Republicans Shouldn’t Get Too Excited Either

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President-elect Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan are seen in Washington shortly after Trump’s election.

Christmas may be over, but the Republican Party is just beginning to celebrate.

They got every gift on their list they could ask for and more: A Republican-controlled House, a Republican-controlled Senate and a Republican in the White House, who will likely be able to dictate the direction of the Supreme Court for decades to come. They also now control more state governments than they have at any point since the Civil War, and have a trifecta — where they control both state houses and the governorship — in 26 states.

To their credit, the GOP pulled off an incredible feat in 2016. After Hillary Clinton’s campaign attempted to expand her victory by pushing into deep red states like Arizona and Georgia, it was Donald Trump who expanded the map — winning the Democratic strongholds of Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and even Maine’s 2nd congressional district — the first Republican to win an electoral vote in New England since 2000.

As impressive as that is, while maintaining congressional majorities, it’s one battle victory in a war the party is losing. As NPR’s Mara Liasson put it, Democrats currently have a gaping head wound, while Republicans are suffering from a longer-term illness that might be fatal. That illness is the party’s failure to appeal more to nonwhite voters in a nation that is rapidly growing less white. Republican reliance on older, rural Caucasian voters has worked for a long time, but after 2016, it’s just not a winning formula.

It’s not like it’s a secret to anyone. The infamous RNC’s publication “Growth and Opportunity Project,” often called the “Republican autopsy” following Mitt Romney’s 2012 defeat, clearly outlined the party’s necessity to reach out to more minority voters or face losing the presidency for potentially a very long time.

And we’ve seen that Republican erosion over the last few presidential cycles. Virginia, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada — all states that used to be Republican bastions — have all been won by the Democratic candidate in the last three elections, all because of their surge in Latino residents. North Carolina now hangs in the balance every election due to African American turnout. Asian Americans aid to California’s already momentous Democratic machine. Even in traditional red states that Trump won, he did so by margins exceedingly smaller than his Republican predecessors, evidence of a growing and more politically involved minority population. He carried Georgia by just five points, where just 12 years ago George W. Bush did so by 17 points. Trump won Arizona by four points. John McCain won it by 11. Trump won Texas by nine points, only half the margin Romney got there. Just try and find a scenario where a Republican wins the presidency which doesn’t include Texas.

Trump won, but he did so with only eight percent of the black vote and 29 percent of the Latino vote. While he outperformed Romney in those regards, Trump may have amplified the trend that Republicans desperately want to reverse. He called Mexicans rapists. He was endorsed by the KKK. He mocked the disabled and wanted to ban Muslims. His vice president is one of the gay community’s greatest adversaries. And while millennials are already generally liberal, they are also the most diverse and tolerant group of Americans in history, meaning Trump may potentially cause the Republicans to lose an entire generation of voters.

Because Trump won, he may also provide more ammunition to Democrats in the future. Their tactic of tying all Republicans to Trump proved to be unsuccessful in this election. But if his presidency turns out to be an utter disaster, Democrats will have the opportunity to spend the next 20 years using Trump as a way to “wave the bloody shirt,” a Reconstruction-era term used when Republican candidates tied Democrats to the slaveholders and secessionists of the time. Even if Trump survives unscathed, Democrats will use those soundbites of his comments about minorities for years to come.

But it’s more than just Trump of course. Individual party members find themselves bad press, which only hurts the party’s support more. Most recently, it was Carl Paladino, chair of Trump’s New York campaign. Paladino, who was the Republican candidate for New York governor in 2010, said in an interview last week that he hoped President Obama would die of mad cow disease and that Michelle would “return to being a male and let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe where she lives comfortably in a cave with Maxie, the gorilla.”

Not exactly the way to win over minority voters.

