by Dani Cooke
In our extremely polarized political landscape, the recent midterm elections were undeniably important. An estimated 49.4% of the voting-eligible population turned out to vote in the 2018 midterms . If this estimate holds true, it will beat the turnout for the year 1966 (48.7%) and possibly be the highest midterm voter turnout since 1914 .
In mid-October, just under three weeks before election day, the 11th and 12th-grade classes traveled to Sterling, Colorado and Scottsbluff, Nebraska—two rural and generally Republican areas—to expand our view of the political spectrum in our region. In Sterling, I asked a number of students if they planned to vote in future elections. From each student I asked, I received a similar answer:
“I won’t vote, because my vote doesn’t matter.”
This perspective is not limited to the so-called “forgotten Colorado,” the parts of the state neglected by the government powers centralized in the Denver Metro area [3, 4]. Rather, I’ve heard this same sentiment expressed by my friends in Boulder and Denver. Amid intense partisan unrest, young people aren’t convinced that their vote matters.
In spite of these doubts, however, the 2018 midterms saw a massive turnout of young voters. According to Tufts University’s Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement , 31% of citizens between the ages of 18 and 29 turned out to vote in the most recent election. While this number may seem small, it marks a 10% increase from the 2014 midterms. And this vote is far from immaterial—in fact, the youth vote has been cited as a “powerful voting bloc” which “almost certainly” contributed to the Democratic Party’s takeover of the House of Representatives after the most recent election. Overall, in states with a higher turnout of youth voters, Democratic candidates tended to win their respective races.
Indeed, young people are far more likely to vote for Democratic candidates. However, within this generalization lies a significant problem. In the months preceding the 2018 midterms, a number of youth movements arose in order to encourage voting among students: The Future Coalition’s Walkout To Vote , Vote For Our Lives , and Box The Ballot . These movements, whether unintentionally or by design, have been almost entirely steered toward liberal voters in support of Democratic candidates.
Voting is the foundation of our representative democracy, regardless of political agenda. The importance of voting should be stressed not for the growth of one political party, but rather for the promotion informed political action demanded by our governmental system. Amid discussions of voter suppression and the fact that election day is not a national holiday, preventing people from successfully making it to the polls, those who have the power to vote should use it.
“Voting is the only way to ensure that our values and priorities are represented in halls of power. And it’s not enough to just vote for president every four years. We all have to vote in every single election.” - Michelle Obama, When We All Vote.
2018 Midterm Elections Analysis
(x) Election Results: PBS
(x) Analysis of the Election Results: The New Yorker
(x) The “Youth Wave”: The Atlantic
(x) Youth Voter Turnout Statistics: CIRCLE
(x) Trends Among Youth Voters: Harvard Institute of Politics
Challenges of Voting & Voter Suppression
(x) Fighting Voter Suppression: ACLU
(x) The Difficulties of Voting: Pew Research
(x) Voter Suppression in the 2016 Election: The Atlantic
(x) Voter Suppression in the 2018 Midterms: The Atlantic
(x) The Democratic Party Voter Suppression: FiveThirtyEight
(x) Voter Eligibility Information for Colorado
(x) Voter Registration FAQs for Colorado
(x) Register to Vote Online
With many unhappy with the current state of the government and a law against any form of opposition to the legislation, violence has overtaken the streets of Nicaragua. This violence has resulted in more than 400 deaths and a suffering economy which in turn has lead to many people losing their jobs. Numbers of asylum seekers have shot up in 2018 as many Nicaraguan citizens seek safety and jobs.
This summer, I had the privilege to travel to Santa Cruz, Costa Rica. While there, I had the opportunity to interact with some of the locals—one of whom was Franklin, a Nicaraguan citizen who had moved to Costa Rica in June of 2018. Hearing bits and pieces about his story while in Costa Rica was very interesting, and once back in the United States I found that I had questions and wanted to learn more about his experience. Quite frankly, I was scared to talk to him and to write this article because it is a story that is not my own and that can potentially hold a lot of emotion for people. That being said, I believe that there is a lot of value in understanding the experiences and perspectives of others. I am very grateful to Franklin for willingly opening up and telling his story, it has given me perspective on events that before seemed so distant, and in writing this I hope that others can receive the same insight.
