In the wake of mass shootings, it’s not uncommon to see articles like this one come out discussing the number and size of the donations the National Rifle Association makes to various politicians. While these articles are informative, they don’t really reach why the NRA is so effective.

After the Sandy Hook Massacre, universal background checks were supported by 92% of Americans, but opposed by the NRA. The legislation to require them failed in the Senate, with a 54-46 majority in favor, but needing 60 votes for cloture. How can something so popular fail to be passed? It’s easy to say that it’s campaign contributions, but while the NRA’s nearly $1,000,000 in campaign contributions in 2016 is far from chump change, it’s a drop in the bucket compared to other donors, like beer wholesalers and defense contractors. Its true strength lies elsewhere.

The NRA likes to present itself as a membership organization, and while corporations are banned from donating to its PAC, much of its operating budget comes from gun manufacturers (and Russian oligarchs, allegedly). As the manufacturers provide the budget, they also set the agenda. Membership plays an important role for the NRA, though. First, they fund the PAC. More importantly, they are map pins.

When the NRA meets with a lawmaker, they know — and make sure the lawmaker knows — how many members are in the lawmaker’s constituency. The lobbyist assures the lawmaker that every one of those members has paid their $40 indicating their commitment to the NRA’s cause. The lobbyist claims (explicitly or implicitly) that every one of those members will cast their ballot largely based on the “Second Amendment issues” as framed by the NRA. The NRA trusts that most of their members are single-issue voters, and that for those who are not, a significant part, if not all, of the voters’ decisions will be based on the NRA’s grade of each candidate. Whether or not a voter supports universal background checks, a vote for them will bring down the NRA’s grade of a candidate, an idea that strikes fear into the hearts of many legislators. Though the NRA delivers lawmakers a significant amount of cash, what they promise to deliver is actually voters — voters who are passionate about the “gun rights” cause, and who arm themselves with as little information as the NRA can get away with supplying them.

So, if a 92% majority of the population (and even a majority of the NRA membership) supports universal background checks, the NRA still opposes checks, because the manufacturers who provide most of their funding do. Their promise to the legislators is that their members are too stupid to think for themselves or to look beyond a one-letter summary, and the legislators believe them and vote for the NRA’s (and gun manufacturers’) position — no matter what the members or the general public think about background checks.

I suppose that the NRA is a membership organization. They give their membership to legislators on behalf of the firearms manufactures.


“Anti-fascist” is being conflated with the offensively violent wing of the ‘antifa’ movement, and that other opposition to fascism (including the rest of the ‘antifa’ movement) is ignored. The fact that anti-fascism does not have an obvious identity — except as ‘American’, an identity the fascists seem to think is just people who agree with them but are cowed by “political correctness” — does not help distinguish between them. Nor does the fact that as a largely anarchist movement there is no internal control to keep the violent offense from the attack, and there are not spokespeople to say that antifa are also the people who research the groups to know when they will be gathering in advance, or (like Yes, You’re Racist) who attended.…/2017/08/16/who-are-the-a…/… There is also no distinction made between those antifa who charge into the start of the hatefests and those who save peaceful protesters’ lives by counterattacking. While I don’t condone those on the attack — and hope that the broader antifa movement will find a way to restrain them (not least because violent confrontation is exactly what the fascists are looking for), I won’t condemn the guys who come prepared to meet violence with violence. Perhaps with more of those guys around, they could have stopped the near-murder of Deandre Harris. I also won’t condemn those calling out those who attended for being racist (and in some cases for being yet-to-be-convicted felons). And when the media conflates being anti-fascist as being part of the violent attacking fringe of the antifa movement, not just the broader antifa movement, it falls on us to remind our fellow citizens that we have a diverse country where most of us oppose bigotry, and we will fight (figuratively — if not literally) to defend it.

