Values Over Figures

We should always be critical and wary of our political figures, and always hold them accountable to upholding our American values.

In early September of 1774, delegates from the American colonies met together to react to the Coercive Acts implemented by the British. Now known as the First Continental Congress, those delegates discussed how they would address the humiliating taxes and restrictions imposed by the British.

They knew that in order to enact change, they would have to engage in open rebellion. Because he admired his military experience and reputation, John Adams nominated George Washington to lead the Continental Army.

With sweeping assent from the whole delegation, George Washington addressed the First Congress in an acceptance speech. While outlying his fervor in leading the colonies to freedom, his speech also had a profound plea: “But lest some unlucky event should happen unfavorable to my reputation, I beg it may be remembered by every gentleman in the room that I this day declare with the utmost sincerity, I do not think myself equal to the command I am honored with.”

A president has many roles. As supreme commander, there is a duty to conduct military affairs in a moral and just manner. As leader of the free world, there is an oath to uphold our inalienable rights. And as a figurehead to their political party, there is an obligation to represent the values of their party.

But in respecting the significance of those positions and roles, we must be wary of elevating the person above this paramount office.

It is a vice we have indulged in throughout our history. We tend to attribute political and cultural accomplishments to a single figure. We say Churchill saved England during World War II while sidelining the efforts of British parliament. When we say Reagan revitalized the American economy, we glance over the emergence of new economic theories that made it possible. 

We do this because it is more simple to attribute cultural and political occurrences to one entity. Politics can be quite complex, as well as uncertain. By attributing culture and politics to a single figure, we are given a form of permanence and certainty—that as long as that figure is active, so too will be the political and cultural phenomenon of their day. 

But doing this leads to the danger of elevation. Especially in regards to the presidency, one should never “become” their office. To do so implies that one’s value is equal to what that office represents. And in doing so, the figure gets the opportunity to rise above their office, and thus gets the power to redefine what that office represents and stands for. 

In a constitutional republic, this can never bode well. When a figure becomes elevated above the law of the land, their intentions—whether good or ill—inherently undermine the value of the Constitution. In this, our fragile republic can also be undermined, whether by the will of the figure or by the followers that support them. 

Instead, the figure should place themself below their office, and hold themself accountable to preserving and representing the platform that they have been honored with. They should not define themself by the position that they are given, or consider their worth equal to the worth of the office that they hold. 

Rather, they should strive to make themself worthy of holding that office, pushing themself to uphold the values, duties, and oaths that come with their position.

In other words, no one should be above the values that they hold, especially in the matter of the presidency. But the president, or any other influential political figure, does not have to be alone in holding themselves accountable. 

We are citizens, and constituents, and voters. In those capacities, we have the power to enable and empower figures in our society. But we also have the capacity to hold those same figures accountable, and criticize or limit them when they stray from the values of their office. In other words, political figures should not become the worth of our values. 

As we enter a new presidency, we must be mindful of our power to enable political figures, as well as our responsibility to disavow political figures. We should always be critical and wary of our political figures, and always hold them accountable to upholding our American values. 

The Decline of the Modern Presidential Debate

Ultimately, the civil witticism that once underlaid presidential debates was brought to an end.

Leading up to the end of October in 1984, Kansas City had gained notable news coverage. The much anticipated event had finally come: the first presidential debate between Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale. Reagan had endured an arduous, yet fruitful four years in office previously. Now Mondale, the former vice president under Jimmy Carter, challenged him to the office in the heart of Missouri. 

During the debate, the moderator gave the floor to Henry Trewhitt, a correspondent for the Baltimore Sun. Trewhitt proceeded to highlight how Reagan, at that time, was the oldest president to ever assume the Oval Office. He then asked, with questionable subtly, whether Reagan would be able to handle the rigors of office.

Reagan, adopting his trademark smooth and rustic charm, swiftly responded: “I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”

The auditorium erupted in laughter and applause as Reagan coolly took a sip from a glass of water. Even Mondale could not help his wide smile.

The response, of course, was not an insult to his opponent. Although Mondale was younger, he was still fifty-six, hardly the age one would describe as “youthful”. Rather, Reagan’s comment was a witty yet subtle rebuke to Trewhitt and other critics’ opinions over his age.

Presidential debates should be about how each candidate addresses political issues that have a strong bearing on the public mind. Impoverishment and economic reform, infrastructure and taxes, climate change and environmental guidelines – their solutions to these issues are what make presidential debates important to the nation. 

But we must admit that on occasion, we indulge in witty soundbites or clever jokes. Instances like these lighten up the debate with chuckles or grins, a brief solace from the difficult issues at hand. In other words, such witty comments work best when they are both subtle and apt.

“Subtle” and “apt” are among the last words I would use to describe our most recent presidential debate. 

Jarring and chaotic would be more fitting. Our last “presidential” debate was not so presidential. Rather than being the pinnacle of political debate in America, it was more reminiscent of a verbal boxing match between two spiteful rivals.

The moderator, Chris Wallace of Fox News, did his best to steer the debate by bringing up relevant topics and issues in America. But he could hardly control the conversation with the number of interruptions, insults, and off-topic rebuttals that came from both candidates. 

