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  • The Eastman Connection

    In an office where I was working at the Salvatori Center, I found what must have been a retired CMC professor's rolodex. It was a kind of time capsule, with names and phone numbers of famous conservatives — Ronald Reagan, Milton Friedman, and Francis Fukuyama. But the name that really caught my eye was John C. Eastman. CMC has always had a more conservative tilt in its faculty relative to comparable liberal arts colleges. Henry Salvatori (namesake of the Salvatori Center) was one of Reagan's first supporters for governor of California, serving as state finance chairman for his 1966 campaign and as part of Reagan's "kitchen cabinet." Many liberal-minded students, myself included, applied to CMC not in spite of a conservative presence here, but because of it. It's rare for any liberal arts college to have as diverse of an intellectual or political culture as CMC does. But when some of those conservative professors ally with attempts to undermine the very foundation of America's constitutional democracy, how should we respond? The value of open debate reaches a logical extreme around attempts to override or overthrow democracy itself. January 6th was not an impromptu outburst of violence. Nor was it merely egged on by Trump's tweets. Jan. 6th was the result of a meticulously orchestrated campaign aimed at overturning the results of the 2020 election, and thus overturning American democracy itself. John Eastman and some of his CMC faculty colleagues, have left our college embarrassingly linked to the attempt to prevent the peaceful transfer of presidential power. After all that we've learned about Eastman's brazen effort, the fact that some CMC professors remain associated with him and the Claremont Institute is a source of shame. Although the Claremont Institute has no formal affiliation with any of the Claremont Colleges, it was founded in 1979 by students of the late political theorist Harry V. Jaffa, a professor emeritus at CMC. According to historian Kevin Starr, in his history of CMC's first 50 years, Jaffa's arrival at CMC in the 1960s contributed to the College's prominence in conservative political circles. "Through the writings of Arthur Kemp in Modern Age and Harry Jaffa in National Review," Starr writes, "CMC emerged in the 1960s as one of the headquarters of the conservative intellectual revival then under way in the United States." Professor George Thomas, who arrived at CMC long after Jaffa had retired, remembers Jaffa still visiting campus from time to time: "Some graduate students at neighboring CGU still revered Jaffa in a manner that tended toward idolatry," Thomas writes in an essay. Jaffa at Honnold-Mudd. Photo courtesy of CMC. Jaffa was a Straussian, a follower of the political philosopher Leo Strauss. In his 1959 book, Crisis of the House Divided, Jaffa offers a moral and philosophical reading of the Lincoln-Douglas debates. Jaffa characterizes the debates as "identical with the issue between Socrates and Thrasymachus" from Plato's Republic. That is, while Lincoln argued for natural right, Stephen Douglas argued for "popular sovereignty" concerning the expansion of slavery into western territories. For Jaffa, Lincoln insisted that slavery was morally wrong, while Douglas argued that such moral questions depended on the judgment of the people by way of popular sovereignty. Jaffa casts Lincoln as arguing that the moral principles of the Declaration required citizens to recognize the wrong of slavery and to eradicate it, fulfilling the moral and political principles set in motion by the American regime – as Straussians like to call systems of government. So far, so good. But many of Jaffa's disciples at the Claremont Institute have gone much further, arguing that the way to fulfill Lincoln's vision was by fighting, by any means, against the forces of progressivism. In their interpretation, liberals are the legatees of Douglas who succumb to the claims of human will (progressivism) in defiance of natural right. Over the years, numerous CMC alumni and professors have been associated with the Claremont Institute. CMC professor Charles Kesler is currently a senior fellow at the Institute, and the founding editor of its signature publication — The Claremont Review of Books. Kesler receives a six-figure salary (in 2022: $241,000) from the Claremont Institute on top of his compensation from CMC. Kesler Introduces Jaffa. Photo courtesy of The American Mind. CMC Professor Mark Blitz (who, for the record, is my advisor on paper but has no idea who I am) is also a fellow of the Claremont Institute. As a Government student at CMC, you are required to take Intro to Political Philosophy. Between Blitz and Kesler there's a pretty good chance you'll end up taking it with a 'Claremonster.' Overall, the Trump era has been a boon to the Claremont Institute. In the leadup to the 2016 election, the CRB published the infamous 'Flight 93 Election' essay under a pseudonym. The article seized the imagination of the audience by likening the choice between Clinton and Trump to that faced by Flight 93 passengers, who wrested control of the plane from Al Qaeda hijackers on 9/11. Right-wing radio hosts promptly alerted their audiences of the must read essay from the CRB. The audience grew. In the most recently available fiscal year (ending June 2021), the institute reported over $8 million dollars in donations. The author of 'Flight 93 Election' was eventually revealed to be Michael Anton, a former student of Kesler's who went on to work in the Trump administration. "Never Trumpers," then and now, arguably constitute the dominant strain of conservative intellectual sentiment. Yet, here was Anton, a member of a prestigious Straussian wing of the intellectual right making a positive case for a nominee that most conservative intellectuals dismissed as a clown and a surefire loser. According to the article, a Hillary Clinton win would mean certain death of the republic. By contrast, electing Trump was merely risky — "you may die anyway" — but clearly preferable to certain death at the hands of terrorists. If Clinton won, progressivism would destroy the American regime. This vision found its ultimate expression in the attempt to overturn the 2020 election. Eastman, who is a founding director of the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence — a subsidiary of the Claremont Institute — provided both incitement to the insurrection and legal cover. In a hysterical speech to the crowd on January 6th, Eastman shouted: "So we get to the bottom of it, so that the American people know whether we have control over the direction of our government or not! We no longer live in a self-governing Republic if we can't get the answer to this question! This is bigger than President Trump! It is the very essence of our Republican form of government and it has to be done. And anybody who is not willing to stand up and do it does not deserve to be in the office. It is that simple!" The backdrop to that unhinged performance was Eastman's promulgation of the myth that there were legal pathways to overturn the results. In December 2020, he filed a brief on Trump's behalf in a Texas lawsuit challenging Biden's win before the Supreme Court. The court threw the case out, but Eastman kept up his efforts. Later that month, he wrote and circulated a series of memos espousing the theory that the vice president is "the ultimate arbiter" of the election and had the power to delay Congress' count of Electoral College votes. In the memos, Eastman outlined the way that Vice President Mike Pence, while presiding over the electoral vote count in Congress on January 6, could reject the election results of seven states because of supposed "ongoing disputes" over state electors and thereby exclude the electoral votes from those states. "When (Pence) gets to Arizona," Eastman wrote, "he announces that he has multiple slates of electors" and "(a)t the end, he announces that because of the ongoing disputes in the 7 States, there are no electors that can be deemed validly appointed by those States." This was not a long-shot theory but an attempted fraud. The election results of every state were certified by December 9. On December 14, the Electoral College convened and all 538 electors cast the electoral votes for president, with Joe Biden receiving 306 electoral votes to Trump's 232. At that point, Trump had