Post-Paris, Republicans Have Lost Their Way


I know that this article is going to anger a lot of conservatives. I know that I will likely be called a faux-conservative, or that this article would be a better suited on The Progressive. Nevertheless, I feel that I must break with most Republicans regarding the issue of Syrian refugees and potential terrorist attacks.

In the wake of the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris last week, many Republicans (and even some Democrats) have made some truly insulting and mind-blowing comments about Middle Eastern refugees and Muslims as a whole. For example, Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush implied that we should only admit Christian refugees from Syria, while Cruz claimed it was “lunacy” to allow Muslim refugees into the country. Over 30 governors have now banned Syrian refugees from entering their states citing “security risks.” Governor Christie went as far as to reject even “orphans under the age of five” under the guise of preventing another 9/11. Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal ordered state police to track Syrian refugees who had entered his state. One Representative went as far as to suggest that Syrian refugees are “coming to the U.S. for a paid vacation.”

However, the worst offenders have unquestionably been the leader atop the GOP 2016 Presidential polls, and I cannot help but wonder whether Donald Trump truly believes some of the things he says. When questioned, Trump has suggested that he would approve the use of a database to track Muslims. He has suggested the issuance of a special Muslim ID as a prevention tool to screen against terrorists attacks. Most recently, Trump had the audacity to suggest that New Jersey Muslims “cheered” when the Twin Towers fell. This last statement would almost be laughable were it not so blatantly insulting and factually vacant. Mr. Trump, you hypocritically skewer others for hiding around political correctness, while you wield your “tell it like it is” persona to incorrectly insult other Americans.

But I digress and return to my original point. The GOP has simply gone too far in perpetuating this anti-Islamic, anti-refugee rhetoric that has permeated the national debate since the Paris attack. The GOP has allowed xenophobia, emotions, and unfounded fears to dictate an isolation policy which flies in the face of everything that America stands for.

First, both the use of inflammatory rhetoric and the exclusion of Syrian refugees runs contrary to our history and our beliefs. It is impossible to ignore the irony of the fact that the first western colony in the continental United States, Plymouth colony, was established as a safe haven for religious refugees. By 1776, the United States was one of the most religiously diverse countries in the world, including large populations of religious “minorities” such as Quakers and Catholics. This exact demographic makeup was one of the primary reasons that religious freedom was included in the first amendment on the Bill of Rights.

Yet many of the policies and the rhetoric that have emerged in the last week lose sight of the historical context of refugees and religion in America. It is impossible for any individual to call themselves a “Constitutional Conservative” or even a decent human being when that some advocate for different treatment of individuals based solely on religion.

Again, Donald Trump is the worst offender of this type in many ways. The idea that a “free” country would construct a database on all members of a certain religion is fortunately as constitutionally dubious as it intuitively seems. Proponents might claim that it is prudent to collect data on potential suspects; however, it is blatant discrimination to label all of a certain religion as potential suspects before they have done anything to warrant any additional scrutiny. In the same way, the creation of a special Muslim ID has the same effect: it labels all those of a certain religion as an underclass who are not welcome in our nation. Proponents of such policies apparently believe in selective application of the 14th Amendment guaranteeing equality before the law to all citizens of the United States.

Some have tried to compare such suggestions to those of the Third Reich in Germany, but I believe the more apt comparisons are the internment of Japanese Americans following the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the Red Scare/McCarthyism following World War II. In both cases, constitutional protections of due process and equality under the law were waived in a Machiavellian invocation of “national security needs.” Thousands, if not millions of Americans were subject to enhanced scrutiny and even saw their lives ruined through actions such as internment or blacklisting. And even those who avoided such fates faced a stigma of being cast as an underclass citizen, which was explicitly approved by the U.S. government. In the years since these events, they have become classic case studies of the results of when fear overrides principles and rational judgements, and we have collectively vowed never to make the same mistakes again.

And yet, we find that many of our leaders are advocating for policies which violate many of the same principles that we swore never to violate again. Now, I grant you that even Mr. Trump’s outrageous proposals go as far as the events that unfolded in each case. However, we cannot even edge slightly down this route and yet simultaneously maintain our clear conscience as a nation of freedom and equality. If you admit Christian refugees instead of Muslims, if you shut down mosques that you believe to be radical, you are effectively criminalizing those of a certain faith, just as communists were criminalized during the Red Scare.

