US Politics

The Trayvon Martin Case: When Tragedies Become Politicized…

The story of the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin has evolved into a nation-wide discussion. Most readers are probably familiar with the series of events: on February 26 Trayvon Martin is found dead in Stanford, Florida, killed by a 28 year old neighborhood watch captain named George Zimmerman. The police believed Zimmerman’s story, that he had shot the teenager in self defense, without much investigation. Over the following days the parents of Trayvon call for Zimmerman’s arrest but the police refuse. The situation escalates and heavy criticism is laid on Sanford Police Chief Billy Lee for mishandling the case, and he is eventually forced to temporally step down. Meanwhile Zimmerman still hasn’t been charged (partly  due to Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law), and the campaign for his arrest has grown across the country. Over 900,000 people have signed an online petition for his arrest and events called “Million Hoodie Marches” made thousands take to the streets.

New York State Senator Eric Adams wears a hoodie to show solidarity for the death of Trayvon Martin

Initially the media ignored Trayvon’s murder, but as soon as outrage started to build, coverage started full force and it made the issue even stickier. Since Zimmerman was injured in the conflict, cable news shows debated ad infinitum whether he acted in self defense or not. Was he racist, or did he want to play the hero? Geraldo Rivera even went as far as to blame the teenager’s hoodie for putting him in harm’s way (inadvertently causing a spike in the hoodie’s popularity). But that’s not all. Zimmerman has received death threats and has gone in to hiding. As a response the New Black Panthers have put out a $10,000 bounty for Zimmerman’s “capture.” Most recently film director Spike Lee tweeted, incorrectly, Zimmerman’s address, making a neighborhood woman a target for those angry at the police’s inaction.

But for the most part this discussion was a social issue, and it only crossed over into the political world when President Obama was questioned about it at an unrelated event. When listening to Obama’s response it’s clear that he’s on tenterhooks, trying to balance an emotional response without diffintively weighing into the issue. But his mere mentioning of Trayvon’s’s death opened a can of political worms that are doomed to wriggle across the political sphere until some sense of closure is obtained.

Read more after the jump.

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US Politics

Calling it 2: Premature Electoral Prediction

Even he's surprised that he's the frontrunner

Last time we did “Calling it” we claimed that Newt was done for and Romney had clinched the nomination. Well it seems while we were covering our local debate between the Republicans and Democrats, Santorum has surged across the States. Jokes about Santorum’s name aside, the race for the GOP nomination has been pretty disappointing for everyone involved. The turn outs at these primaries have been considerably lower than previous years, and no candiate has the Republicans really fired up. Santorum himself is no viable candidate for office: while he may appeal to the GOP’s Christian base as an alternative to Romney, his social politics is just too restrictive and outdated for him to lead the entire nation.

This Republican pessimism has been dominating the nation’s media and liberals in particular have pounced on it. Economist Paul Krugman wrote a scathing New York Times Column about the GOP’s dismal prospects. In the column he argues that Republican base demands a level of conservatism from the candidates that the general public is not interested in, saying that “the party suffers from “severe” conservatism in the worst way. And the malady may take many years to cure.”

It would seem the Republican party has lost direction. It’s unable to find an inspiring candidate or resinate with the American people en large, beyond their core base. But looking forward to November their are other factors in play. The economy is growing again up to 2.3% from 1.6% last year and Obama has held approve rating steady around 50%.

These factors have been analyzed by economists Patrick Hummel and David Rothschild working for Yahoo! Labs. They have developed an algorithm from analyzing the past 10 presidential elections which can predict the outcome of a state election with 88% accuracy. When given the economic and political factors for the upcoming election, Hummel and Rothschild’s model predicted that Obama would prevail over a Republic challenger with 303 electoral votes to 235.

That’s quite the prediction, but don’t place your bets yet. There is plenty of time until November and things could change. But for now it seems like Obama has the upper hand and the Republican candidates don’t know how to proceed. Perhaps their own algorithms have told them to save their energy for later.

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