Tag: obama

Trump Deploys More Troops to the Middle East

Sanders Jett-Folk | United States

Amid increasing tensions with Iran, Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan announced that 1,500 additional United States troops will be sent to the Middle East. Shanahan remarked in a statement that the extra forces are being sent to combat the “ongoing threat posed by Iranian forces.”

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Foreign Contributions: Rapper Charged With Funneling Money to Democrats

Joe Trotter | United States

Former Fugees rapper Pras Michel was charged on Friday with funneling millions of dollars in illegal foreign contributions to Democratic candidates and groups in the 2012 elections.

In a four-part indictment, the Justice Department alleges that Michel and his co-conspirators gave 20 individuals over $850,000 to distribute under their names to Democrat campaigns. This practice, known as using “straw-donors,” is used to avoid contribution limits and donor disclosure requirements.

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Missing Morals: How a Single Story Leads Us Towards War

Ryan Lau | @agorisms

When crafting important documents and speeches, leaders have the difficult task of unifying a country around them. Some notable and widely successful examples of such include Nelson Mandela’s famous “I Am Prepared to Die” speech, and Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. In both cases, ordinary citizens took the words to heart, seeking radical change to an oppressive system.

However, leaders are also capable of using this influence for negative events. President Obama’s speech at MacDill Air Force Base, “Remarks by the President on the Administration’s Approach to Counterterrorism”, serves as a sinister example of how a single story can be used for the sake of harm. By taking advantage of his platform as president, Obama was able to reach an audience unlike any other; even the most popular news networks and nongovernmental figures have a cap on ideologues supporting them, but President Obama was able to truly reach all of America. Without a doubt, the president is guilty of the same concept: creating a single story. By painting Middle Eastern countries as aggressors, and the United States as a bringer of justice, the president created a story that dangerously ignored the real truths of American imperialism.

The Danger of a Single Story

Recalling her past in a brilliant Ted Talk, Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie makes an excellent note of the risk of a single story. She defines a single story as defining a group of people as “only one thing, over and over again”. This means that a single story exists when an individual applies one stereotype about a group to the whole group, thus making often-faulty generalizations about that group as a whole.

In her case, existing biases and prejudices led to fundamental misunderstandings about critical parts of her identity and that of those around her. In college, for example, her roommate believed her to be very misfortunate due to her African origins. This, of course, was not the case, as Adichie came from a middle-class family that had seen some exposure to Western culture. Though not catastrophic in nature, the misunderstandings present, such as these stereotypes, clearly inhibited her roommate’s ability to make an informed judgment about her. The concept of a single story and subsequent dangers thereof are clearly present in the words of President Obama’s speech.

Misleading Information

To begin, the president outlines some particularly alarming, and often misleading statistics about his time in office. Specifically, he declares that in his tenure, there “has not been a day when a terrorist organization or some radicalized individual was not plotting to kill Americans.” On a purely technical level, this is not a lie. But as Adichie explains, a single story deals with incomplete, rather than false, information. In this case, the single-story present here is incredibly biased towards American interests and fails to take into account American flaws. Specifically, it leaves out the important moral distinction that the United States was, in many cases, the source of violence.

At the time of this speech, in 2016, the United States had ground troops actively fighting in five countries. President Obama had recently authorized drone strikes in an additional three. Is it any wonder that, when the American government is actively killing civilians and soldiers alike across eight countries on two continents, some of them would want to fight back?

Acting in Self Defense

After all, not one of these outbreaks of war is in the United States. In the history of the world, seldom has a people simply laid down their weapons and allowed a foreign aggressor to take full control of their land. Rather, they fight back when invaded. Yes, that means that they may have a desire to kill Americans, which is morally reprehensible in and of itself. However, the fact that the Americans were in Iraq and Afghanistan in the first place significantly takes away the ethos of President Obama’s implicit suggestion that the United States was the real victim.

Considering that Iraq was not behind 9/11, and the military never found any weapons of mass destruction in the country, it is more than apparent that, in this case especially, the United States was an aggressor, not a defender.

An Opponent of War?

