2019
November
07
Thursday

Today’s five hand-picked stories examine the rural-suburban trade-off in U.S. politics, the unifying power of protests, the tales of those jailed in East Germany on the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, what the 25th Amendment has to do with impeachment, and what meatless burgers say about the mainstreaming of green viewpoints. 

First: Texting and technology are often seen as divisive forces increasing isolation in society. But recently, a different kind of story went viral.

Chastity Patterson, a young woman from Arkansas, posted on Facebook that she had been texting her dad’s phone number since he died four years ago. She’d never received a reply – until the day before the anniversary of his death. The answer: “Hi sweetheart, I am not your father, but I have been getting all your messages for the past 4 years. ... My name is Brad and I lost my daughter in a car wreck August 2014 and your messages have kept me alive.”

Earlier last month, BBC News reported a similar story about two women who supported each other via text message through family illness and loss after one texted the former phone number of her late brother. There have also been stories of wrong-number texts launching fundraisers for a wedding, hospital bills, and diapers for a newborn

In an age where most social interactions are typed, researchers, essayists, and podcasters alike have pondered whether this mode of communication affects our capacity for emotional connection. 

“Verbal communication is unique,” Leslie Seltzer, a biological anthropologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told Vice last year. Technology and nonverbal communication aren’t necessarily bad, but the added texture of vocal inflection and facial expressions represents signals we use to feel close with each other.

Still, friendly text exchanges between strangers suggest that humanity’s desire to connect and capacity to care about one another remains strong – no matter how we “meet.”

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1. Democrats are winning in suburbs. In rural America, it’s another story.

For both the Democratic and Republican parties, success in 2020 will be about maximizing turnout where they’re winning – and preventing further erosion where they’re losing. 

Eva

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With the nation’s longest Democratic voting streak in presidential elections, Minnesota has long been a cornerstone of the Democrats’ midwestern “blue wall.” But the state has been shifting more Republican in recent years. In 2016, President Donald Trump lost here by just 1.5 percentage points, with two of the country’s largest Obama-Trump swings happening in Minnesota’s 1st and 8th Congressional Districts. In 2018, those same districts were two of just three nationwide that Republicans managed to flip. 

The Trump campaign has made clear it sees Minnesota as a top pickup opportunity in 2020, in large part because of the state’s sizable rural population. Both the 1st and 8th  Districts have seen their local economies shrink, and many voters express frustration with Democratic politicians who seem to value environmental protection over their livelihoods.

Underpinning these concerns is a deep value for community. Shuttered farms or downsized factories mean neighbors are forced to commute to “the cities,” residents explain, or move away. 

“In the city, if you lose a job you can go down the street and get a new one. But we have so little options,” says Anna Lind, a railroad conductor from Carlton, Minnesota. “Everybody here is focused on keeping their town a town.” 

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Democrats are winning in suburbs. In rural America, it’s another story.

At the Third Base Sports Bar on the edge of town in Carlton, Minnesota, Linda Luomala, a retired paper mill worker, orders fried cheese curds without looking up from her stack of pull-tabs, the state lottery tickets that look like paper slot machines. 

If Democrats want to get back to winning in rural areas, says Ms. Luomala, dropping the unlucky pull-tabs to a growing mound at the base of her bar stool, then they need to get back to basics. Minnesota’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL) has forgotten about farmers and laborers, she says, focusing instead on issues that feel secondary.

Her friend, Anna Lind, a railroad conductor, nods in agreement. Like Ms. Luomala, Ms. Lind says she always votes Democratic. But in 2018 she voted for a Republican congressman, after he was endorsed by her union. 

With the nation’s longest Democratic voting streak in presidential elections, Minnesota has long been a cornerstone of the Democrats’ midwestern “blue wall.” But the state has been shifting more Republican in recent years. In 2016, President Donald Trump lost Minnesota by just 1.5 percentage points, with two of the country’s largest Obama-to-Trump swings happening in Minnesota’s 1st and 8th Congressional Districts. In 2018, those same districts were two of just three nationwide that Republicans managed to flip during the Democrats’ “blue wave” of victories. 

The Trump campaign has made clear it sees Minnesota as a top pickup opportunity in 2020, in large part because of the state’s sizable rural population.

When explaining their political motivations – and frustrations – voters in these districts talk first about jobs. Minnesota’s 8th, a manufacturing and mining hub in the northeast corner of the state known as the Iron Range, and Minnesota’s 1st, a sea of cornfields that stretches across the state’s southern border from South Dakota to Wisconsin, have both seen their local economies shrink over the past few decades.

Story Hinckley/The Christian Science Monitor
Rita Olson (left ) and Janalee Cooper, co-administrators of the Rice County Republicans Facebook group, say that support for President Trump in the area is stronger than ever.

Underpinning these concerns is a deep value for community. A lack of jobs affects the size and vibrancy of their communities, residents say, because shuttered farms or downsized factories mean neighbors financially suffer, are forced to commute to “the cities,” or move away. 

“In the city, if you lose a job you can go down the street and get a new one. But we have so little options,” says Ms. Lind. “Everybody here is focused on keeping their town a town.” 

The rural-suburban tradeoff

Rural America was pivotal to President Trump’s 2016 win. According to exit polls, more than 60% of rural areas voted for Mr. Trump, a greater share than went for previous recent Republican presidential candidates. As of September, the president’s approval rating in rural parts of the Rust Belt and Great Plains states (including Minnesota) was 55%, more than 10 points higher than his national approval rating.

