Opinion: Voting Guide for the 2024 Primary Election and Candidate Impressions

In time for election day on March 5, ACCENT Writer Dash Kostka explains how to vote in the upcoming primary election and shares detailed impressions of this year’s candidates in the race for President and U.S Senate.

By Dash Kostka

We can hardly believe it either, but it’s already 2024, which means it’s an election year in America – and more importantly, the state of Texas! 

How Do I Vote In the Primary?

If you want to vote in next month’s primary election, here is a step-by-step process for doing so:

1. Register to vote. 

Unfortunately, you needed to have already registered to vote by Feb. 5 of this year to participate in the March primary. If you forgot to register, you should still do it anyway. You still have plenty of time to get registered to vote before the November election, or even the May primary runoffs.

If you were able to vote in recent Texas elections such as the 2022 midterm elections or the 2020 election, then you are almost certainly still registered to vote (you do not have to “renew” a voter registration). You can check your voter registration status by going to https://www.texas.gov/living-in-texas/texas-voter-registration/.

2. Figure out your method of voting. 

There are three main ways for you to cast your vote in next month’s primary: 

  1. In-person Election Day voting, which will take place on Tuesday, March 5. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. On Election Day, you cannot be denied the right to cast your ballot after the polls close as long as you are in line by 7 p.m.
  2. In-person early voting, which started on Feb. 20 and will end on March 1. Polls will be open at early voting locations from 7 am to 7 pm. unless it is a Sunday, when polls will only be open from noon to 6 pm.
  3. Voting by mail. In order to successfully request a mail-in ballot, you need to meet very specific requirements, such as being permanently out of your home county. Voting by mail is risky, because there are many different ways that a person can invalidate their ballot, such as forgetting to write the date. Your ballot is also not guaranteed to be counted even if you send it in the mail before election day, because it must actually arrive by the time the polls close on Election Day. Voting in-person is usually the safest option to ensure your vote is counted, but if you feel your only way of voting is by mail, you need to request a mail-in ballot by Feb. 23. 

3. Have your Photo ID ready.

The state of Texas requires all registered voters to show one of seven forms of Photo ID in order to vote:

  1. A state driver’s license;
  2. A Texas election identification certificate; 
  3. A Texas personal identification card;
  4. A Texas license to carry a handgun;
  5. A U.S. military ID card with a personal photo;
  6. A U.S. citizenship certificate with a personal photo;
  7. A U.S. passport.

A Student ID is not considered a valid form of voter ID in Texas. If you don’t have an approved photo ID, you can cast a “provisional ballot,” but it will only be counted if you provide the proper identification within six days. You can also cast a ballot through a tedious process called “Reasonable Impediment Declaration,” about which more information can be found at vote.org. 

4. If you have a disability, know your rights at the polling place.

If you are unable to walk into the polling place due to a disability and/or a medical issue, federal laws passed in the 1990s require polling locations to offer “curbside voting.” Some polling places will offer designated parking spaces for curbside voters, while others will offer a system where you can notify an election worker to bring out a portable voting machine. 

5. Figure out which party’s primary you want to vote in.

Primaries in the state of Texas are partisan, which means that you will be voting for a slate of candidates for one specific party. Independent candidates do not participate in the March primary; if you are wishing to vote for an Independent candidate this year, that opportunity will come in the November general election.

Texas has “open primaries,” meaning that anyone, whether personally considering themselves a Democrat, a Republican, an independent, or leaning towards some third party, will be allowed to vote. However, when you enter the polling place, you must officially “affiliate” yourself with a political party in order to vote in that party’s primary election. Although there are more than two political parties in Texas, only the Democratic and Republican parties will be holding primary elections. Once you affiliate yourself with either the Democrats or the Republicans, you will only be allowed to vote in that party’s primary elections for the rest of the calendar year – whether that includes the runoff elections in May or any special elections. Because this is the first primary of the year, if you voted in the Democratic primary in the past but want to vote in the Republican primary this year, you can do that. Likewise, you can vote in the Democratic primary even if you participated in a past Republican primary  election. Affiliating yourself with a party in the primary will never prevent you from voting for the other party in the general election. 

If you register as a Democrat when you go to vote for the March 5 primary, your ballot will be filled with a slate of only Democratic candidates running to be the party’s nominee for each specific office in the November general election. If you register as a Republican, your ballot will be filled with a slate of only Republican candidates.


For better and for worse, both the Democratic and Republican national parties allow the voters to pick their presidential nominees for the general election. However, like the electoral college, the primary is not decided by a direct popular vote, but instead by which candidate can receive a majority of delegates who will be attending the Democratic and Republican national conventions this summer on the voters’ behalf. In the first round of voting at each party’s convention, delegates will be bound by the results of the primary election. Therefore, as long as one candidate receives a majority of the delegates in the primary election, he or she will be the nominee. 

In the Democratic primary, 244 pledged delegates to the convention from the state of Texas will be allocated proportionally to all candidates who receive at least 15% of the vote. If a candidate does not reach 15% of the vote, he or she will receive little to no delegates at all. 

However, in the Republican primary, a candidate can win all (with some minor exceptions) of Texas’ 161 delegates to the GOP convention if he or she receives over 50% of the vote. 


Just nine Republican candidates received enough support in public opinion polling to appear in any of the five televised GOP debates spanning from August 2023 to this past January. Former President Donald Trump has refused to appear in any debates. Among the eight Republicans who did appear in the debates, only one candidate remains in the race: Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. 

If you choose to vote in the Republican primary, here are the presidential candidates you will be able to choose from:


Donald J. Trump, 77, former President of the United States and current frontrunner in the Republican contest, hardly requires any introduction. During his four-year presidency from 2017 to 2021, Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives twice, first for allegedly attempting to extort the President of Ukraine for dirt on his political opponents and second for inciting an insurrection at the United States Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, which he lost to Joe Biden. Trump was acquitted by Republicans in the United States Senate in both impeachment trials. Trump is currently out on bail in four separate state and federal jurisdictions due to criminal indictments for 91 felonies, which include but are not limited to alleged felony conspiracy to defraud the United States, deliberate mishandling and dissemination of classified documents, racketeering, forgery, attempting to solicit the Georgia Secretary of State to violate his oath of office, and falsification of business records. Trump will likely face his first of four criminal trials in Manhattan, starting on March 25. He has also been found civilly liable for sexual abuse, defamation, and business fraud, with the combined judgements (including interest) in those cases totaling $537 million – a larger sum of money than the inflation-adjusted price of the Louisiana Purchase.

Like his 2016 campaign for the presidency, Trump is pursuing a virulent message of nativism and opposition to modern culture that tends to resonate most with Americans who are white, male, older, live in rural areas and/or non-college educated. His campaign themes have long been embodied by a single slogan: “Make America Great Again” (MAGA). If Trump is elected President in November, it is very likely that the Republican Party will maintain control of the House of Representatives, while taking back control of the Senate with 53-55 seats. This would allow a President Trump to pursue the passage of most of his proposed policy goals. Here is what voters should expect from a second Trump term:

Fiscal Policy

  1. Tax cuts – Tax cuts for corporations and high-income earners have long been a staple of Republican policy since President Ronald Reagan, and voters should not anticipate any deviation from those policies in a second Trump term. In 2017, Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which slightly decreased marginal income tax rates by rates of 2-3 percentage points, while permanently slicing the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%. If elected, Trump and his Republican allies in Congress will likely pursue an extension of provisions in the 2017 tax cuts that are set to expire in 2025, while furthering cuts to the corporate tax – likely down to 15%.
  2. Increased national debt and deficit – It is estimated that by 2027, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 will have added an extra $1-2 trillion to the national debt, which currently stands at $34.2 trillion. If Trump signs another tax cut, this will likely add to the U.S’s increasing national debt and federal budget deficits.
  3. 10% tariff on all foreign goods – Trump has long bemoaned the United States’ trade deficit with other countries, such as China. In response, he has proposed a 10% tariff on all goods imported into the United States. In all likelihood, these costs would simply be passed on to the consumer. According to many economists, including Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman, Trump’s tariffs would have little to no impact on the trade deficit. 


  1. Repeal of the Affordable Care Act – During his first term, Trump attempted multiple times to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, which is colloquially known as “ObamaCare.” Although his party bolstered majorities in both houses of Congress from 2017-2019, the efforts were ultimately unsuccessful in the Senate. If Trump is re-elected this November with a large enough Senate majority, voters should expect him to try and repeal the Affordable Care Act again. 
  2. Loss of Consumer Protections – The Affordable Care Act, which was enacted in early 2010 under President Obama, protects consumers in a plethora of different ways, including banning lifetime monetary caps for health insurance plans, prohibiting health insurers from denying coverage because of preexisting conditions, and allowing parents to keep children on their health insurance plan until the age of 26. The Affordable Care Act also offers a health insurance marketplace at Healthcare.gov that includes subsidies and tax credits available to Americans with incomes as high as 400% of the federal poverty level. These benefits may be repealed if Trump is elected President alongside a Republican Congress.
  3. Millions of Americans could lose their health insurance – If Trump pursues a similar attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act, it has been estimated by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (in its 2017 report on the unsuccessful “American Health Care Act of 2017”) that roughly 20-24 million Americans will lose their health insurance coverage over the next decade.

Foreign Policy

  1. Trump would abandon American support for NATO – If Trump wins in November, voters should expect him to make serious attempts to withdraw the United States from the NATO alliance, something that his own former National Security Advisor, John Bolton, has warned about. Earlier this month at a campaign rally, Trump stated that if countries in the North American Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance do not spend at least 2% of their annual GDP on defense, he “would not protect [them].” He even went so far as to say that he would let Russia “do whatever the hell they want.” If Trump follows through with his promise to let Russia “do whatever the hell they want” to America’s allies in NATO, voters should anticipate a serious attempt by Vladimir Putin and Russia to engage in military action – including invasions – against former Soviet states, including the Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, as well as Poland. Such incursions into NATO territory by the Russians would present an unprecedented escalation, and heighten the risk of nuclear war. Vladimir Putin and the Russians could also seize upon this opening by invading or coercing into submission large portions of eastern and central Europe, including but limited to former members of the Soviet Warsaw Pact – the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria. 
  2. Trump would end support for Ukraine – Trump will also likely end support for Ukraine as it fends off Russia’s ongoing invasion. While Ukraine has fared much better than expected against Vladimir Putin’s brutal and deadly invasion of the eastern European nation, they likely cannot sustain a war effort without the support of the United States. Trump has repeatedly stated that he could end the Ukraine war in “one day” if he were elected President, but these claims are misleading and lack context. Such an end to the war would likely come with large concessions of Ukrainian territory to the Russians, and no security guarantees against another invasion in the future. 

The Judiciary

  1. Trump would likely appoint one to two right-wing justices to the Supreme Court – Trump would likely appoint replacements for ultra-conservative Supreme Court justices Clarence Thomas, 75, and Samuel Alito, 73 (the author of the Dobbs decision that overturned Roe v. Wade). Possible nominees for the Supreme Court in a second Trump presidency include conservative ideologue James Ho, a judge on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals who has described abortion as a “moral tragedy” and argued in favor of banning abortion pills nationwide. Another possible nominee for the Supreme Court would be ultra-conservative Barbara Lagoa, a judge originally appointed to the Florida Supreme Court by the state’s governor, Ron DeSantis. She now serves on the United States 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. In 2023, Judge Lagoa upheld an Alabama law that made gender-affirming medical care for transgender minors a felony.
  2. Hundreds of conservative ideologues would be appointed to the federal courts – Per reporting in The Atlantic by Adam Serwer, a second Trump presidency would reward the conservative legal movement with “some of its wildest dreams.” Trump’s victory in the 2016 election was extremely unexpected, even to political experts in conservative legal circles. Many right-wing organizations designed to cherry-pick the most conservative jurists for nomination to the federal bench, such as the Federalist Society and Judicial Watch “didn’t have all of the chess pieces completely lined up” when Trump took office in 2017. Therefore, a large portion of Trump’s judicial nominees were – although still conservative – less restrained in pursuing culture-war zealotry. This time, these groups will be ready to present Trump with hundreds of hand-picked conservatives for the courts.
  3. Trump would pardon himself of all his indictments: Trump is facing 91 indictments for various crimes, both at the federal and state level. If he is elected, he will almost certainly attempt to pardon himself, which would immediately make all of his federal criminal cases go away. As for his state-level prosecutions, it is likely that Trump would attempt to claim that as President, he cannot be prosecuted for any crimes, thus making the cases go away. It is unclear what would happen if Trump is in jail on the day of the election, but is subsequently elected President. In all likelihood, being elected president would remove any of his criminal liability.

Project 2025 

Supported by extreme elements of the conservative movement, such as the Heritage Foundation, Project 2025 has been described as a plan to “rescue the country from the grip of the radical Left” by forming a “governing agenda and the right people in place, ready to carry this agenda out on Day One of the next conservative Administration.” Paul Dans, director of the 2025 project, has said “[o]ur goal is to assemble an army of aligned, vetted, trained, and prepared conservatives to go to work on Day One to deconstruct the Administrative State.” Of course, all of these plans would need final approval from Trump, and it’s important to remember that most Presidents are not able to accomplish every single goal. Nonetheless, here are some of the goals of Project 2025:

  1. Block federal financial aid for up to two-thirds of all American college students if their state permits certain immigrant groups, including Dreamers with legal status, to access in-state tuition.
  2. Terminate the legal status of 500,000 Dreamers.
  3. End birthright citizenship, order mass deportation of up to 13 million illegal immigrants, and create internment camps for immigrants awaiting such deportation.
  4. Bar U.S. citizens from qualifying for federal housing subsidies if they live with anyone who is not a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident.
  5. Systematic targeting and imprisonment of journalists and media outlets that are critical of Donald Trump and his administration.
  6. Appointing special prosecutors to target and arrest Donald Trump’s political opponents, including but not limited to President Joe Biden and his family.
  7. Ordering the national removal and criminalization of selling and purchasing abortion pills and ordering all 50 states to report the identity of all women who have received or attempt to receive abortion services.
  8. Repealing all legislation passed by President Obama and President Biden designed to combat climate change, repealing laws that target climate change as a national security threat, exiting from the Paris Climate Accords, dismantling regulations against excessive carbon dioxide emissions, and mandating the denial of climate change as official government policy.
  9. Deploying the United States Military as a police force under the Insurrection Act, likely as a means to quell protests, as well as target political opponents and journalists.
  10. Mass firings of unelected civil servants previously selected by merit (rather than appointed by politicians) within the federal bureaucracy at every level in agencies such as the Justice Department, Federal Communication Commision, and the Federal Trade Commission. Such employees would be replaced with loyalists to the Trump administration.
  11. Order the Federal Communication Commission to “come down hard” on certain cable news networks most critical of President Trump, including but not limited to revoking the broadcast licenses to MSNBC, Comcast, CNN, ABC, and/or CBS. 
  12. Using federal agencies that regulate the internet to institute a national ban on pornography and shutting down “telecommunications and technology firms that facilitate its spread.”
  13. Restricting immigration to only Christians and those who “accept Israel’s God, laws and understanding of history.”
  14. Implementing Christian nationalist policies, such as banning parental surrogacy, prohibiting sex education in public schools, banning no-fault divorce, and reducing access to contraception.