already lost 60 different lawsuits alleging 'voter fraud.' While the Claremont Institute was not affiliated with Eastman's efforts to upend the 2020 election results, the arguments he advanced reveal a shared genealogy of belief – a version of the Flight 93 argument all over again. Eastman's memo essentially argues that any random group of persons in a state can submit a paper to Congress claiming to be the true electors of a state, and that the Vice President can then use that as a basis to throw out the votes of those states. Another pillar of Eastman's memo is the idea that Pence could simply declare that Trump was re-elected President. Eastman outlines how, after Pence rejected the votes from the seven states, Trump would then have the majority of electoral votes: "Pence then gavels President Trump as re-elected," Eastman writes, adding later that the vice president is "the ultimate arbiter." This is not true. In fact, there's never a time the presiding officer of the Senate gets to make a final substantive decision about any matter. The 12th Amendment outlines the vice president's role in the certification process on January 6 as largely ceremonial. As the President of the Senate, the Vice President "shall… open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted," according to the 12th Amendment. To be clear, not "certified," but "counted." The votes were already certified a month earlier and no state legislature or judiciary had filed formal requests for them to be recertified. During the Jan. 6 Committee hearings in 2022, Pence lawyer Greg Jacob explained that in the days leading up to Jan. 6, Eastman proposed two paths for Pence to keep Trump in power. Pence could outright reject the electors and their votes, or he could delay the certification for ten days, which would give state legislatures time to send Trump-friendly electors for a later vote count. Eastman's theories were rejected at every turn by principled conservatives including Pence and the federal courts. Even Eastman knew his proposals were not just absurd but potentially criminal, which is why he subsequently sought a presidential pardon. Both Jacob and retired conservative judge J. Michael Luttig testified before the Jan 6 committee that both of Eastman's avenues were illegal. Jacob said Pence never considered either option. Rep Pete Aguilar (D., Calif.) also produced a pre-election memo in which Eastman himself acknowledged that those pathways were not legal. Jacob testified that Eastman switched back and forth over which route he recommended, noting that the second might be more "politically palatable," because the ten day window would provide time to build public acceptance for the move. Despite Pence never entertaining Eastman's suggestions, Eastman pushed the issue numerous times up through Jan 6. Eastman spoke alongside Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani at Trump's Jan. 6 rally at the Ellipse before rioters headed toward the Capitol. During the siege, he exchanged emails with Jacob. "The 'siege' is because YOU and your boss did not do what was necessary to allow this to be aired in a public way so that the American people can see for themselves what happened," Eastman wrote to Jacob. After the insurrection, which delayed the count beyond what is technically called for in the Electoral Count Act, Eastman tried at least once more to convince the Vice President to delay the certification. "Now that we have established that the Electoral Count Act is not so sacrosanct as you have made it out to be, I implore you to consider one more relatively minor violation and adjourn for 10 days to allow the legislatures to finish their investigations," he emailed Pence. Days later, Eastman emailed Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani asking to be placed on a potential presidential pardon list, the committee revealed, though he ultimately was not. Back to Claremont. In the Claremont Review's Winter 2020/21 edition, Kesler shared his thoughts on how January 6th could impact Trump's legacy. While he denounced the violence and criticized the Trump administration's unpreparedness for the day's events, Kesler only mildly questioned John Eastman's theory. Generally, the piece can be viewed as a strenuous attempt to justify Eastman's scheme: he defends Trump's speech on January 6th, critiques the second impeachment, and characterizes Eastman as a brilliant lawyer. Before Eastman's memos were published, Kesler sounded like he thought the theories they advanced were plausible. In "After January 6," he calls Eastman's theory "novel" and "complex," but does not reject it. "Trump was not asking for Pence to single-handedly reverse the election, but to pause the process of counting long enough for the state legislatures to clarify for whom their states had actually voted," Kesler writes. Kesler surprisingly leaves room for the possibility that Eastman and Trump's allegations of a stolen election had merit, even though no evidence had been presented and numerous people had scrutinized the matter (recall the 60 post-election lawsuits Trump lost). Kesler goes on to write, "Truth is, of course, that claims are 'baseless' only until such time as a base of evidence appears for them." Kesler's pivot here is a tell-tale sign of denialism: It's not made up if someday, somehow, there might be evidence for it. Kesler and flat-earthers can find common ground on this point. The essay continues in this vein for some time—highlighting counterfactuals giving credence to Trump and Eastman's underlying assumptions, and so on. But in the end, he does admit "there is persuasive evidence of a more normal sort" that Trump simply lost. It's unlikely Kesler expects that quote to be as funny as it is. More than a year and half passed before Kesler clearly expressed disagreement with Eastman's flawed legal viewpoints and Trump's lies about the 2020 election. "I disagree with John. I think it was a bad idea to give Trump that advice and an even worse idea to speak at the rally," Kesler told The Washington Post in an interview. What changed over that year and a half for Kesler? In his piece from January 2021, Kesler had already conceded the central flaw in Eastman's arguments, saying, "In any event, none of the state legislatures in question had actually filed a formal request to withdraw and reexamine their state's electoral votes." Kesler conceded that fact, but never pondered its significance to Eastman's larger argument, namely, that it was fraudulent because it lacked any factual basis. Eastman and Trump at Fulton County Jail. Photo Courtesy CNN. Given the damning trail of actions and communications, it's no surprise that Eastman finds himself indicted in the Georgia RICO case and implicated in the federal Jan. 6th indictment. Others who participated in the insurrection, or supported it, have already been punished in various ways. The Justice Department has secured hundreds of criminal convictions of Jan. 6 rioters, including seditious conspiracy convictions for leaders of the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys. Fox News, which amplified Trump's election lies, agreed to a stunning $787 million defamation settlement with Dominion Voting Systems, and multiple defamation cases continue against multiple right-wing media outlets. To be clear, this accountability has not come exclusively through the left — though the Biden administration and the Attorney General Merrick Garland deserve immense credit for their responses to Trump's insurrection, which have been firm without overreaching. Multiple Republicans joined with Democrats to pass Electoral Count Act reform, which would make a repeat of Trump's coup attempt far more difficult. Both conservative and liberal justices rejected the independent state legislature doctrine, which essentially argued that partisan legislatures could overturn the will of the voters. Conservative and liberal judges, including multiple Trump appointees, likewise rejected Trump's election challenges. Republican governors and other Republican elected officials in Arizona and Georgia withstood immense pressure from within their own party to uphold Joe Biden's election win. But while many Jan. 6 actors have paid the price, Eastman and Trump so far have not. For justice to be served, you can't just punish the foot soldiers. The generals and planners have to be held responsible too. Even if they might be friends with some of your teachers.

