A Campaign Deferred

In April of this year I met with a number of like-minded individuals at Arizona State University.  By like-minded, I mean people who are concerned about social justice and human rights.  We had a vision of linking our student organizations – interests like women’s rights and fair trade, LGBTQ equality and anti-genocide came together.  Our primary goal was to establish something ASU didn’t have, but that we thought it needed: a Committee for Socially Responsible Investing.’

A number of universities have these committees.  They’ve manifested themselves in different structures and with different goals.  One early and prominent campaign was the campaign to cripple the South African regime through divestment (which started in the US with the Sullivan Principles and in universities with Stanford).  Recently there has been a push to divest from companies like PetroChina that do business with Sudan, a frequent human rights abuser.  Currently a number of universities have begun the controversial but justified effort to sever ties with the aggressive and abusive Israeli government.  Yet ASU does not have a committee to oversee what money is spent on.  There is definitely no one looking over the Fulton Foundation’s investments.

So we established the ASU Coalition for Human Rights.  And we drafted a proposal.  And we began meeting with Vice President for University Student Initiatives Dr. James Rund.  We began making progress.  I was among four students in a meeting with Dr. Rund at the end of September.  We spent the better part of an hour debating the need for a committee and the trend of social responsibility that ASU is missing.  We began debating the structure of such a committee – who would serve on it? how would the Coalition be involved? would the committee’s decisions be binding? It was at this point that I turned to Dr. Rund and asked, bluntly: “So, are you saying that you support the creation of a committee, but want to debate the structure of it?”  To which he casually responded, “I’d say yes, yes I am.” We later adjourned the meeting and agreed to speak with Student Government’s Council of Presidents on the issue and come back to Dr. Rund.

Last week, a number of my like-minded peers met with Dr. Rund.  Just weeks after telling me that, yes, yes he supported the idea of creating a committee, we were told that the committee was a bad idea.  We were challenged not only on the structure of the committee, but on the structure of the Coalition itself (we had recently voted down an application from a political student organization on the grounds of the Coalition being apolitical and purely human rights-oriented) and even on the premise of the necessity of such a committee.  We were told that, if there is a question of ASU’s investments, feel free to bring it up with ASU’s leadership.

A lot of our success has been curbed, but we’re not stopping.  ASU has not yet made an official proclamation to have sweatshop-free merchandise (although ASU did cut its contract with Russell Athletic over labor disputes, which deserves some applause).  ASU has not taken a stance in making sure its electronics are audited to be conflict mineral-free.  The Fulton Foundation’s finances have not been made public, so I personally have no idea if my tuition dollars are indirectly supporting genocide in Darfur now or election-disruption in South Sudan in January.  Who knows where that money goes?

I still have hopes that my university will take a step forward.  I have hopes that our organization will be able to keep the pressure on until a permanent Committee for Socially Responsible Investing is established at Arizona State University.  Let’s keep this going.


Election Reactions

The numbers are rolling in – and things are looking remarkably like the polls predicted.  I’m still watching the news hoping some races will get narrower, but let’s be honest.  A lot of people I liked took hits today.  Some people I dislike took hits today.  Some milestones were made.  Some things failed.  Biggest news is definitely the insane gains the GOP made in the House – I’m hearing it was the biggest gain since the 1940s.  Let’s break it down in the rough view of an Arizona college student on the rest of the country.

Progressives took a hit.

Russ Feingold lost after a good 18 years in Congress.  I have been a fan of Feingold’s for a while, and I support a lot of the things he did.  With him gone there are a dwindling number of champions for the issue of the LRA in east-central Africa.  And that’s ignoring his opposition to the PATRIOT Act, the Iraq war, and pork barrel spending and his support for campaign finance reform and healthcare.  Jack Conway lost to Rand Paul in Kentucky’s Senate race.  I guess this was kind of expected, but I still would have liked to see some new progressives get into the upper chamber.  People like Grayson and Sestak, to whom I paid less attention, also ended up losing.

Blue Dogs took a bigger hit.

It’s also worth nothing that more than half of the moderate Democrat Blue Dog Coalition is gone, which leaves the Progressive Caucus with an advantage within the party. But this makes bipartisanship a little harder to imagine.

Corporate Candidates took a hit too.

Linda McMahon, Meg Whitman, and Carly Fiorina all seem to have lost.  The businesswomen from WWE, eBay, and Hewlett-Packard spent a combined $230 million of their own money in addition to donations and party contributions.  I guess money isn’t all you need to win a campaign?

