Democrats Discuss: Thoughts and prayers are easier than gun control for GOP

Four hundred.

That’s how many people have been shot in the 200 school shootings that have occurred since Sandy Hook.

On Feb. 14, Marjory Stoneman Douglas became the latest, and the deadliest, site of seven school shootings this year, resulting in the deaths of 17 people.

Republicans’ response? They offered their thoughts and prayers, of course.

Elected officials ranging from Sen. Rob Portman to Rep. Steve Stivers seem able to offer only positive thinking and prayers instead of comprehensive solutions to the issue of gun violence in this country. If they cannot put forth answers to the problem, then maybe it is finally time to vote them out.

But in their place, we cannot afford to continue to support these pro-gun politicians who favor guns over human lives. This standard should also extend to Democrats. In the 2018 gubernatorial primary, four Democratic candidates are running. One of them has an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund — and he’s leading in the polls.

In January, the 1984 Society conducted a poll that showed former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray leading by seven points. Unsurprising to many who have followed the race, Cordray’s lead seemed natural. He has statewide name recognition, experience fighting for consumers and the nationwide support from people such as former President Obama and Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

But after the Stoneman Douglas shooting, Cordray’s history with guns resurfaced and has left many questioning whether they could support a candidate with such a strong pro-gun stance. The answer is simple: They shouldn’t.

The Buckeye Firearms Association endorsed Cordray in his race for Ohio Attorney General in 2010 over Mike DeWine, citing Cordray’s support for concealed carry reciprocity agreements and his filings in his first term as AG to protect Second Amendment rights. That was contrasted with DeWine’s status as one of the “Top 10 Anti-Gun Senators,” the only Republican to have made the list.

On Feb. 19, Cordray posted his solutions to gun violence in response to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting, specifically advocating for the ban of bump stocks, increased security in schools and a crackdown on illegal gun trafficking. Yet, the majority of his vague statement closely resembled remarks from those Republican officials currently being scolded for their inadequate responses; and on the topic of AR-15s amidst demands to ban them, his post was oddly silent.

How can we in good conscience support a candidate with an “A” rating from the NRA and endorsements from the same pro-gun groups who want nothing done in response to these mass shootings? How can Democrats criticize Republicans for their simple “thoughts and prayers” answer and then prop up a candidate who will give us more of the same?

Cordray’s solution to gun violence is nothing but the same type of vague political rhetoric spewed by Republicans to avoid stepping on the toes of their donors and pro-gun constituents who decide the fate of their elections. Though talk of stepping up security in schools and cracking down on illegal trafficking of guns could be a temporary solution, this distracts from the real, long-term reform that we need.

It is time for Democrats to stand strong on common sense gun control. If Cordray isn’t prepared to step up to the plate, then perhaps he doesn’t deserve our votes this spring.

This article originally appeared in The Post ( Ashley Fishwick is a senior studying English pre-law and political science at Ohio University. 

Democrats Discuss: Rob Porter and the standard of the president

Rob Porter is a name that has been unable to leave national headlines the past few days. For those who are unfamiliar, Porter was the White House staff secretary and assistant to the president for the Trump administration starting Jan. 20, 2017. He was responsible for drafting President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address and all paper flow to the president.

It has recently been brought to light that Porter allegedly abused his two ex-spouses. Pictures of the abuse circulated the internet and caused an uproar from both sides of the aisle.

The White House defended him the first couple of days after the story broke, saying that he would not be terminated. However, he later was asked to resign.

The controversy continued to be front-page news as people began to question how Porter could have possibly been allowed to work in the White House due to those accusations.

For days, the White House claimed to not know about the alleged abuse cases. Christopher Wray, the FBI director, however, contradicted the White House’s statement Tuesday in a testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee where he stated that the FBI gave the White House a detailed background check on Porter in late July. That resulted in Porter’s security clearance being denied in September.

The fact that a White House official was allowed to continue working amid allegations of physical abuse and without any security clearance should be very concerning to all Americans. On top of that, the fact that the White House essentially concealed an employee’s allegations of domestic abuse is disturbing at best.

The White House has continually let down its citizens by putting people in power who are unfit to lead our country. We have seen this time and time again; Steve Bannon who has white supremacist beliefs, Betsy DeVos who has no background in public education, Sean Spicer who continuously misled the public during press debriefings and now, Rob Porter, a man who allegedly abused his two ex-wives.