By contrast, Democrats have found increasing success in the suburbs, which helped them regain control of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018. This trend has carried over to 2019, when suburban voters flipped six state legislature seats to Democrats in Virginia on Tuesday, and the Cincinnati suburbs in northern Kentucky helped push Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andy Beshear to an apparent victory.

In Minnesota, the Democratic Party’s two suburban pickups in 2018 were counterbalanced by the GOP’s rural pickups in the 1st and the 8th .

Those results underscore a fundamental lesson for both parties heading into the 2020 election: success is likely to hinge not only on driving up turnout in regions where you are winning – but also stopping the leaching in places where you are losing.

“Democrats aren’t going to sweep rural areas, but they have to make sure they get closer to Obama’s numbers than Clinton’s,” says Lanae Erickson, a senior vice president at the center-left think tank Third Way. “If you continue to hemorrhage rural voters, it’s going to make it harder and harder for you to make up that math.” 

The question is how to do that. Ms. Erickson says Democrats should pay attention to what worked for them in 2018, when they won in swing districts by focusing on “kitchen table economics” – not Russia, or impeachment, or immigration, or guns. It’s a similar sentiment expressed by Ms. Luomala and Ms. Lind from their barstools, as well as other white, working-class voters across these small towns.

“The Democrats are kind of lost in the wilderness at the moment,” says Dan Reed, a lifelong 8th District resident, sitting in a lawn chair in his own piece of Minnesota wilderness in Kettle River. “The party is not reacting to what people want to have, which is jobs.” 

‘Democrats can’t be against everything’

When Mr. Reed was growing up in Carlton County, everyone, including his own father, had cows. He guesses there used to be between 800 and 1,200 family dairy farms in Carlton, which is a two-hour drive north of Minneapolis. Today (he pauses to count silently in his head), he estimates there are around four. 

Minnesota’s 8th District is bigger than the entire state of West Virginia. Similar to coal mining communities in Appalachia, iron mining jobs are a small fraction of the state’s workforce but live large in the region’s collective consciousness – a defining part of its identity.  

And as in many small Appalachian mining towns, locals here are frustrated with Democratic politicians who seem to value environmental protection over their livelihoods. This rift has intensified in the 8th District over a debate around replacing Line 3, a crude oil pipeline, that has drawn opposition from environmental activists, tribal groups, and some of the Democratic presidential candidates.

“Democrats can’t be against everything,” says Mr. Reed. “The best social program there is, is a job.”

Mr. Reed has been active with the DFL Party for 50 years, holding several official positions such as local chair. But last spring he resigned. He thinks he’ll still vote for the Democratic nominee in 2020, but he’s worried about the party’s priorities. It started to feel like the DFL was more concerned with “Facebook tirades” than his neighbors who have to commute almost two hours each way to work in the Twin Cities. 

“Nolan had the right balance between jobs [and] thoughtful, regulated mining,” says Mr. Reed, referring to the 8th District’s former Democratic congressman who did not to seek reelection last year, and whose seat went to Republican Jim Hagerdorn by about 1,300 votes. “Now it’s like, who’s pure enough for the DFL?” 

Sue Willcutt, a retired elementary school teacher who lives in Shieldsville, a small town surrounded by lakes 50 miles south of Minneapolis, has also seen her local economy stall out over the past few decades. 

Minnesota’s 1st District, the southern sliver of the state, is one of the top 10 agriculture-producing districts in the country. Corn stalks bow to the wind of passing cars driving along two-lane roads, and driveways are marked by farm stands of pumpkins and gourds, with honor boxes for payment.

Many of these farmers have taken a hit from the president’s trade war with China, with tariffs that by some estimates have cost Minnesota farms and businesses nearly $1 billion.

“Minnesota farmers are barely holding on by the skin of their teeth,” says Ms. Willcutt, who grew up on her parents’ farm in Jeffers, and is vice chair of the Rice County DFL Party. Her sister and brother-in-law took over her father’s farm in the southwest corner of the 1st District, but they have a “constant relationship” with the bank, she says, borrowing money every year to jumpstart their hog, corn, and soybean production.

As in the 8th, many voters here are unhappy with the environmental regulations coming from the DFL. Former DFL Gov. Mark Dayton “antagonized” a lot of farmers, says Ms. Willcutt, with his efforts to reduce nitrate runoff from fertilizer, as well as legislation requiring “buffers” between farmland and waterways.

Janalee Cooper and Rita Olson, co-administrators for the Rice County Republicans Facebook group, say support for President Trump in southern Minnesota is stronger than ever. They say the Democrats’ focus on impeachment in Washington, and the far-left agenda of lawmakers like Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, who represents Minneapolis, has been a boon to the local Republican Party.

Recently, some unions have endorsed local GOP candidates. “That’s just unheard of in Minnesota,” says Ms. Olson, sitting in a coffee shop in Northfield.

Ms. Cooper comes from a long line of DFL voters, but says her politics shifted after she became a small business owner. Her mother has become a Republican as well. “When people say Minnesota is turning red, I absolutely believe it,” she says.

‘We chose to be here’

After the 2016 election, Ms. Erickson and Third Way conducted some voter interviews in small Midwest towns. She still remembers one comment from a voter in rural Michigan. 

“He said, ‘A lot of time it sounds like Democrats don’t care if my town lives or dies,’” says Ms. Erickson. “We have to show that we care about these communities too.”

