trump announced his candidacy, I think the majority of us thought it was a joke. But within a few weeks, his numbers were soaring above everyone else. My professors kept assuring us that there was no way he would make it until Christmas. Then they assured us that as soon as the actual primaries started, we’d see the real numbers. Now they’re getting nervous because it looks  like there’s a chance he’s the nominee for the Republican Party (unless they find someway to get him to run as a third party and then the whole thing will be behind us because a third party candidate hasn’t won since 1860 and I hardly think Trump is anything like Abraham Lincoln and he certainly cannot pull the nation together in the same way). Even if he is the nominee though, there’s no way he can win the general election.

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In other words, I’m saying we moderates shouldn’t be too nervous. The likelihood of Trump for president is next to null. Below are the numbers for both a Trump v. Clinton general election and a Trump v. Sanders general election (and since the polls have proved so devastatingly accurate in the primaries, I assume they’ll continue to shine in the general election). I mean, what’s really fascinating is that even at a 95% confidence interval, there is literally no overlap in either prediction.

In case the numbers aren’t clear enough, I’ll include this tidbit: HARDCORE REPUBLICANS, IF YOU DON’T WANT ANOTHER DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENT, DO NOT VOTE FOR TRUMP IN THE PRIMARY ELECTIONS. IF YOU VOTE FOR TRUMP, HE WILL LOSE. AND YOU WILL HAVE AT LEAST FOUR YEARS WHERE YOU ARE MALCONTENT. AND US MODERATES WILL BE MAD AT YOU FOR SUCH A RECKLESS AND IRRESPONSIBLE DECISION AND MAY DECIDE TO PUNISH YOU IN FORTHCOMING ELECTIONS BECAUSE WE ARE ALL-POWERFUL IN THE TWO-PARTY SYSTEM.

Meanwhile, I’ll be over here deliberating between voting for Bush or Clinton, two fairly moderate candidates who do not hate women or minorities and who have executive experience, which is vitally important for the ultimate executive position.

If you’re interested, I pulled these charts from http://elections.huffingtonpost.com/pollster – they have even more that are consistently updated and you can really impress your co-workers and family members by spewing off numbers, as I’m sure you’re impressed by this blog post.

Probably my favorite chart is this one concerning congressional approval (the red line is disapproval, in case you were confused – that’s right. We 71.8% disapprove of Congress and yet we always vote back in our incumbents, because that’s logical):

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But that’s for another soapbox on another day 😉

 

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