Cool Things about Mia Love That Have Nothing to Do with Her Race or Gender

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The Huffington Post recently published a controversial piece on newly elected congresswoman, Mia Love. In his piece titled “She Looks Black, but Her Politics Are Red: What Mia Love’s Victory Means for the Face of the GOP,” Dr. Darron T. Smith argues that Love’s conservatism compromises her identity as a black woman. He accuses Love of benefiting from white privilege, and questions the legitimacy of her experience as a person of color, saying “These actualities of Mia’s existence seem to be diametrically opposed to her values that are grounded in a white, male, Christian context. She appears publicly unhampered by the daily grind of white racism that affects other racial minorities within the United States.”

Throughout his article, Dr. Smith diminishes the ideas and experiences of conservative black Americans. He equates true blackness with leftism, and ignores the increasing ideological diversity of a dynamic community of black individuals. To say the least, I found Dr. Smith’s article irritating. But this piece was merely the cherry atop a pile of disappointing Mia Love coverage. Even more irritating is how the majority of media coverage on Love’s run for Congress has made her race and gender the central issues of her candidacy.

So, here are some cool things about Mia Love that have nothing to do with her skin color or number of X chromosomes:

“Fiscally Responsible” is her middle name.

Alright, not actually. But it should be! Love served Saratoga Springs UT for nine years, first as a city council member, and then as mayor for three years. Under her leadership, Saratoga Springs was able to cut expenses, and reduce the city’s deficit during the economic slump of 2008 from $3.5 million to $779,000. According to recent reports, Saratoga Springs now has the highest possible municipal bond rating for a city of its size. You go, Mia Love.

 She’s a problem solver.

In 2002, during a particularly buggy year, residents of Love’s Saratoga Springs community faced a huge mosquito problem. Residents found their homes blanketed by mosquitoes, but had no luck persuading the community’s developer to spray for the bugs. Residents quickly became fed up, and needed someone to solve the problem. So they turned to Mia Love. She argued on behalf of her neighbors, and eventually the developer conceded and agreed to spray for mosquitoes. Mia Love quickly became known as a problem solver within Saratoga Springs, was elected to city council, and has been kicking butt and taking names ever since.

 When it comes to public schools, she practices what she preaches.

Typically, politicians love public schools, but love sending their kids to private ones. Not Mia Love. She says “American families want better quality education, lower education costs, and more local control over decisions related to education.” And she speaks from firsthand experience because her three children all attend Utah public schools.

Love is also a proponent of charter schools, and while she was mayor, Saratoga Springs experienced a surge in charter school enrollment. One charter school, Lakeview Academy, received greater funding to increase enrollment from 750 to 1000 students while Love was in office.

 When she falls, she gets back up.

In 2012, Love ran a great race for Congress, defeating a handful of formidable GOP opponents in the Republican Convention. (The Utah Republican Party selects its candidates in conventions rather than primaries.) Love made it to the general election, only to lose to Democrat Jim Matheson by the narrowest of margins. But Mia Love doesn’t quit, and come 2014, she was ready to win.

 On top of everything else, she’s an incredibly talented performer.

Mia Love’s passion for theater started in high school. She was one of 11 people in her school district to qualify for the University of Hartford’s Performing Arts Program, which is considered by many as a stepping stone to Broadway. Mia Love was even offered a role on Broadway! She turned down the opportunity to perform in the production “Smokey Joe’s Cafe,” the longest running musical revue in Broadway history.


While electing the first black Republican congresswoman is certainly monumental, and ignoring race in an attempt to be “post-racial” is rarely fruitful, solely focusing on race is not productive. It’s important to recognize Mia Love’s race and the historic role it assumes in the outcome of her election, but Love is so much more than the color of her skin. More diversity in the GOP is great, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of celebrating the individual accomplishments of its members. In the coming term of Congress, I look forward to seeing Mia Love bring the same fiscal discipline and problem-solving attitude she showcased in Utah to the issues she’ll face on the national stage.

Divestment Is (Still) a Bad Idea

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It has been over a year since the Board of Managers announced it would not divest from fossil fuel stocks, and two classes of seniors have graduated since the ill-fated Board meeting that witnessed the death of the divestment movement’s last veneer of credibility. Yet the idea persists, driven by the passion of campus activists who misrepresent the costs and benefits associated with divestment. The passion is admirable—but ultimately misguided.

While Mountain Justice, the Phoenix and other divestment advocates emphasize the simplicity of the concept—let’s just divest from fossil fuel stocks and put that money into assets that satisfy our particular moral constraints—the reality is more complicated. It’s not as straightforward as making a trade on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Swarthmore’s $1.5 billion endowment outperforms the market by using a special asset class called commingled funds. This involves lumping together funds with other investors and sharing a common portfolio. With more investors comes more access to financial expertise, and thus a greater likelihood that the commingled fund will offer a higher return.

