Friday, August 31, 2012

A Closing Prayer

As we note in our chapter on civic culture, religious invocations and benedictions are frequently part of public events.

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Michael Dolan, gave the closing benediction at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, FL on August 30, 2012.  Toward the end of his prayer, he drew on the language of the civic culture:
May we know the truth of your creation, respecting the laws of nature and nature’s God and not seek to replace it with idols of our own making.
Give us the good sense not to cast aside the boundaries of righteous living you first inscribed on our hearts even before inscribing them on tablets of stone.
May you mend our every flaw, confirming our soul in self-control, our liberty in law.
We pray for all those who seek honest labor, as we thank you for the spirit of generosity to those in need with which you so richly blessed this nation.
We beseech your blessing on all who depart from here this evening and on all those in every land who seek to conduct their lives in freedom.
Most of all, Almighty God, we thank you for the great gift of our beloved country. For we are indeed one nation under God, and in God we trust. Dear God, bless America, you who live and reign forever and ever. Amen.
The phrase "the laws of nature and nature's God" is from The Declaration of Independence.

The third line is from "America the Beautiful":
America! America!
God mend thine ev'ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law.
"One nation under God" is from the Pledge of Allegiance.

"In God We Trust" is our national motto.

And "God Bless America" is, of course, a beloved patriotic song.

 

"The Likability Gap"

Gallup reports:
Favorable ratings reflect Americans' broad reactions to a candidate, encompassing a variety of factors about the candidate as a person and leader. However, a separate Gallup measure of Romney and Obama in June on specific characteristics also found Romney lagging significantly in terms of being "likable." Eight in 10 Americans at the time, 81%, said this trait applies to Obama, compared with 64% who said it applies to Romney. And when asked in the latest poll to say which of the two candidates is more likable, Americans chose Obama over Romney by 54% to 31%. That 23-point deficit, wide as it is, is actually an improvement for Romney compared with earlier in the year.
Chris Cillizza writes of a new Washington Post/ ABC News survey:
In a poll filled with close findings between Romney and Obama, one place where the race isn’t close at all is on the question of likability. Sixty-one percent of registered voters said Obama is the more “likable” and “friendly” person, while just 27 percent said that of Romney. We have long held that presidential elections are less about issues than they are about how people perceive the two candidates in terms of who better understands their hopes and anxieties. If that holds, then this likability gap is big news indeed for Obama. But there’s also the possibility that the economy is such a big issue for voters that it blots out the traditional ways we think about presidential races.
Reuters reports on a Reuters/Ipsos poll:
Other polls have shown Obama and Romney neck-and-neck and the Republican's campaign officials believe they are in good position to upset the Democrat in November given that Romney has withstood a barrage of negative attacks from Obama over the summer.

The poll found that Obama far outstrips Romney on who is more eloquent by 51 percent to 21 percent. Obama also gets higher likability numbers, with 54 percent to 26 percent finding him more likeable.

A Clint Eastwood Quotation

From Mangum Force (1973):


Views of Union Influence

Gallup finds that a bare majority of Americans approve of unions in general, but that many want them to have less influence:
The decline in union approval in recent years has been accompanied by an increase in the percentage of Americans who prefer that unions have less influence in the future. At least 40% have held this view since 2009, including 41% this year. Prior to 2009, only as many as 32% wanted to see unions be less influential.
From 1999 to 2004, Americans' most common preference was for unions to have the same amount of influence, and from 2005 to 2008, it was for unions to have more influence.
The majority of Americans predict labor unions will become weaker in the future, as was the case last year. That has always been the most common view, but had reached the majority level only one time before last year. Currently, 21% believe unions will be stronger in the future, and 22% predict no change in their strength.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Still More Ahistorical Platform Coverage

As previous posts have noted, media analyses of the GOP platform have suggested that certain planks represent abrupt shifts in position.  But in fact, many of these purported shifts are just repetitions or revisions of items that appeared in past platforms.  

At The New York Times, Steven Greenhouse writes:  "The platform — saying it would promote `greater economic liberty' — calls for enacting a nationwide `right-to-work' law. Such a law would prohibit union contracts at private-sector workplaces from requiring employees to pay any dues or other fees to a union. While the idea of a national right-to-work law is new, GOP platforms have affirmed state right-to-work laws since 1980.  And the federal statute authorizing such laws dates back to 1947.

As the article says, the platform supports legislation to bar the use of public employees' mandatory dues for political purposes.  But that position is not too far removed from what the 1992 platform said: "We will fully implement the Supreme Court's decision in the Beck case, ensuring that workers have the right to stop the use of their union dues for political or other non-collective bargaining purposes."

And repeal of the Davis-Bacon "prevailing wage" law is a golden oldie:  it was also in the 1992 platform.

Online Schools

In the second edition of our textbook, the federalism chapter discusses distance learning.  Some relevant information is available at Online Schools: Florida:
Florida’s Department of Education is one of the largest, most influential educational systems in the United States. In Florida there are almost 70 public school districts, hundreds of private schools, ten public universities, and over 40 more private and state colleges -- and that’s not counting Florida’s many community and technical colleges. The government has for many years put emphasis on offering a spectrum of resources to Floridian students, and the Florida Board of Governors oversees the expansive State University System of the region.

Florida is one of the country’s few states that have opted to join the Elementary and Secondary Education Act’s (ESEA) Flexibility clause. The clause allows a local government to disregard parts of the No Child Left Behind Act if they can prove that doing so will better serve a student’s education. The provisions in the ESEA allowed Florida to pass a bill that regulates and promotes charter online schools. With this bill, students who are homeschooled or attend schools that are poor performing can take free credited courses within online schools in Florida.
In 1997 the Florida Virtual School (FLVS) became the first web public school in the nation. Many of Florida’s online schools soon followed suit, offering free tuition and hundreds of classes ranging from basic required subjects to electives like world languages and art. Online students have many resources available to them including academic advising, school newspapers and literary magazines, student clubs, and comprehensive virtual libraries. Online educational and entertainment activities, such as a Shakespeare Festival and Earth Day festivities, are held on a regular basis.

More Ahistorical Reporting on the Platform

Time analyzes the GOP platform:
On social issues, the GOP grows ever more conservative. The platform defines marriage as between one man and one woman, assails an “activist judiciary” for decreeing otherwise at the state level and urges a crackdown on Internet pornography. Separate planks support prayer in public schools and the pubic display of the Ten Commandments as “a reflection of our shared Judeo-Christian heritage.” The party would ban all abortions, asserting that “the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed.”
Conservative, yes, but more conservative than before?  Hardly. All of the positions in this passage have been in GOP platforms for years, if not decades.