To take back areas like Minnesota’s 1st and 8th Districts, Democrats may need to rethink both the style and substance of their message, say locals. For example, acknowledge the effect one struggling family farm can have on the community, and then get on the ground and talk about solutions. 

“Be involved in local parades, fairs, pancake breakfasts,” says Ms. Willcutt. “If people here can meet you, they have a different feeling about you.” 

Story Hinckley/The Christian Science Monitor
Quinn Nystrom, a health care advocate and lifelong resident of northern Minnesota, launched a campaign in October for Democratic nomination in the 8th Congressional District. Ms. Nystrom says she plans to visit every town in her district and emphasize to residents that she's one of them.

Quinn Nystrom says this is her strategy for taking back the 8th in 2020. The lifelong northern Minnesotan and health care activist announced her candidacy for the district’s Democratic primary in early October. She says she plans to have honest conversations in every community in the district.

“[Rural voters] have things to offer, they have topics they want to contribute to the party, and sometimes their voices have not been given a seat at the table because it’s just considered ‘rural,’” says Ms. Nystrom. “There’s not a hierarchy of cities.”

Ultimately, she hopes the Democratic party will actively work to convey more respect for rural voters. In Minnesota, she notes, city dwellers sometimes refer to regions outside of the Twin Cities as “outstate” – a term she finds derogatory.

“You can call us ‘rural Minnesota,’ but we’re not ‘out’ of anywhere,” says Ms. Nystrom. “We chose to be in this area.”

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Patterns

Tracing global connections

2. In global protests, a common thread: community

Popular protests often erupt over a specific problem in a particular place. But from Lebanon to Hong Kong to Chile, a unifying force is emerging in protesters’ aspirations and their push to be heard.

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What does my joy in sharing the Washington Nationals’ improbable World Series victory have to do with the unsettled state of world politics? That experience ­may offer a window into the eruption of popular protests in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America.

A number of the protests have sprung up over ostensibly limited grievances: a Hong Kong extradition bill to mainland China, a Beirut tax on WhatsApp messages, an increase in subway fares in Santiago, Chile. More broadly, government corruption and inequality have galvanized demonstrations.

On the geopolitical stage, things are in a period of enormous flux. Alliances are under strain. Trade wars are raging. Trust is low. One result: a sense of being vulnerable, powerless, and disconnected.

That makes it all the more striking how deeply protesters appear to value feeling connected, part of a new community – despite the odds arrayed against them. Protest movements have provided a new means of identifying and belonging.

As one Nats fan told The Washington Post: “The Nats are a link to my city. … Stepping into Nationals Park … I feel I can breathe easier … surrounded by people that just know me, even if we’ve never met.”

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In global protests, a common thread: community

It wasn’t just the time difference that kept me from streaming it live. When I woke up the next morning in a chilly London, I was still too nervous to risk a look at any news sites. Then I saw the email at the top of my inbox. I exhaled. I smiled. I laughed out loud. It was from my younger brother, back in the States, with a message he knew would be instantly understood. It was one word: “Wow!”

Translation: The Washington Nationals – successors to the historically hapless, hopeless, Washington Senators whom we’d grown up watching – had somehow won American baseball’s World Series.

Yet while savoring my joy in that victory and, through the power of 21st-century technology, sharing it with hundreds of thousands across my native Washington, America, and the world, I’ve been struck by something else as well: that this is about more than baseball. It is, in a deeper sense, about community.

And that may offer a window into a puzzle that politicians, professors, and pundits have been vying to unpick in recent weeks: the eruption of popular protests as far afield as Beirut and Baghdad in the Middle East; Hong Kong in Asia; Barcelona in Western Europe; and Santiago, Chile, in South America. That means focusing not so much on what policies or governments the protesters oppose, as on what they may be providing one another. 

The political context of each is different. But in seeking to discern a pattern, commentators have rightly focused on similarities. A number of the protests have sprung up over ostensibly limited grievances: in Hong Kong, a law that would have allowed extradition to mainland China; in Beirut, a tax on WhatsApp messages; in Chile, an increase in subway fares. More broadly, government corruption, a lack of accountability, and disparities in wealth and opportunity have galvanized many of the demonstrations.

Yet it’s another link that many analysts have highlighted: the kind of protests that are mushrooming, and how they’ve been organized and replicated. The Financial Times coined a particularly apt phrase, calling them a “leaderless rebellion,” enabled, managed, and spread from country to country, through social media apps.

Where the international love fest around baseball’s new World Series champions may help is in explaining why, often in the face of daunting odds and overwhelming force, these protest movements appear to be growing. And why, in all likelihood, they’re not going away anytime soon.

On the geopolitical stage, things are in a period of flux not seen for decades. Alliances are under strain. The world’s most powerful country, the U.S., is disengaging. Trade wars are raging. World economic growth has slowed. And in an increasing number of countries, populism is on the rise while trust in government and other established institutions has eroded. One important result: uncertainty, even fear; a sense of being vulnerable, even powerless, and disconnected.

When you listen to the voices of demonstrators in nearly every one of the protests over the past few weeks, it’s impossible not to be struck by the importance they attach to feeling connected, part of a new community – despite, or maybe because of, the powerful odds arrayed against them. In Baghdad, drivers of the city’s ubiquitous three-wheel scooters, known as tuk-tuks, were a shunned underclass. Now, they’ve been embraced as heroes by fellow protesters. In Beirut – capital of a country whose past, and whose government, are defined by religious division – demonstrators of different faiths, different ages, and different backgrounds have similarly bonded.