Let us not forget that Trump has been accused by 19 women of sexual assault along with the infamous “p—y tape” which was leaked during the campaign. We have already seen the well-deserved crucifixion of predators, whether it be in Hollywood or within the realm of politics. But why are we ignoring the man on top? Has he reached such an untouchable status that his accusers voices don’t matter?

While potentially unpopular, it is hard to not draw the conclusion that Trump should not hold office based on the accusations against him. The White House knew Porter was a potentially dangerous man, someone who was capable of giving his wife a black eye, months before it hit the news.

If the story hadn’t broke — if Porter’s ex-wife hadn’t come forward — this man would still be a White House Staff Secretary working beside a man whose actions don’t discourage such behavior.

If we are holding Hollywood moguls and other household names to this standard, why aren’t we holding the president of the United States to the same?


This article originally appeared in The Post ( Kailee Missler is a freshman studying journalism strategic communications at Ohio University.

Democrats Discuss: The opioid crisis is tearing Ohio apart, and medical marijuana could bring it back together

The opioid crisis is destroying Ohio.

Prescription painkillers such as Percocet and Vicodin have left many Ohioans addicted to powerful opioids. When people can no longer afford opioids or are denied refills, they often turn to heroin or Fentanyl sold illegally on the streets. 

It is estimated that 80 percent of heroin users started on an opioid. When people switch to these powerful drugs, overdoses are common. In 2016 alone, 4,050 Ohioans died from unintentional overdoses, the second most per capita in the nation behind only West Virginia. 2017 is expected to outpace those numbers. 

This epidemic has several trickle-down effects. The foster care system is overburdened from the influx of children into the system after their parents overdosed. Local government budgets have busted do to the need to purchase large quantities of Narcan, the drug used to revive people who have overdosed. Lost labor productivity from people addicted to opioids cannot be defined yet, although the impact is expected to be significant. Ohio needs answers, and it needs them now. 

Fortunately, Ohio has already taken a step in the right direction. 

In 2016, the Ohio state legislature legalized marijuana for medical purposes. The law allows for marijuana dispensaries — where patients with a prescription can have the prescription filled — to set up in certain places across the state. The state does not allow for smokable marijuana, but edibles, oils, vaporization and patches are permitted. This offers a great way for Ohioans to get the medicine they need for the pain they have. 

At face value, this law may seem like a good option for Ohioans. However, the Republican-led Ohio legislature has added on very strict regulations that makes it incredibly difficult for the average Ohioan to obtain medical marijuana, should they need it. 

Ohio has limited the amount of dispensaries to just 60 for the entire state. With a population of 11.61 million, that is one dispensary for every 193,500 Ohioans. For comparison, there are 1,000 medical marijuana dispensaries in California for 39.25 million people, or one dispensary for every 39,350 Californians. (California had the eighth-fewest overdose deaths per capita in 2016.)

There are only 21 qualifying conditions for medical marijuana. Among them are potentially life-threatening diseases, such as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, cancer, HIV, AIDS and Alzheimer’s. There are also less life-threatening diseases, such as Crohn’s Disease, fibromyalgia and sickle cell anemia. Perhaps the most odd condition on the list is chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, the disease plaguing football players that can only be diagnosed after death. The most common qualifying condition listed that people could fall under is “chronic pain.” However, that is very vague and left up for physicians to decide what counts as chronic.

What’s problematic with this law is that there are incredible regulations on what conditions qualify for medical marijuana, while there were almost none for what conditions doctors would prescribe opioids for. However, marijuana does not exhibit the same kind of negative side effects opioids, yet it is still effective in pain management.

Ohio has the resources and tools to combat the opioid epidemic. Medical marijuana is an effective tool for pain management while not giving the nasty side effects of addiction. Our lawmakers need to take note and help Ohioans.

This article originally appeared in The Post ( Bailey Williams is a sophomore studying economics at Ohio University.

Democrats Discuss: GOP tax bill attacks higher education

At 2 a.m. Saturday morning, the Senate passed its version of the tax reform bill. The 479-page bill was given to Senate Democrats only hours before the vote, despite requests by Democrats to postpone until Monday in order to read the lengthy legislation.  The request was denied by Republican leadership.

