Digital.com Survey: Most Consumers Unlikely to Buy from Companies with Opposing Political Views

Digital.com, a leading independent review website for small business online tools, products, and services, has published a new study to assess consumer behavior towards companies that express political views or affiliation. The survey report examines responses from 1,250 Americans ages 18 and older and highlights key points on how politics and social issues influence their buying decisions.

The study shows that 47 percent of consumers are unlikely to buy products or services from companies not aligned with their political views. Women are also more likely to make purchasing decisions based on political leanings. Fifty-three percent of women say they are unlikely to buy from companies with different political views, compared to 38 percent of men. The top reasons women consider politics when patronizing businesses are that they do not want their money to support causes they oppose, and they want it to have an impact beyond the purchase.

Similarly, women and Hispanic/Latino respondents are least likely to buy from companies that do not have stated DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) policies. The survey indicates that Forty-four percent of women and 50 percent of Hispanic/Latino shoppers will consider these policies when making a purchase. DEI policies are also important among Democrats, with 46 percent who say they are unlikely to patronize businesses that do not have them. Thirty-nine percent of independents and 29 percent of Republicans are against buying products or services from companies without DEI policies.

“Brand alignment and company values are crucial when it comes to attracting loyal customers, and this insightful data can help businesses effectively shape their policies and messaging,” says digital marketing executive Huy Nguyen. “Our study proves that American consumers prefer to spend their money with companies that share their political views and support the same causes.”

Research findings also show that sustainability issues are more significant among specific age groups. Fifty-five percent of Gen Zers, individuals ages 18-24, say they are unlikely to buy from a company that does not have a published sustainability policy. Forty-one percent of respondents aged 25 to 34 years old and 47 percent of 45 to 54-year-olds also have similar views when it comes to sustainability issues and topics.

Digital.com commissioned this study to gain insight into how political and social issues can influence consumer spending habits. Respondents were surveyed regarding their political views and the importance of a company’s political alignment and policies when making purchasing decisions. The survey was distributed on July 21, 2021 via Pollfish, the online survey platform. To access the complete report, please visit here.

 

About Digital.com

Digital.com reviews and compares the best products, services, and software for running or growing a small business website or online shop. The platform collects twitter comments and uses sentiment analysis to score companies and their products. Digital.com was founded in 2015 and formerly known as Review Squirrel. To learn more, visit their website.

Social Workers as Elected Officials and Why We Need More

Social workers play many roles. As advocates, change agents, case managers, educators, facilitators, and organizers, Social Workers play an important part in helping people and communities make positive changes in their lives. Despite their under-representation in elected positions throughout the United States, Social Workers are excellently prepared to run with these positions and build a better life for their constituents.

An Understanding of Advocacy

Elected officials represent their constituents. They must be able to understand the needs of those constituents and what it will take to get said needs met. This is the essential element of advocacy and something that Social Workers excel at. While those in other fields also learn to perform advocacy, Social Workers constantly prioritize listening to their clients and trying to understand each individual’s viewpoint.

A Large Network

Running for any elected position requires networking. With a career emphasizing the importance of social connections, many Social Workers are already involved in community groups, advocacy organizations, volunteering, and client service that can help an election campaign. Leveraging networks and connections allows one to more effectively spread their message. This is a huge benefit, both throughout the process of running for election as well as fulfilling the responsibilities of the position.

A Deep Understanding of Policy

City Councillors make policy. State legislatures write laws. Most elected officials will be working in some kind of policy writing role that requires an understanding of the impact of their decisions. The accumulated training and experience that Social Workers have makes them excellent in this role. Not only will they understand the direct effects of policies like closing schools during COVID-19 or adding a beverage tax, but they will also be aware of the less obvious effects – for example, how these changes will affect people in poverty.

Cultural Competency

More than nearly any other career, Social Work requires an in-depth assessment and awareness of personal bias. Considering the diversity of the United States, with citizens from all different walks countries, ethnicities, cultures, and linguistic backgrounds, this awareness of bias is extremely important. Social Workers can use their understanding of cultural competency to establish coalitions of diverse individuals and ensure that all stakeholders truly feel heard in a government environment that frequently does the opposite.

Conclusion

While there are 682,000 Social Workers in the United States, there are only 2 Social Work-Senators and 4 Social Work-Members of Congress. Compare that number to the 1.35 million lawyers in the United States and the 47 Lawyer-Senators and 145 Lawyer-Members of Congress. This means that there is 1 Senator-Social Worker for every 341,000 Social Workers in the United States, and 1 Member of Congress-Social Worker for every 170,500 Social Workers in the United States. On the other hand, there is one Lawyer-Senator for every 28,723 Lawyers in the United States and 1 Lawyer-Member of Congress for every 9,310 Lawyers!

Social workers are sharply underrepresented in these and various other elected positions compared to members of other career paths. Even so, based on their experiences and training, Social Workers could create very positive and impactful changes in these roles.

NASW Endorses Joe Biden for President

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) enthusiastically endorses Joe Biden for president in 2020. During his nearly 45-year career in public office, including as a U.S. Senator and Vice President, Mr. Biden has demonstrated a consistent commitment to advancing the mental health and social justice causes that are central to NASW’s mission.

Mr. Biden began his public service career as a county council member in New Castle, Del. He served in the United States Senate from 1973 to 2009 and as Vice President of the United States under President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2017.

While in the Senate, Mr. Biden supported the expansion of the state Children’s Health Insurance Program and much-needed improvements in mental health services for Veterans. He also played a key role in the passage of gun violence prevention legislation including the Brady background check bill and the subsequent ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. In addition, he wrote and spearheaded the original Violence Against Women Act.

As Vice President, Mr. Biden championed the Affordable Care Act and was a vocal supporter of marriage equality for LGBTQ individuals.

In his Build Back Better proposal, unveiled during his current campaign for president, Mr. Biden has articulated urgently needed plans to address simultaneous health, racial and economic crises that are besetting our nation.

“The 2020 election will be among the most consequential in American history,” said Angelo McClain, Chief Executive Officer of NASW. “Joe Biden brings the bold vision and extensive national and global leadership experience that will be imperative in propelling our country forward”.

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), in Washington, DC, is the largest membership organization of professional social workers. It promotes, develops, and protects the practice of social work and social workers. NASW also seeks to enhance the well-being of individuals, families, and communities through its advocacy.

6 Tips for Navigating Political Discussions at the Holiday Table

As families gear up to celebrate the winter holiday season together, a course of politics is likely their least favorite topic to dish up at the dinner table.

But two University of Nevada, Las Vegas professors say requests to pass the salt don’t have to quickly escalate into spirited debates over climate change, impeachment or immigration reform.

Katherine M. Hertlein, a professor with the Couple and Family Therapy Program in UNLV’s School of Medicine, works with clients to process their feelings and figure out how to tactfully parse through opposing views on a variety of sensitive issues — skills that may be particularly handy during the holiday season. Emma Frances Bloomfield, an assistant professor of communication studies at UNLV, has researched how people can better tailor their communication strategies when engaging on issues of the environment and climate change.

Below, they offer a few strategies for navigating potential political discord at this year’s family table.

Have realistic expectations

One of the aspects of family conversation that dysregulates us is the unrealistic expectation that family members will share our viewpoints. Part of reducing your reactivity to your family is to recognize what you can reasonably expect rather than setting yourself up for disappointment in expecting something unrealistic.

Don’t start the conversation from a point of contention

You don’t want to view your dialogue partner as inferior. It can be problematic when environmentalists or climate scientists are dismissive, or potentially patronizing to climate skeptics. That kind of dialogue can lead to climate skeptics feeling isolated and silenced. You may not agree with the skeptic, but you should still respect the person who holds the beliefs. We must listen, not just for a talking point to jump in on, but to understand the perspective they’re coming from, and what values or identities they feel are threatened by environmentalism.

Go into the conversation with a knowledge-gaining mindset, rather than a persuasive goal.

Adopt a stance of curiosity

Most people expressing their views are not doing so to purposely cause harm. Be curious about one’s stance and ask questions to fully understand their view rather than making statements yourself to keep the conversation going. This will enable you to find areas of commonality, agreement, and potential for feeling and expressing empathy.

