The dust is beginning to settle after the 16 government shutdown in the US and the brinkmanship before moderate Republicans finally struck a deal with the Democrats to raise the debt ceiling.
On the face of it, a 10 percentage point fall for the GOP in recent opinion polls suggests a pretty negative impact on the GOP.
However, as this useful FT video explains, it seems that there are some in the GOP who relished the publicity opportunities from the shutdown and who are now positioning themselves ahead of the 2016 Presidential campaign. Most prominent among these is Texas Republican senator Ted Cruz who has seen his approval and donations hitting new highs.read more...»
The GOV4A Exam is not far away not, happily here are overviews of the entire specification in Tutor2u Style! All powerpoints are available for download via Slideshare!
Is the Republican Party a party of "grumpy old men"? Why does the GOP no longer seem to connect with younger Americans - is it because they don't understand and connect with voter views on social issues?
The Republican Party is working through a series of internal reviews which seek to identify the issues and problems facing the GOP.
This brief 4 minute studio discussion by the Wall Street Journal experts examines the key issues:read more...»
You've had results day from January. You should by now know how many points you are going to need to get the grades you want to move on from College or Sixth Form. However this last push doesn't need to be you on your own! I've complied a list of websites and sources you may want to take a look at, as well as some tricks that you can do to not only help you live the subject but also help you achieve the grades you need and deserve. This is a golden opportunity in which you can evaluate what went wrong last time or what you can do better and do it!read more...»
With the first politics lessons of the academic year just days away, how nice of the Republicans to hold their convention just before and thus give us plenty of introductory ammunition. Even better, the most talked about speech is not one by some boring presidential or vice-presidential nominee, but none other than movie icon Clint Eastwood talking to a chair. Eastwood’s extraordinary speech has generated a great deal of twitter and internet chatter – largely negative – and even inspired an “Eastwooding” meme whereby twitter users post pictures of themselves interviewing – yes, empty chairs. More relevantly, the Romney and Ryan speeches have now been comprehensively analysed by supporters and critics alike.read more...»
With the GOP contest dangerously close to descending into what can only be desribed as a slanging match - e.g. see this story from the CNN website if you have not being watching the goings on closely - I have taken the opportunity to fully update my arguments for and against the primaries process.
It is important to note that these points are predicated on considerations of both their existence compared to a process of party elder selection, and ways in which the system of primaries per se could be subject to improvement.
With that caveat emptor aside, here is my updated version…read more...»
I’ve come across a great article for students and teachers on the spiralling cost of US elections.
It covers most of the territory that I teach on the topic when outlining the case to suggest that while the race for the presidency is expensive, we have to place this in context: the USA is large country, the contest lasts many months, as a proportion of the GDP of the world’s richest country the cost is minimal, Americans spend as much in an annual cycle on any number of things (or far more in some case, e.g. it is estimated that the US population spends over $100b every year on fast food!), the greenback doesn’t always rule - i.e. the candidate who spends the most doesn’t always win.
Politics students may not always be avid readers of the Economist so a heads up on a feature in this week’s edition that may be of interest:
“WILL the next presidential election see Barack Obama return triumphantly to the White House for a second term as president of the world’s biggest economy? Or will a sluggish economic recovery, which has left over 14m Americans out of work, doom him to defeat in November 2012?
Models of the way economic factors affect presidential elections already exist. The best known was developed in the late 1970s by Ray Fair, an economist at Yale, who used macroeconomic indicators (such as inflation and the growth rate of income per person) to predict the vote share of the two main parties in subsequent elections. Mr Fair most recently updated his estimates at the end of July, when his model predicted a victory for Mr Obama in 2012 with 53.4% of the vote. In releasing his predictions, however, he noted that “a strong rebound results in a fairly solid Obama victory…and a double-dip recession…results in a fairly solid Republican victory.” Democratic hearts will have skipped a beat or two on hearing Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, say on October 4th that the recovery was “close to faltering”.
But is it right to focus exclusively on macroeconomic indicators?”
Interested? Read more here.
With all that’s going on at the minute, I hope these clips brings some light relief…read more...»
This is not intended to be an exhaustive journey through Barack Obama’s career, but instead to end the series on Politics via YouTube by bringing blog readers access to a step by step tour of some key points in the story of an individual with the kind of charisma and oratorical skill that comes around perhaps only once in several generations.
I have tried wherever possible to link to versions with the best combination of audio visual quality.
Put some time aside, and enjoy…read more...»
Can images like these offer us real insight into US politics?
US parties share some characteristics with their British counterparts in the A level Politics course. Neither are very popular, but they do tend to attract a disproportionate number of high end responses.
I came across this article and thought it would act as a starting point for students to engage with the GOP primary race as a way of deepening their understanding of the fabric that holds the American political system together.
At CNN, Julian E. Zelizer a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, contends in this editorial that the Republicans should learn from history and track to the centre.read more...»
Voter perceptions of economic performance and the link with the White House incumbent are a large driver of elections.
And a new poll by CNN says that just one in three Americans think Obama is doing a good job of handling the economy, suggesting that it is going to take a miracle between now and next November if Obama is not going to be a one term president.
As I said recently, following the US presidential nomination and election race is a great way in for those new to American politics. There is acres of coverage on the US news sites, with reporters already getting towards fever pitch on the GOP race. The latest buzz inside the beltway is that Rick Perry has nudged ahead of Mitt Romney in a series of opinion polls.
The race for the nomination to become the challenger to Obama next year is crystallising around three main candidates in the pre-primary phase. The Ames straw poll took place recently, and the first official ballots will be cast by party supporters early next year.