And it’s more than just individual Republicans. The party as a whole regularly finds itself stuck in the middle when it comes to modern social issues like abortion, gay marriage, immigration, minimum wage, gun control and climate change, putting many other voting blocs at risk. Recent controversial events that have become national headlines like police shootings, the North Carolina LGBT law, the Flint water crisis, Ohio’s Heartbeat Bill proposal and feuds over the Confederate flag and Obamacare have really put the GOP in hot water. They’ve been flagged for stonewalling the entire Obama presidency, from his 2009 stimulus bill to his Supreme Court nominee, which Democrats can use to argue that Republicans have spent the last eight years playing party over people. When so many Americans are fed up with gridlock in Washington, that image is hardly the one a party wants.

This is their chance to reverse course. This is their opportunity to prove their argument that Democrats have taken advantage of minorities simply for their votes, and make a case for them to vote otherwise in the years to come. This is their opportunity to demonstrate that they are as good at getting things done as they are at blocking them. This is their big chance. And it may very well be their last.

Luke Parsnow is a copy editor and page designer at The Post-Star, a Pulitzer-Prize winning daily publication located in Glens Falls, New York. You can follow his blog “Things That Matter” by clicking “Follow” below and follow his updates on Twitter at https://twitter.com/coolhand_luke88

Democrats Still Don’t Get It

rawimageHouse Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, retiring Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and new Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer are seen at a press conference in Washington.

A month and a half after Election Day, the Democratic Party still fails to grasp the real reason the power carpet was swept out from under their feet.

The party has been spitting out a new reason almost every day to explain Hillary Clinton’s defeat — James Comey, Clinton’s emails, blank ballots, Bernie Sanders, the Electoral College, fake news memes and most recently, Russia, Russia, Russia. On Monday, when Bill Clinton cast his vote in Albany as one of New York’s Democratic electors, he said “at the end, we had the Russians and the FBI deal. But she couldn’t prevail against that.”

While it cannot be denied that each one of those factors absolutely played a significant role in the election’s outcome, it is ridiculous to continually claim that any one of those is the sole reason for Clinton’s undoing.

Let’s remember, it’s not just about the presidency. No party has ever lost more seats in Congress and in state legislatures than the Democrats have under Barack Obama’s term. Wisconsin GOP Sen. Ron Johnson’s re-election was even a surprise to him. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio was considered to be one of the most endangered Republican senators, but throughout the fall, he pulled ahead in the polls and his opponent conceded minutes after polls closed. And in Virginia’s 10th congressional district, Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock won re-election by six points, even though Clinton won the district by 40,000 votes on the presidential level. Do you think James Comey and Vladimir Putin are the reasons why Republicans won those races?

So, what happened? Chuck Schumer predicted back in July that Democrats were entering an era of electoral dominance, saying “we’re going to have a Democratic generation.” Why didn’t that happen? Well, all we have to do is look at the map and the math. Clinton and many of her Democrats down-ballot have simply lost their way when it comes to connecting to the white working class of middle America.

After Ronald Reagan’s rise to power thanks to the “Reagan Democrats,” Bill Clinton again transformed the Democratic base by being the new champion of the working class, the “Bubba voters,” which secured the Midwest as safe Democratic territory for a quarter of a century.

President Obama triumphed just four years ago with the same message, painting Mitt Romney and Republicans as caterers to the wealthy. Now, the tide has turned again. With Donald Trump as the clear populist candidate, even as a billionaire himself, the Democrats couldn’t help but appear as the opposite. They are now often referred to by many as “the coastal elite.” They dominate urban areas across the country. They have an overwhelming amount of rich Hollywood nobles backing them. Clinton was painted as a Wall Street puppet, cozy with the donor class and hounded for getting hundreds of thousands of dollars in paid speeches. Not exactly the kind of person you’d think would resonate with a farmer in northern Michigan.

And it shows. In Iowa, a state Republicans had lost in five of the last six elections prior to 2016, 31 counties that voted for Obama switched to Trump. In Michigan the number was 12, Wisconsin, 22 and Minnesota, 19. Some of those counties swung by double-digit margins and many had voted Democratic for decades.