For full disclosure, most Republicans have publically distanced themselves from such actions which would constitute flashbacks to Joe McCarthy. However, their position on cutting off all Syrian refugee resettlement is equally problematic.

First, it’s important to separate refugees from perspective immigrants. According to the U.N. definition, a refugee is someone who:

…owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.

This is far different from an immigrant, who simply seeks to move to another country for a bevy of possible reasons. A refugee literally faces persecution, imprisonment, or in the case of Syria right now, death by remaining in their native land.

In my view, refugee policy differs from immigration because of the repercussions on others and the implications of inaction. With immigration, each country should determine its policy selfishly, based on the rules which will maximize the well-being of the citizens already living in that country. This is, after all, the responsibility of a sovereign state. However, a refugee situation is not simply a matter of policy but a humanitarian issue. Acting selfishly and closing off one’s borders entirely is the same as being a bystander to ethnic cleansing, persecution, or whatever events may be going on in the world. Now, I am not suggesting that a country has to be completely selfless and let all refugees in, but by our common human connection, it is required to do at least something for those most in need.

And what of the situation in Syria? At present, there are approximately 12 million people in Syria who have been displaced from their homes due to factors such as violence and collapsed infrastructure. Many families face basic problems of getting access to food and clean water. About 2-3 million children have missed school and fallen victim to exploitation at the hands of various perpetrators.

As the leader of the free world, is it not our duty to help these victims at least a little? Is it so ridiculous to provide sanctuary for a tiny fraction of those that have been displaced by the ongoing civil war? No matter whom you blame, don’t we have an extra responsibility to help with this situation given that our involvement in the Middle East gave rise to this conflict and ISIS itself? We have always prided ourselves on being a leader of refugee resettlement, and of the 4 million seeking asylum, we have accepted less than 1,000.

“But what if these refugees are terrorists, or members of ISIS,” proponents often ask. While it may be a natural concern, this hypothetical line of thought does not conform with reality. The Syrian refugees are not members of ISIS–they are families who have been displaced by violence, or even orphans whose families have been killed by the ethnic cleansing sweeping the country side. All that these people want to do is escape the violence and come to a country where they live without fear of war. I’m sorry if this sounds like an emotional appeal, but the reality for these individuals is dismal.

It simply does not make sense for any terrorists to attempt to enter the country via the refugee process, which is extensive and has several requirements. For example, all refugees must be screened and interviewed by the Department of Homeland Security to confirm their background and documentation. While the attorney general has admitted that the screening process is not perfect, refugees still face greater scrutiny than ordinary immigrants and travelers due to the protected status of being a refugee. Moreover, the extensive demand for asylum from Syrian families has created an extensive waiting list to be granted refugee status in any country, especially the U.S. With over 4 million refugees and the U.S. accepting less than 1,000, why would ISIS even attempt to send agents to the U.S. through the refugee process? They would wait years without any guarantee that they would even make it here.

In fact, Richard Burr, the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, expressed far greater concern with the visa program than refugee screening. Mr. Burr stated that, “were I in Europe already and I wanted to go to the United States and I’m not on a watch list or a no-fly list and I wanted to get there, the likelihood is I’d use the visa waiver program before I would try to pawn myself off as a refugee and enter under false documents.” For this reason, Democratic Intelligence Committee Senator Diane Feinstein further suggested that the visa program needed to be reexamined for security, not the refugee process.

While security concerns obviously need to be fully vetted, this should not be a justification for denying refugee status to Syrian seeking to enter this country. The refugee program stipulates that these individuals immediately find work upon arrival and is designed for families to be able to enter the country. Cutting off Syrian refugees does not improve our security in the least, but only hurts those who desperately need our help.

With that being said, I believe that there is a balance when it comes to helping refugees from anywhere in the world. While a country should not be selfish in a humanitarian situation, it must simultaneously ensure that it is protecting itself and providing for its citizens.