On the contrary, some may state that President Obama, unlike President Bush, who approved the war in Iraq, opposed the Iraq War. Yet, this point similarly portrays the same single, incomplete story. Upon further scrutiny, both dissolve. As for the first point, it is entirely true that Barack Obama opposed the Iraq War in 2002. The important distinction to make, however, is that he opposed it as a private citizen, and upon entering the Senate in 2005, and eventually the Presidency in 2009, his opposition quickly faded.

By 2007, then-Senator Obama voted against a measure that would give $120 billion in funding for the Iraq War, but then supported a bill that gave the same amount of money towards it with a troop withdrawal timetable. By now, his tolerance of war, even temporarily, begins to become more clear. And as stated above, the president actually increased the number of Middle Eastern countries in which the United States military was present, despite the fact that none of those additional countries had attacked Americans on their home soil. Thus, his temporary opposition to one particular war, while in a position of no power, is entirely inconsequential when compared to his actions in office, which overwhelmingly supported and furthered wars.

Not All Muslims

Admittedly, President Obama’s speech also incorporates what appears to be a call to avoid a single story of Muslims. Explaining how important it is to ignore the stereotype that Muslims are terrorists, he brilliantly states, “If we stigmatize good, patriotic Muslims, that just feeds the terrorists’ narrative.” This point is without any structural or moral flaw and therefore is perfectly valid.

Furthermore, he mentions the importance of recognizing that there are “over a billion Muslims around the world” who are not violent, which is also true. But, it is still not an adequate refutation, as it addresses an entirely different issue. The president was not guilty of stereotyping Muslims as terrorists; rather, he is guilty of stereotyping all who shoot at American troops in the Middle East as terrorists.

The president still defines the term ‘terrorist’ too broadly, but instead of including all Muslims in the definition, he includes all Middle Eastern citizens acting in self-defense against American imperialism. However, one cannot logically consider someone acting in true self-defense to be a terrorist. Following that measure, we would have to define the Founding Fathers as terrorists, too. By failing to exclude this defining factor from his statement, President Obama once more does not take into account the immoralities of his actions and those of his troops.

American Interests

Surely, it would run diametrically opposed to the interests of President Obama, and of his country, for him to use such harsh words against America. It is understandable, though not excusable, that he crafted language in this particular way, in order to get Americans to view his actions through the American stereotype of defending freedom. Nonetheless, it is absolutely essential, when seeking to avoid more casualties than are absolutely necessary, to recognize that a single story does not hold all of the information necessary to make full judgments.

Unfortunately, the above example is not the sole occurrence of the president’s reliance on a single story to mask the true nature of events. Throughout the speech, he uses the same strategy multiple times. The next major occurrence relates to a clear contradiction on the function of both the presidency and the institution of war. In the speech, President Obama states, “The most solemn responsibility for any president is keeping the American people safe. In carrying out that duty, I have sent men and women into harm’s way.”

There is a quite clear, albeit likely intentional contradiction in this statement. Simply put, sending American people in danger does not keep American people safe. Going beyond this, however, the narrative of a single story once again becomes clear. As President of the United States, it was his job to guard the interests of his own people. However, it was also his role to follow the outlines of the Geneva Convention, which critically condemn the killing of civilian lives, regardless of national origin.

Were We at Fault?

In order for Obama’s words to paint an accurate picture, rather than one diluted side of the story, then the averted civilian death toll resulting from his actions must surpass the actual one that followed them. In Iraq alone, the civilian death toll from 2009 to 2016 was over 82,000. Admittedly, some of these deaths were due to suicide bombings, but such a factor does not begin to account for every casualty. Once again, it is critical to note that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and that the nation played no role in the 9/11 terror attacks.

Thus, it is extremely improbable, given the clear military superiority of the United States by both budget and nuclear capability, that the Middle Eastern country could have possibly inflicted anywhere near the same number of civilians casualties as America did to it. It, therefore, follows necessarily that these words, though not untrue, are incomplete and rely once more on the American stereotype. Where he may have been looking out for American interests (though even this much requires rectifying a glaring contradiction), he fails to mention the equal interests of the lives of those who suffered under the might of the United States. In doing so, morality simply slips away from the discussion.