The flipside of this is that Swarthmore cannot divest from a particular stock—say ExxonMobil—without divesting from the entire commingled fund. Divestment would thus cause Swarthmore to lose its edge over the rest of the market, costing the College $10 to $15 million per year (the equivalent of full tuition for 150 to 250 students). Swarthmore’s generous financial aid policy and other important line items would be at risk.

Weighed against this should, of course, be the benefits of divestment. But these are small and come mostly in the form of cleaner consciences for Mountain Justice members. When an individual sells stock in a particular company, someone else will almost immediately buy it. As long as the companies are profitable, there will be plenty of willing buyers.

Divestment advocates like to cite that $50 billion has been “divested” from fossil fuel stocks. An important note: that number refers to the total wealth pledged to be fossil-free, not the actual amount divested; that number is much smaller. Regardless, though, other investors have almost certainly rebought the entire sum. The market value of the ten biggest oil and gas companies is $1.8 trillion. Over the last five years, the market capitalization of a single fossil fuel company—ExxonMobil—has increased $70 billion. The stock price has gone up by 41 percent, showing that demand for the stock is robust. Divestment is not only costly, but also ineffective.

The fundamental flaw in using divestment to fight climate change is that it ignores incentives. Fossil fuel companies are simply responding to demand—demand for transportation, demand for electricity, demand for diesel buses to attend climate marches in New York. It is we, the consumers, who create the demand. As long as we are willing to pay for oil and gas, fossil fuel companies have an incentive to meet our needs. And investors with an eye for profit will always supply financing to help them do it.

Taking the fight to fossil fuel companies is a feel-good strategy that will accomplish little in the fight against climate change. As consumers of fossil fuels, we are also responsible for carbon emissions. We derive enormous benefits from fossil fuels; our standard of living has grown exponentially since their advent during the Industrial Revolution. To deflect the responsibility for their environmental costs onto others is careless and hypocritical.

To clean up the environment, we have to change incentives so that our goals as economic actors cooperate with the needs of the planet. The best way to do this is to make pollution more expensive to incentivize the private sector to develop energy alternatives, such as nuclear power. “Making pollution more expensive” implies a range of policy options, each with their own benefits and drawbacks. These include a carbon tax swap or assigning property rights to the atmosphere.

Fossil fuel companies cannot be our enemies in this. After all, fossil fuel companies already have access to the capital necessary to make investments in sustainable energy. For better or worse, established energy companies are a major sector of the economy, and they must be part of the solution. If we enact policies that disincentivize pollution, Chevron and ExxonMobil will seek to protect their bottom line by plowing capital into alternative energy research rather than oil exploration, benefitting all of us.

Divestment is not a solution to climate change, nor is it part of any reasonable solution. Fossil fuels will not stop burning because Swarthmore has divested and put its finances in jeopardy. The divestment movement is a way for activists to clean their consciences without actually doing anything to help the planet. It implies intense pessimism—the message is that instead of trying to fix the environment, we should try to go down righteously on a sinking ship. I think our society can do better than that.

In Hiring Contractors, College Takes Everything Into Account–But the Most Important Factor

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Last Thursday’s Phoenix shed some light on the cryptic “Shame on Swarthmore College” banner that has hung outside the SEPTA station since early this summer. In construction of the Matchbox, the new theater and athletic space under construction near the Field House, Swarthmore has apparently committed the egregious error of hiring a contractor that uses non-union labor. Time to go to the barricades.

Stu Hain, Vice President for Facilities and Capital Projects, provided some sound reasoning for why the College chose not to use unionized labor for this particular project. From the Phoenix:

“The trickiest issue would have probably been around installation of the skin on the top of the building,” he said, referring to the red cement panels on the Matchbox’s rooftop. If the school had hired unionized workers, he said, there would have been a struggle about how many different trades would have to be involved in that process.

Now, the various tasks necessary to install the panels can be done with one group, as opposed to several.

“There is more flexibility,” Hain said.

The College has not escaped the clutches of social justice warriors, however. From Monday’s Daily Gazette:

When asked about the Shame on Swarthmore union campaign, the administrators noted that the contracting company awarded the Matchbox bid hires a mix of union and non-union labor — and that this piece of information was taken into account during the bidding process. Additionally, the College is in the midst of implementing a plan to give firms owned by women, minority, or disabled individuals an advantage in the bidding process, which will hopefully give these firms a 10% leeway in terms of their bids.

Strangely absent from the discussion is any mention of the track records of the contractors, and whether they can get the jobs done on time for a reasonable price. The College has essentially advertised that it will pay a 10 percent premium over the fair value of contracting so it can pay homage to vague notions of social justice—hardly sound financial reasoning. And we wonder why tuition approaches $60,000 a year.