Out of the eight major Republican presidential candidates who challenged former President Donald Trump, Nikki Haley remains the only one standing. An ally of business interests and foreign policy hawks, she represents an ideology of the Republican Party that predates Donald Trump’s populism. Her political career began in 2004 with her election to the South Carolina House of Representatives, and ascended quickly when she successfully ran for Governor in 2010. A few years after winning re-election, Haley was tapped by then-President Trump to serve as Ambassador to the United Nations. She stepped down from her post in 2019 after two years of service. After being floated for years as a potential candidate for the Presidency, she confirmed those suspicions in early February 2024 by declaring her candidacy for President. 

Throughout her campaign, Haley has attempted to earn the support of so-called “establishment” Republicans, or conservatives who have fallen most out of favor with Donald Trump. This has earned her the support of a lot of big-money donors in G.O.P. politics. Though she was initially one of the weakest polling candidates in the race, she quickly rose in prominence with a series of commanding debate performances. However, her anti-Trump stance has made her largely unpopular with the core of Republican voters, who harbor overwhelmingly positive feelings for the former President. In many ways. Haley has become an avatar for voters who simply oppose Trump.

Polling actually shows that if the general election is between Joe Biden and Donald Trump (this scenario is a near-certainty), about 45% of her voters would support Biden, while only about 30% would support Trump. Among likely Republican primary voters, Nikki Haley is currently losing in the polls to the former President in all 50 states, and is losing nationwide by a margin of 77% to 16%. 

If Nikki Haley is elected President, here are some of the policies you should expect her to pursue:

Fiscal Policy

Tax Cuts and An Increase In the Retirement Age

Haley will likely pursue similar tax proposals as her opponent, Trump. This would include decreases in marginal tax rates, and lower taxes for corporations and the wealthy. Haley has often criticized Trump for the fact that the national debt and the budget deficit increased during his term in office, but it is unclear how  Haley would balance the budget. One of her proposals has been to raise the retirement age for Americans currently in their 20s or younger (which is the majority of students at ACC) to 70 years old. The current retirement age is 67.


Trump-like policies at the border

Like her opponent, Trump, Haley has a very conservative stance on immigration. Per the New York Times, “that she wants to restore the former president’s “remain in Mexico” policy, add 25,000 Border Patrol and ICE agents, send Special Operations troops to Mexico to fight drug cartels, withhold funding from “sanctuary cities” that limit cooperation with immigration officials, and immediately deport migrants — including millions who came to the U.S. in recent years.” She has also said that she wants to limit birthright citizenship, despite the fact that the 14th amendment clearly protects children of non-citizens born on U.S. soil.


Unlike some of her fellow Republican candidates for President, such as former Vice President Mike Pence or South Carolina senator Tim Scott, Haley has attempted to appear moderate on the issue of abortion. She has stated multiple times that she wants to find “consensus” on the issue. Voters should view Haley’s ostensibly moderate views on abortion right with extreme suspicion. When Haley was the Governor of South Carolina, she co-sponsored a bill proposing that life begins at fertilization, and that due process and equal protection must apply to embryos/fetuses. Essentially, the bill would have imposed a complete ban on abortion. This past week, Haley also expressed support for a decision by the Alabama Supreme Court to grant personhood to frozen embryos, effectively banning in-vitro fertilization (a medical procedure to induce pregnancy for mothers who have trouble conceiving naturally). Based on Haley’s public statements on abortion, voters should anticipate her to sign a national abortion ban if she is elected President. 

Trump’s Indictments

Nikki Haley has stated on multiple occasions that she would pardon Donald Trump of all federal crimes if she is elected President. This would, however, not remove Trump from criminal liability in state-level criminal cases.

Haley would likely ban abortion and appoint anti-abortion judges

Every Republican president since Richard Nixon (with the exception of Gerald Ford) has appointed or attempted to nominate justices to the Supreme Court who either dissented against or voted to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. In the unlikely event that Haley is elected President this November, her moderate rhetoric on abortion will be harder to maintain as she faces enormous pressures from the religious right in both the congressional and activist wings of the Republican Party. Voters should expect a President Haley to sign into law legislation further restricting abortion rights at the federal level, as well as appoint right-wing justices to the Supreme Court who will be hostile to a woman’s right to reproductive freedom under Roe

Other policies supported by Nikki Haley:

  1. Haley has expressed a devout opposition to union rights, and has said publicly that she is a “union buster.”
  2. Haley supports a federal ban on gender-affirming care for minors.
  3. She opposes most forms of gun control, citing her support for the 2nd amendment, and her opposition to red-flag laws, background checks, and an assault weapons ban.
  4. Haley is a strong supporter of Israel in its war against Hamas, stating that “the last thing we need to do is to tell Israel what to do. The only thing we should be doing is supporting them.” She does not support a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.
  5. Haley has acknowledged that Joe Biden won in 2020 against Donald Trump, but she has also played up the negligent threat of voter fraud. She supports a national law to require Photo ID at the polls.
  6. Despite most voters in the Republican Party opposing aid for Ukraine, Mrs. Haley supports the funding of Ukraine in its war against Vladimir Putin and Russia. She also supports military assistance for Taiwan against the threat of a Chinese invasion.
  7. Haley has long opposed the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare), but did not specify whether she would try to repeal it.


In April of last year, incumbent Democratic President Joe Biden, 81, announced his intention to seek a second term. Although President Biden will be 86 years old at the conclusion of his presidency (if he is re-elected), his case for receiving the nod of Democratic voters for the second time in a row relies on three simple arguments: First, he is the only person in history who has ever defeated Donald Trump in an election. Second, he has, in the opinion of his campaign and his supporters, delivered more significant legislation and public policy than any Democratic president since Lyndon Johnson, all with a 5-seat majority in the House of Representatives and a 50-50 Senate. Third, if President Biden were to step down, the Democrats’ incumbency advantage would be eliminated, and it could further divide the Democratic Party in a nasty primary process.

Since the summer of 2023, President Biden has consistently trailed former President Trump by narrow margins in both national and battleground states. Supporters of President Biden dismiss these polls, citing the fact that a majority of Americans do not believe the 2024 general election will actually be between President Biden and Trump (despite overwhelming evidence that it is the most likely outcome), which makes it hard for voters to make a choice they believe is only a hypothetical. Biden’s supporters have also noted that general election polling before the conclusion of party primaries has often proven to be unreliable.

However, in response to President Biden’s lackluster polling against Trump, the incumbent President has garnered a few notable opponents in the Democratic primary. The first was a familiar face from the 2020 primary, self-help author Marianne Williamson, 71. However, Williamson is no longer in the race for President. Biden is also under a challenge from Dean Phillips, a U.S. congressman from Minnesota, representing suburban Minneapolis. 

If you choose to vote in the Democratic primary, here are the presidential candidates you will be able to choose from:


President Joseph R. Biden Jr, 81, is seeking a second term as President of the United States. President Biden is the oldest President in U.S. history, and has a long career in public service. At the age of 30 years old in 1972, he won a shocking upset election to the United States Senate from Delaware. Just weeks later, however, his wife and daughter were killed in a horrific car accident. Biden continued his work in the Senate as a single while raising his two sons (who were in the crash but survived). He soon remarried with Jill Jacobs, who is now First Lady Jill Biden. Biden spent 36 years in the Senate, serving as the Chairman of both the Judiciary and Foreign Relations Committees. In 2008, he was selected as Barack Obama’s running mate. During his time as Vice President, Joe Biden shockingly and suddenly lost his son Beau to cancer, who was believed to be a rising star in the Democratic Party, to cancer. Biden is survived only by his son Hunter and his daughter Ashley. In 2020, Biden ran for President against Donald Trump, with the intention to restore the “soul of America.” Biden decisively won the Democratic nomination over his chief rival, Bernie Sanders. Biden, alongside his running mate Kamala Harris, then defeated President Trump in the 2020 election by a margin of 51% to 47%, winning 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232.

The viability of President Biden’s domestic policy proposals for a second term depends almost solely on the Democratic Party’s performance in the 2024 congressional elections. Unlike Trump, who is all but certain to have a Republican-controlled Congress if he is re-elected this November, President Biden is not guaranteed a majority in either house of Congress, even if he is re-elected. This fact is especially true when it comes to the United States Senate. If Republicans hold onto one or both chambers of Congress this November, most of President Biden’s domestic agenda will be completely dead. This is both because Republicans oppose his agenda ideologically, but also because there is a political benefit for Republicans to stop as much legislation from passing Congress during a Democratic presidency as possible.

However, if the Democrats can hold onto their control of the Senate (as well as repeal the filibuster) and retake control of the House of Representatives, here are some of the things you can expect from a second Biden term:

Fiscal Policy:

Marginal tax increases on the wealthy and an increase in the corporate tax 

During his career, President Biden has long supported deficit reduction alongside strong government programs for the poor and working class. To do both requires large enough tax increases to pay for it. Biden has long stated that he believes upper-income earners and corporations do not pay enough in taxes, and should “pay their fair share.” During his 2020 campaign for President, Biden promised to raise the corporate tax from its current level at 21% up to 28%, while also vowing to not raise taxes on any American earning less than $400,000. Biden has kept his second promise, but his proposed hike in the corporate tax was voted down in Congress by conservative members of his party. However, Biden was able to close many loopholes used by companies like Amazon to effectively pay 0% in taxes by implementing a new 15% minimum tax on corporations. 

If President Biden is re-elected and has enough Democratic votes, expect him to make another attempt at raising the corporate tax to 28%.


Passing a law legalizing abortion in all 50 states

President Biden has long expressed a personal and religious opposition to abortion as a practicing Catholic, in addition to his lifetime of personal tragedies in losing two of his four children. However, throughout his career, Biden has long opposed the government imposing prohibitions on abortion, citing the importance of a woman’s right to bodily autonomy and reproductive freedom. 

The Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade (Roe) made abortion legal in all 50 states until the point of fetal viability, which is the point at which the fetus becomes an independent human being that can survive outside the womb. This usually occurs at around 23-24 weeks. However, Roe v. Wade was overturned by the conservative-controlled Supreme Court in 2022. After this happened, President Biden immediately called upon his Democratic allies in Congress to pass a bill codifying a national right to abortion into law (“codifying Roe”). Less than a month later, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would have codified Roe. However, in the 50-50 Senate, the bill failed, because Democratic senator Joe Manchin voted against the bill. In addition, because Democrats in the Senate only had 48 votes to repeal the filibuster, they could not pass the bill. During the 2022 midterm elections, President Biden promised to voters that if Democrats maintained control of the House of Representatives and gained two seats in the Senate (this would give them enough votes to repeal the filibuster), they would be able to codify Roe. Democrats fell just short; they only gained 1 Senate seat, and narrowly lost their control of the House. If Biden gets the votes he needs in the House and the Senate, he will be able to sign a law protecting abortion access. 

The Judiciary

Biden will continue to appoint liberal and progressive judges to the federal bench and to the Supreme Court if possible 

Assuming that none of the current Supreme Court justices retire or expire in the next few months, Joe Biden will conclude his first term with one appointment to the high court: Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. Judge Jackson’s appointment to the court fulfilled President Biden’s promise to nominate the first black woman to the Supreme Court in history. If President Biden wins re-election in 2024, there will be increasing pressure upon liberal justice Sonia Sotomayor, who will turn 70 years old this summer, to retire. If Justice Sotomayor does decide to retire (or if one of the other eight justices were to unexpectedly die), President Biden would have a wide range of competent judicial minds to place on the court. 

Most presidents look first to the D.C. Court of Appeals, the second-most powerful court in the country, for their picks to the high court. He could nominate Sri Srinivasan, 56, the chief judge on the D.C. Court of Appeals. Judge Srinivasan has a long legal career as a liberal stalwart, serving as the Solicitor General under President Obama and arguing in front of the Supreme Court in favor of striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (which banned federal recognition of same-sex marriage). President Biden could also nominate Judge Florence Pan, 57, who gained notoriety just recently for her tough questioning of an attorney for former President Trump who argued that a President could not be charged with a crime for ordering Seal Team 6 to assassinate a political opponent, as long as he or she was not impeached and convicted. Brad Garcia, 37, would be another choice for Biden if he wants to look for a younger alternative who could remain on the high court for many decades. Judge Garcia is best known for his work challenging President Trump’s Department of Defense’s legal authority to build a wall without the approval of Congress, as well as suing the state of Louisiana for placing burdensome regulations on doctors who perform abortions. President Biden could also pick from the 36 federal appeals judges he has appointed to the 13 circuits across America, as well as some appointed by his former boss, President Obama.

Gun Control

Universal Background Checks and an Assault Weapons Ban

President Biden has long been a staunch supporter of gun control during his career, even before America’s large increase in gun violence that began in the 2000s. As a senator, he helped push through an assault weapons ban through Congress in 1994. However, the law expired in 2004, and was not re-extended by President George W. Bush and his allies in Congress. Biden supports another iteration of an assault weapons ban and the implementation of universal background checks for all gun purchases.