The Fight Against Al-Qaeda

Additionally, President Obama created a single story when speaking of his efforts to fight Al-Qaeda. Later in the speech, he boldly claims that “core Al-Qaeda – the organization that hit us on 9/11 – is a shadow of its former self.” Obviously, this is meant to portray Al-Qaeda, the group legitimately responsible for 9/11, as the enemy, and he is absolutely correct in placing this blame here. But do his actions regarding the group match this sentiment? Appallingly, such is not the case. Not only does the United States not unilaterally oppose Al-Qaeda, but instead, in Yemen, the two effectively fight on the same side.

Since 2015, towards the end of President Obama’s second term in office, war broke out between the government of Yemen and the Houthi rebels, who sought to overthrow it. Not long after, Saudi Arabia joined in with a multinational coalition to fight on the side of the incumbent Hadi government. This coalition has since bombed hundreds of civilians, including children on a school bus. Among one of the countries giving the coalition aid in the form of money, weapons, vehicles, and mid-air support on drone strikes is the United States.

Teaming Up with Terrorists

However, this is not the only form of assistance that the United States has given. Beginning in 2016, Al-Qaeda entered the conflict, also on the side of the Hadi: the same side as the United States. Over a span of two years, the American military, first under the direction of President Obama, arranged agreements with Al-Qaeda.

On numerous occasions, according to an Associated Press study, the United States paid the terrorist group to leave cities in Yemen. In other instances, they allowed them to keep looted weapons and money while retreating, even calling off drone strikes against the militants. President Obama, as well as any other government official, has yet to justify these actions. In fact, he has yet to speak out about them. His actions, without a doubt, only strengthen Al-Qaeda, allowing them an increased presence in the Middle East and an increased ability to attack the United States. But, in the address, President Obama makes no mention of this.

Though the total influence of Al-Qaeda may have lessened in recent years, the full story reveals that the president himself oversaw, or at least failed to prevent, his own military arming and protecting the very terrorists he alleges to fully oppose. This, clearly, avoids the full story of American intervention, instead only focusing on the common belief of Americans as victims, and those in the Middle East as aggressors. In reality, though, it is vice versa in this situation.

A Dangerous Story

Certainly, President Obama’s 2016 remarks on counterterrorism create a dangerously one-sided story, creating additional, undeserved sympathy for Americans due to a lack of the full story. Where Adichie suffers due to the creation of single stories, so do tens of thousands of Middle Eastern civilians. Perhaps, with a full representation of the story, and a path away from unjust stereotyping and overgeneralization, some of these individuals would not need to perish.

Yet, there is still hope. Full stories exist in multitudes, and can often rectify biased or prejudiced accounts of events. In a world of war, rejecting single stories, seeking many perspectives, and fairly applying them may truly bring peace.

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The Danger of Giving a Good Man Power

Jack Shields | United States

I recently re-watched Black Panther, and it’s a solid 7/10. Good but not great. Someone had to say it. The Dark Knight is the best superhero movie ever, and that is a fact not an opinion. And anyone that says Black Panther is the best MCU movie desperately needs to rewatch Ironman, The Avengers, The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1, Civil War, Thor: Ragnarok, and Infinity War. But besides being a good movie, Black Panther shows us the dangers of allowing a good man to have power; teaching us that we need to preserve our system of checks and balances despite our desires to have items on our own personal legislative agenda passed.

The movie begins with T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) becoming the king of Wakanda after the death of his father T’Chaka (John Kani) in Civil War. T’Chaka was a good king, and it appears T’Challa will follow in his footsteps. In fact, Wakanda has been blessed with an abundance of good kings. Through their wisdom and intelligence, and a fair bit of Adamantium, Wakanda has built itself into secluded paradise superior to all other countries with technology that makes Tony Stark’s suits seem crude and elementary. This paradise becomes disrupted by T’Chaka’s cousin, Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), who successfully challenges T’Chaka for the throne, becoming the new king of Wakanda. Overnight, Wakanda goes from a peaceful, isolationist nation to power-hungry nation preparing for war. Despite many powerful people such as General Okoye (Danai Gurira) wishing to stop Killmonger from pursuing his evil goals, they were not only helpless to do so but forced to comply. It wasn’t until T’Challa miraculously reappears after escaping death and taking back the mantle of the Black Panther that peace is restored. How could a country go from paradise to nightmare, to paradise so quickly? It had a weak system of government that gave the man in charge too much power. T’Challa was an absolute monarch. A tyrant. A benevolent tyrant, but a tyrant all the same. The system was foolishly designed to give the king absolute, unchecked power and pray he uses it wisely and mercifully.  As soon as a king came into power with malicious intent, there was nothing that could be done. Because the mechanisms which were necessary to properly restrict liberty and impose tyranny were already in place.

