Sunday, August 30, 2015

From the TSHA: On this day in Texas history a mob masses at Mansfield

Last week we talked about democracy and it's tendencies towards mob violence. Here's an example from about 60 years ago. The resistance to US Supreme Court decisions regarding education for African-Americans foreshadowed similar - though less violent - responses to recent court decision about gay marriage.

For 2306 students it points out that Texas has a long history of being resistant to national efforts to expand the scope of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

- Click here for the story.
- Click here for Mansfield School Desegregation Incident.

On this day in 1956, an angry mob surrounded Mansfield High School to prevent the enrollment of three African-American students in what became known as the Mansfield School Desegregation Incident. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People had sued the Mansfield school district over its segregation of black schoolchildren. When a federal court ordered the district to desegregate--the first time a Texas school district received such an order--many white citizens resisted. Vigilantes barred integration sympathizers from entering town, whites hanged three blacks in effigy, and downtown businesses closed in support of the demonstrations. Governor Allan Shivers authorized the Mansfield school board to transfer black students to Fort Worth, seventeen miles away, and dispatched Texas Rangers to uphold the district's policy of segregation. The successful defiance of the federal court order helped inspire the passage of state segregation laws in 1957, delaying integration for several years. The Mansfield school district finally desegregated in 1965.

The national government owns all the land in red on this map



One of the points made in the section on federalism - where we try to understand the conflict between the national and state governments - is that some of this conflict exists because the national government owns a lot of land - especially in the west.

At one point it own the bulk of all land across the nation because it either bought it or claimed it. This isn't the case in Texas - notice the lack of red - because Texas was its own nation for a brief period of time. This means that Texas owns the bulk of its land, unless it sold some to the national government to create a park or a fort.

The following story discusses conflict in the west over whether the national government should start selling the land to the private sector.

- Click here for it.

Territorial History of the USA: Every Month for 400 Years



This is for GOVT 2306 this week. It's a terrific video showing the territorial acquisition of the United States with special emphasis on counties. It fits perfectly with the subject matter of the first section on federalism, part of which points out that a principle goal of the national government was to grab the land to the west and govern it as quickly as possible. Mission accomplished.

Friday, August 28, 2015

More on the 2016 campaign - focus on Ted Cruz

Most of the focus has been on Donald Trump - and we will continue to look his way - but there are other candidates including our junior Senator. Cruz believes that he is already the preferred candidate of the Tea Party wing of the party and is not hoping to become the same for the evangelical wing - the old moral majority. Then he'll try to reach out to other parts of the party in hopes of gaining the nomination.

Here's the latest on the wisdom of that move:

- Texas Tribune: Cruz to Lead 50-State Attack on Planned Parenthood.
- Texas Tribune: The Brief: Cruz Makes Play for Evangelical Vote.
- Washington Post: Cruz’s evangelical outreach shifts into high gear.
- Washington Post: Ted Cruz’s big problem: There isn’t really an ‘evangelical vote’ right now.
- Christian Science Monitor: To counter Trump, Ted Cruz aims to lead religious right rebellion.

For a look at where Cruz stands in the polls, click here. He's fifth, polling around 7%

The five components within the Republican Party

I posted this diagram earlier this year. I'm re-posting to both point out something we will discuss later this semester - that the two major political parties are not monolithic, but contain different groups within them, and they do not always agree on issues or candidates.

The graph shows which Republican candidates are allied with which group or groups. This should help us understand some of the strategies each of the candidates are developing and how they hope to make their way to the party's nomination.

- Click here to find the article where the diagram first appeared.

538 candidates

From 538: The Best Jobs Now Require You To Be A People Person: And that’s better news for women than for men.

File this under "old guy giving you advise." The author - building off an argument in an academic paper - points out that the ability to communicate clearly are necessary for landing the best jobs. This is on top of the normal skills you are expected to have.

So maybe all these communication assessments serve a purpose.

- Click here for the article.
As technology allows us to automate more technical jobs, new research shows that people skills — communicating clearly, being a team player — matter more than ever. And women appear to be the ones capitalizing on this shift in the workplace.
“The days of only plugging away at a spreadsheet are over,” David Deming, an associate professor of economics at Harvard, told me. Deming is the author of a new working paper, “The Growing Importance of Social Skills in the Labor Market,” which shows how today’s high-skill, high-paying jobs — like consultants and managers — increasingly require interpersonal skills.
It’s not that hard skills are suddenly less desirable. Training in mathematics, computer science and other STEM fields (what Deming would count as “high cognitive skills”) is still a great investment; that “plugging away at a spreadsheet” is still valuable. “High-cognitive-skills workers still earn more,” Deming said, “but social skills increasingly are a complement to cognitive skills.” He argues that having strong cognitive skills is a necessary but not sufficient condition for a high-paying job.
Social skills have become more important for workers because they provide a crucial advantage over a frequent competitor: technology. A 2013 paper by two Oxford researchers projected that nearly half of U.S. jobs would be vulnerable to automation within 20 years. But “computers aren’t good at simulating human interaction,” Deming said. That means a job as a manager or consultant is harder to automate, and the skills those jobs require become more valuable.

Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, and the Birth of the Left and Right



2305 students might want to give this a listen. The first part of the section on ideology mentioned this author's work. He ties current ideological disputes back to the argument between Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine over the French Revolution.

Is Donald Trump a Populist?

I'm in the process of editing the content of GOVT 2305's section on ideology (section 3) and I'm modifying the content on populism. American politics is defined by periods when populist candidates gain traction because some group is ticked off at elites of some sort.

Since some argue that Donald Trump is best thought of as a populist, I thought its worth looking at this material to see how the word is used in this context.

Not everyone agrees with the appraisal.

- The New Republic: Donald Trump Is Not a Populist. He's the Voice of Aggrieved Privilege.
- Salon: Sanders the populist, Trump the fascist: The truth about comparing two unlikely presidential contenders.
- The Guardian: Donald Trump's candidacy: a populist, celebrity-driven first in US politics.
- The Huffington Post: Donald Trump Is A Plutocrat Populist From Hell.

The NLRB issues a rule redefining what it means to be an employee

This is a major story that applies to a variety of topics in 2305 - and a few in 2306 as well. It involves a controversy stemming from the actions of a company based in Houston - Browning-Ferris Industries.

Here's the issue put simply: Is Browning-Ferris responsible for the treatment of contracted employees? The decision by the NLRB was yes, but by only a 3-2 vote. This means that all employees of companies contracted by another (like temporary workers), have the same legal rights and protections as those employed by that company.

- Click here for the decision.

- Click here for background from The Hill:

The Obama administration is redefining what it means to be an employer. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on Thursday handed down one of its biggest decisions of President Obama’s tenure, ruling that companies can be held responsible for labor violations committed by their contractors.
While the ruling from the independent agency specifically deals with the waste management firm Browning-Ferris, the so-called “joint employer” decision could have broad repercussions for the business world, particularly for franchise companies. Opponents of the action warn the ruling could hurt businesses as diverse as restaurants, retailers, manufacturers and construction firms, as well as hotels, cleaning services and staffing agencies.
. . . The NLRB ruling is a sharp departure from previous decisions that stated companies were only responsible for employees who were under their direct control. Without the power to set hours, wages or job responsibilities, the earlier rulings held, companies could not be held responsible for the labor practices of the contractors.
But the National Labor Relations Board charted a new course Thursday, saying the old standard is “increasingly out of step with changing economic circumstances.”