“Usually, Nicaragua is a country with opportunities, with enough resources for people to have a good life. What is not possible sometimes is to have access to those opportunities and that lifestyle, not because we do not have the resources, but because of the systems that develop.” Franklin believes that systems have developed in Nicaragua that are stripping people of their freedom, a violation that has no ethical justification. Franklin has also witnessed firsthand the effects of the oppression. Before the events, he was working at an organization in Estelí, Nicaragua that coordinates programs for foreign volunteers. He said the progression was slow: “little by little, from safe to unsafe.”
The protests started in the capital of Managua. At this time he would get calls from coworkers and friends in the U.S. consoling him based on the news, but he dismissed it believing that the events would soon come to an end. However, the protests increasingly spread throughout the country including Estelí. Franklin said that he would be safe as long as he avoided the protestors, but that was not a simple task. “I remember by June I not able to go to work without any problem.” Most of the protests took place on the main roads making any form of travel more difficult. As the violence increased, the organization that Franklin was working for could no longer host international volunteers, and, in turn, had no livelihood in which to support their employees. Anyone without a permanent contract was fired, the U.S. citizens were told by the U.S. embassy to leave Nicaragua, and remaining were the permanent employees from Nicaragua. The organization realized that these people would be unable to maintain a livelihood in the country so they were sent to similar organizations around the world. This is how Franklin ended up in Santa Cruz, Costa Rica, organizing student volunteers like me.
Despite the certain difficulty that comes with this story, Franklin is aware of his fortune. “I am one of the lucky people in hundreds,” he said, recounting stories of his friends and coworkers. He mentioned his relationships with people who have been convicted of participating in the protests or helping those who were injured during protests “and they are not bad people.” He also spoke about the fact that many people in his country have lost their jobs, and few have been able to find a steady source of income since. This is where Franklin realizes that he is fortunate. With family and citizenship in Costa Rica, his process of finding safety and stability held fewer complications, unlike many others.
In fortune or lack thereof, humans all around the world are faced with instability. The complexities of human interaction cause an entanglement of conflicting stories that frequently lead to misunderstanding and dispute. So much value can be found in giving space and listening to these stories that others possess as their own. This again is why I would like to thank Franklin for opening up with his story. “Any pleasure that is robbing or taking other people's opportunities of freedom is a pleasure that should be given up.” Freedom is being taken away from the citizens of Nicaragua, and even though the problem spreads beyond the borders of this Latin American country, recognizing the story of one can give insight into the broader contradictions of our world.
by Nina Auslander
Perhaps one of the worst parts about being a teenager is the universal scorn coming from any generation older than you. Everyday, articles are written about the idiotic challenges your generation is starting, and the various cultural norms your generation is eroding with your outlandish behavior.
As you may have noticed, this trend has abruptly stopped with the Parkland shooting. Teenagers across the country have been praised for their activism. While it may feel refreshing to bask in the praise, it does leave one wondering. Why now? What’s special about our generation? Why did the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High start a revolution where others failed?
Perhaps it helps to examine the context of this movement. As the New York Times observes after a mass shooting, “The national response plays out in a rote, almost performative way. The outcry lasts only a few days before guns fade back into the background noise of American politics.”
In the immediate aftermath of the Parkland Shooting, the atmosphere felt similar. Already, the nation seemed resigned to another round of infighting, followed by nothing.
Yet, a couple of days later, the voices of student activists David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez (along with others) emerged from the rubble to tell their side of the story.
Why are the Marjory Stoneman Douglas students so effective?
Unlike most public schools across the nation, Marjory Stoneman has a strong commitment to debate skills, student journalism, and student speech. According to Slate, “ [the] school system boasts, for example, of a ‘system-wide debate program that teaches extemporaneous speaking from an early age.”’ Every middle and high school in the district has a forensics and public-speaking program. Coincidentally, some of the students at Stoneman Douglas had been preparing for debates on the issue of gun control this year, which explains in part why they could speak to the issues from day one.”
What’s special about our generation?
