Category Archives: Voting Behavior

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

Richard Mourdock forgets the first law of fetus club.

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Video Glossary: Primary Elections

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.

–DENNIS FALCON

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

America’s “Foreign” President?

Official photographic portrait of US President...

Official photographic portrait of US President Barack Obama (born 4 August 1961; assumed office 20 January 2009) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At a press conference on July 17, a team of volunteer investigators working for Arizona’s tea-party conservative “Sheriff Joe” Arpaio claimed President Barack Obama’s birth certificate was a fake. President Obama released the copy of his long-form birth certificate last year in attempt to quell conspiracy theories pushed by Donald Trump.

According to Article II of the U.S Constitution, the President of the United States of America must be: a natural born citizen of the United States;  at least 35 years old; and have been a permanent resident in the United States for at least 14 years. However, there has currently existed a controversy, mainly among tea-party conservatives, regarding the legitimacy of Obama’s citizenship. Some believe President Obama was born outside the U.S. and consequently ineligible to hold the office.

Needless to say, the only people who truly question Obama’s legitimacy are the very people who were severely opposed to his administration for ideological, political, and possibly racial reasons. In fact, the current governor of Hawaii already revealed last year that congressional leaders actually have the legal authority and ability to view President Obama’s official birth certificate. Nevertheless, prominent republican members of congress, who also believe Obama’s natural born status is unquestionably valid behind closed doors, are willing to let misconceptions remain to politically weaken the Obama administration. Even Mitt Romney, Obama’s republican challenger, has started to describe the president’s policies as “foreign” in a not so subtle attempt to perpetuate the idea that President Barack Obama is not truly American.

Despite Obama’s birth certificate being accepted as legitimate by Congressional leaders and the state government of Hawaii, is there anything President Obama can do to persuade the members of the so-called birther movement? Will anything matter to those detractors who are already convinced Obama is illegitimate?

— TERRANCE MULLINS

Video Glossary: Electoral College