Most of President Biden’s gun control proposals have died in Congress, as they all require 60 votes in the Senate to become law. However, in 2022, in the wake of the horrific Uvalde school shooting, he was able to work with Senate Republicans to pass the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act of 2022, which mandated red-flag laws and special requirements for reporting mentally ill gun owners. If Democrats win a large enough majority in the 2024 congressional elections, expect President Biden to push for another round of gun control laws. 


Implementing a Universal Medicare Option

Since he ran for President in 2020, Biden supports a healthcare policy known as the “Public Option.” Essentially, the public option allows all Americans to purchase the government’s Medicare health insurance policy. However, unlike some plans drafted by more progressive politicians like Bernie Sanders, it would not be obligatory, and consumers would still retain the “option” to have secondary insurance, or keep the entirety of their private insurance. During his first term, Biden did not have the votes in Congress to pass a bill for the public option. That may change if he wins alongside a strengthened Democratic majority.

Although Biden was not able to pass the public option during his first term, he did implement numerous changes to national healthcare policy. For example, he signed a bill that allowed Medicare to negotiate the prices of prescription drugs, thus lowering them to fair market value. Within that same bill was also a provision to lower the cost of insulin to $35 for all Medicare recipients, which resulted in many drug companies lowering the cost of insulin to all patients. Biden also oversaw a large expansion of ObamaCare subsidies and an expansion of Medicaid services.

Foreign Policy

Continued Support for NATO and Ukraine

Since Russia, under the control of its dictator Vladimir Putin, invaded Ukraine in the winter of 2022, Joe Biden has expressed full support for Ukraine’s defense. Biden has long described the conflict as an inflection point for democracies across the globe and their strength against an increasing threat of authoritarian regimes. When Democrats controlled both houses of Congress, aid for Ukraine passed easily and was signed into law by Joe Biden. However, after the Republican Party took control of the House in the 2022 midterm elections, aid for Ukraine has stalled. President Biden has also overseen a historic expansion of the NATO alliance, adding Finland, as well as putting Sweden on the path to membership. 

An Unclear Endgame in Gaza

After the terrorist organization Hamas attacked Israel in October of 2023, resulting in the deaths of just over 1,100 people and roughly 800 civilians, Israel has waged a brutal war in the Gaza Strip. Rough estimates show that 30,000 civilians have died in the conflict. While Israel argues that it takes precautions to avoid civilian casualties, and that Hamas is simply too embedded with civilian human shields, public opinion has turned in favor of a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. Joe Biden has publicly supported Israel throughout the conflict, although many reports have shown that he is growing frustrated with the leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu. Biden’s policy has grown unpopular amongst both his own base and conservatives. Conservatives claim that he has been too harsh on Israel, while liberals and progressives have become concerned with excessive civilian casualties. So far, Biden has not yet called for a unilateral ceasefire, although he has helped engage in diplomacy for temporary halts in hostilities in exchange for the release of hostages. It is unclear whether such an agreement to release hostages is even possible, as Hamas is a non-state actor without the same diplomatic pressures as Israel or other nations. While Biden openly supports a two-state solution, it is unclear whether there is any clear future for the Gaza Strip at this moment in time.


President Biden’s most credible primary challenger to date is Dean Phillips, a U.S. representative from Minnesota representing the outer suburban areas surrounding Minneapolis. Phillips was originally born Dean Pfefer, but after his father was killed in Vietnam, his mother remarried a man named Eddie Phillips, whose last name Dean permanently took. Phillips inherited his adoptive father’s company, Phillips Distilling Company, while also managing a gelato company and two coffee shops in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul (twin cities) area. Phillips’ net worth is estimated at $77 million, making him one of the wealthiest members of Congress. 

Phillips first ran for Congress in 2018 for Minnesota’s third congressional district, a district that had not elected a Republican to Congress since 1958. Philips successfully flipped the seat Democratic, and has comfortably won re-election since. During his time in Congress, Phillips has voted like a mainstream Democrat, supporting Joe Biden’s stated position on legislation exactly 100% of the time. He is now challenging Joe Biden for the nomination, citing the incumbent President’s poor polling numbers both in approval rating and a general election matchup against former President Trump. Phillips has also emphasized a need for generational change.

Phillips’ platform can be found directly on his campaign website at dean24.com. He shares a lot in common with President Biden, but he also has a few differences, too. Here are some of the highlights (but certainly not all) of his policy goals:

  1. Universal Basic Income – Phillips has stated that he wants to sign legislation that starts a pilot program for universal basic income. Such a policy would require billions of dollars in investment, but proponents argue that it would protect the most impoverished Americans facing homelessness and food insecurity. Opponents of “UBI” argue that the policy would encourage Americans to stop working, as well as providing an incentive structure for billionaires in the tech industry to push the economy towards a future of total automation and obscene income inequality.
  2. Medicare For All– Phillips supports Bernie Sanders’ version of universal healthcare, which is called Medicare for All. Unlike Joe Biden’s healthcare plan, Americans would be automatically enrolled in the program. According to Phillips, his plan would include “no copayments, no deductibles, and no other cost sharing.” It’s important to note that the congressman opposed Medicare for All during his entire political career until just weeks after he started running for President. He has countered allegations of changing his position for political expediency by arguing that he was fooled for years by corporate “propaganda.”
  3. Immigration Reform – According to his website, “Dean supports comprehensive immigration reform, including enhanced border security, a pathway to citizenship for those here now, and a streamlined process for those seeking to enter the country legally.”
  4. Climate Protection Policies – Per his website, “Dean is an original co-sponsor of HR 2307, the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, which would put a price on carbon and return the proceeds to every taxpayer, along with HR 8395, the EPA Regulatory Authority Act of 2022, which would restore the EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.”
  5. American “Dream Accounts– Phillips supports a novel policy known as American Dream Accounts. Essentially, every child born in America would be gifted by the federal government with an account worth $5000, invested in the S&P 500 index. According to Phillips, children could use the account of money to learn how to invest in the stock market and make financial decisions (how it would be of educational value seems unclear, as the money would not actually be movable). Conditioned on graduating high school, the money, which would likely be valued at $20,000 (assuming the stock market doesn’t crash) would immediately go to that young person to aid them with starting their life. 

In the course of his campaign, Phillips has repeatedly lied about the influence of so-called “Super-PACs,” or large political action fundraising committees, on his own campaign. He has, on multiple occasions, claimed that he has never accepted money from Super-PACs. These claims by Phillips are verifiably false. His campaign has two main Super-PACs supporting his candidacy: The first is called “Pass the Torch,” and is actually managed by his campaign’s former chair, Steve Schmidt. Phillips is also supported by a Super-PAC called “We Deserve Better,” which has received notable donations from billionaire Bill Ackman, who has gained notoriety for his antipathy towards so-called “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” in higher education, and his successful push to remove the President of Harvard, Claudine Gay. In fact, earlier this year, when Ackman announced that he would be donating $1 million to the “We Deserve Better” PAC, Phillips’ campaign website mysteriously deleted all mentions of supporting “diversity, equity, and inclusion” just days later. When Ackman was confronted on social media about the fact that the Phillips campaign website had actually listed support for “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion,” Ackman said that Phillips was “getting educated as we speak” on the issue.

Phillips has also made a series of false or misleading statements regarding his level of experience in government. In an interview with CNN’s Kaitlyn Collins, he stated, “I would actually be the most experienced president in recent history” if his “business experience” and “non-profit experience” were included with his congressional service. This statement is not mathematically possible. Phillips is 55 years old, while President Joe Biden has spent 47 years in public office as a United States senator, Vice President, and President. Unless Phillips would like to claim that hypothetical “business experience” at the age of 8 years old counts, he is lying. In addition, multiple presidents in recent history have entered office with more government experience than Phillips’ six years in Congress. Bill Clinton served as Governor of Arkansas for 12 years before he was elected President, and his predecessor George H. W. Bush served in Congress for four years, in the State Department for three years, as CIA Director for one year, and Vice President for eight years. 


Cenk Uygur (pronounced “Jenk You-gur”), 53, is a co-host on the left-wing news program The Young Turks (TYT). In addition to his regular political commentating on TYT, Uygur has worked with numerous left-wing groups to elect progressive candidates to various offices around the country. In 2017, he founded the Justice Democrats, who work to defeat conservative Democrats in Congress, or those who were viewed as too “establishment.” In December of 2023, in response to the Israel-Hamas war and the lack of a progressive challenger to President Biden, Uygur declared his candidacy for President.

Uygur’s campaign also supports a plethora of progressive policies, but his campaign website includes 10 specific policy goals, some of which are also policies supported by President Biden. Those policies include –

  1. Time Off for Parents – Paid Family Leave;
  2. Higher Wages – $15 Minimum Wage;
  3. Allow Medicare to Negotiate Drug Prices;
  4. Fight Corruption – End Private Financing of Elections ;
  5. Protect a Woman’s Right to Choose;
  6. Permanent Ceasefire and De-escalation of Violence in Gaza;
  7. Aggressively Address Climate Change;
  8. Affordable Health Insurance – Public Option;
  9. Universal Background Checks;
  10. End Gerrymandering.

Uygur was born in Turkey to non-American parents, and only emigrated to the United States when he was eight years old. Article II of the United States Constitution states that “No Person except a natural born Citizen…shall be eligible to the Office of President,” which would appear to exclude Uygur from being eligible to seek the presidency. He has maintained that his eligibility is a “slam-dunk” case, but without any ruling from the Supreme Court, the decision will be left to state secretaries of state or election boards. In many states, Uygur was denied or has been denied access to the ballot. However, he will be on the ballot in Texas. 

Uygur has generated some controversies over the course of his career. Before the late 2000s, he was a devout social conservative, who deeply opposed gay rights and feminism. Uygur also claimed for years that the Armenian genocide, which resulted in the systemic murder of nearly 1.2 Armenians during World War I, was “not based on historical facts” and “American propaganda.” However, Uygur has since denounced his own denials, blaming his upbringing in a Turkish education system which teaches its youth that the Armenian genocide never happened.

Uygur’s campaign recently released an advertisement on social media featuring a couple shopping in the grocery store bemoaning the fact that “we have to set that $7 [for eggs] aside” because the U.S. government needs the money to “kill Palestinians.” Obviously, the advertisement is attempting to allege that President Biden is focusing more on aiding Israel in its deadly war against the Gaza-based terrorist organization Hamas than fixing inflation at home. However, it’s important to note that a dozen eggs do not cost $7 (the average price of a dozen eggs is roughly $2.50), and that the $14.3 billion in supplemental military aid to Israel requested by President Biden only represents 0.22% of the total federal budget in fiscal year 2023 and 0.05% of the United States GDP in 2023, which could not have any material impact on the price of eggs. Uygur’s advertisement also claims that the American taxpayer is “probably paying” for Israeli citizens to have “universal healthcare.” This is extremely misleading, as the money for Israel’s healthcare system comes from taxes paid for by its own citizens. The ad is attempting to deceive its audience by playing off the fact that large majorities of American voters are out-of-touch with how much the federal government actually spends on foreign aid. According to the Brookings Institute, opinion polls consistently report that Americans believe foreign aid is in the range of 25 percent of the federal budget. When asked how much it should be, they say about 10 percent. In reality, foreign assistance is usually less than or roughly equal to 1% of the federal budget. 




Incumbent Republican senator Ted Cruz, 53, is running for re-election to a third term in 2024. He is virtually unopposed, which means he will be the Republican nominee. Cruz has long been a well-known right-wing social conservative in national politics since his first run for the Senate in 2012. Cruz’s career in politics kicked off in 2003, when then-Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott appointed him to be the state’s Solicitor General. Essentially, the Solicitor General’s job is to appear before the Texas Supreme Court or the United States Supreme Court whenever the state of Texas is a party in a major legal case. The Solicitor General will also appear before the Texas Supreme Court to represent the state government when the validity of a state law is being challenged in court. 

In 2012, Cruz shocked the political world by defeating Republican Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst in the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate. Because Texas was a deeply red state at the time, this effectively secured his spot in the Senate. He quickly became a very belligerent and unpopular figure in Washington. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, said of him, “If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would convict you.” In 2016, Cruz ran for President under a platform of hard-line social conservatism. While he came the closest to defeating Donald Trump in the Republican primary, winning 11 states including the Iowa Caucus, he ultimately finished second. He would go on to endorse Trump in the general election.

In 2018, Ted Cruz faced his first fight for re-election. Congressman Robert “Beto” O’Rourke, was unusually charismatic, and campaigned in all of the Lone Star State’s 256 counties. Cruz did ultimately win the general election in 2018, but only by a margin of 2.6%, one of the closest Texas statewide elections in decades. 

In 2021, Cruz was one of eight U.S. senators who voted to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, and just months later, he caught an enormous amount of flak for leaving the state to go on a vacation to Cancun with his daughters during the 2021 Winter storm, which killed an estimated 246 people.