None of that means the protests will achieve their ultimate aims, although concessions on the smaller, initial grievances have in fact been won. But with existing structures under strain, nationally and internationally, the surge in protest movements, without the defined leadership structure of the past, has provided a powerful new means of coming together, identifying, and belonging.

Hundreds of thousands of people descended on Washington, D.C., Nov. 2 for the Nationals’ victory parade. That demonstration was not about politics, at least not explicitly. But in the U.S., too, governing institutions are under pressure. The country is divided. Never, in recent decades, has the political climate seemed so toxic.

On the eve of the parade, The Washington Post asked readers to describe what the Nats’ victory had meant for them. A number of the replies spoke of pure joy – understandable for all of us masochistic enough to have waited, and irrationally hoped, for an achievement last notched by the Senators 95 years ago. But other answers touched on something more profound.

“The Nats are a link to my city, which feels so fragmented sometimes,” said one 28-year-old. “The Nats are a link to people in my community that I might not have much else in common with. At times, stepping into Nationals Park … even for a midsummer, midweek game, I feel I can breathe easier, being surrounded by people that just know me, even if we’ve never met.”

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3. The Berlin Wall is long gone. Its notorious prison still stands.

A prison in the shadow of the Berlin Wall was almost as infamous as the concrete barrier. Three decades after the fall of the wall, a reporter talks with those jailed at the time for their cultural choices.

Eva
Wolfgang Kumm/picture-alliance/dpa/AP
Near Alexander Square in central Berlin, the Keibelstrasse prison was part of East German police headquarters. Journalists tour the site in August 2018, prior to the prison's limited opening as an educational center for students.

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They began to chip away at the Berlin Wall 30 years ago Nov. 9, but the East German police prison that was in its shadow remains. Anyone caught trying to cross the wall was taken to Keibelstrasse prison by the notorious East German People’s Police, known as the VoPos. “This is where people were broken,” said Berlin’s education senator, Sandra Scheeres, to students in February. The forbidding building remains closed to the general public, but it has been opened to school tours as a memorial to Germany’s history of division.

In October 1969, thousands of young East Germans flooded into the capital, drawn by a rumor that the Rolling Stones were going to perform on top of a building in West Berlin. The skyscraper was tall enough that East Germans would be able see the British rockers from their side of the wall.

The Stones never played. But that didn’t stop the VoPos from rounding up disappointed fans. “Once they arrived in Berlin, hundreds were arrested and many of them were kept here at Keibelstrasse. The whole place was full,” says Jan Haverkamp, an education officer at the jail.

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The Berlin Wall is long gone. Its notorious prison still stands.

On Feb. 5, 1989, Chris Gueffroy was the last person to be shot dead trying to flee East Germany over the Berlin Wall. And it was to the Keibelstrasse prison, in the shadow of the wall, that his mother, Karin, was summoned two days later “for the clarification of a fact.”

She told a policeman there that her 20-year-old son was “like a wild colt, you can’t hold him back,” she later recalled. The East German policeman told her that Mr. Gueffroy had “committed an assassination attempt on a military officer” and had “died a few hours ago.”

The history of Keibelstrasse prison was intertwined from the start with the story of the Berlin Wall, which was finally breached 30 years ago on Nov. 9, 1989. East German leader Erich Honecker used the prison as a command center from which to orchestrate security installations for the wall even as it was being built in 1961.

Today the forbidding four-story building remains closed to the general public, but it has been opened to school tours as a memorial to Germany’s history of division and as a warning to young people about the forces behind that history.

“This is where people were broken,” Berlin’s education senator, Sandra Scheeres, reminded her audience as she opened Keibelstrasse in February.

A peek into old East Germany

The penitentiary’s 140 cells are small and dank, its furnishings with the thin, poorly made look common to so many East German artifacts. Scrawled graffiti on the walls speaks to the hopes of East Germans who chafed against dictatorship: One is a drawing of a cityscape above a misspelled caption, “New Yorck City – The Big Dream’s.”

As soon as the wall across Berlin had been built – mostly out of hastily assembled cinder blocks – Keibelstrasse began to serve its new purpose. Anyone caught trying to cross the “Anti-fascist barrier” was taken there by the notorious East German People’s Police, Volkspolizei, known as VoPos.

“The VoPos used to arrest people hanging around the Berlin Wall who were suspected of trying to escape,” says Jochen Staadt, an expert on East German history at Berlin’s Free University. “They were interrogated in the Keibelstrasse. Then they would be handed over to the Ministry of State Security [Stasi].”

“In principle there was no such thing as a political prisoner in the GDR [German Democratic Republic]. Anyone against the system or who wanted to escape was a criminal,” says Mr. Staadt.

Sometimes, that included rock fans.

In October 1969, thousands of young East Germans flooded into the capital, drawn by a rumor that the Rolling Stones were going to perform on top of the Springer publishing building in West Berlin. The Springer skyscraper was tall enough that East Germans would be able see the British rockers from their side of the wall.

The Stones never played.  But that didn’t stop the VoPos from rounding up disappointed fans and branding them as “anti-social” and “rowdies.”

“Once they arrived in Berlin, hundreds were arrested and many of them were kept here at Keibelstrasse. The whole place was full,” says Jan Haverkamp, an education officer at the jail. “Boredom was a big factor. You were supposed to sit there and think about what you’d done,” he says. Reading material was thin – Karl Marx’s “Das Kapital” was encouraged and every day inmates were given copies of “Neues Deutschland,” the ruling party’s mouthpiece.