And people in those counties had their reasons. They felt the party has sold them down the river. They felt they have left the Rust Belt to rust further by increasing business regulations, supporting job-killing trade deals, defending a health care program that crippled their finances, and in many ways, pushed them into a socioeconomically different 21st century a little faster than they’re comfortable with.

Those are the people that have felt left behind, ignored and even talked down to. Many of them voted for change in 2008 but eight years later, they still struggle to put food on the table, find and keep a well-paying job and send a child to college, all the while a candidate comes into their town touting the “progress” the country has made, like when Obama said in a press conference last week that “the country is indisputably better off. Those folks who voted for the president-elect are better off than they were when I came into office for the most part.”

The election results would signify the opposite.

It’s that kind of ignorance that got the Democrats in trouble during this round, the same ignorance that brushed off Bernie Sanders as a viable candidate, who like Trump, was a populist figure and champion of working class whites. He was the one with large crowds. He was the one who overwhelmingly won rural counties in dominantly white states during the primaries — the same counties that voted for Trump in November. The fact that Clinton won only four states between New York and Nevada and outperformed Obama in Philadelphia but lost the state of Pennsylvania should alone be an obvious in-your-face omen that Democrats need to do some evaluating.

But the party doesn’t seem eager to bring in new faces or take dramatic steps in order to improve their relationship with that voting bloc.. They again whisked in Nancy Pelosi to lead them in the House, a San Francisco establishment figure who has overseen the party’s obliteration in that chamber since 2010. They are waging a war against Keith Ellison for DNC chair, who is supported by, of all people, Bernie Sanders. And they are continuing down the road of politics as usual, thinking next time they just need to run a candidate who maybe isn’t under FBI investigation during the election and they’ll be fine.

What will it take for them to stop pointing fingers at Fox News, angry white men and young people who didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton before they start looking at themselves? If anything, something as drastic as the election of someone like Donald Trump should’ve done the trick.

It didn’t.

Luke Parsnow is a copy editor and page designer at The Post-Star, a Pulitzer-Prize winning daily publication located in Glens Falls, New York. You can follow his blog “Things That Matter” by clicking “Follow” below and follow his updates on Twitter at https://twitter.com/coolhand_luke88

‘It’s a Wonderful Life’: The Most Evergreen of Holiday Stories

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The holiday season for many of us means tradition. And as our lives change, some of those traditions will as well. There are many of my own customs during Christmastime that have changed multiple times just in my short 23 years. But there is one holiday tradition that has been part of my life for as long as I can remember, and I know it has cemented itself as one for a lifetime: revisiting the world of George Bailey for a Christmas Eve screening of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Now, there are a lot of reasons I love this movie. It features one of my favorite actors of all time. It has superb writing. There’s also a sense of pride that comes with it because the featured town, Bedford Falls, was modeled off of Seneca Falls, New York, not far from where I grew up. The movie also routinely references upstate New York cities like Buffalo, Rochester and Elmira.

How the 1946 Frank Capra film came to be arguably the most iconic holiday classic is in many ways still a mystery. It wasn’t very successful upon release, only the final third of the movie takes place at Christmastime and it was never even intended to be a Christmas movie to begin with. It was brushed aside by many critics. A New York Times writer at the time said its biggest weakness was its “illusory concept of life.”

I couldn’t disagree more. It’s not illusory or overly sentimental at all. It represents the concept of life perhaps better than any other film ever made. And that’s why I love it so much.

The concept is this: Every decision we make, each action we take, no matter how small, has the potential to completely change lives and alter destinies that wander far beyond our comprehension. Unlike George Bailey, we’ll never be fortunate enough to see what the world would be like without us. But that’s alright. We don’t have to. Because we already have a good idea what our own world would be like without others. I know I do.

I was raised by parents who share the same hometown values as George — always do the right thing, always do the best you can and above all else, always be kind. Be kind to everyone. Help others whenever it’s needed and whenever it’s possible. Because of their unconditional love for people, I was fortunate to grow up knowing and learning from so many other wonderful people who had met my parents along their own journeys and had gravitated toward my parents’ genuine and non-judgmental affection.