Instead of focusing mainly on important political issues, the candidates seemed adamant on creating those “witty retorts” – or rather, outright insults.

Former Vice President Joe Biden was focused on discrediting President Donald Trump in the eyes of the American public. At one point, he turned forward and spoke directly to the camera: “you know you don’t trust him,” he said, in an unsubtle attempt to appeal to the viewers. Towards the end of the debate, Biden made a bold claim of stating that the current presidency has left America “weaker, sicker, poorer, more divided, and more violent” without any preface.

Of course, Trump was not wholly innocent in this divisive exchange. He took to commenting on Biden’s intelligence, stating “there is nothing smart about you, Joe,” then proceeding to claim that he graduated bottom of his class. Trump also made a bold assertion near the end of the debate, stating how Biden had absolutely no support from law enforcement.

Those were but a few examples of how courtesy and decorum slowly dissolved throughout the debate. After the event, initial reactions from pundits were centered less on how the candidates responded to the moderator’s prompts, but more about how the pair got at each other’s throats. 

Ultimately, the civil witticism that once underlaid presidential debates was brought to an end on that night.

But can we actually be surprised?

As a whole, we have already made up our minds. We have already decided our views on these issues, already affirmed our position on their solutions. But we have also closed off our minds to the ideas and opinions of the other side.

The presidential debate stage represents the most popular political opinions and ideas in our nation. These candidates represent the ideas of millions, and to see them debate each other is a symbolic embodiment of having the opposite political opinions we share challenge themselves on a physical stage. 

Of course, we are not obligated to accept the differing political views of the other side. But we should be expected to approach them with at least an open mind. 

But current discourse has seen a worrying decline of tolerance for opposing views, and the effects of this could be seen in our last presidential debate. Rather than being a podium for civil and sincere discourse, the debate was more like a rowdy sports stadium, with loud fans trying to drown out each other with jeers and heckles from either side, with little intent of watching the game. 

The presidential debate should be more than a series of jeers and heckles. It should be less about which candidate has the more amusing soundbites, or the better insults. Instead, keep the witticism sharp and subtle, and focus more on the issues that Americans sincerely care about. 

A House Divided Once More

We have a potential modern-day equivalent of Abraham Lincoln: President Donald Trump, a president whose whole political career has centered on his political incorrectness and borderline moral indignation at the dealings of past administrations.

On a warm summer’s day exactly 162 years ago, then-Republican candidate for Stephan Douglass’s Illinois senate seat, Abraham Lincoln, gave one of his most famous speeches. Lincoln’s “A House Divided” speech seemed to define the man’s political career as both a statesman and political philosopher, one who was willing to challenge the status quo in America because he saw the inherent flaws that would lead to its potential downfall. This speech would immortalize Lincoln both as the right man for the presidency two years later and as a man of moral courage and political incorrectness, as his law partner William H. Herndon would have put it. When looking at Lincoln, we cannot look at him as just the president who freed the slaves or the one who defeated the Confederacy. Instead, we must see him as the one who sought to preserve both the Union and our founding fathers’ belief “that all men are created equal,” even if doing so brought him just as many enemies as friends.

The United States finds itself in a similar position with an unprecedentedly politically polarized population and a Congress so divided that it can never seem to agree on anything. But most importantly, we have a potential modern-day equivalent of Abraham Lincoln: President Donald Trump, a president whose whole political career has centered on his political incorrectness and borderline moral indignation at the dealings of past administrations. Trump challenged the status quo of Washington and was elected on the promise that he would change things for the better for the American people. In him, many Americans saw someone who, unlike ‘true’ politicians in Washington, would defend America’s promise of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” 

The American people are left with a choice to make. We can continue to divide ourselves with labels that we find convenient, urban-rural, liberal-conservative, Republican-Democrat, etc. Or, we can work together with a president who wishes to see meaningful change and pick the only label that matters: American. The past half-year has been an especially trying time for our country and one that showed the cracks in our society which began to form long before Trump took office. 

We started the year with the most party-polarizing impeachment process that has ever graced the United States. A Democrat-controlled House began the impeachment, and many moderates campaigned on not being in favor of impeachment, even though they encouraged it when they were in office. The Republican-controlled Senate didn’t want to see the leader of their party impeached. The whole event did nothing to bring the country together, but instead was used as talking points from various heads in Washington and in the media to further divide the American people. To this day millions of Americans wish to see the President impeached and removed from office, and many of our representatives wish to restart the process of impeachment with whole new charges.

During the final weeks of this debacle, we also had our first glimpses of the now infamous COVID-19 and Trump’s first response to it. To mitigate potential infections entering the US from China, the Trump administration imposed travel restrictions on the country on January 31st. The very next day Trump was bombarded by tweets and talking points from those on the other side of the aisle calling this action racist and xenophobic. Over the next couple of weeks, this behavior encouraged large gatherings of people in an effort to go against Trump’s messaging. As news stations played Trump’s briefings of his handling in full, the American people began to approve of it and appreciated many of the things he had to say. Unfortunately, the public was quickly able to be swayed against him as the media began to cut away from his briefings. This type of rhetoric and actions is not only dangerous but irresponsible as well. This happened solely for partisan gain and bickering, and none of these groups wish to work with the president to solve this crisis.

