PSC 201: American Government
presidential elections only? do we as citizens have enough information? can we collectively make a rational choice? Why govern by representatives, not directly by referenda?
Lobbyists: give information, support, money interest groups in competition for political benefits do they establish an equilibrium? in the pluralist heaven, does the choir sing with an upper class accent? do potential groups fill gaps by becoming actual groups?
The Tea party movement calls for a return
to the C18th ideals of small government and minimal taxes, enshrined in
the original US Constitution.
Some US Supreme Court justices (eg Clarence Thomas) and leading law scholars (e.g. Richard Bork) call for original interpretation
money bills, shared power treaties made by President and Senate Appointments made by President and Senate Veto and pocket veto awarded to President (but not line-item veto) slavery not mentioned, but is implied in dirty 3/5 compromise
Journalists and editors make framing choices of what issues to discussOpinion Polling
Example of Christian Coalition's rise in Iowa 1996 via 'stealth campaign' -- not selected until later, after the event.
Samplingsample size 150-400-700-1,200 = Nquestions
with likely voters (difficult to predict)
margin of sampling error (sample matches universe) +/- 3% ptsformula is based on a square root, inversely related to size of samplerandom sample, every seventh number or person on street
structured sample (by ethnicity, income, location)don't predict voting just by questioning shoppers in mall (consumers, not voters)no dichotomies -- unless indexed?answer categories
one/two tailed wording
no skewing questions or push polling (to spread Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt)Likert scale of 4/5 answers -- with or without neutral in centerDesired characteristics to predict a universe of voters at 95% confidence level (15/20 times)
dont knowsreliablestrategy: telephone v in-person polling, RDD
Accuracy of early polling in 1940s:Gallup in US or mass observation in UK? Postwar shock of Labour defeating Churchill
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- (but Swiss are contented, plus they run policy via referenda)
- Contrast with postwar Britain where Conservatives held thumping majorities in South East England and country areas; Labour in Wales, north of England and industrial cities of Scotland.
- In UK, Church of England used to be Conservative party at prayer; Methodists and Baptists were socialist in Wales, Presbytery liberal in Scotland.
- Where are the regional party bases in US and Alabama politics?
- Where are the local party areas in Alabama: city, suburb, rural; north, central and south?
- What are the religious bases of parties in US?
- little deference to upper class in US -- Tocquevillian, but not Burkean
- little working class identity: most WC say are middle class
- little working class attachment to socialism (President Debs?)
- social class explains much of postwar European politics -- but in US, only one factor
- Social class less important in C21st Europe, more like US (convergence?)
- Census data every ten years help parties develop strategy
Notes from Class, by K. Alexis Johnson, Fall 2009
Should we limit campaign fundraising and spending? Should we publicly fund US campaigns? Should we eliminate independent (527) organization spending? Should we eliminate primaries -- and let parties choose their own nominees? Is American politics too polarized? Do we need a new, center party in the US? Will the Republican party dominate the South for the next generation? Will the Democratic party dominate Congress for the next generation? Will Hispanics determine the future of US politics for the next generation?
Notes from discussion, Monday October 19, 2009
A. Primary elections in America choose candidate for a particular party that will run for the general election. [This doubles the number of elections]
B. Citizens register themselves to vote
- Help American Voters Act, or the “Motor-Voter Act,” was designed to aid Americans in the
process of registering to vote. [This triples the effective number of elections]
C. America has the second lowest voter turnout.
-Presidential elections- 50-52%
-Off years, like Congress- 40%
-Local elections- 20%
-SGA at state colleges- 8%
D. United States, exceptional
-Americans vote based more on the individual, rather than the party
-[+ candidate-centered campaigns]
-Published opinion polls
-Almost unlimited television ads
-Campaigns are run state-by-state, creating separate politics
-Peoples' votes [float] between political parties
-[Parties only come together nationally every four years; in between, only RNC/DNC]
E. Circumstances affect voters
-A Methodist in Alabama would be conservative, but a Methodist in Wales would be Socialist.
-People who live in rural areas in both places would tend to be conservative.
-[Episcopalians in US liberal -- but in Bournemouth, southern England, Conservative]
F. Americans won’t tolerate a strong leadership
-Newt Gingrich wrote up [Contract with America] in 1994 [and Republicans won historic majority in HR]
-his leadership [as Speaker] only lasted only two years [before he was deposed by his own party]
-In the United States, party leadership is weaker than places like Great Britain
G. Americans have several reasons for voting for an individual, [other than party]
-May vote for personal relationship
-May vote for a candidates ability to get school buildings or roads in their town [localism]
-May vote based on “hatch, match, or dispatch” letters
H. Should the money spent on campaigns be limited? If so, Why?
-Uneven spending causes uneven publicity.
-Just because a candidate isn’t as rich, doesn’t mean his ideas aren’t better.
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-a bicameral system, which has geographical representatives
-Who to put in the house?-Could do it by classes or estates, as in old France-How many votes should each state receive?
-The U.S, standard is by districts, because it was already operating under this model-Virginia Plan-favored large states-Population Shifts
-New Jersey plan- favored small states
-Number of House representative is decided by population.
