Fatherhood, Motherhood, and Political Viability

By Meredith Conroy

Paul Ryan and his family, in an instagram post.

The latest twist in the tale of the House Speaker vacancy has seen Paul Ryan, the resentful favorite, use his general appeal to ask for four concessions, one of which is that he would take on fewer fundraising duties than past Speakers, in order to maintain the time he now spends with his young children.

When I heard this I was struck by how unapologetic he was in his demands, and for this one demand in particular. Furthermore, I was struck by the praise he was receiving for this particular demand—“how refreshing for a man to put his family before work” etc. Via her Facebook profile, which boasts 1.7 million followers, Sheryl Sandberg, author of Lean In, gave Ryan the “Lean In Award of the day” writing, “We need work to work for parents – and having leaders who weigh responsibilities as fathers as much as their responsibilities to their jobs shows all of us what is possible.” Although, not everyone agreed that he should be recognized; plenty of Sandberg’s followers were quick to point out Ryan’s hypocrisy—as a member of congress, Ryan has not supported paid family leave, or other measures that would give similar courtesy to working parents. [Sidenote: there was of course the sarcastic twitter response #PaulRyanConditions, which mocked the general premise of demands, but not the demands in particular.]

While the rationale for his demands is varied—certainly he wants to ensure that taking on the Speaker role will not preclude a future presidential run—the familial rationale is one that a similarly situated woman would never make, and is a not-so-friendly reminder that for a woman in politics, her family can be a liability, while for men, it is an asset.

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Religion and presidential elections

By William Adler

Library of Congress

Source: Library of Congress

There’s been a lot of talk lately among a certain segment of Republicans claiming that President Obama is a Muslim; or that maybe he’s too sympathetic to clock-building “terrorist” teenagers; or that, perhaps, Muslims are unfit to be considered for higher office altogether (article VI of the Constitution notwithstanding). Sadly, virtually none of this is surprising (something something history repeating itself).

Interestingly, though, this isn’t the first time in U.S. history that a president’s political opponents have accused him of lying about his true religious faith. When Thomas Jefferson ran for president in 1800, preachers and Federalist hatchet-men called him a “confirmed infidel,” who professed “disbelief in the Holy Scriptures” and was in fact a “howling atheist.” At best, some argued, Jefferson was a closeted Deist who rejected the active hand of God in the world. William Linn, a Dutch Reformed minister in New York, authored a pamphlet entitled, “Considerations on the Election of a President: Addressed to the Citizens of the United States,” in which he stated:

“No professed deist, be his talents and achievements what they may, ought to be promoted to this place by the suffrages of a Christian nation… Would Jews or Mahometans, consistently with their belief, elect a Christian? Shall Christians be less zealous and active than they?”

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Rethinking state capacity in the face of crisis

By Lama Mourad

By Mstyslav Chernov (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo via Wikimedia Commons; Women and children among Syrian refugees striking at the platform of Budapest Keleti railway station. Refugee crisis. Budapest, Hungary, Central Europe, 4 September 2015.

The current migrant crisis,[1] primarily fuelled by the ongoing civil war in Syria and parts of Iraq, has been the subject of much writing over the last few weeks. The vast majority of the focus has been on how this crisis is affected by, and affects, politics in Europe (and to a lesser extent Canada and the USA). While for Europe, it appears that this “crisis” is a recent one – with this summer seeing a remarkable increase in numbers of asylum claimants and refugees attempting to come into Europe – for neighbouring countries, Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey, it has been a reality for years now.

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