Black Panther is, of course, a comic book movie, and it’s not likely as much time was spent making sure Wakanda’s government was designed to protect liberty as was spent making sure Black Panther looked awesome when he punched someone. But the lesson that we shouldn’t create mechanisms which can be used to impose tyranny when a good person is in power stands and is further supported upon examination of the most brutal dictatorships in human history, the most extreme example being Adolf Hitler. Germany under the Weimar Republic was not some free paradise which turned into a genocidal nightmare as soon as Hitler showed up. The mechanisms Hitler used were already there albeit used to a lesser extent. As reported by National Review’s Stephen P. Halbrook, “In 1931, Weimer authorities… authorized the registration of all firearms and the registration thereof, if required for ‘public safety.’” In 1933, Hitler and the Nazis took charge and promptly used this law to conduct mass searches and confiscations of the firearms of political dissidents and Jews. From there the Nazis were able to revoke the gun licenses for Social Democrats, ban independent gun clubs while arresting their leaders, and prohibit Jews from being given firearm permits, all without having to change a single law. Hitler was also able to gain absolute political power with the laws of his predecessors. As shown in Nazis Conspiracy and Aggression Vol. I, Ch. VII on February 28, 1933, the Nazis were able to use Article 48(2) of the German Constitution to suspend Articles 114, 115, 117, 118, 123, 124, and 153 which were the rights to personal freedom, inviolability of the home, protection of the secrecy of letters and other communications, freedom of speech and of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, and the right to private property respectively. From there the constitution was utilized to make the executive power infallible and uncheckable, and Germany became a one-party state. The stage was set for the horrors to come. This was all because the German people created a government with too much power and relied on the fact that their leaders would be too nice to use the power to its full potential.

In a less extreme example, this problem is relevant to how we as a nation are treating the Presidency. The President is becoming more and more powerful and is now seen by many as our great leader who will solve all our problems for us as we cede him more and more legislative power. Want tariffs, immigration reform, foreign agreements, or to attack a sovereign nation? Forget Congress, the President will do it! This has led to an epidemic of having an unstable quasi-monarch instead of a President. President Obama had “a pen and a phone” which was used to blow up Libya, create DACA, join the Paris Agreement, and create the Iran Deal. All while Republicans sat there horrified and Democrats cheered. But a legacy built by a pen and a phone can be torn down by a pen and a phone as we are seeing currently. President Trump has chosen to use his pen and phone to impose tariffs, blow up Syrian military bases, consider ending birthright citizenship, get out of the Paris Agreement, and get out of the Iran Deal. All while those once cheering Democrats sit horrified and the Republicans have their time to cheer. A system of instability has been built wherein major policies with huge implications are rewritten based on the opinions of one man every four to eight years, as they amass more and more power. A worst case scenario where the Presidency is growing more and more powerful, and instead of getting another Obama type or Trump type we get a Hitler type, who now already has the mechanisms at his disposal to successfully implement his desired tyranny.

Any system, no matter how poorly designed, can survive and quite possibly thrive under a Washington, Lincoln, or T’Challa. But when designing a system of government we ought to strive to create one that can endure a Hitler, Stalin, or Killmonger. We have a natural urge to get things which are important to us done, and if we like the guy in power we are willing to give him the power necessary to do just that. But the positive consequences of a good man wielding absolute power are clearly outweighed by the negative consequences of a bad man with such power. Those Republicans and Democrats who cheer when their guy does something they like should think more long-term and realize that eventually the other guy is going to be in power and will also be able to wield that power- and they aren’t going to like how he uses it. When wondering if a leader you like should have more power, consider their rival, and if you would not be comfortable with both of them having such power, don’t give it to them. Keep the President only having the powers absolutely necessary to run the executive and nothing more and you keep your freedom. Because you’re not giving the power to Trump, you’re giving it to the Office of the Presidency, and you may not always like the President and he may not always like you. Learn to love the gridlock. Love checks and balances. We have been blessed with the greatest system of government ever devised which has kept tyranny at bay. Let’s keep it that way.