“Violent SJWs Celebrate Oppressing Local Liberation Movement”


“Violent Anti-Fas Harass Far-Right Spokesman to Suicide”


“Anti-Fa Extremists Celebrate Oppressing Right-Wing Activists”


 “Free Speech Rights of Right-Wing Activist Suppressed on Orders of Liberal Snowflake”

The filibuster now only remains for legislation. While it is an internally undemocratic extra-legal remnant that deserves to die. On the other hand, the first 43 Senators to sign on to the filibuster represented 53 percent of the population, illustrating how undemocratic the structure of the Senate is (and meaning that the Senate’s minority stood for the majority). Any situation where representation is on a per-state basis, with such a glaring disparity in state populations (the ratio between California and Wyoming is 66:1) is inherently anti-democratic (and ultimately, I think, untenable). The filibuster deserved to die, but the Senate is *well* overdue for structural reform. I propose ten regional, multi-state Senate districts of ten Senators each, elected through a proportional representation system, and redistributed by national non-partisan commission after alternate censuses (every 20 years). The six-year terms would remain, with three elected for each district in each of two biennial election cycles, and four in the third cycle. With 12% of the national population, California would be its own district; Texas, New York, and Florida would probably need only one partner each. Should any state reach over 15% of the population, it would combine with a neighboring state to form a super district with 20 Senators, elected 6, 7, 7 (or, if their combined population put them at or near 30% of the population, 30 Senators, elected ten per biennial election cycle).

When President Obama was preparing to nominate a Supreme Court justice, Mitch McConnell said that the people should have a voice; the people said they’d rather have Hillary Clinton choose, but the Electoral College elected President Trump.

By the McConnell standard, the Senate should refuse to consider any nominee put forward by a President elected with a minority of the popular vote.

Dear Students,

I write this unofficially, as really I have no official ‘voice’ either for the department or the university, but there are some things coming from the recent election that really need to be said. Frankly, if I were many of you, I’d be feeling a bit scared right now. The President Presumptive (amazingly, Mr. Trump has not actually been elected yet; the Electoral College, which elects the President, will vote on December 19, and almost certainly elect him then) made some statements in his campaign that sound like radical changes in immigration policy. There has also been a reaction to his victory that has been, well to put it mildly, unsavory.

Policy Proposals

Early in the campaign, Mr. Trump called for the elimination of a couple of visa categories, the H-1B (skilled worker) visa and the J visas that allow for people to work on exchange. This is worrying, if you hope to apply for an H-1B visa at some point after graduating, but the change could not happen without Congressional action, and there’s big money behind keeping the program. Still, it’s something to watch for the future. More concerning is the vagueness surrounding his J visa proposals, as he does not define which J categories he would eliminate, or if he would eliminate them all — which would include our exchange students and exchange scholars. Again, it’s something to watch, and would probably only affect future students and scholars.

One of the more disturbing proposals was his call for a complete ban on Muslims entering the US  “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” There are a lot of reasons to think that this wouldn’t actually happen — the need for Congressional action, the likelihood that the Supreme Court would overturn it — but the implications if it were to happen would be severe. Not only would it mean that Muslim immigrants would be turned away, but so would refugees, Permanent Residents, and citizens traveling (or serving) abroad. Needless to say, F-1 and J-1 students would be included. On the other hand, this could not be implemented until after Mr. Trump’s inauguration day on January 20, so there’s no reason to panic. You can still enjoy your Winter Break. But after February, if you’re overseas and start to hear about immigration restrictions being debated in Congress, you should probably plan to return before they might be passed or implemented.

As a candidate, Mr. Trump said that he would strengthen immigration security with ‘extreme vetting’ of those arriving from other countries, to screen out radicals who might decide to attack the US or its citizens. This sounds serious, but we don’t really know what he means by that. It is possible that you will need additional documentation, face additional questions, or require references at a visa interview, or on entry. Even if done by executive order, this would take some time to implement, but keep an eye out for news about changes and be prepared for them should they happen.

Generally, international students are off the radar of the President Presumptive and his party. When they do discuss international students, though, Mr. Trump and both parties are generally supportive. In short, international students are an export — you bring money into the country in exchange for education.

The President Presumptive’s signature proposal is to “build a wall” between the United States and Mexico to cut off illegal immigration. This proposal, combined with his proposal for mass deportation, will not directly affect students here on F- or J- visas. The students most affected will be those students who do not have legal status, including those with pseudo-legal status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Students with temporary DACA protection may find their status terminated, and that they have to return to living as they did before 2011. Given the slow working of government, and that their DACA status implies that they have demonstrated that they have been law-abiding citizens after their arrival, I suspect that it is more likely that the incoming administration will simply stop taking new applicants and put the brakes on renewals, allowing the program to phase out as cards expire. There is no guarantee of that, though, and it will not require any Congressional action to make whatever changes will be made. Because the program was established by executive order, it can be undone by executive order.


