BATTLEGROUND STATES 08 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The direction of the 2012 presidential election will become increasingly apparent in the days and weeks to come as the candidates and their supporters target important battleground states. Battleground states are states that are considered to be contestable in the upcoming election; in other words, the state is worth visiting and investing substantial resources in. Non-battleground states are states that candidates do not expect to win, making them less likely to receive much attention from candidate or their surrogates. The identification of battleground and non-battleground states begins just as the election results of the previous presidential election are being tallied. Campaign managers, political scientists, journalists, and others have been studying campaign maps for decades; especially Electoral College maps for presidential elections going back to the 1960s.
Battleground states are more likely than not to be states that have a history of voting democratic or republican. Battleground states can also be determined by the margins of victory by various statewide elected officials (governors, etc.) in recent elections. For example, if republican candidates have won recent elections in a state by what are considered wide margins the state is not likely to be considered a battleground state by the democratic party (they will basically write it off). Once the battleground states are identified the process shifts toward identifying swing voters in battleground states that can make all the difference in a close election. Hispanics, women, younger voters are likely voting blocks that will be targeted by candidates in the 2012 election. What do you think about candidates for the Presidency targeting some states and ignoring others? Should all fifty states receive their fair share of attention? Is this even possible given the costs associated with national elections?
Posted in Campaigning, Campaigns, Civil Rights, Democracy, Elections, Individual Rights, Interest Groups, Media, Political Participation, Political Parties, Presidency, The Media, Third Parties, Voting and Elections, Voting Behavior
Tagged Electoral College, swing state, Voting
Politicos are the political animals that both eat and serve up the real red meat of politics. They are the insiders inside “The Beltway,” they are the government and party faithful that play the game of politics day-in and day-out, 365 days out of the year. Many textbooks use the term primarily in reference to theories of representation (i.e., “trustees” are legislators who act in what they believe are the best interests of their constituents while “delegates” are those who act in accordance with their constituents’ expressed wishes). In this usage politicos are the wheelers and dealers in and out of government who best epitomize the expression that “politics is the art of the possible.” Details related to right and wrong, and questions related to what is in the best interest of the nation, are not central considerations to the politico. It’s not what they do.
A politicomay not be a type of person, maybe its best described as a trait that all political actors possess to some degree or another. Maybe it’s the part that prompts an elected official to be coy when answering—or not answering a question posed by a reporter. Maybe it’s the purposeful pivot that a
Capital Beltway (Photo credit: JohnRiv)
Congressperson makes when debating an opponent and the need to change the subject arises to avoid an embarrassing moment. In any event, ‘tis the season of the politico; when every statement, every speech, every step, every stop, every chance to score a point against the opponent is seized like the last piece of meat on the platter. For the rest of us it would be smart to remember another well-known expression: never get between a dog and its bone. What do you think about the current political climate of the nation? Do you believe the people in charge of the action are presenting us with the amount and kind of information people need to make good choices?
Tax (Photo credit: 401K)
Interest groups engage in electioneering when they become involved in the electoral process. During actual electoral cycles many interest groups channel resources usually committed to efforts to influence government policy to activities immediately intended to promote particular candidates and causes. The differences between electioneering and regular interest group activities may be only a matter of degree. For example, Californians will be voting soon on a new tobacco tax that has predictably spawned a television campaign to defeat the initiative paid for by tobacco interests and anti-tax groups.
Both groups would be involved in the political process even without an actual campaign to focus their efforts. Elections do provide opportunities to participate in very election-based activities that are unlike the industry norms of lobbying and general fund-raising. It might be argued that what electioneering activities a particular group may become involved can provide valuable insight as to the actual and concrete interests of the group. In the case of the California tobacco tax it is unlikely that the tobacco interests currently funding anti-tax commercials will spend any money to support the other side (it is not uncommon for interest groups to spread their money around as a form of hedging their bets). What do you think? Is electioneering actually a different form of interest group behavior or is it, as suggested above, simply a shift in emphasis during election cycles?
Abuses in the electoral processes associated with American democracy often result in the passage of legislation and regulations that are represented to the public as “reforms” that will correct the problems. In fact, there is a relatively stable pattern of abuses, public outcry, and reform that many believe began in the early 1970s and continues to this day. Specifically, campaign financing and the role of big money in the electoral process has been the focus of many such reform efforts. Most recently, McCain-Feingold attempted to reign in “soft money” and issue ads—among other things—leading indirectly to the most significant change in American elections since sliced bread. Just over two years ago the Supreme Court, in Citizens United v. The Federal Election Commission ruled, in essence, that corporations had the same rights as individuals to spend their own money as a form of free speech protected by the First Amendment. Alas, we have witnessed the birth of the latest round of abuses and reforms that will dominate the money and politics debate for the next ten years (if we last that long).