Jailed for opposing the regime

Toni Krahl, singer with the rock group City, recalls being hauled into Keibelstrasse for protesting the Soviet invasion of Prague in 1968.

“The wall was very present. It was a bit like living in a port city – at a certain point you could go no further. Everyone had links to people who live in the West, who had gone over,” he recalls.

“I thought I was there for the morning. It turned into an interrogation. At 2300 hours my arrest warrant was read out for state subversion,” he says in an interview, every inch the veteran rock star with his shaved head and tinted glasses.

Mr. Krahl was sentenced to three years. Daily life was rough, and exercise in the cells was not permitted. Pillows were never changed and toothbrushes handed down from previous prisoners. “Then there were roll calls. You stood with your back to the window and called out your name, number, and the phrase ‘No unusual occurrences.’”

“I served 100 days, 100 nights. And then I was out. As unexpectedly as I went in,” Mr. Krahl recalls.

Witness to intimidation and beating

Florian Havemann was first brought to Keibelstrasse in 1966 for wearing a top hat, waistcoat, and frock coat to celebrations of an anniversary of the GDR. The authorities were not amused by his sartorial satire.

“They thought by wearing a top hat I was trying to drag the GDR into the grave,” he says in an interview at his art gallery at Friedrichstrasse, one of the old Berlin Wall border crossings.

“It had a terrible reputation. Everyone knew what the Keibelstrasse was. There was a young man who leaned against the wall. He was supposed to stand up straight, away from the wall. They beat him up very badly. That was the first evidence of police terror I’d seen.”

Mr. Havemann recalls his costume as a revolt against the norms of the East German society he grew up in.

Such expressions of revolt landed thousands in Keibelstrasse jail over three decades. And since the wall came down, there have been different reactions; some people in the former East – especially older citizens – feel Ostalgie for the good old days. Some have flourished in the newly democratic atmosphere. Others have shifted from the hard left to the hard right.

“I tried to push for democratic reforms back then. People had different expectations. No one thought the GDR would just disappear like that!” says Mr. Krahl. “In the West, nothing changed. For the people here, the initial euphoria wore off. Some were disappointed. But others have done well. There is more than one side to this story.”

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The Explainer

4. The 25th Amendment: Three questions about a tool to oust presidents

As Donald Trump continues to breach norms, some critics are calling for the use of the amendment to remove a president who is “unable to discharge [his] powers and duties.” But that option is misleading.

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Even as impeachment proceedings move ahead in Washington, some critics of President Donald Trump have been arguing that a different method for his removal is more appropriate. Citing what they argue is evidence that he is without sufficient mental capacity to carry out the duties of his office, they say he should be removed under the Constitution’s 25th Amendment.

But regardless of whether one agrees, the 25th Amendment is actually a dead end. While it does allow a president’s involuntary removal if he is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of the office,” the logistical path is more difficult than impeachment.

To start the process, the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet, or some other advisory committee Congress has designated by law, would have to deem the president “unable.”

But if the president challenges such a finding – as Mr. Trump almost certainly would – Congress is required to determine whether the president may stay in office. A vote of removal requires a two-thirds majority in both the House and the Senate. In contrast, impeachment only requires a simple majority in the House before a two-thirds majority in the Senate to remove.

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The 25th Amendment: Three questions about a tool to oust presidents

When President Donald Trump tweeted in October about his “great and unmatched wisdom,” and released a widely ridiculed letter he wrote to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan – in which he urged the Turkish president, “Don’t be a fool!” – his critics disagreed not just with policy.

While the president’s supporters say this is “Trump being Trump,” the most aggressive critics argue it is evidence that he is without sufficient mental capacity to carry out the duties of his office. That, some say, calls for his removal under the Constitution’s 25th Amendment.

But regardless of whether one agrees, or instead sees such criticism as part of a relentless attack on the president, the 25th Amendment is actually a dead end. For while social media may be atwitter about the amendment’s ability to involuntarily remove the president if he is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of the office,” it’s never been invoked, and it most likely won’t be. Here’s why.

What is the 25th Amendment?

To understand why the amendment is not going to be used to remove Mr. Trump from office, it helps to know what spurred its creation: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

“The people in Congress, people who were shaken by this terrible event, wondered what would have happened if, having sustained a terrible head injury, he had nevertheless survived,” says Philip Bobbitt, director of the Center for National Security Law at Columbia Law School and professor at the University of Texas School of Law. “That happened to James Garfield.”

The amendment, ratified in 1967, is made up of four sections. The first basically restates the Constitution; the vice president will become president if the president resigns or dies. The next section empowers the president to nominate a new vice president should the office become vacant.

Section 3 allows the president to deem himself temporarily incapacitated, voluntarily transfer his powers to the vice president, and reassume them at will. And it is Section 4 that enables a president’s involuntary removal if he is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of the office.”

How would removal of a president work?

It would have to begin with some of the president’s closest advisers: the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet, or of some other advisory committee Congress has designated by law. They would have to alert the speaker of the House and the Senate majority leader that they deem the president “unable.” When they deliver this declaration, the vice president immediately becomes acting president.

That is, unless the president writes to the speaker and Senate leader that he is fine, which would then reinstate his powers. To settle this executive tussle, Congress is required to convene within 48 hours and vote within 21 days to determine whether the president may stay in office. A vote of removal requires a two-thirds majority in both the House and the Senate.