We must listen, not just for a talking point to jump in on, but to understand the perspective they’re coming from.

Buy yourself some time

When people express views contradictory to your own, we may have a tendency to respond from an emotional rather than a balanced position. Phrases such as “I need some time to think about that; I’ll get back to you” provide you a chance to reflect on how to communicate your message in a balanced and respectful way.

Recognize the value system from which the comments originate

Part of what bonds a family is the shared set of values. While the people around the table may not agree about the way in which something should proceed, you may find that their rationale for their decision is rooted in a shared value, such as concern for children, concern for health care, etc. It may also help to consider the motivation behind one’s statements, recognizing that they are not likely intended to create harm but instead reflect good intention.

When in doubt, find a way out

If you anticipate a conversation will move you away from building a relationship and you are unable to maintain a level of psychological distance, consider using physical distance. Develop an exit plan prior to any conversation where you may anticipate difficulties. Having a plan ahead of time that you may or may not choose to use returns you to feeling like you are in a sense of control, and reduces the likelihood that you will seek to obtain control through increasing the volume or intensity of your voice.

Kamala Harris is the Fighter Our Country Needs

U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) asks a question as U.S. Attorney General William Barr testifies before a Senate Judiciary Committee. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

Senator Kamala Harris has been at the top of her game over the last week. Leading the wave, Sen. Harris has been first, clear, compelling and unrelenting in condemning Donald Trump, Brett Kavanaugh, William Barr, Mike Pompeo, and Rudy Giuliani. She has communicated her message versatilely, eloquently, and effectively. Speaking and tweeting with conviction, concision, discipline, and allure. One strong example:

“Trump’s tweets about the whistleblower represent clear intent to harass, intimidate, or silence their voice. His blatant threats put people at risk—and our democracy in danger. His account must be suspended.”

Another hard gem: “It’s been one year since the horrific, premeditated murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi Arabia. And Trump has yet to hold Saudi officials accountable. Unacceptable – America must make it clear that violence toward critics and the press won’t be tolerated.”

Sen. Harris has praised distinguished Congresspersons Maxine Waters and Al Green for long opposing the grievous mistake of giving Donald Trump a millimeter. Sen. Harris has publicly given Republican Senator Chuck Grassley credit for supporting and defending the whistleblower. She did not hesitate to sincerely wish Senator Bernie Sanders a speedy recovery, commending also Sanders’ political toughness. She has sagaciously intensified the force of her presence in Iowa. She has expanded colorfully in Nevada and New Hampshire. She sustains a hard look at South Carolina.

In her latest interviews, Sen. Harris has handled delicate matters with open, acute sensitivity as she has overpowered shade with the clarity and detail of her answers. It is as if Sen. Harris has chosen to step forward, and, standing straight and tall, say: I want you to hit me with your best shot. Please. She even wrote a letter to Jack Dorsey requesting that he consider suspending Donald Trump’s Twitter account. I clapped before chuckling. Then clapped some more. Perhaps Sen. Harris’ finest achievement of the last week, however, has been her comforting and entertaining demonstration of first-rate prosecutorial prowess.

I mean, that video of her filleting William Barr warrants a parental advisory label – not for explicit content, but for the startling and just ferocity with which she slices Barr open like a cardboard box. Her interrogation of him is both ruthless and revealing. Yet what I admire most about her prosecutorial prowess is the brilliance it magnifies. With each question posed, we see that Sen. Harris understands precisely how to press, entrap, expose, and defeat.

This week Senator Harris graces the cover of Time magazine, propounding her powerful case against four more years of Donald Trump. It is little wonder that critics are crawling out of the woodwork. Some should be stiff-armed. Others of these critics, such as Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan prod vaguely with slights and cavils and quibbles about Sen. Harris’ leadership that amount in the best case to indiscernible conclusions. I, for one, believe the Trump administration needs urgently to be subjected to the harsh punishment of a prosecutorial atmosphere. I also think that calling Donald Trump a screwball makes light of his cerebral defects and his vile bigotry.

Other critics, like Dr. Jason Johnson at The Root, appear somewhat less substantive and consistent and tend to carp and grumble in the form of snarky, backhanded compliments about the efficacy with which Senator Harris has campaigned. More thoughtful critics – David Axelrod, for example – have put forth sensible observations that might be more useful if they were offered in the context of comparison. Put differently, what specific alternatives should Harris’ consider and why? I would further challenge Mr. Axelrod to specify who, if anyone, in the Democratic field is delivering well in those areas.

Finally, we encounter seemingly naive detractors hardly worth validating. Those who ask Senator Harris tougher questions than they ask Senator Warren, on purpose, before dodging public calls for an apology from the press. Lyz Lens deserves the feedback she has received. Former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley should be less embarrassing.

The rest I spare, for now.

As we approach the fourth Democratic debate, look for Senator Harris to continue shining. We – me and all of my family – love to see it.

Emotions and Politics: Our Role to Undo Damage of Hateful Politics

Photo Credit: Common Sense Media

When I first read the news about four Congresswomen being told by the President of this nation to go back to the countries they came from, my heart sunk and I had a huge knot in my stomach. The image of every kid I have ever worked with and still work with and children I know, immediately with came to my mind—US born kids of color, kids who are immigrants —who could internalize the President’s comments as not belonging or deserving to be in this country. Those whose self-esteem, self-worth and sense of self could be damaged as well as the kids and adults who could replicate the President’s behavior and become bullies at school, work or their communities, something we have seen since he took center stage during the 2016 election cycle.

The night I heard a group of people at one of Trump’s rally chant “send her back,” referring to Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, I thought of a group of kids between 6 and 12 years old who were part of a mental health psychoeducation group I co-led, who during the 2016 election cycle had displayed symptoms of anxiety and depression over what they were hearing the new President could do to their families.

I vividly remembered the fear they expressed after President Trump had been elected, of their parents being sent home. I wondered what these children would think and feel if they heard those comments to the Congresswomen by the President and by the chanters. I wanted them to know they belong, they are loved, they matter, our diversity matters and there are many more people who love them and welcome them than others who may not.

For many of us who have been told to “go back to your country or where you belong,” there has been incredible pain we have had to overcome over feelings of not belonging, feelings of confusion, frustration, isolation, and insecurity, among others.

Twenty-four years ago, while in high school and after migrating from Honduras, I was told this phrase over and over again. Back then, I didn’t quite understand the charged meaning of that phrase but the manner, and anger the person displayed when she told me to go back said it all and it evoked a feeling of not being welcomed. It didn’t feel good, it felt threatening and I was terrified to go to school.

Luckily, I had a supportive family to go back to, other friends who looked and sounded like me and many others who expressed welcoming feelings, care and kindness. I rose above those comments, made it through high school and by the end of high school the person who had bullied me wrote a kind message on my yearbook noting that she was glad she had gotten to know me. When I was finally able to understand why someone would say something so hurtful, I came to realize that my former classmate had learned that behavior.

To hear this same racist rhetoric, two decades later by no other than the President, a figure who should symbolize a positive role model and exemplify the American values of unity, acceptance, tolerance, collaboration, inclusiveness, was astonishing, disappointing and infuriating.

The President’s Tweets reminded me of the long work we still have ahead to educate communities on topics like our right to protest as an American freedom, our right to advocate and elevate our voices when we disagree on policies, our rights as women to stand up from the sidelines and be a part of political discourse.

We have our work cut out to gain our democracy back, a democracy where we can both love our country and being an American but still denounce policies we disagree with. This election cycle let our fear and anger fuel our fire to fight for a new and inclusive leader, one that welcomes difference of opinion without attacking, bullying, minimizing and threatening those who oppose him, a leader who is not a threat to our democracy and the values we are teaching our children, a leader who we proudly want our kids to emulate.

Now, part of our role is undoing the emotional damage the Presidents politics of hate has created, particularly with our kids who are shaping their views and behaviors based on what they learn at home, school, their environments, and media. Our role is going back to the essential dinner conversations at home to understand what kids are saying, thinking about and how they may be internalizing and interpreting the information they hear in the news. Kids and adolescents depend on us to make sense and meaning out of information. As long as we are having conversations and checking in, we can create opportunities to debunk myths and misinformation.

