Friday, May 8, 2015

British Conservative Party Gains Majority in Parliament, Labour and Liberal Democrats Falter

Cameron (L) won a resounding victory after his Conservative
Party unexpectedly won a majority of seats in Parliament,
while Labour leader Miliband (R) and Liberal Democrat
leader Clegg (C) suffered defeat.
After weeks of polling predicting a close race between the center-right Conservative Party and the center-left Labour Party in Britain, the Conservatives and incumbent Prime Minister David Cameron surprised after not only capturing the most seats in Thursday's election, but also a majority.

Current results (as of 5:23 EDT 5/8/2015) have the Conservatives winning 331 out of 650 seats, with the Labour winning 232 seats. The Liberal Democrats, who had been part of Cameron's earlier coalition government, suffered a massive 49 seat loss to both Conservative and Labour candidates, winning only 8 seats. The Scottish National Party (SNP), who led the charge in the failed Scottish independence referendum last year, came back in force to win nearly all the Parliamentary seats in Scotland, decimating the Labour Party in the region. Even former Labour PM Gordon Brown's seat, which he vacated after he decided to retire this year, was won by the SNP.

Both Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg, leaders of the Labour and Liberal Democrat Parties respectively,  resigned their leadership after their party's unexpected poor performance in the election.

The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), a right-wing party which opposes immigration and British membership in the European Union, won 12.6% of the national vote but won only one seat, as the UK uses a "first-past-the-post" system, which is the same system used in the United States, instead of proportional representation. This system allowed the SNP to win 56 seats even though it had only 4.7% of the national vote as its votes were concentrated in Scottish constituencies. The leader of UKIP, Nigel Farage, resigned as leader after he failed to defeat the Conservative candidate in his constituency.

The Conservatives won 36.9% of the vote, Labour 30.4%, UKIP 12.6%, Liberal Democrat 7.9%, SNP 4.7%, and the Greens (who won 1 seat) 3.8%. Smaller Irish and a small Welsh party each won seats but had less than 1% of the vote.

Center-right to right-wing parties won about 50.5% of the vote, and center-left to left-wing parties won about 40.4% of the vote. The Liberal Democrats, who were in a Conservative coalition government but lean left on some issues, which makes them difficult to categorize, won 7.9% of the vote. The remaining votes were scattered among small unelected parties.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Mike Huckabee Announces Second Run for Presidency

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, 59, announced
his run for the GOP nomination in 2016.
Credit: Washington Post
Former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR) announced Tuesday his second run for the Republican nomination. Huckabee ran in 2008, losing to eventual nominee John McCain. Huckabee hopes this time will be different.

Huckabee, governor of Arkansas from 1996 to 2007, hails from the same town as former President Bill Clinton: Hope, Arkansas, where Huckabee launched his candidacy Tuesday.

Huckabee, known for his social conservatism and his conservative economic populism, told a crowd of over 2000 people at the University of Arkansas Community College at Hope, “I don’t come from a family dynasty but a working family. I grew up blue-collar, not blue-blood.” This statement is likely a subtle dig against GOP frontrunner Jeb Bush and Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, both known as members of political dynasties.

Huckabee did not stop there, also dishing subtle (to not so subtle) attacks against Chris Christie, saying that “some propose that to save safety nets like Medicare and Social Security, we need to chop off the payouts for the people who have faithfully had their paychecks and pockets picked by the politicians promising that their money would be waiting for them when they were old and sick," and Ted Cruz, saying, “Imagine members of Congress boasting they will fight to repeal Obamacare and then turning around and signing up for it."

Huckabee's tenure as governor began when Democratic Governor Jim Guy Tucker, who became governor after Bill Clinton resigned to assume the Presidency, was convicted of fraud in the Whitewater scandal. Huckabee, as lieutenant governor, assumed the position of governor. During his tenure, Huckabee managed to work with the Democratic legislature to pass numerous tax and welfare bills. One bill allowed children of illegal immigrants to receive in-state tuition, a move often criticized by many conservatives.

One controversy during his tenure was his clemency decisions, pardoning over 1000 criminals and 12 murderers. One pardoned criminal, Wayne DuMond, raped and murdered a woman after his release, a fact which gained noticeable attention in 2008.

Huckabee, who has suffered from weight issues, became an advocate for healthy eating after losing over 100 pounds. He has since regained some of the weight after an injury prevented him from doing certain exercises, though not fully to the weight he had prior to his lifestyle change.