One argument made in favor of the decision is that current employment trends suggest more and more people will be temporary workers or contractors in the future. Uber drivers are an example. This decision is meant to guarantee they have the same rights - such as collective bargaining - as regular employees.

For further background:

- NYT: Labor Board Ruling Eases Way for Fast-Food Unions’ Efforts.
- NPR: NLRB Ruling Could Pave The Way For Fast-Food Unions.
- Forbes: Controversial NLRB Ruling Could End Contract Employment As We Know It.

Here's where this story applies to class topics: The National Labor Relations Board was not only created during the New Deal, it was found constitutional in a highly consequential case which redefined "commerce" as including manufacturing and labor. Otherwise the national government has no ability to pass and implement such a law. The NLRB has since been hugely controversial in an ideological sense because conservative business owners tend to oppose its efforts to strengthen workers rights, while liberals support it. The agency is a constant lightning rod and a repeated focus of political dispute. Conservatives - members of the Republican Party - would be happy in getting rid of it - but that has proven tough to do. Instead they've tried to weaken it. They've had better success there.

More on this soon - I think this story might be with us a while.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Are you a libertarian? liberal? centrist? conservative? or statist?

Click here to take the quiz that will tell you.

See where you fit on this graph - I'd like to discuss the results in class next week.

No Means No

Ballot wording matters.

This is something that is not always appreciated, though experienced political types are well aware of it. How items are presented to voters on a ballot matters as much as their vent being on the ballot. Once it was determined that Houston's Equal Rights Ordinance would be on the ballot this November conflict turned to how it would be presented.

Opponents of the HERO ordinance were concerned that their allies would be confused by the original language. Here it is:

"Shall the City of Houston repeal the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, Ord. No. 2014-530, which prohibits discrimination in city employment and city services, city contracts, public accommodations, private employment, and housing based on an individual's sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity, or pregnancy?"

Opposition to the measure requires a yes vote to repeal the ordinance. Here is the newly approved language:

"Proposition 1: [Relating to the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance.] Are you in favor of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, Ord. No. 2014-530, which prohibits discrimination in city employment and city services, city contracts, public accommodations, private employment, and housing based on an individual's sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity, or pregnancy?"
Opposition to the ordinance is indicated by a no vote. Ballot language - along with order and any number of things - can make subtle differences in voting behavior, but in a close election that may be all that's necessary

For background:

HERO foes back in court, asking for new ballot language.
- KPRC: Ballot wording for Houston gay rights ordinance rejected.
- KPRC: City Council approves Houston Equal Rights Ordinance ballot language.
- Houston Press: ANTI-HERO COALITION SAYS REPEAL MEASURE IS TOO CONFUSING.
- Houston Press: TEXAS SUPREME COURT ORDERS CITY TO CHANGE HERO BALLOT LANGUAGE.

Bathroom references in anti- HERO campaign tap into deep seated differences between liberals and conservaties

A Houston Chronicle commentator makes the following - correct - observation about the use of bathroom references in the campaign against the ordinance which would protect people in Houston from discrimination in employment and housing among other things based on a host of items including sexual orientation (being gay or trans gendered).

- Click here for the article.
A personal question today: How do you feel about public restrooms?
Do you see them as useful facilities whose benefits far outweigh the occasional untidiness?
Or, are you so disgusted by public restrooms that you avoid them at all costs, entering only in the case of an emergency, and then, only with pinched nose and value-sized pump of anti-bacterial lotion?

Your answer may reveal something about your politics, according to Jonathan Haidt, a moral psychologist at New York University's Stern School of Business. The more grossed out you are by public restrooms, the more conservative you are likely to be - and vice versa.
This is why bathrooms are the perfect tool for social conservatives trying to defeat Houston's equal rights ordinance.
The author touches on recent research that suggests that a person's ideological outlook may be genetic - or if not - based on deep seated emotional responses to the outside world.

- From Newsweek:
Conservatives and liberals really are wired differently. Scientists can accurately predict whether a subject is left-wing tree-hugger or a right-wing gun-toter based on how their brains respond to certain images, a new study in Current Biology has found.
P. Read Montague, a scientist at Virginia Tech, said his experiment was inspired by data that shows political affiliation, like height, can be inherited. "I the same sense that height is highly genetically specified, it's also true that it's not predetermined by genetics; nutrition, sleep, starvation, dramatic physical injury, and so on can serve to change one's ultimate height. However, tall people have tall children, and this is a kind of starting point [for the experiement]," he said.
Montague and his colleagues asked subjects to look at positive, negative, and disgusting images and examined functional magnetic resonance images (fMRI) of their brains. His team found that conservatives' and liberals' brains behave differently when confronted with disgusting imagery. "Disgusting images, and the mutilated body of an animal especially, generated neural responses that were highly predictive of political orientation. That was true even though the neural predictors didn't necessarily agree with participants' conscious rating of those disturbing pictures," the authors of the study said.
The test proved surprisingly accurate. "A single disgusting image was sufficient to predict each subject's political orientation," Montague said. "I haven't seen such clean predictive results in any other functional imaging experiments in our lab or others."
But wait! There's more:

Liberal or conservative? Brain responses to disgusting images help reveal political leanings.
- Disgust Sensitivity, Political Conservatism, and Voting.
- Liberal or conservative? Reactions to disgust are a dead giveaway.

Catching up on the HERO ordinance

Here are a  few links for 2306 students who are thinking about  writing about the controversy over the "Houston Equal Rights Ordinance" aka HERO. I posted the following in a previous post, but am re-posting for convenience.

- Texas Monthly: Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance, Explained.
- City of Houston: Equal Rights Ordinance.
- Chron: Texas Supreme Court says city must repeal HERO or put it on ballot.

Here a few more, with emphasis on the emerging campaign for and against it. So far it seems that access to women's bathroom is a dominant theme for opponents of the measure.

- Houston Press: SO, THE ANTI-HERO "BATHROOM BILL" ADS HAVE FINALLY STARTED...
- Campaign for Houston.
- Houston Chronicle: HERO ballot fight presents challenge to GLBT Caucus.
- Houston Chronicle: In first radio ad, HERO opponents press bathroom issue with women voter

I'll add more on a regular basis - and I;ll try to get a timeline together soon so we can see how this issue has morphed recently.

The list of candidates for Houston's election

- Click here for it.

This is for 2306 students who want to analyze the mayors race - or any others really.

You can find candidate information at Off The Kuff - click here for it.

Is Bernie Sanders a Socialist? Depends on what the word "socialist" means.

This week in 2305 we look at terms used in political discourse. These two stories help us look at the word "socialist" and whether it accurately applies to Democratic nominee Bernie Sanders. Notice that millennials have a different opinion of the word.

