The Red Folder

Last updated July 22, 2024. 

Key stories for the week, brought to you by Lindsey Zhao and the Red Folder team.

Reading for the sake of reading sucks. Telling yourself to read to win a round is nice but ineffective. This condensed news brief helps you understand current domestic and international issues, analyze the news, and gives you opportunities to read more.

Publishing since January 2024. 

Domestic Stories

1 key report, 2 domestic stories for the week:

1) Biden’s Eulogy, Harris’s Entrance Charlie Hui, Boyana Nikolova, Ruhaan Sood, Paul Robinson, Rohan Dash, Robert Zhang, Daniel Song

On November 20, 1942, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was born. 30 years later, Biden took office as a Democratic United States Senator for Delaware. 48 years after beginning his Senatorship, Biden was elected as the 46th United States president. 4 years, 7 months, 21 days, 12 hours, and 42 minutes after his election, Joe Biden announced on a Sunday afternoon his official departure from the 2024 presidential race. His announcement was months in the making, as the Republican Party had bashed Biden for his old age since the beginning of his term. Political moderates soon found themselves on the same page in the aftermath of June 27th’s presidential debate, which featured the president as someone at a loss for words more often than not. The dominos fell as Biden’s donors withheld funds, House and Senate Democrats called for his replacement, and an attempted assassination of Donald Trump united the Republican Party during a time when Democrats were more divided than ever before.

The story of how it all went wrong for Biden is lengthy. No single event alone causes the fall of America’s most powerful man. Each day that passes reveals new skeletons in Biden’s closet. Today, we examine the past, present and future of Biden’s legacy.

Welcome to: The Red Folder’s Presentation of Biden’s Political Eulogy, and Kamala Harris’s introduction.

A Turbulent Presidency

“Make my day, pal,” 

- Joe Biden, May 15, 2024

No one enters the Oval Office expecting an easy time; any president will face immense challenges both domestic and foreign. However, it can be argued Biden entered one of the most complex political landscapes in decades. He took office on the heels of two different crises: the COVID pandemic and the misinformation  campaign endorsed by his predecessor Donald Trump, the latter manifesting itself during the January 6th insurrection. One subsided within a few years with the help of a vaccine, but the latter continues to spread.

The medical community has yet to invent a vaccine which can cure the disease spread by Trump and his followers. Misinformation is a greater threat than ever, with Biden’s age and thus his ability to govern coming under attack. Biden had to deal with issues left by his predecessor, most notably the economy, arguments over abortion, and the immigration crisis at the border.

COVID-19 led to the economy’s worst since the 2008 financial crisis. By fall of 2021, prices started to rise sharply, and 2022 led to concerns over the future of America’s economy, with inflation at 8%. The cost of living worsened over gas prices breaking nearly 10 dollars per gallon, worsened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Most notably, increases in costs hurt low and middle income families the worst, impacting their psychological perspective of how the economy was performing. Therefore, the biggest issue Biden had to deal with was inflation. His response was mainly through the stimulus checks and the Federal Reserve’s federal rates.

The day Biden entered the White House, he announced the American Rescue Plan: a $1.9 trillion act, hoping to support struggling communities, implement vaccines across the nation, and send out stimulus in the form of $1,400 per-person checks, among a variety of other changes in policies meant to help Americans. These payments were the largest of their kind ever, and most Americans initially approved of it. However, it also fueled inflation, and this is what most remembered. 

Inflation impacted everything - from hurting small businesses to worsening consumer sentiment to leading to a housing crisis. 

In a side by side comparison, Biden boosted the economy significantly more than Trump did: including creating nine million more jobs, supporting minorities, and overall economic growth. That’s not to forget though, that certain sectors of the economy, such as home buying and stock market performance were better during Trump’s time in the Oval Office. For example - the stock market crashed in 2020 after announcements of COVID, and has been slowly working its way back up, but is raising fears of yet another crash. But America is having a housing crisis that’s harming most low to middle income families - with a lack of enough houses, but also for the houses that do exist, their value only continues to increase, making it harder for families to afford them. Unfortunately, Biden’s response only worsened the crisis. Small businesses were suffering with extended delays in the supply chain, namely thanks to foreign conflicts, and lackluster consumer confidence from costs continuing to rise only harmed these businesses further. 

By the end of 2023, the pandemic had cost the U.S. economy $14 trillion. Despite his best efforts to improve the economy, the American sentiment was that the economy had not improved under President Biden. 

But Biden had major issues to deal with asides from the economy, and that mostly came down on abortion and immigration. 

Immigration into the nation has always been a major issue - whether it's the weakness of the current immigration system, an over abused asylum process, or the response to undocumented immigrants. But it's the response to undocumented immigrants that Democrats and Republicans have been arguing more on - Republicans believe in restricting them, and those who make it past the border should be removed, whereas Democrats would like to see a legal pathway for them to become citizens of America. With a heavily polarized Congress, passing effective bills on immigration became near impossible. However, Biden still took action, reversing many of Trump’s policies within the first few days in office, including cutting down on spending for the wall and signing an order to continue DACA, a legislation passed during the Obama administration. But undocumented immigration reached a breaking point in 2023 - when the number of illegal migrants crossing the border broke a record well above two million. 

Illegal immigration wasn’t the only issue when it came to the broader aspect of immigration itself. Biden received praise for removing former travel bans, but lost popularity on being unable to pass critical bipartisan bills on asylum. Policies on expanding visas and worker routes were discussed for months, even years, but never saw success in Congress, and Biden was to take the blame. 

Evidently, he needed to do something, and took action that was likened to that of Trump. Not only did he resume deportation flights, but he even took action to continue building the wall, and allowed for environmental laws to be violated while doing that. Although Biden stated he didn’t believe in what was being done, his face was at the forefront of what was pushed out. Biden also retained Title 42, a Trump policy which enabled rapid expulsion of asylum seekers, although it went on to expire.