Students new to American politics will find it fun and informative to keep up with the race and update examples to support arguments for and against the presidential candidate selection system. Briefly, if you are unsure how the system operates, those wishing to head the ticket for one of the American parties must first seek nomination by their party. This used to take place in smoke filled rooms by party bosses at quadrennial national party conventions, but now registered supporters (not party members as such) cast ballots for their chosen candidate with the first placed in each state taking all those votes. There are also caucuses, and sometimes a mixture of the two, but you can get to that later.
The important thing to note is that the contest for the White House 2012, i.e. well over a year away, has resulted already in some reasonably well qualified candidates dropping out due to lack of support. This can be seen as a good or a bad thing depending on the context.
Anyway, below are some links, and some basic arguments for and against the primary system…read more...»
The second in a new series of A Level Politics eBooks by Andrew Ellams examines the core specification topics related to US political parties.read more...»
This superb new eBook by Andrew Ellams, available now from tutor2u, provides comprehensive coverage of the key exam topics on US`elections. Details of the content is provided further below.read more...»
A good update on my posting about where camp Obama is on gay marriage.
On Twitter I have been posting links to news stories that are an essential daily read for students of Politics that I have come across as part of my personal reading on the web.
This type of heads up on what is in the news is not a substitute for students doing their own reading, but I know that for many students it is the case that there is so much information freely available on the web that it is not always easy to discriminate between items in terms of their direct relevance to the syllabus. This is where the posts are supposed to fill the gap. Just a couple of links each day, and if students have time to read more then they can use these stories as a starting point for further browsing.
My students have already said they find it useful, and I hope more can.
Follow me on @bgsmacca
A great introductory exercise for students new to US politics is to keep a close eye on the primaries, perhaps by setting aside a regular time each week for discussion. Doing so provides a number of insights into key syllabus areas, and stimulates thought, for instance, on questions such as why the US electorate has tended to favour Washington outsiders as nominees.
It’s also fascinating to see what a quite different beast the United States is, and how different the politics of the nation is compared to the UK.
For instance, here is a summary from yesterday’s Observer of the politics of Michele Bachmann:
‘Bachmann’s criticism of homosexuality is open and brutal. She has led the charge against gay marriage, even at the cost of a once-close relationship with a lesbian stepsister. In 2004 Bachmann said of gay people: “It’s a very sad life. It’s part of Satan, I think, to say that this is gay. It’s anything but gay.”
She is on record as viewing homosexuality as a “disorder” or a “sexual dysfunction” and is a staunchly anti-abortion Christian conservative. She believes Obama is “the final leap to socialism” in America, and has accused him of wanting to set up youth indoctrination camps for teenagers.
She has called for investigations into fellow congressional politicians to see if they are “anti-American”. She once claimed to know of a plan to give up half of Iraq to Iran. She is against raising America’s debt ceiling for running up its deficit, and wants to repeal healthcare reform in its entirety.
She is a firm sceptic on the dangers of global warming. She once introduced a resolution seeking to prevent the dollar being replaced by a foreign currency, despite the fact that such a move is already illegal. She has called the Environmental Protection Agency a “job-killing” organisation.’
Can you imagine a politician in the UK being taken seriously with that kind of profile?!
For full coverage check out the Washington Post 2012 page.
Gerrymandering during the process of redistricting that takes place every ten years has been criticised for decreasing the responsiveness of legislatures to the needs and wants of America as a whole, and instead reinforcing partisanship, and clogging up democracy.
The state of California has just enacted a new proposal whereby an independent body redraws district boundaries rather than the politicians themselves. This could open up elections to genuine competition and act as a template for other states in the US.
This is a reposting of a blog entry I put up in January of 2008. The basic framework still applies, and maybe as a revision exercise students could update the arguments with a more recent example or two!
I have been asked a number of times if Osama’s capture increases the prospects of Obama being re-elected in 2012. Of far more relevance to students looking to support their answers in American Politics is what impact Osama’s death will have on Obama’s relations with Congress, and his ability to pursue his policy/legislative agenda in the short term. It was Neustadt of course who said that the power of the president is the power to persuade. It would make sense therefore for Obama to use this short term boost to his popularity (I haven’t seen any poll numbers yet, but there is likely to be a second honeymoon effect) to boost his negotiating power with those working at the other end of the avenue. Popularity, as commentators have said this week, is not something you can bank for later. On this we should remember back to the presidency of George Bush senior. At a similar stage in the electoral cycle he was boosted in the opinion polls by defeating Saddam Hussain in Gulf War One. And what happened to his second term?! There’s a good feature on this with quotes by the likes of Mann and Sabato here.
A great doc on Reagan is still avaliable on iplayer. The second half is strong on the strategies employed by Reagan as President in an attempt to fulfil the expectations that American people have of the POTUS.
I’m sure the Arizona shootings have provoked fierce debate about the rights and wrongs of gun ownership in the USA in classes this week, as they have mine.
And in case you haven’t seen it, or want to watch it again, here is Obama’s speech at a memorial in Tuscon. Arguably this is Obama’s best oration since he was inaugurated.
Both items are taken from the Guardian’s excellent US gun crime page.
I penned an article for t2u’s digital Politics magazine FPTP on this topic some months back, but events in Congress this week merit revisiting the issue.
The Senate’s decision this week to overturn the 1993 “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy which operates in the military whereby gay soldiers are allowed to serve so long as they are not explicit about their sexuality has come as a relief to a group which was once one of the most ardent set of supporters of Barack Obama.read more...»
In the race relations element of Route C with Edexcel we talk a lot about synopticity and how it is important to approach questions from different perspectives. Often these are left/liberal versus right/conservative with shades of centrism in between.
So it makes good sense to argue in essays that “Those on the left would suggest race is a barrier in the USA because…”, or “Those on the right would say that affirmative action is not necessary because…” before going on to explain the competing arguments.