Well besides our apparent propensity to eat certain laundry products, our generation is coming of age during a rather turbulent time in America. Reared under the the shadow of 9/11 and raised during an age where active shooter drills began in kindergarten, the thought of imminent danger looms above us. Yet, (supposedly) we are not as cynical as those who came before us. We haven’t lost our ability to believe that change is possible in America, even if it is hard to come by.
If you’ve been living under a rock for the past 15 months or so, than you would be pretty surprised by the amount of activism in today’s American politics. From the Women’s March to the March for our Lives, marching one’s outrage has become pretty de rigueur for today’s liberals. This has certainly helped the recent gun control movement gain steam.
by Dani Cooke
We all know that Watershed is a small community in a small residential neighborhood in a small yet ultra-progressive city—so, when about fifty of us decide to walk out of class and sit on the pavement by the front office, the world doesn’t exactly take note.
To me—and many other students with which I’ve spoken—these are beyond difficult times. It is far too easy to feel helpless and small, so when students are getting shot in their classrooms, the only way we know to respond is to get up and hope someone notices what it’s like when we’re gone.
We talk with our friends. We hug our parents. We read the news. We get coffee and sleep too late and binge-watch Netflix when we should be doing homework.
And when armed with paper and pen, we write. We demand change.
Over the course of the walkout, Sam Andrews and I organized one major action component to offset the seemingly futile nature of our civil disobedience: a write-in. Lasting all of seventeen minutes, these letters were brief but mighty.
Dozens signed pre-printed letters to Congress. Almost fifty used an online form to send a letter in their name. A handful of students and teachers even hand-wrote letters of their own. All of these were sent to Cory Gardner (R), one of our Colorado state senators who still opposes greater implementation of legislation against gun violence. Additionally, brief notes were sent to senator Michael Bennett (D) and representative Jared Polis (D) thanking them for their policy-based action in Congress to prevent future mass shootings.
This was more than just a walk-out, and the work is far from over. Want to send your own letter? Write your own or send a pre-written letter in your name at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/VGC6LV6.
It was a cold, clear day, with a couple of clouds dotting the sky. A light breeze continued throughout the morning. As is typical in Colorado, the sun shone brightly, illuminating the pink hats of the crowd.
All in all, a picturesque day to protest today’s tempestuous political climate.
However, a curious emotion seemed to permeate the crowd—not anger, not hate, but joy at the community surrounding them. People moved slowly in the crowd, laughing, joking, participating in chants with a smile on their face.
Last year, in protests nationwide and around the world, women and men made it clear to the new presidential administration that they were not going down without a fight. Immense numbers spanning the globe came to support this message; according to some estimates, 3.3 million women attended a women’s march, far exceeding the 160,000 that showed up for Trump’s inauguration.
After the resounding success of the 2017 Women’s March, many people had doubts that the protest would spark change for women’s rights. Yes, it was impressive that millions of people across the globe had turned out to champion women’s rights in mid-January, but would these women be able to sustain the momentum they had gained?
Well, yes. Two of the defining stories of 2017 were the #MeToo movement and the number of women running for office in 2018. This year, 392 women are planning to run for the House of Representatives, and 49 women are planning to run for the Senate, more than 68% higher than the same amount of women who announced they were planning to run for senate in 2014. More than 25,000 women have contacted Emily’s List, an organization dedicated to electing pro-choice democratic women, with interest in running for positions ranging from the local school board to a senate seat. This is a marked contrast to the 920 women who contacted Emily’s List between 2015 and 2016.
While the Women’s March has impacted people nationwide, it has also impacted our small, very progressive private school in Boulder, CO. This year, I attended the women’s march in Denver with Dani Cooke, Leo Sipowicz, Grace Phillips, and Sam Andrews. While the crowds were not quite as impressive as last year in Denver (60-70,000 compared to 150,000), there was still quite an impressive turnout. While it seemed the march’s attendance had decreased, there was in increase in the number of noticeable counter protesters: from 0 to 2.
Off to the side, nearby to the Denver Modern Art Museum, two men held signs protesting the women’s march. One read, “Proud to be a straight, white male,” and the other held a sign that read “Feminism is cancer.”