For one, the refugee process must be regulated, and must not turn into a degenerated immigration process like we have on the southern border. Each country should be able to fully investigate and track all prospective refugees to confirm that those who want to come here truly are refugees, and not others looking to game the immigration system. Secondly, the number of refugees must be limited in such a manner that it does not strain the social resources of the country and allows the refugees to assimilate into the country’s culture. However, considering the vast resources of the United States, we are capable of supporting a much larger refugee population than we are at present.

At the end of the day, what I fear most is that the rhetoric and attitude of the GOP is allowing the terrorists to win. Terrorists win not in the acts of violence themselves but in the reaction. They win when a free country turns on a segment of a population and labels them as underclass citizens. They win when a country allows itself to be consumed by fear and refuses to be the beacon of freedom and hope that it espouses.

I refuse to stand for helping radical Islamic terrorists win this conflict. I will not allow my fear to prevent me from defending the rights and freedoms guaranteed to all Americans. I will not curl up into a little ball hoping that Muslims do not come near just because of the acts of less-than-human creatures.

We will win this war. And we will win it by remaining true to ourselves, by remaining the beacon of freedom that took down the Soviet Union, Imperial Japan, and Nazi Germany. There may be bumps along the road, but at the end of the day, the terrorists can never kill our values or what it means to be an American.

This article presents the views of author Mike McVea, not necessarily those of the Georgetown University College Republicans or GUCR Board. This piece belongs solely to Mr. McVea and cannot be reproduced in any way without his express consent. For more GUCR updates, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

Professor, not President, Bernie Sanders


I sat in the front row of Sen. Sanders’ speech this afternoon and, although I never planned on supporting him, it struck me how eloquent he was. Time after time, I listened to my classmates cheer wildly as the senator from Vermont invoked the lasting legacy of FDR’s social programs during the Great Depression. As he walked onstage this afternoon, he was greeting with an extended standing ovation.

Sen. Sanders tapped into a sense of frustration among young people, in particular a frustration with the political system and wealth being concentrated among a small segment of the population. However, I was most impressed at the fact that hardly anyone present realized that Sen. Sanders’ speech was essentially a normative proposal for how the world should work.

His theories get an A+, but his policy specifics were as absent as ever. I understand that it is still early in the campaign. However, it’s about time Sen. Sanders stopped demonizing the successful in our country and stopped hiding behind the guise of unarguable social goals. Instead, he should start giving us specifics on how exactly he plans to pay for all of his government programs.

For instance, the presidential hopeful discussed a paid, 3-month maternity leave for new mothers and fathers. As the oldest of four children, I think this is great. Few would seriously deny that allowing new parents to stay at home with their babies is a great idea, not even to mention the lasting benefits on that child’s development. But how on earth does Sen. Sanders expect to pay for it?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that nearly 4 million infants are born in the United States every year. Which means there are almost 8 million new parents each year. That number assumes two parents per child, which would be the ideal case, but for those who are skeptical of my arguments, I’ll lower that number to 7.5 million. For the sake of simplicity, if all of these 7.5 million people earn work minimum wage jobs for 40 hours per week (earning $15/hour under Sen. Sanders’s proposal), that means their collective work amounts to 300 million hours and $4.5 billion in wages per week.

Given that Bernie Sanders is advocating a maternity and paternity paid family leave of absence for 12 weeks each, over the course of a year we would be losing 3.6 billion hours of labor and spending $54 billion in ‘unearned’ labor (‘unearned’ in the sense that workers would not be receiving this money directly from working their full, normal shifts). To put this idea into perspective, Donald Trump’s net worth is roughly only $4 billion.

All of this is not to say that Bernie Sanders is wrong to support a 12-week maternity and paternity leave. It is to say, however, that we should expect more specifics about how he plans to cover that $54 billion expenditure. To this day, Sen. Sanders has not provided these kinds of necessary specifics.

The title of this article is to suggest that perhaps Sen. Sanders is a little too theoretical in his aspirations to be running for president. It’s fine to have an auditorium full of students cheering for you because you oppose wealth inequality and promote generous social programs, but without any policy specifics to back it up, I simply cannot take you seriously as a candidate. I’m disappointed that, in spite of much needed specifics on actual policy, so many of my fellow students blindly ate up Sen. Sanders’s speech.