-Number of Senate members is always the same, 2 for every state
-In the European Union, there is a [qualified] majority vote of states and votes, apportioned
to the population. Since there is no Senate, there is [less development of] a political class [Siedentop, following de Tocqueville].-Every “2 year” of the decade, the national census is taken, and districts are redrawn. Currently, the trend is more districts moving to the South.-Divisions of Duties-Ratification power of foreign treaties belongs to the Senate.-Power to declare war belongs to Congress as a whole.
-Revenue, money, tax, or spending bills have to originate in the House.
-This custom came from the House of Commons in England, who were the property owners, and thus decided taxes.-Raising an army and navy belongs to both, and was originally opposed by the Jeffersonians, because they resented the redcoats.-Power of Impeachment is possessed by the House, and trial by the Senate.
-Eventually, after the War of 1812 people saw the benefits
-Barbary Pirates attacked the spice and silk trading ships, and held hostages for ransom.-Equivalent to an indictment in court of an official, claiming what they have done wrong-The Senate also has the power to confirm Supreme Court judges.
-The Supreme Court Chief justice presides over the trial, with case for removal made by the House committee.
- Andrew Johnson was acquitted only with the vote of his VP
- Clinton was acquitted and the public sided with him, against the Republican accusers. [Nixon resigned rather than face conviction for campaign corruption]-almost all are approved, and we hear about the controversial cases only.-The power to confirm treaties with foreign powers belongs to the Senate.
increasing tendency to "Bork" the high profile nominees, though (Clarence Thomas)-Although Woodrow Wilson campaigned for the League of Nations, a brilliant idea, the Senate lacked 2 votes to approve the U.S. joining.Electing Congress
-Jimmy Carter proposed the Panama Canal Treaty, which was unpopular.
-There was rioting in Panama, caused by stress of American Colonization. The Treaty gave the canal to Panama, but included a clause for the right for the military to return. They did, under Bush (41), to depose Gen Noriega.
-Incumbency Effect-Advantage lies in name recognition [and delivering benefits to district]-Redistricting
-The Party deficiencies in American make it harder for Congressional leaders to get their name out there.
-Color coding in England makes it easy to identify with a party-- but no coding in US.
-Candidate-centered electoral order: Americans vote for individuals.
-Sophomore surge desired -- but a scandal without a quick response makes the incumbent easier to defeat.
-Incumbents receive seven times more money than challenging candidates.
-Republicans usually receive more than Democrats. Corporate and professional associations give generously.
Non-partisan movements frequently occur (in 2011, AmericansElect.org)
- quid pro quo is illegal as bribery; benefits can only be given in general
Minor parties can attract new voters who join a major party 2-4 years later (Perotistas 1992, Tea Party 2010).-Different in the U.S. -- no neutral boundary commissions, but is done every decade
-Not bipartisan, which creates a more normal rectangular shape,
-gerrymandering is done to eliminate challengers.
- but highly partisan, dictated by the majority in state legislatures.
- Geographic info systems are a high priority for legislatures' technology.
- Republicans successful in 2010, winning majorities before redistricting (historic in AL)
-Is not unconstitutional, except if based on race, to achieve
- removal of black representation (Tuskegee, 1960s)
- "majority minority" districts (the NC interstate district, 2002)
Governing HR larger, more fractious, and more rule bound, time bound Very little debate is actually confrontational: serial speeches to empty chamber are normal Senate smaller, loose rules, loose calendars, 98% of business by UC agreements HR much more partisan since 1995, and Senate only moderately so formerly 50-50-50 rule in HR 1945-1995 Gingrich revolution: British style opposition and manifesto ("contract") Traditionally HR guardian of taxpayers, Senate more the policy visionary body Tax bills begin in HR, owing to Commons tradition Exceptionally large staffs, exceptional percentage of lawyers Senate also is plutocracy Bills derived from lobbyists in W. Bush admin, also from non-profits in Obama admin. Bills considered for twenty years in Congress before opportunity taken to legislate.Typical bill becomes law diagram is misleading.
Provisions of Article II, focussed on Hamilton's issues of taxation; coinage, and war power.How a bill becomes law (or rather, typically doesn't)
Elastic clause and interstate commerce clause.
Differences in folkways between HR and Senate.Changes since 1995 in party struggle, from cooperation to confrontation.
Differences in rules of debate between HR and Senate.
Time for debate and rule committee (HR) versus filibustering & UC agreements, holds (Senate)
Thousands of bills introduced but die in committees, only about 400 emerging per year on floor, and many co-sponsor the succeeding bill, especially in Senate.
Wide distribution of subcommittee chairs and staff, since LBJ in the 1950s in Senate, and 1970 in HR.
Speaker Gingrich attempted role of British PM -- successfully but only in short term.Contract (like UK manifesto) and partisan voting, majoritarian style
but Congress most of the time is pluralistic, and earmarks are a sign of interest group pluralism
American voters not interested in straight party ticket, and color coded parties, unlike European voters
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