And like everyone else, my parents have had their share of hard times over the years. And just like in the end of “It’s a Wonderful Life” when the townspeople pour into George’s house on Christmas Eve to help him after he had spent his whole life helping them, I have witnessed time and time again the incredible outreach from people of all walks of life who have offered a hand to my family during those hard times, because they remember my parents had done the same for them. I think of those moments every Christmas Eve when the final minutes of that movie is played.

“It’s a Wonderful Life” is not just a movie. It’s personal. And I know I’m not alone in thinking that. We all have George Baileys in our lives — whether we know it or not. They’re the best examples of how a human being should be. They pick us up when we’re down, make big sacrifices, come to us during the winter of our lives even just to make the sun shine for one day. They remember us, touch us and inspire us.

And in doing so, the George Baileys of the world remind us of the things that really matter. Not how much money we make or how big our house is or how many presents we’re able to give away. All of those things would be nice to have, but they’re just material. And in an age where our holidays and our entire social structures are becoming more and more defined by our possessions, it gives us more reason to re-watch a movie made 70 years ago but is still just as relevant now as it ever was.

That’s why it’s shown on television and reproduced by theater groups every December. It gives us a chance to evaluate ourselves and, as we approach another year, remind ourselves to be grateful for what we have —  each other. Sometimes that’s all we have, but it’s always all we ever need. It’s the warmth we give one another and the memories we create that are most sacred to us. It’s the time we spend with friends and family that is most valuable.

And we all know that the time we have is short and that those friends and family we have make that short time worth it. They say that life itself is our greatest gift. But really, it’s the people that we surround ourselves with that make that gift worth receiving. And it’s those people that make a wonderful life so wonderful.

Luke Parsnow is a copy editor and page designer at The Post-Star, a Pulitzer-Prize winning daily publication located in Glens Falls, New York. You can follow his blog “Things That Matter” by clicking “Follow” below and follow his updates on Twitter at https://twitter.com/coolhand_luke88

Seriously — Make Voting Easier In New York

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We often like to tell each other that it is our civic duty to go cast a vote in elections. But if you live in New York, fulfilling that civic duty couldn’t be made more difficult.

In the wake of a primary and general election that flooded his office with unprecedented amounts of complaints, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said last week he will introduce the New York Votes Act in 2017, which will be a series of bills designed to address those complaints and overhaul the severely outdated and ludicrous voting laws the state currently operates under.

Regarding the primaries, the state currently dictates that if you wanted to change your party affiliation in order to vote in the April primaries, you would’ve had to do so by October of the previous year. To put that in perspective, in the Wisconsin primary, which was the contest held just before New York’s, not only could anyone take part regardless of affiliation, but voters could still register to vote on the very day the primary was held, at their polling places. Two weeks later in New York, you had to have your party affiliation registered half a year before — which is even earlier than the presidential candidates themselves have to formally register to appear on the state ballot. That is beyond the boundaries of absurdity. Schneiderman himself called that “the most ridiculous change-of-registration rules in the United States.” Even in states that have closed primaries, New York’s registration time gap is the longest in the nation.

It’s no surprise that the attorney general received 1,500 formal complaints about the primaries, about 10 times more than in any previous election. And his office is still investigating the purge in Brooklyn that affected more than 120,000 voters.

To prevent such problems from reoccurring, Schneiderman’s proposition allows voters to change party affiliation up to 25 days before a primary, if done by mail, or up to 10 days if delivered by hand. That is more than reasonable.

But changing the primary rules isn’t enough. The state should not only permit, but encourage general election early voting — a practice more than 30 states already take part in. Many Empire State citizens have different work schedules and daily responsibilities that make it difficult to find time to get to the polls during the 15 hours they’re open on Election Day. Even if they do find time, they may not have enough of it to wait in lines that we all know can get very long. Schneiderman proposes New Yorkers be allowed to vote up to two weeks before an election and have the option of no-excuse absentee ballot voting. Both would provide a large amount of breathing room that would undoubtedly make voting easier for everyone.