Instead of seeking to check certain boxes (woman-owned, minority-owned, unionized) unrelated to performance, the College ought to prioritize the most important factor: whether the company can do what we’re hiring them to do.

With the College squeezing extra students into dorm rooms not designed to fit them, it is imperative to finish construction of projects like the Danawell expansion on schedule. The College is developing a back-up plan in case the weather pushes completion of the new building past fall 2015, when new students will swell the size of the student body and further burden our already-strained housing resources. Foremost among the College’s considerations should be hiring a contractor that can complete the expansion on time, come hell or high water. We’d like to know where this ranks on the list of priorities.

When the College pays more to hire contractors that adhere to certain constraints, it is necessarily able to spend less on other worthy ventures—paying employees well, supporting student life, or reducing the burden of tuition on hardworking families. The best thing for the College and our community would be making efficiency our foremost consideration.

A Belated Farewell

It’s been three months since the Class of 2014 pierced the Swarthmore Bubble and, clearly woozy with my newfound freedom, I’ve put off writing this farewell to the Swarthmore Independent. But goodbyes and gratitude are much in order.10440896_10152516879206474_1667754027473281942_n

Our small cohort of Swarthmore conservatives, libertarians, moderates and other fringe counterculturists had murmured about founding an alternative student newspaper for a while. But after “the spring” of 2013, Tyler Becker ’14, Savannah Saunders ’16 and I knew it was past time to get started. Right-of-center perspectives definitely exist at Swarthmore but, like the Quakers, too often remain mum. So last July, the three of us met at a Collegiate Network conference to hatch a plan, and the blog was up and running well before the start of the school year. Preston Cooper ’14 emerged as our go-to managing editor, and Nat Frum ’16 and Joe Warren ’16 kept us laughing with their “Swat8” sketch comedy videos.

I’m proud that our writers provided much-needed reporting on Title IX and free speech issues. It was the Independent that first brought attention to the administration’s ill-conceived plan to solicit student activists to sit on sexual assault juries. And it was the Independent that covered the administration’s handbook breech, when the deans decided to reeducate the Phi Psi brothers for their lewd but legal pledge invitations. Our writers also offered a unique voice on the College’s ever-evolving alcohol policies, the Cornel West/Robert George symposia, and the notorious “fat justice” workshop, among other dustups.  

By now, I imagine the “Spring of our Discontent” is part distant memory and part myth—like that time in the 70’s when Bruce Springsteen supposedly held a concert in the Crum. These days, there are new deans in Parrish, and Rebecca Chopp is manifesting her administrative destiny out West.

But so long as there are students—and professors—who think free speech is “a shield” for the privileged or that “trigger warnings” should be slapped on the cover of every great work of literature, the Independent remains necessary. Thankfully, Tyler Becker and I leave you in good hands. The Independent’s writers are proud to contribute to the intellectual diversity of Swarthmore. Many students have told me they don’t always agree with our editorial stances but find our articles provocative and worth considering. That’s precisely our goal: good old-fashioned liberal discourse.

Last semester, I was inspired by the level-headed Q&A periods after John Tomasi’s “Free Market Fairness” lecture and Samantha Harris’s presentation on academic freedom. It is my hope that the Independent and Swarthmore Conservative Society will continue to sponsor such events. Better yet, I hope that Swarthmore students and faculty will consider adopting symposia akin to Brown’s Janus Forum or Yale’s Political Union in order to generate more consistent cross-campus discussion. Regular high-quality debate and conversation are the only cures for a student body that, too often, has regarded the prospect of controversial scholars as simply intolerable.  For every student who shouts her barbaric yawp of “intersectionality” from the rooftops of McCabe, there ought to be another Swattie crunching the economic effects of divestment or asking What Would Socrates Do?

Our summer, as Emily Dickinson once wrote, “has made her light escape / Into the Beautiful—.” But, for Swarthmore students, the autumn leap into rigorous seminars and late-night study sessions has its own beauty. No matter how stressed or frazzled or politically persecuted you may feel, a four year liberal arts education at Swarthmore is truly a privilege. I trust the Independent’s writers will uphold that privilege with intelligence and wit. To quote the Class of 1927, Use Well Thy Freedom. 

Danielle Charette ’14 is beginning a Ph.D with the University of Chicago’s Committee on Social Thought and busy contemplating whether or not she’ll have to vote for Rahm Emanuel. 