For the rest of us, it is more important than ever before to be in community; to take to the streets, to advocate and organize when necessary while taking care of our own emotional wellbeing and seeking support from a professional when the politics of hate and division impact our mental health.

Call to Action

This petition is a collaboration between Social Workers United for Immigration and Social Workers Unraveling Racism with contributions by Hope Center for Wellness, Gardner Associates, and the support of Social Work Helper, Latin American Youth Center, American Federation of Teachers, Undocublack Network,  and CASA. The petition was part of a week long campaign of mandated reporters denouncing government child abuse and demanding action.

Please sign and/or share our petition located at http://chng.it/dc2HnCQNT5. Please, take this small step to help us make a difference.

Brexit: Paradise Lost – or Have We Forgotten?

For over a year now the UK has been wracked with a host of political scandals which rival the most intricate episodes of Yes, Prime Minister.

Yes, Britain is apparently leaving the European Union (a matter knife-edge enough). Yes, there are questions about the tenability of the Prime Minister’s position, and who will usurp her. Yes, the Paradise Papers have long ago told us what we already knew: the rich aren’t paying tax. Yes, our government is regularly implementing and justifying racist policies. But the hottest of the hot topics was, at least for a time, this:

“Why has the sexual harassment and abuse of (mostly) women been prevalent in British parliament for decades?”

Our government has been dealing with everything from rape to groping and sexual assault, sexual harassment, and sexual or inappropriate comments. Women set up a WhatsApp group specifically to share information about whom to be cautious of.

The Secretary of State For Defence (that’s right, the person responsible for defending the United Kingdom against attacks) resigned on November 1st, 2017 before the full range of allegations was even made public.

The media has, of course, sought answers, ranging from It was the culture to Women need to toughen up to a disappointingly modest mainstream smattering of power, privilege and toxic masculinity.

Some outlets have linked this (to some, unsurprising) spurt of public revelations to the infamous Harvey Weinstein allegations. This is a man whom, for decades, sexually harassed and abused (mostly) women in Hollywood. His behaviour was known-yet-unknown, referenced in public but never revealed.

Given this, Hollywood responded with the full spectrum of shock, anger, feeling ‘sad’ and ‘bad for’ Weinstein, expressing renewed curiosity about women’s dress codes and naïveté of ‘the culture we live in’. This British Bank Holiday, on the 25th May 2018, he was finally charged, with rape, sex abuse, and sexual misconduct pertaining to two women. Two.

However, we now know about comedian Louis CK, actor Steven Segal, and the once-beloved Kevin Spacey. Morgan Freeman is on the list of those accused. Heartbreakingly, there will be others to come.

To what extent can we continue to suggest it’s women’s responsibility and women’s fault – when it’s happening to a whole spectrum of people? Let’s be clear: every single accused person is a man. And we are all – no matter our personal gender – at risk of the violence of male power.

As Judith Hermann writes in her seminal work Trauma and Recovery, “It is now apparent that the traumas of one are the traumas of the other. The hysteria of woman and the combat neurosis of men are one. Recognising the commonality of affliction may even make it possible at times to transcend the immense gulf that separates the public sphere of war and politics – the world of men – and the sphere of private domestic life – of women” (p. 32).

It should be noted here that Hermann’s usage of ‘hysteria’ was of hysteria a debunked and oppressive conceptualisation of women. She discusses  how a range of traumas, apparently so different, are linked  by the political – they are characterised by fear and threat, power and violence.

Her words ring true, except now the traumatic event is the same for both men and women. The personal world of child sexual abuse – largely perpetrated by men – has become political. And, unfortunately, that is meant both metaphorically and literally.

For Britain, however, this does not follow the Hollywood accusations as some have suggested. Its cultural foundations more likely rest on the ‘watershed moment’ of the British Jimmy Savile story.

Between 2011-2013 Jimmy Savile –  an English radio, TV, and media personality who was an avid charity fundraiser – was posthumously exposed as having perpetrated prolific sexual abuse.

Some of the abuse happened live on air, with cameras rolling. Some was with unconscious and disabled children. He was buried as Sir Jimmy Saville, just two months before the truth of his abuse was unearthed to the public.

This case was unprecedented; ghastly, shocking, unspeakable and yet the country could speak of little else. The grim reality of the tale started to unravel with one small thread: a ‘handful of cases’ in the 1960s.

At first, people couldn’t believe it.

Then, eventually, nobody could question it.

His final victim count – following a snowball effect of increased confidence in reporting, public attention, support and helplines – was around 500. At least, that we know of.

It is to the shame of Britain this happened. It is to the shame of Britain nobody listened until it was too late.

Consider now the current political mess. Consider the heated discussions about everything from consensual flirting to discomfort to harassment to rape. At once point, these discussions consumed the media as much as the media is consumed by its audience. Now, the attention has cooled in light of the scandal-machine that is our current government.

However, the sexual consent movement has been built upon the backs of those who were brave enough to stand up and say: this happened. It was real. It is also built upon the humiliation and isolation we heaped upon so many hundreds of thousands of others, by not believing them in the first place.

Arguably, such open discussions about child sexual abuse could not have happened before. They repeat an age-old story, except this time people are compelled and able to hear it.

The personal is political and the political is personal. The social and cultural context for victims, survivors and survivor-victims to finally unburdening their stories is ripe. And abuse is rife.

What does this tell us? It tells us we have a problem with how we teach our men. And it tells us we have a problem with power.

Judith Hermann predicts every few decades, society can acknowledge traumas and set the stage for action and reparation. However, the unspeakable nature of trauma begs that we push it back into our collective unconscious.

And we can’t. We simply can’t let that happen. Not in my country.

The original meaning of ‘watershed’ is an area of land which separates rivers which flow in two different directions. Politically, culturally, socially, morally, we need to make sure things flow in the right direction.

Crucially, we can’t let this stop with perpetrators who are famous, who have pockets of accusers sharing their stories together for their own safety. We need to support ordinary people (ordinary women, particularly), to share their stories outside of the limelight where the public’s support is less tangible. We need to support the poor, the less ‘credible’, the young, those of ethnic, gender and sexual minorities, those already in sex work, those with ‘bad reputations’.

Let’s continue to bring those in power to task.

Let’s support and donate to groups like Refuge and Broken Rainbow, the NSPCC, and other local charities in your area. Let’s protest the closure of women’s shelters. Let’s give our gratitude to groups like Sisters Uncut. And for goodness’ sake, for all that is healthy in this world…

Stop blaming women. Stop blaming victims. Start listening. Don’t let us forget what it felt like when these allegations and stories were fresh. Let’s turn the political back personal again.

Florida Politicians Court Puerto Ricans, But Will They Vote?

Nearly a year ago, Hurricane Maria plowed through the Island of Puerto Rico causing $139 billion in damage and killing over 1,400 people. In the storm’s aftermath, it is estimated that as many as 300,000 Puerto Ricans moved to Florida. Less than three weeks after the storm the Times had already run an article headlined “An Exodus From Puerto Could Remake Florida Politics.”

Realizing there was an opportunity to be had, Politicians began their courtship with the Puerto Rican community.

Senate incumbent Bill Nelson (D) has traveled to the Island at least three times since the storm, and he has released at least one video ad in Spanish. His challenger, Rick Scott (R) has gone at least five times, and Scott has also released a number of video ads in Spanish appealing to Puerto Rican voters. Both candidates’ websites have a Spanish translation option and press releases written in Spanish.

Scott has secured an endorsement from Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico, Jenniffer González-Colón (R). However, the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico is a non-voting member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Not to be outdone, Nelson has been endorsed by former governors of Puerto Rico Pedro Rosselló and Alejandro Garcia Pedro Rosselló, and San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz.

In a state where a lot of elections are decided by 1% or less, it’s no surprise that Florida Politicians have reached out to the Puerto Rican community ahead of November’s midterm elections.

Although Politicians are paying considerable attention to the Puerto Rican community, there have been reports that fewer Puerto Ricans are registering to vote than predicted.

Jose Luis Rivera, co-founder and former President of the Puerto Rican Student Association at the University of Central Florida, doesn’t think the influx in Puerto Ricans will have much of an impact on the midterm elections. “The election system in Puerto Rico is different than here. They won’t want to spend the time learning about elections,” he said. “Right now people are worried about getting housing, getting a job, getting settled.”

