Politics: What You Missed This Summer



Presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to a couple thousand supporters in Louisville, Ky., on Tuesday March 1, 2016. (Mark Cornelison/Lexington Herald-Leader/TNS)

By Grace Geraghty

This summer has been a busy one for politicians, both domestically and internationally. The Republican and Democratic National Conventions were both held and nominees for the general election were announced, while Britain made a potentially-catastrophic decision about its tenure with the European Union.

For July 18 through 21, Cleveland was home to the Republican National Convention. Businessman-turned-politician Donald Trump, the last remaining Republican in the primaries, took the nomination by surpassing the 1,237 delegates needed. In fact, Trump actually managed to  reach 1,543.

Despite Trump’s easy victory in the primaries, his wife Melania Trump managed to secure more headlines with her blatant plagiarism of Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech to the Democratic National Convention, on behalf of her husband, now-President Barack Obama.

The speech, which Trump claimed to have written with the help of a professional speechwriter, drew heavily from Obama’s speech. In one particularly startling comparison, Trump referred to certain values her parents taught her: “You work hard for what you want in life;” “Your word is your bond;” and “You treat people with respect.” These phrases are nearly a word-for-word reiteration of Obama speaking about the values she and her husband were taught by their parents: “Work hard;” “Your word is your bond, so you must do what you say;” and “You treat people with dignity and respect.”

While some similar phrasing could be excused, as certain trigger words are often thrown around in the political sphere, the uncanny use of the same language — and even anecdotes — was what drew the most attention. Since the incident, an apology was issued by a Trump campaign worker, deflecting the blame from Melania by relenting that she was simply “inspired” by Obama’s 2008 address.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Obama managed to make yet another memorable speech to the Democratic National Convention, this time touching on the importance of black and female roles in the White House. This speech included a rousing endorsement of Hillary Clinton for president, reminding the convention of her support for quality childcare and children’s health care during her long political career.

“Hillary has spent decades doing the relentless, thankless work to actually make a difference in their lives,” Obama said. “…as a true public servant Hillary knows that this is so much bigger than her own desires and disappointments.”

This speech even included a thinly-veiled insult at Trump. When Obama was explaining how she explains things to her two daughters, she remarked on, “How we [President Obama and I] insist that the hateful language they hear from public figures on TV does not represent the true spirit of this country.”

Similarly, President Obama espoused the value of Clinton’s superior credentials and vast experience versus those of Donald Trump.

“I can say with confidence there has never been a man or a woman — not me, not Bill, nobody — more qualified than Hillary Clinton to serve as president of the United States of America,” Obama said.

Obama also took a dig at Trump’s infamous campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” before he highlighted the specific important of this election.

“America is already great. America is already strong. And I promise you, our strength, our greatness, does not depend on Donald Trump,” he said. “It’s not just a choice between parties or policies; the usual debates between left and right. This is a more fundamental choice — about who we are as a people, and whether we stay true to this great American experiment in self-government.”

Even former nominee and rival Senator Bernie Sanders endorsed Clinton, despite originally vowing he would remain fighting until the DNC. On Tuesday, July 12, Sanders joined Clinton at a rally in which he gave a formal statement about his intention to support her as the next president.

“I intend to do everything I can to make certain she [Hillary] will be the next president of the United States,” Sanders said.

Clinton, too, felt the need to comment on their unexpected alliance, highlighting how important it was that they remained together.

“We are joining forces to defeat Donald Trump!” Clinton said. “…You know what? We are stronger together!”

If anything, Sanders’ initial far-left agenda has caused Clinton to shift to the left as well, in an attempt to convince those loyal to Sanders to support her. Clinton’s new platform includes plans for a $15 federal minimum wage, a reversal of her position on the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal (TPP), and a plan to increase college affordability.

On the other side of the pond, voters in the United Kingdom voted to leave the crumbling European Union, an unprecedented move since the Union’s founding after the Cold War. In the July 23 referendum, 52 percent of voters chose to leave the E.U., with 48 percent choosing to stay. Turnout rate was incredibly high at nearly 72 percent, with more than 30 million citizens voting.

In the wake of the decision, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron resigned. Cameron, who backed the ‘Remain’ camp and urged voters to chose to stay with the E.U., stated that he did not think he was right to lead the country into this new chapter. Fellow ‘Remain’ campaigner Theresa May has since taken over as Prime Minister.

“I will do everything I can as Prime Minister to steady the ship over the coming weeks and months, but I don’t think it would be right for me to try to be the captain that steers our country to its next destination,” said Cameron, after announcing his plans to resign.

Britain will be forced to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which allows two years for both sides to come up with amicable terms for the split. May said she would not begin the process until late 2016, meaning an agreement should be reached by the start of 2019. This occasion marks the first actual use of Article 50. Up until such a time as these terms have been decided, and the 27 parliaments of E.U.-member nations have agreed, the U.K. remains a part of the E.U., although they hold no decision making power. This means E.U. laws and treaties both still apply to the U.K.

Brexit, as it’s being called, has proved the greatest example of euroscepticism yet. If other strong nations, such as Italy, or even worse, Germany, choose to take the same route Great Britain did, the European Union will soon be even more defunct than it already it.

Between the U.S. Presidential race heating up and Britain exiting the European Union, as well as other issues at home and abroad, summer of 2016 will be remembered as one of the most politically tumultuous in modern history.