Finally, we entered one of the ultimate tests of Trump’s presidency: deteriorating race relations and riots following the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. What started as peaceful protests calling for justice and police reform turned into riots, looting, and the torching and destruction of businesses, police stations, and both private and public property in over 20 major cities and countless other smaller cities and towns across the country. Trump has been criticized both for doing nothing as cities burned, and for being too harsh on the “protestors” in an effort to stop the rioting. Because of these continuing protests, several mayors having lost control of their cities to city council members voting to defund the police department, protestors taking over several blocks worth of the city and declaring autonomy from all authorities (one now ruled by a warlord), or police threatening to quit if the harmful rhetoric against them doesn’t stop. 

No one chose to say that we needed to work with the president who wants “law and order” so that people can continue to protest peacefully. Instead, it turned into a scenario in which you are either with the protestors or with the police and systematic racism plaguing this country. Just now a Wendy’s was burned to the ground because a rioter/rioters couldn’t wait to find out why Rayshard Brooks was killed before making a decision, only seeing the incidents as another example of racism and police brutality against black Americans. Now is the time in which we must realize that this precious Union is fragile and one that we must keep united. We are a nation built upon the trust and bonds we have with our friends, family, and neighbors. If those can break apart because of a single president’s desire to improve this country and encourage its ideal, then I fear what a second disuniting will result in.

Seeing as how many wish to continue down a path of partisanship and worsening discourse in the country, I have a request to the American people. Turn away from the news and pay no attention to the talking points. Wait for all of the facts to come in before making a decision, and try listening to our president. Listen to him unfiltered and without the interruptions of those who only wish to see him fall. I may not have the wisdom that my parents and grandparents gained through years of experience; all I have is a love for our country and intuition that says that Trump wants to change it for the better. Though we may not like him, in order to avoid further dividing ourselves to the point of violence against each other, we must rally around him and work to better our country together.

I do not know what the future may hold for the United States or how Trump’s presidency will completely affect it, but perhaps if President Lincoln were around today he would remind us of this poignant part in his House Divided speech: 

“‘A house divided against itself cannot stand.’

I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free.

I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided.

It will become all one thing or all the other.

Either the opponents of slavery, will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new — North as well as South.”

Illustration credit to Bella Peters

Inclusion Cannot Be Comfortable

Where was the compassion when I had to comfort my sister during her mental breakdowns because she had nowhere else to turn?

Those trying to be inclusive embrace people of different races, ethnicities, religions, creeds, genders, sexualities, abilities, and ages. However, they usually do not include those with different ideas. In other words, diversity is great, except for diversity of thought (or, for that matter, diversity that includes “privileged groups”). Some have even chosen to sacrifice genuine inclusivity on the altar of political correctness to make others feel comfortable. This is not inclusion. This is exclusion.

Only one side can really claim openness.

Take my transgender sister. Although she used to be a self-identified Bernie Sanders supporter just a few years ago, she recently became a staunch libertarian and has warmed up to President Trump and some of his policies. My question to the LGBTQ+ and PRIDE groups out there: would you welcome my sister with open arms to your support groups and activist meetings? I imagine not, because of two main reasons: the hostility that exists between queer individuals and the broader political right, and the polarized nature of today’s politics. 

I find it upsetting that basic principles of inclusion are ignored for the sake of politics; individual traits and characteristics have become so political that people who have commonalities cannot be associated with one another because of political affiliation. Personally, whenever my sister is suffering from mental health problems, I try to help her out as much as I can. Even though I have gotten many recommendations from others to get her to seek help from the LGBTQ+ community, I ignore them because I know from experience how those will go. The last time I went to a transgender group therapy session with my sister, I got tossed out of the meeting and “re-educated” for saying that I could not wrap my head around the idea of there being an “infinite” number of genders.

Inclusivity comes at a price, which is the sacrifice of the comfort that comes from echo chambers.

To whoever claims to be “inclusive,” “accepting of diversity” and “compassionate,” I ask: where was the inclusivity when I was tossed out of that meeting? Where was the diversity of thought when I was hounded and berated for merely questioning the idea of infinite genders? Where was the compassion when I had to comfort my sister during her mental breakdowns because she had nowhere else to turn?

Now, I will accept that there is some argument to be made that inclusivity’s intent is compassion. Some might argue that my words at that support group were harmful to those present, and therefore I cannot claim the mantle of being “inclusive” and “compassionate.” However, it is those critics themselves who I say cannot be inclusive. Even if it is for the sake of keeping some people ‘in,’ it is exclusive to keep certain thoughts and ideas ‘out.’ 

You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Inclusivity comes at a price, which is often the sacrifice of the comfort that comes from echo chambers. Some people try to dismiss certain ideas to make others feel comfortable, but we do not have to set aside the diversity of ideas for the sake of inclusivity. 

