Republican presidential candidates are split on whether a Kentucky county clerk should be forced to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
The case of Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, who has cited religious objections in refusing to issue the licenses, has pushed gay marriage toward the center of political debate at a time when the Republican Party is grappling with its stance on the issue.
The clerk’s crusade has become the first major legal flare-up over gay marriage since the Supreme Court’s decision in late June that legalized gay marriage nationwide.
Most of the Republican presidential candidates denounced the high court’s ruling, calling it judicial overreach that threatens the religious liberty of faith-based organizations and business owners.
Democrats mostly cheered the court while dismissing the warnings about religious freedom as overblown.
With attention on the case growing, presidential contenders are beginning to stake out their positions on whether Rowan should be compelled to issue the licenses.
Mike Huckabee, a Southern Baptist minister, on Wednesday gave Rowan a full-throated endorsement after speaking to her on the phone.
GOP presidential candidates have a new country to bash: the People’s Republic of China.
This week’s Chinese stock market crash — and the resulting turmoil in U.S. markets — prompted Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to demand the White House cancel next month’s state visit by China’s president. Donald Trump said he’d treat the Chinese president to McDonald’s instead of a fancy dinner.
There’s likely more China-bashing in the works: On Friday, Sen. Marco Rubio and Walker will deliver dueling foreign policy speeches in South Carolina that in Rubio’s case will focus primarily on the communist-led state.
But while scapegoating Beijing and its questionable economic policies may seem like an appealing campaign tactic, China specialists – including many in the GOP – warn that Republicans run the risk of looking ignorant about U.S.-Chinese ties.
“Welcome to the most complex and challenging relationship of the 21st century,” said Jon Huntsman, a former GOP White House contender and ex-ambassador to China who was once mocked for speaking Chinese during a debate. “It’s foolhardy to think that you can just wave off the work of the China-U.S. relationship for political purposes, but it’s also no surprise that in primary season people make such statements. You want to be seen as a tough guy on the world stage.”
To be fair, China gives White House hopefuls lots of material for a tough-guy routine.
Beijing’s aggressive moves in the South China Sea, its suspected role in cyberattacks on the U.S. and its dismal human rights record are just a few areas already seized upon by Republicans (and some Democrats) for criticism. China’s currency policies have long frustrated the United States in particular, and its increased military spending has led to wariness around the world.
Hillary Clinton hinted Thursday that she’s supportive of legislation hiking the minimum wage to $12.
Clinton, the front-runner in the Democratic presidential primary, has backed the concept of a wage hike on the campaign trail without specifying a figure — a reticence that’s been criticized by her closest rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who’s pushing for a $15 rate.
But on Thursday, after meeting with leaders of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), Clinton got as close as she’s come to endorsing a specific level, hinting that a $12 minimum wage proposal sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) might offer a viable path forward.
“Patty Murray is one of the most effective legislators in the Senate bar none, and whatever she advocates I pay a lot of attention to because she knows how to get it through the Congress,” Clinton told reporters. “Let’s not just do it for the sake of having a higher number out there, but let’s actually get behind a proposal that has a chance of succeeding. And I have seen Patty over the years be able to do just that.”
Earlier in the press conference, Clinton advocated an unspecified increase in the federal minimum wage — which has stood at $7.25 per hour since 2009 — and then allowing states and local governments to make adjustments as they see fit based on regional cost-of-living variations.
On July 18, two candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination — former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders — faced protests during a town hall discussion at the liberal Netroots Nation conference in Phoenix. The Black Lives Matter campaign, which is effectively merging online and offline activism against racial injustice, staged a demonstration in the conference hall, asking the candidates, Which side are you on?
Initially, O’Malley handled the protest well, even tapping his hands to the rhythm of a song the group sang and starting his remarks by answering questions about criminal justice and police reform. But he fumbled, inviting boos from the majority white progressive crowd when he said, “Black lives matter, and white lives matter, and all lives matter.” He should have known that the phrase “black lives matter” is part of an attempt to eradicate the racist and structural inequalities in the criminal justice system, which so often manifests as police brutality and other state-sanctioned violence. Hence, the emphasis upon black lives.
