Category Archives: Individual Rights

Let the “Battle” Begin–The Targeting of States and Voters in 2012

BATTLEGROUND STATES 08

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?

–DENNIS FALCON

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The Tool of Taxation

Old hammer during reconstruction of the buildi...

Old hammer during reconstruction of the building in Pleszew. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In graduate school a professor of mine often referred to the “toolbox of government.”  The characterization must have resonated with me because I still use it in my own classes almost fifteen years later.  Of course he was referring to the variety of actions that governments at all levels have at their disposal to implement and otherwise enforce public policy.  For our purposes we can narrow the contents of the “toolbox” down to the bare minimum:

  • The power of government to deprive a person of liberty (think incarceration and in the most extreme form, the death penalty)—the hammer.
  • The power of government to deprive a person of property (think real property and money)—the hammer.

Confused?  Don’t be.  Chief Justice John Marshall (1801-1835) is credited with expressing the position that the power to tax is the power to destroy.  In this regard the power to tax is the power to punish those who violate the law, ignore regulations, or otherwise challenge the general welfare—the hammer.  The power to tax citizens and residents, businesses, corporations, is generally available to most governments—from Congress to your local water district.  Check your text books, one of the first concurrent or shared powers listed is the power to tax.  Moreover, taxes are ubiquitous—fees: taxes; assessments: taxes; dues: taxes; levies: taxes; taxes: taxes.  The power to tax is the power of government to deprive.

In the months following the Supreme Court’s decision on the Affordable Care Act (Obama-care) , much will be made of the taxation aspect of the now upheld health care reform package—especially the individual mandate, which requires people capable of paying for health insurance to do so or risk a penalty (tax).  What do you think, is it the most intrusive tax ever devised by government (in this case by democrats)?  Is it a new tax?  Is it a tax increase (even though it only applies to people who don’t buy their own health insurance—and wouldn’t we otherwise call these people free-riders or equate them to people who don’t buy car insurance and drive up all of our rates)?  With all the hammers we get hit with every day, is this the one we’re really going to object to?  Ouch!  I know how to fix it; where’s my hammer?!

–DENNIS FALCON

Get Ready for Several Weeks of Useless Analysis

Inside CNN

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to render its ruling on the constitutionality of Obama Care. However, the media coverage of the ruling and the resulting political fallout will be the same. Regardless of the ruling, both republicans and democrats will try to spin the Supreme Court’s ruling in a way that benefits their side. Meanwhile, the news media will overflow with coverage concerning the political impact of the ruling, but will ultimately fail to explain the ruling divorced from the typical horse-race coverage.  Horse race refers to the news media’s focus on which candidate is up or down in the latest public opinion polls. My prediction is that the news media, regardless of the Supreme Court’s ruling on Obama Care, will bombard its audience with poll numbers for the next several days along with a bloviated analysis of said poll numbers with a pretentious and misguided sense of accomplishment for delivering what they consider to be the news. Get ready for several weeks of useless analysis and blatant political spin.

–TERRANCE MULLINS

Purges and Repubican Forms of Government

Vote Oregon!

Vote Oregon! (Photo credit: jugbo)

According to the Constitution of the United States individual states are required to provide to their citizens a republican form of government.  The guarantee of a republican form of government in the Constitution is vague, but it provides a wide door for rights related to voting, representative-based government, and the sovereignty of the people in all fifty states.  The clause in the Constitution is also used as a foundation for each state to organize and conduct all elections in a state, whether the elections are for local, state, and even federal offices.

The state of Florida is currently involved in a legal dispute with the federal government over the issue of voter registration rolls.  The state of Florida is arguing that it has the right to purge voter registration rolls of names of persons not eligible to vote in Florida elections.  The state is arguing that it has the right to establish voter qualifications that do not directly deny citizens of the United States their fundamental right to vote and that maintaining voter registration rolls that are accurate and based on state law includes taking reasonable steps to protect their integrity.  In the current dispute, the federal government is arguing that the state of Florida recently purged properly registered voters from the rolls causing citizens of the United States to be denied their right to vote simply because they have the same name as a person who is ineligible to vote.  Both sides of the dispute are well-grounded in law, precedent, and practice—unfortunately, the specters or partisanship and electoral self-interest are seen at work on both sides as well.  The current dispute is about to peak in the middle of a presidential election year in a well-known battle ground state.  Do you believe the issue can be addressed by the courts impartially?  Do you think the current dispute is a legitimate clash of opinions and positions or a side-show of the election season we are watching unfold?

–DENNIS FALCON

Race and the Hispanic Vote

English: White Hispanic and Latino Americans

English: White Hispanic and Latino Americans (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is the second in a series of blogs focusing on what some like to refer to as the Hispanic vote.  It is intended to edify those elements of the MyPoliSciLab community that may just be learning of the increasingly important role Hispanic voters will play in American politics.  This installment will consider the significance of race as a factor influencing our understanding of the emerging Hispanic vote across the country.

First of all, the term Hispanic does not actually discriminate according to race (although many researchers do take race into account when studying Hispanics).  Hispanics born in the United States as part of the baby boom generation (and for decades before that) would have been designated as “White” or “Caucasian” on their birth certificates.  Of course, Hispanic newborns with parents or a parent displaying “Black” or African American features or characteristics would have likely been designated as “colored” or “Black” depending on the particular time in history.  In actuality Hispanics can be White and Black—or both as in the case of a bi-racial individual.  Given the state of political science research on the matter, traditional voting models that take race into account and predict that White voters are more likely to support republican candidates and African American or Black voters are more likely to support democratic candidates, are problematic when we take into account Hispanic voters.  The current state of the discipline suggests that including Hispanics in the models is reasonable based on the understanding that Hispanics represent a different population.  I am suggesting that they do not.

Hispanics, as we currently understand the term, come from the nations of North, Central, and South America.  They are White, Black, and Indian (indigenous, indígena) and every possible iteration you can think of.  Discussions regarding the Hispanic vote in both the mainstream and new media are still likely to follow in the footsteps of those who have an over-simplified understanding of their Hispanic brothers and sisters.  What do you think?  Should political scientists lead the way in terms of changing the way we talk about Hispanic political behavior?  Can the media make heads or tails of the issues involved?

–DENNIS FALCON

Due Process and the American Creed

Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jeffe...

Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson writing the Declaration of independence (1776) were all of British descent. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution include references to due process any time a person is in jeopardy of life and property.  While the Amendments themselves do not specifically define what due process is, the Constitution itself provides elements of due process as have subsequent court decisions through the years.  For example, the right to know what one is charged with in all criminal matters is in the Bill of Rights, as are the rights to a public trial and the right to cross-examine witnesses who testify against you.  Any legal proceeding in the United States that fails to uphold these protections is not living up to the protections we claim to value so highly.

A former U.S. Senator is currently fighting for his freedom, as is a former Hall of Fame caliber baseball player.  All over America, people high and low are depending on due process to level the playing field, to diminish the power of Goliath, and to stand a chance when forces that want to destroy them are at play.  In some cases the guilty will go free; in others the innocent will be punished unjustly.  Regardless of the particulars, every American should take a solemn oath to protect and defend the tents of due process, just like the oath sworn by the men who signed the Declaration of Independence.

We mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor

What do you think?  Is due process something most Americans understand?  Can you identify how various elements of due process have been important in your life?  How important is due process to the American creed? As for me, I pledge my life, my Fortunes and my sacred Honor.

–DENNIS FALCON