Though Huckabee was a frontrunner in the 2012 Presidential election, posting impressive polling numbers (often beating eventual nominee Mitt Romney and even tying or beating incumbent President Obama in some early polls), he deferred running until this election.

In September 2008, Huckabee was given an eponymous television show on the Fox News Channel, hosting it until 2015. On his final show, he said that he could not keep hosting it while entertaining the idea of running for President.

While Huckabee may not be polling at the front of the pack of GOP contenders nationwide, he holds considerable support in Iowa (which he won in 2008), which holds a large number of conservative evangelical Christian voters in the Republican electorate. Huckabee, an ordained Southern Baptist minister, may seem like an ideal candidate to many of the voters he won in 2008.

For the GOP nomination, Huckabee faces announced candidates Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, former HP CEO Carly Fiorina of California, Dr. Ben Carson of Maryland, in addition to likely candidates Former Gov. Jeb Bush, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, former Gov. George Pataki of New York, and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.

If he wins the nomination, possible Democratic challengers include Hillary Clinton of New York, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, in addition to likely candidates such as former Maryland Gov. Martin O' Malley, former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, and former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson Announce Their Candidacies

Fiorina (L) and Carson (R) both announced their respective
candidacies Monday for the GOP nomination.
Credit: Fox News
Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and former pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson formally announced their candidacies Monday on Twitter and in Detroit, respectively, for the GOP nomination for the 2016 Presidential election. Fiorina becomes the first woman to declare her candidacy for the GOP nomination and the second to declare overall, after Hillary Clinton. Carson becomes the first major black candidate for either party for the upcoming election.

Fiorina, born in Texas and educated at Stanford University and MIT, became CEO of HP in 1999, becoming the first woman to lead a Fortune 20 company. During that time she oversaw the merger of HP and Compaq and led the company through a short time of the dot-com bubble. The Compaq merger occurred after the bubble burst in March 2000, and the merger caused a rift between her and the son of one of HP's founders, Walter Hewlett. While Fiorina kept the position during the challenge to her leadership, she lost it in 2005 after dissatisfaction over the company's performance during her tenure.

Fiorina entered electoral politics in the 2010 midterm elections, running against Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA). Fiorina won the primary and polled well against the liberal Boxer for a few weeks before sliding in the polls and losing to the incumbent 52.2%-42.2%.

While Fiorina lost in the overwhelmingly Democratic state, it did not drive her out of politics as she has remained active in conservative circles and on the media since that time. She actively began publicly exploring a Presidential campaign last year, touting her ability to counter Clinton, telling Fox News, "Because I am a woman, there are many things she [Clinton] can't say. She can't play the gender card. She can't talk about being the first woman president. She can't talk about the war on women."

Carson, born in Detroit, Michigan, and educated at Yale University and the University of Michigan, made a name for himself in medicine long before he did in politics. Carson, a former pediatric neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins University, is noted for his successes in separating conjoined twins. One of his major successes, which took 22 hours to undertake, was dramatized into a movie, Gifted Hands, starring Cuba Gooding, Jr. playing Carson.

Carson began attracting attention in conservative circles after his speech at 2013 National Prayer Breakfast, which is put on by the Fellowship, a bipartisan congressional organization. Carson gave a speech criticizing political correctness and seemed to support conservative ideas in his speech. This was especially noted as President Obama was sitting close to Carson at the breakfast, a fact which attracted some to criticize what they perceived as Carson's lack of etiquette. Carson has made clear that he has no regrets for giving the speech.

Carson quickly rose in standing in conservative circles and began to appear on the media circuit, culminating when he became a Fox News contributor in October 2013.

Carson left as Fox News in late 2014 as it became apparent that he was seeking to begin a Presidential campaign.

Carson has attracted controversy over some of his comments, such as one about prisons and homosexuality. Carson has since apologized for that remark.

Both Fiorina and Carson face difficulties in reaching the GOP nomination, such as relatively low name recognition (compared to Jeb Bush) and low poll numbers. Carson, however, holds a strong standing among many conservatives, which could help him against the likes of Bush, Scott Walker, and Marco Rubio. Fiorina, as a woman candidate, may serve as an antithesis to Clinton and serve as a bulwark against Democratic attacks on the Republicans as having an anti-woman platform.

In addition to the likely candidates Bush and Walker and the already-declared Rubio; Fiorina and Carson face Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), in addition to other likely candidates such as Gov. John Kasich (R-OH), Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR), former Gov. George Pataki (R-NY), Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA), and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

Possible Democratic general election opponents include Hillary Clinton, Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT), former Gov. Lincoln Chafee (RI), former Gov. Martin O'Malley (MD), and former Sen. Jim Webb (VA).