But it is important to note that sometimes there is overlap between the two sides on reasons why something is the way it is. And we should bear in mind that both sides accept that there may be other contributory factors. Essentially it is a question about the extent both sides agree in something, and often opponents are not completely dismissive of arguments proposed by the other side. For instance, those on the right may accept that some racism still exists in the United States, but that this does not mean that it is an insurmountable barrier. Equally, those on the left may accept that welfare dependence is a problem to a degree but that the long term effects deeply entrenched divides in US society outweigh its importance in explaining inequalities between whites and blacks in modern US society.
This brings me to an excellent article in today’s Guardian by Gary Younge. Read it and I hope that you will never be tempted to write that all Tea Partyists are motivated by race.
What will Obama do?
Given the hammering the President’s party received at the 2010 midterms, the following months will provide an excellent case study in executive leadership.
Part of me wants to point students to putting half an eye on questions about the presidency in next summer’s exams. The other parts simply wants students of Politics to take note of what will surely be a fascinating period of presidential politics. Either way, what should crop up is a rich vein of material relating to the following:read more...»
There’s a good interactive graphic section on WSJ site, showing the demographic breakdown for 2010 according to exit polls.
Which groups of voters vote for either the Democrats or Republicans and why has been a common short answer in the past. This site provides some useful data and analysis.
This week’s edition of the Economist has a load of material that is ideal for inclusion in answers to some of the most common exam questions. These should be read now, and stored in files or folders for use later when preparing for essays or short answers.
This one on Obama covers a load of ground on presidential success and failure. Why are some presidents more successful than others? Why are second term presidencies less successful? etc. It covers Obama’s legislative and policy accomplishments and gives an objective view of why he could and should have done better. This is it here.
How important are midterms? Well, some are more important than others, and 2010 is one of the more signifcant contests. This article clearly explains why.
Why do blacks vote Democratic? Some good quotes and analysis here.
Which groups of voters vote Democratic is a common short answer question or forms part of a longer essay on voting behaviour. Groups that sway Democrat can be identified by gender, demography, race, geography, income, and age. This article looks at the importance of the youth vote.
Here is a collection of some of the most interesting and/or thought provoking material I have come across over the past few days. The autumn break is always a good time to recharge the batteries, but it is also a good opportunity for students to expose themeselves to quality writing. I have become increasingly convinced that a regular diet of good article reading is fundamental to developing a proper understanding of politics.
First off, Martin Kettle argues that the Chancellor is a One Nation Tory. Some may argue the opposite, but Kettle produces some solid evidence.
From the Economist, a good piece on the importance of states. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it sometimes comes as a surprise to students that the single individual politician who most impacts on the day to day life of US citizens in policy terms is the state governor. I wish the US Politics syllabus would acknowledge this in some way, with more attention paid to state politics. Perhaps a case study on the politics of an indvidual state, varying from exam to exam?? Anyway, here is the link.
Lexington offers a feature on Obama and blue collar whites which suggests that while overt racism in the US is pretty much a thing of the past, the country is still divided by the issue.
A heads up on Will Hutton’s latest on fairness in the UK.
Here are my choices of the best articles for class discussion from the papers on Saturday and Sundayread more...»
I came across this article in the Guardian this week. Lots of fodder for class discussion or as a homework exerciseread more...»
Here is a good article for introducing the court, with some questions for discussion.read more...»
Students of US politics should be keeping a close eye on the Obama presidency as a case study on leadership stretch and the constitutional limits of the office.
We all know lessons Friday after lunch are a necessary evil. But if this doesn’t get discussion going for students of politics…?
This November, it is widely expected that Americans will go to the polls to deliver a quasi-referendum on Barack Obama’s tenure in the White House. Though in many ways voters will equally be delivering a general anti-government protest given that the GOP is slightly more unpopular than the Democrats. But also on the same day Californians will go to the polls to deliver a verdict on whether Marijuana should effectively be decriminalised.
This is an excellent case study which can be used to toss around the for and against points in respect of direct democracy:
Are voters sufficiently well informed?
Does it lead to the tyranny of the majority - or even the tyranny of the minority, if you don’t feel that Mill’s point had any validity (and some don’t)
Can finance skew the issue?
Can complex issues be reduced to simple binary options?
And if nothing else, what about a general discussion of the legality of cannabis use? Andrew Sullivan doesn’t think a vote in favour of Prop 19 would be the worst thing that west coasters have ever done.read more...»
The US media is in a frenzy at the moment over the meaning and potential long term impact of the Tea Party movement. The UK papers this weekend have reacted to this as well and this is a development well worth discussing in a review of the latest news from the US in lesson time this week.
What might students of politics make of the latest economic data from the USA which points to a widening gap between rich and poor?
What conclusions, if any, can we draw from the Tea Party surge within the Republican Party?
If you are a student of American politics, then this post early in the academic year could well be my most important…
These are the sites I most frequently plunder when trying to keep abreast of developments in US politics. These are also the places therefore that I suggest students of the subject try to access as much as possible when trying to get to grips with the politics of the USA. In the same way as linguists recommend immersion learning when studying a new language, getting stuck into some of the US sites really does help.read more...»
This video is strange on so many levels.
See the CNN report with subtitles (not really necessary given the depth and extent of the Palin vocab) here.
Helpful to see, though, the Sarah for Prez support team gesticulate as to how the US is bigger than Alaska. Well, I guess that’s progress.
Hail to the chief?
It is rare that a court case at a lower level than the US Supreme Court hits the headlines in America, but in a landmark ruling the California district of the US federal courts overturned Proposition 8, an initiative which banned California’s gay marriage law.
It is uncertain whether the ruling in Perry v. Schwarzenegger will trigger any new marriages between same sex couples in the state, but it is likely that campaigners in favour of defending traditional marriage will appeal and that the case will wind its way to the US Supreme Court.
