Category Archives: Voting and Elections

Weekly Quiz: Test Yourself on this Week’s Events

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


The Daily Show: Republican Candidate Said What About Rape Now?

Richard Mourdock forgets the first law of fetus club.

Voting and the Mystery of it All

Cropped version of :Image:Iraqi voters in Bagh...

Cropped version of :Image:Iraqi voters in Baghdad.jpg. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Is voting a form of conventional or unconventional political participation?  I guess it all depends on your definition of . . . voting.  For years I’ve been telling students about how my mother voted for Bill Clinton (first run) because she liked his hair (to be fair, she had also expressed the opinion that she thought Senator Robert Dole—Clinton’s opponent—was too old to be President).  I also explain to my students why her comments could be so troubling to a son that teaches political science and who, incidentally, both worked on the Clinton campaign as a partisan staffer in Illinois and contributed to the Glass Ceiling Commission Report (sponsored by Senator Robert Dole of Kansas) while working at a California think tank in the early 1990s.

I share these stories with my students to illustrate the conundrum that I believe voting presents to academics and pundits alike.  As a form of political participation it is routinely mentioned as one of the most conventional forms of political behavior practiced by Americans.  A search of the thesaurus on the term “conventional” results in usual, established, standard, normal, etc.  In other words, one would truly expect that voting is something done often and by many or most people whenever presented with an opportunity to do so.  The problem is that in most elections most people who can don’t vote—that is by casting a ballot.  Voter turnout (the actual percentage of eligible voters who vote in a particular election) in non-presidential elections rarely rises above fifty percent.  In many local elections voter turnout is lucky to rise above twenty percent (many municipal elections fall into this category).  Even if we just limit our discussion to people who vote, does my mother’s selection of Bill Clinton based on youth and attractiveness, and yes, years of party identification as a Democrat biasing her selection from the get-go, actually deserve to be compared to a person’s comparison of candidates on important policy differences?  What if someone just walks into a voting booth, closes their eyes, and just starts poking holes in the ballot—is that voting?

In my estimation, if we used that actual meaning of the word “conventional” as our metric, voting would have to be listed as a form of non-conventional participation, right up there with attending political meetings, and participating in a demonstration (and let us not forget donating to a candidate or campaign, running for office, or even contacting an elected official, just to name a few).  Truth be told, I just happen to believe in democracy as a form of government.  I just don’t agree with the emphasis placed on voting at the expense of all the other ways a person can participate in governing—themselves, their workplaces, neighborhoods, cities, counties, states and even nations.  What do you think?  Does the material in your textbooks and course lectures support or detract from my basic thesis?  I would like to know.


Weekly Quiz: Test Yourself on this Week’s Events

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

The Colbert Report – 17th Amendment Under Attack

States need their own Chamber of Congress where they won’t be bullied by the people who live in them.

Spare Tire of the United States of America

Flat Tire

Flat Tire (Photo credit: Ryan Stanton)

According to the U.S. Constitution, the primary responsibility of the Vice President is to serve as President of the United States if the President dies, resigns, or is impeached. However, in reality, the U.S. Vice President has no constitutional duties except to serve as President of the United States Senate, a merely ceremonial position as the President of the U.S. Senate is simply a tie breaker for a tie that will most likely never occur.

As a result, a vice presidential candidate is not selected to help a president govern, but are purely selected to help the presidential candidates get elected. For example, George W. Bush selected Dick Cheney to help win over conservative voters as the Bush family name was, at that time, synonymous with the moderate policies of George H.W. Bush. John McCain selected Sarah Palin in a failed attempt to win over the coveted female voter. Barrack Obama selected the political veteran Joe Bidden in order to compensate for Obama’s seemingly lack of political experience.

In other words, the Vice President is merely a spare tire. Like all spare tires, the Vice President is stored away never to be seen until it is election season or in case of political or governmental emergency. This brings up the question of Mitt Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan. What exactly does Mr. Ryan bring to the table for Mitt Romney, the presumptive republican nominee for president? Obviously, like the Bush-Cheney ticket, the extremely conservative Paul Ryan was strategically selected to help Romney appeal to the republican base. What is not so obvious is whether or not Romney inadvertently selected a spare tire that is flat.