If Ted Cruz is re-elected to the Senate, you can expect him to toe the Republican Party line, whether that means voting against nearly all policies supported by a re-elected President Biden, or by voting for nearly all policies supported by Donald Trump if the former President wins. Here are some of his political beliefs:

  1. Ted Cruz is staunchly anti-abortion, and voted to confirm all three of Donald Trump’s justices to the Supreme Court who later helped overturn Roe v. Wade. He supports a ban on abortion at the moment of conception, except in cases where the mother’s life is at risk. He voted against a 2022 bill that would have legalized abortion in all 50 states. 
  2. Ted Cruz supports abolishing the IRS and making tax rates equal across all incomes. This would mean that a person making $1 million dollars a year would pay the same tax rate as someone making minimum wage. He also supports eliminating taxes on inheritances (the estate tax).
  3. Ted Cruz opposes raising the minimum wage.
  4. Ted Cruz supports completely eliminating large swaths of the federal bureaucracy. This would include getting rid of the Department of Energy, the Department of Education, Department of Commerce, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
  5. Ted Cruz supports the death penalty. During his time as Solicitor General, he successfully argued in front of the Supreme Court that the state of Texas had the legal right to ignore a ruling by the International Court of Justice to pause the execution of multiple Mexican nationals.
  6. Ted Cruz supports “school choice,” which is a euphemism used to describe the reshuffling of education funding from public schools to charter schools, including religious institutions.
  7. Ted Cruz opposes nearly all forms of gun control. During his time in the Senate, he has voted against universal background checks, as well as voting against the successful 2022 Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (the law includes numerous gun control measures like red-flag laws), which was co-sponsored by his fellow Texan senator, John Cornyn.
  8. Ted Cruz supports a total repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
  9. Ted Cruz opposes same-sex marriage. Cruz also wrote legal briefs on behalf of the state of Texas arguing in favor of banning sex toys. 
  10. Ted Cruz denies the existence of climate change, and supports both the expansion of U.S. fossil fuels and the withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Climate Accords. Over the course of his career, he has received many millions of dollars in campaign contributions from oil and gas companies.
  11. Ted Cruz is a staunch ally of Israel, having supported President Trump’s decision to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. When questioned by a left-leaning reporter about his stance on the war in Gaza, Cruz stated “I condemn nothing that the Israeli government is doing.” Cruz also co-sponsored a bill called the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, which would have made boycotts of Israel a federal crime, punishable by a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. 



Colin Allred is the current frontrunner in the Democratic primary in public opinion polls. Allred started his adult life as a football player in the NFL, playing for the Tennessee Titans as a linebacker from 2006-2010. After suffering a career-ending injury, Allred went to law school at the University of California Berkeley. After graduating, he served as a special assistant in the Department of Housing and Urban Development during the final few years of the Obama administration, and then worked for the Perkins Coie law firm, which fights for protecting voting rights. 

In 2018, Allred ran for Congress in a suburban Dallas district against one of the most powerful Republican members of Congress, Pete Sessions, who had been in office since 1997. Allred won in a shocking upset, and he has held the seat ever since. During his time in Congress, Allred has voted like a mainstream Democrat, but he has also voted with Republicans on occasion for political reasons, including a controversial vote to condemn President Biden’s handling of increased migration at the southern border. 

In the opinion of his supporters, Allred’s campaign theory is simple: He is the kind of Democrat who can beat Ted Cruz. In 2018, he was able to defeat a Republican representative who ran opposed in the previous election.His connections to the populous Dallas Metro Area will win over the kinds of suburban voters that have fueled the campaigns of victorious Democrats, including President Joe Biden in 2020. Although Allred is arguably not as liberal on the issues as Gutierrez, his supporters would argue that finding the perfect candidate who agrees with progressives on every policy issue is not a luxury that Democrats in Texas can afford. Texas is still  a light-red state, and no Democrat has ever won a statewide race in the Lone Star State since 1994, the longest drought for any state Democratic Party in the country. In the minds of his supporters, some of his more moderate stances are water under the bridge, while defeating Ted Cruz is the ultimate goal of Democrats in Texas.

If Allred is elected to the United States Senate, here are some of the policies you should expect him to support:

  1. Healthcare: Allred’s official congressional webpage states that “Congressman Allred supports a public option that would allow Texans to buy into Medicare if they couldn’t find affordable coverage on the open market.” His campaign website also states that Allred’s top priority in the Senate is to greatly expand Medicaid, which has some of the lowest enrollment rates in the state of Texas.  
  2. Abortion: Allred has stated that he supports a nationwide abortion rights bill to codify the protections of Roe v. Wade into law.
  3. Education: Allred’s website tends to emphasize his backstory as the son of a single mother, and he claims that his childhood experience has made him heavily in favor of universal Pre-K, services for child care, increased investment in community colleges, and higher teacher pay.
  4. Immigration: Allred is a bit more conservative on the issue of immigration than his opponent, Roland Gutierrez. He has bemoaned President Biden’s border policies as weak, and has supported tighter controls on the flow of immigration. Per his website, “Colin is committed to solutions that ensure those obeying the law, working hard, paying taxes, and contributing to our economy have a pathway to earn citizenship.” Unlike Republicans such as Ted Cruz or Donald Trump (Trump has described immigrants as “poisoning the blood of our country”), Colin Allred does not have a history of prejudice or usage of dog whistle language against migrants.
  5. Voting Rights and Democracy: Allred’s campaign platform puts a large emphasis on protecting democracy and voting rights. Part of this has to do with two factors: First, Allred, being a black man whose mother grew up in the segregated South, has personal ties to the issue. Second, he continues to emphasize his work as a voting rights lawyer. Per his website, “Colin has been a champion of legislation reinstating and modernizing the Voting Rights Act to halt new voter suppression laws that have had a clear impact on voter turnout.” Allred also supports overturning the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United. 
  6. Gun Control: Allred has stated that he supports gun control measures, while still “respect[ing] the 2nd amendment.” Allred voted for the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act of 2022, and supports both an assault weapons ban and universal background checks.
  7. Energy and Climate: Per his website: “We can protect our environment, combat climate change, lower energy costs and incentivize economic growth simultaneously.” “Colin knows that to continue our status as the number one energy producing state, Texas can and should lead on renewable and clean energy, creating good-paying jobs for hard-working Texans and protecting the planet for future generations.” 

Roland Gutierrez, a Texas state senator from the western Rio Grande Valley, announced his bid for the Senate in July of 2023. Gutierrez’s service in politics goes back much further than Allred’s does; he was first elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 2008, and defeated incumbent Republican state senator Pete Flores in 2020. His district represents Uvalde, the site of a deadly 2022 school shooting. Gutierrez is a bit of a partisan flamethrower, both in the House, and even more in the Senate.When Texas Republicans were attempting to pass a bill, S.B. 12, which was completely unrelated to guns, he went on a tirade about Republicans’ unwillingness to implement common sense gun regulations, and was admonished by some of his own colleagues for it. Out of 12 Democrats in the Texas Senate, Gutierrez is the second-most liberal individual.

Gutierrez’s liberal streak has many Democrats worried that he can’t win in a state like Texas. Supporters of Allred believe that many ancestral Republican voters in college-educated, suburban places like Colin and Denton counties (the Dallas area) may cast their presidential vote for Joe Biden, because they see him as an imperfect, but ultimately palatable choice over Donald Trump; however, they may view Gutierrez as an annoying, grandstanding liberal, and cast their second vote for Ted Cruz. Gutierrez’s campaign rejects this theory: He, and his campaign, believe he would actually be the stronger candidate against Ted Cruz because he can galvanize progressive Democratic voters, especially those under the age of 30, on hot-button issues like gun control, abortion, and police reform, while Allred would be too moderate for them to be ignited into action. Gutierrez was also recently caught on-tape arguing to a rally attendee that Colin Alred can’t win a statewide election in Texas because he is black. 

Gutierrez’s campaign website lists seven key issues that he will tackle if elected to the United States Senate. Here is a rundown of some of his policy proposals:

  1. Immigration: Per his website, “I will seek reform to an unjust immigration system that demonizes the people that are an engine of our economy. We all want safe and secure border communities, but there is a smart way forward that works – without the cruelty and inhumanity.” According to Gutierrez, if he elected, he will support “[a] pathway to normalcy for undocumented workers,” “Justice for DREAMers,” “[a] new work program for arriving migrants,” “[f]xing[ and streamlin[ing] dysfunctional visa programs,” and “[ending] human trafficking and stop[ping] drug cartels.”
  2. Gun Violence Prevention: Gutierrez has stated that he supports three main planks for gun regulation. First, an assault weapons ban. Second, he supports something called “Extreme Risk Protective Orders,” which are a legal method to remove weapons from someone who is considered a danger to themself or others. Third, he supports raising the age to buy certain firearms to 21.
  3. Abortion Rights: Gutierrez has stated that he supports a nationwide abortion rights bill to codify the protections of Roe v. Wade into law.
  4. Healthcare: Gutierrez supports the public option, which in his words, would be “Medicare for all who want it.” This is essentially the same policy position as President Biden on healthcare.
  5. “Helping Working Families”: Per his website, Gutierrez has said he supports raising the federal minimum wage and making large structural changes to small business loans to protect working-class families trying to start a company.
  6. Education: Gutierrez has stated that he wants to implement free and universal Pre-K for all American families, free breakfast and lunch for school children, student debt relief, and pursuing policies that lower the cost of tuition (his website does not specify what those policies would be).  
  7. Energy and the Environment: Per his website, Gutierrez supports efforts to “focus on binational agreements to lower the amount of greenhouse gasses consumed globally. The federal government must also incentivize the robust renewable industry that provides both jobs and millions of dollars to farmers, ranchers, and local governments in Texas’ rural communities.” 

TribFest Explores the Political Spectrum

In three days of late September, Texas’ popular online and non-profit news source, the Texas Tribune, left the confines of the internet and briefly inhabited the Omni Hotel, Paramount Theater and streets of downtown Austin for the organization’s annual Texas Tribune Festival.

By Nathan Adam Spear

This article was featured in the Fall 2023 issue of ACCENT Magazine.

In three days of late September, Texas’ popular online and non-profit news source, the Texas Tribune, left the confines of the internet and briefly inhabited the Omni Hotel, Paramount Theater and streets of downtown Austin for the organization’s annual Texas Tribune Festival. For 13 years – without any pandemic-related exceptions – TribFest has sought to bring important and often contentious conversations about recent politics directly to the people it affects. The multi-day event hosts a long list of in-person panels, interviews and – since COVID19 – zoom meetings with notable authors, politicians, journalists, and other speakers that are thought to be relevant to today’s news.

Topics for 2023, included discussion on Texas’ recently ended and remarkably divisive 88th Regular Legislative Session, the acquittal of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s impeachment trial, the ongoing fight for civil rights, issues with border control, party agendas and upcoming election plans. ACCENT Student Media received an invitation to join in these weekend festivities to share some of the student interest found in the state and country’s modern politics; here are just a few of the influential political speakers that ACCENT heard from at this year’s festival through their “One on One” interviews.

Opening Keynote and New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu

The event’s first day consisted mostly of a few interviews and networking opportunities at the Omni Hotel – but setting the mood for its remaining weekend was a Keynote interview with the Republican Governor of New Hampshire Chris Sununu. Opening addresses from the Texas Tribune’s new CEO, Sonal Shah, and the site’s founder and previous CEO, Evan Smith. Shah, who assumed leadership this year, introduced the panel and the upcoming days by saying, “you’ll come across ideas that challenge you, and hopefully give you a chance to think deeper about topics you care the most about.” Before adding later, “We want you to hear what we hear, participate in the conversations, and make your own decisions. Journalism is the bedrock of democracy.”

Before conducting the Keynote interview in front of the hundreds of listeners that lined the velvet seats of the Paramount Theatre, Smith took time to explain his presence despite the recent announcement of his retirement – he said, quoting Brokeback Mountain, “I just can’t quit you.” Smith then went on to explain more seriously, “When I look out at you staring back at me, I know the potential for live journalism has been realized. How could I not be here? The need to gather like this has surely grown exponentially over the years and it’s at its peak right this minute.”

Following a lengthy introduction, Smith welcomed Chris Sununu to the stage to begin their informative and occasionally comedic conversation about Sununu’s political career and ideas for the Republican party in the upcoming presidential election. 

Right off the bat, the topic of interest was drawn to the infamous elephant not in the room, Donald Trump. The New Hampshire Governor had made news recently for not running in the next election as well as for his outspoken opposition to Donald Trump being the Republican candidate. At TribFest, Sununu repeated his thoughts about the former president and the ideal strategy for Republicans regarding Trump in the next election; specifically referring to an Op-ed in the New York Times he wrote in August on the topic titled, If Republicans Narrow the Field, We Will Beat Trump.

“Voter’s have to have the say and all that, but then the [Republican] candidates need the discipline and responsibility to get out,” Sununu explained, “because one on one, he loses [the Republican primary election] there’s no question about that.”

Beyond further thoughts on the state of both parties, Sununu’s interview was brought to local politics as well. Sununu referred to the recent impeachment trial of Ken Paxton as, “embarrassing” and as seeming like a “baked in vote before it started.”

Sununu also said that he gets “really emotional” about the homeless population nationally and specifically here in Austin. “Walk your own streets here guys… all this money is being spent. Wonderful. Go ask the record number of homeless you have in your own city how it’s doing for them.”

He then broadened his statement by adding, “Stop giving politicians credit for spending money; that’s not a result. The result is less homelessness… better test scores in schools… [and] seeing your opioid epidemic deaths go down. Demand they get better results.”

Texas Tribune Cofounder Evan Smith interviews New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu during the Texas Tribune Festival. Photo taken by Gabriella Plasencia on Sept. 21, 2023

He also gave advice on the purpose of government in response to a question from Smith about the modern definition of a conservative. Sununu truly reflected the ideas of Texas founders when voicing his ideas about, “low taxes, limited government, local control… [because] the government isn’t here to solve your problems,” – a sentiment which even received a brief applause from some people in the audience.

“Like my job, I don’t know what your needs are; I don’t know what your business needs are; I don’t know what your kid’s needs are in education,” said Sununu. Emphasizing the need for decision-making at a local level before connecting his work up north saying, “I’ve come from the ‘live free or die’ state, man. You do you. You decide what door is best for you, not me… Our town meetings can be real battles… [but] we don’t let that completely polarize us. You fight hard. You win some, you lose some.”

The moderate Republican’s politics served well to appease a diverse audience and, when wrapping up, he even conceded that, “Frankly, the next generation is mostly Democrats. I don’t believe in their politics necessarily, but I believe that they know how to use technology, social media, and they’re taking a better approach to a lot of these issues that my generation, frankly, screwed up.”

Stating repeatedly his withdrawal from future elections, Sununu still seemed to garner a general feeling of optimistic support from the festival’s vocally blue crowd upon leaving.