This is the first time that federal judges have ruled on a same sex marriage case, and the outcome only affects the state of California, not the many other states that have constitutional or legal bans on gay marriage. Gay rights activists feared defeat would set back their cause for a generation, and stakes remain high on both sides of the debate, as a final ruling by judges in Washington could fundamentally alter the social topography of the United States. In the more immediate term, the issue is something of a hot potato for the November elections, with politicians from both parties expected to take sides on this issue.
More detail on the story from the washingtonpost.com website here.
Students tackling race relations on edexcel 3c frequently cite the asymmetric treatment afforded to blacks in the judicial-legal system as ongoing evidence of racism and/or racial inequality.
In particular, common reference is made to the much tougher punishment for possession/dealing crack as opposed to powdered cocaine. From a personal perspective it is a shame that often what’s missing from this discourse is the argument that black community leaders and politicians trigerred a ramping up of the crack laws since the drug was devastating housing project areas with a large concentration of black residents.
Anyway, I received this email update from the NAACP. This is a useful way of keeping up-to-date with race issues, since I often don’t come across them in a normal day’s reading of washingtonpost.com.
Read on…read more...»
There are a couple of interesting social policy issues getting a lot of attention in the US at the moment, and they act as a useful way of introducing the concept of federal-state relations.
There’s a great piece in this week’s Economist which looks ahead to the 2010 election.
When conducting research for my previous posting I came across this. It seems that I can’t include three youtube clips in one posting, and it is a shame not to share this if you haven’t already seen it.
Down the left hand side of this page, often newsmax ask you to vote on whether Sarah Palin would get your vote in 2012. She is the theme of this posting.
The demon sheep ad produced as part of the Republican Senate primary campaign in California is being widely hailed as a pythonesque absurd spoof, but is actually a sign of poor political taste…read more...»
I’m sure teachers of American Politics won’t need reminding about the virtues of watching the Daily Show, but students may need a gentle reminder.
The episode broadcast in the UK last night contained a hilarious analysis of Sarah Palin’s major speech at the Tea Party conference in Nashville. Palin is a phenomenon and never quite manages to steer herself away from unintended controversy. If you’re not sure what I’m on about watch a replay from the Channel 4 website. Of course, Jon Stewart is presenting from a left wing perspective and I share many of his personal biases, so it may not be to everyone’s taste!!
How successful has Obama been in delaing with Congress?
Listen to this audio clip from national public radio to find out!
I’ve just started the power of the presidency, and intend to use Obama’s address to Congress as part of delivery. Here’s the link to the video
There’s a useful two page spread on Obama’s presidency one year on in today’s Independent—here is the link to the web version.
The BBC devotes a special section to the one year anniversary.
And see how you get on with the one year quiz!!!
I’m definitely going to use all the abundant material for students to do a webquest presentation on his first year. A nice way to start Unit 4C having just completed the 3C exam. Andy Lawrence has posted details of a similar exercise on Cameron the t2u Pol teachers forum.
More interesting stuff on Obama for teaching and learning. A great article on Obama and race here. Younge is a corking journalist who has written two very readable books on the US, which are suggested reading for students of America. He has also made a documentary for the World Service entitled “Opposing Obama”, first airing scheduled for the 1st of Feb. List of times is here.
Obama and me on BBC Two might not offer great academic insight, but may give you a slice of insight into modern America.
There’s a raft of material out there on Obama at the moment to coincide with the President’s first year in office. This seems like the second anniversary in recent months since the media sought to celebrate his “first year” back in Nobvember when, of course, this marked 12 months since he was elected, not when he was sworn in.
For the next few days you can see the second part of Simon Schama’s BBC documentary on Obama.
Another documentary heads up
Two great articles for prompting discussion on intra and inter party rivalry in American politics.
First, Andrew Sullivan looks at the rabid right wing nativist nature of the Republicans here. This suggests therefore that there are deep partisan divides in America at present. But closer analysis of the parties also reveals divisions within the Democrats. As far as some within the party are concerned, Obama’s first year has been a let down. Read about how Obama has come under attack from the left here.
Useful US pressure groups example
Questions about the corrosive effects of big business in the US has tended to focus on the political damage they cause. But a new study by the IMF (of all groups!) strongly suggests that the sector of the financial industry that spends the biggest bucks on lobbying is also the most underpeforming and therefore is costing the American public. Thus there is a strong argument to suggest that they are damaging to US society as well.
There’s a great article in the xmas double issue of the Economist on the perils of direct democracy. A useful source of arguments and examples for those covering the UK and US participation in politics modules.
I wish there was something similar to this available for UK businesses. Here is a fascinating interactive graphic which displays the political leanings of hundreds of leading US businesses and brands - based on their total political contributions.
I wonder if this clip by Tim Harford will provoke debate among students about race, whether in the UK or the USA.
Want to get a flavour of the degree of partisanship in modern American politics?
Say the Observer:
“Glenn Beck is a TV host, bestselling author and the most influential voice on the rightwing Fox channel. Now, even some Republicans worry that the extreme and maverick views of Beck and his supporters will make their party unelectable. Is the TV tail wagging the political dog?”
Read the rest of the article and listen to this classic five minute radio rant by the man himself. It takes a little time to load up, but it is hilarious. And just a little bit scary!read more...»
For reasons that are possibly too mundane to go into I have just read the special report on Texas from a summer edition of the Economist.
It is absolutely fascinating as a means of gaining a deeper insight into a rapidly changing state, and is a treasure trove of Americana. Did you know for instance that Texas is one of four states where whites are a minority, or that tequila was invented there?
Lone Star rising
The best and worst of Texas
The red and the blue
The new face of America
Once a week my students are expected to contribute something to our media sessions. A useful way to break a double, to be sure, but these are designed to supplement learning. I usually keep something up my sleave just in case discussion doesn’t flow—though thus far it has yet to be a problem.