At the end of the day, when the economy was performing poorly, an anti-immigrant sentiment began to grow, and Biden was seen as someone who helped undocumented immigrants receive jobs and make it easier for others to immigrate to America, seemingly taking away jobs from original citizens. This would go on to hurt him severely as immigration grew to be one of the top issues in the nation. 

When Joe Biden was running for President in 2020, he made a strong commitment to defend abortion rights - including action on codifying Roe v. Wade, stopping TRAP laws, and funding programs to assist with abortion. But within two years of serving as the nation’s President, Roe v. Wade was overturned by a conservative Supreme Court, being arguably one of the most controversial decisions of recent times. 

Foreign Policy: Biden’s Nemesis

“Foreign policy is like human relations, only people know less about each other.”

Foreign policy was more challenging in the last four years than it has been since the post-9/11 Bush administration. Early in Biden’s presidency, his administration faced a huge perceptual defeat in Afghanistan, as the longest war in American history came to a close. Biden withdrew troops with the expectation of the Afghan National Army being able to hold back the insurgent Taliban. 

US troops, along with those of other allied countries, turned out to be the only thing keeping the Taliban at bay. As it became clear that the capital of Afghanistan itself would soon be seized by the Taliban forces, Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani, fled the country. The fate of Afghanistan, at that moment, was clear: despite the enormous amount of money, time, and lives spent by the United States and its allies, the Taliban would regain control. Many Afghans who had helped Western forces tried to escape the country via the capital’s airport, but the attempted exodus only gave way to violence. The chaos that erupted there was broadcast around the world, and the blame was often centered on the Biden administration.

Within a week of the last troops’ departure, the Taliban had instituted policies that sounded dystopian to Western ears: girls were prohibited from attending school past sixth grade, the death penalty was reintroduced for crimes like blasphemy and apostasy, and practically all dissenting speech was crushed. Developments like these were widely cited as the failure of US foreign policy, but in the United States, many politicians were keen to distance themselves from the supposedly failed policy. They claimed that Biden’s flawed exit strategy was the problem, despite the fact that the United States had 20 years to make the Afghan government self-sufficient, and yet was not able to. To the public, this didn’t matter: an approval rating of 18% was all the Afghan public had to say about U.S leadership. 

The very next year, Biden faced another crisis in Eastern Europe, as, after years of threats, the Russian Federation invaded the sovereign nation of Ukraine. While Ukraine was not in NATO, meaning that the United States had no obligation to defend it, the government was often scrutinized as not doing enough to help Ukraine defend itself. Biden, wary of the possibility of a war with Russia, refused to help Ukraine directly, rather sending weapons which Ukraine was expected to be able to use itself. This worked, in that Russia has not taken over Ukraine like most analysts expected it to.

At the same time, Biden was criticized, often unfairly, for his actions leading up and during the war. Trump lambasted Biden as weak, and suggested that “If we had a real president . . . [Putin] would have never invaded Ukraine.” Biden was forced to walk a tightrope between keeping America’s European allies happy by contributing much of the aid to Ukraine, and not alienating much of Congress, which thought that an agenda of helping Ukraine “puts America last”.

At least in Ukraine, virtually everyone is on the same side: that is, that Ukraine is in the right by defending itself against Russia. Disagreements about how much aid the United States should provide certainly exist, but not over whether Russia or Ukraine is deserving of that aid. That is not the case, however, in the other major war which the United States was dragged into during Biden’s Presidency. A large portion of the population, especially of young people, wholeheartedly believe that the United States is helping to commit a genocide. That war has already claimed nearly 40,000 lives at the time of writing. That war, of course, is in Gaza.

Biden’s Vietnam

A violation of human rights anywhere is the business of people everywhere.” 

The last President not to run for a second term was Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968. He refused to do so because the Vietnam War had already claimed the lives of many Americans and Vietnamese alike, the human rights abuses the US had committed in the war had put the US to shame, and over five million college students protested across the nation against Johnson’s war policy. Johnson realized that, with so many people against him and his policies, he would be lucky to win the nomination, let alone the Presidency.

Years later, professor of political management at George Washington University Matthew Dallek observed that Johnson’s decision to drop out of the race merely “crystallized the nature of the conflicts that had split the country along ideological, racial, and class lines so deeply.” In other words, the conflict split America between those who believed that the conflict was going too far, and those who thought it didn’t go far enough.

A similar response has appeared in response to the United States’ support of Israel in their war to eradicate Hamas from the Gaza Strip, no matter how many lives are  destroyed in the process. No one disputes that the war started when Hamas launched large numbers of extremely crude rockets, the sheer number of which overwhelmed Israel’s military systems, into Israel on October 7, 2023. These rockets had no guidance systems, and ended up killing over 1,200 Israeli civilians.

Israel has long been accused of infringing on Palestinian sovereignty, encroaching on their land and crippling their government. In fact, many of these acts are actually partially responsible for what happened on October 7, as they allowed a strong terrorist organization to sprout within Gaza.

Nonetheless, the United States has consistently supported Israel through their rights and wrongs. Israel has long been one of America’s strongest allies, and Biden did not attempt to change this when Israel was attacked. In a statement on October 10, he referenced the horrors the Jewish people endured during the Holocaust, before reminding the world that “we must be crystal clear: We stand with Israel.  We stand with Israel.  And we will make sure Israel has what it needs to take care of its citizens, defend itself, and respond to this attack.”

Soon, though, Israel started doing things which many regarded as war crimes. It showed very little regard for human life in its attacks, and was absolutely willing to kill thousands of civilians to gain a marginal advantage militarily. This only became clearer as time went on, and the situation became more and more violent.

