The College of Arts and Sciences' communications office works closely with Cornell's Media Relations Office. As the College's representatives to media, we connect faculty experts and thought leaders to local, regional, national and international media organizations.
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Current press statements from Arts & Sciences faculty:
Political violence on January 6, 2021
Police 'unprepared' and possibly 'complicit' in Capitol breech
U.S. Capitol Police failed to stop a mob of Trump supporters from breeching the Capitol building on Wednesday and disrupting Congress’ final electoral count.
Sabrina Karim, the Hardis Family Assistant Professor of government, is an expert on the security sector and police reform. She weighs in on the response of law enforcement to the occupation.
“What is the institutional design of law enforcement in the U.S. (particularly Washington, D.C.)? In general, law enforcement is decentralized, with police agencies institutionalized at the municipal, county and state level. They lack coordination and cohesion. They are also mostly all controlled by the executive (as is the Washington, D.C. National Guard and the Department of Defense).
“The U.S. Capitol Police is not controlled by the executive, rather by Congress, and has 2,300 officers and civilian employees, but there were thousands of protestors and insurrectionists, so is it possible that they were simply overwhelmed and unprepared? There are some indications that the police acted out of self-preservation. There is a video of a lone police officer who backs away from a growing crowd. He is afraid of this mob and does not stand his ground. Perhaps he did not fire his weapon because he feared the mob would retaliate. If so, this restraint was strategic, a calculated decision to let the mob ‘run its course,’ because standing ground would mean escalation and a possible threat to police life.
“I would also argue that there is the possibility of strategic police complicity as well. The police might have been complicit because many sympathize with President Trump’s cause, or because many of the insurrectionists are the same people that support the ‘blue lives matter’ counter-movement. They have been supportive of the police, and thus arresting ‘allies’ may not be in the larger interests of the police.
“Ironically, this strategic restraint is the response that citizens would hope for (albeit, ideally with more effectiveness in arrests). Indeed, it shows that the police can be restrained in their actions, but only when the protestors or rioters are white or politically aligned with the police.”
You can see more, including a list of federal law enforcement agencies with jurisdiction in Washington, D.C., on Karim’s Twitter thread.
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Electoral vote certification
Electoral vote will be certified, but violence is inevitable
The results of the November 2020 elections are schedule to be certified by Congress this week, as allies of President Trump seek to delegitimize the election and the president was revealed to have pressured Georgia’s Secretary of State to “find more votes” for him.
Mabel Berezin, professor of sociology at Cornell University and an expert on international populism and fascism, weighs in on the threats to democracy presented by President Trump and his allies this week.
“Democratic procedure will most likely hold this week, but the spirit of democracy is damaged.
"First, in a phone call on Saturday to Georgia’s Secretary of State the president showed that the language of threat came more naturally to him than the language of democratic governance ever did—he asked to have votes ‘found’ or else. That is a threat.
“Second, twelve U.S. Senators jumped on the president’s bandwagon to hold up the certification of electoral votes—showing that bold faced opportunism (Hawley and Cruz are looking to 2024) took precedence to what at least those two should have learned about the Constitution at law school.
“Third, the president has called a rally of his supporters to begin at 9 a.m. on Jan. 6 to ‘Stop the Steal’—billed as the ‘biggest event in Washington DC history’, assuring some form of public violence before the day is over.”
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Politics in the southern U.S.
Southern politics, slim margins to force ‘tricky choices’ in Congress
Georgia will elect two senators on Jan. 5 in a highly anticipated run-off election that will determine party control of the Senate.
David Bateman, professor of government at Cornell University, is an expert on congressional politics and author of the book, “Southern Nation: Congress and White Supremacy after Reconstruction,” which explores to role of Southern congress members in shaping policy. He says the politics of Georgia and other southern states, along with tight margins of party control in Congress, will force leaders to consider new legislative strategies.
“While the elections in Georgia are far too close for any confident predictions about their outcomes, there are at least two things of which we can be certain.
“First, Georgia is fast becoming one of the most important swing states in the nation, as both Florida and Ohio trend Republican and Colorado and Virginia have become safely Democratic. The politics of Georgia, and other fast growing southern states, are likely to become increasingly important in shaping not only national elections but the internal divisions within both parties, perhaps especially the Democratic Party.
“Second, the incoming Congress will see some of the narrowest margins of party control in decades. Intra-party divisions, with the exception of the Tea Party years, have not been especially consequential in legislating. Slim governing margins mean divisions now have the ability to be very consequential, and party leaders will have to make tricky choices about when (and over what issues) to try and unite their own party and when to try and broker deals among purported centrists.”
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White House loosening occupational licensing burdens
White House order to loosen occupational licensing burdens
The White House issued an executive order this week requiring state and local governments to issue occupational licenses to workers who have received a similar license in another jurisdiction — as long as they are in good standing. The goal of the new order is to increase economic and geographic mobility.
Kim Weeden, professor of sociology and director of Cornell University’s Center for the Study of Inequality, says some regulation is necessary to protect consumers, but occupational licensing creates inequality in the workforce.
“Occupational licensing increases inequality by limiting the supply of people who can legally practice an occupation and driving up wages in those occupations. Although some regulation is necessary to protect the public from incompetent or malfeasant practitioners, overly restrictive licensing laws can lead to workforce shortages, and drive up the cost of services for consumers.
“Research on occupational licensing shows that licensed occupations enjoy about a 10% wage premium relative to occupations that require similar levels of education and skill levels. Aside from some construction trades (e.g., plumbers) and service occupations (e.g., hairdressers), licensing is most common in the professions, so the benefits typically go to those at the top of the occupational structure.”
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