One of my colleagues at school sent me this link at the weekend which displays a fascinating graphic of job creation and loss in the USA over the last few years. It gives the lie to the idea that there is such a thing as a national economy, even if there is a national picture.
It also serves to explain why despite a recent upsurge in gdp, many Americans are unhappy about the state of the economy—jobs are the pain that communities feel and make sense of. Though a note of caution here since it only gives data to July 2009.
The link is here.
This week for our American Politics media sessions we have been looking at a quite fascinating article about industrial decline in the USA. This tells us a lot about where power lies in America and is a useful basis for considering the extent to which America does really live up to the ideals it proclaims to stand for.
Only the 33rd most powerful man in Washington DC who is not called Obama or Biden.
So says GQ magazine (of all places) in their much anticipated DC power 50. Believe it or not this was one of the buzz topics in the American capital when I was over there recently. Hardly surprising in the most power obsessed city on earth. To paraphrase Michael Heseltine who was commenting on the ranking order of seats in Cabinet, everyone says it doesn’t matter to them, but of course it does. Terribly.read more...»
It’s not so much the graphic and the info on the decline in support for gun control in America, it’s the readers’ comments that are worth looking at. I particularly like the British v American stuff, as if that had anything to do with it: why does a comment on American society and politics by a non-native invite criticism of that person’s country? Touchy!
Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s (ghostwritten) autobiography is due for release next month, and has already shot to the top of the bestseller charts.
Say the Guardian:
“News of the autobiography’s release has already prompted a string of jokes by the late night talkshow hosts reminding the wider public about Palin’s shortcomings.
“Critics say that it starts out okay, it gets really exciting and then confusing, and then the last 100 pages are blank,” said comedian Jimmy Fallon.”
I’ve been like a child with a new toy today, spending hours browsing on the Washington Post’s “Who runs gov?” pages.
The site contains up to date and interesting to read profiles of the people pulling the strings of American government. A great resource for students and teachers of American Politics.
I’ve come up with a list of 10 of the most influential politicians in the USA, some of which you will have heard of and some you won’t.read more...»
On the UK front the papers seem to be dominated by analysis of the party political debate on tax and spending. For instance the Observer carries a front page story suggesting that the Tory attacks on Labour spending plans may backfire.
Here a Sunday Times editorial welcomes the development of a more open debate on the issue.
When it comes to American politics, coverage of the debate about Obama and racism dominates with acres of newsprint given over to this story.
Here Paul Harris reports from South Carolina, a state at the heart of the race row.
Keith Richburg, in an editorial piece, argues that Obama’s election victory is not proof of a post racial America.
Andrew Sullivan takes an in depth look at the race debate and outlines its significance for the Republicans.
Former President (1977-1981) Jimmy Carter is the most senior Democrat to comment publicly that the venomous nature of the opposition to Barack Obama’s healthcare reforms can only be explained by racist undertones.
Racism continues to be the most divisive social problem in the United States, an issue that is never far beneath the surface when African Americans are the subject of political discourse. This is partly explained by the legacy of slavery and segregation - both of which were outlawed much later in the USA than other comparable democracies. You may recall, for instance, Muhammed Ali’s visit to the UK recently when the TV news channels broadcasted mini biographies of the boxer’s life, including Ali discussing how he was refised service at a lunch counter despite having won his country the gold medal in heavyweight boxing at the previous Olympics. This was, of course, as recently as the 1960s.read more...»
An energised and passionate President Obama delivered his speech to a joint session of Congress. Will it be enough?
The significance of the separation of powers is to be highlighted in perfect Technicolor later today when President Obama appears before a joint session of Congress to make a speech that he hopes will save his healthcare reform proposals (well, promises since he hasn’t actually been very specific about what he wants).
Most people expect Obama to be happy with some sort of healthcare package passing, even if it doesn’t include a government backed plan to insure Americans currently without coverage.
Bronwen Maddox in the Times takes up the story:read more...»
This year is a great one to be studying American politics (ditto on this side of the Atlantic given that we have a general election on the horizon that looks odds on to deliver a change in government), as we watch Obama try to transfer the electricity and excitement he generated during his election campaign into doemstic polciy success. Now that the congressional recess is over after the summer, Obama must seek to win approval from sufficient numbers of the House and Senate to bring insurance coverage to over 40 million American citizens currently without it.
There’s a very good piece here outlining the challange Obama faces in trying to reconcile differences between Democrats and Republicans. As the adviser to his predecessor as President points out, failure on healthcare reform could be Obama’s Waterloo. This is why Obama is placing all his cards on the table by making a speech to Congress on Wednesday. Watch out for that!!
The Big Question runs a feature on the rather complex dynamics of choosing a replacement for his vacant Senate seat, which has been controlled by his family for over 50 years.
Do you think that the Obama presidency means that race is no longer a problem in America?
There are obviously no lessons at the minute since we are bang in the middle of the summer break, but I thought I’d draw your attention to a piece that would be surefire favourite for the Media Monday sessions. It is packed full of detail and analysis on the factors that determine the success of a presidency. I intend to put it to one side until it comes to teaching this topic later in the year.
I’m posting a couple of details for those who are looking to keep up tp date with the Obama presidency.
There’s a good feature on Obama’s diplomatic efforts in the Middle East in the Guardian.
But Lexington argues that Obama is only likely to disappoint his supporters.
That race relations continues to be America’s most intractable social problem was brought to the surface again this week.read more...»
Sometimes when assesing the US Constitution we should be careful that we are addressing the contents of the document and not actions by politicians who claim to be acting out their constitutional role. One such example is the process by which federal judges are confirmed.read more...»
Politics in the US continus to be dominated by health care and the Sotomayor nomination. But I came across this little cut and keep nugget on voter turnout.read more...»
