Tags: Democracy, Democrats, Donald Trump, Harvard University, Republicans Following the publication of his and Daniel Ziblatt’s book “How Democracies Die” over a year ago, Harvard professor of government Steven Levitsky visited campus to deliver a lecture on the current political climate of the United States.Levitsky spoke as a part of a larger series titled “Perspectives on World Politics,” sponsored by the Kellogg Institute for International Studies, and referenced South Bend’s new-found political relevancy.“Twenty years ago, South Bend was known as the home of Notre Dame Football,” Levitsky said. “Now it’s known as the home of Mayor Pete [Buttigieg].”Levitsky’s talking points during his lecture tied directly to concepts he explained in his latest book, including mutual toleration, forbearance and political legitimacy.“What prevents a democracy from falling is forbearance,” Levitsky said. “It’s institutional restraint.”Using the American government as a model, Levitsky referred to the system of checks and balances and pointed out term limits for the presidency.“It was not the Constitution but George Washington who set the precedent that presidents should not run for a third term,” Levitsky said.Levitsky analogized the term forbearance as the “soft guard rails” of American democracy and expanded upon the idea of forbearance by adding his thoughts regarding mutual toleration — the idea that Democrats and Republicans should respect each other as legitimate political rivals. Levitsky said when two sides see each other as the enemy, and question their patriotism, society sees the destabilization of its democracy.“When we lose mutual toleration, politicians abandon forbearance. When we view rivals as existential threat and as enemies, there’s a breakdown of the system,” Levitsky said. “The problem is not just electing a demagogue in 2016, but electing one at a time when the soft guard rails of mutual toleration and forbearance don’t seem to be there.”Levitsky used the phrase demagogue in reference to U.S. President Donald Trump. He said the current administration’s contributes to government that appears more authoritative than democratic.“The more polarized a society becomes, the more tolerable we are of abusive behavior by our own side,” Levitsky said. “We start to justify violence and election fraud. Donald Trump is a symptom of polarization but not the cause.”Citing the most recent government shutdown, Levitsky said the shutdown reflects a severe breakdown in the working relationship between Democrats and Republicans.“Democrats control the [House of Representatives], so the Trump administration cannot concentrate or abuse power,” Levitsky said. “Without minimum restraint, divided government can descend into institutional warfare. Constitutional checks and balances can be used as partisan weapons.”Levitsky also discussed the backgrounds of the Republican and Democrat parties. Levitsky said the Republican Party has remained overwhelmingly white and Christian, while the Democrat party is comprised of a much more diverse base.“White Christians are a declining share of the electorate. It’s a bleak electoral future for Republicans,” Levitsky said. “‘Make America Great Again’ reflects a sense of peril.”
By Laura D.C. KolnoskiFORT MONMOUTH – Interest from two foreign entities has prompted the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority (FMERA) to pursue inclusion in the “EB-5 Program” sponsored by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).Known as EB-5 for the employment-based fifth preference visa granted participants, the federally-administered program makes entrepreneurs, their spouses, and unmarried children under 21 eligible to apply for a green card if they make the necessary investment in a commercial enterprise in the United States, and create or preserve permanent full-time jobs for U.S. workers.The program was enacted by Congress in 1990 to stimulate the economy through job creation and capital investment by foreign investors. Visas are also set aside for investors in Regional Centers promoting economic growth designated by USCIS. Hoping to make the fort a Regional Center, FMERA Executive Director Bruce Steadman announced on January 20 that Cushman & Wakefield, the fort’s master real estate broker, will create a marketing campaign to attract foreign business investment. He said, “Two groups have been entertained at the fort and we think it’s viable.” As per FMERA policy, officials declined to release details about the potential investors.“Cushman & Wakefield have contacts at the Regional Centers and work with international companies,” said Candace Valenti, FMERA senior planning officer. “Phone calls and emails have already begun. We will begin direct marketing to them to gauge interest.”“It looks like a great program,” said Oceanport Councilman John Patti, who sat in for Mayor John “Jay” Coffey at the January 20 FMERA meeting. “It’s a strong program and right up our alley.” All EB-5 businesses must invest in a new commercial enterprise defined as, “any for-profit activity formed for the ongoing conduct of lawful business including, but not limited to a sole proprietorship, limited or general partnership, a holding company, joint venture, corporation, business trust or other entity, which may be publicly or privately owned.”Requirements include creating or preserving at least ten full-time jobs for qualifying U.S. workers within two years (or under certain circumstances, within a reasonable time after the two-year period), of the immigrant investor’s admission to the United States as a Conditional Permanent Resident. As of January 4, USCIS approved 716 Regional Centers nationwide. There are 64 designated centers in New Jersey listed on the program’s website: uscis.gov.In other fort news: FMERA officials are projecting May as the latest anticipated date for formal transfer of Fort Monmouth to the state from the U.S. Army. Outstanding environmental issues must be addressed in the Finding of Suitability to Transfer, or “FOST.” The Army is legally required to mitigate any lingering environmental issues at the fort in perpetuity.“The FOST needs to be finalized, leading to the last thing, the Memorandum of Agreement,” Steadman said. “The MOA opens the door to a closing. We are very close to a final draft on the MOA; everything is right there at the doorstep. If that passes the (FMERA) board in February, it will be a couple of months to a closing. Hopefully that happens the first of May.” Last month, Steadman stated, “the complexity of environmental concerns is the biggest reason for the delay” in the transfer process. During his January 20 report, FMERA member Kenneth Kloo, director of the Division of Remediation Management for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), said the remediation of polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons is necessary throughout the fort and currently “under discussion” with Army representatives.“Polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons are benzene rings common in the environment and found all over the world where there is combustion,” Kloo said. “The Army is anxious to address everything involved in moving the conveyance forward and doing everything they must do under federal law. The Army is motivated because they want to expedite the sale. They don’t want to have to come back to address that. But like anyone else, they only want to spend what they are required to spend.” Kloo, chairman of FMERA’s Environmental Staff Advisory Committee, stated in December that other remaining unresolved environmental issues include federal versus state remediation responsibilities, asbestos in some buildings, and timelines for addressing existing landfills.The McAfee Center, located on 7.25 acres in Oceanport, is being offered for sublease after no bids were received to a Request for Proposals due January 8. The authority is now seeking proposals to sublease one floor, two floors, or the entire two-story 89,492 square-foot building, built in 1997, that served as an Army research and development facility. Offers must include plans to use the property for scientific, engineering, and/or information technology-related purposes. Proposals are due February 5.