The President of the United States has the authority to cease sending weapons from the US stockpile to any country. Biden could have done this with Israel, but ultimately decided to take the position that Israel was merely defending itself against a threat, as a sovereign state is entitled to do. He kept sending weapons to Israel, refusing even to address the accusations of war crimes which were building up.

Many around the US and the world saw the power Biden wielded as enough to stop the war in Gaza. It is incontrovertible that the United States provides a good amount of Israel’s defense capabilities, and that without them, Israel could not have possibly waged the war that it has. Thus, protestors against Israel’s actions pointed squarely at Joseph Biden, the President of the United States of America, as the reason that Gazans were dying. Social media comment sections filled up not with Trump supporters, but rather with supporters of Palestine accusing him of genocide.

This is perhaps the worst nightmare of any politician: their own supporters turning against them. Biden had alienated many on the left, many of whom staunchly supported him in his campaign to defeat Donald Trump. Now, they pledged in droves not to vote for any candidate, hoping to show Biden that he could not rest in the safety of always being better than Donald Trump.

Eager both to avoid alienating moderates, who may support Israel or worry about instability should the US abandon Israel, and the left, who strongly believed that the United States was aiding a genocide, Biden was forced to walk a tightrope. He declared that the US stood behind Israel, but sent mixed messages to Netanyahu on his willingness to back Israel’s policies. He tried to draw the line at invading Rafah, but when Netanyahu ignored him, he failed to take any substantial action.

To date, Biden’s policies on Gaza have been extremely unpopular with a good portion of the country. 22% of US adults believe he has favored Israel too much, but 16% believe he favored Palestine too much. All of those people, 38% of the US population, agree on one thing: Biden has fumbled the crisis. As the war goes on, less and less people seem to approve of the United States response to the crisis. This is likely a problem that will be passed down to his successor, whoever they may be. The one thing they should take away from Biden’s Gaza policy is that it has not worked, for Israelis, Palestinians, Americans, or even Biden himself. If Biden’s successor chooses to take the same route he did, they would undoubtedly get the same result as he had. This is not good for anyone.

Democrats: The Next Steps and the Future

“We will be navigating uncharted waters in the days ahead. But I have extraordinary confidence that the leaders of our party will be able to create a process from which an outstanding nominee emerges.”

- Barack Obama on Biden’s announcement to not rerun

With Biden dropping out, the Democrats are looking for the new face of their 2024 presidential ticket. And in all likelihood, it will be Kamala Harris, the current Vice President. Not only has Biden endorsed Harris to take his spot, but additional polls from YouGov indicate that most Democrats would prefer for her to be the nominee. And for good reason - she’s the most recognizable by name. Other candidates would have to spend a significant amount of time and money to even be recognized by most Americans, making Kamala the best choice and most likely. 

But who exactly is Kamala Harris? Starting her career as a district attorney, she went on to become the Attorney General for California, before working her way to the Senate. In 2019, she announced her bid for the Democratic nomination, ultimately losing out before being selected by Biden as the Vice President. Her ability to appeal to donors and reach out to certain communities Biden couldn’t, made her the perfect choice, and was instrumental in allowing him to win

However, it is important to understand the current American perspective of Madam Vice President. Put simply, it’s not good at all. Indeed, only 38.6% of American voters approve of her, while 50.6% disapprove - demonstrating the American sentiment against her. Unfortunately, this is due to accusations of not being public enough, blindsiding her staff, having tensions with Biden, and criticism from her past. Her remarks during press conferences have been described as “press salads”, and has received laughter over statements like “Wakanda Forever. Paid for by Kamala Harris.” She also was assigned key tasks such as immigration,  and her failures were repeatedly blamed by Republicans for problems with illegal border crossings. 

It’s not all bad news though, as Harris appeals to Black and Hispanic voters, two key demographics from which Biden has lost support since his 2020 campaign. She also gained a strong reputation for defending abortion rights. This could be major in helping her in this year’s election. And Biden could have a chance to help her prospects to win the White House again.

Additionally, if Harris becomes the nominee, she will likely be able to inherit Biden’s campaign funds. Because Biden’s campaign finance account was actually in both Biden and Harris’s names, she should legally be able to use its funds for her own campaign with minimal to no restrictions. However, should another candidate win the Democratic nomination, that funding will either have to be refunded to donors or donated to the Democratic National Convention (who cannot coordinate more than a few thousand dollars of spending with the new nominee’s campaign due to campaign finance laws).

Essentially, we can turn to Allan Litchman, a historian and professor known for his “13 Keys to the White House” prediction model, that has accurately predicted 9 out of the last 10 elections. He argues that if 6 of the 13 keys, which are based on factors such as the economy, foreign policy, and political environment, fall, then the current President will not win their election. He stated that the only way the Democrats can keep the “Incumbency” key is if Biden were to step down from office, allowing Harris to take over as President. This could be crucial, as she would directly have an opportunity to reach out to the entirety of America in the highest office, and demonstrate her ability to succeed during her 100 days before the elections. However, this could also backfire, because if developments in areas such as the economy or foreign policy (Gaza, Ukraine, etc) turns horrendously worse, it will affect Harris terribly. Americans are likely to blame the President for situations they cannot control, and this could very well happen with Harris. 

Now let’s assume Harris becomes the presidential nominee. She still needs to select a vice president. Among her top candidates include Andy Beshear, Gretchen Whitmer, Pete Buttigieg, Gavin Newsome, Josh Shapiro, and a few others. Who are these people though?