Dolores Huerta –

The famous feminist and labor activist, Dolores Huerta, joined the conversations at TribFest – specifically speaking downtown at St. David’s Episcopal Church which had several extravagant halls reserved for the weekend festival. Many stained-glass saints and religious figures watched inanimately from the windows as Huerta recounted her experiences growing up, her relationship with Catholicism and her time advocating for the United Farm Workers labor union as a trusted partner of Cesar Chavez – the person, not the street – in the 60’s through 70’s.

Now 93 years old but maintaining her activism, Huerta also works currently as member of the advisory board for Ms. Magazine, a feminist news publication that had been sending speakers around the country throughout 2023 to celebrate its 50-year anniversary.

Additionally, the longtime icon has a now 20-year-old nonprofit group named after her; the Dolores Huerta Foundation for Community Organizing aims to encourage and facilitate the progress of other local activist groups that are seeking their own specific civil or social justice.

“I call it ‘Democracy 101’. I think people need to understand that they have power; they have to get engaged if they want people to vote,” Huerta said about her eponymous foundation in Bakersfield, Calif. “I want people to understand that they have the power to solve problems in their own communities, and they don’t have to wait for someone to come from outside.” She explained further how the foundation informs and encourages people seeking action on issues like, education or infrastructure, so they can learn that “they can actually do it themselves.”

Huerta’s origins are in her birthplace of Dawson, N.M. which was owned by the Phelps Dodge mining company during her time in the early 1900’s to 1920’s. Huerta’s family “lived by 14 generations” in the area and she added that, “there were 513 miners that were either injured or killed during the course of [Phelp Dodge’s ownership]. And then of course, what they did is they leveled the town.”

This experience and, later, the “racism” she and Cesar Chavez faced during their time working in California – despite she says, her American-born ancestry and even “grandfather [who] was actually in the Civil War, on the union side,” –, is what led the pair to establish the United Farm Workers union and its goal to advocate for the needs of low-income working communities. Commonly regarded as Chavez’s right-hand, Huerta had high praise for her late collaborator’s work and character, repeatedly describing him as “pretty much a genius” despite having “never went high school.”

‘[Chavez] believed that poor people… [and] people of color don’t have opportunities, and that’s what we need.” said Huerta. “So, within the union, we were able to train people to be mechanics, carpenters, printers and attorneys within the organization; and these are all poor people that never had a chance to go to high school like he never had a chance to go to high school.”

A further question of interest for Huerta was about Chavez’s past thoughts on women and the feminist movement in general – especially given the organization’s male-dominated leadership and the labor head’s reputation for excessive control. “Well, actually, Cesar was a great supporter of women,” responded Huerta, “they would ask Cesar why he had so many women in leadership in the United Farm Workers, and he would say, ‘because they do the work’.”

For the anniversary tour of Ms. Magazine, TribFest had also been showcasing the non-profit’s newly published book, “50 Years of Ms.: The Best of the Pathfinding Magazine that Ignited a Revolution”, which was being sold as a large red hardcover in the Capitol Factory room of the Omni Hotel – where Huerta later offered book signings and smaller-scale conversation.

Huerta recounted meeting Gloria Steinem – a co-founder of Ms. – in the 1970’s, when the esteemed journalist was a “great supporter of the Farm Workers movement,” while Huerta was one of its leaders. “I don’t think Gloria gets enough credit because she was a civil rights activist even before Dr. King.”

Feminist and labor activist Dolores Huerta speaks at the Texas Tribune Festival to celebrate 50 years of Ms. Magazine. Photo taken by Gabriella Plasencia on Sept. 22, 2023.

Meeting and becoming “close” to Gloria Steinem, is when Huerta says that she herself was driven further towards feminism and specifically towards supporting, “the right of women to have an abortion.” Huerta said, “Of course, [abortion] was a big issue for me, being a Catholic right? And we know that it takes a while for religion to catch up with science; so, I had the option to catch up with science to realize that… it’s absolutely important for every woman to have that right, to decide for her own body.”   

In a fitting place to discuss Catholicism, Huerta said she has a “spiritual” instead of “practical relationship with the church.” Voicing her observation that “many of us are disappointed [with the Christian church],” Huerta questioned, “What do they do for children? What does the church do for women? Sometimes it’s hardly anything, except that they cast the church in the forefront of fighting against women’s reproductive rights.”

Her fight for the right to an abortion – as well as her activism for other notable and progressive topics that have made headlines recently – has led to her admiration for and even occasional acquaintanceship with members of the modern Democratic party; During her interview, Huerta gave vocal support for the Biden Administration and several politicians of the Democratic party including Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton and former President Barack Obama. Huerta identifies the target of her ongoing history with activism as being in opposition toward the growth of “fascism.”

To her audience in the echoing church hall she explained her thoughts on the current political climate, “We think of what the word fascist means, and it means to hurt, and it means to punish, and that is what is happening. People are being punished because they’re women, because they’re gay, or lesbian, or transgender… At the end of the day, we are losing our democracy to some of these fascist movements and tendencies.”

U.S Senator Ted Cruz –

The audience for the interview with notoriously controversial U.S Sen. Ted Cruz was heavily interested in the midday conversation – and not in the preferable way. Cruz answered questions on some of the past year’s most divisive topics in Texas and national politics, sharing his right-leaning thoughts on partisan issues like immigration, gun control and abortion, as well as his own controversial political history and current agenda for bipartisan outreach. With the audience reconvened to the Paramount Theatre, the interview might as well have been considered typical entertainment, providing popcorn and soda as Cruz’s responses were met consistently with audible unrest from the festival attendees.

Texas’ senator in Washington was elected for his second term in 2018 after a nail-biting race against the Democratic candidate, Beto O’Rourke, in what Cruz said, “was the most expensive Senate race in U.S history” at its time. He added that the “very close election” in 2018 – which concluded with Cruz’s victory by only “200,000 votes out of more than 8 million votes cast,” – was difficult because of increased spending from Democrats to raise voter turnout.

“[O’Rourke’s team in 2018] increased Democrat turnout from 1.8 million to 4 million,” said Cruz. When his data was met with unintended applause he added, “I think half of those are here in this room today. That’s okay. We’re in Austin.”

Now running for his third term – despite openly supporting term limits – , Cruz says that he and his team are taking his third reelection “deadly seriously,” but still portrayed a clear confidence when talking about his specific competition from the Democratic party. In regard to the upcoming primary election he said, “At the end of the day, I’m not terribly worried about who wins [the Democratic primary] because whoever wins it, they could nominate a ham sandwich, and they’re going to raise $100 million to run against me.”

Cruz said, “if you are a partisan Democrat, after Donald Trump, there’s nobody in the country you want to beat more than me.” After being “surprised that didn’t get a cheer,” he added, “So, we’re going to see a serious fight but at the end of the day, I believe we’re going to win this fight.”

Part of Cruz’s strategy this election season seems to be emphasizing his less debated actions in office, where he said he has been “delivering bipartisan, meaningful wins for the state of Texas, pro-jobs and pro-growth,” and has, “been doing [so] since [he] arrived.” Cruz referred to “just a couple” of the 94 bills he authored in his 11-year history with the senate, that he said, “made a real difference for the people of Texas.”

The Senator recounted his “first wins” like passing a “bill to stop Hamid Aboutalebi, who’s a known terrorist,” from acquiring a diplomatic passport, which was signed into law by former President Obama. Cruz also referenced his other early work of securing a Purple Heart award for Fort Cavazos – he used its former name, “Fort Hood”, — to honor the “14 innocent souls” that “Nadal Hassan murdered” in “cold blood”. Cruz added that the Obama administration “denied giving those service members who were murdered or who were injured the Purple Heart, [and] they refused to recognize that that was international terrorism.” In a more recent reference to his actions, Cruz spoke about his voting against the CHIPS act which he said would “spend tens of billions of federal taxpayer money” to fund new fabricating plants for semiconductor manufacturing. “I don’t like the idea of giving taxpayer money directly to giant corporations,” he explained.

He also reported his work to “to assemble a bipartisan coalition in South Texas,” consisting of equal Democrat and Republican representatives, to develop commerce with Mexico by constructing bridges after Biden introduced new environmental requirements for infrastructure that crosses the southern border which Cruz said, “delayed every one of these projects two, three, four years”.

“The Biden State Department didn’t listen. So, I introduced legislation to mandate that they expedite these bridge permits.” Cruz said, “When those bridges are completed, that will mean tens of billions of dollars of new trade and commerce, thousands of new jobs in Texas for farmers, ranchers, manufacturers.”

Cruz’s further ideas about the border might set him back on “bipartisan support” however; questions about Abbot’s handling of immigration were brought into discussion and met with Cruz’s support of the extreme transport policies encouraged by the textbook-conservative Texas Governor, who Cruz said, “is trying to use whatever tools he can to respond to the crisis and chaos that Washington has created.” The Senator pointed specific blame for the “humanitarian crisis” at the border toward Biden discontinuing the wall’s construction and the previous “Remain in Mexico” policies, as well as reinstating “the failed policy of catch and release.”

During his interview, U.S Senator for Texas Ted Cruz shares his goals for the upcoming election.
Photo taken by Nathan Adam Spear on Sept. 23, 2023.

His support for Abbot and his actions in the recent legislature also continued into the recent debate around “school choice” which Cruz proclaimed himself a “passionate defender” of. The Republican’s desired legislature would utilize public money to increase access to private schools that are unregulated by the government. At TribFest, Cruz even went on to say, “Listen, if when I die, my tombstone says that Ted played a meaningful role in bringing school choice to the kids of Texas and the kids of America, then I will die a happy man.”

At the event, the Senator stood by his more conservative beliefs on gun control and abortion as well. Cruz shared that he is “pro-life” but agrees with the Constitution that it is a decision for state legislatures. Encouraging awareness of “the proposition that you and I want to save lives,” Cruz also argued that mental health resources instead of gun restrictions are the solution for gun violence. “Every time there’s a mass shooting, you see elected Democrats, their approach is they want to take away the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens,” Cruz said. “There is zero evidence that doing so protects any lives.”

He also provided his defense for the recent claims of corruption made toward two Republicans holding office. Regarding the impeachment trial of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, Cruz emphasized belief that Paxton “has built a record as the strongest conservative state attorney general in the country.” And when an audience-submitted question referred to Supreme Court Judge Clarence Thomas participating in donor events, Cruz remarked with ill-reception, “there’s a particular hatred that the left has for a black man who dares to be a conservative.”

If it wasn’t clear from his series of debate podcasts, Cruz especially emphasized the importance he places on people leaving their “echo chamber” to hear opposing viewpoints peacefully. “So, I want to actually take a point to thank everyone who’s here who doesn’t agree with me,” Cruz said to most of the audience near the beginning of the interview, “you may leave with [your] ideas reinforced or you may change your mind on something, but I appreciate you coming in and listening and being part of a conversation with someone you don’t necessarily agree with. I think we need a lot more of that.”

The TribFest Experience –

Luckily, “a lot more of that” is what TribFest aimed to provide, with the many more speakers and panels who were presented at this year’s festival that spread coverage on many more topics than previously mentioned here. The festival also hosted free panels on its final evening that were found along South Congress Ave. Referred to as “open congress” events, live artists and tents from various contributors lined the street – including Texas Monthly magazine which provided panel topics ranging from issues with House Democrats to changes in local barbecue.

If you missed the discussions this year, don’t worry; this likely won’t be TribFest’s last appearance in downtown Austin, due to the Texas Tribune’s ongoing quest for accessible journalism. Ticket prices are even reduced for students, so if you’re in town next year think about joining in on the informative – and often entertaining – conversations to be found at the Texas Tribune Festival.

Reflections of First Gen Students

In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month in September, students of Hispanic descent dive into the many aspects of coming to terms with their own identity and sense of pride in the culture they were born into.

By Gabriella Plasencia

This article was featured in the Fall 2023 issue of ACCENT Magazine.

In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month in September, students of Hispanic descent dive into the many aspects of coming to terms with their own identity and sense of pride in the culture they were born into. A duty to honor the excellence demonstrated among first generation students in their areas of interest and expertise goes without question. 

Many people spend their entire lives contemplating what they want to be when they grow up; however, for Britney Solis, the path of artistry has never wavered. 

Solis, 18, is a freshman this year at Austin Community College whose goal is to pursue a continued certification in 2D animation to accompany her  history of self taught animation and drawing that she’s had since childhood. She says that animation classes were provided at Dripping Springs High School, where she graduated, but that the curriculum did not live up to the standards she had set for herself and for her career – so Solis pivoted to a more independent study approach towards the end of her high school education. Now, she has decided her career endeavors after high school will be at ACC.

Solis says, “I stuck with it. I guess [animation’s] kind of like my happy place: drawing characters, watching media of characters and putting them in my own work.”

Her decision to further her education came with great weight and pride not only from her family’s support in her doing something that she is passionate about, but also pride in being the first of her family to attend college. As she navigates the complexities of being a first generation student as well as an artist, she reflects on the confidence and pride that she has in her creative Latino family. 

“I remember my cousin, who sadly passed away, was a big artist, to me at least,” Solis says. “One time I had this little princess coloring book where you could design your own dress, so I asked him to draw it, but he told me to do my best and draw it myself.”

Her confidence to draw initially came from her family, but eventually, self-satisfaction became the catalyst for Solis’ appreciation of art that propelled her prospects in the animation industry.

“I was like 10 or 11 when I found out people made a living from drawing animations,” said Solis, “since then I [have been able to] imagine myself doing that.”

As a child of the early 2000’s, 2D animated television shows and movies – as seen on the PBS Kids and Disney’s Pixar – are forever etched in the pillars of peak animation in Solis’ youth. As such, she hopes that, by one day becoming part of the animation industry, she can affect the cultural implications of who or what is portrayed on screen – which is another one of her concerns in the industry.

“Representation through the media is very essential, especially since kids are majorly watching cartoons,” says Solis, “they kind of need that representation early on if they’re feeling that they don’t belong or happen to be a minority.” 