Some will still claim that we must fight to include certain marginalized groups. While this is true, the fight for inclusivity is not a zero-sum game. Fighting for one group to have a spot at the table does not inherently mean that another group must lose theirs. Everyone ought to have a voice. Just because one group historically had power over another does not warrant marginalizing either group. Power dynamics do not warrant mistreatment to anyone. Rather, it should be a catalyst to ensure equality among all. 

Where was the compassion when I had to comfort my sister during her mental breakdowns because she had nowhere else to turn?

Do not claim the mantle of inclusion if you actually are exclusive. Do not masquerade as something you are not. Be honest with yourself: what would an inclusive society look like? Would it include everyone at the table, or would it keep some out to make others feel safe? The former is objectively inclusive, the latter objectively exclusive. Opening up to other people of different backgrounds is the way forward. As for my sister, my advice to those who would like to help her is this: keep politics out of the conversation. If it does enter the conversation, be open-minded. Above all, just listen. I guarantee that you will learn something and  be much better off if you do not jump to any conclusions. 

As an aside, I will say that many conservatives and Trump supporters that I have told about my sister’s transition have been nothing but open-minded and receptive about it. Often times, they do not argue with me but just listen to what I have to say. I can name only one or two incidents when someone was genuinely hostile to me because of my sister. On the other hand, every person on the political left whom I have talked to about my sister always talks about how gender is a spectrum or how my sister is another case of the “oppression of transgender people.” Make what you will of that, but it goes without saying that only one side can really claim openness.

Not listening to one another causes an inherent lack of distrust of the “other.” You never know who has an agenda. What we really need nowadays are people who listen and are upfront and honest about what they want. When I talk to someone who might be hostile to the idea of my sister transitioning–conservatives and Trump supporters, for example–I do not take the opportunity to “educate” that person. I just talk about my sister’s story and leave it at that. If they want to talk politics, so be it; I am not the kind of person around whom others have to walk on eggshells. Still, there are times when politics and agendas must enter into the equation and there are times when they need to be left aside. Otherwise, it simply breeds mistrust, and nobody’s the wiser at the end of the day. When I do leave politics aside and just talk frankly about a sensitive subject, I find a receptive audience. The personal does not have to be political.

The Darsch Report: Sept. 2 – 8

San Antonio’s Hoarding Task Force

In San Antonio, all four fire deaths this year have involved hoarding, something that the San Antonio Fire Department plans to tackle. During a recent budget meeting with the city council members, San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood announced that the SAFD is working with other city departments to form a Hoarding Task Force that will help identify people in hoarding situations.

“We had a 49-year-old man die in a hoarder home,” Hood said. “It should have never happened.”

Hood would further explain to the council that because of the hoarding, it not only made it difficult for those inside the building to escape, but it also made it difficult for firefighters to enter.

“It makes it impossible for us to get in because the fuel load is so heavy,” Hood said. “Usually by the time we get there it is in a situation or in a state where no one would survive that fire.”

Hood said he hopes to have the task force up and running by 2020. The chief said that he wants to ensure that help and resources are available to people who are in dangerous hoarding circumstances.

“We all know someone like this,” Hood said. “So how can we identify them, and how can we help them put order in their living environment and ensure a safer house for them?”

Gov Abbott vs. Gun Violence

Despite efforts by many conservatives in the state legislature to stop talk of increased gun control, Governor Greg Abbott announced on Twitter on Wednesday, Sept. 4 that he would be taking executive action on the issue. The next day, Gov Abbott released a list of eight executive actions being taken to prevent gun violence with most having to do with reporting suspicious behavior.

Democratic legislators have also been putting out their proposals, holding press conferences on the issue and even demanding a special legislative session on gun control. The most high-profile of these Democrat proposals are so-called “red-flag” laws, in which guns could be confiscated without due process from those suspected to have mental health issues.

Second Amendment groups have already indicated that they are willing to put a fight if need be.

“Any solution that aims to take away more guns from more people is counterproductive. Gun-control laws don’t reduce crime. They don’t keep criminals from committing evil, despicable acts. And they certainly haven’t kept us safe,” Rachel Malone, the Texas director of Gun Owners of America said during a recent press conference.

With conservatives and gun owners beginning to line up against Abbott and Democrats on gun control, the governor and Texas legislatures should work with gun owners to find a solution that makes Texan communities safer while protecting their rights.

StemExpress CEO Admits to Selling Aborted Baby Parts

On Thursday, Sept. 5 StemExpress CEO, Cate Dyer, told a San Francisco courtroom that the company brokered beating fetal hearts and intact fetal heads to medical researchers.

The admission comes during court proceedings of Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit against investigators David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, who allegedly illegally filmed top executives and clinicians from Planned Parenthood who admitted to brokering aborted baby parts.

Daleiden and Merritt are part of the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), a group of citizen journalists “dedicated to monitoring and reporting on medical ethics and advances.” 

Some staff of Planned Parenthood Northern California are already under oath testifying that they “provided fetal tissue from the abortions she did at Planned Parenthood as a regular occurrence,” according to a summary of court proceedings, “[and] when asked if she had ever heard of StemExpress, Doe 7 said she had heard of cases in which StemExpress was involved and money was exchanged.”

