DNC scandal, Republicans a boon for Bernie Sanders campaign?

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Bernie Sanders speaks at a campaign rally. Photo courtesy Nick Solari.

Bernie Sanders’ campaign has been in hot water lately. After Sanders’ staffers illegally accessed campaign lists for Hillary Clinton, the DNC swiftly moved against the Sanders campaign – revoking their access to all campaign data, including the data Sanders’ campaign compiled itself.

However, despite the seriousness of what the Sanders campaign did, Sanders himself seems to have come out of the DNC scandal relatively unscathed – and possibly even stronger from it.

The Sanders campaign fired at least one staffer directly connected to the breach and attacked the DNC for denying them access to their own data – saying they were damaging the democratic voting process. The DNC ultimately backed down from the Sanders campaign and access was restored relatively quickly.

Even with the DNC’s about-face, the Sanders campaign is now suing the DNC for their actions. Additionally, rumors have swirled about the DNC favoring the Clinton campaign – with one Sanders campaign official even insinuating that the campaign staffer who accessed Clinton data was a DNC/Clinton saboteur.

No-nonsense diplomacy

The quick response to firing those deemed responsible for accessing Clinton’s campaign data, the DNC quickly caving to the Sanders campaign and restoring their data access, and the Sanders campaign’s continued pursuit of the DNC via lawsuit – all while Sanders himself maintains tact in regards to Hillary Clinton – makes Sanders come off as a quick-acting, diplomatic candidate with little tolerance for wrongdoing.

Even Donald Trump – who has had plenty of negative things to say about Sanders himself – seemed to stand behind Bernie Sanders in the debacle, applauding Sanders’ tact while attacking Clinton for her lack of it.

Trump is not the only Republican who has seen virtues in Sanders either. The presidential candidate seems to have far wider Republican appeal than Clinton. While the Facebook group Republicans for Bernie Sanders boasts over 19,000 members despite just being created this year, a Republicans for Hillary group that has been around since 2012 has a mere 319.

Multiple articles have been written about Republicans’ love affair with Bernie Sanders as well, while articles about Hillary Clinton and Republicans tend to be antagonistic. Reasons for backing Sanders differ among Republicans – some love his idea to audit the FED and go after big banks, while others back his views on education and the economy. Others simply believe he is the most likely candidate to upset the status quo.

Cross-party candidate

While the reasons for backing Sanders may differ among people, it seems that more and more people are eyeing him as the most likely Democratic nominee – and, even among Republican pundits like Ann Coulter, the most likely to win the presidential election if he clinches the Democratic nomination.

The race is far from over, but with Sanders’ cross-party appeal and demonstrated ability to weather at least one scandal without getting messy, it’s clear voters, other candidates, and the media (another thing he has in common with Republicans) will want to watch him closely.

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Counting votes and votes that count: The caucus system vs. the primary

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There is a battle raging right now all over social media, in the news, and on the streets: The caucus system vs. the primary. I’ve always been a proponent of the primary, and found the caucus system leaving a bad taste in my mouth after what many called “extremist” candidates were propelled into office due to so-called “extremist” citizens using the caucus system to “game” the voting process.

However, I’ve had some second thoughts about my enthusiasm for a primary, and I find myself wondering if the issue I’ve had with the caucus was actually due to any flaw in the system, or more a problem with our society.

The Caucus System

The caucus process is certainly more complicated and involved than a primary. It starts with a precinct meeting, which typically makes up about 1,200 to 1,300 homes (typically your neighborhood). Participation varies depending on whether the caucus is open or closed. In an open caucus, anyone in the precinct can take part. In a closed caucus, only members of the political party that is holding the caucus can take part. In either case, those that can participate are encouraged to do so. At these meetings, constituents discuss the candidates and political issues they feel are important and delegates are chosen to represent and vote for the precinct at the county and state levels. These delegates then relay their precinct’s concerns, questions, and ideas directly to the candidates — creating a dialogue between the constituents and the candidates.

While the process is involved, there are certain advantages to it. It forces political candidates to pay attention to all precincts and interact with their delegates personally — no matter how much money they have or how great their campaign machine is. This also ensures rural areas, as well as metropolitan areas, are heard.

Many people have seen the caucus system as favoring those already in power and extremist political factions — myself included. But I’m starting to feel this is a case of “correlation, not causation” so to speak. The caucus system certainly favors the politically active and knowledgeable — which will of course favor the two aforementioned groups. Extremist factions tend to be very politically active and politicians up for re-election already have a base of activists to draw from.

This, to me, is the biggest failing of the caucus system: Our uneducated, apathetic society. In 2012, only 57% of eligible voters voted — and that’s just to get to a booth and put check marks on a ballot. It’s no wonder the caucus system has been overrun by so-called extremists who actually pay attention and get involved in politics. But that’s not a failing of the system, that’s a failing of the voting public.

Primaries

Like the caucus, a primary can be either open or closed. And that’s pretty much where the similarities between caucuses and primaries end.

Primaries are a lot more simple than the caucus. It’s a straight “one person, one vote” deal — which is, I think, the best way for a candidate to be selected.

Because there is less time required from people in a primary it means everyone can truly take part too. Busy parents, educators, and working-class people who might not have the opportunity to take part in a caucus system can easily take a few minutes to vote in a booth.

But there are some notable downsides to this system as well.