Listing "strange obsessions," the article says:  "There is an obligatory prohibitions against the use of “foreign law by U.S. courts in interpreting our Constitution and laws,” a reference to the right’s infatuation with Sharia."  The 2008 platform called for the appointment of judges who would not "inject foreign law into American jurisprudence."  The issue was not Sharia, but the actual practice of some Supreme Court justices of citing foreign law in their opinions. Far from being a "strange obsession," the issue has been the subject of lively legal debate for a number of years.

89,004 Local Governments

Our chapter on federalism notes the large number of governments in the United States. The Census Bureau reports:
The U.S. Census Bureau today released preliminary counts of local governments as the first component of the 2012 Census of Governments.
In 2012, 89,004 local governments existed in the United States, down from 89,476 in the last census of governments conducted in 2007. Local governments included 3,031 counties (down from 3,033 in 2007), 19,522 municipalities (up from 19,492 in 2007), 16,364 townships (down from 16,519 in 2007), 37,203 special districts (down from 37,381 in 2007) and 12,884 independent school districts (down from 13,051 in 2007).
...
Among the key findings in the 2012 Census of Governments preliminary counts:
  • Illinois leads the nation with 6,968 local governments -- approximately 2,000 more
  • Hawaii has 21 local governments, the fewest of any state.
  • Texas remains first in the nation with the most independent school districts at 1,079. Closely behind is California, with 1,025 independent school districts.
  • Seventeen states had more special districts compared with 2007, and 29 had fewer. Five states (including the District of Columbia) had no change.
  • Ten states had fewer townships because of mergers and consolidations. Kansas decreased the most, moving from 1,353 in 2007 to 1,268 in 2012, a decrease of 85.

The Platform: Not As Great a Shift

Much of the reporting on the GOP platform is ahistorical – even when it purports to provide historical background. Take this passage from a Washington Post article: “Influenced by the rise of tea party activists, this year’s platform, adopted Tuesday at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, has shifted to the right, particularly on fiscal issues. It calls for an audit of the Federal Reserve and a commission to study returning to the gold standard. There are odes of fidelity to the Constitution but also calls for amendments that would balance the federal budget, require a two-thirds majority in Congress to raise taxes and define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.”

These items aren’t as much of a shift as the passage suggests.
  • The 1984 platform criticized the Fed and openly suggested a look at the gold standard: “ The Federal Reserve Board's destabilizing actions must therefore stop. We need coordination between fiscal and monetary policy, timely information about Fed decisions, and an end to the uncertainties people face in obtaining money and credit. The Gold Standard may be a useful mechanism for realizing the Federal Reserve's determination to adopt monetary policies needed to sustain price stability.”
  • The 1980 platform suggested that the election of a Republican president and Congress would eliminate the need for a balanced-budget amendment. It added a caveat: “However, if necessary, the Republican Party will seek to adopt a Constitutional amendment to limit federal spending and balance the budget, except in time of national emergency as determined by a two-thirds vote of Congress The 1984 language was more direct: “We will work for the constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget passed by the Republican Senate but blocked by the Democrat-controlled House and denounced by the Democrat Platform. If Congress fails to act on this issue, a constitutional convention should be convened to address only this issue in order to bring deficit spending under control.” Every platform since then has endorsed a balanced-budget amendment.
  •  The 2004 and 2008 platforms backed “supermajority” requirements for tax increases.
  • As the article itself later acknowledges, the opposition to same-sex marriage goes back to 1992.

The article also notes that the 1992 document used the term “Democrat Party,” adding: “That abbreviated version of the other party’s name, without the `-ic’ suffix, appears for the first time in 1976, an early sign of the sniping that has come to dominate interparty rhetoric.” Wrong, the term was in the 1956 platform, and William Safire traced the usage back to Tom Dewey.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Public Prefers Professional Press


Previous posts have examined the public's attitudes toward the news media.  Jeff Sonderman writes at Poynter.org:
The public’s trust in the institution of the press may be fading, and digital platforms have opened the publishing world to anyone with a desire to speak, but it seems professional journalists themselves are not seen as obsolete.

More than 60 percent of U.S. adults say they “prefer news stories produced by professional journalists,” and more than 70 percent agree that “professional journalists play an important role in our society,” according to new survey data from the Reynolds Journalism Institute.

Respondents also disagreed with a social-media-centric model (that most news should come through trusted friends) and disagreed that it doesn’t matter who produces the news.

Romney and Republican History

The GOP is a conservative party, but yesterday it nominated a former "Massachusetts moderate" whose conservative clothes still have the tags on them. Mitt Romney is no anomaly, however. He is following a well-worn path.

Of the Republican presidential nominees of the past half-century, only two (Goldwater and Reagan) have had deep roots in the conservative movement. The rest have won the nomination by accommodating conservatives. They might not have been the movement's first choice, but they moved just enough to the right to overcome or co-opt conservative challenges.

Richard Nixon set the pattern in 1968. Although he had once voiced misgivings about "Buckleyites," he courted them in the campaign, winning William Buckley's endorsement. (Goldwater also preferred Nixon to Reagan.) In his fight for the nomination, he sought the support of conservative Southerners, most notably Strom Thurmond. At least some of his rhetoric took a rightward turn: in addition to liberal Ray Price, he hired conservative speechwriters Pat Buchanan and Bill Gavin.

After Nixon's fall, Gerald Ford seemed to shift left by naming former New York governor Nelson Rockefeller as his vice president. But that choice was so unpopular within the party that he effectively dumped Rockefeller. Bowing to conservative critiques of Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Ford also acceded to platform language critical of detente.

George H.W. Bush worked hard to shore up his right flank. He went to great lengths to woo religious conservatives, winning over such figures as Jerry Falwell. That support was crucial in containing a strong challenge from Pat Robertson. He also took up economic conservatism ("Read my lips:  no new taxes.") and used the tax issue to attack Robert Dole from the right. Dole learned his lesson, and in the 1996 race, he famously said: "I'm willing to be another Ronald Reagan, if that's what you want." The younger Bush also grasped the Reagan mantle, talking more about the Gipper than his own father. And four years ago, John McCain shifted ground on issues such as immigration.

For conservatives, of course, this history is sobering. Nixon and both Presidents Bush disappointed them in major ways. Would Romney be different?  And will the next nominee be an establishment Republican who gets some conservative support -- or a conservative who wins some establishment support?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Rich, Poor, and Polarization

The Pew Research Center finds party polarization in attitudes toward the wealthy:
Republicans and Democrats view the rich differently. A much higher share of Republicans (55%) than Democrats (33%) say, compared with the average person, rich people are more likely to be hardworking. Republicans are also more likely than Democrats to view rich people as more intelligent than average. Roughly half of Republicans (49%) say rich people are more likely to be intelligent. Only 38% of Democrats agree.
For their part, Democrats are much more likely than Republicans to view the rich as greedy. Roughly two-thirds of Democrats (65%) say the rich are more likely than average Americans to be greedy. Only 42% of Republicans agree with this assessment of the rich. Democrats also have a less positive view of the rich when it comes to honesty. While 18% of Republicans say rich people are more likely than average to be honest, only 8% of Democrats agree.
A similar pattern shows up with questions on tax policy:
Partisanship is closely linked to views about federal taxes, and the biggest gaps emerge over tax rates for the rich. A solid majority of Republicans say upper-income people pay either their fair share (44%) or too much (14%). Among Democrats, a strong majority (78%) say upper-income people pay too little in taxes; only 33% of Republicans agree. Some 13% of Democrats say upper-income people pay their fair share in taxes, while 4% say the rich are paying too much.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Conventions

Many years ago, American political conventions actually chose each party’s presidential nominee. Conventions often started with doubt about the outcome, which depended on bargaining among delegates and party leaders. But candidates now win delegates by competing in primaries and caucuses, and the identity of the nominee is clear by the end of spring.