And when you make voting easier, more people will vote, which is probably the most fundamental reason why we need to disburden New York’s restrictive voting laws. Recent voter turnout in the state has been borderline shameful. In the 2014 midterm elections, which included a governor’s race, New York had the fourth worst turnout rate in the nation. In 2016, it had the sixth worst. It’s hard to argue that the New York Votes Act wouldn’t substantially improve those numbers.

But making it easier to vote is just half the solution. The other half is to make it easier to register to vote — and the state doing it for you is about as easy as you can get. A 54 percent majority of Americans say they’d favor an automatic registration law in their state, according to a March Huffington Post poll. Some states have already taken that into their own hands. In Oregon for instance, anyone with a driver’s license is automatically registered to vote unless they opt-out.

New York could go a step further. Schneiderman proposes voters be automatically registered at any state or local agency, not just the DMV, that collects identity information from an eligible person. Then, once registered, it would be up to state and local boards of elections to update the registration of any consenting voter if they move and submit a change of address form. It’s high time to take the 21st century technology and communication abilities we have available and apply it to our election process.

Now, of course these common-sense motions will have to get past a reluctant state legislature. Similar bills have been introduced several times over to no avail. But this is different. We’re closing out what was a disastrous year in Albany. The lack of common sense in our lawmakers to seriously address ethics reform is nothing short of embarrassing. But turning down or not even considering legislation that would eliminate the multiple hurdles New Yorkers must overcome just to participate in democracy? Now that would be an embarrassment.

Luke Parsnow is a copy editor and page designer at The Post-Star, a Pulitzer-Prize winning daily publication located in Glens Falls, New York. You can follow his blog “Things That Matter” by clicking “Follow” below and follow his updates on Twitter at https://twitter.com/coolhand_luke88

Fake News Is a Danger to the Electorate

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“Democratic leaders now asking Hillary to Step Down.”

“BREAKING: 41 Attorney Generals Across America Move To SHUT DOWN Trump Foundation.”

“Hillary Sold Weapons to ISIS.”

Yes, these are all real headlines of articles that have appeared on the internet over the course of the 2016 election — and no they are not real.

While fake news stories have been a part of our online networks for years now, an election that was all about facts — or lack thereof — helped escalate the phenomenon to new levels. Indeed, the morning after, the top hit on Google for election results was from a website called “70news,” reporting that Donald Trump had won the presidency and was leading in popular vote count — which wasn’t true. The election is over now, but fake news has now become a centerfold conversation in the information world.

The source of the problem is no surprise. Pew Research Center surveys find that 62 percent of U.S. adults get at least some of their news from social media, mostly Facebook. Social media has not only given us access to thousands more sources of news, but it has allowed us to tailor what kind of news we choose to get. We can follow either highly exaggerated or outright false news sites and ignore credible ones as we please. But combine that with the fact that only 32 percent of Americans trust mainstream media and that means we’re in trouble.

Case in point: A recent tally done by Buzzfeed found that the 20 most popular fake news stories in the last three months of the presidential campaign were shared more often on Facebook than the top 20 stories from leading mainstream news sites — nearly 90 percent of said stories were pro-Trump or anti-Clinton. Now, the case of fake news has primarily been made against conservatives, who numbers show trust the media less than liberal-leaning voters and are more notorious for accusing mainstream outlets of being bias. This was only amplified by the Republican presidential candidate and now president-elect who on multiple occasions brushed off proven facts and denied comments that many Americans already knew he said because the media played them over and over.

But it is ludicrous and indeed arrogant to assume that fake reports or posts only target conservatives or that only conservatives spread them. For instance, a Facebook user recently posted a picture of an extremely large crowd in a field, alleging it to be the anti-pipeline protesters in North Dakota with the caption “This is why the media won’t show the protest on the pipeline” — clearly a dig at the complaint many on the left have made that mainstream media has been ignoring the protest. Well, it wasn’t a picture of the crowd of North Dakota. It’s actually the iconic photo of Woodstock in 1969. Still, the post was shared nearly half a million times. This is not a partisan issue. There are bad actors on both sides of the political spectrum who intend to distort what is real and what isn’t.