In the nine months before the storm, about 62,000 Hispanics registered to vote in Florida. In the 9 months after Maria, almost 69,000 Hispanics have registered to vote. The State of Florida’s voting statistics do not break down Hispanics into subgroups, so it is unknown how many of the additional 7,000 voters were Puerto Ricans. According to the Pew Research Center, Puerto Ricans accounted for 27% of the Hispanic voters in Florida during the 2016 election.

Jimmy Torres, coordinator for  Boricua Vota in Central Florida, an organization devoted to increasing Puerto Rican participation in the U.S. political process, questions those statistics. “There’s a tendency to exaggerate numbers,” he said. “If you say 200,000 Puerto Ricans came to Florida after Maria, which is non-scientific proof … but if you go and establish the real number and you subtract the people that cannot vote, the number is pretty good.”

Mr. Torres has a point. Some estimate the number of Puerto Ricans that moved to Florida in the storm’s wake at 50,000 instead of 300,000.

Nevertheless, it is unclear what Mr. Torres meant by “pretty good.” When pressed he told me, “I heard from some people that over 200,000 Latinos have registered (since the last election) and out of the 200,000 Latinos, there are probably 80% of them are Puerto Ricans.” He qualified his answer by indicating he was not the best person to ask.

It’s also unclear how Puerto Ricans will vote come November. A recent study of Puerto Ricans living in Florida, conducted by Eduardo A. Gamarra and Jorge Dunay, in conjunction with Florida International University, showed that 57% were registered as Democrats, 17% as independents, 13% as don’t know, and only 10.7% of respondents said they registered as Republicans.

In the same study, however, in response to the question “What is your opinion of Rick Scott,” roughly 80% said they have a good opinion or a very good opinion of him, whereas only 56% said they have a good opinion or a very good opinion of Senator Nelson.

Making things even more complicated, one of Puerto Rico’s two major political parties, The New Progressive Party, was formerly called the Puerto Rican Republican Party. “I think in a lot of sense both parties are considered leaning toward the Democratic part,” said Torres, but “when they come here, they register as Republicans, and then they find out that the reason for them to be stakeholders is completely different from what Republicans stand for in the United States.”

Torres continued, “People in Puerto Rico think that people in need should have food stamps, but when they come here and they find out that Republicans in the United States don’t believe in none of that, they are in shock.”

Gamarra’s study revealed 90% of respondents said they have received some sort of aid or assistance from the government, the majority of which was food assistance, social security and healthcare related.

Pushing economic issues aside, who speaks better Spanish, Rick Scott or Bill Nelson? Torres laughs, ” I commend both of them for trying to speak Spanish. Every American that tries to learn a second language is a hero.” But what’s more important, he explained, is what they’ve done for the people of Puerto Rico.

Why the United States Needs a Woman in the Presidency

Even had Hillary Clinton prevailed in the 2016 presidential contest, the United States would still have arrived late to the promotion of a woman to the highest executive office. And since Clinton lost, the United States has yet to enter this game. In 1960, Sri Lanka became the first country to be governed by a woman, but this was hardly a sea change because women did not enjoy more widespread success until the 1990s.

More than three-quarters of all female presidents and prime ministers have arrived in office in the last two decades, and the female ranks have grown faster since 2010. Nevertheless, the numbers have contracted in recent years. Currently, only six percent of all executives in power around the world are women; and a remarkable 61 percent of the world’s countries, including the United States, have never been governed by a woman.

Why has the U.S. failed to elect a woman to the presidency? In my research, I engage this question by examining global patterns of women’s executive office holding. In addition, I assess what happens when women are prevented from taking the helm, why it matters, and how this shortfall can be changed.

Why Female Executive Leadership Matters

The dominance of the American Presidency and the masculine traits often associated with and assumed necessary for office holders in American executive institutions pose significant challenges for women. What is more, many issues, like military and foreign affairs, are seen as masculine issues and often associated with the Presidency. Add to this the short supply of women legislators, governors, and presidential candidates (usually no more than one woman competes for a major party nomination) and it becomes difficult to imagine the executive glass ceiling cracking anytime soon.

What difference does it make that the United States has yet to elect its first woman president? Most basically, it matters because the election or appointment of a female executive facilitates women’s political empowerment. Overall, women executives create important opportunities for all women in society. Specifically, women leaders can propose and implement policies that promote gender equality and empower many more women.

Although we must take into account important factors in addition to gender – such as partisanship, party dynamics in the legislature, and the executive’s institutional authority to propose and advance legislation – women executives can in one way or another facilitate policies favorable to women’s advancement. And they can advance other women to power in cabinet positions, judgeships and the like.

Finally, when women hold presidencies or prime ministerships, they influence the public’s attitudes by providing important symbols of female political empowerment. The reality of women in power challenges prior presumptions about politics as a “man’s world” – and this change in the sense of what is appropriate and possible in itself helps create a more equitable society.

Ways Forward

How can the United States and other lagging countries finally have a female leader?   The following steps could help.

  • To expand the pipeline, create more programs that prepare a diverse array of women to run for office at all levels of government.
  • Increase the active recruitment of female candidates for offices at all levels by politicians, civic groups, and other leaders.
  • Change institutional structures that constrict the political pipeline – for example, by instituting new party rules that require women’s representation on nominating ballots, at political conventions, and in appointive government offices.
  • Build institutions that facilitate collaborative governance and women’s political inclusion, such as multi-party parliamentary systems where slates of officeholders can be designated without each having to win the popular vote directly.
  • Heighten awareness of the sexist attitudes and stereotypes women still face in politics and create programs to combat such discrimination.
  • Organize and advocate around issues especially relevant to women – including sexual harassment and violence, pay equity, reproductive rights, paid family leave, and women’s political incorporation. Place such concerns squarely on the policy agenda and make sure they are advanced, not just issues disproportionately relevant to men.
  • Support organizations that mobilize rising numbers of unmarried, millennial, and minority voters, who often back more progressive women candidates and issues.

In 2016, Hillary Clinton lost to an unqualified and deeply flawed Donald Trump, despite the advantages she had in fundraising, family ties to power, name recognition, party support, and vast political qualifications. Had Clinton won, her path to the White House would not have been especially revolutionary, given her standing as the wife of a former president. Still, a win for her would have allowed the United States to join the company of the 74 countries that have had at least one woman in their executive.

In the future, given the high visibility of the U.S. presidency on the world stage, a woman serving in this office could signal to the world that females belong at the center of the democratic political sphere and might also stimulate enhanced levels of public engagement in politics worldwide.

Achieving full political empowerment for women takes more than electing a female president, but the difficulties women have faced in achieving presidential power in the United States reveal that women the world over still have a way to go to overcome their political marginalization.

The time for a woman in the highest U.S. office will surely come all the same. Although the highest glass ceiling remains unbroken in the world’s most powerful nation, it is not impenetrable – just as it is not unbreakable in other countries around the globe.

Study Finds Fringe Communities on Reddit and 4chan Have High Influence on Flow of Alternative News to Twitter

Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Cyprus University of Technology and University College London have conducted the first large-scale measurement of how mainstream and alternative news flows through multiple social media platforms.

After analyzing millions of posts containing mainstream and alternative news shared on Twitter, Reddit and 4chan, Jeremy Blackburn, Ph.D., and collaborators found that fringe communities within 4chan, an image-based discussion forum where users are anonymous, and Reddit, a social news aggregator where users vote up or down on posts, have a surprisingly large influence on Twitter. The results of the study were published this week in a paper at the ACM Internet Measurement Conference in London.

“Based on our findings, these smaller, fringe communities on Reddit and 4chan serve as an incubation chamber for a lot of information,” said Blackburn, assistant professor of computer science in the UAB College of Arts and Sciences. “Many online hoaxes, false or misleading stories have been traced back to users on these platforms. The content and talking points are refined until they finally break free and make it to larger, more mainstream communities.”

The team gathered information from posts, threads and comments on Twitter, Reddit and 4chan that contained URLs from 45 mainstream and 54 alternative news websites. Activity on the three platforms was measured between June 20, 2016, and Feb. 28, 2017.

They analyzed more than 400,000 tweets, 1.8 million posts and comments on Reddit, and 97,000 posts and replies on 4chan. After analyzing the occurrence of 99 URLs on the top 20 mainstream and alternative news sites, they found Breitbart.com made up 55 percent of the URLs from six selected subreddits, and the nytimes.com made up 14 percent. Breitbart.com made up 44 percent of the URLs on Twitter, while theguardian.com made up 19 percent, and Breitbart.com made up 53 percent of the URLs, with theguardian.com making up 14 percent.

Using the unique URLs across all platforms and the time they first pop up, the team analyzed their appearance in one, two or three platforms, and the order in which the appearance occurred. Examination of the path of a URL reveals the domains whose URLs tend to appear first on each of the platforms.

Flow of Mainstream News

For the mainstream news domains, the group found that URLs from nytimes.com and cnn.com tend to appear first more often on Reddit than Twitter and 4chan. On the other hand, URLs from other domains like bbc.com and theguardian.com tend to appear first more often on Twitter than Reddit. There was no instance where mainstream news URLs tended to appear first on 4chan.

Flow of Alternative News  

The group found that breitbart.com URLs appear first in Reddit more often than on Twitter, and more frequently than they do on 4chan. However, for other popular alternative domains, such as infowars.com, rt.com and sputniknews.com, URLs appear first on Twitter more often than Reddit and 4chan. As is the case with the mainstream domains, there was no domain where 4chan dominates in terms of first URL appearance.

In addition to studying how news is shared on the three platforms, the researchers were able to estimate how much influence each platform has on the information shared on other platforms, using a mathematical technique knowns as Hawkes process.

The group measured the influence of six subreddits from Reddit.com, “The_Donald,” “politics,” “worldnews,” “AskReddit,” “conspiracy,” and “news,” the “/pol/” board on 4chan and the Twitter platform. They found that Twitter has a heavy influence on the posting of URLs from alternative news sites on the other social platforms, and is the most influential single source for most of the other web communities.

“These platforms have become an important piece of the modern information ecosystem,” Blackburn said. “As we continue to see the creation and spread of hoaxes, rumors and false information online, this knowledge is crucial to understand the risks associated with alternative news and to aid in designing appropriate detection and mitigation strategies.”

Blackburn is a co-founder of the International Data-driven Research for Advanced Modelling and Analysis Lab, or iDRAMA Lab, an international group of scientists focusing on modern socio-technical issues with expertise ranging from low-level cryptography to video games. The paper, “The Web Centipede: Understanding How Web Communities Influence Each Other Through the Lens of Mainstream and Alternative News Sources,” can be found here.

CHIP Demise Devastating to Millions of American Children

Congress allowed the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to expire Oct. 1, leading to the demise of one of the most successful government programs ever implemented, said an expert on health economics at Washington University in St. Louis.

“CHIP has led to a substantial reduction in the uninsured rate for children, to the point where children now have only a 5 percent uninsured rate — the lowest ever,” said Tim McBride, professor at the Brown School and director of the Center for Health Economics and Policy. He also serves as chair of the oversight committee for Missouri’s Medicaid program called MOHealthNET.

An estimated 9 million children are now covered by the CHIP program across the U.S. In Missouri, more 624,000 children are covered by a combination of CHIP and Medicaid, though most children are covered by Medicaid.

What if funding is not restored?

A move to rescue the program hit a snag in the U.S. House of Representatives this week, lowering hopes that it might be restored quickly.

“In the short run, most states can continue to pay for the program for at least a few weeks if not months, using funds carried forward from previous years,” McBride said. “But at some point, those funds will dry up and states will face cutting the program, which will mean children will lose their health insurance.

“States likely do not have the funds to make up for the loss of federal dollars. The impact of this would be devastating, to say the least, on these children and their families. But it would create a huge financial problem for the health care system — physicians, providers and those who care for them.

It should be obvious that this is a great investment in our future because if medical problems can be avoided when children are young, they are much more likely to do better in school, be more productive members of society.

“It should be obvious that this is a great investment in our future because if medical problems can be avoided when children are young, they are much more likely to do better in school, be more productive members of society,” McBride said. “Also, it would be penny-wise, pound-foolish to not deal with this problem now, since covering children is a lot cheaper than covering anyone else, and it costs more if medical care is delayed.”

The state of Missouri reportedly would not run out of funding to finance the CHIP program until the first quarter of 2018, if not a little later, he said. But, in other states, the end of federal funds for CHIP will come considerably sooner, maybe within weeks.

Will Congress eventually come around?

“I would bet that Congress eventually will do something to reauthorize the program, based on previous experience, and I know they are working on legislation right now,” McBride said. “They have had to reauthorize this program many times before, and it has garnered bipartisan support.

“However, these days there is so much partisanship, and Washington is much less functional, so I am afraid to make any definitive predictions now.”

Can We Talk About Climate Change For A Moment?

Three Hurricanes Looming off the East Coast of the United States

It is becoming increasingly more difficult to deny the effects that human activity has had on the earth. Decades of research and technological advances have given humans the opportunity to develop more viable alternatives as transitioned from an agrarian society to a more industrious one. Industrialization has allowed us to streamline and improve manufacturing processes thereby improving productivity and growing the economy. But this hasn’t always been to the advantage of the planet and its volatile atmosphere.

One of the major downsides of industrialization is the resulting pollution that negatively impacts the earth’s atmosphere which has been linked to climate change. Today’s environment has been tortured and assaulted by humankind to put it lightly and measures protecting the planet, current and future generations is critical for ecological sustainability. Environmental issues resulting from industrialization include contaminated water, like the lead found in Flint, Michigan, damaged soil, and diminished air quality.

Over the last few years, there have been multiple bipartisan efforts to improve legislation and protections that speak to the ongoing research and scientific evidence backing climate change. And for a while, despite those dedicated critics of climate change, it appeared that Congress had struck the same chord as the evidence of global warming and climate change was undeniable. The previous administration undoubtedly made both climate change and environmental protection a top priority as it took steps to improve efforts to address the global impact and effects of climate change by joining the Paris Climate Agreement.

Climate change has always been one of those highly contested topics of contention. Either you believe or deny that climate change is real or that it is some strategic ploy by liberals to overstate the effects of fossil fuels and CO2 emissions in the environment in order to divert focus their real agenda. As crazy as the latter may sound, and it is quite far-fetched, there are many who believe that climate change is a fictitious liberal scheme.

Unfortunately, one of those believers of the latter currently resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and has rolled back both legislation and conservation efforts influenced by years of scientific predictions aimed at improving the environment and preventing the extinction of various species. The current administration’s dismissal of the scientific evidence and research supporting climate change as if it were a collection of alternative facts is reprehensible. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see and feel the change in the earth’s climate.

Despite the surmounting evidence and bipartisan efforts to address climate change, President Trump still persists and continues to ignore the severity of climate change. He recently issued an executive order revoking an Obama-Era Order requiring federally funded projects meet standard requirements for flood risks as a precaution to future risks or damage.

This one act seems to have emitted a direct response from Mother Earth herself. As if she was personally insulted, Mother Earth has taken it upon herself to show us just how extreme climate change can be. Harvey. Irma. Jose. Katia.  All four of the category four and five hurricanes have been or will potentially be the cause of great harm and the unfortunate loss of life in the regions affected.  Parts of the west coast are on fire and Mexico just had its biggest earthquake to hit in over 100 years. Who says climate change is real?

Politically, there are plenty of reasons cited from both sides of the aisle as to whether or not claims of climate change or true or false, but perhaps Congress should take a moment to listen to Mother Earth herself to find the answer, because she seems to be speaking loud and clear.

NASW-Michigan and Emerge Michigan Partner to Train Social Workers to Run for Office

NASW-Michigan Testimony for Public Hearing Re: House Bills 4188, 4189, 4190 (adoption/foster care)

The National Association of Social Workers – Michigan Chapter (NASW-Michigan) is thrilled to announce a new partnership with Emerge Michigan in order to train social workers to run for public office.

Over the course of the next year, NASW-Michigan and Emerge Michigan will collaborate to host several training events in order to increase the number of social workers in all elected positions. This will include two virtual education events in December 2017 and April 2018, and two in-person trainings in November 2017 and in late spring 2018.

NASW-Michigan encourages social workers to run for office because social workers are a profession of trained communicators, with concrete ideas about how to empower communities. Social workers understand social problems and human relations, are skilled in collaboration and are committed to improving the quality of life for all people.

Executive Director Maxine Thome affirmed that NASW-Michigan is strongly committed to inspiring and motivating social workers toward political leadership, and providing them with the resources and tools necessary for electoral success. As a profession of over 80% women, it was important for us to partner with an organization that focuses on female-identified candidates. To this end, Emerge Michigan is an asset to NASW-Michigan in supporting members and allies who are seeking elected office.

Despite making some gains over the last decade, women are still extremely underrepresented in our decision-making bodies at every level of government,” said Beth Kelly, Executive Director of Emerge Michigan. “At this rate, it’ll be almost a century before we achieve equal representation in our government. That’s just not fast enough. At Emerge Michigan, we’re tackling this problem head on by providing the aspiring female leaders of today with cutting-edge tools and training to run for elected office and elevate themselves in our political system. Our work is having a direct positive impact on the number of women who are choosing to jump into the political arena and are ready to win.

NASW also encourages social workers to offer their professional expertise to campaigns by working as campaign managers, volunteer coordinators, and political directors. These leadership roles can translate into legislative jobs in which social workers can shape policy, and help constituents by working with federal, state, and local agencies to get individuals appropriate resources and assistance.

More information and registration information will be available for social workers at www.nasw-michigan.org.

Transgender TV Characters Have the Power to Shape Audience Attitudes

transgender teen

Watching transgender characters on fictional TV shows has the power to influence attitudes toward transgender people and policy issues, according to new research from USC Annenberg. Just published in the peer-reviewed journal Sex Roles, the research further highlights the ways political ideology shapes viewer responses to transgender depictions in entertainment.

The researchers surveyed 488 regular viewers of the USA Network series Royal Pains, of whom 391 saw a June 2015 episode featuring a portrayal of a transgender teen, played by transgender activist Nicole Maines. Those who saw this episode had more positive attitudes toward both transgender people and related policies, such as students using bathrooms aligned with their gender identity. The fictional Royal Pains storyline was more influential than news events; exposure to transgender issues in the news and Caitlyn Jenner’s transition (which was unfolding at the time of the research) had no effect on attitudes.

Beyond the impact of the Royal Pains episode, the study is the first to demonstrate the effect of cumulative exposure to transgender portrayals, across multiple shows. The more shows featuring transgender characters (such as Amazon’s Transparent and Netflix’s Orange is the New Black) that viewers saw, the more transgender-supportive their attitudes. Viewing two or more transgender storylines reduced the association between viewers’ political ideology and their attitudes toward transgender people by half.

According to Traci Gillig, a doctoral candidate at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and the lead author on the study, “While media visibility of transgender people reached new levels in recent years, little has been known about the effects of that visibility. Our study shows the power of entertainment narratives to influence viewers’ attitudes toward transgender people and policy issues.”

The research was conducted in collaboration with Hollywood, Health & Society (HH&S), a program of the USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center that serves as a free resource to the entertainment industry on TV storylines addressing health, safety and national security issues. HH&S Director Kate Langrall Folb explains: “We worked closely with the Royal Pains writers, connecting them with medical experts and providing information for the storyline.”

The results of this research suggest increased visibility of transgender characters in mainstream entertainment can have far-reaching influence on public perceptions of transgender people and the policies that impact them.

“Watching TV shows with nuanced transgender characters can break down ideological biases in a way that news stories may not. This is especially true when the stories inspire hope or when viewers can relate to the characters,” said HH&S Senior Research Associate Erica Rosenthal.

Read more about the research in an analysis by Gillig and Rosenthal. “Can transgender TV characters help bridge an ideological divide?” was published by The Conversation.

Study Examines Tolerance of Political Lies

Why do political figures appear to be able to get away with mild truth bending and sometimes even outrageous lies?

A new study, from researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago and published online in Social Psychological and Personality Science, suggests people have more leniency for politicians’ lies when they bolster a shared belief that a specific political stance is morally right.

“It appears to be because those lies are perceived by supporters as an acceptable and perhaps necessary means to achieve a higher moral end,” says Allison Mueller, UIC doctoral candidate in psychology and lead author of the study. “A troubling and timely implication of these findings is that political figures may be able to act in corrupt ways without damaging their images, at least in the eyes of their supporters.”

Mueller and Linda Skitka, UIC professor of psychology, examined responses to a 2014 survey where participants read a political monologue about federal funding for Planned Parenthood that they believed was previously aired over public radio.

Respondents were randomly assigned one of two feedback conditions where upon completion they were informed that the monologue they had just read was either true or false.

They were then asked to report the extent to which they believed that the speaker was justified in delivering the monologue. Then, they reported their attitude positions for federal funding of women’s reproductive services and their moral conviction for the issue.

Although honesty was positively valued by all respondents, the researchers found that lying that served a shared moralized goal was more accepted and advocacy in support of the opposing view, or nonpreferred end, was more condemned, regardless of whether the statement was true or false.

Skitka says the findings expand knowledge of the moral mandate in two ways.

“Moral conviction for a cause, not the fairness of procedures, may shape people’s perceptions of any target who engages in norm-violating behaviors that uphold moralized causes, such as federally funded family planning in this situation,” she said. “The findings also suggest that, although people are not comfortable excusing others for heinous crimes that serve a moralized end, they appear comparatively tolerant of norm violations like lying.”

On Emotional Intelligence: What Trump’s Reaction to Flynn Tells Us

Emotional intelligence. It’s not just a Time magazine-worthy buzzword anymore. Now that we’ve got a catchy name for it, it’s taking center stage in American society and particularly in American politics. But how do you measure it?

One potential metric is an adult’s ability to face criticism without taking it personally or looking for vengeance. Another is one’s willingness to take responsibility for one’s actions. According to either of these metrics, America’s latest president is failing badly — and nowhere is it more apparent than in the agonizingly slow churn of the Michael Flynn scandal.

What Happened and Who’s Blaming Whom?

This scandal has been unfolding for so long it’s beginning to feel like disgust and boredom will set in before we get any satisfying answers. But what we do know is troubling.

Michael Flynn backed Trump throughout the campaign season and was named to his national security post after the election wrapped. Just before the inauguration, Flynn allegedly spoke with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak to discuss U.S. sanctions on Moscow over Russia’s purported meddling in our election.

If this meeting did indeed take place, it’s at best a break from protocol and at worst a severe violation of federal law, which states civilians cannot conduct foreign policy. If this is true, it’s an exhibition of breathtakingly poor judgment on Flynn’s and Trump’s part — and one that’s nearly unprecedented in American politics.

Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates confirmed that on January 26th, she indicated to the White House Flynn might be hiding something. Neither Trump nor anybody in his entourage took any formal action, but their hand was forced after the details about Yates’ warning were leaked to journalists. Flynn resigned shortly thereafter.

Confused? Disgusted? It gets better. Flynn himself apparently also told Trump’s transition team weeks before the inauguration that he was under federal investigation for secretly working as a paid lobbyist for Turkey during the campaign. Lobbyists work to influence lawmakers and legislation, and while legitimate lobbying can be entirely ethical, Flynn’s consulting company apparently received $530,000 from a Turkish company for work that could have principally benefited the Republic of Turkey.

Not only do federal ethics rules prevent senior officials from lobbying on behalf of foreign governments, but failing to register such activity is a felony.

What’s Really at Stake Here?

As proceedings have unfolded and testimonies have been given — by James Clapper, former director of national intelligence, and Yates, among others — the president has gone on the defensive where Flynn is concerned. Trump has been trying to get ahead of the developing backlash by doing one of the things he does best — deflecting blame in every other direction.

In a series of tweets fired off as Yates and Clapper were testifying, Trump retreated to the hill upon which the GOP is slowly dying, the deep-seated and almost entirely irrational hatred of All Things Obama. Trump has defended himself so far by pointing out the Obama administration hired Michael Flynn in the first place as national security advisor.

In an additional, messy twist, Yates’ testimony arrived after she’d already been fired by Trump himself for not defending his ill-advised and likely unconstitutional Muslim ban.

And even as Trump maintains yet again that Obama is the one to blame for his catastrophic lack of judgment, evidence is mounting that the previous President warned the new one explicitly about hiring Flynn.

If you’re not following this crazy train, here it is even simpler:

  • Obama hired Flynn and later had reservations about the appointment.
  • As he was leaving office, Obama and the Justice Department itself warned Trump not to repeat his mistakes by appointing a man who, evidence suggested, might be susceptible to Russian blackmail.

Get it? When the train inevitably lurches off the tracks, it’s anybody’s fault but Trump’s. That’s how a child deals with his problems — not an American president. Trump hasn’t merely blamed his predecessor for this debacle — he’s also blamed it on “fake news,” another of his go-to excuses when he gets caught in a lie.

As the World Watches

And from there, Trump’s response has been as predictable as it is unfortunate. Instead of letting the adults in the room sort out the mess, he’s stonewalled, denied, lied and generally flailed about for an excuse that sounds presidential.

Indeed, he’s spent more time fretting about the alleged leaks than he has trying to uncover whether Russia played kingmaker in 2016. Whatever his motivations, those are horrifically bad optics for a president who’s already on thin ice, even among Republican Party insiders like John McCain.

It shouldn’t need to be pointed out why all of this is incredibly bad for America. President Obama was well-liked overseas — his approval ratings were frequently higher in allied countries than they were back home — but his successor has the entire world fretting over the future of democracy itself.

The Future of Democracy

Trouble is, democracy doesn’t generally die with some grand gesture — it dies by a thousand cuts, and Trump is delivering many of them himself. Nobody who answers allegations of severe wrongdoing or poor judgment this childishly should represent American citizens and their interests overseas. We’ve got enough to worry about without this bull-and-china-shop routine from a grown 70-year-old man.

Translation? The Flynn saga doesn’t merely look bad for Trump — it looks bad for every American, whether we voted for him or not.

America’s brand abroad took a near-fatal hit at the end of 2016, and every day that goes by without satisfying answers to this and the other clouds of illegitimacy hanging over the White House is one more day we look weak, shattered and ineffective on the world stage. And if there’s ever been a time when the world needed decisive and emotionally intelligent leadership, this is it.

How Hillary Changed Politics for Women

Hillary Clinton’s first interview after the election with CNN on May 02, 2017

She didn’t win the election and we have not yet seen the first female president, but Hillary Clinton’s legacy is still strong and extremely important. Hillary made history the moment that she won the Democratic Party nomination for president, and that will not soon be forgotten.

In the past, women have made strides in politics and have slowly but surely gotten us to where we are today. Hillary Clinton winning a major party nomination, though, is the biggest step women have taken in politics in a long time (arguably ever) and it opened a lot of doors for the women of the future.

Women in Politics Before Her

Hillary Clinton isn’t the first female to run for president — though she has been the most successful.

In 1872, Victoria Woodhull became the first woman to run for president. This was almost 50 years before women even had the right to vote. Since then, some other women have taken the risk and run for president, but have not been met with much success. Shirley Chisholm was the first black woman to run for president in 1972, Geraldine Ferraro was the first woman to be put on a major party ticket in 1984 and eventually, Sarah Palin was on John McCain’s ticket in 2008.

Many of these women were met with ridicule, many were not taken seriously at all and some were somewhat effective but still came up short. Still, each time another female stood up and decided to run for president, women made strides in politics.

Both Chisholm and Palin were put on the ticket in the hopes of generating enthusiasm about a female in The White House, not necessarily for their political expertise. This is where Clinton is different. She served as both a US senator and as Secretary of State and certainly has the experience to hold the presidential office.

Even though Trump claimed that she played the “woman card”, Clinton’s political background proves that she was not using her gender to get ahead. She was simply fit for the job and decided to go for it. This is something that young women can aspire to.

Clinton’s Legacy

Nobody can say for sure whether or not Hillary Clinton is done with politics. She may try to run for president again in 4 years, and many people probably wouldn’t be at all surprised. But even if she stepped out of the political arena for good, her resume is sufficiently impressive and her legacy is solid.

Some people feel as though Trump winning the presidency means that Obama’s legacy and Clinton’s hard work was all for nothing. This is not true.

Clinton – and Sanders for that matter – rallied a huge group of supporters behind the Democratic Party. These supporters believed in the message of the Democratic campaign, that we are stronger together. Trump won the presidency, but these people didn’t magically start believing in his hateful rhetoric and abrasive campaign tactics.

Young girls all across the country watched Hillary Clinton fight against Trump in debates, rallies and ultimately the polls. Seeing her name in headlines and watching her fight for what she believes in showed young girls that it is possible to achieve big dreams and even run for president as a woman. Clinton showed the next generation of women that gender does not matter.

Furthermore, Clinton’s campaign got women more interested in politics. More women were following the campaign and voting because of Clinton’s empowering presence. And after Trump’s victory, more women feel motivated to run for a political office in order to make change happen.

This is Clinton’s legacy. Through her hard-fought battle, she showed the women of America that they are capable of stepping up and making changes, regardless of their gender.

Still With Her

Trump’s success has not made Clinton and her supporters go away. The men and women who believed in Clinton’s message and believed in a female president are still out there. They’re the people you see on the news participating in marches to let Trump know that they are not happy with how he is running the country.

There’s no question that future presidential campaigns will involve women and eventually, we will have our first female president. Trump is simply a reminder of everything we are fighting for – equality and kindness for all.

The campaign that Clinton ran – stronger together – is still being played out. It’s just happening in a different way than many of us hoped it would.

Clinton reflects on election loss (Full event)

Justin Trudeau: How One Person Can Positively Change The World

justin-trudeau-free-money-in-canada

Political ideology is not something everyone thinks about, but for Social Workers it is infused in our profession whether we like it or not. As an eclectic profession whose founders borrowed from psychology, psychiatry, sociology, economics, and political science, we have a long history of working to ameliorate the impact of the political ideology of any given time.

Yet, before the creation of Social Work as a profession, we were born out of altruism and charity work.  Most of us learned about the creation of the modern-day social welfare state which formed as a result of the industrialization of society and the need for help for those who were in one way or another marginalized and/or alienated by the machines of “progress”.  

Progress and industrialization undeniably changed the individuals, families, communities, and nations of our ancestors.  As a social work undergraduate student in the early 1990’s, I wasn’t initially clear on the purpose and connectedness of learning about the history of western social welfare.  

But 25 years later, it is clear social work’s cultural roots continue to inform practice and theoretical understanding of the core difficulties helping professionals face in trying to ameliorate injustices on a daily basis.  Despite the continued modernization of society, helping professionals continue to try and mitigate the numerous costs and effects of working and living in a capitalist, technologically advanced, and alienated communities and nations.

A little over a year ago, Canada elected Justin Trudeau as Prime Minister, and the media is now filled with the typical polarized assessments of Trudeau and his governmental leadership. However, if I had to summarize the rhetoric surrounding the assessment of Trudeau, I would say the press and even the neoconservatives who previously governed Canada are shocked at how someone can unite a diverse Country and in many ways impacting the World. In short, the feeling from the left is that Justin Trudeau is too good to be true.  On the other hand, many of us Canadians believe Trudeau is a dream come true.

For the majority of the last couple of decades, Canada and many of its Provinces have been governed by Neoconservatives.  The traditional Progressive Conservative Party of Canada imploded many years ago and was replaced by a hybrid conservative party which was ideologically very neoconservative. Provinces and Canada as a whole under the neocons lost a lot of ground in terms of our social welfare policy and social innovation.  Neocons convinced people through propaganda that the poor and disadvantaged in Canada were that way because of some type of character flaw –  essentially lazy or weak or both.

While I don’t personally know Justin Trudeau, I feel like I do.  I suspect that the same is true for many Canadians. Justin reaches out to us via social media – imagine a Prime Minister on Facebook!  Leaders of government have never gone out of their way to seek the opinions of the common classes, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau does.

Although he has inherited many societal problems such as Canada’s poor treatment of our First Nations, Trudeau is trying to correct the damage done to the fabric of Canadian society by past governments. What I see and feel as a Canadian and as a social worker is that Justin Trudeau intends to help our country become benevolent again. Trudeau knows adversity, and he knows the value and strength of diversity and inclusivity.

Under the current political climate, I have often mourned the loss of truly professional politicians. What I mean is political science and ideology were once legitimately held in high esteem by those who sought to figure out how to best govern a population. Political debate was about reason, ideology, rights, and freedoms. But politics has become about personal attacks and quite simply behaving inappropriately and using power and control to get a desired outcome. Our political system in the West at least is not the one envisioned and practiced by our ancestors.

I have high hopes for Justin Trudeau, and he has already accomplished a lot in a short period of time.  I am once again proud to be Canadian.

The US Department of Agriculture Has Removed All of Its Inspection Records–Here’s Why it Matters

The United States Department of Agriculture has recently removed all inspection records from its website–this means that inspection records from the 9,000 licensed facilities that use animals have been taken down. This covers a vast array of facilities working with animals including animal research labs, commercial dog breeders who are often puppy mills, roadside zoos, and Tennessee Horse Walking shows. The Humane Society of the United States is suing the USDA to reinstate these records.

As Wayne Pacelle, the CEO of the Humane Society, has detailed in his recent book, The Humane Economy, public opinion has drastically shifted in regard to animal welfare—particularly in regard to the treatment of farm animals. This has resulted in major positive steps for animal welfare including the biggest producers of eggs switching to cage-free facilities, better oversight and consequences for those who run puppy mills, the removal of elephants from the Ringling Brothers circus, and the ending of breeding captive orcas at Sea World. Sadly legal efforts to ban horse soring have been stymied since the Trump administration took office.

These efforts would not have become possible if not for a drastic shift in public opinion on these issues, which forced businesses to change their practices. People do not want to buy puppies raised on puppy mills, as has been demonstrated by initiatives of big companies like Petsmart and Petco who only feature dogs from local animals shelters. Real progress has been made in short period of time that will affect the treatment of thousands of animals.

Why does it matter that these inspection records have been removed? Firstly, the government has an obligation to provide transparency. The public has made clear that they do not tolerate unethical treatment of animals and have shown this in their buying power, but also by voting for ballot initiatives that support animals. This was recently demonstrated in Massachusetts where they voted to mandate that all chickens, pigs, and calves not be confined in small cages. Thus, consumers want to know if the products they are buying are coming from a company that upholds ethical standards.

Why should Social Workers care about this issue? Social workers have a responsibility to promote social justice and uphold a high ethical standard, and this includes the environment and animals. Factory farms are known to produce high levels of methane, which contribute to global warming—which in turn affects people. Furthermore, people that commit animal abuse are more likely to abuse their partners and children. Finally, factory farms have been known to mistreat their workers. At one poultry farm, workers were denied bathroom breaks and had to use diapers just to keep their jobs.

What are our next steps? Contact your elected officials. Animal related issues are often bi-partisan, so your voice can make a difference.

Show that you care through your buying power and support companies that are committed to upholding ethical standards around animals.

Finally, educate others on animal related issues. Many people are unaware of the abuses on factory farms and puppy mills. Rolling Stone recently did a very eye-opening story on puppy mills that you can share with others. Stay positive, as the movement for a ‘humane economy’ has had many important victories and will need our commitment to keep the momentum.

Building a Political Agenda for Social Work

The foundational values of human rights and social justice have always been compounded with socialism and social democracy as core ideals and “right principles” of social work. Social workers are committed to promote human rights, social justice and address the root causes of poverty, oppression and inequalities.

The “Global Agenda” launched in 2012 by the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW), the International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW), and the International Council on Social Welfare (ICSW) has reinforced this commitment. In that sense, social workers need to understand and analyze the impact of change on social welfare and the transformation of society towards values of equality, human well-being, social justice, and citizens’ participation.

The nature and operation of institutions and economic systems and the distribution of resources and power are also core commitments for social work. Thus, the pursuit of social justice in the twenty-first century requires that social workers acknowledge the political dimensions of all practices and the need to engage in multifaceted struggles to regain influence within the political and public arena.

Therefore, social work needs to strengthen its progressive values and influence the understanding of social problems and social relations through a materialist perspective. Social work also needs to focus its commitment on the impact of the wider social structures such as class, injustice, power, oppression, exploitation, domination and inequality promoted and reinforced by capitalism. Under the current neoliberal paradigm of austerity and market justice, social work needs to see society as a struggle between groups with competing interests.

Social work should focus upon economic and political institutions that influence and are influenced by institutions supported by the dominant neoliberal ideology. The central concern of social work should be, power – both personal and political – and how the powerful elites define and constrain the most vulnerable and working classes. Thus, social work needs to criticize the dominant institutions, advocate for their dismantling and suggest a vision of transformation. In other words, social work should seek to transform the conditions and social structures that cause these inequalities in order to contribute to the transformation of the current society to one that is more congruent with the principles of social justice.

Why Ideology Matters?

Ideologies are systems of beliefs that guide our choices and behaviors, and indeed justify our thoughts and actions. As Bailey and Gayle explain, structures, systems of power and advantage play a central role in maintaining the development of points of view. In this sense, it is important to see the world through an ideological lens. Why? Because ideology relates to power and the distribution of power in society. In questioning this relationship, social work has the opportunity to achieve a new moment for social and political action in accordance with its own values and commitments.

The Ideology in Social Work

Social work in Western countries has lost its political direction. It has failed to clarify its own ideology and to preserve its own values and ethical commitments. Social work emerged from working-class movements for social justice and became in time a mediator between the state and the people. Social work values are guided by the pursuit of socialism and social democracy. Thus, socialism and social democracy are embedded in social work values and commitments.

Both have a common understanding and sharing interests about the collective needs in relationship to the individual. They also believe that social justice is a goal for all in society. Those actions and policies to achieve social justice will emerge from a more equitable distribution of wealth and knowledge among classes. Social work needs to rebuild a new relation between the political and social movements, based on the recognition of the rights and claims of the citizens. Economic and material needs are a key priority for citizens and social work should advocate for them through political and social action.

The state has a fundamental obligation to play a major role in the maximization of social equality. The collective goals of the community must be respected. The distribution of resources should serve the public good, not the private needs. Another important element in achieving social justice is the recognition of class interests and the gendered and ethnic class locations within society. In that sense, “The Global Agenda for Social Work and Social Development” needs to bring and reinforce the ideological dimension as the central focus of social work in order to social work pursue political and social action.

(Building) a Political Agenda for Social Work

According to McKendrick and Webb in Taking A Political Stance in Social Work, “taking a political stance in social work necessarily involves a close historical examination of the influence of social and economic structures as well as the constituting context of relations of domination”.  In that sense, social work needs to rebuild its own political strategy to confront structures that need transformation. Thus, to build a political strategy some key questions should be defined: should social work take a conflict perspective?

What can social work do to reinforce its own progressive values within society? How should social work position itself between citizens and competing neoliberal interests? What is the political agenda of social work? How can we promote social justice without pursuing a conflict perspective?

Social workers cannot be servants of financial capitalism and supervisors of expenditure of the most vulnerable. Neoliberalism brought managerialism, corporatisation and performance as key demands for social work. McKendrick and Webb also argues that “the ‘spirit of capitalism’ is the ideology that justifies people’s commitment to capitalism, and which renders this commitment attractive within the mainstream society”.

Social work needs to build a strategy rooted in ideology that will confront and transform the nature of capitalist exploitation that affects the most vulnerable citizens, and the working class. As McKendrick and Webb acknowledge, “social work, inevitably operates within a ‘grand tension’ of refusing the dominant order while at the same time being contaminated by this very order”.

However, social work should clearly advocate for a large public sector which is directly provided by state allocation. Education and health care should be provided as decommodified public goods. Economic and material needs should also be at the forefront of any social work political strategy, such as the debate and implementation of a basic income that will enhance people’s standard of living. Moreover, immigration and refugee policies should also be key priorities in which social work should advocate and lobby for them.

The “Global Agenda” is embedded in progressive social work values, so it should define and promote a political strategy to pursue and respect those values in order to contribute to the transformation of the root causes of social and economic inequalities.

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