Philosophy professors can dedicate sufficient time to speaking of the normative, and in a way, those discussions can be very valuable. A world without real discussions about how we should be doing things would be a dull, dreary world at best. But when you are running for president, you must assume the responsibility of explaining the reality behind your proposals.

Sen. Sanders, you did not do that today. I think some of your ideas were noteworthy and worth pursuing, but you cannot run a successful presidential campaign leaning so heavily on the theoretical and normative, and so little on the reality of who will foot the bill.

This article presents the views of author Cole Horton, not necessarily those of the Georgetown University College Republicans or GUCR Board. This piece belongs solely to Mr. Horton and cannot be reproduced in any way without his express consent. For more GUCR updates, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

We Can’t Talk About Abortion

father touching head of a premature baby in incubator

A month ago I blogged about my pro-life, pro-feminist stance, and the results were astounding. I fielded recruitment emails from pro-life organizations, endless Facebook comments, and even phone calls. To many, I had betrayed my San Francisco sensibilities.

At first, we disagreed, with respect. Then conversations devolved. When I was accused of being “compassionless” and “anti-woman,” I’ll admit: I cried. I am pro-life because of my inherent love for human life. How could this possibly be compassionless? My pro-life views have nothing to do with hating women; they have everything to do with loving all people equally.

Contrary to popular belief, when I disparage abortion, it is not because I want to take control of a woman’s body and force her life into ruin. To me, an abortion is taking control of a child’s body from that child and forcing their life to end. My love of an unborn child under no circumstances comes at the expense of love of the mother. I simply do not believe that the love of the mother, the enhancing of her life, could morally come at the expense of another’s very existence. This is not anti-woman, it is pro-existence.

I come from a place of love.

When Planned Parenthood says that “serious, long-term emotional problems after abortion are about as uncommon as they are after giving birth,” I don’t see love. By claiming that birth and abortion have an equal effect on a woman’s mental health, Planned Parenthood equalizes the options themselves. No one would come out with an “anti-birth” stance, so standing against abortion must be equally insane, right? Wrong. Planned Parenthood’s argument is misleading. Serious moral implications cause the emotional fallout from abortion. Comparison to post-partem depression implies that these moral issues must similarly be treated. If you regret your abortion, you need treatment.

Not only is this claim incongruous with the often claimed pro-choice mission to reduce abortions, but it contradicts an axiom I agree with, which is that “absolutely no one should pressure [a mother] into making a decision [she] is not comfortable with,” another quote from the Planned Parenthood website.

Similarly, the recent campaign to “shout your abortion” has highlighted the trend of pro-choicers to try to normalize abortion. I applaud campaigns to raise visibility of women’s issues, and vocalization of our experiences is central to our empowerment. But when the founder of #ShoutYourAbortion states in an op-ed that “an abortion is just a medical procedure,” she coerces her audience. The physical procedure of an abortion may be medical, but its existential implications are far from mundane. This is not empowerment–this is deceit.

I saw similar patterns in my recent arguments. When we talk about abortion, we talk past each other. Instead of addressing our core disagreements, we move forward with our respective assumptions and dehumanize the other side. We refuse to acknowledge our differences because they are so fundamental. We can’t talk about abortion until we all question our deepest-held beliefs about the sanctity of human life.

If we can’t talk about our differences, then I hope we can at least talk about some similarities:

  • We all come from a place of love. Wherever either side sees a human life, we do our best to protect it. I understand that if you don’t recognize a fetus as a person, that you won’t treat it with the same deference. In the same way, truly pro-life activists must work to help the unborn and his/her family during and after pregnancy.
  • We are all people. As fallible people, we must see ourselves in each other. There is no inhuman opposition here. Even if you are pro-choice, we still agree on most things. Puppies are adorable, Chipotle is delicious, mayonnaise is not an instrument… the list goes on.

So please, before we move forward in our debate, take a breath. Calm down. Let’s give everyone the respect they deserve. Stop dehumanizing, stop coercing, and start loving. Then we can get on with the real debate.

This article presents the views of author Ellie Singer, not necessarily those of the Georgetown University College Republicans or GUCR Board. This piece belongs solely to Ms. Singer and cannot be reproduced in any way without her express consent. For more GUCR updates, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.