Peter Breen of the Thomas More Society, who is representing Daleiden at the court, told Life Site News that’s StemExpress CEO’s admission is “gruesome.”

“If you have a fetus with an intact head and an intact body, and intact extremities, that is something that would indicate that child was born alive, and then had their organs cut out of them, or that that child was the victim of an illegal partial-birth abortion,” he said.

StemExpress and Planned Parenthood Northern California are currently the subject of investigations by the FBI and Department of Justice “for selling fetal organs and tissue against the law,” CMP said in a summary.

US Economy

The stock market did fairly well this week had is approaching near-record highs. The Dow Jones increased to 26,797.46 on Thursday, increasing by +435.21 points, or +1.65 percent over its August 29 close of 26,362.25. The S&P 500 increased by +52.25 points or +1.79 percent on Friday. In addition, the Nasdaq increased on Thursday by +1.76 percent.

Friday was also the release date for the August US jobs report during which the US stayed on par with Wall Street estimates.

  • Average hourly earnings increased by 0.4 percent in August and 3.2% over the year, better than expected.
  • The labor force participation rate increased to 63.2 percent, tying its highest level since August 2013.

Hong Kong’s Freedoms Are at Risk

In Hong Kong, protestors continue to march in the street against China’s efforts to increase control over the Special Administrative Region, demanding true democracy and autonomy from Beijing.

On Sunday, Sept. 8, thousands of protestors marched on the US consulate singing the Star-Spangled Banner, waving American flags and calling on President Trump to “liberate” their city.

“Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong,” many shouted before handing over petitions at the U.S. Consulate, “resist Beijing, liberate Hong Kong.”

Over a thousand arrests of demonstrators have been made over the past five months with an additional 2,100 injuries being reported. This coincides with reports from protestors that the Chinese and Hong Kong government are working with Chinese gangs to attack protestors as well as police pretending to be protestors during marches, accusations that the Hong Kong and Chinese governments deny.

In Hong Kong, we are also seeing censorship of the use of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) by the Hong Kong government. VPN provider Private Internet Access (PIA) has reported that its service has been blocked in the country

According to PIA, users in Hong Kong are either blocked from connecting to the PIA service outright or are allowed to connect but then prevented from accessing any websites.

 In support of Hong Kong, many protestors and congressmen are urging the passage of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which would protect Hong Kong autonomy as well as “establish punitive measures against government officials in Hong Kong or mainland China who are responsible for suppressing basic freedoms in Hong Kong, especially in connection with the abduction of certain booksellers.”

To continue standing as the bastion of such values as freedom and democracy that we claim to hold, we need to be the America that the people of Hong Kong believe in.

Trump Cancels Peace Talks

On Saturday evening, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to make an announcement about developments in the war in Afghanistan.

In the series of Tweets, Trump stated that he had planned on having a secret meeting with the President of Afghanistan and major Taliban leaders while at Camp David to work on facilitating peace in the war-torn country.

  However, Trump ended talks once damning information came to light. “In order to build false leverage, [the Taliban] admitted to an attack in Kabul that killed one of our great great soldiers, and 11 other people,” Trump tweeted.

“What kind of people would kill so many in order to seemingly strengthen their bargaining position? They didn’t, they only made it worse… How many more decades are they willing to fight?” he declared.

On Sunday, after their negotiating team held an emergency internal meeting in Doha, the Taliban said Trump’s decision to cancel the talks would only have consequences for the United States.

“More than anyone else, the loss will be for the United States–their standing will be hurt, their anti-peace position will be clearer to the world, their human and treasure loss will increase, and their political actions will come across as unstable,” the Taliban said. “Twenty years ago, too, we had called for understanding, and this remains our position today.”

After the talks were called off, the Afghan government blamed the Taliban, saying that the violence was making the peace process difficult.

Bill Flores is Retiring

On Wednesday, Sept. 4, the Republican congressman for Texas’s 17th congressional district, Bill Flores, announced that he will be retiring at the end of his term.

Flores marks the fifth Texas Republican congressman and twelfth Republican congressman to announce retirement in 2020.

Despite being in a district that President Trump won with 56% of the vote, Flores has committed to retiring and eventually being able to spend more time with his family.

In a statement, Flores said that he plans to return to the private sector, where he had previously worked as an oil and gas executive. He also said that he would focus on a number of issues in his remaining time in Congress, including securing the border, removing “the uncertainty related to the ‘Dreamers,’ helping pass the United States, Mexico, and Canada Agreement and paving the way for “the accelerated deployment of 5G technologies.”

In an election cycle where Democrats plan to expand their House majority and perhaps even take the Senate, Republicans will need to step up efforts to get conservatives, Trump voters and independents out to vote.

BREAKING: Violence Breaks Out Between Political Groups at Texas State

Today at Texas State University, students accosted a member of the Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT) on campus, taking his hat and pushing him to the ground. Police removed at least one handcuffed person from the scene.

Tyler Minor, a member of YCT at Texas State University in San Marcos, was wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat in front of a group of students. Individuals identified as members of the Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) allegedly snatched the hat from his head, according to a Facebook post by YCT. Minor attempted to retrieve the hat and was then pushed to the ground by a currently unidentified man.