- Politifact: Bernie Sanders — socialist or democratic socialist?
Sanders himself eschewed the term "socialist" early in his career, but both his and the public’s attitudes towards the word have sinceevolved. A 2011 report by the Pew Center shows that while most Americans still view the word negatively, 49 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds reacted positively to socialism (compared with 46 percent who viewed capitalism positively).
Experts told us that that’s because the word itself has evolved, "untethered from its original meaning," said Samuel Goldman, who studies the history and philosophy of political thought at George Washington University. The millennials and Gen-Xers who are more open to socialism aren’t associating it with a state-controlled economy. Rather than Soviet-style governing, they think of and admire Nordic models of living.
These policies include "strong labor rights, progressive taxation, a robust array of public goods like child care, health care, and higher education," all advocated by Sanders, said Schwartz. With these positions, Sanders is technically a social democrat — he isn’t calling for a red revolution, just "a way of making capitalism humane," according to Peter Dreier, a leftist political theorist at Occidental College. So he’s not really a socialist, at least by the strict definition of the word.
- The New Republic: Stop Calling Bernie Sanders a Socialist: The Vermont senator is a "democratic socialist"—and yes, there's a difference.
. . . the Vermont senator himself is loose with his terminology, as he has praised the “long social-democratic tradition” of Nordic countries as examples of how the United States should operate as a nation. For instance, points to Finland's universal healthcare, free childcare, parental leave benefits, free higher education, low income inequality, and overwhelming unionization of workers. And sometimes he does indeed refer to himself, simply, as "a socialist."
So perhaps it's better to consider his policies themselves. Sanders wants a level playing field, where everyone born in America actually has the same opportunity for success, instead of "a government of the billionaires, by the billionaires and for the billionaires," as he puts it. He rails against the influence of the Koch brothers and other wealthy political donors and corporations on both Republicans on Democrats, ensuring that the rich stay rich and making sure the working class remain exactly that. While many Democrats claim to be in favor of leveling the playing field, few use the rhetoric Sanders does. He has suggested things like breaking up the largest banks and frequently refers to the United States as an oligarchy.
Click here for the transcript of an interview with Sanders where he explains his political philosophy.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The candidate as troll

That's Nate Silver's take on Donald Trump.

- Click here for the article.
“A troll,” according to one definition, “is a person who sows discord … by starting arguments or upsetting people … with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.”
The goal of the troll is to provoke a reaction by any means necessary. Trolls thrive in communities that are open and democratic (they wouldn’t be invited into a discussion otherwise) and which operate in presumed good faith (there need to be some standards of decorum to offend). Presidential nomination contests are highly susceptible to trolling, therefore. Access is fairly open: There’s no longer much of a filter between the campaigns, the media and the public. And it’s comically easy to provoke a reaction. How many times between now and next November will we hear that a candidate’s statement is “offensive,” whether or not it really is?
Trolls operate on the principle that negative attention is better than none. In fact, the troll may feed off the negative attention, claiming it makes him a victim and proves that everyone is out to get him.
Sound like any presidential candidates you know?
At least one student has proposed to write about how technology has impacted campaigns. Maybe the rise of social media is responsible. Trump is simply the first candidate to recognize the advantage of trolling as a strategy - or perhaps he's lucky. His personality is uniquely suited to take advantage of the realities of social media.

Campaign 2016 links - 8/26/15

For GOVT 2306 students thinking about their 1000 word essay.

- Perry Loses Iowa Campaign Chairman.
Sam Clovis, a well-known conservative radio personality in Iowa, told The Associated Press he had stepped down as Perry's state chairman. "I feel bad for the campaign and I feel bad for Governor Perry because I think he’s a marvelous human being, he’s a great man and it was my honor to be a part of this, but it was just time to move on," Clovis told The Washington Post on Monday.
- Perry Campaign Details Path Forward Despite Money Woes.
Super PACs are picking up the slack: "The Perry campaign reported raising $1.14 million in the second quarter of this year and on July 15 reported having $883,913 on hand. Meanwhile, Perry's well-funded allied super PACs are expanding their operations to compensate for the campaign's shortcomings. The Opportunity and Freedom PACs, which has raised nearly $17 million and initially planned to focus on paid television advertisements, also are building a ground game in Iowa, where they recently hired a state director and deputy state director."
- A Biden-Warren ticket could transform the 2016 election.

The idea of a Biden-Warren alliance – or perhaps even a Biden-Warren ticket -- would almost certainly shock and energize the party and provide an interesting mixture of political experience and progressive ideas. It would also force party leaders and rank and file Democrats to make a brutally tough reassessment of the state of the campaign, especially among those who worry about the mushrooming scandal surrounding Clinton’s handling of State Department emails and those who doubt Sanders could win a general election if nominated. Biden, should he run, likely would appeal to traditional, older Democrats, civil rights groups and union households. Warren, 66, while hardly a millennial, nonetheless would draw strong support from younger Americans and college students who are fascinated with her ideas to change the country and bolster economic and educational programs for the middle class.
- Donald Trump Is Running A Perpetual Attention Machine.
I don’t know whether this was a deliberate strategy on Trump’s behalf. But if so, it’s pretty brilliant. Trump is perhaps the world’s greatest troll, someone who is amazingly skilled at disrupting the conversation by any means necessary, including by drawing negative, tsk-tsking attention to himself. In the current, “free-for-all” phase of the campaign — when there are 17 candidates and you need only 20 percent or so of the vote to have the plurality in GOP polls — this may be a smart approach. If your goal is to stay at the center of attention rather than necessarily to win the nomination, it’s worth making one friend for every three enemies, provided that those friends tell some pollster that they’d hypothetically vote for you.

Random stories for 2306

It seems early to the rest of us, but election officials are getting ready for the 2016 presidential election year. And federal judges could foul things up — like they did four years ago — if they’re late with pending rulings on congressional and state House district lines and on photo ID laws for voters. “We’re holding our breath,” said Jacque Callanen, Bexar County’s elections administrator. “We’re closing in on our next round of elections.” Late court-driven changes to the state's political maps pushed the 2012 primaries from March to May. That had real consequences: Ted Cruz credited the extra time as one factor that enabled him to overcome Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, the favorite in that year’s race for U.S. Senate.

-  Analysis: Reasserting Power, by Concentrating It.
Dan Patrick’s endorsement of state Rep.Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola — and of six Republican incumbents seeking re-electionto the Texas Senate — could strengthen a core of movement conservatives in the Legislature’s upper chamber. That, in turn, would bolster the lieutenant governor’s own strength in a state government not dominated by any single personality.

What do we know about what's in the federal budget?

Not much apparently:

- Click here.

Many Americans have strong opinions about policy issues shaping the presidential campaign, from immigration to Social Security. But their grasp of numbers that underlie those issues can be tenuous.
Americans vastly overestimate the percentage of fellow residents who are foreign-born, by more than a factor of two, and the percentage who are in the country illegally, by a factor of six or seven. They overestimate spending on foreign aid by a factor of 25, according to a 2010 survey. And more than two-thirds of those who responded to a 2010 Zogby online poll underestimated the part of the federal budget that goes to Social Security or Medicare and Medicaid.
“It’s pretty apparent that Americans routinely don’t know objective facts about the government,” says Joshua Clinton, a political scientist at Vanderbilt University.
Americans’ numerical misapprehension can be traced to a range of factors, including where they live, the news they consume, the political rhetoric they hear and even the challenges of numbers themselves. And it isn’t even clear how much this matters: Telling people the right numbers often doesn’t change their views.