I know there seems to be a lot of emphasis on the blog at the moment on the Obama Presidency, but a new White House incumbent gives us the chance to analyse the intricate workings of politics inside the beltway.read more...»
President Obama’s campaign pledge to widen health coverage to as many of the non insured as possible is stumbling amid partisan wranglingread more...»
There’s a fine piece of writing by Tim Garton Ash in Thursday’s Guardian on how the war on the faltering economy has put thoughts about the so called war on terror to the back of many peoples’ minds.
“The first thing I see every time I come to New York is something that is not there. That soaring absence of the twin towers on the skyline of Manhattan remains this city’s most haunting presence. A landmark of air. But the shadow cast by the absent twin towers is no longer the defining feature of world politics in the way that the shadow cast by the Berlin Wall was for nearly 30 years. Most people don’t any more feel that we live in a “war on terror” in the way that we did feel that we lived in a cold war. Not across the world. Not in America. Not even in New York.”
A combination of reverse jetlag and too many visits to Seattle’s many and varied coffeehouses has resulted in being glued to the late night news shows. The consensus amongst the talking heads, even those on Fox’s far right broadcasts, is that the hearings for Sonia Sotomayor have been a straightforward proces, lacking any real controversy.read more...»
So claims one of the leading commentators on US politics in a recent column in Time Magazine.read more...»
As if Barack Obama didn’t have enough on his plate as American President, he has taken time to forge a new direction in US foreign policy on Africa. Last week he made a bold speech where he argued that the continent could no longer apportion the blame on the effects of colonialism.
What do a couple of the most powerful men in the world get up to at international summits?read more...»
There’s a great feature on the woman who was at the centre in one of the most famous and controversial Supreme Court judgments in American history. Quite how did this woman switch from being the poster girl of the pro-choice movement to fulfilling the same role for the anti-abortionists? Those readers possessing the vaguest familiarity with American politics and society will not be shocked when they discover the answer.
As if the 44th President didn’t have enough on his plate, he is expected to reset the relationship between the USA and Russia. Rupert Cornwell brings you up to speed.
Why some people were concerned back in the autumn that this individual would be a heartbeat away from the presidency.read more...»
Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential candidate dropped a bizarre bombshell on the eve of Independence Day by announcing that she was stepping down as Alaksa’s governor.
A twin set of stories from today’s Independent on America’s economic troubles.
This week we have been discussing the implications of the news that Al Franken will become the 60th Senator to vote with the Democrats.read more...»
Today marks one of the most significant points in recent US history, and an event that has largely been overlooked due to the current economic crisis.
There were a number of great features on Obama’s successes and failures in yesterday’s paper. Here are details.read more...»
For fans of the classic comedy series “The Day Today”, you may think that this is the work of another set of comedians of a similarly twisted disposition.read more...»
I have been holed up in various less than salubrious locations in London this week on examining duties, but light relief has been provided by a number of stories emanating from across the Atlantic.read more...»
I picked up a copy of Justin Webb’s “Have a Nice Day” at the weekend, which lays out a forceful and intense case for what can be considered positives about the modern USA.
I have come across a useful page on the BBC containing a series of short videos on the challenges facing Obama as President.read more...»
Anyone looking at synoptic questions about the ability of the UK and US political systems to uphold civil liberties may wish to consider this story.read more...»
In an echo of the MPs’ expenses scandal I have been swamped with requests by students about how reports about Obama’s health care plans can be rolled into US politics exam answers.
I’ve put together a list of resources on President Obama. This could be accessed by students or teachers for a host of purposes.read more...»
A few quick questions to work on for students starting a US Politics courseread more...»
This week our students have been given a general introduction to its people and politics. During discussion I mentioned the use of three strikes laws in some US states. As chance would have it there is a feature on this in this week’s Economist.
Useful for discussion of the use of direct democracy, how laws vary by state due to the federal structure, what such tough law and order measures might say about where we could place American parties on the political spectrum compared to UK parties.
Book review: an entertaining insight into life in America’s heartland
What is the new White House incumbent’s position on states’ rights?
One of the modern features of American cabinets is its role in reaching out to the people and representing the diversity evident in the USA. Here are some notes on Obama’s.read more...»
Here are details of an idea about getting something interesting and productive done once students come back after the AS exams. If you are one of the lucky institutions that doesn’t welcome back students after AS exams are over, then this could work equally well as a bit of summer homework.read more...»
How helpful of Barack Obama to nominate his first Supreme Court appointee and thereby dominating the US political news agenda at a time when so many students on this of the Atlantic are likely to be revising the topic for their exams.read more...»
Barack Obama’s worst defeat so far as President is a perfect illustration of the separation of powers and checks and balances in action.
What is the ex-Prez up to these days?
The possibility of the USA formally softening its stance with the Caribbean island raises some interesting questions in terms of international relations.read more...»
Self defence, anyone?
If your eyes glaze over when reading more about the intricate detail of Westminster sleaze, read this instead. You don’t have to be a US Politics student to find America’s relationship with the gun fascinating.
Many students write that American parties are catch-all or umbrella organisations
I’ve come across this useful primer from the New York Times on the race for the presidency
There is great briefing in this week’s Economist on the new Presidentread more...»
How one of this blogger’s favourite TV shows may help with revision
President Obama’s appearance on the Jay Leno show did not quite turn out as he hoped.
The US President’s powers are notoriously limited in the legislative sphere, so how does he get Congress to do his bidding?
I attended an absolutely excellent lecture last night by Larry Sabato, Professor of Politics at the University of Virginia.read more...»
Students quite frequently write that American parties are loose groupings and largely free of coherent ideology. But this analysis ignores the steep rise in partisanship evident in the USA in recent decades.read more...»