Video livestreamed by YCT-Texas State member Sebastian Quaid shows police removing at least one person from the scene.

This article will be updated as more verifiable information becomes available.

Photo screenshot from Quaid’s Facebook video.

Presidential Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin Comes to Trinity

This year’s Flora Cameron lecture at Trinity University became commemorative with the unfortunate passing of Flora Cameron Crichton on March 2 of this year. Before her passing, Crichton was able to select Doris Kearns Goodwin as the speaker for the lecture. Goodwin is a presidential historian, political commentator and award-winning author/biographer. She spoke on her book Leadership in Turbulent Times, a New York Times bestseller on March 27 in Laurie Auditorium.

“Little could I have imagined how relevant that title would be today,” joked Goodwin at the beginning of the lecture. However, she switched to a more serious demeanor and contemplated a question that she is often asked: ‘are these the worst of times?’ “The answer history provides is no,” said Goodwin in answer to the question. She pointed to and referenced many American Presidents, but focused on Lyndon B. Johnson, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Theodore Roosevelt. She highlighted the “turbulent times“ that all these men faced, such as the civil war and industrial revolution, and stated that “each one of these situations cried out for leadership, and each of the four men was peculiarly fitted for the time.”

Goodwin shifted her focus to the qualities that make up leaders. She pulled a Teddy Roosevelt quote in which he said, “most success comes when people develop ordinary talents to an extraordinary degree from hard sustained work.” This she acknowledged as being a key to success but not a universal key to leadership. She made a list of qualities that are almost universally applicable, “humility, empathy, resilience, courage, the ability to listen to diverse opinions, controlling of impulses, connect with all manner of people, communicate through stories and keep[ing] one’s word.” Goodwin went into great detail on how her studied presidents portrayed these qualities and acknowledged that there is not just one key to being a successful leader.

Nearing the end of her lecture she recalled a quote from Leo Tolstoy about Lincoln.  “He wasn’t as great a general as Napoleon, he wasn’t as great a statesman as Frederick the great. But his greatness consisted in the integrity of his character and the moral fiber of his being, the ultimate standard for judging our leaders.” She concluded that it wasn’t necessarily the triumphs of a leader that determined their success, but the effect they have as people, on people.

Goodwin closed with a touching and powerful personal anecdote on why history came to interest her and why it is so important. She thanked history for “allowing me to spend a lifetime looking back in the past, allowing me to believe in the pride and people we have lost and love in our families, and the public figures we have respected in history really can live on, so long as we pledge to tell and retell the stories of their lives.”

Photo by “Rhododendrites” on Wikimedia Commons. (CC BY-SA 4.0)

From Socialism to Liberty

By Stephan Lopez.

Back when I was a freshman in the wake of the 2016 election, I felt abandoned by my party. The Democratic National Convention (DNC) had exposed its true nature when it didn’t give the nomination to Bernie Sanders, who I believe should have won the primary. To know that the man that controlled the debate topics and carried much larger crowds still lost really made me wonder about the legitimacy of the party. Amidst the Trump run, I decided to give him a chance but I still held onto my socialist values of Medicare for all, high taxes, and other government subsidies. Then, the impossible happened: Trump actually won. I wasn’t really shocked by the results but more by other students’ reactions. Some people cried, others wallowed, and some celebrated and I just kept working. I reminded liberals that it was their fault for denying Bernie the opportunity to run. I still believe the battle of the political ideologies should have been dished out between Bernie & Trump, but I will settle for good ol’ AOC from Brooklyn.

It was probably halfway into my sophomore year at Trinity that my whole political view started to change. One of the things that really got me started was rereading some of the founding documents. The Constitution & Bill of Rights are great at reminding us about the American ideal that we used to all agree upon. Go even deeper and you may find your way into the Federalist Papers to see how they debated government in their day. These writings show some of the best mockery dished out between Hamilton and Jefferson as they debated the formation of the federal government. The debate then wasn’t about what things counted as rights, but rather the functional role and size of the federal government. This contrasts the current political state that seeks to grow its reach and power, deciding for the people what rights they have and do not have.

By this point in my life, I’d gathered a lot more experience through work, school, family, and friendships, so when I got to reading these things it felt like a whole new message. I’m not talking sleazy political messages, but more of a deep-rooted belief. One of the things that truly makes someone a Texan, more than being born here, is that you take things with a rootin-tootin attitude. This means that I have always loved guns, but also that I don’t get weighed down with my own faults or others and instead try to be exemplary. It is this state of mind that slowly took over, helped me through the toughest of times, and made me realize what it means to be a Texan, once I knew that it was easy to know what I stand for. Ultimately when I realized that the government has no power to grant rights to people I figured it was upon each one of us, as individuals, to come together and regain control of our lives instead of entrusting them to the government.

Even as a socialist, this idea applied to me. Although I didn’t like the idea of having to pay out of pocket for medical expenses, I further disliked the idea of a bureaucrat telling me that I cannot receive a certain treatment or drug because it isn’t within their bill. Instead we should all work together, whether through church, family, or community, before we even mention government intervention. That was the root of all the problems that came with socialism. In the Founders’ days, no one truly trusted the federal government to do anything except collect taxes, so why should we allow it full control of our lives? It was within our Constitution, that explicitly warns against a tyrannical and giant government, that I could find solace in my new political stance: libertarianism.