Andy Beshear, current governor of Kentucky, is one of many names on the list of potential vice president nominees. Despite lacking name recognition, Beshear’s victories in a heavily Republican state have proven him to be a capable leader and an even more competent defender of progressive values. Taking advantage of his unexpected foothold in Kentucky, Beshear oversaw the state’s response to Covid-19 and multiple natural disasters, led state-wide reforms in education, and has ardently pushed for billions in infrastructure investments. Apart from this, Beshear has still managed to advance a more left-leaning agenda, defending DEI programs that resonate with more liberal voters. Beshear’s allure among both Democrats and more moderate voters has contributed to his being the most popular Democratic governor in a right-leaning state, all while boasting a 60% approval rating. His modest 35% disapproval rating mainly stems from Republican reluctance to vote blue and criticism of his management over crime rates. Considering that Kentucky has consistently voted Republican since the 1950s, Beshear’s gubernatorial wins are impressive and likely to sway moderates, even by a minor degree.  With a choice like Beshear, Harris has much to gain politically: she can increase her appeal to swing voters and give proof of strong leadership and resiliency within her campaign. Although Beshear’s home state will still likely stay red in November, he has still demonstrated himself to be a worthy partner on multiple fronts.

In contrast to Beshear, Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer currently has a level of national popularity that could help her secure a position as vice president nominee with ease. As governor, Whitmer has been outspoken on issues like women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, and abortion and has still made key progress on infrastructure and healthcare in her state, which have been more favorable among moderates. So far as governor, Whitmer has passed a $4.8 billion water infrastructure bill, legislation that would alleviate over $600 million worth of school debt, and has overseen the training of 5000+ public workers, while continuing to advance on social issues close to her progressive values. She has done so by signing into law a slew of policies related to gun control, environmental legislation, and labor unions within her state. Similar to Beshear, Whitmer enjoys a solid approval rating, standing at roughly 51% according to most recent estimates. With a nominee like her, Harris could broaden her appeal to the Democratic party and even deliver swing states like Whitmer’s own. However, she hasn’t indicated a desire to take on such a role, and Democrats aren’t willing to run a two female ticket due to misogynistic differences in America.

Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro is another contender for the vice presidential nomination. A former state attorney general just like Harris, Shapiro won his 2022 gubernatorial race by a landslide. As governor, Shapiro has faced a GOP-controlled State Senate and lacks Whitmer’s trifecta to pass key Democratic legislation. Despite this,  Shapiro has achieved name-recognition for reopening the collapsed I-95 in Philadelphia in just 12 days, passing a new funding plan for education in this year’s budget, getting funding for more State Troopers, and eliminating the college degree requirement for 92% of state jobs. These policies and Shapiro’s moderate image have led to Shapiro having a 57% approval rate among Pennsylvania voters, including 37% of those who voted for Trump in 2020. However, Shapiro has also faced criticism for not fully supporting green energy and his proposal for school choice vouchers, a traditionally Republican stance that may harm public education funding. One key factor that may impact Harris’s decision to choose Shapiro as VP is his strong pro-Israel stance. An observant Jew, Shapiro has defended Israel’s right to attack Hamas, denounced campus antisemitism, and issued an order barring state employees from “scandalous” conduct, a move some criticized as an attack on free speech. With Harris being more progressive and pro-Palestinian, adding Shapiro on her ticket could attract more moderate voters, especially in the Rust Belt. The biggest caveat though, might be Shapiro himself. His spokesperson referred to Shapiro becoming Harris’s VP pick as “baseless speculation.” 

Pete Buttigieg is yet another viable contender for vice president. As the US secretary of transport, Buttigieg is equipped with both national recognition and years of political experience. His varied accomplishments as secretary of transport are also a major boost factor: Buttigieg designed and implemented the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) in 2021, a $1.2 trillion project, and organized some of the first-ever national plans to address roadway, aviation, hazmat, and maritime worker safety. His work with the US economy is also commendable, even earning the praise of Democratic majority leader Chuck Schumer in 2021. While these achievements have certainly made Buttigieg popular with Democrats, they’ve often been overlooked by moderates and Republicans, both focused on other aspects of his leadership. As the first openly gay cabinet member in the history of the US, Buttigieg has been subject to a shameful amount of discriminatory remarks and unfortunately, many American voters still harbor hate solely because of his identity. By selecting him as vice president nominee, Harris also assumes some risk: mainly, that she will be accused of engaging in identity politics, known for their divisiveness. The allure of adding experience and popularity to the campaign, however, may sway Harris in the other direction.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning the possibility of California governor Gavin Newsom as vice president nominee. Already having endorsed Harris as the Democrats’ presidential candidate, it appears that it may even be a likely scenario. To Newsom’s misfortune, however, the 12th amendment may complicate matters. Both Harris and Newsom are residents of California, meaning that if both were to run together, the state’s 54 electoral votes would have to be voided. For decades, California has been a reliably blue state and even now, it would play an enormous role in Democrats winning the electoral college. Still, that doesn’t mean Newsom lacks potential as a potential vice president candidate. As governor, he has overseen the expansion of Obamacare to over 1 million Californians, initiated a surprisingly fast recovery from the pandemic, and massively expanded access to early education, all indicative of his capacity to take action and especially appealing to left-leaning voters. Despite this, Newsom has still taken immense blows on his handling of the homelessness crisis, shaky economy, and rising crime rates in his home state, issues which will mainly resonate more with moderate and Republican voters. Regardless, Newsom will still probably be seen as more risk than reward. California remains a precious state in the electoral college and its 54 electoral votes are not something Democrats will want to give up, unless they can guarantee an exceptional performance across the rest of America. 

Whether Harris chooses a vice president candidate that’s more moderate or extremist is entirely up to her team, but it may be one of the most important decisions they make at this point. Solidifying support with left-leaning voters by selecting a more hardcore Democrat could be a worthy tactic, especially considering the divisive legacy left behind by Biden. In contrast, it might not be enough to deliver swing states, which the Democrats have recently been losing ground in. 