  • Essay: The Promethean Nature of Laïcité

    Sometimes you read a book, and seemingly invincible threads of conventional wisdom become unraveled. One such revelation emerged for me in Daniel Mornet's The Intellectual Origins of the French Revolution. Mornet astutely reveals that Enlightenment political thinking was not as influential within revolutionary ideology as we would assume. Mornet states that on the eve of 1789, no more than ten distinguished revolutionaries had read the political works of Rousseau. Perhaps the revolutionaries were not giants of political theory but simply hommes de lettres. Nevertheless, this shocking insight provoked me to contemplate Enlightenment thinking’s impact on the revolution with a greater focus on laïcité. In this article, I will illustrate how progressivism's interpretation within Enlightenment thinking manifests itself in laïcité by scrutinizing the Civil Constitution of the Clergy. Contrary to what one might expect, I will not reference great Enlightenment philosophers’ works, such as Candide, to discuss how Enlightenment thinking interprets progressivism. Instead, I will go back to Ancient Greece because if the Enlightenment is a product of Western thinking, I should question what progressivism is per Enlightenment in the origins of the Occident. To bolster this reasoning, Montesquieu's work on the separation of powers and Rousseau's social contract theory were adapted from the Ancient Greek interpretation of governance. Therefore, there's no better source to understand progressivism in Enlightenment philosophy than the myth of Prometheus. In the myth, Prometheus – a Titan in Greek mythology known for his cleverness and sympathy for humanity – defied the supreme god Zeus by stealing fire (representing intellect) from Mount Olympus and giving it to humans. Angered by Prometheus’s rebellion and fearing humanity's increasing power and potential, Zeus chained Prometheus to a rock in the Caucasus Mountains to suffer for all eternity. Each day, an eagle would come to eat Prometheus’s liver, which would regenerate overnight. The story presents two fundamental revelations. First, the West seeks progress in the clash between God and people, meaning progress cannot coexist with an idea of deity. Secondly, in Western thinking, to champion humanity as Prometheus did means to be punished by God. Enlightenment thinking is an extension of this mentality; therefore, I characterize the Enlightenment’s temperament as Promethean. Based on this framework, I now want to dwell on the relationship between enlightened (or Promethean) progressivism and laïcité, which I will further touch on when analyzing the Civil Constitution of the Clergy. As previously stated, enlightened progressivism believes that humanity’s advancement depends on its clash against “Zeus,” whether this “Zeus” is God or a monarch. In other words, I want to emphasize that the driving force behind enlightened progressivism is the idea of struggle with any establishment or taboo. Thus, per Promethean progressivism, when it comes to the advancement in the science of politics and governance, the Church is among the establishments that must be opposed. This mentality is the core of laïcité, but what are the implications? The impact of laïcité’s Promethean nature can be observed in the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, a controversial piece of legislation that defined the French State’s relationship with the Church until Bonaparte’s Concordat of 1801. The legislation reflects the revolution’s aim to subordinate the Church’s authority by attempting to integrate the revolution’s tenets, such as souveraineté populaire, l'État de droit, égalité, and nationalisme, into the religious sphere. For instance, Title I (Clause 4) states that any religious institution or citizen of France cannot oblige to the authority of a church whose essence is not Gallophile. The clause cements the employment of nationalism by revolutionaries to bolster the laïcité’s basis in French society. In other words, revolutionaries use nationalism to delegitimize any potential political mobilization against laïcité. The logic behind this strategy resides in the reality that as much as revolutionaries are polarizing to set an apparent dichotomy between their forces and the establishment, they need to appeal to unifying inspirations, in this case, nationalism, to expand their social base and legitimize their purpose. Similarly, the legislation’s Title II (Clause 21), which requires the bishop-elect to take an oath of loyalty to the French state, its constitution, and its National Assembly, reflects the revolutionaries’ efforts to undermine the idea of the Church’s inviolability by glorifying the popular sovereignty concept. In a nutshell, when the legislation is scrutinized, we observe that the policy’s main goal is to integrate laïcité – which seeks the progress of political governance in the separation of the Church and State – into French sociopolitical norms. However, in the socially conservative French society at the time, this could be achieved with the mentioned tenets that allowed to ease the deepened social cleavages. Beyond laïcité’s manifestation in the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, it is worth touching on the macrocosmic implications of the revolutionaries’ embodiment of laïcité. Undoubtedly, the most vital implication is that it confined the revolution’s sphere of influence since opposition associated revolutionaries with atheism by skewing the laïcité’s purpose. For example, this atheistic association limited the revolution’s propagation across conservative spaces such as Italy. Unhelpfully, atheistic cults like the Cult of Reason emerged during the revolution and radicalized the understanding of laïcité in public space. In conclusion, examining Enlightenment thinking, embodied as Promethean progressivism, and its connection to laïcité reveals a profound ideological underpinning of the French Revolution. Our critical analysis of the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, demonstrates how the revolutionaries sought to redefine the relationship between the Church and the state, driven by the pursuit of progress and challenge to established authority. This essay has traced the roots of Enlightenment progressivism back to the myth of Prometheus, highlighting its intrinsic conflict with entrenched institutions and inclination toward struggle. Moreover, it has shed light on the macrocosmic implications of laïcité, demonstrating how it confined the revolution’s influence and gave rise to perceptions of atheism that limited its propagation. Radical interpretations, exemplified by the Cult of Reason, further complicated the narrative of laïcité during this transformative period. In essence, the French Revolution’s embodiment of laïcité, rooted in Enlightenment ideals, serves as a thought-provoking study of the interplay between progress, tradition, and the legacy of an era that sought to redefine political governance and religious influence. Cover Art: Prometheus Bound -- Peter Paul Rubens Begun c. 1611-1612, completed by 1618

  • CMC Under FIRE: Behind the Rankings

    When the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) released its college free speech rankings this week, Claremont McKenna College took a nosedive, dropping from 6th to 73rd place. Just two years ago, CMC secured the top spot and proudly promoted the achievement on its website. At a college that prides itself on nurturing a culture of open dialogue, what explains this dramatic change? The answer may have more to do with flawed methodology than anything being meaningfully different at CMC. The College Free Speech Rankings are determined by a composite score based on thirteen components. Six of those thirteen assess student perceptions. The other seven assess behavior by administrators, faculty, and students. Higher scores are meant to indicate a better climate for free speech and expression. The survey conducted for FIRE by a polling organization called College Pulse showed, for example, that a significant majority of CMC students censor themselves. Out of 176 students surveyed, only 5% stated that they never hold back their opinions during classroom discussions. Even fewer, just 3%, never self-censor during conversations with fellow students. This is a very strange criterion for evaluating free speech on campus. Some degree of self-censorship is natural, healthy, and wise. What socially aware person expresses every thought that crosses their mind – especially in a classroom where you're expected to defend your points? The choice of "never self-censor" as the highest-value response option seems crude and obtuse. Given CMC’s precipitous drop in the rankings, one would expect a significant change in CMC students’ survey responses between the 2022 and 2024 data. Yet, surprisingly, in question after question, the data show few substantial changes. There are only two questions where responses have changed by 10 percentage points or more. Given the small sample size and high margin of error, the significance of any 10% shift in a survey response given a year apart is hard to read into. Other criteria have nothing to do with college policy or campus climate. For instance, another of the questions asks whether students would feel comfortable sharing an unpopular political opinion on social media. “Yes” gets you a higher FIRE score. But “No” is a perfectly sensible answer here, regardless of how open or tolerant your school is. When a CMC student posts on Twitter – pardon me, X – it’s obviously visible to the whole world, not just fellow CMC students. Avoiding toxic interactions with online trolls hardly implies an undesirable degree of self-censorship. FIRE puts CMC’s viewpoint ratio of liberal to conservative students at 5:1. Happily, the school doesn’t ask applicants about their political views. In fact, CMC asks applicants to write about their commitment to viewpoint diversity, freedom of speech, and constructive dialogue. That a school known for its commitment to free speech still attracts so many liberal-minded applicants seems to me an extremely positive sign – both for the school, and the mindset of the liberal students who choose to attend. CMC retains a "green light" rating for its speech policies. However, FIRE penalized the school three times for instances involving the use of the n-word by professors in their classrooms. Not because professors used the most fraught and upsetting word in the English language. It penalized CMC for the way it reacted to professors who did use the n-word. These professors were not fired. Again, one searches in vain for any sense of basic social awareness on FIRE’s part. Context is everything here, and a negative reaction to white professors employing the n-word hardly persuades me that CMC has a free-speech problem. Then there is the matter of double-standards when it comes to conservative schools and explicit censorship of views and ideas. While CMC lost three points over n-word incidents, Florida State University received only a single point deduction for banning the teaching of critical race theory, a decision stemming from the Florida Stop WOKE Act of April 2022. According to a lawsuit brought by FIRE itself, Stop WOKE violates the free speech rights of faculty members and students at public colleges in Florida. While Florida’s public universities may not be to blame for such policies, a free-speech ranking system ought to reflect some sense of reality about where professors are freest to teach, and where students are freest to learn. At FSU, ranked #5 on the list, you can’t teach or study critical race theory. At Harvard, ranked dead last at #248 with a rating of “abysmal,” you certainly can. Based on my own experience, I’d rank CMC a lot higher than either of them.