Photo: Gage Skidmore. Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 2.0.

The Darsch Report: March 18 – 24

Chick-Fil-A Banned from San Antonio Airport

On Thursday, March 21, the San Antonio City Council approved and amended a seven-year concessions agreement for new restaurants and businesses in Terminal A of the Texas airport with Paradies Lagardère, a travel retailer and restaurateur that works with more than 100 airports. The amended plan bars Chick-Fil-A from being one of the businesses able to be in the terminal despite the initial plan allowing them due to concerns over the company’s record regarding LGBT issues. The amendment was approved by a 6-4 vote.

In a statement after the vote, Councilman Roberto Treviño (District-1) stated that the decision “reaffirmed the work our city has done to become a champion of equality and inclusion. San Antonio is a city full of compassion, and we do not have room in our public facilities for a business with a legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior.”

In a statement given to USA Today Chick-fil-A said that “the press release issued by the councilmember was the first we heard of his motion and its approval by the San Antonio City Council.”

“We wish we had the opportunity to clarify misperceptions about our company prior to the vote. We agree with the councilmember that everyone should feel welcome at Chick-fil-A,” the company said in the statement. “In fact, we have welcomed everyone in San Antonio into our 32 local stores for more than 40 years.”

This consideration was only made for Chick-Fil-A after ThinkProgress reported that they had donated $1.8 million to groups that discriminate against the LGBTQ community in 2017, including the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. However, since it was only Chick-Fil-A who was barred, it wouldn’t be that surprising is the company starts making claims of discrimination that they were discriminated against.

Mueller Finds No Trump-Russia Collusion

The investigation by led Robert Mueller into the Trump campaign and possible collusion with the Russian government has officially ended. The report was given to Attorney General William P. Barr and a summary of the special council’s key findings was made public on Sunday.

In the summary, Barr quotes the report stating that “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” The summary states that there were two main Russian influencers in the 2016 election, the Internet Research Agency and the Russian government, but, “the Special Counsel did not find that any U.S. person or Trump campaign official or associate conspired or knowingly coordinated with the IRA in its efforts… [and] the Special Counsel did not find that the Trump campaign, or anyone associated with it, conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in these efforts, despite multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign.”

However, on the issue of obstruction of justice, the report states that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” Because of the nature of the evidence presented to them, with it not pointing one way or the other, the special counsel left the decision of prosecution up to Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and AG Barr. They concluded that “the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense,” so there will be no indictment and prosecution of President Trump regarding obstruction of justice.

This report flies in the face of many in the mainstream media and in politics who for the past two years have constantly talked about how Trump is guilty, even before all the facts were examined by the special counsel.

Trump Free Speech Executive Order

On Thursday, March 21, President Trump signed an executive order titled “Improving Free Inquiry, Transparency, and Accountability at Colleges and Universities” meant at improving free speech on college campuses.

The order makes clear that at colleges and universities, public or private, that receive federal funding must adhere to the first amendment regarding on-campus activities or risk having those funds pulled.

The order states that it is the policy of the government to “encourage institutions to foster environments that promote open, intellectually engaging, and diverse debate, including through compliance with the First Amendment for public institutions and compliance with stated institutional policies regarding freedom of speech for private institutions”.

Further, the order also states that it will help students and borrowers avoid mountains of student loan debt by making “available, by January 1, 2020, through the Office of Federal Student Aid, a secure and confidential website and mobile application that informs Federal student loan borrowers of how much they owe, how much their monthly payment will be when they enter repayment, available repayment options, how long each repayment option will take, and how to enroll in the repayment option that best serves their needs”.

This order, whether more symbolic or legitimate is a nice step toward promoting free speech on college campuses for everyone on the political spectrum. For more information regarding this please read about the experience of one of our editors who was invited to attend the signing of this executive order.

Houston Chemical Plant Fire

During the weekend, residents near the ITC plant in Deer Park, Houston were urged to stay informed as another fire broke out at the chemical plant and cleanup from the fires continued. The fire has been extinguished but, Francisco Sanchez, Harris County’s deputy emergency management coordinator, said: “Our hope is this does not happen again, but should it happen we’ll be ready to respond.”

As cleanup efforts continued throughout the weekend,  the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has confirmed dangerous chemical levels in the waters near Buffalo Bayou and in the Houston Ship Channel.

In a Saturday press conference, officials stated that three tanks caught fire on Friday and more problems arose when a dike holding contaminated runoff from the firefighting efforts broke.

“Our main objectives today is to maintain safety, second thing is to do some remediation of the ditches, and then lastly, is to resume product removal,” ITC incident commander Brent Weber said.

The Houston Ship Channel will continue to remain closed, and officials said there’s no time table on when it will reopen after chemicals were released into the waterway.

There is no threat to the public drinking water in Houston but officials need to make sure that cleanup is done as swiftly as possible to mitigate the damage done to the Buffalo Bayou and the Houston Ship Channel. Officials also need to look more into the cause of not only the fire but the dike breakage as well as and come up with ways to prevents this from happening in the future.