In terms of the election, Buzzfeed also found that 20 percent of social media users said the things they read online changed their views on an issue or candidate. While that is an astounding number, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said a few days after the election that it was “crazy” to think that fake news and internet memes had any effect on the outcome. He’s right to think so. That said, a week later, the company announced that it had outlined seven projects that are underway to stop the spread of misinformation in its newsfeed. As the internet becomes a bigger part of our lives and a bigger part of where we get our news from, it becomes even more imperative that Facebook, and Google too, do what is necessary to combat this epidemic because it is just going to get worse.

And it already has. The creators of fake news have already taken it to a new level. They’re moving past the lengthy website names with web pages so odd looking that even the most gullible browser might doubt. Now they’re able to use the logos of mainstream media outlets and slightly rearranged website domains that make it much easier to deceive. “ABCnews.com.co” and “MSNBC.com.co” are just two examples, as they look very much like their respective organizations’ real site names and yet they aren’t.

In March, the site Clone Zone, which lets users “clone” and edit pages from most major news outlets, came under fire after someone used the site to create a fake article reporting that Sen. Elizabeth Warren had endorsed Bernie Sanders for president just ahead of the Massachusetts primaries. The piece closely mimicked The New York Times website’s design and font style, and even used the names of two of the publication’s political reporters in the byline. Warren never made such an endorsement and the post was eventually taken down, but not before it had been shared 50,000 times — 15,000 of them on Facebook.

Even more frightening is that there are times when fake news has actually blurred with real news. In 2013, several major media outlets picked up a fake story put out by The Daily Currant, which reported that a New York pizzeria had refused to serve then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg a second slice of pizza to protest Bloomberg’s attempts to limit soda consumption. Just recently, Fox News anchor Sean Hannity had to apologize after referencing a fake piece on his radio show that claimed Michelle Obama was deleting tweets about Hillary Clinton. If there’s any indication that we’re approaching a misinformation cliff, that would be it.

So, what do we do? Well, Facebook and Google appear to begin taking the steps they need to. The mainstream media can also do their part in self-evaluating their priorities to rebrand themselves as an effort to regain the people’s trust so the public won’t have to resort to alternatives. But ultimately, it all comes down to the individual. It’s up to us to filter fact from fiction. Our very republic depends on it. It seems whenever we buy our food, clothes, used cars or almost anything from online markets, we instinctively ask ourselves “where has this been? Where does this come from?” The times we live in make it necessary that we do the same with our news.

Luke Parsnow is a copy editor and page designer at The Post-Star, a Pulitzer-Prize winning daily publication located in Glens Falls, New York. You can follow his blog “Things That Matter” by clicking “Follow” below and follow his updates on Twitter at https://twitter.com/coolhand_luke88

The West Can’t Turn Its Back on the World Now

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Italian Premier Matteo Renzi speaks during a press conference at the premier’s office Chigi Palace Dec. 5 in Rome. Renzi acknowledged defeat in a constitutional referendum and announced he would resign. Italians voted Sunday in a referendum on constitutional reforms that Premier Matteo Renzi has staked his political future on.

On June 23, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. On Nov. 8, the United States voted for Donald Trump to be the next president. And on Sunday, the Italian prime minister said he will resign after the country voted down a constitutional reforms referendum by a 6-to-4 margin fearing it would give the executive branch too much power, the latest victory for the right-wing populist movement that has gained traction across the entire western world.

What we’re seeing on both sides of the Atlantic is a frightening new coup of elite and establishment politics. Twenty-five years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, which the United States and western democracies spent decades working together to suffocate, those same nations are, one after another, dismissing globalization and moving toward isolation. And it is not a course we want to be taking.

The reasons for such a movement are obvious. The 21st century has so far been defined by two universal conflicts — economic stagnation and terrorism. With so many people thinking we’ve made little progress in combating both, emotions are turning raw, blood is running hot and people are desperate for solutions — no matter how extreme they may be.