  • Quid Pro (Quo?)

    Public trust in political institutions diminishes when the judiciary appears to shield those in power, adopting interpretations that are at odds with prevailing ethical standards. Whether considering the recent allegations against Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) or the dubious actions of Justice Clarence Thomas, a common thread emerges: a Supreme Court that has narrowed its interpretation of corruption to the point of absurdity. Senator Bob Menendez escaped his previous federal prosecution over alleged corruption. Many view his "victory," however, as nothing more than a testament to the Supreme Court's disappearing definition of political graft. His trials ended in hung juries, with jurors apparently unpersuaded that the favors exchanged between Menendez and a prominent ophthalmologist amounted to bribery under existing law. Although he has not been accused of criminal bribery, recent revelations about Justice Clarence Thomas point to a parallel failure of consequences. Thomas accepted extravagant vacations, property deals, and educational expenses from Republican mega-donor Harlan Crow, who is affiliated with conservative entities that want certain outcomes from the Supreme Court. What's unsettling is that, given the current legal landscape, convicting Menendez may again prove elusive, while meaningful consequences for Thomas seem remotely unlikely. How did we get here? At the core of the issue rests a series of Supreme Court decisions that have effectively redefined corruption. Among them is the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision from 2010. This case saw the majority of justices dismissing concerns over unbridled corporate spending in political campaigns. The court maintained that only direct quid pro quo – an exchange of goods or favors for direct political action – qualified as corruption. This notably ignored all the forms of direct and indirect influence that fall short of an explicit exchange The court suggests that influence peddling, a long tradition in Washington, is perfectly acceptable. If government officials and those who want their favor are subtle enough, they need not fear prosecution. After all, this is consistent with Thomas’s behavior and his understanding of ethics — Quid with only the “appearance” of pro quo is just business as usual at the high court. It wasn’t always this way. Earlier interpretations saw corruption as a spectrum, recognizing the complexities of political interactions. This perspective recognized the dangers of unchecked influence, especially from corporate entities with deep pockets. The court's perspective on corruption began to shift in 1999, with United States v. Sun-Diamond Growers of California. This unanimous decision effectively ruled that an individual or corporation could keep a public official on private retainer without violating federal gratuities statutes, so long as no specific gift was tied to a particular official act. That ruling makes it difficult to prosecute situations where an official receives prolonged financial benefits in the hope of potential future favors – a pattern eerily resonant with the Menendez allegations and the Thomas-Crow relationship. Skilling v. United States (2010) further constrained the legal definition of corruption. This case curtailed the legal theory of honest services fraud — a type of white-collar crime wherein officials deny others their right to honest services, often due to conflicts of interest or bribery — limiting its applicability to clear-cut cases of bribes and kickbacks. It's a position that makes it challenging to prosecute more veiled forms of corruption, where there are degrees of ambiguity rather than clear transactions. Then there's McDonnell v. United States, another case that turned heads in 2016. The Supreme Court decided that selling government access didn't qualify as "official acts" under federal bribery law. It's a distinction that seems to further protect the subtle dances of influence that play out behind closed doors. In his opinion for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts painstakingly argued that only definitive governmental actions, like introducing legislation or shaping policy, could be deemed components of a corruption scheme. Routine political favors, such as orchestrating a meeting or making a phone call, were not covered. The Menendez indictment points up the problem. Among the senator's alleged transgressions are communicating with a U.S. Department of Agriculture official to safeguard a co-defendant's halal certification rights for U.S. exports to Egypt, reaching out to the New Jersey attorney general's office to influence criminal matters, and advocating for the nomination of a U.S. attorney in New Jersey whom he viewed as someone he could manipulate. Furthermore, Menendez allegedly signaled to Egyptian representatives that he could control foreign military funding and equipment sales to Egypt, leveraging his influence on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Were these “official acts” traded for bribes or mere customary services offered by elected officials? Again –– Quid Pro Quo or just Quid? Prosecutors seem to anticipate the uphill battle ahead, as evidenced in their careful phrasing of the charges against Menendez. Words like “pressured” feature prominently, an evident nod to Roberts' McDonnell decision, which contended that actions like pressuring another official could, under the right circumstances, still constitute evidence of an agreement to commit an “official act.” If the hurdles were not already steep enough, Menendez’s prosecutors also face the repercussions of another recent Supreme Court decision involving Joseph Percoco, an aide to former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo –– Percoco v. U.S. (2023). Here, Justice Samuel Alito narrowed conditions under which private citizens could be convicted of depriving the government of “honest services.” In his opinion, Justice Neil Gorsuch insinuated that the entire honest-services fraud statute was ambiguous at best. This same statute forms a cornerstone of the allegations against Menendez, which claims he conspired to deprive the public of his “honest services.” These evolving judicial interpretations involve more than just legal semantics. They are precedents that will likely shape the landscape for years to come. Bluntly put, they’ve created an environment in which corruption is easier to do, harder to prosecute, and closer to a tolerated norm in American politics.