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Dale Kerns is Pennsylvania’s Best Chance at Liberty

Francis Folz | United States

Pennsylvania has a woeful history of nominating less than deserving candidates to run for its senior US Senate seat. In 2006, the GOP once again nominated the socially conservative neocon Rick Santorum to run for a third term, which Pennsylvanians decisively denied him by a 17.3 percent margin loss to incumbent Bob Casey Jr, his Democrat opponent.

In 2012, Tom Smith successfully won the Republican primary, despite being a Democrat for 42 years and raising taxes on his community nearly 10 times, according to some sources. Pennsylvanians rejected Smith’s candidacy by 9.1 percent that November, as he lost to Democrat Bob Casey Jr. Comparatively, Mitt Romney finished behind Obama by only 5.4 percent in the Keystone Commonwealth.

And in 2018, it appears the Republican Party is going to hand Bob Casey Jr. yet another term because, apparently, the best Republicans can offer is Lou Barletta. Despite 41 percent of Pennsylvanians approving of Bob Casey’s work and only a dismal 30 percent believing Bob deserves a third term, Senator Casey maintains double-digit leads over Lou Barletta in every poll.

In fact, RealClearPolitics’ average for the race indicates Mr. Casey would crush Mr. Barletta by a 16 percent landslide. The entire Swamp, from Mike Kelly to the Pennsylvania GOP, even President Trump, has endorsed Lou, despite Pennsylvania’s objection.

FreedomWorks and Conservative Review are two right-leaning, liberty-oriented websites that provide scorecards for every federal politician. Both websites are nonpartisan and analyze key votes our legislators partake in and compare the results to how they align with American ideals such as our Constitution, liberty, privacy, and free enterprise.

Lou Barletta currently has a 59% score with FreedomWorks in 2018 (his lifetime score is an appalling 51%). If you ask Conservative Review, he fairs even worse with a 43% F. To put those numbers in perspective, Bob Casey Jr.’s 2018 FreedomWorks score is 9% (he has a 4% lifetime score) and a 6% F from Conservative Review.

There are innumerable examples of Bob and Lou align against Pennsylvania’s common good. Both men voted for the $1.3 trillion omnibus (money you, me, and our grandchildren don’t have.)

Both legislators voted to trample our 4th Amendment right to privacy by reauthorizing the bulk collection of every single phone call, email, text message, and social media post you have ever generated known as FISA 702. 9/11 was almost two decades ago, and every al-Qaeda member that took part in the heart-breaking, despicable tragedy is dead, so I don’t know how either candidate can justify continuing to spy on innocent Americans.

In addition, both politicians voted to reinstate wasteful, taxpayer-funded earmarks (remember the bridge to nowhere? Yeah, that’s an example of an earmark). Lou voted against the USA RIGHTS Act which would have strengthened every Americans’ constitutional and human 4th Amendment right to privacy.

Earlier this year, Bob Casey voted in step with the establishment, voting against the Federal Reserve Transparency Act. The Swamp loathed that bill because it would have forced the Fed to come clean on its role in the Great Recession, what it spends trillions of dollars on, and what actions it has taken to lead us towards another great recession. One would think the GOP and DNC wouldn’t support such subpar quality candidates, but sadly, that is not the case.

“We need… no pale pastels, but bold colors” – Ronald Reagan

It is for these reasons that commonsense Pennsylvanians must ditch the two parties and vote for the real anti-establishment, anti-swamp candidate Dale Kerns. Mr. Kerns is a robust advocate for liberty and privacy, the only candidate in the race who can boast that. After all, his motto is “Nobody can run your life better than YOU!” That alone should convince commonsense Pennsylvania’s to abandon the two establishment candidates who repeatedly vote to control our lives and take away our state’s sovereignty.

If you go to Mr. Kerns’ website and read through the issues he highlights, it’s pretty clear Pennsylvania should elect such a principled man. For example, Bob Casey and Lou Barletta have done nothing to stop our federal prison population from exploding to 800% its size from 40 years ago, which has a profound impact on all people, especially those of color. Mr. Kerns approaches drug abuse as the disease it is by sponsoring treatment instead of imprisonment over a victimless crime.