Conventions put a formal conclusion to the nomination process. Instead of forums for decision, they are big political rallies that enable each party to gain a few hours of television coverage. Yet they remain significant. The televised speeches and the media coverage may affect public opinion. Conventions usually help candidates, but sometimes they can hurt.

This week's Republican convention will be important to Mitt Romney. Although he ran for president four years ago, and resumed his quest for the presidency soon after President Obama’s inauguration, many Americans still know little about him. The convention speeches, and especially his own acceptance speech, will introduce him to millions. If he and his party make a good impression, then he will gain several points in the polls.

Conventions, however, can go badly. Thousands of delegates will attend, and reporters will be eager to catch them making intemperate remarks or engaging in unsavory behavior. That's especially true in the age of camera phones and Twitter. This year, the latter risk is great because Tampa is notorious for its strip clubs. Convention planners will try to keep the delegates busy with wholesome activities.

Acceptance speeches usually go well, but they can fail. Jimmy Carter in 1980 and George H.W. Bush in 1992 gave weak performances that made their supporters worry about their prospects. Romney needs to avoid that fate. 

The Democratic convention takes place next week, in Charlotte, North Carolina. The stakes are not as high for President Obama as they are for his challenger. After nearly four years in office, he does not have to introduce himself: most voters have decided whether they like him.

Nevertheless, his convention will still matter. The president has a reputation as an outstanding orator, which presents a challenge to him. Expectations will be extremely high, so a moderately good acceptance speech will come across as a disappointment.

In the end, the conventions might only shift a point in the popular vote. But the election is likely to be close, so that point could be crucial.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Reflections of the NY Times Public Editor

In his last column as "public editor" of The New York Times, Arthur Brisbane reflect on the impact of social media:
Encouraged by the company to exploit social media, many Times journalists have become extraordinarily prodigious publishers on Twitter, some with thousands of posts to their credit.
Consider this sign of the froth that surrounds social media: A few weeks ago on NYTimes.com, a Times editor conducted a serious video interview with a BuzzFeed writer about the day Twitter was down for an hour or two — and the political, journalistic and (dare I extrapolate?) metaphysical implications thereof.
The emphasis on social and mobile media means that Times material appears far from the home base of NYTimes.com, not to mention the distant shores of the Old Country, print. For journalists, this presents tantalizing new opportunities to build a personal audience, while for the company it is a way to follow readers where they are going.
The result is an oddly disaggregated New York Times of hyper-engaged journalists building their own brands, and company content flung willy-nilly into the ether.
He also takes on the question of bias:
I also noted two years ago that I had taken up the public editor duties believing “there is no conspiracy” and that The Times’s output was too vast and complex to be dictated by any Wizard of Oz-like individual or cabal. I still believe that, but also see that the hive on Eighth Avenue is powerfully shaped by a culture of like minds — a phenomenon, I believe, that is more easily recognized from without than from within.
When The Times covers a national presidential campaign, I have found that the lead editors and reporters are disciplined about enforcing fairness and balance, and usually succeed in doing so. Across the paper’s many departments, though, so many share a kind of political and cultural progressivism — for lack of a better term — that this worldview virtually bleeds through the fabric of The Times.
As a result, developments like the Occupy movement and gay marriage seem almost to erupt in The Times, overloved and undermanaged, more like causes than news subjects.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Racial Polarization and the Election

At National Journal, Ronald Brownstein runs the numbers on race and the presidential vote:
For President Obama, the winning formula can be reduced to 80/40. In 2008, Obama won a combined 80 percent of the votes of all minority voters, including not only African-Americans but also Hispanics, Asians, and others. If Obama matches that performance this year, he can squeak out a national majority with support from about 40 percent of whites—so long as minorities at least match the 26 percent of the vote they cast last time.
Obama’s strategic equation defines Mitt Romney’s formula: 61/74. Romney’s camp is focused intently on capturing at least 61 percent of white voters. That would provide him a slim national majority—so long as whites constitute at least 74 percent of the vote, as they did last time, and Obama doesn’t improve on his 80 percent showing with minorities.
These calculations underscore the depth of racial polarization shadowing this election and the achingly slim margin of error facing each candidate. If Obama nudges past 80 percent among minorities (which seems very possible) or the minority vote share rises (also possible, though less probable), the president could gain reelection while winning only about 38 percent of white votes. Conversely, if the white proportion of the vote increases just a single percentage point (to 75 percent), and Romney records any gains among minorities, he could shave his winning number to a more manageable 59 percent of whites.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Continued Significance of Traditional Media

James Rainey writes at The Los Angeles Times:
Facebook and Internet portals such as Google and Yahoo increasingly provide Americans their gateway for news, but the bulk of voters who catch up on current events daily turn to traditional sources, particularly local television stations, according to a nationwide poll.
Traditional news sources on TV and in print also remain more trusted than the burgeoning alternative ecosystem of blogs, late-night comedy shows and social media outlets, the USC Annenberg/Los Angeles Times Poll on Politics and the Press found.
The survey confirms a few widely suspected divides:Democrats and the young tend to be more trusting of a variety of media, while Republicans and older news consumers are more skeptical. Despite mixed feelings, though, the voters surveyed said by more than 2 to 1 that they got useful and important information from the media.
Full Text of Poll Questions and Methodology
The study found only one source that most registered voters  checked daily:  local TV news.  Almost one in five of those 18-29 got news at least daily from Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert, but rated them lower in trustworthiness.
The results help explain an enduring phenomenon, even of this Digital Age presidential race: the candidates' routine willingness to grant interviews to regional television outlets.President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney spend good chunks of many days connecting with local TV news stations in person or by satellite.
On Thursday, for example, Romney and running mate Paul D. Ryan taped a total of six local TV segments between them — hitting key markets in the battleground states of Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio, Colorado and Nevada.