While there are many negative components to the Senate tax reform bill, such as adding $1.5 trillion to the deficit, increasing taxes for much of the middle class in eight to ten years, and tax cuts for the top 1 percent, an important component for college students to discuss is how this new legislation will end up affecting undergraduate and graduate students.

The tax bill removes many benefits that enable students of disparate backgrounds to participate in graduate programs. In the new bill, tuition waivers that colleges grant to their students can now be taxed. Many graduate students work as teaching assistants and researchers for their university and in return, are paid for their work. Currently, tuition waivers are not counted as taxable income. But if this portion of the legislation remains after the House and Senate reconcile the differences between their two bills, that payments will be taxed, making it harder to afford graduate school.

There are about 5,000 graduate students that attend Ohio University, many of whom are employed by OU. All of them will be affected if this tax bill is put into place.

The House version of the bill also revokes the deduction of $2,500 for interest paid on student loans, along with other deductions such as the Hope Scholarship Tax Credit, the Lifetime Learning Credit, which is up to $2,000, and employee education-assistance programs.

Higher education is already hard to afford in America and this is another attack on education accessibility. I believe that everyone should have equal access to education despite their financial situation.

Personally, I don’t have a lot of help with it comes to paying for my education. This could impact my ability to pursue graduate school or a law degree.

There is still time to voice your opinion on this issue. The House passed their version of the bill which includes the taxation on tuition waivers, while the Senate’s version did not include these factors. The bills are now in conference committee, where their differences will be settled, and the same bill will be voted on in each chamber.

Continue calling your senators and representative to tell them how this tax bill will affect you as a student.

Rob Portman’s Office Numbers:

Washington: 202-224-3353
Cleveland: 216-522-7095
Columbus: 614-469-6774
Cincinnati: 513-684-3265
Toledo: 419-259-3895

This article originally appeared in The Post ( Kailee Missler is a freshman studying strategic communications at Ohio University. 

Democrats Discuss: Hold politicians accountable for inappropriate sexual behavior

Over the past two months, more and more victims of sexual harassment and assault have come forward to identify their perpetrators. The growing list of abusers has swelled to include many prominent people, from Matt Lauer to Louis C.K., and these individuals are finally facing the consequences for years of abuse.

Yet, there is one group seemingly unaffected by the #metoo movement which seeks better accountability concerning sexual violence: politicians.

On both sides of the aisle, sexual harassment and assault appears a pervasive problem and yet, each case comes with a partisan split. When news broke of Alabama Senate Candidate Roy Moore allegedly making sexual advances on teenagers while he was in his thirties, the leader of the Republican Party and President of the United States himself rushed to his defense. Democrats criticized the party for their lack of moral fiber, but when confronted with their own reckoning, some liberals did just the same as Republicans.

Many stood by Minnesota Senator Al Franken, accused of forcing a kiss on Leeann Tweeden and groping her while she slept. Despite the photographic evidence, Democrats used Tweeden’s conservative ideology and her career as a model in efforts to discredit her.

Democratic Representative John Conyers has also been accused of sexual harassment and yet House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was unable to state whether or not she believed his accuser.

Some Democrats have used the defense that, comparatively, what Franken and Conyers allegedly did was not that bad. Yet just because what Moore is accused of was worse does not make what Franken and Conyers are accused of right.

Sexual harassment and assault should not be placed on a spectrum where victims are invalidated simply because their experience was not as bad as it could have been.

Perhaps even more troublesome is the faction of Democrats who believe the women that have come forward, but insist upon inaction. In the case of Al Franken, too many people have argued that while he took advantage of a woman, he should still remain in his Senate seat if only to fight for liberal values.

What values do liberals stand for if we continue to allow perpetrators to maintain their position? And what message does this send to those women who were brave enough to come forward that we could recognize their trauma and yet still make the case that the men who caused them so much pain should still hold so much power?

Democrats should not waiver when it comes to believing these women, but more importantly, they should not waiver on how they treat the accused based on political preference.