In contrast, impeachment only requires a simple majority in the House before a two-thirds majority in the Senate to remove.

“However difficult it is to impeach someone, this is even more difficult,” says Saikrishna Prakash, professor of law and Miller Center fellow at the University of Virginia.

How are these rules interpreted?

The least defined element of the amendment is the phrase “unable to discharge the powers and duties.”

From a position that considers the authors’ original intent, the phrase implies some severe disability such as Woodrow Wilson’s incapacitating stroke. But a literal reading of the text could have broader meaning: “The language is open-ended, but the language can quite fairly be read to encompass someone who is unfit physically, or unfit morally or psychologically, to discharge the office,” says Professor Bobbitt.

But he also says just because you can take a broader interpretation, that doesn’t mean it’s the best path. “I think the fact that the historical background of the amendment does not contemplate matters of character ... makes it not the right vehicle,” he says. “If you’re going to do something as divisive in the country as reversing an election, then you want to have all the constitutional arrows going the same direction.”

Whatever the interpretation, it only matters if Cabinet members decide to publicly question the president’s ability.

“There’s the question of what all this means, and there’s the question of how likely this is to be invoked by the president’s allies,” Professor Prakash says. “I think it’s silly to think that any of the people in the Cabinet or the vice president are going to pull the trigger on this.”

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5. From Burger King to Dunkin’, plant-based ‘meat’ goes mainstream

Meat-free burgers have often existed as a side-menu for vegetarians. That appears to be changing fast, as fast-food companies see mainstream consumers snapping up plant-based sandwiches.

Eva
Casey Rodgers/Invision for Beyond Meat/AP
Singer Snoop Dogg surprised fans in celebration of the national launch of Dunkin’s new Beyond Sausage Sandwich in partnership with Beyond Meat at Dunkin’ in Los Angeles on Oct. 23, 2019.

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“You can’t tell the difference,” says construction worker Gareth Conachy as he holds a bag with Dunkin’s new Beyond Sausage Sandwich, which has its national rollout this week.

The year 2019 is quickly becoming the year of the plant-based sandwich. Burgers from the brand Impossible are a hot seller at Burger King and White Castle. Grocery stores and college cafeterias are in on the trend.

What’s behind the mainstreaming of products long marketed especially toward vegetarians and vegans? Technology is part of it. Upstart companies have found ways to make products that look and taste so much like meat – and at a nearly comparable price – that they appeal to meat-eaters who view them as a healthy alternative. And once concerns about taste and price are met, consumers are considering values such as animal rights and environmental sustainability.

“It will definitely cut into meat sales,” says Brad, who didn’t want his last name used, while eating his first ever Impossible Whopper. A proponent of animal welfare, he says, “The fact that they are at fast-food restaurants, that’s probably the best thing that could happen.”

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From Burger King to Dunkin’, plant-based ‘meat’ goes mainstream

Facing his daughter at a booth, two Burger King sandwiches between them, Dodson takes an old gray and black tie and ties it around the eyes of 6-year-old Victoria.

“No peeking,” he tells her. Then he hands her the chain’s plant-based burger, the Impossible Whopper in a green-and-white wrapper, and has her take a bite. Then he does the same with the traditional Whopper on her right. “Which one do you think is the real one?” he asks.

“That’s the real burger, No. 2,” she says. Then Dodson, who didn't want to give his last name, ties the tie around his eyes and has Victoria hand him the burgers. He guesses correctly, too. But “I have a hard time to distinguish,” he adds. “From a plant, I’m impressed.”

Some 200 yards away, just outside a Dunkin’ restaurant, Gareth Conachy holds a bag with the chain’s new Beyond Sausage Sandwich. “You can’t tell the difference,” says the construction worker, who swore off meat two years ago. Introduced in Manhattan in July, this item with plant-based sausage quickly became one of Dunkin’s best-selling sandwiches. So the chain, based in nearby Canton, Massachusetts, pushed forward its national rollout to this week. 

The year 2019 is quickly becoming the year of the plant-based sandwich. Relegated for years to a niche market for vegetarians and vegans, plant-based meat is suddenly mainstream. The speed of that change has caught even industry insiders by surprise. 

Technology is pushing the shift. Upstart companies such as Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat have found ways to make products that look and taste so much like meat – and at a nearly comparable price – that they appeal to meat-eaters as well as vegetarians. Consumer demand is shifting, too. Once taste and price concerns are met, other values about health, animal rights, and the environment come into play.

“A lot of these brands don’t necessarily lead with the health messaging,” says Zak Weston, a food-service analyst at The Good Food Institute, a Washington-based nonprofit advocating a shift toward alternative meat, eggs, and dairy. “They are screaming flavor and they’re whispering health and they’re whispering the environment. ... [But] everyone wants to be healthier, or almost everyone, and almost everyone wants to do things that aren’t putting a giant resource strain on the planet.”

For Brad, another diner at the Waltham Burger King, the appeal is that it doesn’t hurt mammals. Having witnessed the inexpert slaughter of a hog two decades ago, he swore off meat from mammals, although he still eats chicken and fish. “It will definitely cut into meat sales,” he says, polishing off his first-ever Impossible Whopper. “The fact that they are at fast-food restaurants, that’s probably the best thing that could happen. The number of people who go through a McDonald’s or Burger King is considerable.”

So far, Burger King has stolen a march on its key rival, McDonald’s. Having introduced its plant-based sandwich in April in St. Louis with dramatic success, the Miami-based fast-food chain in August rolled it out to its 7,200 restaurants nationwide. 