  • Feinstein's Sucessor

    After three decades of service in the U.S. Senate, 90-year-old Dianne Feinstein died on Thursday night in Washington, D.C. Senator Feinstein’s death spurred nationwide reflections on her legacy, which, in true American political fashion, were accompanied by frenzied speculation about her successor. On Sunday, California Governor Gavin Newsom put the guesswork to rest, naming Laphonza Butler as his Senate appointee. Butler, president of EMILY's List and a seasoned political strategist, has worked with high-profile politicians, including Kamala Harris and Hillary Clinton, in various capacities. Her appointment fulfills Newsom's earlier pledge to appoint a Black woman to the Senate seat, should it become vacant. Laphonza Butler also has now become the second Black woman to represent California in the Senate, and the first Black lesbian to serve in the chamber. Despite some recent backlash surrounding her residence in Maryland (which she maintained in order to conduct her work with EMILY’s List), Butler’s California ties affirm her qualification for the role. Butler moved to California in 2009, where she began to organize caregivers and nurses in various leadership roles for Service Employees International Union (SEIU). She served as a California elector in the 2016 presidential election, and she served on the Regents of the University of California for three years. In spite of Butler’s qualifications, reactions to her appointment have been largely influenced by the looming Democratic primary for Feinstein’s seat. Three prominent California Democrats will vie for the nomination: Barbara Lee, Katie Porter, and Adam Schiff. Much of the criticism surrounding Butler’s appointment comes from Lee’s supporters, who had hoped she would have been the Black woman Newsom chose as Feinstein’s replacement. Rep Barbara Lee has represented California’s 12th (previously 13th) district for 25 years. She is an advocate for Black women, having broken glass ceilings numerous times herself, becoming the first Black woman elected to the California State Assembly and California Senate from Northern California. Progressives remember Lee fondly, as she cast the only vote against authorization for the use of military Force (AUMF) against Iraq in 2001. Lee’s ongoing campaign to represent California in the U.S. Senate emphasizes the value of her viewpoint as a Black woman. The campaign’s official website advertises that Lee would be “the only Black woman in the U.S. Senate and the only Black senator from California, bringing a much-needed voice to policymaking in D.C.” On October 1, the CBC released an open letter to Governor Newson, urging the appointment of Congresswoman Lee to Senator Feinstein’s seat. These arguments, however likely they may be to influence the imminent Democratic primary for the seat, did not sway Governor Newsom, who hinted a month ago that he would not select Barbara Lee for the vacancy, claiming that he did not want to sway the primary. Since Butler’s appointment, Lee has expressed well wishes for the appointee, stating her singular focus on her campaign for Senate. However, Lee and others have also insinuated that Newson chose Butler as a token Black woman to appoint instead of appointing a Black woman with congressional experience. But Lee’s supporters were not the only political actors interested in Newsom’s decision. Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi endorsed Adam Schiff – who solidified his position in the party during Trump’s first impeachment — to succeed Feinstein after her final term. The Speaker Emerita’s family has a long-term relationship with the late Senator Feinstein, and Pelosi’s eldest daughter served as Feinstein’s caretaker for her last months in the chamber. This relationship has spurred rumors that Pelosi had undue influence on Feinstein’s decision to remain in office despite concerns regarding her mental fitness. As one Pelosi family confidant told Playbook, a Feinstein resignation would have enabled the appointment of Schiff’s opponent Barbara Lee. There is no question that a Lee appointment would have made Schiff’s election prospects much dimmer. Might Newsom have switched his pick so as not to upset the former speaker? It’s hard to say, but, after all, Newsom and Pelosi are distant relatives and both heavyweights in California politics. What remains to be seen is how much Laphonza Butler’s short tenure in the Senate will impact the upcoming race between Lee, Porter, and Schiff. Pessimists of California’s racial order should fear that the discourse surrounding Butler’s race and sexuality will narrow Lee’s chances as less progressive Californians may tire of the argument that one’s demographic characteristics qualify one for office. At the moment, the situation is not great for Lee. According to a recent poll, she trails both Schiff and Porter by a considerable margin.

  • Marianne Williamson Doesn't Want to be the Crystal Ball Lady

    Williamson in Iowa, Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr, August 18th, 2019 You may have heard the common saying that “all press is good press”, and that may be true for the reality TV hopefuls among us, but for a presidential candidate, the same hardly applies. Press is power. The voter is busy, with work, college, their fourth rerun of Downton Abbey (Just me then?) Their exposure to political candidates, unless they are heavily vested in the process, is confined to forty five second Tik-Tok videos or viral CNN/Fox news clips. Case in point: more people recall candidate Vivek Ramaswamy copying an Obama quote than any of his actual policy stances. Successful campaigns hinge on the ability of a candidate to define themselves before media narratives do. Enter Marianne Williamson, popularly known as Oprah’s spiritual advisor, but also a 2024 Democratic candidate for President of the United States. She was the first Democrat to announce a bid, beating even Joe Biden to the punch. But with an incumbent campaign coming from Joe Biden, the odds are slim for Williamson, especially given that only one sitting president (Franklin Pierce) has ever been denied a party nomination. But this is not the only problem Williamson faces. Other than perhaps the far right, Williamson’s greatest foe is American media, who have labeled her a self-righteous contrarian trap, crystal lady shrew, and a quirky, kooky joke. Take your pick which you think is the worst. Though, many political analysts voice that Democrats should look into Williamson’s appeal to younger voters, and try and replicate that with someone a bit more orthodox. On the note of orthodoxy, Marianne Williamson is among the most unorthodox political candidates this election cycle. She is the author of fifteen books since 1992, most of which discuss themes of spirituality and wellness, and she got her career started as a spiritual advisor and leader of the Church of Today. She says our economic systems have lost their soul, and that a moral alignment is imperative for moving forward. This language is very different from what most voters and the media are used to. So given this background and its lack of political experience, she is hit with constant claims of being too out there and totally unqualified to run for public office. This is not the first time she has tried to run, however, in 2014 she ran as an independent to represent California’s 33rd congressional district, and in 2020 she ran for president for the first time, and as a Democrat. In 2020, Williamson faced much of the same backlash and “crystal lady” depictions from the media she is facing now, only then she was dismissed too quickly to be critiqued as concretely as she is now. The main point of disdain among Williamson and her supporters this time around is the DNC’s refusal to hold a primary debate. She voiced this in a televised interview with Sean Hannity where after discussing her stance on an array of policies, he quotes a series of tweets she posted in 2011 and 2012, and then he asks her very bluntly “what the hell does that mean?” to thunderous laughter from the audience. She explains she is surprised to hear him say that, considering that she views them as very traditional religious values, but with quotes like “Your body is merely your space station from whence you beam your love to the universe. Don't just relate to the station; relate to the beams” it is no wonder that they are being characterized as something crazy and unbecoming of a presidential candidate. The lack of credibility has reached even the White House which has fed into the characterizations of Williamson as a spiritual guru, or a hippie. When White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was asked on her opinions regarding the then announced Williamson challenge to the Biden campaign, she responded saying she was not tracking the Williamson campaign, and went on to say perhaps she might be doing so, if only she had a crystal ball, or could “feel her aura”. Most recently, on September 13th, Marianne Williamson posted directly to her Instagram page a recently published poll from FiveThirtyEight that highlighted the national polling data of “major candidates”. A poll that Williamson was not featured on. She voices great anger of this, stating that she deserves to be mentioned considering her monthly average of 6.3% in relation to major Republican candidates like Vivek Ramaswamy (7%), Mike Pence (5.1%), and Nikki Haley (5.9%). An article from 2019 featured in The Student Life discusses Williamson’s (a former Sagehen herself) visit to the Pomona campus, and demonstrates how even in 2019 she was fighting off claims of being a “wacko crystal lady”. The odds for a victory against Biden, an incumbent president, within his own party are astronomically low. But Williamson's journey sheds light on the selective credibility American media affords. I am reminded of the treatment of Bernie Sanders in 2016 and again in 2020. Sanders, a radical leftist by American standards, was consistently left out of media coverage in favor of the more moderate Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton. In January of 2020, Sanders was even the highest polling Democratic candidate, yet the media portrayed a Sanders victory as impossible, and asserted he was underperforming. For Republican outsiders however, Fox News is ready to welcome them with open arms. But Neither CNN or MSNBC have had the same attitude towards Democratic outsiders. It poses many questions that are uncomfortable to confront. What are the necessary ideological conditions to be seen as a part of the establishment or taken seriously by our media? With regards to Williamson, someone evidently outside of that establishment, the conclusion is clear. She won’t be placing her right hand on the Bible and faithfully swearing to execute anything come 2024, but her message seems to resonate with younger generations, and so it is plausible that future Democratic contenders may embrace her ethos, albeit in a more conventional package.