Tuesday, August 25, 2015

A History of Political Generations

Here is one look at the history of political generations - including a few prior to the settling of Jamestown. The source is the Wikipedia page on Strauss - Howe generation theory. Keep in mind that the experiences of the people of each of these generations are unique and shaped how they approached political issues.

I know little about the rationale behind the early generations, and this is the first time I've see a label for the generation that follows the millennials. It's the Homeland Generation. Makes sense.

- Arthurian Generation (1433–1460)
Humanist Generation (1461–1482)
- Reformation Generation (1483–1511)
Reprisal Generation (1512–1540)
- Elizabethan Generation (1541–1565)
- Parliamentary Generation (1566–1587)
Puritan Generation (1588–1617)
- Cavalier Generation (1618–1647)
- Glorious Generation (1648–1673)
- Enlightenment Generation (1674–1700)
- Awakening Generation (1701–1723)
Liberty Generation (1724–1741)
- Republican Generation (1742–1766)
- Compromise Generation (1767–1791)
- Transcendental Generation (1792–1821)
Gilded Generation (1822–1842)
- Progressive Generation (1843–1859)
Missionary Generation (1860–1882)
Lost Generation (1883–1900)
G.I. Generation (1901–1924)
Silent Generation (1925–1942)
Baby Boom Generation (1943–1960)
Generation X (1961–1981)
Millennial Generation (1982–2004)
Homeland Generation (2005–present)



The Millennials

Most of you - my 2305 and 2306 students - are members of the millennial generation. These are people born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s. They comprise one of the many political generations which have helped define politics in the United States since day one and even before. There are argument - good ones - that generational replacement is one of the principle factors driving changes in public policy. It's tough to understand the rapid change in policies regarding Gay marriage, and sexual orientation in general, without it.

With apologies to the Generation Xers and Baby Boomers in the class, I'll regularly post items related to this generation over the semester. It might help the millennials understand themselves better - and the rest of us can try to figure them out too.

Here are some items that might be worth your time to get comfortable with the concept and the uniqueness of the millennials.

- Quiz: How Millennial Are You?
- Wikipedia: Millennials.
- The Civic and Political Participation of Millennials.
- Harvard Institute of Politics: What Are Millennials Thinking?
- Pew Research Center: Millennials surpass Gen Xers as the largest generation in U.S. labor force.

And some informative charts - to help your ability to communicate visually.








Monday, August 24, 2015

Know your rights!

What do Americans know and not know?

I like to begin each semester with a look at the latest studies measuring the level of knowledge American have of basic facts about government and politics. The Pew Research Center measures political knowledge regularly. Aside from studying how much people know overall, they look at difference between people based on age, education and party affiliation, among other things.

- If you want to take one of their quizzes, click here.

Here are links to some of recent studies:

- What the Public Knows — In Pictures, Words, Maps and Graphs.
From ISIS to Unemployment: What Do Americans Know?
- What the Public Knows about the Political Parties.

Here are graphs from the last study. It shows only slim majorities are aware of what positions each major party takes on major issues - which can be a problem if you want to cast meaningful votes.



Friday, August 21, 2015

The Beloit College The Mindset List for the Class of 2015

Beloit College does this very year. There is no better way to feel old.

If you are a traditional, straight from high school student you were born in 1997 and shaped by certain events, but not others. This is not just a neat bit of trivia. it's also a look at what shaped a person's world view. One of the more difficult things to come to terms with is which references work and which don't when using examples in the classroom. For many of you things like Watergate and the fall of the Berlin Wall are ancient history and have little relevance to how you think of the world. But the things that matter to you, probably don't matter to folks my age.

Very late in the semester we'll discuss the concept of a political generation. The fact that people in different age groups sometimes tend to think alike, not because they all know each other, but because they all grew up exposed to the same events. I grew up in the 70s for example - keep that in mind when you hear me go off on this and that.

There are 75 items on the list, here are the ones that I think are most interesting to ponder.

1 - There has always been an Internet ramp onto the information highway.
2 - States and Velcro parents have always been requiring that they wear their bike helmets.
3 - The only significant labor disputes in their lifetimes have been in major league sports.
4 - There have nearly always been at least two women on the Supreme Court, and women have always commanded U.S. Navy ships.
5 - They “swipe” cards, not merchandise.
6 - As they’ve grown up on websites and cell phones, adult experts have constantly fretted about their alleged deficits of empathy and concentration.
7 - American tax forms have always been available in Spanish.
8 - More Americans have always traveled to Latin America than to Europe.
9 - Amazon has never been just a river in South America.
10 - Refer to LBJ, and they might assume you're talking about LeBron James.
11 - Women have never been too old to have children.
12 - They’ve always gone to school with Mohammed and Jesus.
13 - The Communist Party has never been the official political party in Russia.
14 - The Rocky Horror Picture Show has always been available on TV.
15 - Jimmy Carter has always been a smiling elderly man who shows up on TV to promote fair elections and disaster relief.
16 - Women have always been kissing women on television.
17 - Music has always been available via free downloads.
18 - Sears has never sold anything out of a Big Book that could also serve as a doorstop.
19 - Electric cars have always been humming in relative silence on the road.
20 - No state has ever failed to observe Martin Luther King Day.
21 - Refugees and prisoners have always been housed by the U.S. government at Guantanamo.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Introducing The Birthright Citizenship Act of 2015

Before too long we will be looking at Congress and the bill making process. When we do, we'll notice that the Constitution says very little about how bills become laws, so the process has changed over time. We will also point out that the cumbersome nature of the process makes it very difficult for bills to actually become laws. Most get bogged down in committee.

That may or may not be the fate of this law, but it's a good look at how one man proposes to change existing law to cut back on birthright citizenship. This was introduced in the House of Representatives on January 6, 2015 by Steve King who represents the 4th District of Iowa. It was referred to the Judiciary Committee, which then sent it to the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security.

- Click here for H.R 140 - The Birthright Citizenship Act.

Here's a description of the bill:

Amends the Immigration and Nationality Act to consider a person born in the United States "subject to the jurisdiction" of the United States for citizenship at birth purposes if the person is born in the United States of parents, one of whom is: (1) a U.S. citizen or national, (2) a lawful permanent resident alien whose residence is in the United States, or (3) an alien performing active service in the U.S. Armed Forces.
States that this Act shall not be construed to affect the citizenship or nationality status of any person born before the date of its enactment.

Since you are probably not familiar with the Immigration and Nationality Act, click here to catch up on it. The purpose of the bill seems to be to change birthright citizenship from being based on Jus Soli to Jus Sanguinis.

If anything happens to it, you'll hear about it here.

If you are really ambitious - here are two books on the history of citizenship

Both are by a man named Derek Heater and can be found on Google Books.

- A Brief History of Citizenship.
- A History of Education for Citizenship.

