Monthly Archives: May 2011

American Symbolism

The presidency involves many roles and responsibilities. One function of the President of the United States is to serve as chief of state. As such he or she represents the American people as a whole and is a living symbol of the country explaining why the president’s family is affectionately called the “first family.” Ironically, the president is also the chief executive (the head of government/executive branch).  In simpler terms, the president is both the quarterback and the team mascot. This combination of responsibilities between governance and symbolism generate problems in the American political system as it is extremely difficult for the American populace to discern which role the president is performing at any given moment. As a direct result, knowing when to criticize the president’s policy and when to be patriotic during national ceremonies involving the president has become extremely alien . For example, if one does not care for the policy agenda of Pres. Obama it will be extremely difficult to view Obama as the representative of the American people during Memorial Day ceremonies or ribbon cutting events. The same held true for Pres. Bush during 9-11 memorial services when Bush critics neglected to realize that such events are about national mourning and  not party politics or public policy. In fact, the CNN political tracker recently published a blog examining how Memorial Day was shamefully and deliberately used as a political event by 2012 presidential hopefuls revealing the extensiveness of the problem .

Most counties avoid this situation by deliberately assigning the function of head of government (chief executive) and head of state (chief of state) to two separate individuals. Considering how politically polarized the American electorate has become I wonder if the United States should follow suit. However, which government position would be best suited to absorb the purely ceremonial function of symbolizing the United States of America and its people?



Weekly Quiz: Test Yourself on this Week’s Events

The weekly quiz is now live in Mypoliscilab. Good luck!

Weekly Poll: Your Opinion on the Debt Ceiling

While some believe that not raising the debt ceiling will have a disastrous effect on the economy, others think it is not the end of the world. What do you think?

Colbert Report: Austan Goolsbee

Austan Goolsbee wants to focus on the budget by cutting spending and raising high-income tax rates. (06:53)

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Austan Goolsbee, posted with vodpod

Video Glossary: Ex Post Facto

Video Glossary: Privacy and the Right to Die

Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act allows the terminally ill to seek physician-assisted suicide.  Recently, suicide kits have been selling over the Internet.  Should the right to privacy be expanded to allow certain types of suicide?  Professor Gaffaney explains.

Apocalypse Not So Much!

Freedom of the press was intended to protect the people’s right to know what their government was doing. However, instead of handling actual issues concerning government, the news media of today predominantly focuses on celebrities and their non-problems or nonsensical non-issues. These types of news stories have very little, if any, impact on the average lives of the American people. Furthermore, extremely pertinent issues like the rise of gas prices, government debt, and revolutions in the middle east, all take a back seat to the apparently false doomsday prophecies of Harold Camping. For those who do not know, Camping is notable for applying numerology to his interpretations of Bible passages to “predict” a date for the Christian Rapture.

The media’s seemingly inability to select and report newsworthy stories is extremely problematic and destructive as the news media holds an agenda-setting influence over what the American people will likely discuss and debate. Agenda-setting is the theory that the news media influences their audiences by their choice of what stories to consider newsworthy and how much prominence to give them. So, why did the American mass media consider the doomsday ramblings of a Christian radio broadcaster newsworthy?

The answer is relatively simple. News in the United States of America is no longer a public service, as intended by the framers of the U.S. Constitution, but a private enterprise centered on entertaining the electorate. Peter Cohan of Fox Forum published a blog examining “America’s Rapture Industrial Complex.” However, who is really to blame for the media’s complete inability to set an agenda of relevant issues? Be honest, how many of you actually took time last Saturday to see how the rapture prophecy was going to unfold? I did 🙂