The House Switched

The House, as widely expected, is red.  I’ve heard from 56 to 70 House seats switching to the GOP, but I don’t know what the final count is.  Regardless, it’s a massive sweep bigger than 1994’s rout against Clinton.  But, looking at how Clinton was able to point the finger at Gingrich’s House in 1996, I’m hopeful that the new House and Obama will find some kind of way to cooperate.  I’m also hoping the two houses, with Democrats holding onto the Senate, find a way to work together.  I’m also hoping that this lame duck session of Congress will see some steps forward like passage of the DREAM Act.  I guess we’ll see!

Problems at the Polls

In Virginia, someone broke into Tom Pariello’s office and mixed up door hangers meant for distribution – resulting in people being directed to the wrong polling location – he lost by a fairly slim margin.  There were cases in Iowa and Michigan in which students were told their residency was questionable and denied the right to vote (or were forced to submit provisional ballots).  And activists at a predominantly black college polling location in South Carolina harassed voters and tried to discourage voting.  These kinds of issues make me sad because it’s pretty clear that they were not denied for any legitimate reason – and in the cases of sabotage and harassment, well that’s always inexcusable.

“Firsts” and “Lasts”

While they are not likely to hold many similar views to me because of my assumptions based on their party affiliation, there have been a few significant steps today.  Oklahoma elected its first female governor.  Alabama elected its first black, female representative to Congress.  The GOP is sending its first black Representative from the South.  New Mexico elected the first female Hispanic governor.  However – once again the U.S. Senate will have absolutely no black people.  I guess this isn’t surprising since there have been six total, two of which from the Reconstruction Era and one of which was appointed for a year.


Oklahoma banned Sharia law…… which is weird.  And Washington voted down the millionaire tax, which kinda sucks.  And Rhode Island voted to keep the official name “the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations” – I’m pretty indifferent about that one.  Oh, and the House will not have any Nazi reenactments, nor will the Senate have witches.  That’s all for now.  As I digest my own local elections (and mull over why people elected businessmen to the Arizona Water Conservation Board), I’ll do another post – Arizona edition.  To all of you that voted, thanks for doing your civic duty!  Even if I disagree with the way you voted, I love to see a good turnout.  I hope to see you all in two years, rocking that booth!


Tomorrow will probably be the biggest election day I have seen.  Definitely the most important in my short voting life.  Last week I mailed in my ballot – complete with 11 Democrats, 3 Republicans, and 1 Libertarian and with 6 “no” votes and 4 “yes” votes in propositions.  Now, I’m sitting back and waiting for the ridiculous attack ads to fade out for what I’d like to be 18 to 20 months but in reality is probably maybe a year.  I’m also going to be sitting down and slowly watching a lot of people I like probably not return to office and a lot of people I don’t like get in.  This afternoon Kentucky will close its polls and the projections and numbers will begin to fly.

Even two years ago I knew that 2010 would be a loss for the Democratic Party.  In modern American history the new President’s party has only gained seats in the following midterm elections twice: in 1934 and 2002.  Even though we are in a recession and still fighting in two wars (who are we kidding, Operation Iraqi Freedom?) I don’t think gaining seats was ever really on the table for the Dems this year.  Not that I’m 100% happy with how they’ve been acting either.

The Democrats, with their supermajority in both houses of Congress, didn’t pull off nearly as much as I would’ve liked to see in the past two years.  I might be guaranteed health care, the SEC might be drafting a report on conflict minerals legislation, and Pell Grants might have been expanded.  But the DREAM Act hasn’t been passed and “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” is still very much in effect. I don’t have a public option for my health insurance and Race to the Top is no better than No Child Left Behind.  Clean energy legislation never showed up and we just released the moratorium on offshore drilling.  Now, I didn’t expect to see all of these things – but a couple would have been nice.

In Arizona, Democrats seem to be on the run.  Personally, I don’t think it’ll be the near complete rout that some are predicting.  Currently, my governor doesn’t know how to debate or answer questions. And the last county attorney to get elected is off his rocker.  So I think some people, even if they’re not happy with Democrats in Washington, might still keep a few shades of blue in Phoenix.  Point is, I hope my least favorite political party doesn’t sweep my state.  If xenophobic obstructionist birthers get too much power I’ll be a bit worried.

Regardless of what you think, I’d like to make one request: go vote! Whether you want to stand beside me or try to counter my vote – get those ballots in!