Sam Andrews, typical to his nature, informed the rest of us that he was going to go talk to the protestors. While our party mocked his decision off to the side, a local CBS reporter, impressed with Sam’s willingness to talk to the two men, decided to interview him on television.
A rather extraordinary thing happened while Sam was talking to the reporter: a women ran up next to the protestors and proceeded to take off her top, revealing mastectomy scars.
The man with the sign that read “Feminism is cancer,” tilted his sign down towards his lap, so that no one from the crowd could see it.
A woman shouted from the crowd, “You should run for office!”
by Nina Auslander
In this podcast, I will be examining the implications of the KKK existing prominently in Colorado, particularly in the early 20th century. I will specifically examine the elections members of the KKK won in Colorado from 1920-1929, the story of a black undercover cop named Ron Stallworth who infiltrated the KKK in the 1970’s in Colorado Springs, and women in the KKK.
But this is not a life-long friend telling you of her experience in a vulnerable moment. It is a movement that has transformed the world. It is strengthened by women who are not crying on anyone’s shoulder, but rather shouting their outrage to the world. In the past few months, The #MeToo hashtag has been used in millions of posts across many platforms of social media. It has been translated into Italian (#QuellaVoltaChe, or “that time when”) and French (#BalanceTonPorc, or “out your pig”); and even made its way into our government with the #MeTooCongress.
The question on everyone’s mind is, “Why now?” Why has this movement, as Washington Post reporter Monica Hesse puts it, produced “The sound of a million men shaking in their wingtips and cowboy boots — men who are experiencing, perhaps for the first time, the kind of enveloping unease and fear that they’ve triggered in women, to some degree, for years.”
There are several contributing factors, but according to Barbara Berg, a historian and the author of the 2009 book Sexism in America: Alive, Well and Ruining Our Future, “This is the click moment. It’s like, ‘Enough.’ And then there’s a snowball effect: Once you see women speaking truth to power and not being told, ‘This is just what you have to put up with,’ then it encourages other women to stand up.”
I believe we have seen a “click” moment before, just without the snowball effect. One only has to look at the famous men felled in the last few years to get an idea: Bill Cosby, Bill O’Reilly, and Roger Ailes, to name a few. There is a metaphor going around, of cracks in a dam, and this is the unleashing point. A few names and faces trickled through, but the full force of anger was not behind them.
But what has caused this particular breaking point?
Perhaps it has to do with an accused sexual abuser in the White House. Women can not directly go after the president, but they can pursue the avenues of justice for their mentor, their employee, or their colleague.
Others believe that having famous women at the forefront of the movement has helped. Rich and beautiful actresses are coming forward to tell their story: Gwyneth Paltrow, Ashley Judd, Angelina Jolie, and Jennifer Lawrence, as well as countless others.
One certainly cannot ignore the rise of social media as a factor in this story. A single voice can be amplified around the world in only 140 characters. But it needs not be a tweet calling for someone’s head. As Sophie Gilbert, a reporter for the Atlantic puts it, "Unlike many kinds of social-media activism, it isn’t a call to action or the beginning of a campaign, culminating in a series of protests and speeches and events. It’s simply an attempt to get people to understand the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault in society. To get women, and men, to raise their hands.”
The movement is about displaying magnitude, not about a call for social activism.
However, as the months have gone by, more and more men and women have called for fundamental changes in workplaces and social situations—for the outrage to be channelled into change.
According to sociologist Michael Kimmel, the change really begins with the ending of the “web of enablers.”
“Bob Weinstein doesn’t say to Harvey, ‘You better stop or I’ll kick you out of the company.’ Billy Bush does not say to Donald Trump, ‘That’s disgusting, not to mention illegal.’ In the sexual assault world we often talk about how we incorrectly interpret women’s silence as consent. Well, we also mistake men’s silence for assent.”