While the economy and terrorism are two different things, they do bleed into each other perhaps more often than we think. In the U.S. for example, there’s a strong resentment toward immigrants not because of where they come from, but because of the “how do we take care of them when we can’t even take care of ourselves” feeling. But there is also an undeniable anti-immigration wave, particularly of those from the Middle East, that is due to events like 9/11 and the more recent attacks in Paris and Brussels, and far right-wing office seekers both here and abroad are exploiting fear as a means to tap into the anxiety that average people face. It is what I have come to refer to as “the Brown Scare,” a 21st century version of McCarthy-like paranoia of Muslims, fed to the masses for political gain.

And that paranoia is gaining steam. In the U.S., we just elected a man as president who proposed banning all Muslims from entering the country. In the United Kingdom, over the course of the past 20 years, the percentage of Britons ranking ‘immigration/race relations’ as among the country’s most important issues has gone from near zero percent to about 45 percent, and 77 percent of Brits today believe that immigration levels should be reduced. Norbert Hofer, leader of the anti-immigrant Eurosceptic Freedom Party, was almost elected western Europe’s first far-right head of state since World War II in Sunday’s Austrian elections. He was defeated, but a swath of European countries face elections in 2017 where similar candidates are gaining support. Polls in France have consistently shown Marine Le Pen, who is running on an anti-immigrant, anti-trade platform and wishes for a French version of Brexit, will make it to the final round of voting in the spring to replace unpopular Socialist President François Hollande. And German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who recently announced her bid for a fourth term, will undoubtedly face opposition who will criticize her for allowing in 900,000 refugees fleeing wars in the Middle East and Africa. It’s not just leaders of course. Many such people have slowly begun gaining power in European governments in the last few years.

Speaking of paranoia, let’s get this straight right now. Trump is not Hitler. To make that historical analogy, as so many have, is absolutely absurd. But, the actions Trump and other nativist extremists think we should take, creates Hitlers. Closing borders, retreating from the world stage and “America first” is simply not going to make jobs reappear and make wars disappear. To do so would put the European Union and influence of the U.S. at great risk. And in an age where we have a resurgent Russia, a strengthening China, an ambitious Iran and a nearly nuclear-armed North Korea, this is really not the time to pack up and go home. We did that after World War I and we all know the result was not pleasing. If you think that’s exaggerating, it’s not.

It wasn’t that long ago that our country and our European allies first defeated fascism, then spent half a century collaborating to bring communism to its knees. So, why would we think defecting from blocs and tuning out the world is going to stop the new global threats of our time like terrorist attacks in Paris or an annexation of Crimea?

If we need any convincing, all we have to do is look at a new memoir by James E. Mitchell called “Enhanced Interrogation: Inside the Minds and Motives of the Islamic Terrorists Trying To Destroy America,” discussed by The Washington Post columnist Marc A. Thiessen. In the book, Mitchell describes his discussion with Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. As the columnist acknowledges, many argue that 9/11 occurred because al-Qaeda wanted to draw us into a quagmire in Afghanistan — something the Islamic State also wants us to do in Iraq and Syria. But Mohammed told Mitchell the purpose was to make us “turn tail and run,” telling Mitchell this: “We will win because Americans don’t realize…we do not need to defeat you militarily; we only need to fight long enough for you to defeat yourself by quitting.”

That’s what the West is really being tested on. Leaders are saying we need to close borders, turn away refugees, ban whole religions, abandon trade deals, turn off the lights, shut the door and care for our own and only our own. Then it’ll be like the good old days. Then we’ll be great again. If that’s what we do, if that’s who we become, then we’re quitting. And we cannot quit now. The entire civilized world and global stability depends on it.