Regardless of who Harris picks, she still has a major role in taking on Trump, and it’s not looking too good so far. During the weeks of spectacle over whether Biden would drop out, the Democrats released surveys to understand her ability against Trump, and she continuously performed worse than Biden v Trump. That’s not to say all hope is lost for the Democrats. Trump and the GOP have consistently flamed Biden for his age, but now with Biden dropping out, Trump is the oldest candidate for the presidency ever, playing to Kamala Harris’s advantage. She’s already gained the support of major Democrats, Biden himself included, and needs to work to unify the party at a time when the Republicans are more united than ever with Trump at the front. While she lacks the charisma of previous Democrat leaders, like Obama, she still has her own notable personality (that didn’t just fall out of a coconut tree). Despite Trump’s questionable stance as a billionaire, Kamala Harris is also doing just fine when it comes to fundraising - having raised over eighty million dollars in the last 24 hours alone. By also considering the aforementioned inheritance of Biden’s campaign funds, Harris should be good to go with her budget.

Her foreign policy strategy, however, will be far from “good to go” unless major changes happen before November, especially on the front of the Gaza War. A large, if not leading, factor of Biden’s downfall has been his indifference to the Israel/Palestine conflict and with his stepping down before a 2nd term, Harris will be assuming the burden of a divided Democratic party and the continued expectation for US involvement in the Middle East. Especially critical to her campaign, Harris will need to seal the rift between younger, Palestine-supporting voters and an overall older generation of Democrats that are pro-Israel. Unless these two groups of voters can unite by the fall, victory will be seemingly impossible for the Harris campaign. The issue is that a 180 on Biden’s current Gaza policy would be equally catastrophic. Doing so would make Harris come off as an ingenuine, surface-level candidate without any real interest in the war and it would further potentiate the divides in the Democratic party.

Thankfully, the situation isn’t completely hopeless for Harris. Although Harris has likely contributed herself to the Biden administration’s foreign policy strategy, her approval ratings have held relatively strong in the face of the war and widespread protests at home, changing by only [insert numbers once source is found], while approval ratings for Biden (in the context of his handling of the conflict) have only continued to plummet month by month. For better or for worse, Americans have distanced Harris from the Biden administration’s current Gaza strategy, meaning she hasn’t been held as responsible for what voters are now blaming on Biden. This gives her the chance to step back and advocate for a more moderate policy in Gaza, easing divides among the Democratic party and potentially attracting the attention of moderates, seeing Gaza as a deciding factor for the vote. Another possibility for Harris would be in the case that Biden resigns before the end of his term and she takes on the role of incumbent president. In that case, Harris can take the gamble of pulling the US out of the Gaza strip and easing aid to Israel as long as she takes comprehensive action to offset criticism, i.e. expanding Ukraine aid in response or selecting a vice president with a strong pro-Israel record, such as Josh Shapiro. If executed too slowly or if an unprecedented development in Israel or Ukraine changes the foreign policy approach expected of Harris, this strategy could end disastrously, doing more harm than good for the campaign. However, if the situation in the Middle East persists until the fall and this tactic is implemented with care, Harris can preview her goals for the future as well as demonstrate her ability to be an effective leader before voting has even started.

Depending on what course of action the Harris campaign takes, her take on the Israel-Hamas war will strongly be influencing how the public perceives her, especially true for moderate voters. Following the start of the conflict, reported sympathy for Israel decreased among moderates, suggesting that by the end of the summer, moderates will likely be even more divided on whether to support Israel than they are already. These same reports show that Democrats’ net sympathy for Israel has already dipped into the negative, which becomes troubling as the Democratic party continues to express strong solidarity with Israel. As in the aforementioned possibilities on how exactly to do this, establishing a more neutral foreign policy approach would essentially be Harris’s way of undoing these trends and getting a leg up against Trump in the process. Moderates are still seen as one of the most crucial, yet overlooked voter groups to win over, but if Democrats stay on the path they’re on now, they could soon be pressuring this part of the electorate to not vote at all or far worse, surrendering them to Trump.

At this point in time, Harris has resolved to stick with the Biden administration’s current plans for what he has left of his term, even though this doesn’t imply she is taking the same position as Biden. Just yesterday, she scheduled a private meeting with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in place of attending a congressional address in Indianapolis, outlining her expectations for future US-Israeli relations. Harris expressed plans to discuss the continuation of US commitments to protect Israeli national security while still defending her hopes for peace in the Gaza strip and the release of hostages from both sides. This comfortable position allows her to circumvent specific criticism from both pro-Israel and pro-Palestine voters and it’s only a glimpse of how dedicating her campaign to moderate policies could save both reputation and voters. 

Despite the challenges ahead, Harris has solidified herself as the new face of the Democratic Party, turning a new page in United States Politics as Biden prepares for his exit. 

By the time the next President gets elected, Biden will have turned 82. The Oval Office will be replaced with his beach house in Delaware, suits and dress pants replaced with aloha t-shirts and khakis, and the stress of being the most scrutinized man on Earth replaced with a much forgotten sense of tranquility. And as Biden watches from his rocking chair facing the beach, he just might witness a blue wave.

The Red Folder would like to thank all of its contributors for working tirelessly to produce this report in an extremely challenging time frame.

2)  Project 2025: America’s Future? Daniel Song

Since former President Donald Trump officially became the Republican Party’s 2024 presidential nominee, there has been increased attention on Project 2025 and its policy implications for the United States if Trump beats the Democratic Party’s nominee in November.