Cultural consciousness plays a huge role in  building interest and an agenda professionally and personally for  Michelle Marquez, a 23 year-old architecture graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin’s School of Architecture. From an early age Marquez  has felt a natural enthusiasm toward the construction and design of homes which then piqued her academic curiosity. In an eighth grade math assignment, Marquez’s teacher introduced her to the idea of pursuing architecture as a career and led her to the public Dubiski Career High School, which offers an architecture program for its students. Once admitted, she participated in competitive opportunities to refine her knowledge and skills for SkillsUSA – an organization that provides outlets for students to develop professional skills through a wide variety of trades and career paths via scholastic competitions, conferences, and  community outreach. As Marquez  became exposed to the different routes of prestige and nonprofit work in the architectural world of higher education, she realized that affordable housing is her calling to apply both her cultural background and formal education.

“My final project by the time I was a senior [in high school]…was a huge homeless shelter that utilized the concept of Japanese capsule hotels in order to give people a space they could rent out for a certain amount of time while it also providing mental health services, a cafeteria, library, job resources, daycare.” Marquez says, “That’s where I started shifting my views and how I wanted to help the homeless and that’s where I am at in 2023.” 

“Besides doing all the architecture stuff in my life, I really like volunteering, so food banks, working in financial resources, so with that, I think I’m in a professional that sometimes strays away from the community and it’s really easy to stray away from what people actually want, so when you’re working in more social work type positions and having that one on one conversation with a human being who is struggling, you want to make that difference because you have the opportunity to,” Marquez says. “So, I want to go into the nonprofit side, it doesn’t have to be elaborate. I understand that I have an education that could make something elaborate, but I want it to be affordable, so that people can actually raise their kids, so they have stability.”

Marquez has a specific personal experience of when being the daughter of a landscape worker, became relevant to a discussion held in a class over the ethics in architecture. A professor who was currently in practice, presented an instance in which she visited a construction site while a worker brought his family with him to visit him during his shift. This instance of bringing one’s children onto site was deemed a dangerous instance rather than a heartwarming one. Marquez holds both sentiments on a professional and personal level.

“It does become a question of where we are putting our workers and what circumstances we are giving them to have that family time while making deadlines on a project. So, at least that’s the perspective I think I’m trying to bring into my profession here at UT, both as a hispanic coming from a low income background, where I was on those construction sites, I know why that happens, but also from a professional and safety standpoint I know that’s not okay,” Marquez says.

Marquez’s parents became aware of her interest in buildings when she was a kid drawing a dream house for her family that had motivated her father to work even harder to purchase a home for their family in 2004 – right before the 2008 economic recession. However, only until the first few months of undergrad did she fully understand and get on board.

“Being first generation, I think its somewhat easier to explain to your parents when you say ‘I’m going to be a lawyer or I’m going to be a doctor’ when really I’m designing the buildings, not building them, [designing] them, and they knew I was good at it.”

While pursuing higher education in an often prestigious profession, Marquez describes how gender constructs alter what professions are perceived as being oriented toward males or females. 

“In the very beginning, I think it was part of having, not necessarily my parents, but a cultural machista mindset since architecture is very male driven,” Marquez said, “I have a cousin that went to school for interior design which tends to be more female driven, so [my] parents were really pushing for me to do interior design.”

Machista along with the term machismo from Spanish-speaking cultures entails maintaining the superior standard of both men and women respectively. In a machista or machismo mindset, women tend to pivot away from ambitious strides in their career, dedicating their sense of identity to roles of servitude to appease patriarchs. Marquez acknowledges how the societal roles can affect the subconcious expectations of her as a woman in a Hispanic household.

“I say I’m Hispanic since it’s more broader than just saying Mexican-American,” says Marquez, “but moving here to Austin, I see a lot more variety and that’s so exciting to me.” A lot of the friends I’ve made here are from Venezuela and some Argentinian people and they’re really cool and I just love experiencing different cultures. Here there’s just a variety of people and I want to be more open to it.”

Marquez’s home is in Dallas however her alma mater for undergraduate school remains at the University of Texas at Arlington. With ties to those two areas, Marquez describes how grateful she is to be from there and the sense of community that she has because of it. She says she always felt safe without feeling “weird” because “more or less every person got it.” Marquez explains the  general consciousness of the cultural vibrancy that inhabited the Dallas and Arlington community that she says wasn’t as easily found when she moved to Austin for graduate school.

“I do feel more in touch with my roots having moved here and know I want to go back to my community and want to do something for unrepresented latinos one way or another,” Marquez says, ”however, in terms of my higher education, what does scare me is student debt because at the end of it is a three year program I have to pursue. I already have been in school for five years, and the cost of living in Austin is high. So, it’s a great opportunity to continue my education here, but I am scared of the aftermath because latinos with higher education carry massive debt.”

According to a study from Mark Kantowitz featured on CNBC, 61 percent of Hispanics that received a bachelor’s graduated with student debt. Luckily for Marquez, she had spent high school with her education and career in practice, so her years in undergraduate school were paid significantly through scholarships. However for graduate school, she says that it became necessary to pull from student loans. She explains that the intention behind her financial sacrifice  is to prioritize her education and the enrichment of her life’s prospects. Alongside her interest in furthering her education, celebrating her heritage became more abundant when she took notice of the slogans and events for Hispanic Heritage Month being promoted directly and openly.

“I don’t think it was ever directly impacting me as a kid because my community was Hispanic heritage month every day. It wasn’t until I moved here that I really felt the need to realize It was my month to appreciate.” says Marquez. “Same thing with Dia de los Muertos, I never celebrated it growing up and I don’t think death is something to be scared of. I think it is a beautiful thing that you’re able to think of your family members and ancestors,” 

Since taking in and embracing her culture to a higher extent after moving to Austin and embracing the present culture, she wants to learn more about the past so she can continue its traditions for her kids. The same application can be said for being a first generation. Although the trials of being a first generation student are difficult and student debt is an obstacle for many, Marquez says that being familiar with the system will aid her as she guides her future children in higher education. Despite everything that she’s been through, Marquez says that gratitude is the word that comes to mind when describing her origins. 

“I love it. There’s so much color to my culture.” Marquez explains, “I don’t know what other cultures have kids making beds out of tables at a quinceanera at 2 a.m. It’s so lively and boisterous, and creative, maybe that creativity will lead me to where I [want to be].”

Protest for Palestine

Hundreds March at the State Capitol in Solidarity with Palestine.

By Elif Sahin

This article was featured in the Fall 2023 issue of ACCENT Magazine

Hundreds of community members, including University of Texas and Austin Community College students, gathered in front of the Texas Capitol in Austin to march downtown on Sunday, October 15 in protest of the ongoing genocide and occupation of Palestine. 

UT Austin’s Palestine Solidarity Committee hosted an “All Out for Palestine” protest to “honor the martyrs in the midst of an ongoing resistance against apartheid Israel” as stated on their Instagram. Protesters held signs that read ‘Stop U.S. Aid to Apartheid Israel’ and “Yup. We Exist. Jews for Palestinian Lives. Ceasefire Now’ chanting in both English and Arabic.

“It looked like we had well over a thousand people here today.” said the PSC organizer who wishes to remain anonymous for safety reasons. “It was absolutely fantastic to see the support that we get from people as opposed to the type of support we dont get from the US government, from [the] media, [and] from our educational institutions.”

“This is where change really happens,” the organizer emphasized.

A protestor speaks for Palestine in front of the Texas Capital in downtown Austin. Photo taken by Collin Eason on Oct. 15, 2023.

For context, the Gaza Strip has been carpet bombed in response to the Hamas attack that occurred October 7. According to the Gaza Health Ministry, nearly 9,500 Palestinians have been killed since Israel began a bombing and ground campaign. Thousands of civilians have been injured and are left with little to no water, food, resources, or power in most hospitals after Israel cut off electricity in Gaza more than once. 

“Civilians must be protected at all times. International humanitarian law must be respected,” the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, stated on his Instagram in response to the ongoing bombing of Gaza. “A humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding in front of our eyes… History will judge us all.”

The PSC aims to spread awareness on current events and amplify Palestinian voices. According to event organizers, “This narrative surrounding what happened [on] October 7 was that it was unprompted, when in reality, this was an effect of 75 years of occupation.”

“It’s absolutely horrible what’s going on and we denounce it completely,”  the organizer said. “They see this as an excuse to completely get rid of Palestinans… this is collective punishment, it is a war crime committed every single day, for the past 7 days and the media has no intent of pushing back on this.”

“Gaza went from an open air prison to an eradication camp,” the organizer stated.

“We want these people to not have to live scared to fall asleep and not wake up tomorrow because their house caved in on them. We want these people to have no fear that their children can go to school the next day. We want these people to have no fear that they won’t lose (someone) to an unjust arrest the next morning,” the organizer explained.. “For some reason, this is crazy to Zionists.”

The organizer proceeded to call out the speech held by President Biden during this week as well. “We saw Joe Biden get on air and spread Israeli war-mongering propaganda, that Israel intentionally disseminated, to create this false narrative around what’s going on in Palestine and in Gaza that they think gives them the right to exercise unchecked aggression against Palestinian civilians.”

“When Palestinians show peaceful protests, [they] get backlash for that. For example, in 2018 [during] the Great March of Return in Gaza, Gazans were hand-in-hand walking towards the border fence and were shot [with] live ammunition by the [Israeli Defense Forces]. Tear gas was thrown at them, and over 4,900 people were injured or killed. The whole world stayed silent for that,” the organizer said.

“These are regular everyday people like you and I. They have a right to exist, a right to their land, a right to resist. It’s enshrined in UN law,” stated the organizer. “These are fundamental rights these people have, yet their rights are being stripped away from them on an everyday basis.”

The organizer then explained how the PSC held an education teaching called ‘Palestine 101’ on October 12 about the “history leading up to today’s events in Gaza,” but the activist said they were harassed by three Israeli men in appearing to be in their thirties. Two of the three men stated they were in the IDF. According to this testimony, these three men were not UT students, yet managed to get access to university grounds and make members “feel unsafe, threatened, and intentionally target [them] with hate speech and violence.” The organizer explained how the men proceeded to call PSC members “terrorists” and told them to “wait till they’re in Israel next week killing all the Arabs.”

“This was particularly close to the Arab, Palestinian, [and] Muslim community at UT.”  they add.

In regard to UT President Jay Hartzell’s email sent to UT students about the ongoing events in the Middle East, the organizer explained how he only included a reference promising to protect Jewish students on campus. “The PSC wants to make this extremely clear. We 100% support the protection of Jewish students (on) or off UT campus. It is so important that every student at our campus has a voice, a safe space to speak, learn, and be a part of (the) community,” said the organizer. “But what Jay Hartzell said only applied to Jewish students. He intentionally marginalized (us) by leaving us out of the email- Muslim students, Palestinian students, and Arab students.”

“Where is our protection? Clearly it wasn’t there on Thursday,” the organizer emphasized. “We’re going to continue to do the work that we’re doing [whether] in safety or not.”

The PSC will be hosting more protests, such as a “Texas State-Wide Protest” on Sunday, November 12 at the Texas Capitol. The march will be to show support for the people of Gaza and to urgently demand an immediate ceasefire. PSC will also be hosting a walkout at UT in November to “call attention to UT Austin’s failure to condemn this genocide and address how it affects our on campus and broader Palestinian community.”

Photo taken by Gabriella Plasencia on Oct. 15, 2023.

“At the end of the day, what Palestinian students [and] what Palestinian organizers really want is for our people back in Palestine to be granted the basic necessities and human rights that every human in the world deserves.”

Red Bench Discusses Banned Books

Pairing with Interfaith Action of Central Texas, the ACC Service-Learning program held a Red Bench Dialogue event on “Banned Books” at the Eastview campus on Oct. 24.

By Hailey Williams

Photos by Kyle Sandiego

Pairing with Interfaith Action of Central Texas, the ACC Service-Learning program held a Red Bench Dialogue event on “Banned Books” at the Eastview campus on Oct. 24. Students were given the opportunity to discuss an important issue in a safe environment at a dinner-party like event. 

Interfaith Action works closely with service-learning students as the creators of the Red Bench program. 

“Several years ago, renowned UT Professor Dr. Betty Sue Flowers recommended that organizations place red benches in public spaces. The idea was simple — by sitting on one of these red benches you were signaling to others that you were open to a conversation that really matters. The red bench is a symbol of a place for conversations that ‘cultivate peace and respect.’ The Red Bench program has quickly grown into a genuine community of sharing. We focus on ideas and issues that are addressed by all of the great wisdom traditions and ‘topical’ subjects that face our community and nation.” Interfaith Action of Central Texas, (2023). Interfaith Action The Red Bench https://interfaithtexas.org/redbench/.

Framing the event with a five-minute speech, Dean of Library Services Keri Moczygemba had the opportunity to give her insight on the topic before conversations started. 

“As a librarian and lifelong learner and educator, it is important to understand the opinions around the topic of banned books, which is ultimately censorship,” Moczygemba said. “For controversial topics such as book banning and censorship, we often see arguments for and against, but our reality includes caveats, personal beliefs, and scenarios that don’t fit neatly into ‘for’ or ‘against.’ Engaging in conversation in a safe and supportive environment is a significant choice to expand your mindset and learn about viewpoints other than your own.”

Service-learning students hold an event each semester with the help of their advisor Linda Cox. 

“Working with students at ACC brings me hope for the future,’ Cox said. “We are definitely experiencing a surge in religious, political, and other forms of polarization, but our students are building bridges and helping complete strangers make connections with one another. Simone Talma Flowers from iACT led three training sessions for our students to become table hosts at the event, and each one was really amazing and transformative. Every time a new group of people gathers around a table for a Red Bench conversation, even in the training sessions, something new arises–it’s always different, and it’s exciting to see and feel the connection. Our students are great leaders, modeling how to share from their own experience, listen to others, and allow honest and safe communication to take place. We leave wanting more–more conversation with the people at the table, and more conversations like this with others in our daily lives.”

New ACC Chancellor Russell Lowery-Hart makes an appearance at the Red Bench dialogue on October 24, 2023. Photo by Kyle Sandiego

Students participating discussed the night’s topic with complete strangers at their table. 