  • Bertha Tobias Named 2024 Rhodes Scholar Elect

    CMC senior Bertha Tobias was just named a 2024 Rhodes Scholar Elect. As a Namibian candidate, Bertha was one of 8 finalists from South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Malawi, and eSwatini, all of whom competed for one Rhodes Scholarship. She interviewed in Johannesburg, South Africa, this past weekend and learned of her election on October 1. This marks the fourth Rhodes Scholarship in both CMC and Namibian history. Bertha studies international relations and leadership studies, and she has a keen interest in natural resource management in developing countries. Her Rhodes Scholarship will fund her MSc degree in Sustainability, Enterprise, and the Environment. According to Bertha, the program scrutinizes the environment “through the lens of power, place, and politics,” delving into “how historical relationships between nations shape energy policy.” Bertha’s passion for energy policy emerged in college. “I initially perceived environmental literature as a ‘white people concern,’” she shared, stating that the way we discuss decarbonization does not account for people who would lose access to electricity if we were to decarbonize immediately. After taking environmental classes at CMC, Bertha says she “fell in love with the realization that decarbonization will look different in different countries.” At Oxford, she wants to understand how to implement an equitable energy transition. In addition to her academic passions, Bertha has a knack for media entrepreneurship. Bertha utilized funding from CMC’s Sponsored Internship and Experience program to launch her own television show, “Spotlight.” She organized a production crew and interviewed Namibian entrepreneurs, sharing their success stories on Namibia’s largest broadcaster, NBC Namibia. At Oxford, she plans to collaborate with BBC Ideas, an Oxford-BBC partnership where scholars create short films about their research. “Opportunities like that are exciting,” Bertha says, because they allow her to “stay playful with media pursuits while making the most of an Oxford education.” Studying in the United Kingdom will be a new experience for Bertha, but she is by no means new to cross-cultural learning experiences. Bertha grew up in Namibia, but she completed high school at United World College Changshu China before moving to the United States to pursue her bachelor’s degree. Bertha says she studies outside of her home country because she wants to understand how great institutions are built. “The United States, China, and the United Kingdom are all superpowers,” she says. “My biggest curiosity has been ‘What do they do right? Do they know something that we don’t about how to build systems and economies that last?’” Giving back to Namibia is at the root of many of Bertha’s pursuits. Having spent so much time abroad, she believes there’s nothing fundamentally better about “superpower” countries compared to African countries. She emphasizes that hard work can be applied to any nation to achieve success, and she hopes to be a part of Namibia’s growth to global competitiveness. Brian Davidson, CMC’s Director of Fellowships Advising, describes Bertha as “a force of nature with potential to be a truly transformative leader in Namibia and Southern Africa.” Brian believes Bertha is the embodiment of using one’s talents to the full, a core tenant of the Rhodes Scholarship. Reflecting on her resilience and ambition, Brian is sure the Rhodes Trust’s investment in her will pay off. After securing the most distinguished scholarship in the world, Bertha feels immense gratitude. She calls the scholarship a “collective win,” crediting the continuous support of CMC, family, and friends. She extends special thanks to Ipawa Haimbodi, Vision Tobias, Professor Jennifer Taw, Professor Peter Uvin, Professor Michael Fortner, Brian Davidson, Freya Jennison, Justin Ongchin, Maureen Tchatchoua, Steve Wang, Ursula Diamond, and Michael Yu.

  • CMC Has a Viewpoint Diversity Problem

    In 2018, the CMC Board of Trustees published a memo detailing their Open Academy commitments to “freedom of expression, viewpoint diversity, and effective dialogue.” As part of this commitment, the Board vowed to strengthen “student recruiting, faculty and staff hiring, curricular offerings and syllabi choices, invited speakers and engaged formats at the Athenaeum that both bring and take full advantage of viewpoint diversity (whether it derives from experience or belief systems or any combination of the two).” Put simply, the Board committed to recruiting more ideologically diverse students and faculty. The question is: does the data reflect the Board’s commitment to viewpoint diversity? CMC’s oldest available viewpoint diversity data is from the Salvatori Center’s 2016 political attitudes survey, which was conducted 2 years before the 2018 Open Academy memo. According to the data, 53 percent of CMC students identified as liberal, 25 percent as moderate, and 21 percent as conservative, with a liberal-to-conservative ratio of 2.5 to 1. While not perfect, this breakdown reflects a fairly ideologically diverse student body for an elite liberal arts institution. Seven years later, despite the Board’s intervening commitment to viewpoint diversity, ideological diversity at CMC has declined sharply. According to 2024 survey data from CollegePulse and the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), 58 percent of CMC students identify as liberal, 20 percent as moderate, and 12 percent as conservative, with a liberal-to-conservative ratio of almost 5 to 1. Over these seven years, the conservative population at CMC was cut in half. In the 2018 memo, the Board pronounced that “since its founding, CMC has been a leader in ideological diversity.” Now, if you compare CMC to its peer institutions, CMC is no longer a leader in this regard. In FIRE’s 2024 data, 6 out of the 21 predominantly liberal private colleges with enrollments under 2,000 students had a lower liberal-to-conservative ratio than CMC: Washington and Lee University, DePauw University, Amherst College, Davidson College, Connecticut College, and Berea College. While CMC is still more ideologically diverse than many of its peer institutions like Pomona and Pitzer, CMC is no longer a leader among liberal arts colleges in regard to its ideological diversity. This summer, I attended the Summer Honors Academy, an academic program at the American Enterprise Institute, which is nonpartisan but known as a center-right institution. According to the organization’s website, “the program gathers students from diverse ideological backgrounds for substantive dialogue and debate about the most pressing issues facing the country and world.” Every year, AEI publishes the political attitudes of its participants. In 2023, 48 percent of AEI students identified as conservative, 12 percent as moderate, and 30 percent as liberal, with a conservative-to-liberal ratio of just over 1.5. It’s disappointing that an ideologically oriented organization can attract a greater modicum of political diversity than CMC, a non-ideological liberal arts college purportedly committed to viewpoint diversity. As a disclaimer, given the small sample sizes, the possible response bias, and other difficulties, no political attitude survey of the CMC student body will be perfect. Some have critiqued FIRE’s methodology and rightly indicated the difficulty of drawing conclusions from the data. That said, the data seem to paint a bleak picture of the outlook for ideological diversity at CMC. Political ideology ratios are also a blunt metric for viewpoint diversity. Geographic, religious, socioeconomic, and ethnic diversity likewise enrich campus discourse. Regardless, political diversity is probably the best proxy we have for viewpoint diversity. If the Board truly values viewpoint diversity at CMC, they must renew their commitment and address the sharp decline in students who identify themselves as conservative. In the board’s own words, “freedom of expression without an equal commitment to viewpoint diversity is of little value.”