Fake Followers

As an earlier post noted, any measure of opinion that depends on "spontaneous" expressions is vulnerable to manipulation. What goes for "phone-in" polls goes for Twitter. At The Hill, Alicia Cohn reports:
Congress is followed by a lot of phonies: a new study shows a large percentage of accounts following legislators on Twitter are fake.
Jon Tilton, the general manager for digital marketing firm Advocacy Media, ran a follower check last weekend on every member of Congress using StatusPeople, a tool designed specifically to check for fake followers on Twitter. He found that an average of 38 percent of accounts following representatives on Twitter and 42 percent of those following senators are a combination of fake and inactive accounts.
The averages held true within a few percentage points when broken down by party.
Overall, Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) had the highest level of phonies following them. Polis’s followers are 82 percent fake, according to the study, a higher number than any other Democrat or Republican. Most others had a higher percentage of inactive accounts beefing up their follower numbers, but Tilton clarified that fake and inactive accounts tend to mean the same thing: there is no human being on the other side of that account. 
...
Mitt Romney’s campaign was forced to deny accusations of buying fake followers last month when his follower count spiked over one weekend. An independent firm later found the percentage of Romney’s followers who are fake wasn’t any higher than average, and it turns out, according to StatusPeople, that Obama’s account has more fake followers than Romney’s does.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Rick Warren Cancels Forum

The first edition of our textbook includes a photograph of Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren at an event with Senators John McCain and Barack Obama.  The second edition won't have an equivalent photo for 2012, as The Orange County Register explains:
Rick Warren, Saddleback Church's pastor, announced Wednesday that a civil forum planned with President Barack Obama and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney at the church has been canceled because of what Warren saw as uncivil discourse between the two campaigns.

The forum, planned for this week, would have been two hours long, with each candidate speaking with Warren for 50 minutes. The event would have fallen during the same week when four years ago Warren hosted the first such presidential campaign forum, between then-Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain. Warren said it was the 2008 forum's success among critics and pundits that led him to consider the idea again this year.
...
In an interview with the Register, Warren gave a few more details on his recent decision.

Q. You said you canceled the presidential civil forum because of the negativity and a larger issue. What is that?

A. It is the crumbling of our constitution's first guaranteed freedom: the freedom of religion. This issue is more significant and has far greater implications for America's future. People have forgotten that America was founded by people who came here to escape religious persecution. Freedom of religion is the first freedom mentioned in the Bill of Rights - before freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to assemble, and every other freedom.

And yet today, at the city, the state, and the federal levels, government bureaucrats are daily trying to limit that freedom, impose restrictions, and stifle expressions of faith on campuses, in hospitals, and in businesses. There are widespread attempts to redefine the First Amendment to simply mean "You are free to believe anything at your place of worship but you are not free to practice your conscience elsewhere."

The constitution doesn't just guarantee your freedom to worship; it guarantees you freedom from government intervention in you daily living out what you believe. That's why we've chosen to host a civil forum on religious freedom in September instead of the presidential forum. It's a fight for the constitution, not a personality.

Akin Falls Behind

What a difference one TV interview can make. Embattled Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill has now jumped to a 10-point lead over her Republican challenger, Congressman Todd Akin, in Missouri’s U.S. Senate race. Most Missouri Republicans want Akin to quit the race while most Missouri Democrats want him to stay.
The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in the Show Me State finds McCaskill earning 48% support to Akin’s 38%. Nine percent (9%) like some other candidate in the race, and five percent (5%) are undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)
This finding is particularly significant because Rasmussen tends to show greater GOP support than other polls. So if the election were held today, McCaskill would probably beat Akin by more than 10 points.

A Forecast of Romney Victory

One respected forecasting model predicts that President Obama will win a very narrow majority in the popular vote.  Another, however, predicts a Romney win. A release from the University of Colorado:
A University of Colorado analysis of state-by-state factors leading to the Electoral College selection of every U.S. president since 1980 forecasts that the 2012 winner will be Mitt Romney.

The key is the economy, say political science professors Kenneth Bickers of CU-Boulder and Michael Berry of CU Denver. Their prediction model stresses economic data from the 50 states and the District of Columbia, including both state and national unemployment figures as well as changes in real per capita income, among other factors.

“Based on our forecasting model, it becomes clear that the president is in electoral trouble,” said Bickers, also director of the CU in DC Internship Program.

According to their analysis, President Barack Obama will win 218 votes in the Electoral College, short of the 270 he needs. And though they chiefly focus on the Electoral College, the political scientists predict Romney will win 52.9 percent of the popular vote to Obama’s 47.1 percent, when considering only the two major political parties.

“For the last eight presidential elections, this model has correctly predicted the winner,” said Berry. “The economy has seen some improvement since President Obama took office. What remains to be seen is whether voters will consider the economy in relative or absolute terms. If it’s the former, the president may receive credit for the economy’s trajectory and win a second term. In the latter case, Romney should pick up a number of states Obama won in 2008.”

Their model correctly predicted all elections since 1980, including two years when independent candidates ran strongly, 1980 and 1992. It also correctly predicted the outcome in 2000, when Al Gore received the most popular vote but George W. Bush won the election.

The study will be published this month in PS: Political Science & Politics, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Political Science Association. It will be among about a dozen election prediction models, but one of only two to focus on the Electoral College.

The California Teachers Association

As previous posts have noted, private-sector unions have fallen on hard times.  But notwithstanding a setback in Wisconsin, public-sector unions remain powerful  And as the Los Angeles Times reports, the California Teachers Association provides a vivid example:
The union views itself as "the co-equal fourth branch of government," said Oakland Democrat Don Perata, a former teacher who crossed swords with the group when he was state Senate leader.
Backed by an army of 325,000 teachers and a war chest as sizable as those of the major political parties, CTA can make or break all sorts of deals. It holds sway over Democrats, labor's traditional ally, and Republicans alike.
Jim Brulte, a former leader of the state Senate's GOP caucus, recalled once attending a CTA reception with a Republican colleague who told the union's leaders that he had come to "check with the owners."
CTA is one of the biggest political spenders in California. It outpaced all other special interests, including corporate players such as telecommunications giant AT&T and the Chevron oil company, from 2000 through 2009, according to a state study. In that decade, the labor group shelled out more than $211 million in political contributions and lobbying expenses — roughly twice that of the next largest spender, the Service Employees International Union.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Patton Parody

Several times in the past year, videos have caused political problems for federal executivesThe Federal Times reports:
The Veterans Affairs Department allegedly spent $52,000 to produce an 18-minute video parodying the movie “Patton” as part of two training conferences now being investigated for wasteful spending.
House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., sent VA Secretary Eric Shinseki a letter Aug. 13 asking for the parody video, and for contracts and documents related to the planning and execution of the July and August 2011 human resources training conferences. Issa gave VA until Aug. 27 to provide the video and documents.
In his letter, Issa said the video used a paid actor to satirize the iconic opening scene of “Patton,” in which World War II Gen. George Patton delivered a rousing speech to his troops in front of a massive American flag.
“Although the VA has videographers and editors on staff, the conference planners engaged a contractor to produce the video,” Issa wrote.
Issa also said VA spent $84,000 on promotional items such as pens, highlighters, hand sanitizers and USB flash drives for the conference.