I wrote in a previous article that an American politician once said that campaigns were in poetry and government was in prose. This is a theme picked up in the Guardian:
‘You campaign in poetry, but you must govern in prose. That favoured phrase of New York’s former governor Mario Cuomo now applies with even more force to another progressive Democrat. Soaring rhetoric and a moving memoir combined to create the Barack Obama phenomenon and lift him from obscurity to the heights of the White House. Once installed, however, his main concern has been gritty negotiations over the minutiae of an economic recovery package. After protracted haggling, Congress has all but signed off on his fiscal stimulus plan, and yet the prosaic work remains far from complete.’
Read more of this neat editorial piece on the expectations gap here
The new edition of first past the post, tutor2u’s digital Politics magazine, has been posted on the site.
Given the importance of the recent American elections, there is a bit of a US slant, but there are great articles covering UK politics, the EU, UK issues, as well as political ideologies.read more...»
This is a great time for American Politics students to be studying anything from the governing part of the course involving the separation of powers, checks and balances, the Presidency or Congress.
The United States is facing its biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression and the American electorate expect one man to put it right: President Obama.read more...»
An article provoking a lot of comment on the Guardian’s comment is free site is a feature by Gary Younge on President Obama’s attempt to woo congressional Republicans on the fiscal stimulus package.read more...»
I have penned an article for the forthcoming of first past the post, tutor2u’s digital Politics magazine, on the future of the Republican Party. There has been, as is often the case when parties lose elections, some navel gazing going on at the heart of the GOP. Essentially the party seems torn between deciding that it has been too conservative, while others believe it is not conservative enough.
In the short term the party seems determined to focus resolutely on tax cuts and government spending. In my article I write that this alone will not be enough to restore the party’s credibility. Anyway, an article by Paul Harris in today’s Observer picks up on some of the latest developments in the world of the GOP.read more...»
One might be inclined to think that after one of the most exciting elections in living memory, which ended with an historic outcome, that electoral reform campaigners in the USA would have lost heart.
Not so. Check out the Presidential Elections Reform Program of the FairVote website, which carries a host of useful stuff on reform of the primaries and the electoral college—the latter is particularly helpful if you are trying to dress up what can be quite a dry topic.
I have been doing some legwork for a forthcoming article for first past the post on campaign finance in the USA. Browsing the Open Secrets site I have been fascinated by their feature on the revolving door.
As the site states:
"Although the influence powerhouses that line Washington's K Street are just a few miles from the U.S. Capitol building, the most direct path between the two doesn't necessarily involve public transportation. Instead, it's through a door—a revolving door that shuffles former federal employees into jobs as lobbyists, consultants and strategists just as the door pulls former hired guns into government careers. While members of the executive branch, Congress and senior congressional staffers spin in and out of the private and public sectors, so too does privilege, power, access and, of course, money."
On the site you can track movement between congressional and executive offices and lobbying firms. The scale and degree of activity is quite staggering.
This is an excellent site for consolidating knowledge on this much discussed, but often misunderstood phenomenon. Note for instance, that lobby firms seek to attract those with agency/executive experience as well as congressional staffers, not just ex-congressmen.>
Continuing the Bush focus (we will really miss him when he’s gone, and it will be difficult to believe he really was president for 8 years), here is a link to a BBC feature on Bushisms, those verbal dyslexia moments when 43 was unable to say what he meant.
There is a special section on Bush in the G2 section of today’s Grauniad. This is the web edition link. The print edition has a cut and keep Bush mask. Scary
If you happen to be looking for suitable pictures to pepper your school’s intranet page with, or, say, want to add a bit of humour to a class handout, then try the Ind’y selection of George W Bush images. This link takes you to one of my favourite moments of the Bush presidency; the so called Pretzel incident.
Student’s caveat emptor
It’s fair to say that the British, and Europeans in general, can be somewhat smug when viewing goings on in the USA. On the one hand we want them to do the right thing: scrap the death penalty, tighten gun laws, etc. But on the other hand we like to sneer at their ability to get it wrong: proving what a barbaric and mixed up place it is. This is partly since it makes us feel superior. But it’s also because Americans seem overly proud of their country and their political system - viewing it as an extension of the democratic process that began with the Magna Carta, Bill of Rights, habeas corpus, and the War of Independence, yet seeming to ignore that a raft of other countries in the world have made significant political advances since the birth of their nation. This explains how we can be simultaneously proud that they have elected Obama, but can also be incredulous that they elected Bush - not just once, but twice.
Anyway, reservations aired. They are funny pictures of a man that remains, to me at least, something of an enigma.
Further to an earlier posting by a fellow blogger about Bush’s legacy, I would draw your attention to a rather good article from US News.
It starts by noting how introspective the 43rd president has become in the fag end days of his time in office:
‘He finally admits that his low standing in the polls does bother him. “Everybody wants to be liked,” the normally thick-skinned president told a December 1 forum on global health. He concedes that many voters backed Democrat Barack Obama on Election Day as a protest against the Bush years. He admits to frustration with his big setbacks, especially the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, which was one of his main reasons for going to war there. Similarly, he is disappointed by the failure of Congress to pass his measures to overhaul immigration and Social Security, and he is distressed by the soaring level of federal spending and the continuing partisan warfare in Washington.’
Read further here and consider the following exercises:
Outline what Bush himself is said to be proud of.
What does the article view as Bush’s positive legacies.
Summarise comment on each of the following headings:
The ‘war on terror’
The war in Iraq
The financial meltdown
The elevation of Dick Cheney
The new edition of first past the post, tutor2u’s digital magazine, has just been posted on the website.
There a number of excellent articles in it on a host of topical areas: the UK police force, multiculturalism, the US Supreme Court, the impact of Boris Johnson as London Mayor, a comparative analysis of the representativeness of the UK and US legislatures, the effect of the economic downturn on UK political parties, and look at the ‘what ifs’ of the US election.