In my opinion, the worst part of the outcome of the election has been the huge spike in hate crimes against racial, ethnic, sexual, and religious minorities, and against women. In the ten days after the election, there were 867 recorded incidents of election-related violence (including 23 anti-Trump incidents). When pressed, Mr. Trump disavowed the attacks and asked the people perpetrating them to “stop it.” (Weakly, and late in my opinion, especially as he had ginned up the attitudes that led to this reaction during the campaign — clearly this group of violent extremists thought that he had endorsed their actions.)

Our office is made of a large number of individuals, who will have cast their ballots for any number of people. (In addition to the two major party candidates, there were candidates representing the Green Party, Libertarian Party, Constitution Party, and two socialist parties on the Washington ballot.) I am also certain that if you were to come to anyone in our office because you had a concern for your safety, they would do everything they could to help you out. If there is only one thing that I trust our college’s president about, it is that the safety and security of all students is one of his highest priorities, and I think that priority is reflected throughout the university. If you had an issue to report to any of us, to the campus police, the diversity office, or any of your professors, I am sure your concern would be taken seriously and whoever you talked with would help you deal with it as much as they could. Still, in the famous line from the TV program Barney Miller, “… be careful out there.”867 attacks in 10 days is a scary number, and were I not a white, straight, cis-male citizen, I would be concerned for my safety. As is, I have the luxury of being able to concerned for others. As terrorism, this works. On the other hand, in a country of over 300,000,000 people, this works out to less than three incidents per million people over the course of ten days. (The US is the third largest country in the world by population, but 179th in population density, so it doesn’t feel like there are that many people in this country..) Despite the spike in violence, you are still relatively safe.

Between the changes in policy and the reactions of an extremist subset of his supporters, it’s clear why some international students would fear the result of the recent election. I recommend a position of caution and optimism. You’re students, so you have decades ahead of you, so you have plenty to be optimistic about. On the other hand, do keep track to see what laws and executive orders might be proposed that would affect you. Be aware and be prepared, but don’t worry unless and until something is about to happen. And remember, that you have a community on your side.

I think we do need to take some time to mourn, and some time to assess the results. What appears to be a popular vote majority does make a statement, even if it doesn’t have any effect on the balance of power in DC.

After a short period of mourning, we must organize and prepare the resistance. However, we cannot allow ourselves to take the route that regressives have taken since 2008 — opposing everything and hoping for failure that will bring them to power.

  • Where proposals are made that are good for America, we must support.
  • Where proposals can be made good for America, we must make them so.
  • Where intolerable proposals are made, we must steadfastly block.
    (The Senate Democrats need to make the filibuster a living thing again — no blue slips, no warning, just vote against cloture, start talking, and don’t stop until yielding the floor to another Democrat who is willing to keep it going.)

One thing that this election has emphasized is the extent to which tinkle-down economics and the shifting economy have left behind large sections of our country. We must do better to help people in those areas, communicate how to help people in those areas, and be seen to be helping people in those areas.

We must develop a strong bench. We must fight and win in states, counties, and cities. We must fight for Greens, and Socialists, and Democrats, whoever will stand up for the oppressed; we must all stand up in alliance for workers, women, people of color, the LGBTQIA community, and religious and ethnic minorities. The Republicans usually are the party to nominate the runner-up for the previous nomination, this time the Democrats did (and hardly anyone noticed that Santorum was even running this year). The Republicans had a wide bench. The Democrats had an inspiring septuagenarian who would be nearly 80 were he to run next time.

We must show in our governance, where our allies govern, that progressive and liberal ideals can succeed. We must point out failures by our own allies, so that our allies can correct them. We must point out failures by our opponents, also so that our allies can correct them.

We must stand, shoulder-to-shoulder, and let the people know that we stand for them. The republic stands for them. This republic, which withstood Buchanan and Nixon, will not fall, but will need to heal. We will prevent it from fracturing as much as we can, and will stand ready to help with healing when it is ready to be healed.

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