  • Echoes of 1958

    In 1958, French democracy nearly collapsed. The brutal war against movements for Algerian independence almost saw a military-led coup take over the country as civil unrest hit an all-time high. Recent setbacks in Indochina, Vietnam, and the Suez Crisis had conservative and military factions in France concerned about national honor and international prestige. With vocal groups contending that French power could not degrade any further, there was a sense that the country could not endure another international setback. General opposition to France's colonial ambitions, economic disparities, and the active presence of socialist and conservative political groups triggered mass unrest. As protests intensified, the military's dissatisfaction with the government grew. In response, military chiefs overthrew the French administration in Algeria, concerned that Paris would concede Algeria to liberation movements. Mere days later, French paratroopers took control of Corsica. Fears of a socialist takeover surged, leading troops to prepare for a march on Paris, with a clear message: unless De Gaulle was made Prime Minister, they would force the issue. Upon his ascension, De Gaulle established a new republic, emphasizing the need for a stable government with robust executive authority. Notably, he introduced Article 49.3, which allowed the Executive to bypass the National Assembly to enact certain laws. This, however, gave the National Assembly the option to move for no-confidence votes. With a newly centralized government structure and strengthened executive authority under the Fifth Republic's 1958 constitution, De Gaullists believed their reforms would prevent further crises, even if it meant potential civil unrest. The contemporary French Republic owes its stability since 1958 to De Gaulle’s adjustments, yet in 2023, France faces challenges that mirror the past. French foreign policy, especially concerning Africa, is under scrutiny. The withdrawal of their 1,500 troops from Niger, in the wake of a coup that saw democratically elected president Mohamed Bazoum taken captive, is a significant blow. Similar coups in Mali and Burkina Faso, leading to further withdrawals, force France to confront a new reality. The nation must act fast to retain international influence. France dedicated its forces in their former colonies to fighting Islamic extremists, and upon their departure, Russian troops replaced them, often the Wagner Group. Extremism and violence in the region are only growing under the current circumstances, yet many Africans living under these military governments view France as the problem, not a solution. Macron battles opposition at home, challenging the move as another step under his administration toward France losing global status. Beyond Africa, military influence in Europe has been lackluster until recent months. In 2022, Macron hemmed and hawed, offering to enter diplomatic talks with Vladimir Putin and insisting the Russians should not “be humiliated” over a historic mistake. The approach does not bear fruit. This summer, a rapid about-face aligns with a realization that for France to be a global player, they must spend and act. A long-term plan to supply aid to Ukraine and motions to expand NATO and the EU might solidify France’s position as a European leader. Macron must strike an impressive balancing act on the international stage and at home since, as of last year, only 47% of citizens support financial and military aid. A number that could decrease as economic ails continue to plague the nation. Domestically, unrest has marred the last year of French political life. Macron’s invocation of the infamous Article 49.3 has led to workers organizing protests against Macron’s initiative to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64. The reform was unavoidable as 14% of the French GDP goes to supporting pensioners, making France one of the largest global spenders in the field. Still, the program’s contributions to the deficit made it untenable. Macron’s government will continue to see the consequences of the unpopular action. As gas prices experience worrying increases, the government’s inaction leaves French citizens discontent, as 70% blame the state for the issue and prefer a tax decrease at the pumps. The cap of €1.99 a liter for the foreseeable future could be sufficient to keep French citizens at bay. Gas taxes and prices once triggered the Yellow Vest protests in 2018, and the movement still appears during political unrest. To maintain order, controlling these prices will be a chief priority. How, then, does France navigate through this situation unscathed? Domestically, the key will be budgetary fortitude. Increases in military spending, injections of money into social safety nets, and bearing the cost of gasoline price caps make cutting budget deficits to sufficient levels an incredibly challenging task. If they do not control government spending, they could see a macro-level failure of government bonds, leading to an economic crisis. Injecting money into consumers’ pockets and artificially keeping gas prices down could lead to demand-side inflation, causing civil unrest, as the French often see when faced with economic issues. The government bases the 2024 budget outlook on optimistic growth outlooks. Their projected 4.6% budget deficit in 2024 needs to decrease the 3% of GDP level the EU requires by 2027, or France risks current inflation becoming a crisis. The current budget may prove enough to balance these challenges, but time will tell. Internationally, the French must stay focused. Their main priorities are supporting Ukraine, uniting and expanding the EU, and strengthening NATO. African reform came too late, but rallying coalitions in the EU and the UN to build peace, security, and democracy in the nations left in the state’s realm of influence could let them take on a significant role beyond military assistance. Any action in this area inevitably puts them on a collision course with China and Russia, but they must not let that deter them. Flexibility will be a great ally in these chaotic times. Now more than ever the West needs France, and if Macron maintains order and focuses on strategic targets, then history will not repeat itself.

  • The Best 5C Sports Team You've Never Heard of?

    In early April, even playing in the National Championship was not an option for the Claremont Foxes Rugby team, but somehow, by the end of the month, they were champions. It all began a month prior with a brutal match against San Diego State where seemingly everything went wrong. The Foxes walked away with their first loss of the season, and with that, any possibility of advancing to the regional or national tournament. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the regional tournament would only take the #1 seed from the DII Pacific Desert Rugby League, which San Diego State had won that night. The Foxes quickly accepted their loss and completely shifted their focus toward their Rugby 7s season. They were chosen to showcase their talents in the D1 pool at the College Rugby 7s Championship in New Orleans after UCLA had nominated the Foxes to go in their place. In a rapid change of events, just a week from the date of the National Championship game, Coach Evan Wollen received a call. One of the teams nominated for the Final 4 could not make it, and the Foxes were given the open bid. With just a few days and only a couple practices to prepare, the Fox leadership team worked to book flights for players and coaches, while the team had less than a week to reorient themselves back to 15s rugby. Suddenly, the Foxes had another shot at the National Championship in Houston. Despite being colleges that officially compete at the Division III level, the Claremont Foxes have a history of being successful on the pitch, consistently winning against bigger schools like USC, UCSB, and UCLA. In Houston, the Foxes had something to prove. They played their first match against the Tribe from William and Mary University. An immense team effort led to a dominant win of 55-15, reminding themselves and everyone watching why they belonged in the National Championship finals. Injust 24 hours, the Foxes would be meeting their newly formed rivals San Diego State to compete for it all. On April 30th, the Aveva Stadium was set for a revenge match like no other. Houston was hot and humid, and all the players on the pitch were tired from their match the day before; but regardless, the Foxes were hungry for a win. Hungry to prove to themselves and their teammates that they could do it, hungry for revenge. The first half was a slow battle until, with only 3 minutes left to spare, Senior Lock Eden Mahdavi (SCR ’22) punched through the line and scored. The Foxes had the momentum, and they continued their dominant performance in the second half. Leaving blood, sweat, and tears on the pitch, the Foxes secured the 2022 Division II 15s Spring National Championship against San Diego State with a score of 22-7. Madz Masser-Frye (HMC ’23), Caroline Bullock (CMC ’24), and MVP of the Match Robyn Collins (SCR ’23) each contributed a try. The Foxes have become Claremont Colleges' own little David and Goliath story. The summer after they won, they traveled to New Orleans for a 7s tournament and notably beat Michigan, Clemson, and Iowa. Nearly a year after winning the Championship, on Tuesday, April 11th, The Claremont Foxes were officially recognized by the Mayor of Claremont and the City Council for their outstanding achievement. With representatives from each of the 5Cs in attendance, notably President Chodosh of Claremont McKenna College and President Starr of Pomona College, the Foxes received an official certificate that will be on display alongside their National Championship trophy at Pomona College’s ​​Center for Athletics, Recreation and Wellness. Looking at the 2023 season, the Foxes have been crowned the League Champions, and will be heading to Stanford to compete in the West Spring Regionals tournament on April 21st and 22nd. “We look forward to continuing to represent the City of Claremont and the Claremont Colleges in the upcoming weeks at Stanford and then hopefully in May in Houston and on the National stage vying for another National Championship,” current co-captain Caroline Bullock said in the City Hall meeting. If the Foxes win both their games at Stanford, they will travel to Houston to compete once again in the National Championship. The Claremont Foxes is a Club Rugby team composed of students from all five Claremont Colleges. The majority of its players had no prior experience with the sport, and they pride themselves on their diversity and inclusivity, inviting anyone who wants to join the team. The Foxes are lucky to have a phenomenal all-volunteer coaching staff who are instrumental to their continued success. The secret to the Foxes' success? It can be attributed to the incredible work of the leadership team and their coaches, the support they receive from our schools’ administration, and the amazing people at CMS and PP Recreation. It is undeniable that the Claremont Foxes have created an incredible community of strong athletes, dedicated to the game and each other, creating lifelong memories along the way.

