Over the summer, while many students were busy at music festivals, studying for the SAT or ACT or working a summer job, many political events occurred that may have gone unnoticed. From the beginning of summer to the first month of the school year, a presidential race unfolded, the Mueller report dilemma died down, an Illinois Congressman from Mundelein announced his presidential candidacy, the trade war continued to unfold between the U.S. and China and a blockbuster Supreme Court case on gerrymandering was decided.
Trump’s Immigration Policy
Controversy surrounding the immigration policies taken on by the Trump Administration this summer has led to increased focus on the situation surrounding the border. Most impactful, to many, has been Trump’s detaining of children and families at the U.S.-Mexico border.
“[Trump] gave executive order or directive that they could be detained indefinitely…. I’m sure that will be taken to court and challenged, but that’s the policy [Trump] wants to pursue with that, which is further energizing his base,” Thomas Kuhn, AP U.S. Government and Politics teacher, said regarding the new developments in the policy.
Trade War Tensions
The trade relations between China and the U.S., while beginning during the 2018-19 school year, continued to increase in tension over the summer and in the first two months of the school year.
“I think most people feel there has not been a lot of progress; Trump has tried to toughen up the negotiations, and China has not perhaps responded as he had hoped,” AP Economics Teacher Andrew Hirshman said. “At this point, the trade war seems to be escalating and causing a lot of concern about the global economy.”
The rhetoric from President Trump mixed with the recent rise in tariffs, which are taxes on imported goods, has led to a large focus around this economic dilemma. The U.S. has increased tariffs on $550 billion of Chinese goods with threats to raise them even higher. The 15 percent tariff increase on Chinese imported goods went into effect on Sunday, Sept. 1.
“Trump has continued to increase tariffs, and his most recent move was he ordered American companies to begin moving out of China. There’s a lot of question whether he had authority to do this, but he claims he does as a law going back to the 1970s that gives him, as president, executive power to make decisions that affect the U.S. economy in times of national emergency,” Hirshman said.
President Trump and President Xi Jinping of China have been debating tariff rates, trade imbalances and Chinese intellectual property theft since last year. Despite the growing conflict, some believe Trump is making the right move by taking an aggressive stance against China.
“He always has a strategy in everything he does, and especially being a good businessman who has worked internationally, I think this is one of his good plays, and he’s treating it well,” Kaleb Gustavsen, senior, said.
Yet, others believe that Trump is taking a position that is too controlling, especially regarding his encouragement for U.S. countries to move their bases out of China.
“I’m beginning to think of Trump as a right-wing socialist. People talk about Bernie Sanders, for instance, as a left-wing socialist, but I believe Trump, who believes in government control of the economy, as evidenced by ordering Americans, in regards with who they can trade with and who they cannot trade with, as a right-wing socialist,” Hirshman said.
However, right-wing socialism is not the term others may use to describe the president’s actions.
“This is a form of foreign policy along with a bit of nationalism combined,” Gustavsen said. “[It’s] foreign policy because this is our China-U.S. relationship, and it’s not supposed to be directly against the people…. It’s nationalism, not socialism.”
The trade war seems to be affecting both countries’ economies, but the political systems in China are different than democracy, which can allow for China’s government to continue to be persistent in this trade war with a smaller threat of public backlash.
“I’m growing more concerned as the weeks go by,” Hirshman said. “I do feel there are issues that the U.S. should be addressing with China dealing with intellectual property theft and so forth, but I think it’s important to realize that China has a different political system, and it is not necessarily intimidated by a direct attack on their flow of trade.”
Partisan gerrymandering not an issue to be handled by the courts
In a major Supreme Court decision of the summer, based on two court cases Lamone v Benisek and Rucho v Common Cause, the highest court in the country decided that the matter of partisan gerrymandering was not one for the courts to consider. This case also carries implications for the 2020 elections.
“The Supreme Court decision on gerrymandering made [partisanship] even worse because now that’s the number one problem of the polarization in the House of Representatives, and then when the Supreme Court stepping out and not [directly ruling against partisan gerrymandering], it just gives both sides even more motivation for the 2020 election to control the state houses, so they can control the legislatures,” Kuhn said.
Partisan gerrymandering is the action by the dominant party in a state of redrawing district lines for political gain, such as limiting the voting power or influence of a minority group or a certain party. These two cases came before the Supreme Court to bring up the issue of alleged partisan gerrymandering in their respective states of Maryland and North Carolina, but a 5-4 decision struck it down.