Project 2025 is a detailed 900-plus page policy document developed by the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank that aims to reshape the federal government. The Project 2025 website explains, “[W]e need both a governing agenda and the right people in place, ready to carry this agenda out on day one of the next conservative administration. This is the goal of the 2025 Presidential Transition Project.” The official GOP platform and Project 2025 are different, and Trump has distanced himself from the project, declaring on his social media site Truth Social that, "I know nothing about Project 2025” and “I have no idea who is behind it. I disagree with some of the things they're saying and some of the things they’re saying are absolutely ridiculous and abysmal." However, many former Trump administration officials are involved in Project 2025.  Paul Dans, Trump’s chief of staff at the Office of Personnel Management, and Russell Vought, another former Trump administration official, wrote a key chapter of the project. Further, GOP Vice President nominee Sen. JD Vance has praised Project 2025, saying that it has both “good ideas" and "some things he disagreed with." Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris called Project 2025 “extreme” and “divisive,” seeking to tie the project to Trump and convince voters that Trump’s agenda will be beholden to Project 2025.

First, Project 2025 seeks to drastically alter the scope of the entire federal government. It proposes that the president will have direct control over all federal agencies. This would empower the president to implement their policies much quicker than in the status quo. Going further, the project plans to abolish the Commerce and Education departments, and National Oceanic and criticizes the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for raising the alarm about climate change. One of the most significant departures from historical precedent is that the project calls for the removal of job protections for thousands of government employees  who were previously protected from firing. As Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman explains, this would mean career civil servants would be fired at will and be replaced with partisan political appointees. In fact, Trump actually moved in this direction during his term by creating Schedule F, a category of political appointee, which would have allowed him to replace many bureaucrats with political allies. President Biden rescinded that order, but Project 2025 would bring it back in an expanded form.

Second, Project 2025 proposes a new direction in US immigration policy. It proposes drastically Increased funding for a wall on the US-Mexico border and dismantling the Department of Homeland Security to replace it with other agencies, bolstering border security operations. There are other proposals to restrict immigration to the US, such as ending the legal protection from deportation for 500,000 Dreamers (unauthorized immigrants who came to the United States as children) and suspend updates to the annual eligible country lists for H-2A and H-2B temporary worker visas, which would lead to job shortages in various labor-intensive sectors.

Third, climate and economy. Project 2025 calls for decreasing funds for scientific research and innovation, especially on green energy. Instead of carbon-reduction efforts, the government would focus on increasing energy production and fossil fuels. Interestingly, the project is divided on tariffs and free trade, including both a free trade section and a protectionist pro-tariff section. However, it is united in championing further cuts to both corporate and personal income tax rates, as well as abolishing the Federal Reserve and potentially a return to the gold standard.

Fourth, abortion and social issues. Project 2025 does not call for a nationwide abortion ban. However, it does support removing access to the abortion pill mifepristone from the market. Trump has pushed back, saying that the project went too far in restricting abortion. The project also states that the Department of Health and Human Services must maintain a “biblically based, social science-reinforced definition of marriage and family". This likely means a traditional nuclear family, which excludes the LGBTQ+ community and other non-traditional family structures. 

FIfth, tech and education. Project 2025 calls for pornography to be banned, supports school choice and increased parental control, and plans to remove the terms  "sexual orientation", "gender equality", "abortion" and "reproductive rights'' from federal laws. This potentially could lead to a reduction in these groups’ legal protection from discrimination. It also aims to end diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs in schools and government departments as the Republican Party continues its opposition to ‘woke’ ideology. 

A significant caveat to all these proposals in Project 2025 is that if Trump were to implement them, there would likely be countless legal challenges and lawsuits, similar to what happened during Trump’s first term. 

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3)  New Jersey’s New Voice? Andy Choy

Since 2006, New Jersey has been represented in the halls of the United States Senate by the voice of Senator Bob Menendez of the Democratic Party. On July 16th, the tap of a gavel in a Manhattan district court signaled Menendez’s time in the Senate may be drawing to a close after nearly two decades in office.

Menendez was convicted on all 16 counts by the United States District Court of the Southern District of New York after being charged with accepting bribes as a government official. The bribes involved payments of cash and gold from three New Jersey businessmen, Jose Uribe, Wael Hana, and Fred Daibes, in exchange for defending Uribe’s insurance business from state criminal investigations, Hana’s controversial meat-certification monopoly in Egypt, and Daibes’ federal court bank fraud charges. Menedez also made deals with the Egyptian government, accelerating Egypt’s access to American military aid and leaking classified information about America’s embassy in Cairo.

Demands for Menedez’s resignation —already widespread prior to his conviction— are intensifying. “In light of this guilty verdict, Senator Menendez must now do what is right for his constituents, the Senate, and our country, and resign,” Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) stated soon after the court’s ruling, joining Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and New Jersey Governor Philip Murphy in requesting Menedez’s resignation.

Though pressure is mounting against Menendez, he has doubled down. One day after receiving his guilty verdict, rumors suggested Menedez was bending to pressure and resigning. However, he quickly denied the claims. “I can tell you that I have not resigned,” Menendez told journalists, asserting the reports were “an effort to try to force [him] into a statement.” In addition to refusing resignation, he is running for reelection as an independent candidate.

Despite Menendez’s defiance, many Democratic Party lawmakers —including Booker and Murphy— are targeting his expulsion from the Senate if he attempts to remain in office. Furthermore, Melendez’s corruption case has decreased his popular support. Emerson College Polling predicted in April Melendez’s campaign would receive 9% of the popular vote.

If Menendez loses his seat in the Senate, Democratic Party nominee Representative Andrew Kim (D-NJ) will likely succeed him. In an April poll conducted by Fairleigh Dickinson University, Kim defeated Republican Party nominee Curtis Bashaw regardless of whether Menendez was on the ballot. A progressive candidate, Kim’s policies include Medicare coverage expansions, clean energy investments, and firearm restrictions. At 42 years old, Kim could be the new voice of New Jersey’s new generation.