US Economy

It was not a good week for US stocks over the past week. The Dow Jones decreased to 25,502.32 on Friday, decreasing by -346.55 points, or -1.34 percent under its Mar 15 close of 25,848.87. The S&P 500 decreased by -21.77 points or -0.77 percent on Friday. In addition, the Nasdaq decreased on Friday by -2.46 percent.

Fear of a recession and a global economic slowdown are the main forces behind the drop in the stock market over the past week. However, with China trade talks still going on and a delegation set to meet on April 3, a trade deal made between the US and China and an end to the tariff war between them will go a long way to cooling slowdown fears. Also with the Mueller investigation into the Trump campaign having ended the stock market may take it as a sign of a more stable government and bump stocks back into the positives over the next week.

Trinity Student Invited to White House

On Thursday, March 21, Trinity student Maddie D’Iorio attended the signing of Executive Order 13865 and President Trump’s remarks in the White House East Room. D’Iorio was invited after being fired from her position as an opinion columnist for the Trinitonian, Trinity’s school newspaper. Around 60 other college students were also invited.

Last month, activist Hayden Williams was assaulted at UC-Berkeley, where he was assisting the Turning Point, USA (TPUSA) chapter. Williams is a field representative for the Leadership Institute, a 501(c)3 nonprofit that provides training and assistance to nonpartisan conservative student groups, like TPUSA chapters. Shortly after, President Trump spoke about the incident at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, MD, including his plans for the executive order.

D’Iorio was fired from the Trinitonian on February 27. “[T]he situation had nothing to do with the content she was producing or the perspective she was offering, rather with her position as an executive editor of [the Tower],” wrote Trinitonian editor-in-chief Julia Weis in an email.

D’Iorio is the lifestyle editor and the deputy editor for the Tower and began as a Trinitonian columnist in August. “[Getting fired] was really quite surprising,” said D’Iorio. “I told them in January that I wasn’t planning on working after that semester, because I felt that opinion columnists should really only have a year, to allow another student to have their voice be heard the next year.”

In a January 21 email to D’Iorio, Weis described steps that the Trinitonian staff took to avoid a potential conflict of interest, including removing her from the back-end of the website to avoid the appearance of the two publications sharing stories.

“We talked about the fact that there might be a conflict of interest with the Tower, but I thought that it was all taken care of because they said we had reached a solution,” said D’Iorio, adding that she “didn’t understand why the situation had changed.”

After her termination, D’Iorio shared the news with Manfred Wendt, executive director of the Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT), a statewide organization with chapters at several schools, including Trinity. Wendt is also a Trinity alumnus (class of 2018).

“I told Manfred because he’s a friend,” said D’Iorio. “I didn’t expect that he would actually do anything with it, so being invited to the White House was a total surprise.”

In preparation for the signing of the order, the White House began searching for students to invie. Through Wendt’s personal and professional network, D’Iorio’s name came to the attention of the White House Social Office. D’Iorio and two other Texas students, including Saurabh Sharma, chairman of YCT statewide and the YCT chapter at the University of Texas, were invited to attend the Thursday event.

Bernadette Tasy, a masters student in speech pathology at Fresno State University and leader of Fresno State’s Students for Life of America (SFLA) chapter said “I am grateful for President Trump’s support for the students across the country who have been silenced on our college campuses, including myself.”

Tasy stood behind Trump during his remarks and the signing of the order. The Fresno State SFLA chapter found itself in a legal battle after a professor erased their chalk messages in 2017. “Our free speech has been shut down by administrators, professors, and other students. Today’s college students are tomorrow’s legislators, judges, and voters, so it’s critical that our universities uphold the value of free speech,” said Tasy.

Dr. David Crockett, chair of Trinity’s political science department, wrote in an email that “there are always issues with campus speech codes and with bureaucratic barriers placed in front of student conservative groups trying to bring speakers to campus. I would say that the state of free speech at Trinity is fairly healthy.” D’Iorio echoed Crockett’s sentiments in saying that “generally Trinity is on the better end; our administration for the most part is pretty welcoming and accepting of different views.”

Crockett added that Trinity is not without challenges, noting pushback after a March 2018 Facebook video highlighting Trump’s 2016 digital director and 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale, Trinity class of 1999. “I haven’t witnessed attempts to squelch it [free speech]–although there have been examples of alumni who threatened to withhold funds from the university because it recognized Brad Parscale in some online format last year.”

“It might just be a product of us being in the south and being in Texas, but I think generally people are nicer. I talked to a few other students, and people are just downright rude to them all the time and they have to deal with it every day,” D’Iorio said of general campus attitude towards conservatives. “We sometimes get a small portion of that, but it’s really nothing in comparison to these other schools.”

Watch the signing of the tningon YouTube.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article have been thoroughly fact checked and examined for bias by Nathan Darsch and Isaiah Mitchell, the other editors for the Tower. D’Iorio did not edit the article.

Update: this article has been lightly edited for clarity.

Photo by Maddie D’Iorio.