The last one is obviously related to the subject matter of the opening weeks of the class, so give it a look if you care to.

Texas refuses to issue birth certificates to children of undocumented immigrants

More conflict between Texas and the national government. And its a neat way to deal with the issue of birthright citizenship - not birth certificate, no citizenship. It also involves a lawsuit that could easily wind up in the Supreme Court allowing it to rule on whether birthright citizenship applies to the children of illegal immigrants.

- From the Texas Observer:

For nearly 150 years, the United States, under the 14th Amendment, has recognized people born here as citizens, regardless of whether their parents were citizens.
But Texas has other plans. In the last year, the state has refused to issue birth certificates to children who were born in Texas to undocumented parents. In May, four women filed a civil rights lawsuit against the Texas Department of State Health Services alleging constitutional discrimination and interference in the federal government’s authority over immigration.
An interesting immigration case is winding its way through a federal court in Austin, Texas: A group of mothers has filed suit against the chief of the state's Department of State Health Services Vital Statistics Unit, because it has refused to give their U.S.-born children birth certificates.
The issue here is not whether or not these children are U.S. citizens. They are and that's made plain by the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, which says most people born in the U.S. are automatically citizens.
The issue in this case is what kinds of identification Texas can demand of their undocumented immigrant parents to issue a birth certificate.
According to the complaint, Texas is refusing most forms of ID that undocumented immigrants would have access to. In one case, for example, the Vital Statistics office refused to a accept a matrĂ­cula or an ID card issued by a local Mexican consulate.
Under state law, Texas can also refuse to accept a foreign passport, unless it "bears a current U.S. visa."
The mothers claim that the state is discriminating against them because of their "immigration status and national origin."
On Wednesday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton asked a federal judge to dismiss the case, arguing that the federal judiciary did not have jurisdiction over this matter, because the state enjoys immunity and this involves state, not federal law.

What does "subject to the jurisdiction thereof" mean?

It's the qualifier in the opening sentence of the 14th Amendment:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.

The Federalist Blog explains what it means.

- Click here for the post.

It's worth reading in full, but this captures the basic argument:

Because the purpose of the Fourteenth Amendments first section was to end the denial of those fundamental rights that belong to all citizens by virtue of their citizenship under Article IV, Sec. II of the U.S. Constitution was imperative to first define citizenship of the United States. Otherwise, a State could refuse to recognize newly emancipated slaves as citizens by withholding the right to sue, make contracts, due process, purchase property, etc. Therefore, the Fourteenth Amendment acts to recognize all persons as citizens who do not owe allegiance to some other government when naturalized or born.

The last sentence is the kicker, and it applies to - for example - children born of foreign ambassadors and to members of an invading army. Not only are they not allegiant to the United States, they are not subject to its rules - though that's probably more true of the diplomats. Those who argue that the children of illegal immigrants should not be covered under 14th Amendment raise the question of allegiance, but there still remains the question of whether they are subject to the laws of the state. They are. So that complicates things.

A few facts related to birthright citizenship

As mentioned below, Donald Trump issued a position paper on immigration reform - click here for it - where he calls for, among many other things, and end to "birthright citizenship." Here's the text:

End birthright citizenship. This remains the biggest magnet for illegal immigration. By a 2:1 margin, voters say it’s the wrong policy, including Harry Reid who said “no sane country” would give automatic citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants.

As with most of what Mr. Trump says, its kicked up a dust storm which will apply to a few subjects we will cover in both 2305 and 2306 - anything related to the 14th Amendment really. Just so we know, this is the problematic part of the 14th Amendment - and it just happens to start the thing:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.

It goes on to require the states to treat people equally before the law, but we will touch on that later this semester. Rather than link to the news stories regarding the controversy, it might be better to be clear about the controversies associated with the it. The Wikipedia on Birthright Citizenship in the United States is worth a look partially because it details what does and does not qualify one to be a citizen of the United States - besides being born in the US to two citizen parents - that's the easy way. The most helpful primer I've found is an NPR piece called 3 Things You Should Know About Birthright Citizenship.

- Click here for it.

It also links to a great piece written by the Congressional Research Service detailing issues associated with birthright citizenship.

- Click here for it.

Some highlights from the story - and things to tuck away for future lectures. I'll post a few related items separately.

1 - There are two types of birthright citizenship: one based on place of birth, one based on the citizenship of the parents. British common law - which governed the colonies - used the former. Meaning that the type if citizenship stated in the 14th Amendment has historical roots.

2 - Until the 14th Amendment, the states determined who was and was not a citizen. The U.S. Constitution mentions, but does not define citizenship, or its requirements. It makes no requirement on the part of the states either and would not until the 14th Amendment.

3 - The 14th Amendment was written to overturn the Dred Scott decision which denied citizenship to African Americans whether slave or free. They were also unable to take cases to court - which kicked Scott's lawsuit to the curb. It is commonly argued to be one of the key precursors to the Civil War.
- Wikipedia: Scott v. Sandford.

4 - The 14th Amendment was ratified in large part to over turn Scott v Sandford. It was ratified in 1868 and is a companion to the 13th and 15th Amendments, which were ratified in 1865 and 1870 respectively. All three significantly expanded the powers of the national government over the states - which is a topic we hit in various parts of both 2305 and 2306. One of these powers involved the national government telling the states who gets to be a citizen. This ties the concept of national citizenship with the concept of state citizenship.
- Wikipedia: Reconstruction Amendments.

5 - The Supreme Court first ruled on the meaning of the 14th Amendment in the case of US v Ark, which applied the language to a man born in San Francisco from Chinese parent, left the country and then was denied the ability to return. The Supreme Court ruled that he was a citizen based on its reading of the language of the amendment and that he had the right to return.
- Wikipedia: United States v. Wong Kim Ark.

6 - Birthright citizenship based on birthplace is very common in the counties of the western hemisphere while blood relationship is generally required in the rest of the world. The argument is that the people that live in the nations of the west are largely immigrant and are based on shared values. Older nations can trace themselves to shared ethnicity.

From the Los Angeles Times: A History of U.S. Citizenship

This was written in 2007, but the key dates for us are covered.

- Click here for the article
1776: Declaration of Independence assails King George III for preventing colonies from naturalizing new settlers.
1790: Naturalization reserved for "free white person[s]" with at last two years residence.
1802: Jeffersonian Republicans repeal 14-year residency mandate breifly imposed by rival Federalists.
1848: Treaty ending U.S.-Mexico War guarantees citizenship to Mexican subjects in new territories, including California. Federal courts later cite treaty as removing racial bars to naturalization for Mexican settlers.
1857: Dred Scott decision holds that a "negro" cannot be a citizen.
1868: Fourteenth Amendment grants citizenship to those U.S.-born, cementing status of most blacks but leaving uncertainty on other minorities.
1882: Chinese Exclusion Act bars Chinese from naturalization.
1898: U.S.-born children of foreign nationals guaranteed citizenship, Supreme Court rules, even if immigrant parents are barred.
1906: Safeguards set for naturalization includes ability to speak and understand English.
1931: Repeal of statute stripping women of citizenship if they marry a foreigner racially barred from becoming a citizen.
1940: Birthright citizenship to Native Americans granted.
1944: Then record 442,000 naturalize amid wartime anxiety; 96% are Europeans, 1 in 4 Italian.
1952: Law amended to say citizenship "shall not be denied or abridged because of race or sex," ending 162-year legacy of racial bars.
1996: Record of more than 1.1 million people take citizenship oath; Asians and Latinos top list.
1997: Amid charges that ineligible criminals are being naturalized, federal officials move to strip citizenship of 5,000 immigrants with criminal arrest records.*

Birthright citizenship is back in the news

This is just to get you up to date on the topic of the day. Like many similar issues, this topic applies to many different parts of both 2305 and 2306. I'll do my best to make those connections. Chances are this issue will run its course in a week or two, but the issues it raises won't go away, and will likely be revisited at some point in the future, especially if its politically resonant.