  • The Czar's Long Game

    Amid the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, global actors are recalibrating their grand strategy, and Russia is among them. The Russian government’s impartial stance on the current conflict is much more than its conventional approach to Israeli-Palestinian affairs. Behind the curtains, The Kremlin hopes to benefit from the unexpectedly flamed tension in Palestine. Since Russia’s offensive in Ukraine began, Vladimir Putin has embodied a strategy of “Running out the clock.” The strategy assumes that the united Western support behind Ukraine will crumble if the war comes to a dead end and Ukraine fails to deliver a conclusive victory rapidly. Putin’s strategy resembles Alexander I’s tactic against Napoleon Bonaparte during the French invasion of Russia. Like Putin, the Czar believed that the time was at their side and dragged Bonaparte into the Russian hinterland by ordering his forces to retreat until that famous winter arrived. However, has the contemporary Czar’s strategy worked out as it did for Alexander? So far, no. In the first stages of the war, Russian officials expected that a cold winter in Europe without a Russian natural gas supply would cause an energy crisis that would eventually force European governments to reconsider their Ukraine strategy; yet, that winter had not arrived. On the contrary, Europe had one of the mildest Winters it ever had. Similarly, the Russian government hoped that internal disputes within NATO, such as Turkey’s approach to Sweden and Finland’s membership bid for the organization, could break the united front against Russia but that did not happen. However, the recent increased Republican opposition in the U.S Congress against foreign aid for Ukraine implies that Vladimir Putin’s strategy is not dead and that the ongoing conflict in Palestine can help the Kremlin. There are at least 100 House Republicans who could be considered 'Ukraine skeptics.' If Iran’s involvement in the conflict gains momentum, an exacerbated energy crisis is inevitable since in that case, the United States would have to impose harsher sanctions on the Iranian economy. This would benefit the Russian Federation as the United States might be forced to reconsider its strategy toward Russia. It is worth noting that in the first stages of the Ukrainian war, the United States had to reformulate its approach to Venezuela and Iran – two important oil producers – because of the imposed sanctions on the Russian economy. Additionally, a new battlefront in the Middle East would force the United States to reallocate its capabilities in a world order where the conflict is not concentrated but dispersed. Time is on the side of Vladimir Putin and his bet can still pay off.

  • Gavin's New Media Playbook

    If you’ve been watching Fox News lately, you probably have noticed a few trends: the ‘two-tier justice system,’ ‘Biden impeachment,’ 'Hunter,' among other typical talking points. But there’s something else on Fox News pretty often these days, or rather someone. No I’m not talking about Vivek Ramaswamy or Robert Kennedy Jr. I’m talking about the Democratic Governor of California, Gavin Newsom. As far as major Democratic figures go, Newsom is really the only one consistently engaging with the Right. Last year in June, he was the most prominent Democrat to join Trump’s Truth Social Platform at a time when his peers refused to give it credibility. When he isn’t on there “on calling out MAGA lies,” you can catch him in interviews with Sean Hannity, calling out hypocrites on the right, discussing his political philosophies and their impacts on Californian legislation, or consistently voicing his support for incumbent Joe Biden, calling him a “man of decency and character.” In a polarized time such as our own, a lot of Newsom's actions seem to contradict each other. They don’t fit into the division we’ve grown accustomed to. Very few Democrats are actively working to engage in discourse with anyone on the Right, but that is a new top priority for the California Governor. Newsom, a historically popular Governor in California’s history, was challenged by political commentator Larry Elder in an attempted recall in 2021. However, Newsom retained his position with about the same amount of the votes by which he won it. He is the second Governor in California history to face a recall, and the first to survive one. Though it was certainly not a narrow defeat for Newsom, and most polls predicted he would persevere, he was left intent to never underestimate the power of conservative media again. He has, since that day, become increasingly vested in understanding the landscape of conservative media. An article from Semafor reports of Newsom tuning in to The Ben Shapiro Show and The Faulkner Focus on a daily basis. On September 28th this year, Fox News posted another interview between Sean Hannity and Gavin Newsom, filmed live in the Reagan Library spin room following the second Republican debate. The two start off the interview in a light-hearted, joking manner, with Hannity even stating Newsom told him off-air that Newsom “loves doing [Hannity’s] show the most”. At first, Hannity is keenly interested in asserting that the Governor, deep down, is eager to run for President and challenge the “cognitive mess” Joe Biden. Though Newsom continued to voice his support for the incumbent, expressing admiration for Biden’s extraordinary political record. “I couldn’t be more proud,” said Newsom. It is clear Gavin Newsom is putting in effort to justify the work he has done as Governor, and staunchly defend the leader of his party. Across every important point of contention (and perhaps a potential future agenda), Newsom asserts that the progressive solutions of his party work, and that he will continue to support them in every way. He knows exactly who’s watching, and he knows a lot of them strongly dislike those solutions. But many on the left and right dislike Joe Biden even more. Newsom’s familiarity with conservative talking points makes him much better equipped then most of his contemporaries to handle a Hannity interview, and appear to many conservatives not as a crazy radical whom they should fear, but rather a respectable, albeit misguided, figure. If the goal is to convince moderates or people on the opposite side of the spectrum to support you, the contemporary media strategy of staying within echo chambers, media bubbles, and friendly podcasts seems a very ineffective mode for doing so. Many of Newsom’s appearances on right-wing media have incited positive reactions from the left and even a few on the right. His interviews with Sean Hannity seem to be doing the trick for many Democrats, especially at a time of declining Democratic support of Joe Biden. Despite his accomplishments, Biden is not the spokesperson he once was; he isn’t motivating or inspiring Democrats. What Newsom is doing fundamentally boils down to building credibility, on both sides. Time will tell if Newsom's strategy is working, but his second term as Governor ends in early 2027, leaving enough time to organize a substantial effort for a bid in 2028. Stay tuned, this is only the beginning for Gavin Newsom’s new strategy. Fox News announced a 90 minute televised interview between Gavin Newsom and Ron DeSantis to take place on Sean Hannity’s show on November 30th. Assuming Biden stays healthy, Gavin Newsom isn’t trying to get your vote in 2024, but four years from now, he will be. The current work he’s doing may be in the hope that come 2028, you’ll think of him as someone who kept fighting when others gave up.

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