GOP Loses Young Conservatives on Foreign Policy

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 I’ll never forget Michele Bachmann’s speech at CPAC 2013, which unveiled her idea for a new type of conservatism, one that would boost the platform of “care and compassion.” Between criticizing the President for his lavish vacations, exposing the atrocity of employing a White House dog walker on the taxpayers’ dime, and preaching the message of conservative-love-for-all, I found myself clapping. I stood and enthusiastically cheered along with 200 other CPAC-ers. It wasn’t until Bachmann exited the stage and the clouds of group-think parted, that I realized she had said absolutely nothing of life-giving potential for the conservative movement. More recently, Republicans across the spectrum have taken a liking to compassionate conservatism, with high hopes of revitalizing the party’s image with a makeover. The GOP is worried about its appearance, and has good reason to be. Polls show the party performing poorly among women and young voters. Republicans have traditionally struggled with securing those demographics, but now the GOP faces a new obstacle–a stronger libertarian movement. Sweeping across college campuses and gaining momentum, libertarianism is cementing itself as a more attractive option for thousands of young conservatives. Caught between an admiration of tradition and a necessity for change, GOP leaders have misdiagnosed what’s killing conservatism in America. They continue to promote ideas of American exceptionalism and argue for hawkish military expansions, promising a revival of Reagan conservatism.

But that’s the GOP’s problem. Young conservatives don’t want another Reagan regime.

Since the 1980’s, conservatism has seemed conflicted in carrying out one of its most basic tenets: change can be a good thing, but should be approached prudently, not zealously. Conservatives have sought to preserve tradition at home, but have intervened in foreign affairs like fanatics hell-bent on spreading democracy. Last week, a group of GOP senators took the Senate floor and spoke for an hour about President Obama’s failures abroad. Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham pointed to the current unrest in Iraq as evidence that the US should be doing more to secure peace in the Middle East, and Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell accused the President of weakening America’s national security by withdrawing troops from the country. In May, after his opening remarks at a dinner for Republican donors, Senator Rand Paul faced an onslaught of tough questions about his positions on foreign policy. Paul’s non-interventionist views make him an outlier on foreign policy, and although he connects well with younger voters, he risks losing the support of some powerful Republicans. Center-right Republicans seem receptive to Paul’s stance on foreign policy, but a large chunk of the GOP resists moving in a non-interventionist direction. Many Republicans are standing firm against pressure from the libertarian movement, hoping for a war hawk front-runner in 2016. GOP leaders are out of touch with twenty-somethings, preaching compassion but holding onto an offensive, uncompassionate take on foreign policy–an issue close to the heart of Generation Y.

Today’s young conservatives have a healthy distrust of government, and unlike earlier generations of conservatives, it doesn’t go away when the Republican guy is in power. Perhaps this is because we came of age watching the Bush administration fumble situation after situation, and expand the size of government to ensure more comprehensive screw-ups. Promises of lower taxes and a strong defense don’t satisfy us, because we know all too well that GOP governments can be very big governments. We grew up in the midst of a war based on lies, and have realized the devastating futility of our involvement. The Iraq war is a tragic mistake that continues to play out, and is a major reason for Generation Y’s fervent distrust of government intervention. We don’t want to expand the military budget, we don’t want to spread democracy or police the world, or claim anything that resembles the Bush Doctrine. Generation Y Conservatives don’t look favorably upon much of what the GOP aims to do abroad.

Republicans have a deep-rooted addiction to interventionism, leaving many young conservatives hungry for new options. The hype surrounding the “Ron Paul Revolution” was not taken seriously by the GOP, but Ron Paul’s refreshing stance on foreign policy lit a fire that’s not likely to simmer down anytime soon. With the recent announcement of turmoil in Iraq, young voters are reminded of the follies of imperialism. For decades, the United States has “spread democracy” by assisting in coups of other nations’ leaders, and then placing U.S.-approved dictators in power. In fact, the United States gave so much money and military support to Saddam Hussein, his leadership was practically handed to him on a red, white, and blue platter. By sticking its nose into other nations’ business, the United States forges powerful alliances in every corner of the world, gains access to more resources, and feels good by making the less enlightened world a little more American.

Center-right Republicans seem open to taking a new stance on foreign policy, but a large chunk of the GOP resists moving in a non-interventionist direction. Many Republicans are standing firm against pressure from the libertarian movement, hoping for a war hawk front-runner in 2016.The GOP declares that “a strong national defense is the pathway to peace.” America is exceptional, and has a responsibility to change the rest of the world whether they like it or not. Reform at home should be considered with caution, but reform abroad–go for it. What the GOP doesn’t realize is that to Generation Y, America’s interventionist policies just look like excuses for more power at the hands of careless politicians. Because at the end of the day, the Iraq war has cost about $1 trillion, the United States spends about $600 billion a year on the military, Guantanamo Bay is still going strong, and drone strikes have killed an estimated 273 innocent civilians. If the GOP wants to reclaim the hearts of libertarian converts and prove its compassion, what it needs is a foreign policy makeover.