Two Thousand US Deaths in Afghanistan

The New York Times reports:
Nearly nine years passed before American forces reached their first 1,000 dead in the war. The second 1,000 came just 27 months later, a testament to the intensity of fighting prompted by President Obama’s decision to send 33,000 additional troops to Afghanistan in 2010, a policy known as the surge.
In more ways than his family might have imagined, Lance Corporal Buckley, who had just turned 21 when he died, typified the troops in that second wave of 1,000. According to the Times analysis, three out of four were white, 9 out of 10 were enlisted service members, and one out of two died in either Kandahar Province or Helmand Province in Taliban-dominated southern Afghanistan. Their average age was 26.
The dead were also disproportionately Marines like Lance Corporal Buckley. Though the Army over all has suffered more dead in the war, the Marine Corps, with fewer troops, has had a higher casualty rate: At the height of fighting in late 2010, 2 out of every 1,000 Marines in Afghanistan were dying, twice the rate of the Army. Marine units accounted for three of the five units hardest hit during the surge.
AP reports:
Public opinion remains largely negative toward the war, with 66 percent opposed to it and just 27 percent in favor in a May AP-GfK poll. More recently, a Quinnipiac University poll found that 60 percent of registered voters felt the U.S. should no longer be involved in Afghanistan. Just 31 percent said the U.S. is doing the right thing by fighting there now.
Not since the Korean War of the early 1950s — a much shorter but more intense fight — has an armed conflict involving America's sons and daughters captured so little public attention.
"We're bored with it," said Matthew Farwell, who served in the U.S. Army for five years including 16 months in eastern Afghanistan, where he sometimes received letters from grade school students addressed to the brave Marines in Iraq — the wrong war.
A poll in late May asked Americans to name the most important issue facing the country.  Just three percent chose Afghanistan. No wonder: a study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism found that Afghanistan has seldom gotten heavy news coverage in recent years:

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Education Data


Two major developments in education policy have been the growing role of the federal government and the changing demographic makeup of American students.  There are some new data on both.

Gallup reports on not-so-great public reviews of No Child Left Behind:
More Americans think the No Child Left Behind Act, which has governed federal education grants to public schools for a decade, has made education worse rather than better, by 29% to 16%. Thirty-eight percent say NCLB hasn't made much of a difference, while 17% are not familiar enough with the law to rate it.
The Pew Research Center reports on the growing number of Hispanics at all levels of schooling:
For the first time, the number of 18- to 24-year-old Hispanics enrolled in college exceeded 2 million and reached a record 16.5% share of all college enrollments. 2 Hispanics are the largest minority group on the nation’s college campuses, a milestone first achieved last year (Fry, 2011). But as their growth among all college-age students continues to outpace other groups, Hispanics are now, for the first time, the largest minority group among the nation’s four-year college and university students. And for the first time, Hispanics made up one-quarter (25.2%) of 18- to 24-year-old students enrolled in two-year colleges. 
In the nation’s public schools, Hispanics also reached new milestones. For the first time, one-in-four (24.7%) public elementary school students were Hispanic, following similar milestones reached recently by Hispanics among public kindergarten students (in 2007) and public nursery school students (in 2006). Among all pre-K through 12th grade public school students, a record 23.9% were Hispanic in 2011.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Patterns of Giving

The Chronicle of Philanthropy has a new study of charitable giving in each state, cite, and zip code.  Among the findings:
  • The rich aren’t the most generous. Middle-class Amer­i­cans give a far bigger share of their discretionary income to charities than the rich. Households that earn $50,000 to $75,000 give an average of 7.6 percent of their discretionary income to charity, compared with an average of 4.2 percent for people who make $100,000 or more. In the Washington metropolitan area, for example, low- and middle-income communities like Suitland, Md., and Capitol Heights, Md., donate a much bigger share of discretionary income than do wealthier communities like Bethesda, Md., and McLean, Va....
  • Red states are more generous than blue states. The eight states where residents gave the highest share of income to charity went for John McCain in 2008. The seven-lowest ranking states supported Barack Obama. 
  • Tax incentives matter. State policies that promote giving can make a significant difference. At least 13 states now offer special tax benefits to charity donors. In Arizona, charities are reaping more than $100-million annually from a series of tax credits adopted in recent years.
Religion has a big influence on giving patterns. Regions of the country that are deeply religious are more generous than those that are not. Two of the top nine states—Utah and Idaho—have high numbers of Mormon residents, who have a tradition of tithing at least 10 percent of their income to the church. The remaining states in the top nine are all in the Bible Belt.

The Digital Conventions


The second edition of our book will have a boxed feature on the impact of social media and communications technology. AP reports how the national party organizations are adapting their conventions:
Democrats and Republicans are using social media to turn their national conventions away from the smoke-filled rooms of yore and into meetings where anyone who wants to get involved is just a click away, no matter where they are.
Both parties' ambitious plans reflect the maturation of social media sites that played a much smaller role in the conventions four years ago. The Republicans call theirs a "convention without walls," while the Democrats say their gathering will be "the most open and accessible in history."
Democrats will not just show prime-time speeches live on the Internet, but will also stream caucus meetings and the council discussions of the party's platform and ideals over the Web. Republicans have hired a full-time blogger and a full-time digital communications manager to do nothing but engage people online.
The conventions' Facebook and Twitter sites are already stoking interest in the events, with photos of the Republican stage under construction in Tampa or profiles of Democratic volunteers and delegates. Users can interact with a mouse click, such as one who urged friends to help the GOP convention Twitter feed muster more followers than its counterpart. Both had more than 10,000 followers Friday.
Social media was still in its infancy four years ago. The number of items posted on Twitter on Election Day 2008 is equal to about six minutes worth of tweets today, the social media company recently wrote on its blog.
Keach Hagey writes at The Wall Street Journal:
Political conventions, long the ultimate made-for-TV presentation, this year are coming of age as digital-media events—highlighting the decline of network television coverage of the gatherings.
When Republicans convene next week in Tampa, Fla., and Democrats the week after in Charlotte, N.C., major broadcast networks will use the Internet to provide the kind of extensive coverage they long ago abandoned on their airwaves. 
NBC, in fact, is likely to forgo prime-time TV coverage entirely of the Democratic convention the night of Wednesday, Sept. 5, when it is contractually bound to air the kickoff game of the NFL season between the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys.

In response, organizers of the Democratic convention moved Vice President Joe Biden's speech from its traditional Wednesday night slot to Thursday. NBC's website and its sibling cable channel MSNBC plan to cover Wednesday's events live, including a speech by former President Bill Clinton.