Since there are no precinct meetings or delegates, candidates instead focus on raising money for advertisements to reach constituents, largely scaling back one-on-one or local interaction and focusing on high-population areas. The focus on advertisements and fundraising can also turn primaries into a battle of money, with the candidate who has the most all too often coming out on top.

It also reduces the involvement and political acumen needed from voters. Everyone can vote, but not necessarily everyone should. Too many voters, it seems, vote without comprehensively researching or discussing candidates and public policy.

Education and openness

Regardless of whether we ultimately use a caucus system or primary, the key thing that needs to be emphasized is education and open discussion. Politics needs to become something every citizen takes part in and actively discusses with friends, family, neighbors, and colleagues.

Just as important, we need to be able to openly discuss politics. Too much political discussion devolves into shouting matches or hyperbolic rhetoric.

The American political landscape has become a series of echo chambers. Friends, family and neighbors have stopped discussing politics with those who have a different stance, saving their political thoughts for like-minded individuals. Without proper criticism or a different view on things, there’s no way to refine each other’s viewpoints or truly figure out what makes each other tick.

We need to turn off the vitriol of Fox News and MSNBC and talk plainly, but passionately, about the issues that affect our country, especially with those who think differently than us.

What the Doctrine and Covenants says about gay marriage, the judicial system, and the role of religion in government

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There has been a lot of discussion online and offline about gay marriage. People on both sides of the divide have been hurling scripture and quotes from prophets back and forth. One of the most intriguing to me was the mention of Doctrine and Covenants (D&C) 134: 9. The verse seems to state religion and government shouldn’t be mixed. I decided to read through the section to make sure it hadn’t been taken out of context, and what I found was even more interesting to me than just that one verse.

Of great importance is the use of “conscience” as opposed to “religion” throughout the section.

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On the role of government (it’s important to note that numerous states and countries have already legalized gay marriage and their societies are still “good and safe”)

1 We believe that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them, both in making laws and administering them, for the good and safety of society.

On how peace can be maintained in America

2 We believe that no government can exist in peace, except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of CONSCIENCE, the right and control of property, and the protection of life.

On the importance of judges (before you jump on “voice of the people”, see verse 11)

We believe that all governments necessarily require civil officers and magistrates to enforce the laws of the same; and that such as will administer the law in equity and justice should be sought for and upheld by the voice of the people if a republic, or the will of the sovereign.

On religious followers being allowed the free exercise of religion “unless their religious opinions prompt them to infringe on the rights and liberties of others”

4 We believe that religion is instituted of God; and that men are amenable to him, and to him only, for the exercise of it, unless their religious opinions prompt them to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others; but we do not believe that human law has a right to interfere in prescribing rules of worship to bind the CONSCIENCES of men, nor dictate forms for public or private devotion; that the civil magistrate should restrain crime, but never control CONSCIENCE; should punish guilt, but never suppress the freedom of the soul.

On laws and the executive branch of government

We believe that all men are bound to sustain and uphold the respective governments in which they reside, while protected in their inherent and inalienable rights by the laws of such governments; and that sedition and rebellion are unbecoming every citizen thus protected, and should be punished accordingly; and that all governments have a right to enact such laws as in their own judgments are best calculated to secure the public interest; at the same time, however, holding sacred the freedom of CONSCIENCE.

On honoring judges, and keeping religion and government separate

We believe that every man should be honored in his station, rulers and magistrates as such, being placed for the protection of the innocent and the punishment of the guilty; and that to the laws all men owe respect and deference, as without them peace and harmony would be supplanted by anarchy and terror; human laws being instituted for the express purpose of regulating our interests as individuals and nations, between man and man; and divine laws given of heaven, prescribing rules on spiritual concerns, for faith and worship, both to be answered by man to his Maker.

On governments being “bound to enact laws for the protection of all citizens in the free exercise of their religious belief”

7 We believe that rulers, states, and governments have a right, and are bound to enact laws for the protection of all citizens in the free exercise of their religious belief; but we do not believe that they have a right in justice to deprive citizens of this privilege, or proscribe them in their opinions, so long as a regard and reverence are shown to the laws and such religious opinions do not justify sedition nor conspiracy.

(8 is on punishment of typical crimes — not relevant here)

On keeping religion and government separate

We do not believe it just to mingle religious influence with civil government, whereby one religious society is fostered and another proscribed in its spiritual privileges, and the individual rights of its members, as citizens, denied.

On the limited power religious authorities should have

10 We believe that all religious societies have a right to deal with their members for disorderly conduct, according to the rules and regulations of such societies; provided that such dealings be for fellowship and good standing; but we do not believe that any religious society has authority to try men on the right of property or life, to take from them this world’s goods, or to put them in jeopardy of either life or limb, or to inflict any physical punishment upon them. They can only excommunicate them from their society, and withdraw from them their fellowship.

On the importance of the judicial system (note the use of “character infringed”)

11 We believe that men should appeal to the civil law for redress of all wrongs and grievances, where personal abuse is inflicted or the right of property or character infringed, where such laws exist as will protect the same; but we believe that all men are justified in defending themselves, their friends, and property, and the government, from the unlawful assaults and encroachments of all persons in times of exigency, where immediate appeal cannot be made to the laws, and relief afforded.

(12 is on preaching to and baptizing servants — not relevant here)

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It appears, to me, that this bit of Mormon doctrine is a great guideline for a secular government — and I greatly admire the tenets espoused throughout the section — the need for a judicial system to redress grievances, the need to keep religion and government separate, but most importantly: The need to let everyone live according to the dictates of their conscience, so that you can be free to do the same.