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Bernie Sanders Runs for President

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is running as a Democrat for
the Presidency.  His populist image may win some votes
for the nomination, but could cause problems in the general.
Sen. Bernard "Bernie" Sanders (I-VT) announced his campaign for the Democratic nomination for the 2016 Presidential election Thursday, becoming the fifth declared major candidate of a major party and the second major Democratic candidate. In his announcement on the Capitol Lawn in Washington, DC, he highlighted his populist image, saying, "I don’t believe that the men and women who defended American democracy fought to create a situation where billionaires own the political process."

Sanders, a self described "democratic socialist," was mayor of Burlington, Vermont from 1981 to 1989. In 1991, he became the representative for Vermont's At-large Congressional District, serving as an the only independent politician in the House for much of his tenure. In 2007, he became the senator from Vermont, replacing Republican-turned-Democratic-caucusing-Independent Jim Jeffords (who died last year).

Sanders has caucused with the Democrats for much of his political career, enjoying the benefits of Democratic leadership positions on committees, including his two-year stint as chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs in the 113th Congress.

Sanders, who is highlighting his populist image, has not shied away from criticizing Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, though not as much as Republican candidates have done recently. He also has repeatedly said that he believes he can beat Clinton, telling ABC News's Jonathan Karl, “We’re going to win this thing” and that "People should not underestimate me."

Sanders main theme in his campaign so far is wealth and income inequality, giving numerous statistics about economic inequality, though some have disputed his numbers.

In spite of his progressive image, Sanders has agreed with certain Republicans on some issues, such as auditing the Federal Reserve, a move supported by Republican Presidential candidate Rand Paul and Heritage Foundation president and former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) but opposed by liberal firebrand Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

Sanders, whose liberal to left-wing policies have captured the attention of hard-core progressives, still must seek the support of moderate liberals and moderates in the Democratic primary, in addition to moderate Americans in the general election should he win the nomination. Nate Cohn, a political writer for the New York Times, writes that Sanders will unlikely be the nominee because of the small size (compared to Democrats at large) of the liberal base he appeals to most.

Even though Sanders is unlikely to capture the Democratic nomination, trailing Clinton by massive double digits (though no real polling exists yet of him vs the Republican candidates in the general), he may succeed in forcing Clinton to move leftward on some issues, especially if she feels that she must win some of Sanders's supporters to win the nomination.

Sanders, in addition to Clinton, may also face former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, and former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee for the Democratic nomination. If he wins the nomination, possible general election candidates he could face include Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), in addition to other possible candidates such as Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL), Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI), Gov. John Kasich (R-OH), Dr. Ben Carson, former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR), former HP CEO Carly Fiorina, Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA), and former Gov. George Pataki (R-NY).

CORRECTION 3:16 EDT 5/7/15: An earlier version of this story misstated the name of Nate Cohn as Nick Cohn.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Baltimore Riots in Wake of Police Shooting Leave City on Edge

Volunteers clean up after rioters and looters destroyed a CVS
pharmacy in Baltimore, MD.
Credit:AP Photo/Matt Rourke
Riots have left the city of Baltimore, Maryland on edge after the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray.

The drama began on April 12, when police entered a neighborhood of Baltimore known for its crime and poverty. Freddie Gray, who had a criminal record mostly for drug-related offenses and misdemeanors, ran away after seeing the police in the area, after which police officers on bicycles followed him and tackled him. Gray was arrested after being found with a switchblade, which are illegal in Maryland if concealed. Numerous accounts suggest that Gray was mistreated while in police custody, though these claims have not yet been verified. Police claim that Gray suffered a "medical emergency" while in transport.

Gray fell into a coma shortly after his arrest, and died on April 19 after surgery attempting to save his life. Gray's family has claimed that his injuries consisted of a partially severed spine, three fractured vertebrae, and an injured larynx.

Mainly peaceful protests against the police began around April 21, though skirmishes between police and protesters started soon after. Gov. Larry Hogan (R-MD) called in the national guard to patrol Baltimore and control the unrest Monday night. The unrest has caused further unrest between Hogan and Democratic Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who said she would not play "political football" after Hogan's claim that she did not respond to his phone calls, and has hindered cooperation between the governor and mayor.

Rioters have destroyed or burned numerous cars and buildings, including a CVS Pharmacy, in addition to further violent encounters with the police. The city was placed under curfew Tuesday night, fortunately without the widespread violence many had feared.

This is a developing story, and further details will be added once they become known.