“I think the organizers did a really good job of creating an atmosphere in which people would be able to have respectful conversations,” attendee Zoila Watson said. “Having complete strangers share a meal at a table together, and converse over a topic, with certain guidelines in place, allowed for good listening. Additionally, we were also able to share about our roots in a particular faith and again, do so in a respectful manner. Most of that is missing in the public sphere- especially in social media platforms where the loudest most extreme stances get the most traction and attention.”

It ain’t Broadway, It’s Bat Boy

ACC unveils it’s new musical theatre department with a debut performance of Bat Boy: The Musical

By Aidan Warren

Photos courtesy of ACC Drama Department

This article was featured in the Fall 2023 issue of ACCENT Magazine.

There was a raucous silence in the auditorium, a breathless air, and then – BOOM! The stage flashed red, and in the light, a grotesque thing: an evangelical’s worst nightmare, a mutant heathen born for fear. A ragged boy with bat ears and a silverback gorilla’s pose, leering at the crowd from behind his primal cage – and there, the crowning jewel of the creature’s costume, a fitting reminder of another monster in America: “keep kids off drugs” is displayed on his D.A.R.E. souvenir t-shirt.

This was the reveal of the eponymous protagonist in Bat Boy, the mic-drop showcase of Austin Community College’s musical theater upgrade. The production calls attention to the new programs within the drama department, like the now offered Associate of Arts in Musical Theatre and Associate of Arts in Costume Technology. It’s a star-stunning debut, ornamented with persistent gags and mocking tropes so much that the whole spectacle plays like a hammer-to-the-knee reaction test — the more you restrain yourself, the more it pulls the glee out of you.  The show’s other notable features include:  side-characters passing joints to stuffed animals, sardonic pow-wows against middle-aged maternally-bosomed women with a penchant for Confederate-culture eccentricities, and Guillermo-del-Toro-esque romances between strange mutants and innocent girls.

“It’s Theater of the Ridiculous,” explains Jamie Rogers, ACC’s drama and music director at the helm of Bat-Boy, “where actors treat the weird as normal as possible.” His conception of the show was to flaunt the new facilities of the Drama Department at ACC’s Highland campus, which culminated in the Black-Box theater. The department received a variety of equally important additions behind the scenes as well, such as: a new scene shop with state-of-the-art basal wood sawdust and metal hardware to which the sawdust basal wood can be fastened; five new acting studios for script-reading and workshop complete with yoga mats for movement and mindfulness training –  as if the present memoirs of washed up actors weren’t enough a reminder to maintain mindfulness; costume and set design labs equipped with drafting tables and Macbooks so that the college can further ensnare you in to their lair; and a greenroom in an upgraded backstage with outstanding stage monitors for actors to keep track of their cues.  If my facetious descriptions don’t do it justice, I assure you that the additions are extraordinary. Every room I visited with Rogers emitted a professional and modern aesthetic, so that at times I questioned whether I was still visiting ACC or a genuine theater studio. 

But the Black-Box is the paramount result. The show’s box-office and entrance are more pleasant additions to the professional flair of the new facilities, with the theater’s look greeting guests like a soft-spoken lay – the only difference between the intimate setting for some Brooklynite one-act play is the lack of rat-infested ventilation weaving about the ceiling and moldy brick walls rampant with cracked mortar. 

To Rogers, the theater serves as a wealth of possibilities for the future of ACC’s Drama program. “It’s really flexible – we can turn the stage into anything we want,” he says. Though Bat Boy didn’t take advantage of this, the theater is more flexible than it lets on: the seats can be arranged in every which way – whether it be a Globe-Theater colosseum format where the seats encroach upon the stage in a circle, or a runway-style arena where the actors have a walkway indented into the crowd. The eventual goal of this, Rogers notes, is to “maybe not perform big shows like Rodgers and Hammerstein,” but to allow malleability for future performances that can lead to unique experiences for the drama students.

Maybe that is the crux of it all. In a world with conflict woven into its seams, everything seems muddled and irresolute. Certainty threw itself out the window ages ago. With each day that moseys on, it seems we lose track of when and where we are, until the news brings us back to a new reality each year. You’ll hear words like, “No, that war is over, now you need to care about this one,” or, “A.I. is already in the past, it’s time to get ready for petroleum-based music formats, … they’re the unprecedented future!” And as a result, we resort to any means of unification as a way to distract ourselves from the hodgepodge of world affairs that lay piecemeal across time. And what better way to gain that unification than through art: the most universal medium across humanity. 

Rogers says that  Bat Boy alludes to an inexorable problem storming through American culture. The allusion is evident if you had a chance to attend the musical – most of the cast repudiates Bat-Boy and wishes for his ostracism, despite his comprehensive self-education and attention to social norms. He is by every definition a delightful young man in southern culture, but the pretense surrounding his upbringing hinders anyone in his community from cultivating acceptance. Instead, they beat around the bush and connive ways to ensure his exclusion from society. And what better way to compliment the scapegoatism than by wearing the D.A.R.E. t-shirt?

The future of musical theater at ACC seems to point towards culturally-aware programs with themes that conflate with modern society. When asked what his ideas for future musicals would be, Rogers stated his uncertainty, saying “when we get closer to next season, everything can change, and that’s when we’ll be able to see what’s going on in the world and what we can do to represent that.” Even if no answer really came from the question, the uncertainty itself is more gratifying than any plan that could’ve been posed. Any musical department could rely on tried-and-true shows, whether it be Cinderella or Thoroughly Modern Millie or what have you – but what if a department decided to choose unique selections based on the state of global affairs? Rather than seeing The Book of Mormon over and over at the Butler Hall, what if we saw Bat-Boy, a slightly obscure musical that resonates all too well in the world we live in? 

Whether you’re an actor, a stage technician, or a faithful audience errantist – consider looking into the future of ACC’s drama program. For myself, Bat Boy played out to be an experience like no other and not  just  because of the show; in fact, the impetus of my excitement for the performance lay in the mirth and din of the theater that night. Despite every trouble in the world – every parley, every conflict, every moral-forsaken insult on the grounds of political fervor – an audience was brought together under one roof, coalescing into a jovial uproar, and so much so that for a moment, Bat Boy actually felt like a distant fantasy instead of so grounded in reality. 

Haunted Reviews: The Shining, The Omen, The Excorcist

Three iconic horror films premiered at Austin Film Society to honor the Halloween season. ACCENT writer Julian Lewis, joins the historic Austin theater in revisiting these spooky classics.

By Julian Lewis

This article was featured in the Fall 2023 issue of ACCENT Magazine.

Austin Film Society (AFS) is a non-profit organization based in Austin, Texas, dedicated to supporting and promoting the art of filmmaking.  It was founded in 1985 by local filmmaker Richard Linklater, along with several other film enthusiasts – today, the organization plays a vital role in Austin’s vibrant film community.

One facet of AFS operations is the AFS Cinema, an arthouse theater within walking distance of Austin Community College’s Highland Campus. The cinema screens a diverse selection of films curated by what many consider the best buffs in the business.  From classic and independent films to international and avant-garde works, the theater offers a celluloid cornucopia with something for every cinephile to enjoy. 

During the month of October, I attended showings of classic horror films that I had yet to see on the silver screen: The Shining, The Omen, and The Exorcist. Here are my thoughts.


Based on the novel by Stephen King, The Shining is a classic psychological horror film directed by Stanley Kubrick.  The story revolves around the Torrance family whose patriarch, Jack Torrance, takes a job as the winter caretaker of the isolated Overlook Hotel in hopes that solitude and seclusion will inspire his writing.  After moving his wife Wendy – brought to life by the enigmatic Shelley Duvall – and young son Danny into the hotel, winter sets in, and Jack and his family become cut off from the outside world.  

The hotel’s haunted past begins manifesting itself in increasingly strange and disturbing ways as the Torrances settle into their new surroundings.  Danny – who possesses an extraordinary psychic ability known as “shining” – is tormented by horrific visions while his father’s mental state deteriorates and his mother struggles to keep their family from falling apart.

The score sounds like elevator music plummeting to hell and combined with Kubrick’s notoriously meticulous direction and Jack Nicholson’s consummate performance as Jack Torrance the result is a masterpiece of suspense and terror.  The Overlook itself becomes a central character as the dormant evil it possesses awakens and pulls viewers into the depths of madness.  The Shining is one of the best films the horror genre has to offer; its enduring impact on cinema and popular culture is testament to its greatness.


Directed by Richard Donner and released in 1976, The Omen is every parent’s worst nightmare made flesh.

Gregory Peck stars as Robert Thorn, an American diplomat living in Rome with his wife, Katherine (Lee Remick).  The story begins with Robert arriving at a Catholic hospital where Katherine has just given birth to a stillborn baby.  She has not been informed the baby is dead, and a priest suggests that Robert adopt an orphaned infant to pass off as his own child so as to spare Katherine great suffering.  Robert hesitates at first but begrudgingly heeds the advice because he and his wife have tried desperately to start a family.  He presents Katherine with the baby, and they name him Damien.

Bizarre and sinister events unfold around Damien as he grows older, and Robert undertakes solving the mystery of his son’s true nature.  He ultimately unearths a bloodcurdling secret: Damien may be the Antichrist.

Replete with hell hounds and nannies in Satan’s service, this is a masterfully crafted film that has deservedly earned its place in the pantheon of classic horror movies. Its slow burn and thought-provoking themes make it essential viewing for old-school -horror junkies. If you enjoy depictions of foggy graveyards and slow-motion decapitations, The Omen is sure to delight.


Based on William Peter Blatty’s novel of the same name and directed by the late William Friedkin, The Exorcist is not a film for the faint of heart.   Ever since its release in 1973, the movie has sparked controversy as it contains one of the most disturbing sequences in cinematic history.  

The story follows the harrowing ordeal of a young girl, Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair) who becomes inexplicably and violently possessed by a demonic entity.  When the girl’s behavior turns erratic and dangerous, her mother, Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn), desperately seeks the help of two priests, Father Damien Karras (Jason Miller) and Father Merrin (Max von Sydow). Together, they attempt to exorcize the malevolent force wreaking havoc on the girl’s body and soul.

The film explores the universal themes of faith, doubt, and the battle between good and evil. The practical effects used to depict Regan’s transformation and possession were groundbreaking for their time and still hold up well today, contributing to the film’s terrifying realism – cue the head-spinning and projectile vomiting.

The Exorcist is genuinely scary and remains a benchmark for what truly terrifying cinema can achieve.  If you feel compelled to watch it alone in the dark, I recommend having a crucifix in hand, you know, just in case.

*DISCLAIMER: The opinions, ideas, and beliefs that are expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, ideas, and beliefs of ACCENT Student Media or Austin Community College as a whole.

OP-ED: The Genocide Must Stop

Joshua Cirotto, President of the International Youth and Students for Social Equality at ACC, gives his and the group’s views on the Palestinian struggle during its developing conflict with Israel.

By Joshua Cirotto

This article was featured in the Fall 2023 issue of ACCENT Magazine.

 For three-quarters of a century, the Palestinians have been driven off their land, constantly bombarded with missile attacks, murdered en masse, relegated to the status of second-class citizens, and had what little remains of their territory converted into open-air prisons. Under these conditions, the Palestinians have engaged in a desperate yet brave uprising against the apartheid state of Israel. Predictably, the response has been the most savage repression by Israeli forces and is supported by all the major imperialist countries, combined with a propaganda campaign being led by popular media corporations to demonize the Palestinians. An invasion of Gaza has been launched, with 1.1 million Gazans being forced to flee the north of the territory. “There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed… We are fighting human animals,” declared Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

The IYSSE condemns those who condemn the violence of the Palestinians and those who purport to take a neutral stance as being complicit in the genocide. History should not judge the violence of the oppressed rising up against their oppressors the same as the violence used by the oppressors to keep them in their state of oppression. Nor was the most recent experience of the neo-colonial wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the deaths of hundreds of thousands at the hands of U.S. imperialism lived through in vain. A “terrorist,” according to the definition of the United States, is anyone that opposes its geopolitical interests.

Disgust at the violence is legitimate but it is vain and hypocritical when it is used to justify complacency. Those who prate about the ‘complexity’ of the situation are but the flip side of the coin to the criminals in the political establishment such as Joe Biden who condemn the uprising as “unutterable evil.” The violence is not inexplicable. Blame must be placed where it belongs.

Full responsibility for the horrors now unfolding lies with the Zionist State of Israel, its imperialist backers in the US and other NATO countries, and ultimately the geopolitical and economic structure of world capitalism. The state of Israel was founded on the theft of Palestinian land in 1948, involving the murder and displacement of hundreds of thousands. The Gaza strip, which if it were a country would have the third greatest population density in the world, has been under blockade since 2007, relying on international aid to survive. In the peaceful Gaza border wall protests in 2018 through 2019, 189 Palestinian demonstrators, including 31 children, were killed by Israeli security forces. Under apartheid rule in Israel, Palestinians do not have the right to vote.

Those who have courageously spoken out in favor of Palestine have been repressed and slandered as anti-Semitic. In reality, many Jews have been the first to speak out in opposition to the genocide, denouncing attempts to exploit the legacy of the horrors inflicted on Jews last century to justify new ones. At the same time, it is the myth of Zionism, which equates Judaism with a national identity and the Jewish people with the reactionary endeavor to create an ethnically-exclusivist apartheid state based on the forcible removal of the Palestinians, which is responsible for the growth of antisemitism.

All attempts to divide people along racial, ethnic, and religious lines are done in the interests of the oppressors. It is not insoluble religious hatred which is primarily responsible for the long-standing tensions in the region which are now exploding. Rather, it is the imperialist intrigues of the United States and other NATO powers, for whom Israel has always been a proxy, which have purposefully and cynically perpetuated religious antagonisms. The real dividing lines in society are beginning to shine through. The connection between the repression of democratic rights and the waging of war is widely understood. Just earlier this year, hundreds of thousands of Israelis took to the streets to oppose Netanyahu’s attempt to usurp powers from the judiciary, one of the main purposes of which was to facilitate the incursions of settlers and far-right paramilitary organizations into Palestinian land. In many Western countries, the mass protests which are erupting are met with savage repression and seized upon by the ruling elites as a pretext to strip their populations of democratic rights.