We have all been guilty of saying nothing even when it goes against what we consider “right” in all types of discrimination, whether it is racism, sexism, or homophobia. Many women and men have found the courage to step forward with our stories. Now we must prevent these stories from becoming sad tales to be sympathized with and then forgotten—instead, they must become stories of action.
by Clara Bamford
On November 8th, we begrudgingly acknowledged the one-year anniversary of Donald Trump’s election. Naturally, for angry Americans everywhere, this has sparked protests nationwide. Although, they aren’t really protests. In fact, the event has to do less with protesting and more with letting out a collective emotion. The name of the event is “Scream helplessly at the sky on the anniversary of the election.”
Researchers have concluded that using the word “helpless” and the like in advertising for marches makes people less likely to attend. However, this is to make a point about the current state of our democracy. “This administration has attacked everything about what it means to be American. Who wouldn't feel helpless every day? Coming together reminds us that we are not alone, that we are part of an enormous community of activists who are motivated and angry, whose actions can make a difference. Although it is important to acknowledge the tragedy that befell our country on 9 November, we cannot let it defeat us,” said Johanna Schulman, an activist from Boston. Despite the negative word associated with the word “helpless,” nevertheless, over 4,000 people have RSVP’d online to “scream helplessly at the sky” and another 33,000 have shown interest in attending the Boston protest. Similar events have also been planned in Miami, Philadelphia, Dallas, Austin, Los Angeles, New York, Denver, and in Seattle to express rage about our current presidency.
The events have a range of reviews from “Friggin’ fabulous!” to “F***ing stupid.” Donald Trump Jr. was quick to tease the rallies, tweeting, “Solid plan: apparently my 3 year old is consulting for the opposition." He isn’t the only one mocking the protests, however, as the New York demonstration organizers have sarcastically written, “Join us cucks and snowflakes, safe spacers and libtards, as we enjoy a collective cathartic yell into the heavens about our current political establishment.” Lots of people think that the demonstrations will not make a difference at all.“ Their actions may make a difference, to be sure, but perhaps not in the way they are intending. The sight of these unhinged minions binging on bitterness, self-pity, and outrage coming together to collectively howl at the moon is something that will drive more Americans into the arms of Trump.” wrote Debra Heine of PJ Media. Heather Wilhelm of the Chicago Tribune penned,“But this is America, and people can still do pretty much what they want to do, even if it’s a half-baked protest that I guarantee will become really awkward the moment after everyone walks outside and screams for 10 seconds and then looks around in a gigantic, unspoken “OK, now what?”
So, Why Is DACA's Rescindment Such a Big Deal?
Here’s where I drop the carefully researched statistics and try, in this inhuman time, to be human. We’ve all seen the little newsflashes—you know, the automatic notifications from the Apple News app we’re all too lazy to turn off and never really consider—and received the emails urging us to Call your senator, call your representatives, make your voices heard! The rescindment of DACA by the Trump Administration is not the kind of issue I can write a school newspaper article about and say I’ve made a contribution to the narrative. Real, hard-hitting press syndicates on all sides of the political spectrum are doing that with all kinds of ethos, logos, and pathos.
Instead, here’s what I can offer you: a couple hundred words on my understanding of what DACA looks like—really looks like, as separate from the politics as is (im)possible—in my immediate community.
DACA’s Repeal: The Basics
In August of 2012, the Obama administration administered a program which would come to affect the lives of nearly 790,000 young undocumented immigrants  in the United States—Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. The program did not provide recipients with legal status, but rather enabled the government to make a formal determination not to pursue removal of undocumented individuals based on certain eligibilities and “provided certain illegal aliens who entered the United States before the age of sixteen a period of deferred action and eligibility to request employment authorization” .
Just over five years later, on September 5, 2017, the Trump administration announced a plan to repeal this program and “take all appropriate actions to execute a wind-down of the program.” The Department of Homeland Security stopped accepting new applications for the DACA program on the fifth of September, and no renewals will be accepted after March 5th, 2018. As a result, former DACA recipients could lose their protection as early as March; by June of 2021, there will no more immigrants protected under DACA .
However, all of this remains vaguely conditional: in order for these projections to be made reality, Congress must fail to pass a bill in the next sixth months that protects DACA recipients.
DACA & Area Schools
According to statistics provided by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, over 17,000 Colorado students attend school under the protection of deferred action . Because education is so directly a part of DACA, many educational organizations have addressed the news of DACA’s rescindment in their own statements.