Here's a definition first:

A legal right to citizenship for all children born in a country’s territory, regardless ofparentage:he wants to amend the Constitution to remove birthright citizenship.

According to the Congressional Research Service, there are two ways one can become a citizens at birth:

There are two basic doctrines for determining birthright citizenship. Jus soli is the principle that a person acquires citizenship in a nation by virtue of his birth in that nation or its territorial possessions.3 Jus sanguinis is the principle that a person acquires the citizenship of his parents, “citizenship of the blood."

The former is written in the 14th Amendment and has been objected to repeatedly by those who believe it encourages illegal immigration, among other things.

Here are a few stories to catch you up with the controversy as it manifests itself currently.

-

What is a citizen anyway?

I'll post a few items on the subject, partially because the purpose of the class is make you better citizens - or citizens to be, or whatever - and partially because "birthright citizenship" is suddenly in the news due to comments made by one of the more flamboyant candidates for the presidency.

Before digging into it, some preliminary info on the subject of citizenship would be helpful.

Here are a handful of definitions - from dictionary.com - of the word "citizen."
- a native or naturalized member of a state or nation who owes allegiance to its government and is entitled to its protection (distinguished from alien).- an inhabitant of a city or town, especially one entitled to its privileges or franchises.- an inhabitant, or denizen: The deer is a citizen of our woods.- a civilian, as distinguished from a soldier, police officer, etc.

And for good measure, here are a few for the word "citizenship."
- the state of being vested with the rights, privileges,and duties of a citizen.- the character of an individual viewed as a member of society; behavior in terms of the duties, obligations,and functions of a citizen: an award for good citizenship.- the fact or status of being a citizen of a particular place- the qualities that a person is expected to have as a responsible member of a community

I suppose a citizen could described as a subset of people who live in a community that have special rights. These seem to be primarily political, meaning that they can vote and hold office, but other political rights - like speech, assembly and the press, are applicable to everyone - as are many other rights.

I'll save it for a separate post to outline these a bit more. When we cover the equal protection clause in 2305 (and to a lesser degree 2306) we'll note that people cannot be treated unequally before the law due to citizenship - and the equal protection clause is not restricted to citizens, but instead applies to persons in a states jurisdiction.

There's much room for interpretation here.

If you feel ambitious, you might want to read through the Wikipedia on the "History of Citizenship."

- Click here for it.


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

What's going on in Houston?

It's not in ACC's jurisdiction, but the proximity of the nation's fourth largest city gives us an opportunity to compare a big city with some of the smaller ones in the surrounding area. They'll be holding elections this November (keep in mind that there is an election every November) and here are a few related items that'll catch us up with what's at stake.

We'll add detail once class starts.

- Wikipedia: Houston Mayoral Election, 2015.
- Ballotpedia: Houston, Texas municipal elections, 2015.
- 88.7/KHOU: Poll 2015 Houston Mayoral Race.
- Chron: Houston’s 2015 mayoral election: Voter turnout and its impact.
- Chron: Mayor pulls back on charter amendments.
- HPM: Houston City Charter Amendments Likely Pushed To Side By HERO Referendum.
- Houston Matters: Potential Changes To Houston City Charter Would Be Most Consequential In Decades.
- Chron: Busy ballot may await Houstonians in 2015.
- Chron: City Council to discuss term limits, other charter changes.
- Texas Monthly: Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance, Explained.
- City of Houston: Equal Rights Ordinance.
- Chron: Texas Supreme Court says city must repeal HERO or put it on ballot.
- OffTheKuff: Election 2015.

Bracewell & Guiliani and the Revolving Door

While clicking around to find info for the story below I stumbled across lists of people that have worked - or consulted - with Bracewell & Guiliani I noticed that the Center for Responsive Politics has lists of individuals connected with the company and what various positions they have held. They call it an employment timeline.

It provides a specific look at this otherwise general concept.

They do so for all types of companies and firms. Were focusing B&G because the previous story mentioned them and because they are a powerful local firm.

Here's a list of the people in their orbit. By clicking on the link you get an idea of where their connections lie.

- Kay Bailey Hutchison.
- Edward Krenik.
- Gene E Godley.
- Jeffery Holmstead.
- Lisa Jaeger.
- Paul Maco.
- Michael Pate.
- Scott Segal.
- Eric Washburn.
- Salo Zelermyer.

The Revolving Door: Bracewell & Giuliani attorney to head SEC's Texas regional office

Students will notice that I like to discuss this central feature of politics on all levels of government - one that helps tie interest groups with the various branches of government. This can negate the checks and balances and make it more likely that these branches work together to provide benefits for a well connected group. One of the more effective ways to do so is to control the executive agency that regulates the industry the group is involved in.

This story is today's illustration of this phenomenon;

- Click here for it.
- Click here for a bio of Shamoil T. Shipchandler.

The individual in question went from the U.S. Justice Department (where he served as "Assets Forfeiture Chief" and focused on fraud) to Bracewell & Guiliani (where he represented clients accused of fraud. Now he is expected to take those skills to the Securities and Exchange Commission. If you are paying attention, this means that Mr. Shiplander has gone from prosecuting white collar crime to defending white collar crime to regulating white collar activities.

Note that Bracewell & Guiliani is not only a law firm, but a lobbying form as well - the two jobs overlap.

From the story:

Legal experts said the SEC's decision to make Shipchandler, 41, the regional director is likely a sign that the agency's leadership wants its Texas enforcement division to focus more on fraudulent activity by businesses and individuals and less on technical violations of federal securities laws.

Critics might wonder how forcefully he might do so given the relationships he developed at Bracewell & Giuliani and where he might seek to go after his tenure at the SEC is over.

For background and related class concepts:

- Wikipedia: Revolving Door.
- Open Secrets: Top Industries.
- Rolling Stone: Revolving Door: From Top Futures Regulator to Top Futures Lobbyist.
- Bracewell & Guiliani.
- Wikipedia: Regulatory Capture.
- Wikipedia: Bracewell & Guiliani.

Random Items for GOVT 2306

We might be talking about a few of these next week. Even if we don't, one might lead the way to a good paper topic.

- 31 Days, 31 Ways. This is Texas Tribunes' look at what the Texas Legislature - which met this past spring - did with their time.