Ben Margot/AP
An Impossible Whopper burger at a Burger King restaurant in Alameda, Calif. on July 31, 2019.

McDonald’s has been more cautious. In late September, it said it would trial a Beyond Meat burger in some of its Canadian stores, labeling it the P.L.T. (reminiscent of its B.L.T. but standing for Plant, Lettuce and Tomato). In August, KFC trialed Beyond Meat boneless wings and nuggets for a single day at a suburban Atlanta store, drawing a line of people around the store and selling out in less than five hours. Denny’s has just started testing the Beyond Burger at its Los Angeles restaurants.

Smaller chains have already jumped on the bandwagon. In April 2018, White Castle debuted the Impossible Slider in New York, New Jersey, and Chicago and found the sandwich so popular that restaurants with it had a 250% or so bigger market share than restaurants without it. The chain, based in Columbus, Ohio, expanded the slider to all its stores and, this spring, introduced an improved version. Last December, Carl’s Jr. introduced its Beyond Famous Star burgers and, after selling 4.5 million of them, added a Beyond BBQ cheeseburger to its menu last month. 

Plant-based meat has also made inroads into grocery stores. Beyond Meat started selling its products in Whole Foods in 2013 and has since expanded to major grocery chains. Wegmans says by email that “the launch of Impossible Burger has been extremely successful.”

One reason: both companies are marketing to all consumers, not just vegans and vegetarians. Beyond Meat says that 93% of Kroger shoppers who purchase its products also have meat in their shopping cart. Burger King says 90% of its Impossible Whopper customers are meat eaters who are looking for healthier options.

Some observers, citing the highly processed nature of these meat substitutes, cast doubt on the idea of big health benefits. But other factors are also at play. Environmental concerns also have a role in boosting sales. Plant-based meats use less water and energy and create fewer greenhouse gas emissions than their equivalent in real beef, studies show, in part because animals eat far more calories in plants than their meat produces.

“When Impossible Foods launched the Impossible Burger in 2016, concern for the environment wasn’t even in the Top 10 reasons consumers cited as motivating their purchase,” says Pat Brown, the company’s CEO, in an emailed response. “Now it’s No. 3. We see this trend accelerating, too, as young people take to the streets to protect the planet they’re inheriting.”

For all the success of plant-based meat in the past year, no one expects sales of real meat to wither away. Alternative meat still represents only about 1% of sales of the real thing in grocery stores, says Mr. Weston at The Good Food Institute. And while numbers are less available, he estimates it has a similar share of sales at restaurants. 

Is it just a passing fad?

Mr. Brown of Impossible Foods doesn’t think so. “Our growth has come from every sales category in which we do business – independent restaurants, large restaurant chains such as White Castle, Cheesecake Factory and Qdoba, and non-commercial outlets such as theme parks, museums, stadiums, and college campuses,” he says. And Minit Stop, a convenience store and gas station chain in Hawaii, has completely replaced the beef on its menu with Impossible Burger, he points out. “Minit Stop’s decision to remove all cow-based beef from its menu serves as a rallying cry for other restaurants to follow suit, highlighting the importance of making more sustainable decisions.”

Back at the Dunkin’ store in Waltham, manager Eduardo Daniel hasn’t tallied how well the Beyond Sausage Sandwich went over. “We haven’t done any promotion yet,” he says. The chain will offer free samples on Friday and Saturday. But “it’s good to have another option on the menu.”

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The Monitor's View

The motives behind two postwar protests

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The world has seen a surge of street protests this year in places. The grievances range from inequality to repression to corruption. Yet in Iraq and Colombia, one particular motive stands out: Demonstrators expected a “peace dividend” after the recent cessation of brutal conflicts in each country.

By the size and duration of their protests, Iraqis seem the more aggrieved. Their victory over Islamic State in 2017 has yet to result in rebuilt public services and an equitable distribution of the nation’s vast oil wealth. In Colombia, the protests are smaller and more diverse in grievances, but the underlying frustration is that the promised gains of peace are not coming fast enough.

What these protests show is that people coming out of war know very well that peace is not merely the absence of conflict. Peace is a positive force, built on pillars of clean governance, respect for civic rights, freedom for private business, and friendly and open relations with neighboring countries.

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The motives behind two postwar protests

The world has seen a surge of street protests this year in places from Chile to Hong Kong. The grievances range from inequality to repression to corruption. Yet in Iraq and Colombia, one particular motive stands out: Demonstrators expected a “peace dividend” after the recent cessation of brutal conflicts in each country.

Just a few years ago, Iraq and Colombia were among the countries with the highest economic impact from violent conflict. Iraq was losing half of its gross domestic product to violence while Colombia was losing a third, according to the Institute for Economics & Peace in Australia. In 2016, however, Colombia concluded a peace deal with Marxist rebels after a half-century of civil war. In Iraq two years ago, the Islamic State’s caliphate was defeated by Iraqi forces along with foreign help.

By the size and duration of their protests, Iraqis seem the more aggrieved. Their victory over Islamic State in 2017 has yet to result in rebuilt public services and an equitable distribution of the nation’s vast oil wealth. They have peacefully rallied against a corrupt elite and a system of governance – set up after 2003 during the American occupation – that divides power among ethnic and religion groups.

