JFMK School of Government
Thanksgiving break is such a tease. Family, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and the annual decorations of Christmas trees provide a taste of the stress-free holiday environment awaiting those who make it through finals period. But the halcyon time mere weeks away can feel unreachable with the endless amount of papers, final projects, and exams one must first overcome. Unfortunately, in a fit of hypersensitive political correctness, Harvard seems to downplay the joys of the holiday season, creating an even more unwelcoming environment when compared to the familiar confines of the home. It is thus incumbent upon students to create their own happiness in this naturally dreary time.
This past week, Harvard students had the opportunity to vote for the president and vice president of the Undergraduate Council for the upcoming year. Undergraduates had the opportunity to choose their favorite from three tickets—C.C. Gong ’15 and Sietse K. Goffard ’15, Chika-Dike Nwokike ’15 and Una Kim ’15, and Sam B. Clark ’15 and Gus Mayopoulos ’15. The first two options have been billed as “serious tickets,” with the third seen largely as a “joke.” I am not one to normally pay much attention to UC races, and I have no idea who my representatives are as a member of Eliot House. Yet, for once, I felt oddly compelled to pick a horse in this race—a matter particularly surprising to me, as I had always operated under the assumption that only friends of candidates ever had any reason to engage in UC elections.
This year I voted for (and even liked the Facebook page of!) Sam Clark and Gus Mayopoulos, and I found myself legitimately rooting for them as the results—and their victory—were announced last night. For the first time in my three years here, I have actually found one of the options for UC leadership to be genuinely “relatable”—despite the myriad individuals and tickets who make that claim each year. Perhaps driven by the fact that Clark and Mayopoulos are the only “UC outsiders” running—most Harvard students are not on the UC—these two candidates seem to somehow understand the relationship between the student body and the Undergraduate Council much better than the so-called “establishment tickets.” This is no better represented than in the following Clark/Mayopoulos response to a question in the annual IOP-sponsored UC debate: “It’s not just us who are confused about the UC, where the UC meets.” This may have been jocular in its nature but it rings true—to my knowledge, there is no UC building on campus. For all I know, they might very well hold their meetings in a dorm room; or maybe they are the only student organization to utilize the Student Organization Center at Hilles.
It has begun. The great Rand Paul-Chris Christie race in the 2016 Republican presidential primary is in full swing—and has been this entire election season, commencing well before Senator Paul took the day after Christie’s bruising reelection to criticize the New Jersey governor. This precipitous opening was not exactly inevitable; after all, the Kentucky Senator did not have to face voters on Tuesday, and many pundits observed his somewhat surprising timorousness during last month’s government shutdown. But Paul could not wait, and his involvement in this cycle’s race for governor of Virginia marked his first purely politically motivated step for the 2016 GOP crown. Unfortunately for him, that has led to the current score—Christie 1, Paul 0.
The next presidential election is shaping up to be the end-all be-all brawl for the future of the Republican Party. The battle lines have been drawn. In one corner stands the scion to the political dynasty founded by the self-proclaimed father of the Tea Party. In the other, we have the supposed champion of the moderates, the man who still receives puritanical flak for consorting with President Obama during Hurricane Sandy last year. The friction between the two transcends ideological disagreements, and their rivalry is clearly personal. Earlier this year, Christie characterized the privacy concerns of libertarians like Paul as “esoteric, intellectual debates,” and Paul responded by attacking the conservative credentials of “the king of bacon talking about bacon.”
Earlier this week, Obama delivered a defiant speech addressing the imbroglio surrounding the failed implementation of his Affordable Care Act. Immediately following his “victory” over the government shutdown, in which many Republicans attempted to topple his signature achievement from its heights, he found himself on the defensive due to the misadventures of his own administration. The reaction to his speech, in which the president refused to acknowledge the severity of the bugs plaguing healthcare.gov, was swift and uncompromising. The editorial boards of America’s three national newspapers, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, each criticized the president on the day after his remarks, and the capital’s own Washington Post refused to exculpate Obama from “self-imposed incompetence.”
That the nation’s top media outlets refused to sugarcoat the failings of the president and his administration is a welcome sign. However, while the reactions of editorial boards and other card-carrying members of the punditocracy have not spared Obama from ultimate blame, critiques from each side do not manage to escape the inevitability of political spin. While opinion writers on the right use the website snafu as a prime example of the central government’s inability to administer an entire country’s healthcare industry, editorialists on the left view the blunder as an infuriating road bump with the potential to derail their prized progressive triumph. These reactions are not surprising, nor are they necessarily unpersuasive. But these boilerplate responses do demonstrate the media’s unalloyed tendentiousness and overarching refusal to address concerns beyond those that come straight from their respective talking points.