While ABC, NBC and CBS streamed the conventions on their websites in 2008, that was before the iPad and other tablets, the explosive growth of smartphones and the rise of online video as a truly competitive medium to television.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Parties and Polarization

At The Washington Post, Dan Balz and Jon Cohen report on a new poll that the paper sponsored with the Kaiser Family Foundation:
Partisan polarization once was considered an affliction only of elected officials and political elites. Now it has gone mainstream. Citizens’ ties to their political parties are stronger than ever, and passions on issues are intensely felt.

Fourteen years ago, The Post, along with the Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University, asked people to assess the strength of their allegiance to the parties. At that time, 41 percent of Republicans and 45 percent of Democrats said they considered themselves “strong” partisans. In the new Post-Kaiser survey, those numbers have shot up to 65 and 62 percent, respectively.

Over this time period, the gap between Democrats and Republicans has widened, particularly when it comes to attitudes about the federal government. A clear majority of Republicans now score highly on a series of questions about limited government. That was not the case in 1998. Also unlike in 1998, a majority of Democrats in the new survey cluster on the other end of the scale.

One set of answers is particularly revealing: The number of Republicans who feel strongly that the government controls too much of daily life jumped 24 percentage points since the 1998 survey, to 63 percent. The number of Democrats strongly disagreeing with the assertion doubled.

Not the Nastiest Campaign

At Buzzfeed, Blake Zeff has some very sensible things to say about the oft-repeated claim that 2012 is the most negative campaign ever.
The truth? Not only is this not the most negative campaign ever — it’s not the most negative campaign of your lifetime, unless you happen to be three years old.
Back in 2008, when I was an Obama spokesman in the general election, and worked in the Clinton war room during the primary, we were dogged by the same cries. The Obama and McCain camps were chastised by the late David Broder for our “personal bitterness and negativism.” Cindy McCain told us we were waging the “dirtiest campaign in American history.” And John McCain was running such a “fiercely negative” campaign, we were told, that his fellow Republicans were allegedly very worried about it.
The primary was no different. People forget now, but back then the Clinton campaign was accused of mud-slinging and dividing the party so often that we started a short-lived web site called AttackTimeline.com to chronicle the incoming negative charges we constantly received from our opponents. The purpose: to prove that we, too, were victims of all this negativity, so don’t put the blame squarely on us. And this was a primary.
As noted before, the negativity of 2012 is minor compared with the Adams-Jefferson race of 1800.  Here are mock attack ads based on actual statements from the campaign:

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Politics of Beer

The Washington Post reports:
Across Iowa over the past three days, Obama talked about wind power and drought relief and middle-class taxes. But what he really seemed excited about was beer. He bought a round of beers at the fair. He told coffee shop patrons about one of the latest features at the White House: a home brewery. He spoke longingly of the beer he planned to quaff on the bus at the end of the day.
The crowds drank it up. They cheered at every mention, chanting: “Four more beers!”
Why is the president playing up beer?  Some key states (e.g., Wisconsin) have an economic stake in breweries.  The president may also be trying to identify with working-class white voters (sometimes called "beer track" voters) in a way that the teetoaling Romney cannot.

In any case, a lot of Americans consume the stuff.  Gallup reports:
Americans' drinking habits held steady in the past year, with 66% saying they consume alcohol and drinkers consuming just over four alcoholic drinks per week, on average. Beer continues to be Americans' preferred drink, although wine remains a close second, with liquor favored by 22%.
...
The slight majority of male drinkers, 55%, say they most often drink beer, followed by liquor and wine at 21% and 20%, respectively. Female drinkers have an equally strong preference for wine, with 52% saying they most often drink wine and just over 20% favoring either liquor or beer.
Beer is the beverage of choice among both 18- to 34-year-olds and those aged 35 to 54, while adults aged 55 and older lean more toward wine.

Friday, August 17, 2012

State Legislatures Matter

Our chapter on federalism discusses the importance of state legislatures.  At the Washington Post, Chris Cillizza addresses this point, likening them to baseball's minor leagues:
But, like the minor leagues — where potential stars hone their craft — the state legislatures matter more than most people realize. Not only are they an incubator for young political talent but they also produce tons of legislation that draws national attention.
A few examples:
* The Arizona legislature’s controversial immigration bill, the most stringent in the country.
* The Virginia legislature’s bill regarding mandatory ultrasounds — transvaginal and otherwise.
* The photo identification law in Pennsylvania that has become a touchpoint in the broader voter ID fight nationally.
* The North Carolina House and Senate agreed to put Amendment One, affirming that marriage is between a man and a woman, on the ballot earlier this year.
There are lots (and lots) of other. But they all point to the same thing: State legislatures matter — big time. State Legislatures: Party Split

Back to School

As schools open for the fall, the Census Bureau offers some relevant data:
  • 79 million  The number of children and adults enrolled in school throughout the country in October 2010 & from nursery school to college. They comprised 27 percent of the entire population age 3 and older. Source: U.S. Census Bureau, School Enrollment - Social and Economic Characteristics of Students: October 2010, Table 1 <http://www.census.gov/hhes/school/data/cps/2010/tables.html>
  • 24% Percentage of elementary through high school students who had at least one foreign-born parent in October 2010. Source: U.S. Census Bureau, School Enrollment - Social and Economic Characteristics of Students: October 2010, Table 1 <http://www.census.gov/hhes/school/data/cps/2010/tables.html>
  • 11.8 million Number of school-age children (5 to 17) who spoke a language other than English at home in 2010; 8.5 million of these children spoke Spanish at home. Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2010 American Community Survey <http://factfinder2.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/ACS/10_1YR/B16004>
  • 16% Percentage of all college students 35 and older in October 2010. They made up 34 percent of those attending school part time. Source: U.S. Census Bureau, School Enrollment - Social and Economic Characteristics of Students: October 2010, Table <http://www.census.gov/hhes/school/data/cps/2010/tables.html>
  • 41% Percentage of 18- to 24-year-olds enrolled in college in 2010. Source: U.S. Census Bureau, School Enrollment - Social and Economic Characteristics of Students: October 2010, Table 1 <http://www.census.gov/hhes/school/data/cps/2010/tables.html>
  • 56% Percent of college students who were women in 2010 (includes both undergraduate and graduate students). Source: U.S. Census Bureau, School Enrollment - Social and Economic Characteristics of Students: October 2010, Table 1 <http://www.census.gov/hhes/school/data/cps/2010/tables.html>
  • $74,000 Median earnings of full-time, year-round workers with an advanced degree in 2009. Workers whose highest degree was a bachelor's had median earnings of $56,000. Median earnings for full-time, year-round workers with a high school diploma was $33,000, while workers with less than high school diploma had $25,000 median earnings. Source: Educational Attainment in the United States: 2009 <http://www.census.gov/prod/2012pubs/p20-566.pdf>

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Media Believablity

Yesterday's post quoted Peggy Noonan on public cynicism: "Someday we'll be told something true that we need to know and we won't believe that, either."