Sanders, whose appearance followed O’Malley’s, was given a rehearsal and a series of talking points by two Black Lives Matter activists who took the stage during the protest — Tia Oso and Patrisse Cullors. But clearly unmoved, he stepped off on the wrong foot by gesturing to the protesters and the audience to settle down so that he could get to “some serious things” he wanted to address, as if their questions were a mere frivolous disruption from the major issues facing the United States. He then proceeded to give his prepared campaign speech and threatened to leave if the audience “did not want him” to be there.
The incident, which followed a well-received keynote address by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren a day earlier, laid bare a major political divide among white progressives and may now serve as the foundation for challenging other 2016 presidential contenders.
Unlike the two candidates, Warren did not simply recite the phrase “black lives matter”; she effortlessly connected the fight for racial justice with the struggle for economic justice in this country. “It shouldn’t take a revolution on YouTube to drive a revolution in law enforcement,” she said. “It shouldn’t take a hurricane in New Orleans or a massacre in Charleston for Americans to wake up to what is happening — what is still happening — to people of color in this country.”
Sanders maintains that the rise of “the billionaire class” is the key problem facing the United States today. And he believes that racial injustice is an outcome of economic injustices and will be solved only through an economic revolution. Racism is not simply a byproduct of class oppression and economic exploitation. Race and class are inextricably linked to the institution of slavery and, thus, the rise of capitalism in the United States, which dehumanized and objectified black lives by separating families and creating race-based, structural inequalities with clear economic outcomes.
In this regard, the Black Lives Matter protest was a teachable moment for everyone, particularly for white progressives. White progressives need to address racial injustice by picking a side. Will they be Warren progressives, who incorporate racial justice and economic justice? Will they be Sanders progressives, who prioritize economic justice as the cause of racial injustice? Or will progressives create an even better platform than what either of these politicians has articulated? Their answers are critical to shaping the conversation and electoral agenda in 2016.
White progressives must address the destructive nature of slavery and white supremacy to chart a new era of inequality and end the exploitation of black bodies and lives.
Ultimately, progressive or not, no presidential candidate in the United States can win without a proper structural and political response to the Black Lives Matter movement. Sanders bombed his Netroots appearance, but there are two precedents that progressives who support him can emulate: First, the Radical Republicans, who from the 1850s to 1870s championed the needs of white and black progressives. Backed by members of the Republican Party, the group rejected gradualism and demanded immediate citizenship for the enslaved, equal protection under the law and economic reparations for them, in the form of 40 acres and a mule.
Second, the populist movement of 1890s effectively represents how most progressives feel about government today. Black and white farmers in the South and Midwest fought corporate greed, white supremacy and both the Democratic and Republican parties’ lack of attention to their concerns by forming the Populist Party. As Warren articulated at Netroots conference, the Populist Party too wanted the government to regulate banks, prevent corporate monopolies and otherwise assuage economic strife.
The two movements could have significantly changed the trajectory of American history. But they were thwarted by white racial violence in the form of domestic terrorism. White supremacist groups, ranging from Confederacy lovers to the Ku Klux Klan, routinely destroyed crops, houses and livestock and killed black people. As anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells-Barnet noted in her 1895 pamphlet “A Red Record,” white assaults targeted black individuals and communities that provided opportunities for economic competition for white communities during and after slavery such as in Wilmington, North Carolina; Chicago; and Tulsa, Oklahoma.
White progressives, including Sanders, must understand and address the destructive nature of slavery and white supremacy and the intersectionality of race, class, gender and sexuality in order to chart a new era of inequality and end the exploitation of black bodies and lives. Otherwise, a claim to being progressive or liberal will serve simply as an academic or intellectual exercise.