- Jury selection begins in former Texas cancer agency official’s deception trial. The Dallas Morning News reports on a trial involving a former official - its chief commercialization officer - of the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas who helped provide a large grant to a company that was not properly reviewed. He is accused of "securing execution of a document by deception," which is a first degree felony. The DMN previously discussed the controversy here, and pointed out that some of the people involved in the company had been frequent contributors to elected officials in the state.
- Tribpedia: Cancer Prevention And Research Institute Of Texas.
- Pay to Play Rules.

Analysis: Education Funding With a Judicial Assist. Texas is constitutionally required to provide adequate funding for public education in the state - and entire article of the Texas Constitution s devoted to public education. But just what that means can be a source of controversy. The legislature has one attitudes - and they tend to low ball funding, as well as allow funding to be unequal across the state while the judiciary tends to disagree. The judiciary works very slowly however and they are still wrestling with severe cuts made to public education in the state a few years back. The Texas Supreme Court is about to hear these cases, so we may be close to resolution - until the next conflict emerges.
- Tribpedia: School Finance.

- Texas Democrats prepare to regroup. The shift from Democratic to Republican dominance in the state - which we cover later in the semester - has left the Democratic Party a shell of its former self, and looking for ways to regroup. Here's the latest on those efforts.

Monday, August 17, 2015

2016 Primary Calendar

For informational purposes. Here's something we will refer to a few times this semester.

- Washington Post: Everything you need to know about how the presidential primary works.
- Election Central: 2016 Primary Schedule.
- NYT: 2016 Primary Calendar and Results.
- Frontloading: 2016 Presidential Primaries and Caucuses.
- Wikipedia: Republican Party presidential primaries, 2016.
- Wikipedia: Democratic Party presidential primaries, 2016.

Some general stories related to the 2016 campaign

These are all from The Hill - which I recommend as a news source. No real theme ties these together, but they should give fall 2306 students ideas about where to head with their papers.

The man behind Ben Carson.

One of the most influential people in Ben Carson’s political orbit has no role in his actual campaign. Armstrong Williams, 56, is a black conservative radio personality, a real estate investor, TV station owner, publisher and former political operative for figures as diverse as the late Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
- Wikipedia: Armstrong Williams.

Clinton embraces the left.

Hillary Clinton is embracing the left. The Democratic presidential front-runner has long come under fire from liberals for what they consider a hawkish approach to national security and a too-cozy relationship with banks and other well-heeled interests. But on the campaign trail this year, Clinton has adopted a tone — and rolled out policy after policy — that seems straight from the playbook of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the benchmark of liberal thinking on Capitol Hill.

- Sanders blasts Dems’ ‘abysmal’ turnout.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said on Sunday that “Democrats are losing because voter turnout is abysmal.” “I think we can change that,” Sanders said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”- FairVote: Voter Turnout.

- Kasich: GOP candidates painted into a corner on social issues.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a 2016 GOP presidential candidate, said in an interview broadcast on Sunday that Republicans have put themselves in a corner on social and other issues that make them look less compassionate to voters. "I think Republicans allowed themselves to be put in a box," he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “To me, conservatism is giving everybody a chance to be able to be successful,” he said.- OnTheIssues: Political Leaders on the Issues.

- Welcome to the social media election.

Social media is driving the 2016 presidential race, as candidates of both parties increasingly view Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as key battlegrounds in the fight for the White House. Campaigns have used social media in past elections. But in recent months, it has threatened to overtake traditional news outlets, paid advertising and the campaign stump as the top venue for candidates to rally voters, hit their rivals — and even make news. And those best able to harness the power of social media are showing they can use it to generate the most buzz.- Pew: Political and Civic Engagement on Social Networking Sites.

Catching up on Super PACs in the 2106 Campaign

Some background for Fall 2305 students who might want to write about the impact of Super PACs in the campaign. You might want to start here: Test your money-in-politics IQ. Have some fun with this - see what you know.

- Super PAC doppelgangers eclipse candidates in campaign money chase. Super PACs may be becoming more important than the actual campaigns of presidential candidates.
- 2015 fundraising by super PACs versus candidates. Evidence backing up the previous story.
- Billionaires Put Their Stamp on 2016 Presidential Campaigns. This is behind a paywall, but it's just more efficient to seek donations from billionaires. Mere millionaires need not apply.
- Perry super PAC head walks a ‘bright line’ - The author points out that federal enforcement of campaign finance laws have weakened, which has emboldened Super PACs to take legal risks. Super PACs are not supposed to work in sync with official campaigns, but there are ways they can work together discretely.
- Pro-Bush super PAC spending $10M-plus on initial TV campaign. The Super PAC is called Right to Rise.  
- Democrats far behind GOP in raising money for '16 super PACs. But there are a lot more of them - that might explain it.
- News Guide: Super PAC backing Cruz gets $10 million donation. One check matches the amount of money raised in three months of ordinary donations.
- Group backing Clinton gets $1M from untraceable donors. An increasingly common problem - donors are finding ways to cover their tracks.


I'll post more on Super PACs themselves, but here's info on the subject so you can familiarize yourself with them:

- Wikipedia: Super PACs.
- Open Secrets: Super PACs.
- What Is a Super PAC? A Short History.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

From the Washington Post: As campaign heats up, Republican candidates are rushing to the right

In the section on elections - in both 2305 and 2306, but mostly 2305 - we discuss a key consequence of the two stage election process in the United States. In the first stage a candidate needs the support of party identifiers in order to become the party's nominee. In the second they need the support of the general electorate in order to win the election.

This creates a problematic dynamic because party identifiers of the two major parties pull candidates to each ideological extreme while the general electorate prefers candidates in the middle. The saying goes - more or less - primary elections are won on the edges while general elections are won in the middle. Since primary elections come first, candidates have to position themselves as staunch conservatives or liberals first, then re-position themselves in the middle in order to win the general election.

It's an odd game to play, but its a direct consequence of the primary electoral system - complicated by other factors like gerrymandering.

Anyhoo - here's a story in today's papers illustrating this process among Republicans running for their party's nomination. As soon as I see something for the Democrats I'll post it.

- Click here for the article

. . . in the most wide-open Republican presidential field in memory, most of the contenders continued a rush to the right this week in the hope of capturing the attention of the GOP base. The strategy is clearly aimed at primary contests in states such as Iowa and South Carolina, which are dominated by large blocs of evangelicals and other conservative voters.
But it could also cause the eventual nominee problems in a general election with a more moderate electorate. On social issues ranging from abortion to same-sex marriage, much of the Republican field has now taken positions that are at odds with mainstream American opinion. For example, 3 out of 4 Americans say a woman should be able to obtain a legal abortion if she becomes pregnant as a result of rape.

Moderate Republicans said Friday they are concerned about the potential for Democrats to revive their “war on women” line of attack from 2012, when they successfully portrayed presidential nominee Mitt Romney and other Republicans as out of touch with or even hostile to the concerns of women.

Friday, August 7, 2015

From The Huffington Post: The Transformation of American Democracy to Oligarchy

Here's a topic I asked 2305 student to consider. It's been popular for the past year or so.

- Click here for it.