“We conclude that partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts…. Federal judges have no license to reallocate political power between the two major political parties, with no plausible grant of authority in the Constitution, and no legal standards to limit and direct their decisions,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in his decision.
This 5-4 decision included Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor dissenting, or disagreeing, with the majority opinion of Chief Justice John Roberts joined by Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. It is worth noting that those dissenting tend to be more left-leaning while those forming the majority tend to be more right-leaning.
Joe Walsh announces candidacy
Joe Walsh, a former one-term Illinois congressman, who currently lives in Mundelein, is a Republican challenger against Trump in the 2020 primary.
“I think the fact that there is a Republican primary is bad news…but Joe Walsh being a pretty popular conservative and a national figure and a radio talk show host, he could pose some threats…. I think the media is going to give Joe Walsh a lot of credibility because the mainstream media, or a lot of elements of it, does want to see Trump lose,” Kuhn said.
Walsh announced his candidacy for president on Sunday, Aug. 25.
“My name is Joe Walsh. I’m a former Republican Congressman. I’m a conservative. I’m running because Donald Trump is not who we are; in fact, he’s the worst of who we are,” Walsh said in a campaign video. “Joe Walsh 2020: Be Brave.”
Historically, when incumbent presidents have faced a challenge from within their own party, they have been unsuccessful in being reelected as voters can see a same-party challenger as division and instability within that party.
“The more talk [Walsh] can get, the more divisive they’re going to show the Republican party, and incumbent presidents are 0 and 5 when they face a serious primary challenger in general elections,” Kuhn said.
These five past incidents where incumbent presidents who have lost in the past when facing a key challenger have been George W. Bush against Patrick Buchanan in 1992, Jimmy Carter against Ted Kennedy in 1980, Gerald Ford against Ronald Reagan in 1980, Lyndon B. Johnson against Eugene McCarthy in 1968 as well as Harry Truman against Estes Kefauver in 1952.
However, the historical odds are also not in Walsh’s favor; if his intention is to win the presidency, this division can actually serve to bolster the opposing party.
“Divisiveness, even if it’s the party in power, if that’s seen as divided, it divides their electorate…. No primary challenger has ever beat an incumbent president, but every incumbent president that’s faced a primary challenger has lost to the opposing party in the general election,” Kuhn said.
Others don’t believe Walsh is a key challenger.
“I think [Trump] will be reelected; Joe Walsh is not a prime candidate as of right now. He’s just a congressman from Illinois,” Gustavsen said.
The Trump campaign still holds a strong base of Republican support despite the controversy Trump has faced during his presidency, but the Democrats are set on a course to prevent his reelection.
“I think his supporters maybe are a little less passionate, but they’re still supporting him, and his opponents are even more fiery and determined to defeat him in the next election. So, the emotions are stronger, but the [public opinion poll] numbers aren’t changing,” Kuhn said.
Conservatives also share the belief that Trump can win again, despite Walsh’s challenge and frontrunners within the Democratic Party. In a CNN article written on Aug. 8, “Ranking the 2020 Democrats after the CNN debate,” Joe
Biden was on the top of the exhaustive list, currently including 20 Democrats, with Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris behind him.
“I think [Trump’s] reelection campaign is looking really well, especially because the top person for the Democrats right now is Biden,” Gustavsen said. “His campaign runs have been awful; his debates have been awful. It’s just because of his name recognition with the Obama era– that’s the only reason why he’s on top.”
From trade wars to presidential races, the political and economic environment will be crucial focal points for the 2020 debates and elections.
For more information on these current event topics, check out these news articles below.
Immigration policy: “Rollout of ‘soul crushing’ Trump immigration policy has ‘broken the courts’” by Reuters, NBC News, Sept. 10, 2019
“Trump says US and China resume trade talks Thursday ‘at a different level’” by Yun Li, CNBC News, Aug. 29, 2019
“US, China trade war likely to continue with no new talks planned: report” by Mark Moore, New York Post, Sept. 2, 2019
“Supreme Court decides federal judges cannot block gerrymandering” by Tucker Higgins & Dan Mangan, CNBC News, June 27, 2019
“Former Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh Confirms He’ll Challenge President Trump for 2020 Republican Nomination” by Associated Press, Time, Aug 25, 2019
For more information, check out these websites for more information: