Hello, and welcome back to NBN politics! We hope you had a restful winter break with a manageable number of intrusive questions from distant relatives. It’s a whole new decade now, and you know what that means — a whole new age of political chaos. But before we get too ahead of ourselves, we’re here to provide you with a look back at some of the most important political happenings of winter break.
Another Democratic debate + Democratic primary race dropouts
On Dec. 19, 2019, PBS NewsHour and Politico hosted the sixth Democratic primary debate, closing out the decade with a bang. Candidates argued about fundraising techniques (shout out to Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s infamous wine cave), health care (of course) and examined the role of diverse identities in the upcoming election. Andrew Yang, standing amidst a field of white candidates, was the sole candidate of color on the debate stage, raising further questions on who has the ability to donate to political campaigns and the strictness of monetary-centric debate qualifications.
Over break, the incredibly crowded field of Democratic candidates has also started to narrow down. Most notable of the dropouts was Sen. Kamala Harris, who actually qualified for the debate before she announced the end of her campaign (which, technically speaking, was on Dec. 3, before Northwestern’s break started, but it’s OK. everyone was preparing for finals, I doubt you all were keeping up). Since Harris’ departure, she was joined by Secretary Julián Castro, Marianne Williamson (was she here the whole time?) and Sen. Cory Booker, signaling that we are, in fact, really getting into it. That leaves 12 Democratic candidates, which seems somewhat more manageable than the seemingly infinite number we started out with.
P.S., the seventh debate happened two nights ago, on Jan. 14, 2020, and it’s safe to say that things got a little heated as candidates talked foreign policy, impeachment and gender. Leading up to the debate, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren were engaged in an uncharacteristic quarrel, with Warren accusing Sanders of stating that a woman can’t win the presidential election, a claim Sanders denies having ever said. While on stage, Warren delivered a major burn by stating that out of everyone on-stage, only the female candidates (herself and Sen. Amy Klobuchar), have never lost an election, while the male candidates have suffered a grand total of ten losses. Ouch.
The impeachment of Donald Trump
On Dec. 18, 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to impeach President Donald Trump, approving articles of impeachment for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, making him the third President to be impeached in U.S. history (joining Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton in the history books). This impeachment follows information provided by a whistleblower regarding a phone call between Trump and Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in which the President attempted to force Ukraine into conducting an investigation that could tarnish potential 2020 presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden. Using the handy-dandy knowledge I gathered from my AP American Government class in high school, I am here to tell you that impeachment does not signify Trump’s immediate removal from office. That part comes later; but only if the Senate can agree to actually convict Trump, which, with it being controlled by Republicans and all, doesn’t seem all that likely. But, in the words of popular music sensation Justin Bieber, never say never. Just yesterday, on Jan. 15, 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to send the impeachment articles to the Senate, which means that we can expect to see an impeachment trial as soon as this week. Stay tuned for more.
The U.S. remains intact despite North Korea’s “Christmas gift” threat
In the midst of tense nuclear negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea, Ri Thae Song, a first vice minister at the North Korean Foreign Ministry stated that “it is entirely up to the U.S. what Christmas gift it will select to get,” resulting in quite a bit of public concern. The threat might have caused an extra degree of panic because of North Korea’s previous reference to nuclear warheads “gifts” to the U.S. way back in 2017. Just before Dec. 25, while at Mar-a-Lago, Trump suggested that such a gift could be “a beautiful vase as opposed to a missile test,” in an attempt at cracking a joke. Needless to say, it didn’t exactly put the public at ease. Maps of the extent to which a strike could impact highly populated U.S. cities that began to circulate around social media during certainly did nothing else to dispel the panic. But, to everyone’s relief, the holidays came and went without any apocalyptic-level disasters. (Well, relatively speaking. See our section on Iran below.)
The Australian wildfires
Since around July 2019, the start of Australia’s wildfire season, the continent of Australia has endured a devastating set of fires, wiping out an estimated 1 billion animals, burning approximately 27,000 square miles of land and killing at least 28 people. The fires impacted both national parks such as the Blue Mountains and large cities such as Melbourne and Sydney. Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison received considerable backlash for vacationing in Hawaii during the midst of the crisis. It doesn’t help that Morrison is known for downplaying the connection between climate change and the fires, as well as his close relationship with the Australian coal industry. For now, the fires continue to burn, a tragic result of the dramatic weather conditions linked to climate change.
The assassination of Qassem Suleimani
On Jan. 3, 2020, Qassem Suleimani, leader of the foreign wing of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps was killed in a U.S. airstrike after being ordered to do so by President Trump. This order sent government officials and ordinary citizens around the world into a complete frenzy as they anticipated an alarming increase in conflict. Despite the seemingly endless stream of World War III memes spreading around social media in the aftermath of this attack, the implications of such an incident are far from comical. The attack is speculated to drastically raise tensions between Iran and the U.S., as well as other nations, such as Israel, in the near future, which could result in many innocent deaths.
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