Here's some of his reasoning:
A Congress that is trusted by only 7 percent of the people is not a parliament of a democratic state. Some may say that the people can vote out those whom they not like.
But, the facts are,
One, a large majority of the people does not vote in the Congressional elections.
Two, even if they vote, they must pick either a Democrat or a Republican. Thus, the political structure is such that political power is divided between the two parties forever, and perhaps tens of millions of people have no representative in the political system.
Third, lobbyists and interest groups enjoy considerable influence in such elections.
Fourth, the faith of the people in a Congress that, instead of trying to address their needs and pursuing the true national interests of the United States, serves lobbyists, and interest groups, and the oligarchy, will continue to decline.
So, given the strong evidence, has U.S. democracy not been transformed to an oligarchy?

From the New Republic: Pro Wrestling Can Teach You Everything You Need to Know About the GOP Debate

An interesting take on the relationship between Donald Trump and the rest of the Republican candidates.

- Click here for the article.

Donald Trump is a heel. Not in the generic insult sense, but in the very specific World Wrestling Entertainment sense. In pro wrestling, which shares certain cultural sensibilities with the Republican Party, the heel is the bad guy—a rude, nasty cheater—who the good guy fights. The good guy is called the face. That was the Republican Party’s problem on the debate stage: It has a heel but no face.

Where are the Republican and Democratic Candidates on the Issues?

If there was more time this semester I'd ask 2305 students to find out where the Republican and Democratic Candidates are in agreement (with each other - not with the other party) and where they differ.

I'll be sure to ask it for fall students.

Sources for info:

- ISIDEWITH.com.
- OnTheIssues.org.
- insidegov.com.

On This Day in History: Teddy Roosevelt nominated as Bull Moose candidate

Ironically - given the concerns about Trump's possible run as a third party candidates - on this day in history the most consequential third party candidate was nominated. Roosevelt and Taft split the Republican vote - in an era when Republicans dominated - and the Democrat Woodrow Wilson won.

- Click here for the article.

Theodore Roosevelt, the former U.S. president, is nominated for the presidency by the Progressive Party, a group of Republicans dissatisfied with the renomination of President William Howard Taft. Also known as the Bull Moose Party, the Progressive platform called for the direct election of U.S. senators, woman suffrage, reduction of the tariff, and many social reforms. Roosevelt, who served as the 26th president of the United States from 1901 to 1909, embarked on a vigorous campaign as the party’s presidential candidate. A key point of his platform was the “Square Deal”–Roosevelt’s concept of a society based on fair business competition and increased welfare for needy Americans.
On October 12, 1912, minutes before a campaign speech in Milwaukee, Roosevelt was shot at close range by anarchist William Schrenk. Schrenk, who was immediately detained, offered as his motive that any man looking for a third term ought to be shot. Roosevelt, who suffered only a flesh wound from the attack, went on to deliver his scheduled speech, declaring, “You see, it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose!” The former “Rough Rider” later collapsed and was rushed to the hospital. He recovered quickly but in November was defeated by Democratic candidate Woodrow Wilson, who benefited from the divided Republican Party.

We cover this episode in the section on political parties - the party eras specifically - but this marks the time when the progressives begin to drift away from the Republican Party and towards the Democratic Party. The process would be complete by 1932, but their increased power in the party would lead the southern conservatives to begin to slowly distance themselves from the Democratic Party and align with the Republicans. This process has only recently been completed.

The wheels of political history keep spinning.

For more:

- Progressive Party.
- 1912 Republican National Convention.
- United States Presidential Election, 1912.

What happens if Trump runs as an independent?

It's tough to predict the future, but it's very likely that he would split the Republican vote and make it easier for a Democrat to win in 2016.

Its a story we tell in 2305 when we discuss the consequences of the use of winner take all elections in the US and their tendency to lead to the formation of two large political parties. Efforts to support third party - or independent candidates can tip the scales in unusual ways. It's an odd consequence of a party getting a bit too big and when the factions within the party become hostile to one another.

Support can be thrown to someone running outside the party, or a party member may choose to run independently. It happens from time to time. The is is covered in class notes, but examples include:

Ralph Nader in 2000
Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996
John Anderson in 1980
George Wallace in 1968

And on through history. The problem with this can be that supporters of the outsider might end up with their least preferred option in office. Nader voters helped elect W. Bush. Perot voters helped elect Clinton.

Might we see a repeat in 2016 if Trump runs as an independent?

Some thoughts from the smart set:

- Politico: Defiant Donald Trump refuses to rule out third-party run.
- Business Insider: 5 things to consider as Donald Trump dangles a third-party run for president.
- RCP: Why Republicans Shouldn't Fear a Third-Party Trump.

Commentary on the first Republican Debate

A few thoughts about what did and did not happen last night.

Lot's of disagreement over how Trump did.

- The Hill: Trump dominates rowdy debate.

Donald Trump dominated the first Republican primary debate Thursday with a performance that was pugnacious, volatile and, as ever, controversial. Trump showed that he could take a punch, facing a number of tough questions from Fox News moderators that cited his business history, penchant for outlandish comments and erstwhile support for liberal positions. The businessman suffered just a few truly uncomfortable moments and avoided the kind of catastrophe some of his detractors had predicted. “The answers were good, obviously, because everyone thinks I won,” Trump told the reporters who gathered around him in the “spin room” shortly after leaving the stage.

- The Hill: GOP debate’s winners, losers.

Winners; Trump, Kasich, Rubio, ChristieMixed: Huckabee, CruzLosers: Bush, Walker, Paul, Carson

- Brookings: Trump disappoints as candidates spar in lively GOP debate.

Although it is hard to know the limits of what Trump’s supporters are willing to tolerate, my hunch is that the debate damaged his prospects. When challenged about numerous statements that seemed on their face to be demeaning to women, he had no effective response. His defense of bankruptcy declarations by several of his corporations was cynical and self-interested. If his debate strategy was to modulate his tone and convey more gravitas than usual, he failed to stick to it.

- Fiscal Times: Trump’s Debate Performance Should Kill His Candidacy…but Won’t.

Donald Trump delivered a performance at the first debate between the leading candidates for the Republican presidential nomination that ought to kill his barely two-month-old campaign. The real estate mogul and former reality television star was boorish and defensive when he was challenged on his past behavior, and when asked to explain his policy positions he was vague to the point of absurdity. Of course, vindictive behavior, intemperate outbursts and total lack of specificity on policy matters has pretty much been the story of Trump’s entire campaign so far, and he’s leading the Republican field by a wide margin. So it’s not really clear what his showing in Cleveland last night will do to his standing in the polls.

- Fiscal Times: Fiorina Trumps Six Other GOP Candidates in the ‘Happy Hour’ Debate.

Fiorina was sharp coming out of the box, and she quickly pooh-poohed a Fox News moderator’s question about her poor showing in the polls. “I would begin by reminding people that at this point in previous presidential elections, Jimmy Carter couldn’t win, Ronald Reagan couldn’t win, Bill Clinton couldn’t win and neither could have Barack Obama.

There's lot's more out there - mostly along these lines as I can see. Happy surfing.