According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), out of 1000 cases of sexual assault, only 33 percent are reported and only 0.6 percent of perpetrators are incarcerated. The top reason for choosing not to report is a fear of retaliation. Thus, when prominent cases such as those against Franken are brought to light and people tear down the victims, it sets a dangerous precedent for continuing to accept the abuse and threatens to undo the progress that has been made these past few months.

Moving forward, we can no longer sit idly by and defend those accused of these horrendous actions. And if, as Democrats, as feminists, we say that we believe women, we need to believe all women, not just those who fit our agenda.


This article originally appeared in The Post ( Ashley Fishwick is a senior studying English Pre-Law and Political Science at Ohio University.

Democrats Discuss: New Trump healthcare policy bad for women

By Eva Holtkamp

In a brazen decision last month, the Trump Administration rolled back an Obama-era policy that required employers to include birth control coverage in their health insurance plans.

This provision of the Affordable Care Act vastly expanded access of free birth control to more than 55 million women according to a report from the Department of Health and Human Services in 2015.

The new rule, however, offers an exemption to any employer on the basis of moral or religious objections. The administration also lists other concerns supporting their decision such as health risks that may be associated with certain forms of contraception, and explicitly stating that the mandate promotes “risky sexual behavior” among young people.

Ultimately, hundreds of thousands of women could now suddenly lose contraceptive coverage if their employers choose to opt out of the policy.

This decision by the Trump administration is a direct play to the religious right. The Kaiser Family Foundation found that majority of the public, 68 percent, supported the requirement for private health insurance plans to cover the cost of birth control.

But despite this, there have been prolonged efforts from those opposed to the 2012 mandate, including a 2014 Supreme Court ruling that allowed for-profit companies to shift birth control coverage costs to insurance companies, but still prevented any out of pocket costs.

President Trump’s decision follows his party’s continuous failed attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. It is now clear that this administration is going to tear apart this landmark piece of legislation slowly rather than addressing its issues head-on.

Not only that, but this decision plainly puts the religious convictions of an employer above a woman’s right to affordable contraception. Birth control is an essential part of health care for any woman.

The fact that the Trump administration would enact such an unpopular policy that negatively effects so many Americans speaks to their unabashed disregard for the rights and health of all women.

Democrats Discuss: Trump’s reactions

By Hunter Graffice

On Oct. 31, a terrorist drove a truck down a New York bike path, killing eight and injuring 11.

Five days later on Nov. 5, a terrorist shot 26 people and injured dozens more in a Texas church.

Following both events, Trump expressed his grief and offered his condolences to the victims and their families. Although, there was a significant difference in his response, specifically, in what Trump said and what he didn’t say.

Within hours of the New York tragedy, Trump tweeted several times, calling for stricter immigration laws and implementing tougher vetting procedures. Yet, a day after the massacre in Texas, Trump said the shooting was not an issue of guns and offered no course of action whatsoever for Congress and how they’re going to deal with the issue.

One difference in the two tragedies is the race of the killer. In NYC, the man was Uzbekistani whereas in Texas, the man was Caucasian.

This seems typical of Trump. When the perpetrator of a hate crime is not American-born, Trump (and most of the media) harshly condemns them, labeling them as terrorists. Not only that, Trump tends to use the crime to criticize a whole nation of people and uses it as evidence for stricter immigration policy. However, when the killer is American-born, Trump usually focuses on prayers and calls it mental illness.

Another prominent distinction is the subject matter of the crime. With the New York attack, it was a foreign-born individual killing Americans with a vehicle. In Texas, it was an American killing Americans with guns. Both instances resulted in Americans killed, but Trump was much more critical of the situation where a gun was not present.

Trump offers no solutions when the crime is committed by guns for a multitude of reasons. He ran a pro-Second Amendment campaign and promised tougher laws on immigration and terrorists. To offer a solution to America’s gun problem would only upset his base, further lowering his already declining approval rating. Also, Trump and many GOP members are conveniently given millions of dollars by the NRA.

Trump knows that he can appease his base by promising restrictive immigration laws, but also by staying silent on gun control issues of any kind. With his base being his only supporters, Trump is desperately working to keep them satisfied. Ultimately, the American people lose as a whole when he fails to address situations equally. His reaction shows that he only cares for those who are invested in him. With intentions like that, the59 percent of Americans who disapprove of him should truly consider who is here to care for them.