As of March of 2017, (before the Trump administration announced its decision to rescind DACA) the Boulder Valley School District committed to never asking for a child’s immigration status upon enrollment, stating that “public school districts like BVSD have an obligation to enroll students regardless of their immigration status and without discrimination.” Additionally, according to a FAQ released by Superintendent Dr. Bruce K. Messinger, “if [BVSD] became aware of a student’s lack of immigration status, [they] would not share that information with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services” . Denver Public Schools released a number of similar statements in direct response to President Trump’s actions on the DACA program, most notably from Superintendent Tom Boasberg:
“President Trump’s decision to end DACA is shortsighted, heartless and harmful. Our DACA students and educators have tremendous capacity, potential and desire to contribute to our community. Many of them are students and graduates who have spent almost their entire lives in the Denver Public Schools, and we as a community have invested greatly in them and their potential. We know these young people, we welcome and respect them, and we will do all we can to right this wrong” .
Even institutions of higher education, such as the University of Colorado system, have issued statements regarding DACA. CU’s four campuses comprise the largest college in Colorado, an organization which has spoken out in support of DACA recipients and undocumented students. A joint communication from Bruce Benson (the president of the CU system) and the chancellors of each of the four campuses stated the following:
“We have engaged Colorado’s Congressional delegation to urge them to take action to allow DACA students to continue to study and work beyond march at the University of Colorado and at universities around the country… DACA students are valued and important members of the CU community. They enrich our university, inspire us with their commitment to their education and to their futures, and enhance the diversity that makes CU strong… We will continue to stand with our students and work to ensure they can pursue the education that will benefit them and our country” .
Interview: DACA from the Perspective of an Immigration Lawyer
Nicole A. Murad Rothstein, Esq.
While researching for this article, I had the opportunity to sit down with Nicole Rothstein, an immigration attorney with Murad & Murad Immigration Attorneys of Boulder, Colorado. She works primarily on removal defense and has a great deal of insight into how DACA’s rescindment impacts the area.
“[DACA’s rescindment] will affect the schools because kids who might have a future to go to college will no longer have that ability in many instances. It affects people’s morale, which then affects the schools. Without DACA, it does hinder our options and what we can do for people.”
“One of the reasons we need DACA and the DREAM Act is that there is no other option for these kids. And when people say, ‘Why didn’t they just get legal status ten years ago?’ or, ‘Why don’t they just get in line?’, what they don’t understand is that for most of these kids there’s actually no line for them to get into and no process for them to start. [DACA] was the process, and now it’s being taken away.”
She emphasizes the impossible lengths of any possible line: “Even if you’re lucky enough to have a United States Citizen family member or spouse who can file for you and you’re a high school kid, there’s an extremely long wait time. Your sibling, say, could file something for you today, and the wait time for that is about twenty-one years. So there’s no option; for someone who’s sixteen or seventeen years old, it’s a lifetime that bypasses the time they need to study or graduate school.”
Her firm, which works primarily in courts on removal defense—often volunteering their time to help clients—is working to help families maintain hope despite the significant lack of legal options presented by current immigration policy. “There’s a huge increase in desperation. We really feel a call to action to help people stay positive in this really awful environment. If you’re a teenager and you’ve had this work authorization or you’ve had these goals to go to college and all of a sudden that’s ripped away, it causes a lot of desperation among the children and the families. In many cases, there hasn’t been anything that we can actually do right now, but what we can do is give people a little bit of hope because it isn’t the end.”
Finally, Ms. Rothstein urges everyone to act as a beacon of hope for those affected by such policy changes. “There’s hope and a lot of push that we need to continue to give Congress to pass reform and the DREAM Act. There’s a lot more people that are very nervous about their situation, and it’s just important for them to feel like they can go somewhere and they have a resource. We’re really in a time of a lot of hostility towards immigrants; as much as we can in these difficult times, [we must] spread positivity and welcoming attitudes toward people. A lot of individuals are feeling very unwelcome and scared, and they don’t know who they can trust and who they can’t. As much as you can spread a message to high school students to share that kindness, I think it’s important.”