Election News

All things election related. From presidential to congressional and even some gubernatorial.

Rand Paul Breaks with Other 2016 Candidates on Cuba

TIME

The announcement from the White House Wednesday that the U.S. will move to re-establish full diplomatic ties with Cuba sparked a wave of condemnation from the likely Republican presidential candidates with one exception: Sen. Rand Paul.

The Kentucky Republican broke with the rest of the 2016 pack today when he said that President Obama’s decision was “a good idea.”

That fits with Paul’s broader effort to attract younger voters and expand the Republican Party, since younger Cuban-Americans are not as supportive of the trade and travel restrictions as their parents, though it could risk turning off some older Republican voters, especially in the crucial battleground of Florida.

It put him on the same side as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the leading contender on the Democratic side, who has argued that the trade embargo was counterproductive.

Here’s a look at what the major Republican contenders had to say about…

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United States Takes Action on Improving Diplomatic Relations with Cuba

On the morning of Wednesday December 17, 2014, President Obama spoke through the phone to Cuban President Raul Castro about ending the United States-Cuban embargo, and improving diplomatic relations between the two countries. The phone call was a response to the Cuban government releasing two American prisoners; Alan Gross, a contractor arrested in 2009, and an unnamed United States intelligence agent who has been imprisoned for nearly two decades. In return, the United States released three Cuban spies that were being detained in a federal prison out of Florida.

Following the phone call, President Obama gave a speech at the White House expressing the intent of the conversation, and his desire to normalize relations with Cuba and the Castro regime. The president called upon congress to open serious debate and discussion about ending the half-century embargo, citing the ineffectiveness of the isolationist approach the United States has adopted for the past 50 years. In his speech President Obama said, “We will end an outdated approach that for decades has failed to advance our interests, and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries” and, later stated, “I do not believe we can keep doing the same thing for over five decades and expect a different result.”

The embargo will not be lifted today, or perhaps anytime soon, that decision ultimately lies with Congress, who has been increasingly critical of Obama administration decisions as of late. Although through executive action, there are some key political moves, aimed at improving United States-Cuban relations, that President Obama can utilize. For starters a United States embassy will be established in the Cuban capital, Havana, for the first time in 50 years. In more palpable terms, the United States will begin to ease restrictions on Cuba in forms of remittances, travel purposes, and banking relations.

Previously, remittances from an United States citizen to a Cuban nationalist was restricted at $500 every three months, but following predicted executive orders, this amount will be raised to $2000 every three months. In addition, the intermediaries sending the money will no longer be required to obtain a license to send the remittances. Now looking at the easement of travel restrictions, it will now be easier for citizens of both countries to travel between the nations. Family visits, official visits, journalistic, professional, educational, and religious travelling, and public performing, are all on the list to experience flexible restrictions. [1]

President Obama and his administration are also working to ease banking relations in Cuba. Action is being taken to allow the use of American debit cards in Cuba, to help spur economic relations between the two nations.[2] In addition American travelers will now be allowed import up to $400 in Cuban goods, including $100 in tobacco and alcohol products. (Good news for you Cuban-cigar lovers out there)

So what does this mean for improving the American interest and achieving the goal of the embargo 50 years ago—to bring democracy to a country under control of an oppressive regime?

One cannot deny the oppressive nature of the Castro regime, and the blatant human rights deficiencies in their government, but have those violations of American and democratic principles ever stopped the United States from involving themselves in trade with countries of the sort? The answer is no. On countless occasions the United States has traded and worked with authoritarian and communist regimes alike. Take China for example, the 1970s-China that Richard Nixon opened relations with was not exactly a model for democracy and capitalism, but now look how far they have come in reaching those idealized notions of democracy and capitalism. China is by no means inherently democratic, but they are exponentially closer to democracy than they were 40 years ago.

With the lifting of the Cuban embargo, and actions aimed at improving diplomatic relations with Cuba, similar hopes are desired. Through trade and a presence in the United States economy, Cubans will increasingly rely on capitalistic societies for economic prosperity. With this comes the Cuban people seeing the freedom and liberty United States citizens enjoy, and this inevitably translates into increased political pressure on the Castro regime to ease restrictions in their own society. In the short term, there is no palpable effect towards relieving oppressed citizens in Cuba, but in the long term the motive is clear, increased reliance on capitalistic societies will necessarily result in increased democracy in Cuba.

The actions being taken right now by the Obama administration to increase the amount families can send in remittances do have some immediate effects. In addition to individual families being able to help their loved ones in less fortunate circumstances, there are also notable effects on the economy. The increase in remittance amounts allows for the Cuban economy to be bolstered at a grass roots level. Meaning, individual families, and persons, in Cuba will have more capital to put back into the economy through buying goods and services. In a country with a crippled economy, bolstering it from the bottom up can have increasingly significant effects.