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International Stories

4 key international stories for the week:

1) Labour international policy: Rowan Seipp

It was evident by 4 pm on July 5th that Keir Starmer would become the new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. The former lawyer had come a long way from his roots in Surrey. As people across Britain celebrated the end of conservative rule, the rest of the world braced for the significant shift in British leadership, especially concerning the EU, and Ukraine.

The Conservatives' downfall began with the disastrous BREXIT referendum, which forced two Prime Ministers (David Cameron and Theresa May) to resign in disgrace. The BREXIT referendum was essentially a vote on the question should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?’ 51.89% of voters voted to leave the EU. The UK left the EU on 31 January 2020. The move isolated the UK from the rest of the continent. The Conservative's hallmark became Britain's downfall, a new report, by Cambridge Econometrics commissioned by City Hall also shows that London's economy has shrunk by more than 30 billion pounds. Facing an unprecedented financial disaster the British goverment the Labour goverment was split on how to respond with some PM’s in favor of an uneasy alliance with the tories while the Labour backbenchers violently opposing the vote. Starmer was always rather moderate however his new post as Prime Minister means he is now forced to choose. Despite his parties opposition to the BREXIT vote its clear that Keir Starmer has no intention to rejoin the European Union. In fact he publicly stated that the UK will not rejoin either the EU, the single market or the customs union within his lifetime. That means that from a European perspective EU and UK relations will remain the same.

While some might describe the political tensions in the United Kingdom as “warlike” their is an actual war burning through eastern Europe. Since 2022 the world has been up in arms about the conflict in Ukraine. While many international leaders have made it clear that Putins illegitatment invasion should stop, a surge of right wing leaders around the world have pushed back against Ukraine funding and support. However the conservatives were largely different. Despite popularity swings the conservatives have still remained in support of Ukraine funding. The U.K., the second-largest provider of military assistance, has committed $4.6 billion to Ukraine. This is a pattern continued by a new labour government. A Starmer based foreign policy plan involves ramping up support for the embattled eastern European nation. 

While political tension remains high a new embattled labour government is now faced with pressing political concerns. How Labour leaders like Keir Starmer choose to respond to them will change the course of British history for the next decade and possibly beyond.

2) Race to Go Green: the Paris Olympics and Sustainability Boyana Nikolova

The Olympic games don’t actually have that eco-friendly of a record, despite what their international prestige may lead you to believe. For example, the 1992 winter Olympics in Albertville, France were planned with such disregard for sustainability that locals outright described the games as an “environmental catastrophe” for the nearby countryside. 32 years later, France has resolved to set the story straight. 

The 2024 Paris Olympics are expected to be the greenest in the history of the games and for once, much of the credit can be given to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) or the supreme authority that oversees most of the games’ planning.

The IOC has pledged to use 100% renewable energy sources, taking steps such as powering all venues, as well as the Athlete’s village, with solar and geothermal energy. According to the IOC, these alternative energy sources will account for over 14,000 tons of carbon emissions being saved, all contributing to their goal to host the first ever fully carbon-neutral games. Despite this, renewable energy alone won’t be enough for the committee’s ambitious goal and France is well aware.

That’s why additional measures, specifically focused on preparing Paris as a city, have been taken. Public transport services are temporarily being expanded by 15% for the summer, both for accommodating the influx of tourists and encouraging them to rely on a more sustainable mode of transport during their stay. The increase in staff and vehicle capacity will also serve to prevent overcrowding in city streets, which has been a long-term source of local worry. Just one week ago, Parisian officials also announced fare changes, altered bus routes, specific station closures, and traffic perimeters that would supplement these efforts, minimizing traffic-related emissions. This includes the soon-to-be implementation of “Limited Traffic Zones” that will regulate where cars are permitted to drive for the next 4-5 weeks with the goal of preventing congestion.

Beyond this, other measures have been in the works years before the summer even started. This January, France finalized a plan that would effectively eliminate the use of diesel for most regional train lines in Paris. For example, all trains on the Paris-Granville line will now be powered with B100 biofuel, a natural energy source that is entirely derived from animal waste, algaes, and other plant material. The result: 6.5 million liters of diesel will be spared, equating to an estimated 12,000 saved tons of CO2. As campaigns like this one spread to more train lines in Paris, the city will safely be able to welcome over 16 million expected visitors without also having to expect more emissions and air pollution.

Lamentably, it’s important to recognize that the Olympics haven’t always been this sustainable. Transportation has historically been a point of vulnerability for host cities, not to mention a never-ending source of scandals for the IOC. In 2016, after Brazil dedicated over $11 billion to transport infrastructure, including a brand new subway line, their investment still fell short of its promises. Slums existing on the outskirts of Rio were robbed of valuable development projects that could have improved inside conditions while some were cleared without warning, risking major human rights violations. Even then, emissions were irrationally high. The city generated over 40,000 net tons of CO2 solely from the newly-added transport infrastructure for the Olympics. While most of these emissions were offset by external projects financed by the IOC, environmental activists still accused Rio of “green-washing” the city while only worsening air pollution for locals. At the end of the games, Brazil had lost a grand total of $2 billion through hosting, a substantial amount being owed to its unsustainable and rashly-implemented transport systems.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that the IOC’s reputation with transportation has only soured over the years, Brazil being only one example of many. In almost every case, sustainability has been fatally overlooked. The Paris Olympics’ commitment to productive urban planning and environmentally-conscious transport solutions are both unprecedented and revolutionary as they set an unforeseen standard for hosts in the future. Of course, activists are looking for more than just reforms in transportation and the IOC is aware. Whether it has been doubling the amount of plant-based food options at the event or the production of 100% recycled mattresses for athletes, hundreds of similar micro-actions have been undertaken by the IOC with the ultimate goal of saving the planet and maybe, some of their reputation.