Today, the Pew Research Center reports:
For the second time in a decade, the believability ratings for major news organizations have suffered broad-based declines. In the new survey, positive believability ratings have fallen significantly for nine of 13 news organizations tested. This follows a similar downturn in positive believability ratings that occurred between 2002 and 2004.
The falloff in credibility affects news organizations in most sectors: national newspapers, such as the New York Times and USA Today, all three cable news outlets, as well as the broadcast TV networks and NPR.
Across all 13 news organizations included in the survey, the average positive believability rating (3 or 4 on a 4-point scale) is 56%. In 2010, the average positive rating was 62%. A decade ago, the average rating for the news organizations tested was 71%. Since 2002, every news outlet’s believability rating has suffered a double-digit drop, except for local daily newspapers and local TV news. The New York Times was not included in this survey until 2004, but its believability rating has fallen by 13 points since then.

California Blues

Our chapter on federalism discusses differences among the states.  Lately those differences have not worked to California's advantage, as The Wall Street Journal reports:
California is "an economy of haves and have-nots," says Sung Won Sohn, an economics professor at California State University, Channel Islands. Moving from robust coastal areas to languishing inland regions is "like falling off an economic cliff."
It doesn't help that California also has high costs. The state ranks poorly in many business-climate surveys because of its tax and regulatory policies. Real-estate prices are among the highest in the nation. And a study released in January by the Tax Foundation found that California's business-tax climate was the third worst in the country, ahead of only New Jersey and New York.
"California remains an expensive state to do business," says Heather Siegel, manager of the Kosmont-Rose Institute Cost of Doing Business Survey from Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, Calif. The most recent survey ranked 421 cities; 16 of the 50 most expensive were in California, including San Francisco and Los Angeles.
A decade ago, one-quarter of the jobs in Santa Clara County—the heart of Silicon Valley—were at manufacturing firms. But nearly one-third of those jobs have vanished, as the valley's focus shifted toward software and the Internet. As recently as 1998, 5% of the world's semiconductor factories were in California; today, fewer than 1% are. 
Previous posts have discussed production tax creditsThe Los Angeles Times reports on the impact on California:
The five broadcast television networks will be rolling out 23 new one-hour dramas for the upcoming season. That would normally be good business for Hollywood's hometown industry — with bookings for soundstages and plenty of work for the costumers, camera operators and caterers needed to put a show on the air.
But not this year. Just two of the 23 new fall and midseason shows will be shot in Los Angeles County, as cost-conscious producers seek tax-friendly production havens in New York, North Carolina, Georgia and other states.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Cost of Cynicism


From Peggy Noonan:
Everyone knows what the word spin means; people use it in normal conversation. Everyone knows what going negative is; they talk about it on Real Housewives. Political technicians always think they're magicians whose genius few apprehend, but Americans now always know where the magician hid the rabbit. And we shouldn't be so proud of our skepticism, which has become our cynicism. Someday we'll be told something true that we need to know and we won't believe that, either.

Registered Independents

A new report from Third Way examines voter registration data, showing an increase in the the number of voters not formally affiliated with either party.
The number of registered Independents has increased since 2008 in many of the battleground states that will decide the 2012 election. Among 12 likely battleground states, 8 have partisan voter registration—Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. In 7 of these 8 battleground states (all but Iowa), Independent registration gained ground relative to both parties in terms of voter registration between 2008 and 2011.
In each battleground state, Democratic registration fared worse relative to both Republican and Independent registration between 2008 and 2011. In all eight states, Republican registration gained relative to Democratic registration between 2008 and 2011.
The importance of Independents has grown over time as voters are increasingly leaving the traditional two-party system. Based on the combination of this general trend and the rise in both registration and self-identification of Independents since 2008, the most likely scenario for 2012 is that Independents will make up a bigger portion of the electorate next year than in any election since 1976, based on national exit polls.


The Digital Campaign

Previous posts have examined the role of technology in the presidential raceThe Pew Research Center's Project on Excellence in Journalism reports:
On the eve of the conventions, Barack Obama holds a distinct advantage over Mitt Romney in the way his campaign is using digital technology to communicate directly with voters. The Obama campaign is posting almost four times as much content and is active on nearly twice as many platforms, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism.
The report, which analyzed the content and volume of candidate communications on their websites and social media channels from June 4-17, 2012, finds that the digital gap between the campaigns was the greatest on Twitter. The Romney campaign averaged 1 tweet per day while the Obama campaign averaged 29 tweets, 17 per day on @BarackObama (the Twitter account associated with his presidency) and 12 on @Obama2012 (the account associated with his campaign). Obama also had about twice as many blog posts on his campaign website than did Romney and more than twice as many YouTube videos.
The study also found that while both campaigns' digital content primarily focused on their own candidate, roughly a third of the posts from the Romney campaign were about Obama-largely attacking him for a policy stance or action. About half as many of the Obama campaign's posts, 14%, focused on his challenger during the period studied.
"As the conventions drew closer, Romney's campaign took steps to close the technology gap, and may well take more with the addition of Paul Ryan to the ticket," said PEJ Deputy Director Amy Mitchell. "But there is a long way to go before the Romney team matches the level of activity of the Obama campaign."
The report notes a gap:
Neither campaign made much use of the social aspect of social media. Rarely did either candidate reply to, comment on, or "retweet" something from a citizen-or anyone else outside the campaign. On Twitter, 3% of the 404 Obama campaign tweets studied during the June period were retweets of citizen posts. Romney's campaign produced just a single retweet during these two weeks-repeating something from his son Josh.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Congressional Archives

At The Huffington Post, Nate Willis writes:
Some 2,700 miles away from Washington, D.C., political science professor Sean Kelly and his students aim to shine a more penetrating light on how Congress and congressional representatives truly work.
Under Kelly's direction this fall, students at California State University-Channel Islands in Camarillo will dig into rarely touched archives of individual lawmakers -- their personal notes and staff memos, as well as floor statements and votes, that together reveal the cold, hard reality of congressional decision-making.
"Woodrow Wilson, way before he became president, was a political scientist, and he said, essentially, that Congress on the floor is Congress on display, but Congress at work is Congress in committee," said Kelly. "I would go one further and sort of say that Congress at work is not only in committee but what they are doing in their offices."
...

Kelly, who recently co-authored the book "Doing Archival Research in Political Science," described this kind of research as comparatively rare in political science. "It's a great experiment. It's the kind of thing that does happen sometimes more often in history [studies], but in political science, I haven't heard of anybody doing it," he said.
Political scientists often look to more easily accessible online databases, such as EBSCO and JSTOR, available through college libraries. They provide studies on international relations, economics and domestic policy.
But the papers of individual lawmakers are near impossible to locate online, Kelly said, adding, "The only collection that is wholly online, that I know of, is the papers of the late Sen. John Heinz (R-Pa.)."