Sanders has since expressed his support for the Black Lives Matter campaign in a series of comments posted on Twitter after the hashtag #BernieSoBlack, which criticized his stances, trended nationally and made headlines. Other candidates have taken notice. Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, who skipped the Netroots conference, has since put out a statement and a video explaining her support for the campaign and a policy proposal on police body cameras. That will not be enough, but it is a start.
During this presidential election cycle, we need a clear-eyed formulation of a progressive policy agenda for the 21st century. Among other things, this includes raising the minimum wage, debt-free college, paid sick leave for families, reining in corporate influence in politics and strengthening Social Security, criminal justice and Wall Street reforms.
Addressing the needs and demands of the Black Lives Matter movement and knowing that black people’s voices and participation in our politics matter would be the first step in correcting these long-held gaps in the practice of American democracy.
Abortion is extremely common. In America, for example, one in three women will have an abortion in their lifetime, yet the strong emotions sparked by the topic — and the highly politicized rhetoric around it — leave little room for thoughtful, open debate. In this personal, thoughtful talk, Aspen Baker makes the case for being neither “pro-life” nor “pro-choice” but rather “pro-voice” — and for the roles that listening and storytelling can play when it comes to discussing difficult topics.
A backlash against the Confederate flag in the US has gathered pace, with its removal from state properties and off the shelves of retailers. But it is also seen flying in other parts of the world.
To its opponents, the battle flag used by Southern states in the American Civil War is a symbol of slavery but to its supporters it is part of southern heritage.
It is also seen outside the US. In the rural Brazilian town of Santa Barbara D’Oeste, descendants of Confederates that fled to Brazil hold an annual reunion at which the flag plays a central part.
Readers have been getting in touch to say where else they have seen it displayed.
I have seen it at Napoli football matches in Italy. I was told by one supporter that they liked the colours and the rebellious symbolism it carried in Italy where the South and North still have a rivalry. It goes beyond football. Gustavo M Lanata, Italy
When I visited Protaras, Cyprus, in 2004 the main strip along the beach was lined with Confederate flags. One of the oddest things I’ve come across. No one there seemed to know the flag’s history or even what country it was from. Locals and UK tourists both assumed it of Scottish origin given the angles of the “X”. The flag was everywhere and no one knew what it meant (the desired reunification of Cyprus or pre-war attempt to merge with Greece don’t seem to match the rebellion theme, though I assumed it perhaps started as some protest flag). Pete Bullwinkel, New York
The southern coastal region of Croatia is referred to as Dalmatia and I have seen the Confederate battle flag on buildings there. I was told by a Croatian that the coastal region associates this symbol with being from the southern portion of the country and distinguishes them from the mountainous regions to the north around the capita of Zagreb. Clint Hodges, Split, Croatia
Every year, the town of Millport in North Ayrshire, Scotland, holds a country and western festival and the little island is covered in Confederate flags. Emma Morgan, Belfast
While campaigning in the most recent UK general election, I saw a man proudly displaying the Confederate flag in the front window of his Battersea, London, flat. As an American living in London, I was surprised to see that flag so I asked him what he thought it represented, and he replied that he flies that flag because he’s “a rebel”, and that’s the “rebel” flag. Ben, London
I fly the North Virginia battle flag in my back garden. It is not a racist flag, it is now only a symbol of the South. My forebears fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War and I celebrate that. Britain still flies the Union flag after years of historical slavery abroad and many atrocities. D Fortesque, Market Drayton, UK
I live in Luxembourg now (moved from the USA) and I was shocked to come across several houses flying the Confederate flag in some villages here. I never had the chance to ask the people who lived at the house what it meant to them, but for me it has instant connotations of racism and hatred. It saddened me to see it here. Ann, Luxembourg
I have seen the Confederate flag being waved around the UAE while I was growing up in Dubai. There were many cars and trucks, usually owned and operated by rich wealthy Emiratis who would post the Confederate flag all over their cars and on top of their pick-ups. And just drive around waving the flags around town. It never made much sense to me there and interestingly enough it appeared to have a cultural connection to their love of cars, especially brute American muscle power cars. Very strange. Tiago Niles, Sao Paulo