Now, in true Parisian fashion, even the Olympic medals have gotten a makeover. Apart from each containing 18 grams of original iron from the Eiffel Tower, they will be sourced using 100% recycled gold and silver, while the bronze medals will be made with alloy scraps left over from coin mints across the country. It goes to show that from public transport to the medals themselves, this year’s Olympics have taught both athletes and environmental policymakers to go for the gold. Especially if it’s sourced sustainably.

Read more:

'Dirty' Past of the Olympics, Foreign Policy

Climate Contribution Projects, Sustainability Magazine

Other Concerns, Impakter

Forbes Magazine

World Economic Forum

3) Rwanda: Death to Dictatorship Anthony Babu

The odds were stacked against them.

800,000 lost. Hundreds of thousands more traumatized. The Rwandan genocide could be the worst event in human history. Such utter and absolute obliteration of a country would doom that country forever. And yet, Rwanda is a remarkable story of progress.

In a country divided into the Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups, with the Hutus representing 85% of the total population, all it took was one assassination attempt on a Hutu leader to launch the country into a genocidal frenzy (though some researchers believe the genocide was planned well in advance).

The Rwandan genocide, lasting just 100 days, was marked by sexual violence, mass executions, and death surrounding the country. And yet, the international community largely stood idly by, even though world leaders were well aware of the Rwandan apocalypse unfolding before their eyes.

In the end, however, resistance would triumph. The Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), a Tutsi militant group which had long engaged in civil war with the Hutu Rwandan government, took back the country in a targeted offensive. Its commander, Paul Kagame, then took control of the country.

Under the leadership of Kagame since the end of the genocide, Rwanda has become an African powerhouse. In the past twenty years, life expectancy has doubled and child mortality has fallen two thirds. Kagame’s focus on accountability has turned Rwanda into one of the least corrupt African countries.

Indeed, with this development has come immense power. Rwanda has used its new advantages to connect with the Western world, garnering broad approval. These ties led to the proposal of a plan for the UK to deport migrants en masse to Rwanda, indicative of how close Rwanda has come to the West. 

Indeed, Rwanda yields power in its own continent as well. Rwanda supports their interests in the Democratic Republic of the Congo by funding the M23 rebels, who have waged war in the DRC against the government to support Rwanda’s interests.

However, this power has come with a dangerous tradeoff. Rwanda operates as a one-party state, with Kagame having absolute control over the country’s politics. As a result, in recent elections, Kagame supposedly won 99% of the vote according to elected officials.

This leaves Rwandans without the ability to opt for a change in governance if the regime does not fulfill their demands. And it’s certain that the regime hasn’t fulfilled those demands in the slightest. Over 40% of the country’s budget comes from aid, and the country is as poor as wartorn Sahel countries like Mali and Niger. Yet, Kagame trudges on.

This dissatisfaction has already manifested itself politically. Opposition members have been killed, persecuted, and threatened. Extrajudicial killings and surveillance are becoming accepted facets of life in the country. Ethnic tensions have also continued to boil over, with angry mobs attacking refugees while the government watches from the sidelines.

Ultimately, Rwanda remains in limbo. Above genocide, but below desirable standards. However, just because the status quo is better than one of the worst genocides in human history does not mean the international community should accept Rwanda’s new norm of authoritarianism and fear. 

Even with constitutionally extended term limits, Kagame runs out of time in office next decade. Rwanda escaped hell in 1994, and they can escape purgatory in 2034. The chance must not be squandered.

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   4) Bangladesh: A Portrait of Chaos Paul Robinson

Protestors usually advocate for a specific cause. When their goal is achieved, they go home. Some may continue to crusade for another topic, but the movement itself usually collapses.

That is not what has just happened in Bangladesh. Protests have been occuring there for the past few years, as the quota system for government jobs had reserved a third for relatives of the veterans of Bangladesh’s 1971 independence war. Although the top court recently ruled that only 5% of government jobs could be reserved via these quotas, the protests are continuing. Why?

It turns out that the government was not exactly nice to the protestors. Many of the demonstrators, almost all of whom are students, have been killed by the government simply for voicing their opinion. Last Friday alone saw 50 people killed, and more than 100 have died as a result of these protests so far. The US State Department has raised Bangladesh to a Level 3 Travel Advisory, which warns US citizens to “reconsider travel” to the country. A Level 4 Advisory clearly warns: “Do Not Travel”. A large reason for the decision was that the Bangladeshi government issued a curfew to deter protests, and issued orders to the military to summarily shoot violators.

Protestors are now shifting to a whole new issue: human rights and free speech in Bangladesh, which in the last decade have been slowly deteriorating. While Bangladesh is a rising economic power in South Asia, it is far from a desirable place to live. Low-income jobs such as textile manufacturing make up a good amount of the economy, with the country exporting $40 billion worth of textiles to the world every year.

From an outside perspective, Bangladesh is doing alright. The World Bank estimates that 25 million people in the country of just over 170 million have been lifted out of poverty in the last two decades. That far outstrips many countries in similar positions, particularly those outside of Asia, but many argue that the figure could be far higher if it wasn't for perhaps the biggest issue Bangladesh has faced since its inception as a country half a century ago: the government is riddled with corruption.

Many within the government, particularly within the military, have been prosecuted in recent years for abusing their positions of power. The government claims that this shows their dedication to rooting out corruption, but many argue that this is just for show. Real, measurable change is proving elusive, all at a time when the cost of living is spiking.

The response to these accusations are quite telling. Bangladesh is attempting to silence its citizens and their concerns, which speaks volumes to how much they are actually trying to ease those very same concerns. Human rights groups claim that 80 people have been disappeared in the past 15 years, many for political reasons. Protestors are willing to challenge this system. Whether they are at all successful, only time will tell.

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