When it comes to the economy and jobs, Mr. Kerns wants to eliminate the tyrannical IRS and revise our tax code even further so it is as simple as a postcard. Also, he confronts the Federal Reserve, something neither Bob Casey nor Lou Barletta would ever do, and its role in devaluing our currency 96% since 1913. There are plenty more positions on Mr. Kerns’ website which make it abundantly clear why he is the only candidate in 2018 deserving of Pennsylvanian’s support.

Mr. Kerns caught many Twitter users by surprise October 1st by proposing to amend the constitution to abolish eminent domain, property taxes (you know, the rent you pay to live on Uncle Sam’s land), and legalized government theft known as civil asset forfeiture. It is also worthy to note he is the only candidate to propose shrinking the size of government by eliminating multiple unconstitutional agencies and departments.

But Third Parties…

But you may still be thinking, yes he may be the best candidate in the race, but he has no chance of winning. In 2016, nobody thought Trump was going to reach 270 electoral votes, let alone receive over 300 and be the first Presidential Republican candidate to carry Pennsylvania since 1988.

The idea that a third party candidate can’t win because the individual is running in a third party is the biggest con in the two-party system playbook. You see, the two-party duopoly is never going to admit if enough people vote their conscience, a third party candidate can and will win because they would lose their stranglehold on our election outcomes.

It is no wonder Gary Johnson was barred from the presidential debates in 2016, despite numerous polls showing the majority of Americans yearning for a third person on the stage. The D.C. establishments knew if a third person presented ideas Americans could rally behind, Gary Johnson could have been elected, endangering our archaic system.

The logic the Swamp employs to eliminate competition is that third-party candidates can’t win elections for no other reason than the individual is running under a third party banner. Thus, the majority of voters don’t believe a third party can win an election, which is why a plurality of people don’t vote for a third party candidate. If the majority of citizens believe this lie, it perpetuates itself until that is the only outcome in every election.

What about my affiliated party…

It’s in the DNC’s and GOP’s best interest that we don’t vote for their candidates. If Pennsylvanians continue their complacent support of poor, undeserving candidates, it only emboldens the two parties to continue subjecting us to shoddy choices.

According to all polls conducted thus far, Lou Barletta trails Casey by over 10 points or more. So theoretically, doesn’t Mr. Kerns have the same odds of winning as Mr. Barletta? I mean, statistically, right now both would stand to lose against Mr. Casey.

Conceptualize for a second that only 20% of Pennsylvanians decide enough is enough, and we are not going to lend our votes to substandard candidates. The results would look something like 46% Bob Casey, 34% Lou Barletta, & 20% Dale Kerns.

In future elections, both parties would be forced to nominate better candidates since it’d be evident Pennsylvanians of all strides will not tolerate poor-quality contenders. The GOP would be coerced to reconcile and nominate a candidate in 2024 that has the potential to win that other 20% of voters, and same with the DNC.

So in other words, voting for Dale Kerns is the only way to ensure that our two mainstream parties don’t continue to give us mediocre choices in future elections. And since 47% of Americans are willing to vote for a third party, if enough Pennsylvanians decide to swing for the fences and elect Dale, Mr. Kerns will win, forcing the other two parties to put up even better, more competitive candidates in the future.

The future of Pensylvania…

Now more than ever, Pennsylvanians must choose which means more to us. Is it our principles, future generations, and our country’s wellbeing or is it our mainstream, elitist political parties, the Swamp, and the “lesser of the two evils”?

Evil is always evil, no matter how lesser it may seem. We have given our consent to mediocrity over and over again to the point where Republicans might as well cross out Lou Barletta’s name and replace it with “Bob Casey Jr-lite”.

I believe my principles, the future of my children not yet born, and our magnificent country are worth more than falling in line behind the red or blue team. That is why I will be voting for Dale Kerns and why every Pennsylvanian must rally around him too, no matter the preconceived odds of him winning.

My biggest regret would be trying to explain to my grandchildren my political party meant more to me than my principles and their future, and in the end, my party did nothing for me and that is why their future is so bleak.

“One man with courage is a majority” – Thomas Jefferson

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