In Colombia, the protests are smaller and more diverse in grievances, but the underlying frustration is that the promised gains of peace are not coming fast – along with worries about the impact of more than a million Venezuelans. To be sure, the country’s growth is the fastest among large Latin American economies, about 3.4%. But Colombia still needs land reform and more foreign investment to absorb some 11,000 guerrillas who have laid down their arms. Students and other groups are also demanding more government benefits.

What these protests show is that people coming out of war know very well that peace is not merely the absence of conflict. Peace is a positive force, built on pillars of clean governance, respect for civic rights, freedom for private business, and friendly and open relations with neighboring countries.

In the last 60 years, finds the Institute for Economics & Peace, “per capita growth has been three times higher in highly peaceful countries when compared to countries with low levels of peace.” Violence in general cost the global economy an estimated $14.76 trillion in 2017, or $1,988 per person.

Other countries may soon emerge from conflict, such as Yemen, Syria, and Afghanistan. Mozambique and the Central African Republic are rebuilding after recent peace deals ending civil wars. The lesson from the protests in Iraq and Colombia is that the peacemaking must last long after a war. In fact, it relies on the people’s expectations of good made tangible as the ultimate antidote to war.

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A Christian Science Perspective

About this feature

Each weekday, the Monitor includes one clearly labeled religious article offering spiritual insight on contemporary issues, including the news. The publication – in its various forms – is produced for anyone who cares about the progress of the human endeavor around the world and seeks news reported with compassion, intelligence, and an essentially constructive lens. For many, that caring has religious roots. For many, it does not. The Monitor has always embraced both audiences. The Monitor is owned by a church – The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston – whose founder was concerned with both the state of the world and the quality of available news.

Why we love

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A recently aired television series examines the question of “why we hate,” with the goal of helping people better understand how to prevent spreading hatred. Despite the good intentions of the show, it’s worth considering a different question based on a higher standpoint – why do we love?

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Why we love

Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition
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Many viewers of the Discovery Channel will be considering a six-part series titled “Why we hate.” The series is described as exploring “one of humanity’s most primal and destructive emotions – hate.” While it is hoped that viewers will find ways to deal with this emotion, and even turn from it, there is much we can learn by giving thought to another perspective: Why we love.

When this “why” is understood by humanity, nothing can keep individuals from defeating hate in the most fundamental way. For people around the globe, certainly for Christians, Christ Jesus’ expression of love holds the solution to triumphing over hate. Jesus’ love had a world-changing effect; it healed disease, saved sinners, and even revived to life some who had died. His forgiveness and compassion were incomparable. And because of his love for all of us, and because he recognized humanity’s need for divine instruction on why and how to love, Jesus promised a “Comforter.”

Many have found this Comforter to be revealed in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.” Clara Barton, founder of the Red Cross, once said about Mary Baker Eddy, the author of Science and Health and a fearless follower of Jesus: “Love permeates all the teachings of this great woman, – so great, I believe, that at this perspective we can scarcely realize how great, – and looking into her life history we see nothing but self-sacrifice and selflessness” (The New York American, Jan. 6, 1908).

When we see such powerful examples of love lived, and its mountain-moving effect, it’s understandable that we would want to find ways to follow these examples in our own lives. But to do so, we need to know the “why” of love. We need to understand what gave great individuals the ability to rise above hatred and triumph over it with a love that was beyond a personal or human emotion. For countless people, the discovery of Christian Science, explained by Mrs. Eddy in Science and Health, has provided this understanding.

The instruction in Science and Health amplifies the Bible’s statement that “God is love” (I John 4:16). From beginning to end it explains the present reality of what’s stated in the first chapter of Genesis about all being God’s children, made in God’s image and likeness (Genesis 1:26). Jesus was the ultimate example of this likeness, and Science and Health explains that his manifestation of divine Love is what gave him full freedom to exercise authority over sin, disease, and death.

This Love gives us the ability to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, learning that freedom too, liberating us from discords and discomfort. And perhaps most importantly, it frees us from the devastating effects of either harboring hatred or being the object of it.

A young woman proved this freedom when she encountered growing hostility from a fellow employee. Instead of reacting in kind, she prayed persistently about it because she knew “Love is the liberator” (Science and Health, p. 225), and that the divine law of Love could bring freedom from conflict. One day she felt the impulsion of Love so strongly that she embraced the woman who had expressed such hard feelings and said, “Let’s be kind to each other.” That moment opened the door for years of genuine friendship between them.

Mortals hate because they believe God’s children are imprisoned in a material experience, and hatred is a facet of materiality. The Comforter brings to light our true being as immortal, right now, made in God’s, Love’s, own image.

As we begin to understand this profound truth and live it in daily life, we discover hatred is not rooted in God’s reality. It rests on ignorance and a false sense of what is real. There is no law requiring us to express it or be victimized by it. But there is a divine law that, when understood, frees us from it.

Why do we love? Because that’s what we are created to do. We are made in the image of divine Love, as Love’s very expression. That’s the truth, and Christ Jesus assured us, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).

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Viewfinder

Is my face red?

Dmitri Lovetsky/AP
Activist Aleksander Kolpakov, painted in red, climbs into the Neva River in an attempt to wash off the redness of the revolution, on the 102nd anniversary of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in St. Petersburg, Russia, Nov. 7, 2019.
( The illustrations in today's Monitor Daily are by Jacob Turcotte. )
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In Our Next Issue

( November 8th, 2019 )

Thanks for joining us today. Come back tomorrow. In honor of Veterans Day, we’ll look at how U.S. veterans are seeking healing from the moral injuries of war.

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