The International Youth and Students for Social Equality, or IYSSE, recently formed a branch at Austin Community College. It is affiliated with the Socialist Equality Party and the World Socialist Website, which have endorsed the call by Palestinian trade unions for workers around the world to refuse to handle weapons designated to be sent to Israel. It has furthermore called for a political general strike capable of fusing together the ongoing struggle of workers across many industries to win back decades of concessions given to the companies by the unions, together with the fight against war. The IYSSE is fighting to arm the emerging mass movement against the Israeli genocide with the perspective of world socialist revolution. Students who want to get involved in this fight should read the World Socialist Website and contact the IYSSE club through the Student Life webpage.

*DISCLAIMER: The opinions, ideas, and beliefs that are expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, ideas, and beliefs of ACCENT Student Media or Austin Community College as a whole.

OP-ED: Anger Isn’t Enough

ACC Student Ruby Krimstein speaks about the danger of division that she has witnessed in college spaces following developments in the Israel-Palestine conflict.

By Ruby Krimstein

This article was featured in the Fall 2023 issue of ACCENT Magazine.

Since Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel we’ve seen an precedented level of violence for the region. With news of the ongoing war, the effects of the conflict have amplified contentions beyond the warzone. Both online and in public life, it’s now common to see sympathies veer into something resembling a team sport. But this kind of dynamic flattens the real and grave conditions people are facing, and stagnates productive curiosity. Communication in this state renders a tragic, complicated, and for many a deeply personal issue, into an unwinnable war of good vs. evil.

On October 7, Israeli civilians were brutally murdered, raped, and kidnapped. Yet because of the political backdrop, their deaths were immediately followed by Anti-Israel protests. Bubbles of activists praised these acts in the name of Palestinian support. One Cornell professor even claimed to be “exhilarated” by Hamas’s actions. At the time of his comment, graphic details of these actions are circulating online. Live footage taken and spread by Hamas shows how sadistic this slaughter was, and how gleefully it was committed. It was unimaginably depraved. There’s nothing exhilarating to me about rape, torture, or murder.

My views on this war are still so raw, and so deeply personal that they feel ineffable. Rather than framing my perspective around a single political force, I’m drawn to much more confusing realities. Realities like my work with Israeli children at a Jewish daycare and how, the other day, I saw a photo of a bullet-ridden entry to a kibbutz Kindergarten; its welcome sign, decorated with owl stickers and Hebrew comic sans, looked so familiar to me. 

It’s surreal and sobering to glimpse the utter mundanity of lives now destroyed. In a war of lineage, religion, and identity, I can’t tear my eyes away from the secularity of anguish. It’s clear that anguish has no bounds in this conflict; it just expands and destroys lives. 

I don’t know the Palestinian perspective as innately as the Jewish perspective, but I can’t possibly restrict my sense of horror when I see the news from Gaza. The suffering there is unbearable, and I’d be inhuman not to see that. I can’t help but want to scream at the sheer arbitrariness of faith, politics and land when it comes to human life.

But I’m not naïve. This war is a mess, and it’s not fought with reason, morality, or logic. The truth is that too many fates are interconnected and too many factors complicit in this ongoing war for it to fit in a narrow perspective.

So much of this moment leaves me exasperated, but none as much as the rigidity of thought in popular discourse. There seems to be a prevailing push towards admonition, and away from pragmatic analysis. There are certainly many forces worthy of admonition among the leaders of Israel and Palestine, but too much focus on blame flattens the immediate and more important question of safety and peace. 

As an American Jew, I can’t help but see how much gets lost in the fractured rhetoric, and I can’t help but be hurt by it. By nature, I see the world from a Jewish lens; I look at all jews as an extension of myself. The civilians of Israel are often referred to as colonizers, but most of them were born there for generations. Further, those who settled there after the Holocaust weren’t driven by colonial intentions, but to flee from genocide. I’m not arguing that this negates any detrimental impacts, but that the distinct motive matters.

So much seems overlooked that I feel unable to address, like how Hamas explicitly declared their intention to “fight Jews and kill them”, and refuted coexistence in their 1998 covenant. I personally find the Israeli far right just as complicit in the war, and many Israelis have long opposed Netanyahu, and consider settlers a rebuked minority.

It saddens me that I feel the need to explain that Israelis are not a hive mind. I feel constantly put into a state of defense because the reality of Israelis gets routinely flattened by the false dichotomy of “Pro-Israel” vs. “Pro-Palestine.” If there’s anything to glean from the brutal scope of this conflict, it’s that no side is wholly good or wholly evil. 

 The reality of peace has been constantly obstructed by the most dogmatic and power hungry forces from both sides. Neither Hamas nor the Israeli far right want peace, they want total power. Total power from either side of extremists would undoubtedly mean total obliteration of the other. 

I fear the dark side of pain and grief; the side that forges self-protection into weapon. I fear the instinct of revenge, especially in a situation fraught with grief on all sides. I believe this mutation of pain is at the core of the staunchness that led to the. Pushed too far and too long, the impulse of self-protection becomes an impulse to vanquish the “other”. I fear this very impulse is permeating society beyond the warzone, turning concerned outsiders against each other rather than utilize their privilege of freedom and safety to work together for peace.

Whatever one believes about ancestral claims, the realities of Palestinians and Israelis are knitted together. Whatever solution lies ahead, one side can’t simply be amputated.

It’s paradoxical that college campuses are major settings for political hostility. A higher education is a choice, a privilege, an effortful and expensive endeavor but, above all, it’s a pursuit of education. Universities are the last place that diverse perspectives should be shut down. Students in community college particularly know that college is not just a passive pursuit. The privilege of receiving a higher education is access to the wider world and learning by means of interacting with it. 

History is important in this conflict, but the present and the future are urgent. Engaging in this conflict is anyone’s right, but in doing so one has a responsibility not to amplify animosity. If the most important concern is the safety and long term wellbeing of civilians in danger, then anger isn’t enough and retribution is premature. If the goal is to help, then make an effort to know the function of your words and actions. Nothing about this situation is trivial. A poorly executed solution could mean the mass death or deportation of an entire human population.

At this point I’m tired of arguing. Everyone will have a different perspective founded upon their full human experience. Differences of personal grief can’t be resolved by blame, charged words, or attempts to justify violence. 

Anger gives a false sense of clarity and control. In a state of outrage, you don’t have to entertain confusion or uncertainty. Those in the warzone are angry and terrified because they are in an active fight to survive. Though one can still feel their pain beyond the warzone, we have the privilege of safety, but also its responsibility. Safety allows us the ability to think clearly and rationally, and that is far harder to access under life threatening conditions. If we care, and want to actually work to secure a better future for Palestinian civilians, we shouldn’t take our safety for granted.

*DISCLAIMER: The opinions, ideas, and beliefs that are expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, ideas, and beliefs of ACCENT Student Media or Austin Community College as a whole.

ACC Artist’s Flaunt Their Stuff With Austin Studio Tour

Not to be left out of the fun, Austin Community College held its own portion of the city wide Austin Studio Tour at its Highland campus during the first two weekends of November of the local event. Several students, staff, and alumni from various fine arts and digital media departments at ACC had rigorously prepared to participate.

By Isabella Strimple

This article was featured in the Fall 2023 issue of ACCENT Magazine.

The Austin Studio Tour is an annual event throughout Austin, Texas, which aims to celebrate Austin’s “vibrant art community and its journey of growth and transformation”. Every year and all around the city, local artists are given the chance to show off and sell their creative work and connect with the greater community. Again, for this year’s 30th iteration of the tour during three weekends of November, hundreds of different artists –  including painters, dancers, musicians, photographers, ceramicists, and more – partook in the festivities and showcased their different talents.

Not to be left out of the fun, Austin Community College held its own portion of the tour at its Highland campus during the first two weekends of November of the local event. Several students, staff, and alumni from various fine arts and digital media departments at ACC had rigorously prepared to participate.

When walking through Building 4000 of the Highland campus, attendees were met with many tables set up around the campus that displayed the students’ artistic works, including almost everything from paintings to jewelry to pottery. The pieces on display were being sold by ACC students and alumni alike in an art sale held on the campus from 1 p.m to 5  p.m every day of the event. 

Antonio Carmona III, a studio art major at ACC, was painting a self-portrait on a canvas in real-time using a painting technique known as grisaille, in which an artist paints with gray or neutral colors to imitate sculpture. “I thought participating in the Austin Studio Tour would be a good way to ‘show face’ and get more connected with the local art scene, being that I’ve never done anything like this before. It’s fun, it’s a new experience, [but it’s] definitely out of my comfort zone,” said Carmona. When asked what he planned to do with any funds he earned from selling his work at the art sale, Carmona divulged that any money earned would be “reinvested” back into his work.

 Another student, Gracie Miller, is in the continuing education program, and describes herself as a “self-taught” crocheter. At the studio tour, she was selling her colorful yarn and crochet work, which consisted of items such as hats, bags, and keychains. Like many other participants, it took Miller hours upon hours to create all of the pieces she had up for sale. “I’d like to start selling my crochet stuff more regularly, so this is just good practice for me… I’ve already sold a couple of things, which I was not expecting… so I think I’ll definitely do it again in the coming years…”

 Antonio Carmona III paints a self-portrait for the Austin Studio Tour event at ACC’s Highland Campus. Photo Taken by Kyle Sandiego on Nov. 4, 2023.

Also on display inside Building 4000 was the Art Gallery of Children’s Artwork from the Student Advocacy Center Department. Children of different ages and skills had their artwork on display for attendees of the tour. Riley and Marah, siblings of ages 11 and 7 years, were both excited to have their work shown and at the event each gave insight into their pieces. To create his piece, Riley arranged crayons on his canvas and left them out in the sun until the crayon wax would melt into an eccentric design, while Marah, inspired by their family’s pets, created a “cute and cuddly” portrait of their cat and dog. After taking a moment to reflect, Marah stated that she wanted to show her piece at AST because, “it made [her] feel like when [she] grows up, [she] might become a famous artist.” Her mother confirmed her love for creating art over the years. “I love art. I’ve made a lot of art over the years,” agrees Marah. 

Siblings Marah and Riley pose in front of art they showcased with the Student Advocacy Center Department at ACC’s Austin Studio Tour event in the Highland Campus. Photo by Kyle Sandiego on Nov. 4, 2023.

Four “Dance Improv Jams” were held in Building 2000, one on each day of the ACC Austin Studio Tour and each led by a different professor. These improv sessions were particularly unique because they were open for the general public to join. As different types of music played in the dance studio, dance and non-dance students could be seen moving as they saw fit. “In many artistic practices, our processes happen in isolation from the public. It is not until the ‘final product’ that the work is made visible in a publication, gallery, performance, or production,” commented ACC Adjunct Dance Faculty member, Rebekah Chappell. “AST invites the community to engage with both process and product.” On the final day of ACC’s AST, a Barbie themed improv session was led by Adjunct Dance Professor Dawn Loring. “[Barbie themed improv] has been a very effective tool for understanding and experiencing embodiment, and it is also a great way to practice performing physical humor and while not breaking character,” Loring remarked.

The photography department of ACC spotlighted their Spring 2023 exhibition entitled “Through the Looking Glass,” found in Building 1000. The theme was inspired by the physical act of looking through glass when viewing photos in a picture frame. Photography Professor Bret Brookshire and ACCMe Member Reagan Ellis explained that it was chosen due to a desire for a theme that would allow room for creativity from the department’s large number of students.. The exhibition was actually curated by ACCMe, “a student run, commercial photography studio operating within the Department of Photographic Technology” according to the organization’s website. Pictures for the exhibition, after being submitted, had to be sorted, chosen, printed, and hung by ACCMe, which took many days of work altogether. Ellis revealed her hope for people who view the exhibition is that they realize “how much work students put into this.”

There were many other happenings taking place at the Highland campus for the Austin Studio Tour. Many departments gave demonstrations and tours of their studios, such as the jewelry department, where professors demonstrated how to cast jewelry, among other techniques, and the audio technology department, where professors gave tours of the sound studios and expounded on what students focus on within the program. The Art Galleries of ACC were also open during the event, displaying their current exhibit: Narrated Memories. Toye Peters, a local resident and an attendee of the school’s AST event, had high praise for Laurie Frick’s piece, Felt Personality, remarking how it “caught his eye.” Peters came to the event after happening to run across it whilst passing by the Highland campus and declared he would consider coming again next year. Right outside Building 4000, an aluminum pour demo was performed by ACC’s 3-D Art Club. Event guests were able to purchase an aluminum tile for $15, or $5 in the case of Design II students, and carve a design in which the aluminum would be poured, resulting in a mold of the design of hardened aluminum, as Doug Dawkins, a member of the club and studio art major, explained. Funds from the tiles sold for the event also went back into the 3-D Art Club. 

ACC students have a “Dance Improv Jam” at the Highland Campus during ACC’s event for the Austin Studio Tour. Photo taken by Collin Eason on Nov. 4, 2023.

Additionally on campus, students were put in charge of running several musical performances at the Flex Factory: Matthew Linder’s play, My Neighbor Teddy Roosevelt, was read by ACC’s drama department, musical compositions of ACC students were performed by ACC staff in the recital hall, and R.B., Austin Community College’s esteemed winged mascot, could even be found walking around the event, taking pictures with visitors, and striking up quirky poses. 

Nicole Dimucci, the Event and Outreach Coordinator of Arts and Digital Media for ACC, had this to say about ACC’s involvement in the Austin Studio Tour: “Bringing that event into our campus to show off our programs and student work has been essential to exposing our community to the expertise in the arts found here at ACC, and allowed our community members to connect with our student artists to support their work through purchasing their art, while also learning about opportunities to become students themselves at ACC. ” Future Attendees can expect the next Austin Studio Tour to take place sometime next fall.

For those interested in the Austin Studio Tour, check out the event website www.austinstudiotour.org.