By: Neil Harrington

Further Readings:

To see how potential 2016 presidential candidates view the Cuban Embargo, see:

http://www.politico.com/story/2014/12/cuba-top-2016-contenders-113642.html

New York Times covering the story:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/18/world/americas/us-cuba-relations.html?ref=world&_r=0

Cuban benefits from economic relations with America:

http://thinkprogress.org/world/2014/12/17/3604891/what-increased-economic-ties-with-america-will-mean-for-cuba/

CNN’s LZ Granderson’s take:

http://www.cnn.com/2014/12/17/opinion/granderson-cuba-breakthrough-justified/index.html?iref=allsearch

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/18/world/americas/us-cuba-relations.html?ref=world&_r=0

[2] http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/18/world/americas/us-cuba-relations.html?ref=world&_r=0

Downfall of Christie and the Future of the Republican Party

In October of 2013, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, was the most celebrated choice for the Republican nomination on the 2016 presidential ticket. He enjoyed an astonishing approval rating of 61% in this month, before the George Washington Bridge scandal involving Mayor Mark Sokolich, in Fort Lee broke every news outlet in the country about two months after October. Since the scandal was discovered, Governor Christie’s approval rating has continuously receded. In fact, according to Politico.com, 23% of Americans now see the New Jersey Governor in positive light, while only 29% view him negative light. The magnitude of Americans who view him in a negative light jumped up by 17 percentage points in just 2 short months. The likelihood of Governor Christie’s presidential nomination is seemingly grim considering the facts that are continuously surfacing since the GWB scandal broke.

In December, Governor Christie and his administration were accused of closing lanes on the George Washington Bridge in order to punish democratic Mayor, Mark Sokolich, for his opposition to Governor Christie in the gubernatorial race. Governor Christie has denied all of these allegations and has stated that he had no involvement in the closures. As the story has progressed more information has surfaced that is pointing the finger at Governor Christie for being privy about these lane closures. David Wildstein – a former New Jersey Port Authority official and former Governor Christie ally – recently spoke out that the lane closures were ordered by the Governor Christie administration and that the Governor was directly tied. The Governor is continuously being slammed by the media and the New Jersey public for these allegations as there is a continuous stream of evidence and witness’ willingly coming forward to speak out against the Governor and his administration.

A once heavily favored candidate for the Republican nomination on the presidential ticket, Governor Christie now seems very unlikely to even get past the primaries. This is an extreme disadvantage for the Republican party because Governor Christie has been known to be a heavy advocate for bipartisan cooperation on political issues plaguing the country. His exit from the stage as a possible Republican candidate has the possibility to be a serious detrimental threat to the republican ticket because there aren’t too many genuine contenders thus far, who don’t affiliate with the grassroots Tea Party GOP.  For most Americans who associate themselves with the Republican Party, but not with the far right extremist Tea Party side, Governor Christie seems like a beneficial choice for the presidential nomination. Back in the early days of Hurricane Sandy relief the New Jersey governor accepted relief aid from the White House and hosted President Barack Obama when he came to the state for a visit. After accepting the relief money conservative extremists criticized Governor Christie for welcoming support from the White House. The Republican Party could use a nominee and leader that doesn’t have a problem with moderatism, and isn’t going to criticize its members for bipartisan cooperation. The big question for republicans in this country, following this scandal, that they need to start addressing is whether or not they want a candidate that would abuse his power so recklessly for the sake of punishing a political rival.  Would these actions carry over into higher office? Who would suffer in that case? In recent years we have seen far too much of this, the government shutdown in early October of 2013 shows this principle in effect all too well. If we were to find ourselves electing a clear power-abusive president we would without a doubt see no progress whatsoever with the congressional gridlock that’s taking place on Capitol Hill right now. There would be a continuous cycle of the executive branch checking the legislative branch, and vice versa, without any significant legislation being passed.

Imagine for a second if Governor Christie did end up getting elected on the ballot, a democrat like Hillary Clinton would inevitably crush him in an election race. With someone who has been involved in the scandalous type behavior Governor Christie is being associated with, making the cut to be on the presidential ballot would be rare but if he did his opposition would walk all over him and it would end in a massive blowout. The probability of Governor Christie even coming remotely close to being put on this ballot now is slim, but there is the question of who else? Far right Tea Party Extremist, Ted Cruz or Rand Paul? The vast majority of Americans wouldn’t allow such a narrow minded executive to lead their country for fear of guiding our country in the wrong direction.  In short, as these stories develop, and we see more legitimate evidence that Governor Christie lied about his involvement in this scandal, his name will only be slandered further, ultimately leading to the downfall of his presidential aspirations. The question arises now, who will the Republican Party implement now for a presidential nomination?

 

Written by: Neil Harrington