The “baby,” the Super PAC, is the instrument being used by big money to influence the outcome of the 2012 federal election cycle. Donors are giving money to non-profit corporations that have been established to serve some basic cause, which in turn are collecting and funneling money to Super PACs that have been created to promote particular candidates. Because the donations are going directly to non-profit corporations donors do not have to be identified to the media or federal campaign finance regulators. In other words, anonymous money, the complete and absolute opposite of transparency and reform has found a welcome and protected place in American electoral politics. Any attempt to sell this as good for America can only be judged for what it is, the outright abandonment of one-person one-vote in the United States and the ascendency of government of the rich, by the rich and for the rich. To claim as some have that there has always been a place for secrecy and privacy in American politics, citing examples such as the secret ballot and the use of aliases by the authors of the Federalist Papers can only be characterized as the most shameful sophistry. How’s this for an example of anonymity, wearing a white hood and sheet to protect my right to privacy? Why not, seems there are no limits after all.
What do you think? Is there any way to keep money from corrupting the political process? Is money an integral and unavoidable feature of democracy in the United States?
Posted in Bill of Rights, Campaign Finance, Campaigns, Civil Liberties, Constitution, Democracy, Elections, First Amendment, Individual Rights, Interest Groups, Supreme Court, Voting and Elections
Tagged Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, Citizen United, election, Federal Election Commission, Federalist Papers, Political action committee, Supreme Court, United State
For a time Political Action Committees (PACs) served as the fundraising arms of groups and organizations interested in financing political campaigns around the country. Federal and state laws limited political contributions by many groups and individuals to very specific amounts and required extensive reporting of contributions to a variety of regulatory bodies. The regulation of campaign contributions through the years has invariably been a reaction to scandals which lead to reforms that are intended to rein in abuses in campaign financing and electioneering by those involved.
Recent changes in the legal landscape are already proving that money will play a bigger role in future elections than probably ever before. Corporations (and by implication organized labor unions) are now free to contribute unlimited funds to support candidates and issues. Although direct contributions to candidates and their campaigns are still limited, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission has removed all limits on political spending that is not directly controlled or coordinated by candidates. Super Pacs are born. Independent political organizations and funds can now be formed with the sole purpose of supporting and defeating candidates. Corporations can now donate as much money as they want directly into the political process. Whether they did or not prior to Citizens United we may never know. But the impact on future elections is expected to be profound. David Goldstein predicts that the 2012 elections for Congress and the White House will be the most costly in the history of the United States.
This is all happening at a time when the economic outlook for the United States is bleak. The average citizen is struggling to make every penny count. Corporate America, on the other hand, is enjoying better profits, huge cash reserves, and very little incentive to share their wealth with working and non-working Americans. What do you think? Will American voters find themselves squeezed out of the political process as corporations open their pocketbooks for elections but not jobs? How will this impact my donation of $25.00 to my favorite candidate?
Generally speaking, “patronage” is a reward paid for supporting a political candidate or government official. The reward can be monetary—perhaps in the form of a government contract to provide services. The reward can come in the form of a valuable government appointment; say, as ambassador to some exotic foreign land. The reward can result in the easing of government regulations considered burdensome to the receiving party. Whatever form patronage may take, critics and supporters of the practice would probably agree that it is a ubiquitous component of the political process.
Students of politics should be familiar with concepts such as “logrolling;” the practice of trading support for bills by member of Congress. In other words, if I promise to vote for your bill you will vote for a bill that I support. As long as we both honor our promises the log keeps rolling. To put it another way, “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine.” The connection between such practices and patronage should be relatively clear. The rewarding of favors and advantage are not based on some element of merit or value inherent to the recipient, rather merit and value have nothing to do with the matter. Patronage is payment; pure and simple. Does this violate or offend some notion of government—democratic or otherwise?
Read the blog “The Persistence of Political Patronage” for a disturbing look at modern patronage in the U.S. But remember, the First Amendment of the Constitution protects our right to petition government for the redress of grievances. Among other freedoms and rights, don’t we all have the right to ask our government leaders for something and expect something in return? What do you think? Is patronage an essential part of governing or is it a nasty by-product of the political process?