I have also written one looking at the outcome of the 2008 presidential election. This topic will inevitably crop up on the American papers of whatever syllabus you are following in the upcoming months.read more...»
There was an excellent documentary at the weekend on the possibly declining influence of the religious right. You can access for the next 29 days on Channel 4’s catch up site
I can’t find any way to download it permanently, so if there are any technophiles out there who know how…!
I have also included the first part here from YouTuberead more...»
In response to a string of misdemeanours by students in the fag end of this term, I have been quoting the current incumbent of the White House. It is likely that during this speech, Bush attempted to say “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me”. This is what he actually came out with (lol as facebookers are inclined to write)...read more...»
It is unlikely that news that Rahm Emanuel has been chosen as Barack Obama’s Chief of Staff has escaped the attention of blog readers.read more...»
How many presidents were over 6ft tall? Which have had their faces on bank notes?
Find out via this jpg file, which would make a handy wall display:
A quick heads up for students and teachers. This weekend watch out for a US elections 2008 poster in the Independent on Sunday. If recent graphics in the sister paper are anything to go by, the elections outcome map may contain a few statistical errors, but at least they are promising a picture portrait of the president elect on the other side.
So says Matthew Syed in The Times.
With wall to wall coverage of the election results possibly weighing us all down, I thought I’d point out this excellent article on race and ethnic politics in the USA – it’s gone straight into my folder of teaching notes for the topic.
In an intelligent article, Gideon Rachman in the FT points out that Barack Obama will not only be the first ever black President if elected today, he will also be the first Democrat elected to the White House on nearly half a century that does not hail from a southern state.
“We are on the brink of history. On Tuesday the US could elect its first ever blue president.
The fact that Barack Obama would also be the first black president has obscured the significance of his political colouring. If he wins, he will be the first northern, urban liberal to win the presidency since the culture wars broke out in the US in the 1960s.”
See the rest of the article here
The Independent today contains a feast of politics for students and teachers.
First off is their Great American Quiz The same links takes you to the answers. Teachers should be able to plunder this for many end of terms to come!
Some entertaining presidential trivia here
Away from the US elections, here’s a good feature for UK issues coverage on the allegedly increasingly fluid nature of social mobility in the UK in the Big Question
If you are planning on staying up till the wee hours on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning here is a guide to what to expect.
For what it’s worth, I suspect it will be a lot closer than many polls are predicting and that we won’t be confident of the final result until sunrise on Wednesday.
See the guide from The Times here
Saturday More 4 at 7.05pm The story of Barack Obama and John McCain
As America prepares to go to the polls this Tuesday in what many consider to one of the most historical presidential elections in decades, Jon Snow narrates The Choice , a one-off documentary special which presents the story of Barack Obama and John McCain, and asks what do these two very unlikely presidential contenders say about the state of America at this crux moment in time?
Then at 11:20 pm on the same channel, Dispatches: Jon Snow’s American Journey
As Obama and McCain’s gladiatorial showdown enters its final week, Channel 4 News presenter Jon Snow goes in search of the new America. Starting at the border with Mexico, Snow takes a road trip up the Pacific highway linking San Diego to Seattle, travelling though areas of great affluence, deprivation, innovation and tradition to find out about the new Americans, new economy and new directions that are shaping the next America.
On Channel 4 at 9.05 pm: Recount
Austin Powers director Jay Roach investigates the Florida voting scandal of 2000. Made-for-TV drama starring Kevin Spacey, Denis Leary, Laura Dern and Tom Wilkinson
As I write this it is 4 days and 17 hours until polling opens. This is just enough time for readers new to American Politics to get their head round the way US voters elect their President.read more...»
With 16 days until Election Day: A selection of campaign related news items from the week that wouldn’t necessarily warrant a post of their own but may still be of interest to political observers.read more...»
A quick discussion about the presidential debates this morning revealed that students (a hat tip to Ben Winders here) thought that McCain seemed to spend more time attacking Obama rather than saying what he would do himself. Now it turns out that “Joe the plumber” doesn’t even existread more...»
The former Secretary of State danced with Olu Maintain, a Nigerian hip hop outfit and the news has been picked up by Fox News in the US that this signifies his intention to endorse Obama
The Young Turks show tackle this surreal notionread more...»
Whilst news of financial crisis intensifies, it appears that Barack Obama is bucking the trend and continues to smash fundraising records. Here the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza reportsread more...»
A heads up on the Panorama programme covering the American presidential election on BBC1, Monday 13th October at 8.30pm. From the BBC website:
‘Our reporter travels to two very different Americas - Obama’s political home in South Chicago, and the crucial battleground state of Ohio - to see how the different versions of America offered by the Obama-Biden team and the McCain-Palin team are playing out.
He examines the astonishing trajectory of Mr Obama’s political career, which has seen him go from his first public office to presidential candidate in just 12 years.
And he tries to find out who the real Barack Obama is:
Is he, as some in the programme say, a neophyte, with nothing on his CV which qualifies him for the role as president?
Is he a scheming careerist, whose choices of friends, mentors and even which church to attend all come down to climbing the political ladder?
Or is he the real deal and America’s best hope in a troubled time?
The programme also examines the way in which Mr Obama and his supporters have broken the political mould, recruiting new voters from parts of the electorate previously thought unreachable and smashing all fund-raising records.’
The current US presidential campaign is getting nastier by the minute, largely as a result of John McCain’s desperation. He has been reported as being behind by double digits nationwide and also lagging in some key states. His camp have flirted with linking Barack Obama to a radical soialist who committed bombings in the 1970s but haven’t made much of it. This reminded me of the 1988 campaign when George Bush Sr launched an attack ad on his Democrat opponent, Michael Dukakis.read more...»