Luke Parsnow is a copy editor and page designer at The Post-Star, a Pulitzer-Prize winning daily publication located in Glens Falls, New York. You can follow his blog “Things That Matter” by clicking “Follow” below and follow his updates on Twitter at https://twitter.com/coolhand_luke88

Trump Must Prove the Presidency Is His Priority

960x0For decades, the world has known Donald Trump as a billionaire real estate mogul, the ruler of the Trump business empire. And to many, he doesn’t appear all too eager to let go of that reputation while also serving as leader of the free world. With a month and a half until his inauguration, Trump has done very little to reassure us that governing will be his first and only priority and that his business will not be entangled with that governing.

To his credit, he has so far at least acknowledged that his business comes with an obvious conflict of interest as he transitions to the White House. On how to handle that, he said in a meeting with The New York Times that “in theory, I don’t have to do anything, but I would like to do something — I would like to try and formalize something. I don’t care about my business… I don’t want to have people saying ‘conflict.’” On Wednesday, he said in a tweet that he will leave his “great business in total in order to fully focus on running the country.” 

And legally, United States Codes and Congress exempts the president and vice president from conflict of interest laws, according to a recent report by the Congressional Research Service. But Trump’s conflict of interest regarding his business will be a huge cloud over his presidency the minute he takes office if unresolved. And it’s going to take more than a tweet.

Despite his claim to want “to do something,” the only things he’s done so far would suggest otherwise. Shortly after being elected, Trump met with interim United Kingdom Independence Party leader Nigel Farage, leader of the Brexit movement, to express his opposition to wind farms that would be visible from his golf course in Scotland. He touted his business partner in Turkey during a phone call with the Turkish president and allowed daughter Ivanka, who is helping run his business, in a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. He is also encouraging foreign diplomats to stay in his hotels — one of which comes with another problem for the president-elect. Two federal procurement experts now argue that Trump would be in violation of the terms of the lease of his new hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue as soon as he takes office just down the street.

Clearly his brand is still important to him. Even during his run for the presidency, he never failed to remind us that he “has property” in whatever location the conversation was revolving around. At a campaign stop in North Carolina, while talking about Hurricane Matthew, he said, “the incredible spirit of the people of this state will power its recovery, and it’s the same spirit that will rebuild our nation. I have property in this state, this is a great state.” And after his defining wins in the Mississippi and Michigan Republican primaries, Trump used his victory speech to talk about Trump steaks, Trump wine, Trump water and Trump Magazine which were on display — a moment many thought looked more like an infomercial than part of a campaign.

It’s not surprising that many are concerned Trump might be more interested in using the Oval Office as leverage to make a profit, or even worse, base important decisions as president on his own interests instead of those of the nation. Since he was so vocal about accusing Hillary Clinton of using her position for personal gain, and advocating for the Clinton Foundation to shut down if she was elected, he should be prepared to let his business go. Trump has said he is in the process of turning over his company’s affairs to his children — yet that hardly qualifies as a solution — especially since they apparently sit in on meetings with prime ministers.

Even if Trump or his offspring don’t intend to use their new powers to their advantage, others are sure to try, particularly foreign governments. “If other countries and businesses know that Trump owns this hotel, or that building, they will try to do business with them with the hope of getting favors,” Stuart Gilman, a former attorney for the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, told Newsday. Combine that with the possibility that members of Trump’s administration may also seek out their own pot of gold and you get a recipe for unprecedented corruption in the executive branch, flooding the very swamp that Trump promised to drain.

It is imperative that Trump distinctively display his true intent to put his past life as a businessman aside and now serve the people who thought him worthy to take on a job as demanding as the presidency. Saying he “would want to do something” in an interview doesn’t comfort those who doubt the president-elect has their best interest in mind — especially when in the same interview he says his company’sbrand is certainly a hotter brand than it was before” he decided to seek the office.

We know Trump is rich. We know Trump has a lot of properties. What we don’t know is this: Does Trump want to be president? Or does he want to be king?

Luke Parsnow is a copy editor and page designer at The Post-Star, a Pulitzer-Prize winning daily publication located in Glens Falls, New York. You can follow his blog “Things That Matter” by clicking “Follow” below and follow his updates on Twitter at https://twitter.com/coolhand_luke88