Monday, August 13, 2012

Judicial Deliberative Privilege

On August 9, The Boston Globe reported:
The state’s highest court said today that judges cannot be forced to disclose to ethics investigators what they were thinking when they made their rulings, a decision that creates a “judicial deliberative privilege’’ in Massachusetts for the first time.
Writing for all seven members of the Supreme Judicial Court, Justice Robert Cordy said judges must not fear that the issues, laws, and personal views that underlie their rulings will be displayed to the public.
In this case we conclude that although holding judges accountable for acts of bias in contravention of the Code of Judicial Conduct is essential, it must be accomplished without violating the protection afforded the deliberative processes of judges fundamental to ensuring that they may act without fear or favor in exercising their constitutional responsibility to be both impartial and independent. In so concluding, we formally recognize a judicial deliberative privilege that guards against intrusions into such processes--a protection we have implicitly understood as necessary to the finality, integrity, and quality of judicial decisions. Such a privilege is deeply rooted in our common-law and constitutional jurisprudence and in the precedents of the United States Supreme Court and the courts of our sister States.
The Constitutional Law Prof Blog adds:
The court rooted the privilege in part on two state constitutional provisions, both requiring, in different ways, an independent and impartial judiciary. The first, Article 29 of theMassachusetts Declaration of Rights, reads:
It is essential to the preservation of the rights of every individual, his life, liberty, property, and character, that there be an impartial interpretation of the laws, and administration of justice. It is the right of every citizen to be tried by judges as free, impartial and independent as the lot of humanity will admit. It is, therefore, not only the best policy, but for the security of the right of the people, and of every citizen, that the judges of the supreme judicial court should hold their offices as long as they behave themselves well; and that they should have honorable salaries ascertained and established by standing laws.
The second, Article 30 of the Declaration of Rights, referenced in a footnote in the opinion, reads:
In the government of this commonwealth, the legislative department shall never exercise the executive and judicial powers, or either of them; the executive shall never exercise the legislative and judicial powers, or either of them; the judicial shall never exercise the legislative and executive powers, or either of them; to the end it may be a government of laws and not of men.
(Article 30 is part of Madison's survey of state separation-of-powers provisions in Federalist 47. Madison writes that Article 30 "corresponds precisely with the [strict separation of powers] doctrine of Montesquieu," but also that "[i]n the very Constitution to which it is prefixed, a partial mixture of powers has been admitted.")
The court said in the footnote that "[t]he circumstances of this case raise these very [separation-of-powers] concerns," because the complaint against the judge was initiated by an executive branch official (even though the Commission itself is formally a judicial body).

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Social Media and the Ryan Choice

NBC reported the Ryan selection Friday night.   Then social media led the way. Laura Petrecca writes at USA Today:
"Mitt's VP app" updated around 7 a.m. ET with word that Ryan had been selected. At 7:43 a.m., Romney tweeted that Ryan was his choice. Less than an hour later, Ryan sent out his first tweet from a new "PaulRyanVP" Twitter profile saying that he was "honored" to join Romney's team. A fresh Facebook page, under the "Paul Ryan VP" moniker, also appeared early Saturday.
A little after 9 a.m., the duo shared their news via a televised event in Norfolk, Va.
Mashable reports:
Ryan’s been a Twitter user since early 2009, when he first tweeted the following under the handle@RepPaulRyan: “Entering the brave new world of Twitter. What the heck is this anyway?”
...
On Saturday, a new Twitter account for Ryan began sending messages — @PaulRyanVP. The account was apparently created on Aug. 2 and quickly verified by Twitter.
...
Ryan’s former Facebook page is clearly intended to bolster his image as a deficit hawk: a graph based on his “Path to Prosperity” plan serves as his cover photo, showing the claimed debt reduction the United States would see under the plan.
... 
His new Facebook page, rolled out Saturday morning, features Romney/Ryan campaign branding and a cover photo showing the two candidates:

Saturday, August 11, 2012

History and the Ryan Choice

Mitt Romney has chosen Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)  as his running mate.  This choice is historically significant in at least three respects.

1.  Romney is Mormon and Ryan is Catholic, so Romney-Ryan will be the first ticket in history without a Protestant.  Indeed, despite the longtime dominance of WASPs in American society, no white Protestant heads any of the branches of American government.  President Obama is African American.  Vice President Biden and Speaker John Boehner are Catholic.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is Mormon.  No Protestant currently sits on the Supreme Court.  And if one counts the Federal Reserve as a "fourth branch" of sorts, the same holds true:  Fed Chair Ben Bernanke is Jewish.

2.  For the first time since 1932, neither ticket will include a military veteran -- another sign of the growing gap between the military and the rest of society. (Only 21 percent of members of Congress are veterans.)

3.  Ryan was born on January 29, 1970, so he is the first nominee of either party born after the 1960s.  If we define the "baby boom" as consisting of those born between 1946 and 1964 (definitions vary), then he is the first post-boomer nominee.  (Sarah Palin, born 1964, just barely qualifies as a boomer.)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Youth and the 2012 Election


Though we tend to think that young people participate in politics primarily as volunteers, they can donate money, too.  Dan Glaun writes at Open Secrets:
After effectively rallying the youth vote in 2008, President Barack Obama has raised just one-third as much money from students so far for his re-election bid compared to the same point four years ago, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.
The Obama campaign had brought in nearly $2.4 million in itemized contributions from individuals who classify themselves as students from the beginning of the 2008 election cycle through the end of June. However, students account for less than $850,000 of the president's total fundraising haul during the same period in 2012.
Mitt Romney, on the other hand, has been slightly more successful in raising funds from students than his GOP presidential nominee predecessor, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). As of June 30, 2008, the McCain campaign had collected about $518,000 from students, while Team Romney has taken in nearly $603,000 this time around.

Overall, Obama's camp has seen the advantage over their main Republican challenger in itemized student contributions shrink from a $1.87 million gap to just $246,000 in four years.
Students are not nearly as financially active with the super PACs supporting the presidential candidates. The pro-Romney Restore Our Future has received one $2,500 check from student Nathaniel Walton of Marblehead, MA, but the Obama-backing Priorities USA has not raised a cent from any students this election cycle.
The Pew Research Center reports on the results of a 10-item knowledge poll:
In general, older voters are better informed about the election than are voters under the age of 35. This is consistent with the findings of previous knowledge surveys, but the gap between young and old voters is much more modest than the one seen across educational levels. Young voters are about as likely as older voters to know that Mitt Romney is pro-life and that he opposes gay marriage; 80% can correctly identify Joe Biden as the current vice president. Young voters trail older voters when it comes to questions such as the state Obama represented in the Senate and which candidate supports taxing income over $250,000. Nonetheless, half or more of voters under age 35 are able to answer eight of the 12 questions correctly.
The actual knowledge gap is probably greater than these numbers suggest, because they only involve voters.  Young people are much less likely to vote than older people.  If Pew were to compare all younger and older people -- nonvoters included -- it would probably find a wider gap on most itmes.